Just beyond the edge of clouds where it shimmers with silver light, there are heavenly schools. Not schools as one might think, because students here are taught of life below the clouds on a place called earth. Scholarly things come later, in different schools.
Afloat the sky and moored to a pier next one of the schools a blue schooner with seven resting sails waits. Soon students from the school will board her decks, wind will catch her white canvases and she will carry them to earth to be born.
On this particular day, two students, a boy and a girl, are standing at the railing of the ship, looking out over the vastness of the sky. They’re both wearing chalked togas draped over their shoulders and holding hands.
“I promise I’ll never forget you,” the boy says.
She doesn’t turn to him, but continues to stare outward, the wind blowing soft curls from her face. “You know you can’t make a promise like that.”
“I know, but it doesn’t seem possible, that we can forget so much.” He follows her gaze into the sky and turns to her. “I heard where you are going…”
“I’m going where I’m needed – no different than anyone else - even you.”
“You’ll be hurt.”
“Our teacher said people can change, maybe I won’t be.”
“You’re just being brave. I wish we could be together – I’d protect you.”
“Our teacher also said, we mayn’t ever see each other- even remember one another.” She turned to him, “And once we’re human, we will be able to cause pain to others. I would never want to do that to you.
He searched her eyes. “I could never do that to you.”
“You would be human and you would.” She broke his gaze. “What will be your name on earth?”
“Scott. What will yours be?”
“That’s beautiful. Like you.” He took her hand and placed it on his chest. “I will remember it – here in my heart and search the world over to find you – no matter how long it takes.”
She let her hand rest over his heart. “I want to believe that.”
“Then if nothing else, believe it. No matter how we become changed by life – let’s not let that die between us; that we will be together again, someday. Down there, sharing life on earth.”
Tears misted her eyes and she looked out, beyond the ship’s railing. “Earth, it looks so beautiful.”
He wiped her tears. “Believe it,” he repeated. “Believe it for both of us. That I will be searching and thinking of you, always.”
She turned to look into his eyes and said, “I believe.” And, in a twinkling, she was gone.
Thirty years later, a man debarking from a commuter train in Seattle, accidentally bumped into a woman who was bending over to pick something up from the walkway.
“I do beg your pardon,” he said. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, and it’s entirely my fault, I shouldn’t have stopped so suddenly.”
“Did you drop something?”
“No, it’s just that I have this silly habit of picking up pennies.” She held up the one she’d just found. “They say if you find one face up, it means someone in heaven is thinking of you.”
He smiled. “Well, there you go. My ex-wife would hardly give a penny a second glance, much less one lying around on the pavement.”
She blushed. “Well, I don’t want to keep you.”
Peoples rushed around them. “I’m sorry, but you look so familiar. My name is Scott Purcell. I work in the law offices just around the corner.”
She held out her hand. “Claire Rogers, your firm handled my divorce three years ago.” Pain became evident in her eyes and she bit her lip. “It was, in a word, bitter.”
“I’m sorry; I’ve only been at the firm for a year.” He took her hand, held it for maybe a moment too long, feeling a clutch in his heart. “Claire…that’s such a pretty name, unusual in fact.”
“Yes, well, I guess we both need be going.”
“Yes, of course. I’m sorry.” He released her hand.
She nodded and walked away. He stopped her with his voice. “Claire, that penny, was it heads up or down?”
She turned. “Up. Why?”
He smiled, walking toward her. “I hope I’m not being too forward, but do you think we could meet for coffee sometime?”
She blushed again, smiling. “How sweet, yes, I’d like that very much.”
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