Paternoster Tales: Chapter 11

Guilt

Molly is feeling guilty. About yesterday and nudging Hugo in the direction of a happier fate.

As you know, she actually nudged him into a puddle, but that is not the point. It is not Paternoster’s point. The puddle meant that he met the stork girl and meeting her sealed his future happiness. But he shouldn’t ever have landed in the puddle. That wasn’t the plan for him. He was destined to have his heart broken by Heather. If it hadn’t been for Molly’s nudge … and Lucretia’s meddling, in the first place, which resulted in the fork and the flat tyre … his fate would have been entirely different.

We are NOT meant to change fates. Because changing fates changes history.

We can move things. We can startle pigeons and make a fox scared of its own shadow. We can make lights flicker and fog billow and swirl like it’s alive. And we can whip up bubbling froth on the surface of a puddle. We can do all of these things … and Paternoster seldom disapproves because none of them does any harm. But altering fate – that’s entirely different. Once changed it can’t be reversed. If it turned out bad, I’m not sure we could bear the consequences. Molly knew this. But she still nudged Hugo.

Molly has just spent an uncomfortable few hours with Paternoster and she has promised never to do it again.

It’s a really difficult balance – to change someone’s life for the better or risk stepping back and leaving it a miserable and unhappy voyage. It’s a choice we’ve all, at times, wished we didn’t have. Perhaps, heart broken, Hugo would have written a best-selling book that might have helped others. Perhaps, on the other hand, he and the stork girl might change history themselves. Perhaps, it is something we can’t ever know. What might have been; what the new fate will now be. Maybe, we shouldn’t interfere. But – but – but … wouldn’t you like to know that we are looking out for you and for your fate and that we can change it if we can make it better?

… see what I mean by difficult!

Paternoster had a busy morning. He was doubly cross – first Lucretia and Agatha and the Red! red wellies and then Molly and the puddle. A doubly cross Paternoster is a sight to behold. In fact, it’s impossible to behold. When he’s that cross, Paternoster shimmers. Static electricity blurs his outline and he becomes a mirage of himself. He talked at Molly. Then he talked at us. Quiet rage arced below his surface. Then vented out of him in the champion burp that started this story.

When the burp fumes cleared, we rested our bruised backs against the cool water of the fountain. And watched the silent footfall of people passing through the Square. And Agatha who was chasing a ping-pong ball. And her mother who was hiding hot tears.

I need to tell you more about us and how we came to be here. That will help to explain what happened next. Why Agatha’s mother was crying. And how Paternoster … Paternoster! … chose to alter fate and tried to cover up what he had done. And how a wooly hat, a stray dog and a mug of hot chocolate righted a terrible wrong. Come back tomorrow and I’ll start to tell you.

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