THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

Everything Changes

When the children had made it to the Nuck's table in the morning they were surprised to see ToyLin and Terry already sitting there.

Lester and Jasmine hugged Terry, Yuwon hugged ToyLin.

"What are you doing here, Mom?" Lester asked.

"ToyLin and I come here a lot," Terry said. "The Nucks were the biggest part of our planning for your return from ChildIsle. But there's another reason ...."

"It's about Marten," ToyLin said.

"We knew there was something," Eddy and Jasmine said.

"We knew you would," Terry said, "and we knew we had to tell you as soon as possible. Marten want's you to know. He's dying."

"How long?" Jasmine asked.

"What is it?" Eddy asked.

"He said he has about two weeks," Terry said. "We don't know what it is, and he won't tell us. He said if there was anything that could be done he'd tell us, but there isn't, so, 'there's no point,' he said."

"Is there anything we can do?" Jasmine asked.

"Apparently you've already done all that can be done, Jasmine," Terry said. "He said he was ready to die over twelve years ago and something happened that has kept him alive all these years. When we asked him what it was, all he said was, 'Jasmine.'"

Jasmine suddenly groaned and hugged Lester. She buried her face in his chest, sobbing.



A little over a week later Terry called to say Marten would like everyone to come to his place the next afternoon. "I'll pick you up," She said.

Terry came with the van alone the next afternoon. She said ToyLin was already at Marten's helping him with something, but didn't say what.

When they arrived, the living room looked even more orderly than the last time which was obviously the work of Terry and ToyLin. Marten was in his big easy chair and seemed his usual commanding self.

"Go to him," Lester said to Jasmine as soon as they saw him.

"Just this once," Marten said when Jasmine was standing in front of him with a pleading look.

"I've fallen and hurt myself," she said. "I cut my heart and I don't think you can fix it." Then she collapsed into his lap like a little girl wrapping her arms around his neck, sobbing silently, then abruptly stopped.

"I'm sorry, Marten," she said. "I know how you hate weakness." She kissed him. "Anyway, I love you!" she said, and stood.

"You know, Jasmine, the one thing I remember about that first day is that you never cried," Marten said.

"I never cry because there is never any reason to. Now I've cried twice in less than two weeks, but I won't do it again," she said.

Only Lester, Eddy, and Yuwon noticed the scene. The others were all busy making minor arrangements for the evening. Lester went to Jasmine and was about to speak when Marten interrupted him, "she is one's whole reason for living."

"I know," is all Lester said.



The rest of the afternoon and evening were uneventful and were meant to be. At some point when Terry, Franklin, Donald Nast, ToyLin, Quanlo, Kimlee, Lester, Jasmine, Eddy, Yuwon, Anthony, and Veronica were all together, Marten said, "There is no special reason for this get together. I just wanted everyone involved in our adventure here at one time.

There was some recounting of events of the adventure which Marten enjoyed very much, especially the bullroarer story.

Terry, ToyLin, Quanlo, and Kimlee had prepared a kind of buffet for everyone.

Later in the evening, Marten spoke quietly to Lester and Jasmine. "Can you come here tomorrow morning around nine? Just you. I have something I must tell you." he said.

Of course they said they would.



Lester had asked Terry to pick them up and drop them off at Marten's the next morning. When they arrived they found Marten in his little office.

"Come in and sit down," he invited.

There was a love seat in front of and to the left of his big desk. They sat and Jasmine leaned up against Lester and let one of her legs hang over the arm of the seat, like a little girl.

"It's really none of my business," Marten began, "and I'll understand if you choose not to discuss it, but do you two have plans for what you will do now?"

"We have some long range plans," Lester said. "It's the short term we haven't decided yet. At least we won't be participating in, 'decision day.'"

"You actually never had to worry about that," Marten said. "Everything has changed."

"What's changed, Marten," Lester asked.

"Oh, the whole Forbidder system for one thing. There are reasons for it, which are not interesting, but the fact is, the Forbidders are just not interested in Nochose any more. If you never make a decision it won't even be noticed. The only thing that would be noticed is if you interfered in the 'decision day' process. As long as you are not a threat to their system, they're not interested in what you do."

"You knew this all along, Marten?" Jasmine sounded indignant but was really only bewildered.

"You know I wouldn't keep anything from you Jasmine. There was no point in telling you before, but now things have changed."

"I know. I'm sorry Marten. So many things have changed, haven't they?" she said.

"Yes," he said. "For you possibly better, but not easier," he said,

"I'm not interested in easy," she said. "Not a thing worth doing is easy."

"So do you care to say what your long term plans are?"

Jasmine and Lester looked at each other.

"We kind of thought they were obvious," Lester said. "We have no interest in life without each other."

"Well, yes, I suppose they are obvious, in that sense," Marten smiled. "I just hope they are not too long term."

"Well we are pretty young," Jasmine said.

"So you are going to wait until you are no longer a child," he said a bit sarcastically.

Lester got it immediately and grinned, but Jasmine thought the question was serious.

"At least until it's right," she said.

"So Lester is not right for you yet?" Marten pressed. "Perhaps when it's no longer fun, then it will be right?"

"Oh Marten," she suddenly said. "Of course I'll never stop being a child, and I couldn't possibly be more serious about life or my love. There is nothing to wait for, is there?"

"No, Nothing," He said. "But you'll need a place to live. Terry would be glad to have you, but I don't think it would work for you."

"We thought about that," Lester said. "It is one of the reasons we were waiting. We really don't want to live with Mom."

"Well you have a place already, or will have in a few days. You never knew it, Jasmine, but this has been your home for almost eight years, since I put it in your name. You don't have to keep it, but it's Lester's and yours, including everything in it. It's not a gift. In fact it will be a great responsibility if you choose to keep it and I know no one else I would trust with it."

Lester and Jasmine were both overwhelmed by all the meaning in what Marten had just said. Neither could speak, but Marten knew their minds.

"Tonight or tomorrow," he said. "I will not see you again, and you are not to grieve. ToyLin has made all the arrangements. Please do nothing until she contacts you. I'm not going to say goodbye because our relationship will never end, it's just going to change."

Marten stood up and walked around the desk to Jasmine and Lester who also stood. Marten shook Lester's hand and gave him a hug. Then he hugged Jasmine and she kissed him on the cheek.

Then Marten said, "Just always be as happy with each other as I have been with you," as his way of dismissing them.

***