ALENA’S ADOPTED MOTHER, CAROL:
We consider ourselves blessed with our adopted daughter. It hasn’t always been easy – we had to teach her not to stand out. It’s hard to dim your light, but she understood by the age of three that she would be taken away from us if her gifts were noticed. She did her best, but we did have to move on from time to time, to avoid unwanted attention. It’s hard to describe the joy and warmth she has brought to our lives. When my husband George’s hereditary heart defect disappeared, that was one of the times we had to move in a hurry, losing all his medical records along the way. Another time was after our Polish neighbour called Alena her “anyow”.
KRYSTYNA KASZA, A NEIGHBOUR OF THE FAMILY:
They weren’t our neighbours for long, maybe a year. It was when I got pancreatic cancer and the prognosis wasn’t good. I was sick as a dog during my third stab at chemo. Their daughter, Alena, came to see me every day. She’d hold my hand and tell me stories about the twins, Luke and Ben, and their dog, Rasputin (how he ended up being called that was the best story). Making sure they didn’t come to any harm was her most important job, she said. I remember her eyes, this almost impossibly blue colour; her smile that could have graced the statue of an angel. She must have been my good luck charm because I beat that cancer – the doctors called it a miracle.
MR ANDREWS, RETIRED TEACHER:
Alena was the best student I ever had. She should have been in a different school, a fast-track programme of some kind. Maths and science were like languages she was already fluent in. When I wanted to put her forward as genius-level, she flat out refused. She said her family came first. I gave her a lift home one day after drama club when one of the boys ran in front of us, chasing the family dog. I swerved and braked, knowing it wouldn’t be enough. She put her hand on the dashboard and I swear it’s as if the car got given a push and swerved harder and faster. We crashed into a parked car instead and, apart from a few dents to both cars, no damage was done. As she hugged her hysterical brother, I couldn’t tell you which twin it was, she put her hand on me as if she could feel my distress. I have never felt such peace before or since.
RENNET OF RUEL:
There are very few of us left; our planet of origin is long gone, and we live our whole lives on vast spaceships. We need to commingle with other species to reproduce. On Earth, we might be compared to your cuckoos: we find a safe nest for our young. I watched the girl with interest from afar, waiting for her eighteenth year so I could introduce her to her full heritage. When I finally spoke to her, I was astonished to discover that she did not yet want to leave the primitive backwater of her birth. She told me that it had become her home and her family. I told her she would outlive all those she cared for.
Krystyna called me her “anioł”, you know, which is “angel” in Polish. I’m far from that. But I am truly loved here and I have so much love to give back. Come back for me in a century or two – I have a lot to do here first.