Vivian had been picked on and bullied all of his life — not just because of his girlish name, but because of the way he looked — but when he reached the age of 13, something changed. He found that he, too, was special.
It all started out as an ordinary birthday party, at least as normal as a night in his house could be. Vivian’s parents were throwing one of those stuffy dinner parties, and showing him off like a new centerpiece. He finally escaped to the upstairs landing and watched down through the railing.
Everyone was dressed in black and white, except the occasional woman who wanted to stand out in the crowd. Mrs. Hennessy was one of those women. She was a young, beautiful woman, who spent more time mingling with the crowd then with her own husband. Even at the naive age of thirteen, Vivian knew she loved to be noticed, and people did notice her. Wearing a striking red dress that fit her like an extremely tight glove, and shockingly high heels, she practically slithered across the floor. Vivian, being at that certain age now, couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Mrs. Hennessy was standing right below him, giving Vivian the perfect angle to see down her low-cut gown.
“Vivian,” A voice scolded from behind.
“Mother!” Vivian gasped.
“Why don’t you go play,” his mother suggested, seeing the blood rise to his cheeks.
“Okay,” Vivian said, still not being able to look her in the eyes. He carefully slid by her and went directly to his room.
He lay on his bed, arms crossed behind his head, and starred at the ceiling. His parents had painted a mural up there for his eighth birthday. It depicted the Knights of the Round Table with a large dragon looming in the background. He loved the stories of Camelot and King Arthur and the Knights. It was his favorite pastime, and he learned everything he could. He loved looking up at the mural and imagining himself as one of the knights; strong and masculine. Nothing like his real life.
Vivian was small for his age, even shorter than most of the girls. He had red curly hair, and his pale face was covered in freckles. He was smarter than most of the kids in his class, which made him a perfect target. The boys in his class bullied him and the girls taunted him. “Who is so scrawny and weak? Who looks like a freak? Vivian, Vivian it must be Vivian,” they would sing.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Vivian rolled onto his side and curled into a ball. Tears threatened to break through the barrier and escape to his cheeks. “It’s not manly to cry,” his father had once told him. Vivian tried his best to do what his father said, but sometimes it just didn’t work.
His father couldn’t understand what he was going through. With his jet black hair and icy blue eyes, no one ever picked on him or called him names. His skin wasn’t pale, and there wasn’t a freckle to be found. No one made fun of his name either; Gregory Steele was the manliest name Vivian had ever heard.
When Vivian opened his eyes, his bedside clock read 11:47 p.m. The sounds of the party drifted up to his room; his parents’ parties always lasted way into the night.
“There’s my boy!” Gregory Steele proclaimed as Vivian came down the stairs.
“The birthday boy!” another partygoer exclaimed, pinching Vivian’s cheeks.
Vivian hated being called “boy.” He looked up helplessly at his father, who was now engaging in conversation with Mrs. Hennessy. He wouldn’t be any help. Vivian endured many more minutes of being called “boy,” and by the time his father pulled him over to open his presents, his cheeks throbbed.
Gregory Steele picked up his wine class, held it high over his head, and tapped it with his cigarette holder. “Quiet down please. Quiet down. Vivian is going to open his presents now.” He announced.
Vivian hated being the center of attention. It reminded him of being at school with all of the bullies. The partygoers gathered around, staring at him. As the blood heated up his cheeks again, his mother came over and stood by him. She looked so beautiful in her classic black gown. He auburn hair pulled neatly up on her head, with just a few curly tendrils hanging softly around her face. She had perfectly tanned skin, with no freckles that Vivian could notice.
Vivian spent the next forty-five minutes, opening the presents, thanking the giver, and placing the gifts on an empty table.
When the final gift was undone from its wrappings, and the last guests bid their goodnights, Gregory Steele called Vivian into his study.
* * *
The walls of the study were lined with bookcases, and an Oriental rug covered the hardwood floor. A black leather sofa was situated along the left wall. A coffee table sat in front of it, covered with business magazines. Dark drapes covered the only window, which was directly behind a large mahogany desk.
In front of the desk sat two matching black leather chairs. Vivian loved being in this room. He felt closer to his father in here, but he had only been allowed in the study a few times in his life. “It’s not a playroom,” his father had warned him.
“Come, sit down,” His father urged when Vivian stopped in the doorway.
Vivian sat in a leather chair, and his mother took the one beside him. His father took his place behind the desk. Vivian looked over at his mother. The somber expression on her face told him something was up. Vivian looked at his father, but his father’s gaze didn’t meet his. Instead, reaching into a desk drawer, his father produced a shiny six-inch gold box, and sat it in front of Vivian.
The sides of the box were etched with markings that Vivian was familiar with. The front had a small latch, with an even smaller lock on it. The top of the box had the same odd markings as on the sides, and there was a large, shiny, red stone placed in the center.
Vivian reached out and cautiously ran his fingers along the stone. There was a warmth to it; a heat that wasn’t felt in the rest of the room. Even now, with his hand slightly above the stone, Vivian could feel the heat rising from it.
Vivian quickly withdrew his hand when the stone started to glow. He watched the stone in awe, as it slowly rose out of its resting place and spun around. A strange yellow light shot out of the stone like a small laser beam, illuminating Vivian.
All of a sudden, the yellow light disappeared; the stone stopped spinning, and slowly descended back onto the box top. Vivian sat there, mouth ajar, staring at the box.
“Vivian, honey... are you okay?” His mother asked, touching his shoulder.
Vivian sat there, his freckled face not moving. “What... what is it?”
“That’s what we need to tell you,” his father said.
“Vivian, honey,” his mother started. “You know we love you, right?”
The tone in his mother’s voice was sadness. He didn’t trust himself to speak, so he only nodded yes.
“This box... this...” his mother shook her head. His father came from behind the desk and knelt down beside her. He placed one hand over hers and continued for her.
“This box was with you when we brought you home.”
“The box was with me? When you brought me home? I don’t understand.”
“Your mother and I tried so hard, and for so long, to have a baby of our own. When Father Thomas told us about you, we knew our dreams had been answered.”
Vivian head was spinning. He had so many questions. So many thoughts. But he couldn’t say anything. He just stared blankly at them.
His father continued, “Father Thomas told us that you were found in a run-down farm house. You were lying in an old dresser drawer and this box was next to you. A small piece of paper was pinned to your blanket. There was only one word on it... it read, ‘Vivian’.”
His mother finally spoke, “You were so beautiful, with fiery red hair, and those freckles. When Father Thomas placed you in my arms, I knew you belonged with us.”
“But...” Vivian said, trying to gather his thoughts. “I’m... I’m not your real son? Why are you telling me this?”
“Yes, you are our son, in every way that matters.” His mother told him, hugging him.
“But not your real son,” Vivian said, tears rolling down his face.
His mother didn’t know what to say. She loved Vivian so much, and seeing him hurting like this was tearing her apart.
After a long moment of silence, his father said, “We had Father Thomas try to find out everything about you, and this box.”
“What did he find out?” Vivian asked quietly, not sure if he really wanted to hear the answer.
“The box is from Camelot,” his father told him.
“Camelot?” Vivian asked. “I... I don’t understand?”
“Let me explain,” His father said, wiping the tears from his son’s face. “the box was said to belong to Sir Geraint.”
Sir Geraint, Vivian remembered, married Lady Enid and then mistakenly believed that she had been unfaithful to him. He took her on a long journey until she convinced him of her honesty.
“But why did I have the box?”.
“Father Thomas did some research, and found out that Enid and Sir Geraint had a son; a son they named Vivian.”
Vivian looked at his father dumbfounded. “What does this mean?” he asked.
“Do you know the story of Merlin?” his mother asked him.
“Yes, of course,” Vivian said. He knew all that had to do with Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Merlin had lived a long time, raised a boy to be a king, propped up a Utopian empire with his magic and wisdom, and then watched as it all crumbled because of vengeance and betrayal.
His father continued, “Sir Geraint took his son to Merlin, to ask him to watch over him and protect him. Merlin cast a spell over the infant, and using magic, placed a small birthmark behind the child’s ear.”
“What kind of birthmark?” Vivian asked, feeling his own birthmark behind his ear.
“It was in the shape of a star...” his father said.
“Just like mine!” Vivian screamed.
“Yes Vivian, just like yours,” his mother said, nodding to his father to continue.
“When the empire crumbled, Sir Geraint had to go into battle. Enid took their son to Merlin, for his protection. But when Sir Geraint was killed, Enid couldn’t go on without him. She loved her son, but she couldn’t imagine her life without Geraint, so in a final attempt to be with her beloved, she went to visit the Lady of the Lake.”
“Do you know about the Lady of the Lake?” His mother asked.
He nodded. Vivian knew about the Lady. The Lady of the Lake gave King Arthur Excalibur. After Arthur’s last battle he made Sir Bedivere return it to the water where it was grasped by a hand and drawn under.
“Enid asked the Lady to ease her pain, to let her be with Geraint. The Lady listened to her pleas, and agreed to end her suffering. She reached her hand out of the lake, and pulled Enid under.”
“What about the baby?”
“The baby was left with Merlin,” his mother explained, “But Merlin fell victim to the spells of his own apprentice, Nineve. She used her powers to captivate then capture him, sealing him in a cave. Even though Merlin was able to foresee these actions, he was helpless against Nineve. To spare the child of sharing his fate, Merlin sent the child through time — to return to Camelot on the day of his thirteenth birthday.”
“Do you understand son?” his father asked.
Vivian nodded, but he wasn’t sure if he did.
His mother looked at him, and lifted his face with her hands. “You are that child,” his mother told him. “and the box is from Merlin; to be yours on this day.”
His father handed him the box. Vivian ran his fingers along the carvings, unable to speak. He heard the words, but couldn’t grasp the meaning behind them.
His mother went behind the desk, and pulled out a chain from the desk drawer. Attached to the chain was a small key. “This was hanging around your neck when Father Thomas found you,” she told him.
With shaking hands, Vivian took the key from his mother. Holding the lock with one hand, mainly to steady it, he carefully inserted the small key. The lid slid back, revealing a crystal sphere. The sphere rose, and with each inch it grew brighter and brighter.
Vivian’s eyes widened when the sphere rose two feet above the box, dimmed, and split open in eight sections. Blue smoke streamed out of the opening and settle in front of Vivian. His heart felt it would beat right out of his chest. He looked expectantly at his father and mother, but neither spoke.
* * *
“Who...who said that?” Vivian asked, frantically looking around the room.
A voice drifted out of the smoke and said, “It is I, Merlin, and it is time to come home now, my boy.”
Vivian didn’t understand. “What do you mean come home?” He asked, staring into the blue smoke.
Merlin chuckled lightly and said, “Back to Camelot, of course.”
“But this is my home,” Vivian said, looking again at his parents.
“This will always be your home,” Vivian’s mother told him, “but you don’t belong here. You are special, my son, in more ways than anyone could ever image.”
“It is time,” Merlin’s said softly.
“I don’t want to go,” Vivian protested. His stomach was in knots. He didn’t want to leave his home, besides, he was scared.
His father took hold of his shoulders and explained, “This is your fate, son. You belong in your time and in your place.”
Tears streamed down his freckled face. He couldn’t fully understand what was going on, but he would do anything to please his parents. So if the wanted him to go... he would go.
“Step into the smoke,” Merlin commanded him. He kissed and hugged his mother as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I’ll miss you my sweet Vivian,” she sobbed. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, mother,” Vivian whispered, and then turned to his father.
His father, so strong and handsome, knelt down in front of him. “Be brave, my son,” his father said, kissing his forehead. For just a moment, a fraction of a second, Vivian would swear that he had seen a tear in his father’s eye. But when he turned back for another look, the tear was gone, like a figment of his boyish imagination.
Vivian slowly stepped into the smoke and immediately it began swirling around him. Starting at his feet, faster and faster it spun as it ascended his body. Teary-eyed, Vivian waved to his parents and screamed, “I love you.” Before they could answer, the spinning smoke covered Vivian’s face, and then he was gone.
Copyright © 2003 by Tonya Snyder