Melissa sighed as she sat down in front of the recently lit Hestia candle. “Well, I made it. Across country. Me and what little I brought with me. I’m sure that this is what Mom and Dad would have wanted. The house needs a little work though. Those stubborn ol’ coots refused to ask for help when they needed it.” She smiled affectionately, but sadly. “Though I never lived here, it seems odd to be in this house without them. They so loved their ‘retirement’ home. Though I swear they did more here than anywhere else. Mom had her volunteer work, Dad had his garden and workshop. I almost feel like I’m invading. Everything is the way they left it. At some point I need to clean out their clothes and such … but not now. I’m tired in more ways than one … and not up for that task.” Melissa sighed, raised her hands skyward and said:
“Hestia, Lady of the Hearth, Keeper of the flame,
Wherever you are, the gods have a home.
Be welcome here now …. And help me make this into my home.”
Melissa then put out the candle and went to sleep in the guest bedroom. During the night, she had a dream that wasn’t a dream. It was so vivid and clear, yet muted and cushioned. She was sitting on the large covered porch at the table where her mom liked to serve tea and coffee. A bright cloud hovered over the lawn and a booming voice issued from within, “Me and my family will be visiting you in twodays. Be ready!” A large golden-brown feather drifted out of the cloud and came to rest on the table in front of her.
The next morning, Melissa made herself some chai before wandering out to the front porch to enjoy the cool morning. She sat down and suddenly the dream from the night before came to mind. She started to attribute it to an over-active imagination. When she set down her cup, she spotted a feather. A large, golden-brown feather. She just stared at it in disbelief. “Oh my Gods … this isn’t real … kidding right …” She just sputtered. “Why in the world would they want to visit me?! Do they even do that in this day and age? Did they even do it way back when?!” Suddenly she remembered the tarot card she drew earlier that week whose message was Devotion in Action. “Well” she thought, “real or not, it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared.”
So Melissa went back into the house, lit the Hestia candle and spent the day cleaning the house. She went back and forth on whether she should be doing what she was doing. The house didn’t feel like hers and yet she was preparing for guests who called in a dream. “The drive here must have unhinged my mind.” She prepared a menu for the day since she didn’t know when her supposed visitors would arrive. “Good thing Mom was a great cook and kept a well stocked pantry. Gas costs ate up the last of my money.” Mom’s famous recipe book was right on the counter to help with the preparations. That night, before going to bed, she extinguished the Hestia candle thinking no one is going to come and I will have wasted my time, energy and all this food.
The next morning, Melissa got up early, lit the Hestia candle and put cinnamon rolls in the oven. When they were done, she took the rolls, juice, coffee and tea out to the porch table. When she looked out to the street, she saw a man on a bike with a messenger bag at his side. He looked to be puzzling over a map.
Well that’s odd, she thought. I thought only big cities had bicycle messengers and they generally know where they are going! She called down to the bicyclist and asked him if he needed directions.
“Yes ma’am. I’m supposed to be delivering some invitations and I can’t seem to find Olympia Way.” He laid his bike down and brought his map with him. She pointed out where he was on the map and where Olympia Way was while thinking it is a good thing she wandered the area when visiting her parents last year. Before he left she gave him some of the cinnamon rolls that he was obviously eyeballing with teasing, pleading looks. As he rode out of sight she noticed the wings on his cycle helmet. “Cute.”
A few minutes later a rainstorm blew out of nowhere. Goodnesses! Melissa thought as she eyed the rolls hungrily. “If no one else is going to have any, I might as well dive in.” A movement at the edge of her vision caught her attention. It was an elderly gentleman struggling through the rain with a badly torn umbrella. Melissa ran to the edge of the porch, “Sir! Please come up here out of the rain!”
The man gave her a smile of relief and slowly climbed the steps to join her on the porch. “Whew!” He said. “Just my luck to grab the old umbrella!”
She chuckled and went inside to get a towel for him to dry off with. When she returned she found him sitting at the table. “Would you like something to drink and maybe a roll or two?”
“I would be delighted.” He stated as he toweled off his grey hair, his blue eyes twinkling in pleasure. “Coffee please, black.”
Just then the rain stopped as fast as it had appeared. A car pulled up at the sidewalk and a regal looking older woman got out. She slowly walked up the sidewalk with an umbrella in her hand. Her grey hair was made up in such a way that it appeared she wore a crown. “Silly man,” she stated. “You took the wrong umbrella.”
He chuckled, “Ah, my dear, you take such good care of me.” He then took the umbrella from her hand and gently tugged her into the seat next to him.
“Yes, please join us,” Melissa inviteded.
“Thank you my dear. Tea please,” stated the woman. Melissa and the gentleman chatted politely while his wife quietly drank her tea. When she was done, the woman stood, thanking Melissa for her hospitality. “We must be on our way. Come along, Husband.”
The man chuckled as he stood up and also thanked Melissa. He then followed his wife to the car carrying both umbrellas. Well, that is certainly a strange pair … though it is obvious there is love there, but I imagine she finds him a bit of a handful, Melissa thought.
Melissa looked at her watch. “Well, no special visitors yet and it is almost ten.” She sighed and took the breakfast dishes inside. As she was cleaning up, Melissa heard someone crying. At the curb was a vehicle with the engine still running. Inside, a woman was crying on her steering wheel, while a young voice tried to get her attention. Melissa went out to the car and asked the woman if she was ok. The woman looked up with tears rolling out of a dirty, blood-streaked, lightly bruised face. “Yesssss … everything is fine.”
“Not very convincing,” Melissa said. “Are you sure you are ok?” At that the blond woman started crying harder. “Why don’t you, and — ” as Melissa looked in the back seat “ — your son come inside. We can get you cleaned up and calmed down, so that you can make it safely to your destination.” Surprisingly, the woman readily complied. Once inside, the woman and her son meekly followed Melissa to the bathroom, where she was given soap and a towel with which to clean up. When they came back out, Melissa was stunned at the woman’s beauty. “Do you want to talk about this?” The woman shook her head while clutching at her son in his archery shirt. Looking at her torn shirt, Melissa asked “Do you have anything to change into?” Again the woman shook her head and looked like she was about to burst into tears again. “Well, I have an idea if you don’t mind used clothing … my mother recently died and I think you could fit into at least some of her clothing. Would you like to try some on?” The woman gratefully nodded. So Melissa took her into the bedroom, leaving the boy to watch Animal Planet on the TV in the living room.
Taking a deep breath, Melissa opened up her mother’s closet and told the woman she could have whatever would fit her. Melissa then left the room to get a bag for the clothes. When the woman came out, she was wearing her mother’s favorite pink shirt with roses and carried an armload of clothing. Melissa was sad, but glad that the clothing was going to someone who could use it. The woman thanked her quietly, folded the clothes into the bag, collected her son and left. Melissa shook her head, “I hope she finds peace and happiness for her and her son. Since she took most of Mom’s clothes, that is one less thing for me to do.”
Upon checking the time, Melissa decided to put the turkey in the oven and then started preparing lunch. She wondered if those dream visitors would ever appear or if she paid to much attention to her over-active imagination.
As she was moving the sandwiches out to the porch table, she saw a young girl wandering down the street looking a little scared and alone. In her hands was a grubby, wilting bouquet of flowers. Melissa called out to her, “Hello, little one. Are you lost?”
“No,” said the girl a bit defiantly, “my mom is!”
“Well then, why don’t you come and sit on the porch with me and we will decide how to find your lost mom.”
The girl climbed on to the porch looking a bit forlorn. “I’m going to get into trouble again. She’ll yell at me for wandering away … again.” The girl sighed. “But there is so much to see and do before I go home again!” Before Melissa could ask what she meant, they heard a voice calling.
“Korrrrey, Korrrrrey. Where are you Korey?!”
“Mummmy! Up here!” she called as she enthusiastically waved to her mother.
A relieved, but frustrated woman walked up to the porch. “Young lady what have I told you about your wandering?! Will you never learn?!”
The girl looked at Melissa and whispered, “Told you.” She then studied her feet and tried to look contrite. “Sorry, Mom.”
To forestall what looked like an old argument, Melissa asked them if they would join her for lunch. “Please don’t go through the trouble,” said the mother.
“No trouble,” said Melissa. “The sandwiches are right inside.” She brought out a large platter covered in sandwiches. “Dig in and enjoy.”
The three of them ate their fill. “Thank you so much for lunch. I’m sorry my daughter bothered you,” said the mother as she took her daughter by the hand.
“No worries,” said Melissa. “Don’t forget your flowers,” she told the girl.
The girl laughingly picked the bedraggled bouquet up and handed them to her mother as they wandered down the street. “Aren’t they pretty?”
Melissa laughed and shook her head. Rascal, she thought as she picked up the lunch dishes. “Well this day certainly is going by but still no divine visitors. I’m starting to think I’m making a fool out of myself.” Melissa went back inside and checked on the dinner preparations. The door bell rang.
When Melissa went to the door she found a dark-haired teenage tomboy holding a struggling black kitten in her hand. Behind her on the side walk was a blond boy wearing a rock t-shirt. “Would you like a cat?”
“Please ma’am, if you don’t take her and I don’t find anyone else, she’ll have to go to the pound and they kill animals there. Please?!”
Melissa looked at the kitten and thought about all the times she wanted one but could not have one because of her Mother’s allergies or because she lived in an apartment. But she now lived in a house with plenty of room and Mom was not here to sniffle and sneeze. She smiled, “I’d love to have it.”
“See, Bro!” The girl called out to blond, “I told you this house needed a cat!” The teen shoved the cat into Melissa’s hands and skipped down the sidewalk. “Enjoy,” she called out over her shoulder.
The kitten immediately started mewing and gently tapped Melissa’s face with its paw. “Her name is Celeste,” the girl called out. The kitten purred in response.
Melissa took the kitten inside, fed her and continued with her dinner preparations. “A cat. I finally get to have a cat! I hope you like it here, Celeste!” The cat meowed in response then continued eating.
The doorbell rang again. What is it this time?! Melissa thought. Before she got to the door she could hear the people on the porch arguing. “He just forgot to call!” Looking out her screen door she founnd a man and a woman in dusty clothes. Before she could say a word, the man asked for her father. “I’m sorry, he’s …. not here. How can I help you?”
“See! I told you he changed his mind. I knew it was too good to be true!” The woman in the owl t-shirt said.
“No, ‘Theney! He just forgot!” Turning to Melissa, the man asked, “Did he leave a package for Heph or for the Youth Center Workshop?! He said he wanted to donate a bunch of tools and stuff that he could no longer see well enough to use.”
Melissa vaguely remembered her father saying something about a youth center workshop last time she talked with him. The items were probably in his workshop. The one area she hadn’t ventured yet. She felt so not ready to do this, but the cause was a good one. “Let’s go out to his workshop and see if he left them in there.”
As she lead the way around the house, she could just feel the look of triumph that Heph gave his female companion. She unlocked the door and turned on the light. Sure enough there were several boxes labeled “youth center” in her dad’s handwriting. Looking around she could see that once they were gone, a big part of her father would be too. She bit her lip and invited the pair in, noticing for the first time that Heph walked with a limp. “Here they are, just as you said. Do you need a hand carrying them out to your car?”
“No, we can get them. Thanks!” The pair grabbed the boxes and were on their way.
Melissa could hear Heph saying as they left her sight, “I told you he didn’t forget!” First her mother’s clothes and now her dad’s tools; cleaning them out had been easier than she expected, but heart-wrenching nonetheless. “Mom and Dad would have wanted it this way,” she kept reminding herself.
As Melissa headed into the kitchen to check on dinner, she thought, “All this food and no one to share it with. Why did no one come?! That silly feather! I’m the bird brain.”
Suddenly she could hear a loud commotion coming from the alley. What now?! she thought as she headed out back. There she found a hippy looking guy carrying a wine bottle berating two homeless men, one wearing a Navy cap and the other wearing a ratty Army shirt. “See where service to your country has got you? Old fools! I ….”
“Now you wait one minute!” yelled Melissa. “You have no right to speak to them this way. Their service gave you the freedoms to live and speak as you do. You will apologize right now and humbly ask their forgiveness or so help me I’ll give you the thrashing you need and then call the police!”
“Ma’am, he’s just a no good, worthless druggy. Nothing he says is of importance. It isn’t like he’s any better off than we are since he lives on the streets, too. We ignore him and all his ilk,” said the man in the Navy hat as he nudged his glowering partner back a step.
“But war is wrong and look where it has got them, on the street with no place to go! At least I haven’t lost my self-respect!”
Looking at the hippy and the two vets, Melissa said, “That is enough! I don’t care if you agree with each other’s choices. Why you are where you are is your own business.” Looking at the hippy, “I just care that you treat veterans with the respect they deserve. Without them and those like them, you would not be living in a country filled with so much freedom or opportunity!” Then looking at the vets she said, “If you don’t like others to judge you so harshly, maybe you shouldn’t judge them that way either.”
The Army vet spoke up, “How about you just share some of that home brew you’re toting around and we’ll agree to disagree.” The other nodded his head in hearty agreement.
The hippy said “But I was hoping to trade it for some food!”
“How about you all come into my backyard, wash up and we’ll all share a meal and this home brew.” The men thought that was a great idea.
The four of them sat at the picnic table in the garden and shared the turkey dinner she made. The conversation was not always polite or friendly, but views were aired, tummies filled, and a little more understanding was spread about by the good meal. The men, after thanking her for the meal, left her yard still arguing, but seemingly more respectful of each other. As Melissa took the dishes inside, she thought about the three men. She prayed that they’d be alright and would find a way to get off the streets.
“Phew! What a day!” Melissa was exhausted. She had cleaned and prepared all day yesterday. Spent the day expecting special guests, but instead seemed to take in every stray human (and animal) in the area. Yet none of them were the guests she was expecting.
Melissa stood before her Hestia candle, twisting the golden-brown feather in her hands. “Where was the booming voice and his family? Why did no one come? Did I misunderstand? Was it all just a silly dream? I am all alone!”
Celeste meowed emphatically.
“Oops! I meant that man and his family, they never appeared. Sorry, Celeste.”
Suddenly the candle shot out a spark. It grew bigger and bigger until out of it stepped an auburn-haired woman dressed in a burnt orange gown of ancient design. “Hello, my child.”
Melissa sputtered. Celeste rubbed up against the woman’s legs.
“Your visitors did come.” She gestured to the candle where images of all the people that were at the house today could be seen. “There was Hermes, Zeus and Hera, Aphrodite and Eros, Persephone and Demeter, Artemis and Apollon, Athene and Hephaistos, and lastly Dionysos, Ares and Poseidon. So my child, you had your divine visitors and they found your hospitality everything they had hoped for. Just because the Gods were not wearing the form you expected, does not mean that they do not visit you from time to time. You were lucky; most do not get a warning of their visit. Yet even though they were not what you expected, you were kind and generous just the same. I am proud of you, Melissa.” The woman gently kissed her on the forehead and then disappeared into the spark once again ….