Summary: Jem learns more about her new home.
She was now a member of the Angbroda, Jem learned as a small meal was placed before her on a carved metal tray. Not entirely certainly of what had been placed before her, Jem poked at the items before picking up what looked like a grape to the naked eye. She studied the purple berry closely before popping it into her mouth. The scrutiny that the little girl gave to one tiny morsel was enough to have Zosimus laughing good naturedly at his charge. Naturally, Jem returned his good natured laughter with a sleepy pout.
The guardian sat down next to her and patted her on the head. “Relax. We grow the food underground. Those are actual grapes. I picked them myself this morning.”
“You picked them?” Jem questioned before looking up at Zosimus.
It was the first time she’d gotten a good look at the man. It was true that his nose was sharply pointed and he had eyes the colour of granite but they were gentle looking. There were fine lines creasing his face but those appeared to be caused by more by laughter than by anger. His lips were curved into a gentle smile as Jem stared at her food. His squared jaw was bristled with whiskers that formed into a fine point at his chin. It gave the man the appearance of pointed jaw and succeeded in making him look younger.
“I did pick them,” he answered as he pushed the bowl closer to her. “They’re red grapes, Jem.”
She still stared at them suspiciously but slowly ate the sweet treat. Little by little, Jem ate her fill of the items on the tray. The grapes, a sliced apple, scrambled eggs and a glass of milk until Zosimus took the tray away. The sweetness of the grapes lingered in her mouth was like nothing that Jem had ever eaten before. She was curious to see where all this food was grown. From what she had seen of the outside world of Enceladus, it was impossible to grow food out there.
When her caretaker returned, he held a small bundle of clothing and a pair of boots in his arms. The boots were placed on the floor and the clothing on Jem’s lap. With a gentle smile on his weathered looking face, he nodded slowly to the child.
“Jem, I need you to get dressed for me,” he ordered softly as she nodded carefully.
She looked at him with her wide blue eyes full of a mix of confusion and fear of the unknown. She was young and didn’t completely comprehend what was going on. Why was she chosen for this? Where was Daddy to help her? She’d spent most of her waking hours on the ship above the planet so why was she here now. So much fear and confusion clouded her eyes as Zosimus rubbed a rough circle on her cheek. She felt the tear on her skin and wondered why she was crying.
“There’s nothing to fear,” he soothed. “I won’t let anyone on Enceladus harm you. That’s my job as your Guardian. To teach and guide you but ultimately to protect you until you’re old enough to protect yourself.”
“I want my Daddy!” she cried when he was done.
Zosimus acted quickly at the cry for who the children called “Daddy.” He folded his heavily muscled arms around her tiny body and held her close. While he whispered soothing words to her, Jem trembled in his arms, completely taken by surprise at the tender embrace she’d just been placed in. She wanted the awkward hugs of Daddy more than anything right now but this embrace that Zosimus had wrapped her in felt different.
It felt safe.
“Daddy sent you down here to be educated, little one.”
“But Daddy wouldn’ta done that!”
Zosimus held Jem at arm’s length and stared at her resolutely with his granite coloured eyes. Her tears had stopped and while she was still trembling slightly, he had her full attention. The Guardian knew that she would be a good student once she became accustomed to life on Enceladus but for now, he had to be patient.
“Daddy sends all his little ones to us, Jem. He doesn’t forget you and loves you very much but he doesn’t have the resources to care for you on the ship. Instead of making you suffer, he sends you to us where you will learn to be a great Guardian of the People. We call Daddy and the others like him Guardians of the Children.”
“It will get better, my sweet child and I know that you’re scared right now. But I need you to get dressed now.”
She didn’t understand that Daddy was just preparing her for life on the icy planet’s surface from a very young age until just a few days ago. As Jem sniffled and scrubbed at her eyes, she nodded slightly in compliance with his simple request. He gave her a gentle squeeze before scooping her out of the bed and into his arms. He gave her another gentle hug before setting her down on the floor.
“You are a member of the Angbroda now,” Zosimus continued as he guided her toward the washroom. “For now, let’s get you cleaned up, into your new clothes and I’ll show you around your new home.”
“Can we see the place where th’ grapes grow?”
Zosimus smiled warmly at her before patting her head. “Yes you may.”
For the first time since her arrival, Zosimus observe a different emotion in his new charge. He’d seen mostly few and confusion but the smile that spread across her face and filled him with warmth told him that Jem would be just fine in the end.
She was one of them now.