“What are you doing?” Seth asked Sarah, startling her.

“Recording the atmospheric readings,” the redhead replied, without turning her head.

“Really?” Seth asked, and Sarah could feel the smile that came with the question, without seing it.

“Why is this surprising? You know I always record the atmospheric readings at this time of day.” Sarah replied, finally turning around.

“I don’t know, I thought you’d have delegated this to one of your students by now. Besides, nobody had a life since the preparations for the blessed event started, I’m just so relieved to see someone live a normal life for a change,” Seth replied.

“Define normal life, what’s normal about being here? We move time-space slices across the universe!”

“Not that often!” Seth protested.

“We’re twelve hundred years old,” Sarah didn’t relent.

“So what?” the leader retorted.

“I have an synthetic daughter who embodies the memories of an eternal race,” Sarah continued her enumeration.

“Everybody is different,” Seth replied.

“My point is, what’s normal?” Sarah concluded.

“Whatever our daily life is, here, that’s normal for me,” Seth smiled.

“Then managing the wisps’ administrative issues must be part of normal, too,” Sarah said.

“Good God, I hope not! When is this going to be over? I’ll have to file a daily report for breathing soon!”

“They are not that bad!” Sarah smiled.

“Are you kidding me?! We almost had to eat sister Abigail’s cooking just because it was approved!” the leader protested, outraged.

Sarah didn’t reply. When you have known somebody for a lifetime, most things have already been said. Seth stood in silence for a while, while the redhead moved about the shop, sorting, testing and recording. She stopped for a second to look at the leader, who still stood there, smiling, deep in thought, almost half an hour later.

“What is it?” Sarah asked, intrigued.

“Nothing,” Seth kept smiling. “I never thought I’d see normal again,” she repeated.

“What’s still left to do?” Sarah broke her reverie. Seth groaned, suddenly brought back to the harsh reality of the wisps’ endless approval process.

“Quite frankly, nothing. You know this is a pointless waste of time, right? Sys could put everything together on the spot, by request!” Seth commented.

“I know,” Sarah smiled.

“And it doesn’t drive you nuts?”

“Why? If there is anything we have in abundance, it’s time! If it makes the wisps happy and Lily’s life a little easier, what’s the big deal?”

“I must be getting old because this explanation actually started to make sense to me. I can’t believe I’m doing this!”

“Everything will turn out absolutely perfect,” Sarah encouraged, smiling.

“After this number of meetings, I expect nothing less!” Seth retorted. “We didn’t coordinate as much when we came here! I don’t even know if anything else is happening in the meantime. Don’t we usually have visiting faculty at the Institute, guests from Airydew, tourists?”

“We put off most of the events until after the Bonding Ceremony,” Sarah replied.

“Could you please try and convince Roberta to give up her light and sound surprise? I fear Lily is going to crack!”

“Nobody convinces Roberta! How many times did you convince Roberta to change something once her mind was made up? Lily will be fine, she’s a lot tougher than you think,” Sarah smiled.

Seth sat on the built in bench in front of the louvers, to enjoy the balmy air and watch the beautiful chocolate skies as they got painted with raspberry swirls in the sunset. Sarah forgot she was there after a while, busy as she was observing, cataloging and analyzing her plant samples, communicating results to the plant genetics team, checking class schedules and solving mundane maintenance problems at the Institute.

The fragrances of vanilla and gardenia enveloped all activity like a blanket, rising from the steam distillers and the dishes filled with concretes that lay around the shop. For a second, a very tired Seth thought she was still in the healing garden, and was surprised at the softness of the stone benches, and then her thoughts got tangled in the noise of interlink communications, Purple babble and the sounds of the people coming and going, Sarah’s soft voice dictating research articles to the central core, and Solomon’s soft paws jumping through the roof trusses, and she allowed the vanilla fragrance to lull her to sleep.

(Letters to Lelia)