The Community sustained itself on pious devotions, vegetables from the garden, and donations from followers who remained on the outside.

Some of the Descendents had happened upon the group in search of escape from the mundane rigours of life. Some had been sent after interventions—another way the followers paid their dues. They stayed to receive Mah Sharna’s blessing and to heal.

On her sixteenth birthday Leija, who had been promised to Billy-John, was led from the Assumption Hall to the lake. After purification the couple were granted one of the cottages set aside for the spirit-bearers, the couples on whom Mah Sharna’s vision rested.

There Billy-John, who’d come when he was eleven, began explaining everything he remembered of the world he’d known before.

Outwardly they behaved in every way expected. But late at night they whispered about other things.

Mah Sharna came to Leija to remind her of her duty.

Leija whispered the Holy One’s words to Billy-John that same night.

‘Not here,’ he said. He told her what he remembered about love.

‘But love is what we have, Billy-John. I do love you.’

‘We’ll see,’ he said solemnly, for he hoped dearly that one day she could. Then he told her about the river on the other side of the hedgerow and the raft hidden in the reeds.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (