Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here, Part 4 is here, Part 5 is here, Part 6 is here, Part 7 is here
I pulled up to Grandpa Bear's old shack. It looked the same as it had when I'd last seen it, but it also seemed different. I shook my head.
"You done a lot of living since last time, LunaMae," I muttered to myself.
I walked up to the door and opened it. Guests knocked. Family walked in.
Grandpa Bear was sitting in his usual place on the floor, in front of a small metal fire pit with a tiny fire going in it, smoking his pipe.
"Hello, my cactus thrush," he rumbled, opening his arms for my hug. "What brings you to visit?"
"Grandpa Bear, I missed you," I said. "Isn't that enough?"
He nodded. "It is."
We sat for a moment, staring into the flame of the small fire.
Grandpa Bear shifted and cleared his throat. His eyes clearing up, darkening. "But missing me isn't why you are here, little bird. What is it that disturbs you?"
I bit my lip to keep it from trembling. "It's... Mama and David... and, I don't know. I thought my life was turning around and then... Everyone hates me for what I've done."
Grandpa Bear took a long draw on his pipe and blew it out slowly. "And what is it that you have done?"
I ducked my head. What if Grandpa Bear rejected me, too? I wasn't sure I could handle another blow. But he was the one I turned to for answers. He always gave me what I needed to move forward. And he did so without judgment. I sighed.
"I took money. I healed a little girl with my song and I took money for it." I rushed through the words. "The mother offered the money. I didn't ask for it, I swear. But mama says that violates the spirits and their gifts. And, now, David left me 'cause he says I'm working with demons. And mama kicked me out 'cause I insulted the spirits. I don't know what to do."
My voice turned pleading. "I can make a living off of healing people but everyone says that is wrong. I just want to help and people want to give me money for that."
I fell silent, waiting for Grandpa Bear to tell me what to do. He sat for a long time, staring into the flame and pulling on his pipe. When the tobacco was run out, he slowly, methodically, tapped the pipe into a bowl to offer to the land later, and began cleaning it out.
I fetched his cloths and watched him carefully remove the ashes, refill the pipe and relight it. I loved how he treated the pipe with respect dispite it not being used for a ceremony.
Grandpa Bear drew on his pipe and turned to meet my eyes. "The spirits do not care about money. It is, to them, just another thing. What they do care about, is the cost of the gift."
He gestured with his arm as he spoke. "All gifts come with a price. That price must be paid or there are consequences." He peered at me. "Do you understand what I am saying, little bird?"
I nodded. "I think so, Grandpa Bear."
He nodded. "Go. Think on it. Make sure the price is paid."
I nodded and stood up, kissing his leathery cheek before I left. "I will. Thank you, Grandpa Bear."
As I drove home, I kept my promise and thought about what he had said. The gift was certainly my ability to heal people. To use the gift, I would have to pay the price. To be able to help people, I would have to figure out a way to do so without putting too much on those I was helping.
That might mean I wouldn't be able to make money off of it. Or I could switch to a barter system, though that had it's own issues.
I frowned. Would gift cards count as money or barter?
I sighed. I guess I would just have to stumble through, and if I ended up on the streets, maybe that was part of the price.
I felt tears on my cheeks as I drove, struggling with disappointment and the burden of my gift.