Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home. But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours. It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet. It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.
There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though. One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied. I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.
There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely. I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.
Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done. I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing. At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.
So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money. I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.
Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them. They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did. They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.
They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees. Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back. But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did. I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it. Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow. And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.
It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.
The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.prUneParticipant
She made us miss Mater’s birthday, didn’t she?
Idle had one job…
Truth is, wouldn’t have been much fun to party with masks on, although the thought occurred that a masquerade ball would be something to behold.
Oh well, Mater is going to have a field day making us all look guilty. I’m sure it’ll warm her soft heart. Might be all she needs nowadays.
Can’t say that the business at the inn had been splendid. We’ve grown so used to the idea we might have to sell it anytime, that it doesn’t feel such an earthshattering revelation.
But if we sell, how much can we scrap by to send Mater to a nice nursing home. She might screech and kick us if we only voiced the idea. People have no idea how feral she can be on the topic. Aunt Dido knows though. I’m sure she’s having a few hustles down the road to get the household afloat.
Since the sudden disappearance of the two au pair maids, a lot had happened. But for August Finest it has been a lot of the same routine going on.
He wakes up in the early, early morning, his eyelids rubs on his eyeballs as if they are made of sandpaper. He seizes his belly with his hands, feels a little guilty about the nice meals prepared by Noor Mary especially for him since the start of the confinement. His six packs have started to fade away under a layer of fatty insulation and he tries to compensate by a daily routine in white T-shirt and underwear.
The coffee machine has detected his movements and starts to make what it does. It’s always cleaned and replenished by the discrete Mary. The noise and the smell creates an ambiance and when it rings he eats breakfast before taking his shower.
When he’s dressed up, his real work starts. It had not been easy for a man of his origins to appear as the best choice for the job under the Lump administration. President Lump was known to make bad jokes about his tan and him having spent too much time at the beach, and other worse things. But his worth was in the network he could connect the president with, his high discretion, which Lump was in dire need to compensate his innate tendency to boasting, and a strong adaptability to fix the president’s frequent messing around.
If August Finest had once admired the man and accepted the job for him, it soon changed when he realised there was nothing more underneath the boasting than more boasting and unpredictability. At the moment the only thing that make him continue was his ability to go stealth when the president had a fit of nerves, and the imposed confinement that made it impossible to leave the Beige House.
After the morning meeting during which the president asked him to fire a few members of the staff, August had to prepare a press conference. President Lump said he had thought about a few remarks about China and making a connection with the Mexican immigrants threatening the country by stealing the masks of the American People. After which, he had to plan a charity with first Lady Mellie Noma and redefine what a Masquerade meant. He had been asked to invite nurses and medical personnel, meaning republican and good looking in a blouse with a medical mask to make the promotion of the new mask industry Made in America. One of Mr Lump’s friend had just started a brand and was in need of some media promotion.
August reread the memo to be addressed to the director of the FBI, a good friend of his. A special cell at the FBI had been created especially since Lump came to power. For this particular occasion, agents posing as patients victims of the virus would be sent in the best ranked hospitals in the country with the task to look for the best nurse and doctor candidates and send them an invitation printed by Lump’s nephew’s printing company.
As Lump always said: “America Fist! And don’t forget people, I am America.”
August hit the enter button and closed the window of his professional mail account, leaving the draft of a personal mail on screen. He wasn’t sure if he could send this one. It was addressed to Noor Mary and he feared she would misunderstand the meaning of it.
The evening helper said she was very sorry to tell me that my niece wouldn’t be able to make it this week, as she’d been on holiday and got quarantined. You needn’t be sorry about that, I told her, I don’t know who she is anyway. Not that I’m ungrateful, it’s very kind of her to come and visit me. She tells me all about people I’ve never heard of, and I pretend to take an interest. I’m polite you see, brought up that way.
Then she said, you’ll have to go easy on the toilet paper, it’s all sold out. Panic buying, she said.
That’s what happens when people start shitting themselves with fear, I said, and she tutted at me as if I was a seven year old, the cheeky young whippersnapper. And how shall I go easy on it, shall I crap outside behind the flat topped bushes under my window? Wipe my arse on a leaf?
Don’t be daft, you’d fall over, she replied crisply. She had a point. My hip’s still playing me up, so my plans to escape are on hold. Not much point in it with all this quarantine nonsense going on anyway. I might get rounded up and put in a tent by a faceless moron in a hazmat suit. I must say the plague doctors outfits were much more stylish. And there was no panic buying of loo rolls in those days either.
I don’t know what the world’s coming to. A handful of people with a cough and everyone loses their minds. Then again, when the plague came, everyone lost their minds too. Not over toilet paper though. We didn’t start losing our minds until the carts started rolling past every night full of the bodies. No paper masks in those days either, we wound scarves around our faces because of the stench.
The worst thing was being locked in the house when the kitchen maid came down with it. All of us, all of the nine children, my wife and her mother, the cook and the maids, all of us untouched, all but that one kitchen maid. If only they’d taken her away, the rest of us might not have perished. Not having enough food did us in, we were weakened with starvation. Shut in the house for weeks, with no escape. Nothing to do but feast on the fears, like a smothering cloud. Like as not, we just gave up, and said, plague, carry me off, I can bear no more. I know after the youngest 6 children and the oldest boy died, I had no will to live. I died before the wife did and felt a bit guilty about that, leaving her to face the rest of it alone. She wasn’t happy about that, and who can blame her.
One thing for sure, it wasn’t running out of blasted toilet paper that was worrying me.
Truth be told, April was missing the US. She missed all their little coterie of maids living in the shadows of the powerful. Missed the drama most of all.
She’d been secretly texting Norma and May, while June was lazily sipping mojitos with Jacqui.
Norma was fine, but May and the other alien staff had suddenly disappeared when the Secret Services had started to investigate more deeply into the staff’s backgrounds after all the kidnapping fiasco. At least, August had been covering for Norma, such kind soul he was. Besides, the President’s wife could no longer live without her butter chicken. But May and the others couldn’t face the music apparently. Funnily, they couldn’t find “real” American maids nowadays suited to replace them. Good luck with that!
April couldn’t tell June, obviously, since her friend harboured such hatred for the system that had them put in jail. As for herself, she couldn’t argue with the fact they’d deserved it. Nothing a good lawyer couldn’t fix though. That’s why she loved the idea of America. Guilty as charged, indeed. Those charges now vanished.
She’d thought first that it would fuel her inspiration nicely, but it was the opposite. The sudden extra time had distracted her entirely, and her inspiration seemed inaccessible.
She was starting to make up her mind. She would go back, to her family in Arkansas. That could only be temporary of course, as her mother, bless her soul, would start to have her meet all the gents in the neighbourhood in the hopes to finally get her only daughter married. Talk about drama. If that doesn’t kick-start her inspiration engine, nothing would.
Problem was, with the virus around spreading mass panic, there seemed to be no sure way to fly back. She would have to devise some circuitous plan.
“Why are you looking guilty?” It was impossible for Godfrey to hide anything from Liz. She noticed at once the nervous tic in his left eye, and the way he was shuffling his feet around. He was clearly rattled about something.
“I’ve g g g ot a confession to m m make,” he stuttered. Liz had never heard Godfrey stutter before, and it was unheard of for him to make confessions. Something was troubling her old friend greatly, and she was concerned.
“I put two of your characters in jail.”
Liz gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.
“And now,” Godfrey’s voice caught on a little sob, “And now, I have to pay the bail money to get them out.”
“Well it’s your book, so it’s your gap,” Godfrey retorted, reverting back to his old self.
“Then what were you doing in it, putting my characters in jail?” Liz snapped back. “Go and get that bail paid so they can go to Australia. Otherwise you’re going to muck up another book.”
Realizing that she had to come up with a plan quickly to distract April from taking her pith helmet, June took a few deep breaths and calmed herself. It was true she was often flaky and disorganized, but in an emergency she was capable of acting swiftly and efficiently.
“Remember Jacqui who we met in Scotland at the Nanny and Au Pair convention? Called herself Nanny Gibbon and tried to pass herself off as Scottish?” April frowned, trying to remember. Europeans all looked the same to her. “Ended up with that eccentric family with all the strange goings on?” June prompted.
“Oh yes, now I remember. Wasn’t there an odd story about a mummy that had washed up from, where was it?”
“Alabama!” shouted June triumphantly. “Exactly!”
“Well excuse me for being dense, but how does that help?”
June leaned back into the sofa with a happy smile. April had forgotten all about the pith helmet and was now focused on the new plan. “Well,” she said, rearranging some scatter cushions behind her back into a more comfortable position, “Do you remember the woman who arrived with the mummy, Ella Marie? She stayed with Jacqui for a while and they became good friends. Apparently she loved that crazy Wrick family; Jacqui said Ella Marie felt right at home there. She would have stayed, but she missed her husband in the end and felt guilty about leaving him, so she went back to Alabama.”
Aprils eyes widened slightly as she started to understand. “Did they stay in contact?”
“Maybe they can find that baby for us,” April said, looking relieved. “Or at least swap it for that girl baby. Where did that come from anyway?”
May quickly realized that she hadn’t planned this out properly at all. While Norma was fishing in her handbag for paper tissues, May switched the glasses of wine, so that she had the one with the laxatives herself. It wasn’t fair to inflict that on Norma, who was already verging on distraught. And May was feeling bloated anyway. A good clear out wouldn’t do her any harm.
May listened with genuine sympathy to Norma’s distress at being mistreated, but a glance at the kitchen clock prompted her to interrupt.
“Gotta go to the john,” she said, wondering if she had the vernacular right. She had almost said “must pop to the loo”, but that was the kind of lingo she used on the previous mission. She had to send her finance a message. The rendezvous with the spinach pot was off. Closing the bathroom door behind her, she reached for her phone and tapped the coded message.
iggi nefa san forlik snoodetta
Almost immediately there was a reply. No coded message this time, it was just a rolling eyes icon. May sighed with relief. What had she been thinking to plan such a thing, on such short notice?
Norma watched May leave the room, a little frown furrowing her brow. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt uneasy. May was acting guilty. Why? Without even knowing why she did it, she swapped her wine glass for the other one. Immediately feeling appalled at such a silly impulse, she reached to swap them back, but it was too late. May burst into the room, beaming.
Norma was taken aback at the difference in May’s demeanour, which threw her into a mental quandary. Had she mistaken a discomfort due to the need to use the lavatory for a guilty conscience? And that impulse to switch the glasses!
“Well, cheers!” she said shakily, holding up the wine glass and then draining it.
“Bottoms up!” replied May, following suit.
Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.
It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.
Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.
When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.
“Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
“Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
“What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.
It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.
To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.
Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
“I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.
OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.
Eleri was dressed in—too short— fairy garments and had sad looking transparent wings hanging on her back. Her hair was full of twigs and red and yellow leaves fallen from the trees.
“Have you been rolling yourself into the piles of leaves Ollie had gathered this morning?” asked Glynis.
Eleri looked like a child caught in the act.
“Guilty I guess, that’s my little pleasure these days. I recall when I was a little girl and my mom was handing me candies for being a good girl.” She sighed of relief. “Gosh! How I hated that period. I got rid of that neat little girl long ago and now I’m just being myself.”
She turned around and went back into the forest shouting like a tookantipooh trying to catch a young kakapo, leaving Glynis crestfallen with all the dish to clean again.FloveParticipant
“Cute pyjamas”, said Maeve helping herself to butter from the refrigerator.
Maeve didn’t need the butter any longer as she had discovered she could successfully substitute olive oil and the muffins were still deliciously fluffy. However she did need an excuse to enter Shawn Paul’s apartment. Emboldened by recent events, she was privately rather pleased with her recent brazen persona. The Maeve of a week ago would never have barged into anyone’s apartment without an invitation.
Not finding anything suspect in the refrigerator, except maybe some oranges which looked past their use by date, she scanned the rest of Shawn Paul’s apartment. It was then she spied the package, mostly obscured by old notebooks and granola cookie boxes.
“Find what you were looking for?” asked Shawn Paul. He had found his dressing gown under a pile of clothing on the floor.
“Yes, thanks,” said Maeve, brandishing the butter at him and wondering how she could get hold of the package without Shawn Paul noticing. “So, how long have you been a writer? Have you had anything published?”
A quick google search had not uncovered anything, but perhaps he wrote under a pseudonym. Best to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Shawn Paul looked awkward.
Or was it guilty? Maeve wondered. While she was pondering this, she had her brainwave. Some would say it wasn’t much of a brainwave really, or indeed, a brainwave at all. But it was the best she could do under the circumstances. And after all, she was now an intrepid investigator.
“Look over there!” she shouted pointing at the window and at the same time making a lunge for the dining table.FloveParticipant
“Bugger,” said Maeve. “I’m out of butter. What shall we do, Fabio?”
Fabio rushed excitedly to the front door.
“Go and see if Lucinda has some butter? Good idea, but you have to do the talking. Okay?”
Clearly, I am in need of human companionship.
An old rhyme from her childhood came to mind. She would say it over and over, fast as she could without tripping over her tongue.
Biddy Botter bought bum butter. Blah said she the butters bitter but if i buy some better butter, better than the bitter butter that will make the bitter butter better.
Lucinda’s door has the number 57 on the front and a skull door knocker. Maeve’s door was numbered 22 so it made no sense at all. Lucinda opened the door a crack and peered out at Maeve.
“Oh Maeve,” she said, “Um, hi.”
“Hi. Is this a bad time? I just wanted to borrow a bit of butter if you have any spare.”
Lucinda hesitated before opening the door and gesturing Maeve in.
“Sure,” she said. “Excuse the mess.”
Maeve spotted the doll right away.
“What are you doing with Ima Indigo!”
Ima was sitting on the shelf near the the window, sandwiched between a cracked concrete buddha head and a dying fern. Maeve picked the doll up.
“May I?” she said, without waiting for a reply.
She turned the doll over and felt the back seam with her fingers. The stitching was rough and the thread didn’t match the tiny stitches on the rest of the doll’s body. She gently squashed Ima. No key.
“Where did you get this? Did you take a key out of her body?”
Lucinda patted Fabio and shook her head, annoyed at Maeve and at the same time feeling guilty.
“I found her at the market.”
“Oh my god,” said Maeve.
“Good lord, is that little dog still coughing?” Eleri asked, disentangling herself from Alexandria’s dreadlocks which had wrapped themselves around her bowler hat as they embraced and kissed a greeting. “After all this time?”
“I had a terrible bout of memory flu, and forgot all about him,” she replied with a pang in the region of her heart. How on earth did I completely forget I left that little dog here? she wondered.
“Well, never mind,” Alexandria said, softening. “He’s been well looked after, and I’ve enjoyed staying here while you’ve been away. I’ve been wondering if you’d mind if I stayed on here, what with all the trouble with Leroway. Makes me feel ill, all that division and fighting; I just don’t want to go back.”
Eleri beamed at her old friend. “I think that would work out perfectly! That little dogs cough isn’t driving you mad, though?”
“Oh he does a bit, sure, but there are worse things in life, eh,” she said with a rueful grin. “But come, you must be hungry and thirsty after your journey home, come inside, come inside.”
Shawn-Paul exited Finn’s Bakery on the crowded Cobble street with his precious cargo of granola cookies. They were wrapped in a cute purple box pommeled with pink hearts. He put on a disdainful attitude, adjusting his scarf for better effect, while already salivating in anticipation of the granola melting in his hot chocolate at home. He was sure that would revive his fleeting inspiration for his novel.
It was hard not to swallow as saliva accumulated in his mouth, but he had had years of practices since he was eight. His aunt Begonia had just given him a snicker bar that he had swallowed in one gulp, spreading some chocolate on his face in the process. She had accused him of being a dirty little piglet and he was so upset of being compared to the animal, that he had vowed to never show his love for food again. Instead he developed a public dislike of food and a slender frame quite fitting his bohemian lifestyle, while always having some cookies in store.
Shawn-Paul turned right on Quagmire street. It was bordered with Plane trees that kept it cool and bearable in summer. He was thinking about the suggestion of his writing coach to spend some time with his artist self, thinking that he had not done it for quite some time, but immediately felt guilty about not writing and firmed his resolution to go back home and write. He walked past a group of two elder woman and a man arguing in front of Liz’s Antique. One of the woman had a caved in mouth and used her hands profusely to make her point to the man. She was wearing pink slippers with pompon.
Italian tourists, Shawn-Paul thought rolling his eyes.
He swallowed and almost choked on his saliva when he glimpsed an improbable reflection on the Antique’s window. A woman, smiling and waving at him from a branch of a plane tree behind him, balancing her legs. He particularly noticed her feet and the red sandals, the rest of the body was a blur.
As Shawn-Paul turned, the toothless Italian tourist whirled her arms about like an inflated tubewoman, frightening a nearby sparrow. The bird took off and followed a curve around Shawn-Paul. Caught together in a twirl worthy of the best dervishes, the man and the bird connected in one of those perfect moment that Shawn-Paul would long but fail to transcribe into words afterwards.
There was no woman in the tree. A male dog stopped to mark his territory. A bit disappointed and confused, Shawn-Paul felt the need to talk.
“Did you see her?” he asked the Italian tourists. They stopped arguing and looked at him suspiciously for a moment. “She was right there with her red sandals,” he said showing the branch where he was sure she had sat. “I saw her in the window,” he felt compelled to add, not sure if they understood him.
The other tourist woman, who had all her teeth, rolled her eyes and pointed behind him.
“There’s a woman in red right over there!” she said with a chanting accent.
Shawn-Paul turned and just had the time to glimpse a woman dressed all in red, skirt, vest, hat and sandals before she disappeared at the corner of Fortune street.
Moved by a sudden impulse and forgetting all about his writing, he thanked the tourist and ran after the red woman.
Lucinda could hear the neighbours dog whining through the thin walls between the apartments, but she liked the dog, and she liked her neighbour Maeve, so the noise was a comfort rather than a bother. Moments earlier a movement from the window had caught her eye: fleetingly it looked like some sort of dust devil or whirlwind of dry leaves. Perhaps that was what had upset Caspar.
She went out onto the kitchen balcony and looked across at Maeve’s identical balcony and called softly to the dog. He came sidling out looking guilty, with a lowered head and nervous tail wag. Lucinda noticed that her neighbours tomato plants were ripening nicely, while her own were still hard shiny green, thanks to the shade of the big oak tree. A blessing in some ways, keeping the hot afternoon sun off the kitchen, but not so good for the tomatoes. Not that it was particularly hot so far this summer: glancing down she noticed the guy from the apartment on the other side of Maeve was wearing a scarf as he sauntered out onto the sidewalk. Surely it’s not cold enough for a scarf, though, thought Lucinda. Still, perhaps he’s just wearing it because it matches his socks. A trifle vain, that one, but a nice enough fellow. Always a ready friendly smile, and Maeve said he was quiet enough, and never complained about her dog.
Lucinda had been passing by one day as Shawn-Paul had opened his door, and she couldn’t help but notice all his bookcases. He’d noticed her looking ~ she hadn’t been subtle about her interest and was trying to peer round him for a better look inside ~ and he’d invited her to come round any time to borrow a book, but that he was late for an appointment, and didn’t have time to invite her inside that day. Lucinda wondered why she’d never gone back, and thought perhaps she would. One day. One of those things that for some reason gets put off and delayed.
There was nothing Lucinda liked more than to find a new ~ or a newly found old ~ book, and to randomly open it. The synchronicities invariably delighted her, so she did know a thing or two about the benefits of timing ~ otherwise often known as procrastination. When she did decide to visit Shawn-Paul and look at his books, she knew the timing would be right.
“Don’t lean on me man, la la la la, synchronicity city…” she started singing an old Bowie song that popped into her head from nowhere, barely aware that she was changing the words from suffragette to synchronicity.
Meanwhile unbeknown to Lucinda, Shawn-Paul had just rounded the corner and bumped into the gardener, Stan, who was on his way to the apartments to mow the lawns. They exchanged pleasantries, and patted each others shoulders in the usual familiar friendly way as they parted. The two guys were not friends per se, they never socialized together, but always enjoyed a brief encounter outside with an easy pleasant greeting and a few words. Shawn-Paul always inquired about Stan’s family and so on, and Stan often complemented Shawn-Paul’s scarves.
Granola, temporarily rustling around in the big oak tree, noticed all of this and immediately recognized the connecting links, and peered eagerly at the three people in turn to see if they had noticed. They hadn’t. Not one of them recalled the time when they were all three suffragettes chained to the railings near an old oak tree.
Margoritt looked at the spot where Tak was nestled, under her desk, with a concerned puzzled look albeit mixed with a repressed laughter sparkling beneath the surface.
No matter how stern she wanted to look, she had a soft spot for the antics of the youngling.
“What have you done this time, dear? You have as guilty a face upon you as when you pilfered the raw mangoes that Mr Minn brought us, and got yourself an indigestion as a result…” she almost chuckled, but paused and squinted her eyes.
“Well except you didn’t look so… green.”
She craned her neck to see better the little face behind the mop of tangled hair.
“My, my, my… what have we got here!”
Finnley presented the plate of freshly baked round cookies to Liz who took one and watched it warily, not sure how to feel about them. Certainly the herbal chocolate made her mouth watery like the Niagara falls, but…
“Why on earth did you give them those baby faces?” she asked.
“I’ve been taking pottery class recently and thought I could do extra practice at home. I have a project you know.”
“Have you heard of nailed it?” Liz asked, biting in into the cheek of one chubby little cookie with melting sugary blue eyes. It distorted its laughing mouth in such a way that it looked like it was crying now. She felt a bit guilty about it, but the chocolate taste exploding in her own mouth made her forget all about it and she swallowed the other cheek.
“Look! they can move!” said Roberto. He was pressing on the sides of one particularly creepy little face, making its mouth talk. “Give me milk!”
“Stop playing with food, Roberto,” said Finnley. The hispanic gardener looked at her with puppy eyes and swallowed whole the baby cookie. “Showy,” he said his mouth full.
“Where is Godfrey, now,” she muttered, “Everyone needs to taste one.
There was no way around it. As hard as he would have tried, he couldn’t reach the peaks of the mountain without crossing the part of the Enchanted Forest which the Fae called their own. There was no way for him to avoid paying the price, or to avoid facing the Court.
Rukshan wished there was an easier way, but trying to avoid it would only delay the inevitable. Besides, he would need provisions to continue his journey —that is, if they’d let him.
The first signs of the enchanted signposts had appeared two days ago. He’d been walking through the silent and cold forest for close to ten days already. His progress was slow, as the days were short, and the nights were better spent recuperating.
The early signs that he was approaching the Fae land wouldn’t have been noticeable by any other than those with some Fae blood in their veins. Some were as subtle as enchanted dewdrops on spiderwebs, other few were watcher crows, but most of the others were simply sapling trees, shaking at the slightest change of wind. All of them silent watchers of the Forest, spies for the Queen and her Court.
From the first sign, he had three days. Three days to declare himself, or face the consequences. He would wait for the last one. There was something magical about the number three, and anything more hasty would only mean he was guilty of something.
Like improper use of magic he thought, smiling at the memory of the oiliphant. The Queen was clutching at a dwindling empire, and magic sources gone scarce meant it had to be “properly” used.
He never believed such nonsense, which is why he’d decided to live outside of their traditions. But for all his disagreement, he remained one of them, bound by the same natural laws, and the same particularities. Meant to reach extremely old ages while keeping an external appearance as youthful as will is strong in their mind, able to wield strong magic according to one’s dispositions, ever bound to tell the truth (and becoming thus exceptionally crafty at deception), and a visceral distaste for the Bane, iron in all its forms.
Thus was his heritage, the one he shared with the family that was now waiting for his sign to be granted an audience in the Court.
One more day, he thought…
The seven little spheres had each a different colour. Gorrash looked at them with envy in his heart. He’d rarely seen colours as his life was mostly at night, under the moonlight or under the yellow tint of candles and gas lamps. However, the spheres had their own light from inside. And Gorrash couldn’t touch them as Rainbow was very protective, and it made the stone dwarf restless. He had tried once to take one sphere and he got a warning slap on his hand. Rainbow looked soft and gentle, but a whip is always soft and supple before it struck.
The whole week they had been on the hunt for all kind of potions from the shelves of the dragon woman. Glynis, she had called herself during one of her monologues in front of the mirror. Her sadness and frustration toward her appearance resonated more than once with his own condition. He had felt guilty about their little thefts, but he had soon realised that nothing would stop Rainbow.
The randomness of the creature’s choice of potions appeared to be not so random. Gorrash tried several times to help, picking up potions for his friend, according to the colours he liked or to the shapes of the phials that intrigued him, but the creature refused many times the offering.
The colours mattered to Rainbow, apparently. It would never take black, Gorrash discovered. Only colours from the rainbow spectrum, a voice said inside him. He had learned to recognised it as the voice of his creator’s memories infused into the core of his matter. One thing he wasn’t sure though was about the process of his birth. Has he been carved out from a stone ? Has he been assembled like clay ? That was not part of the memories trapped into his stone body.
Gorrash then tried to bring the creature colours from the rainbow, always glowing, never dull or matte. But then he discovered it had to be in a certain order. Everyday was different. One day it was in the order of the colour spectrum from red to purple, as his master’s remembered. Another day it had to begin with green or indigo. But always following the order of the colour wheel. If a colour was missing, then they had to wait until Glynis would manufacture it.
And then, one day… one night, as Gorrash woke up from his rigid sleep, the seven spheres were there, and Rainbow was watching over them. Like a bird over its eggs, said the voice. Except they didn’t really look like eggs. Eggs don’t glow with different colours. Eggs have a shell. Those were translucent, glowing of some very attractive inner light, and looked like water spheres. Does that mean it’s a she? wondered Gorrash who had always thought his friend was a male. He gnawed at his lower lip. Anyway, it seemed that the hunting days were over as Rainbow didn’t show any motivation to leave her strange progeny, and Gorrash had no way to go past the walls on his own.
Rainbow raised its eyebrows and looked at the dwarf who had come too close to the eggs for its taste. It gathered protectively the spheres which came as one in a big multicoloured moving spheroid. Gorrash could still see the individual light cores in it, they seemed to pulse like the growing desire in his heart. He swallowed. It tasted of dust.
— I won’t take them, he said.
His chest tightened as he saw suspicion in his friend’s eyes. Gorrash turned away feeling sadness and guilt. He needed to find some distraction from the attractive lights and the growing desire in his heart.
“I don’t like those tincans” Norbert muttered mostly to himself. “I’m sure they’re here to spy on us or kill us in our sleep…”
Godfrey did catch the reproach laced with fear and angst about the fresh delivery of Finnleys (Two, Three and Five), but was too busy with the unexpected audit mandated by the Mining Trading Company of Earth Colonies.
Great, not only on my first day on the job, but on my monthversary on top of that… These guys know no boundaries…
Their boss had been unusually relaxed about the whole thing. Forcefully, more like it… that guy usually can’t help but shout at everything, rocks included
Their boss had just given the team a rousing speech about transparency and how they had to stop looking like culprits of guilty secrets. “Looking guilty kind of makes you guilty and will prompt them to dig more! So be nice to them, and scram back to your post.”
Looking at the way the auditors were sniffing around, Godfrey wasn’t so sure there wasn’t something that the company had found and was hiding here. But today wasn’t the day to ask uncomfortable questions.
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