Bellania had her first taste of traveling when she was five years. She recalls that time when she was sitting proudly next to her mother in the window seat staring out onto the landscape. It was like looking through a large view master. Everything was in 3D, very vivid with colorful landscapes passing her by as the train moved steady ahead. This was so exciting for her because she had never really been on a long journey before but there would be many more to come, beyond what she knew as earthly travels. She loved to sit quietly and count how many houses, trees, cows, or cars she passed by until it was too many to count, and would wrack her brain. Bellania was an intelligent child and knew more than her peers, she was truly gifted.
Where she came from there were many traveling shows, talisman, and so called spiritual prophets who went door to door selling something or another. Sometimes they would sell medicine, read your fortune, or trade some youth tonic for the elder folks.
She looked up at her mother with big, wide, friendly but serious looking eyes, almost too grown up for her age, and asked, “Mommy why does that old woman keep staring at me?”
“What woman sweetie, don’t pay her any attention, she is just an old lady and she just thinks you are pretty to look at.”
“No mommy she keeps staring at me and her eyes follow me everywhere I go. She’s scaring me,” Bellania pleaded.
The old lady was a sight to be seen to any onlooker, but especially by a little girl who was frightened by all the old wives tales and stories she had heard, during the thunder storms. Bellania had a phobia about the thunder storms, “this is God’s work, be still and listen,” her grandmother would say sitting in a dark room with only a candle for light. No electricity because the lightning storm would be drawn to the electricity and strike the old house for sure was her grandma’s belief.
The old lady on the train had a veil over her face that looked as though it was made of black, thick ornate lace. But there was something different that made it look like it was part of her facial features and she never seemed to remove it. It made you feel like it was a disfigurement of her face.
“Bellania if you stop staring at her maybe she will not staring back,” her mother noticed and commented abruptly but lovingly.
“It is not polite to stare.”
But in spite of her mother’s coaxing she just could not help herself. She always watched and observed people everywhere she would go. She was much smarter than they thought. She knew she was different because she knew too much.
Bellania was fifteen now and thinking about that infamous train ride. She was striking to look at, there was a serene quality in her eyes and the most descriptive aspect of her whole being was her eyes. They were friendly but very serious, she had an innate ability to see pass you, through you and with you at the same time.
You know the old adage that the eyes are the window to your soul was not just a metaphor to people who had grown to know Bellania. The gypsy saying is that the eyes is the passport to the soul, the eyes do not lie and she was part gypsy-blood from the old gypsies of the ancient European ancestry. All of her family was from the old eastern European country but through the political powers that had overthrown her country of origin, it dismantled her immediate family, she became an orphan at birth and was adopted by the time she was the innocent age of two.
Going back to the long train ride en route to visit her extended, adopted family in the country-side in the South of France, she had always harbored this memory as it held the key to her past and future. And one day she would find that key.
As she sat still for a minute, she could hear the screeching shrill of the whistle of the train while it stopped to unload and load passengers but the old lady still remained in her seat. Bellania could not see if she was smiling her frowning but I guess it did not really matter to her because she was too young then to understand that the old lady in the veil would be with her wherever she would go. It was divine providence. Bellania was only five then but would hardly forget the first touch with her spirit world.
Bellania had heard the words, child prodigy, but only discovered what that would mean to her until she was much older. She knew it was special and learned to accept that she was the special one.
As soon as she started to feel relaxed and sleepy from the rocking motion of the train, she started to drift into a sleep, then awakened suddenly, her eyes peered across the aisle and she could see eyes staring in return. She pretended to be asleep just to trick her but no matter how many times she tried; the old lady with the veil was always watching her. So finally she gave in and really went to sleep this time in a much needed slumber.
They were close to Marseille now. She had heard of the azure blue water, the nightly celebrations of life, the carnivals and circuses. She was so excited.
The train moved slower and at last came to a complete halt at the station, their destination at last. As she moved to stand up, she could not resist and looked back towards the old lady in the veil and this time she looked back. This time with a distinct smile, then she moved a little closer as all the passengers were standing and gently pushing forward, the old lady in the veil leaned over towards Bellania. Bellania held her mother’s hand tightly this time, as she usually did not. In just a few steps the old lady was ushered to go in front of her but she refused, and turned to the little girl and extended her hand to her, uttering words for the first time, in the four hours of the trip, “May I have your hand?”
For some reason, Bellania had no fear and was taught to be polite to the elders, she reached out to help her depart the train.
“Let me see your hand, young lady.”
Bellania’s little hand reached towards her and the old veiled lady said. “yes I see now, ah yes I see much clearer now, yes I see much better, you were born with a veil over your eyes.”
*Lawander (AKA Wanda) Thompson is currently a Civic Arts Commissioner and a strong advocate for all things art and the sustainability for the next generations to come. Wanda has also served formerly as a staff member for the Arts Commission in the 1980’s. And she says this is her second wind for advocating for an important cause for the literary arts community.
Wanda is a graduate of St .Leo’s High School, when at one time, it was all girls and right before Aquinas Academy, St. Leo’s and Bellarmine became co-ed. She says the first book she read was, Little Women, which was given to her as a birthday gift from her mother when she was in the third grade.
She wrote her first poetry and prose in the National Voice of Democracy contest and her poem, Freedom, won her national acclaim at seventeen. Wanda has contributed numerous articles for fashion and beauty in local Northwest weekly’s, and has been writing ever since.
Wanda has served on many community boards and commissions in Tacoma, the city she loves, although she is well-traveled, her early childhood was in France and a year abroad in Paris as an exchange student during her junior year in college, but she always calls Tacoma home.
She’s a graduate of Evergreen State College and currently working on her post-graduate degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, to move forward with her PhD in Narratology and Oral Traditions.
She currently has worked as an administrator and trainer for state government for twenty years and spends her spare time reading the classics, special writing projects, and enjoying versification, in which she believes that poetry is a speaking picture to teach and delight.
Wanda is working on a book of poetry and a trilogy of short stories and her body of work includes four screenplays, numerous poems, and several short stories.*