His thumb moved lightly along my cheekbone, as though he held a bird in his hands. Such care, such delicate touches left me weak. I closed my eyes in an attempt to quiet my mind. It only served to heighten the sensations of his touch. His voice was low and his face was so close to where my shoulder met my neck that I couldn't distinguish what he was saying at first, then it dawned on me that he was singing.
As I listened, it occurred to me that it was a very old song. While I couldn't understand the words, the tune lulled the frantic terror in my heart and I felt a lassitude pass through me as he sang. Cautiously, I set my right hand against his chest. He reached down and covered it with his own, his voice not wavering in his song.
I looked down at the hand covering mine. Work hardened yet clean, I could feel the strength in it. Just as that strength held me so gently and close to him, I realized, so it could protect me, if only I let it. The realization seemed to chase my terror away to the wind buffeting the hall. I was so tired of the caution and I felt heartsick for the grief I had experienced where I had sought kindness. Caught up in the morose sorrow that I felt over the past, I missed when he had finished his song.
As it occurred to me that he had fallen silent, I leaned away from him. His hold upon me softened, allowing me enough space to lean back far enough to take a good look at him. His expression was solemn as he looked at me. “Speak,” he said. I started to look away when he frowned slightly.
I swallowed nervously and said, “I'm nothing special...”
“You are special to me,” he retorted, “Go on.”
I restrained the urge to bite my lips and continued with, “What I mean is that I am just a normal...”
“You are amazing. You are strong. You love with the depth of the ocean. Why must you make so little of yourself?” he said, cutting me off again.
I opened my mouth to give a rebuttal and then realized that there really was no excuse for what I did.
“We must break you of this terrible habit,” he said, reaching up to brush a lock of hair from my eyes, “It is part of the reason why you are so sad all the time.”
I looked down at my hands, which had settled in my lap. “Listen to me, little dove,” he continued in a maddeningly calm and terribly compassionate tone, “You did no wrong. You deserve no evil or harm to befall you.” My vision blurred with sudden tears as he cut mercilessly through my lie of omission to the heart of my terrors. “No hand will be raised against you here,” he explained, “Save if you will it. But that requires a greater degree of comfort then what you have right now. You are going to relearn kindness. You extend it to others but flee it when it comes to you. This stops, starting now.”
I blinked the tears out of my eyes. “How do I know this is real?” I said, half choking on the words. He smiled warmly and gathered me closer to his chest. I felt terribly, terribly small. In the warmth of his presence, it suddenly seem such an awful thing to feel so small. He pressed his lips against my right temple. The bristles of his beard rasped softly against my skin. Every so quietly, he murmured his answer.
“How do you know it is not?”