She frowned. "No, could you just let him know that it Minerva called. Itís really important that he call me back as soon as he gets in. My number is 215-888-6929."

"Say again?"

"215-888-6929. Okay?"

"I have it." Click.

Minerva looked around herself to make sure that no one had heard her andwas investigating the voice from the phone booth before she stood up and hung up the phone. She immediately dropped back to the floor and waited. The small space was cramped and she had to sit with her knees in the air. If she sat with them crossed, it might take her too long to unwind and stand when the phone bell started ringing when Joel called her back.

Mindlessly, she stared at her bracelets, turning them to look at them. She wondered how in the world she could have let one slip off and not notice it for such a long time. When she thought of the moment it must have slipped off, it wasnít hard for her to realize why she hadnít noticed it. The motion and the sounds of the train were a definite distraction, and easily would have masked the sound of the bracelet falling to the floor. And, of course, there was the major distraction in the person of Joel Goldstein.

She folded her arms across her knees when she thought about him, and a smile leapt on her face. There was something terribly attractive about him that she found totally irresistible, and a little frightening. He was so full of passion for what he did and in spite of the standoffishness that he projected, she knew that his true nature was of one who cared so deeply that he didnít want it to overwhelm him. She remembered how he looked at her on the bus the first time he noticed her. No doubt a thousand thoughts about her had run through his mind, and she could see it when she watched him in the reflection of the busís glass window. And to see him played as a reflection in the window outlined in rainwater cascading down it, let her know just how elemental he was. And it was then and there that she knew he was the one for her.

For days prior to that, she had watched him from afar, studying his mannerisms, and the way he reacted to different situations around him. He oozed compassion the way a honeycomb filled with sweetest honey oozes when it is too full. In all that time, he never noticed her, even though her appearance had never changed in all that time, her clothing she wore notwithstanding. But when he finally saw, it was so unbelievable that she felt goose bumps rise on her arms, and she quivered with elation.

Even sitting in the booth, she felt it and needed to her his voice, so she stood and called him again. For a second, she wondered if it was truly just her wanting to hear his voice that urged her to call him so much, or if it was genuine concern for the whereabouts of her bracelet. She figured it was fifty percent of each.

Unfortunately, the woman answered the phone, and not surprisingly, Joel wasnít there. Once again, she left a message, and slithered back down on her butt to sit and wait some more.

She heard voices coming closer and she sat rock still. They seemed to linger in front of the phone booth forever, gabbing about the students and the weather, and what they were planning to do for the weekend. Actually, what the woman had planned sounded very interesting, and Minerva listened intently. The woman was going to a demonstration to outlaw the use of biodiesel and other food-derived fuels. Most serious environmentalists had long known that such petroleum alternatives were just as bad as, if not worse than, the petroleum products. Their rise as a seemingly viable alternative to petroleum had led to the devastation of millions of acres of land that otherwise wouldnít have been disturbed for that purpose, further eroding the worldís ability to scrub the combusted petroleum vapors and debris from the atmosphere. And all for economics, the woman lamented as she and her cohort finally moved on, still yapping away.

Minerva wondered if Joel would attend that. Better yet, she wondered if Joel would take her if she let him know about it in time.

Which reminded herÖ she stood again and made a call to Joel. Still, the woman answered and he wasnít there. Yet!

"I saw him on the train this morning! Whatís taking him so long to get there!?!"

"Listen, hunny," the woman said, obviously so vexed by Minervaís badgering that her English was threatening to break down into her first language. "Dr. Goldstein will get here when he gets here. Could be a minute from now, could be an hour. Would you like to leave a message on his voice mail?"

She sighed. "No, can you tell himÖ"

"Minerva called. Yes, yes, I know all that. Same number?"

"Yes."

Click.

At first she wondered if the woman was rude or she was just tired of answering the same call from the same person with the same message, all barely five minutes apart. Impishly, she endeavored to find out.

She dialed the number again and had to refrain from giggling.

"Good morning, RRR Environmental Consultants. How may I direct your call?"

"Joel Goldstein, please."

"God, deliver me! Minerva Snow again?"

"Yes."

"Well, heís still not here. Is there anything I can help you with? Maybe one of the other scientists?"

"No, I really, really need to speak to Joel. Have you tried his mobile phone?"

Mineva was stunned. "Mobile phone?"

"Yes, his mobile phone. His number is 215-888-6930. Give that a try. Okay?"

"Okay, but could you let him know the minute he comes in that I called him. Itís urgent!"

"Sure."

Click.

She looked at his business card, but there was no mobile phone number listed on it. That made her feel better, knowing that she hadnít overlooked something so obvious.

She started to get up to dial the number, but more voices came, so she sat quietly and bided her time. This time, two men walked past, talking about sports. Minerva didnít know too much about sports, except that they were waste of time unless you were actually engaged in the activity. Her teachers in her old school said that she was a great athlete and that she should go out for any of the sports teams that they had available there, but there was really nothing that she wanted to do as an organized activity. Her best friend played softball and always tried to get Minerva to join her, but Minerva would just watch and lend her support to her friend while she played. Wow, what a waste of time that had been, although she loved her friend dearly. She would have been better served to spend that time learning more about the culture she had become a part of. While the sports watching was cultural, she regretted trying to discover the seed and the root of the cultureís obsession with material items and social stature proxied through material ownership and wealth accumulation.

Truly, it made little sense to her.

Again, the voices passed and she went unnoticed. However, she had a feeling that she was running out of time, and that sooner rather than later, someone who find her huddled in the booth and question her as to her presence there. She didnít want that.

She stood and dialed the number.

"Good morning, RRR Environmental Consultants. How may I direct your call?"

"OhÖ"

"Minerva? Did you get through to Dr. Goldstein on his mobile phone?"

"No. I dialed this number by mistake. I guess I got so used to calling it."
"You want to leave a message?"

"Yes. Tell Joel that if he doesnít call me back soon, there could be a disaster."

"What kind of disaster?"

"A terrible one."

"In Philly?"

"Across the whole world."

The woman paused. "Is this a prank, Minerva?"

"No."

"Okay, well, Dr. Goldstein isnít here. Iíll let him know that you called."

"Thank you."

Minerva slumped down. She hoped that she didnít sound too alarmist and paranoid, but she knew that what she said was more true than exaggerated. It wasnít false. But the fate of the world and her bracelet were not as directly correlated as she had alluded to in calling it a potential world-wide disaster. If it fell into the wrong hands, yes. If it was just lost and lost for good, no.

She stood and dialed his mobile phone number.

"RRR Environmental, Joel Goldstein."

She nearly shrieked. It was he!

"Joel?"

"Minerva?"

She nearly fainted as her knees went weak. He sounded so pleased and excited to hear her. She had to calm herself.

"Yes, itís me."

"I got your messages to call you. Whatís up?"

"I lost one of my bracelets. Did you see one on the train?" She was so hopeful that she found herself standing on her toes.

"Yes. I have it."

It was the final declaration in what she had suspected all along. He was the one.

"Oh, thank goodness. Youíre a life saver!"

"Okay. Well, what do you want me to do with it?"

She took a deep breath. Now that she knew that he had it, all sense of urgency and all senses of foreboding melted away, and all that was left was the sound of Joel on the phone with her. Snuggled in the booth, she could almost feel that he was surrounding her with his passion and his compassion. In fact, the bracelet was probably in the place that it was meant to be.

"Just hang on to it for me? Please?"

"Sure, not a problem."

"Itís real important to me, but I wonít be able to get it from you anytime soon."

"Okay, Iíll hang on to it for you."

She had to bite her lip to keep from squealing. But she couldnít contain her elation and it leaked out through her voice.

"Wow, youíre really great. Keep it safe now, okay?"

"Sure thing. Is there anything else?"

There was so much more, but now was not the time and the place was with him when the time was right.

"No. OhÖ when can I start working for you?"

"When you get your parents permission, when I see the paperwork and file it with the state, and when you interview for the job."

"Oh. How long does that take?"

"Not long when you get the paperwork in. As early as two weeks if you get started now."

"Sweet!"

"Is there anything else? I need to get ready for a meeting."

"No, thatís all. Thank you, Joel."

"No problem."

"Bye-eee."

"I love you, Joel," but he had already hung up.

She slumped to the floor again, but this time it was because she felt an immeasurable weight lifted from her shoulders and the weight had left her too weak to stand for the moment. She couldnít have been happier, more relieved and more satisfied than she was in that quiet moment in the phone booth. Her bracelet was safe with Joel, and it wouldnít fall into the wrong hands. She had doubled the size of her crŤche with the addition of the sisters, so it was no longer just she and Joel.

It was much more than she could have ever hoped for.

Buoyed by this new surge of energy brought about by the sudden turn of events, she stood, opened the doors to the phone booth and strode boldly down the hallway, down the stairs and back out into the weather. And no one saw her leave.

At least, no one that was a person.

 

Unto the Living Earth © 2007 Walter R. Milton