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Ninety-Three Seconds

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There was never enough time: to talk, to learn, to understand. There never is, of course. Always the next disaster, always another emergency.

And so I never saw the Confessor except in passing, as I hurried from crisis to crisis over the years. He had a strict circumference to his activities while I roamed freely, but I admit that when I was (rarely) in his neighborhood, I looked for him: a slightly deeper shadow, a gleam of silver eyes. He would nod gravely as I went by, able to perceive me even at my top speed. I would raise a hand in recognition.

Someday, I thought, I would find the time to stop and speak with him. I sensed the years that gathered around him like mist, an air of ancient artifacts. Surely he would be there someday, one day when I had time.

And then the somedays ran out.

I think all this as I go through his old neighborhood on my way to an Honor Guard meeting--a full five seconds out of my way, I confess. It feels empty, somehow, drained of vitality.

And then I catch a flicker of darkness in the shadow, a glimmer of a white cross.

My heart leaps, but the hope is gone before I even realize why, because the shadowed figure doesn’t see me; his stance is all wrong, human grace rather than the eerie fluidity I remember. It’s the boy, of course, the one he had been training. Taking his place, moving on, as we all must. No time to linger.

But.

I stop in front of him, and see his human-hazel eyes widen. “Samaritan. Sir,” he says.

His mentor, I am sure, would never have called me “sir.” But then, I’ll never truly know.

“It’s good that you’re continuing his legacy,” I say.

He shows no surprise that I can see he is not the same Confessor. “He was a good man,” he says, and I’m pleased to hear that now his voice is faintly challenging.

I nod. “I know.”

The challenge slips away and leaves only grief in its wake. “You...knew him?”

“No.” It hurts to say. “I saw him now and then. We never spoke. I didn’t know him.”

A pause. He touches the white cross on his chest without seeming to realize it. It doesn’t glow with the eerie light his teacher’s did. “I think maybe you did, sir.”

“May I...ask what his name was?” I don’t really expect an answer, and am surprised when the boy responds, giving the name to me. I repeat it and he nods.

“I have to go,” I say. I’ll be thirty seconds late to the meeting now; unprecedented. Quarrel will tease me about it, of course.

“Thank you. For stopping,” he says.

“Good hunting,” I reply, and he smiles.

His mentor has no grave, of course, no place I can give an offering. But as I hurry to my meeting, I realize that I’ve given Jeremiah Parrish ninety-three seconds of my time. A trivial gift, given far too late. We can only give what we have.

But I would like to think that he would appreciate the gesture.