Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Part 15 – The Fog Descends
A thick fog surrounded the farmhouse early the next morning.
Aunt Jenna watched it from the safety of her kitchen, standing close to the stove. Her fingers rested just above her old kettle, feeling the steam just starting to rise from the spout. It wasn't abnormal, but she sensed something strange about it.
Easing the window open just enough to let in a draft of air, she closed her eyes and sniffed deeply. The saline scent carried on the wind was heavy and fragrant. In that moment she could not only see but hear the rolling waves of the ocean. A tear rolled down her cheek. Her hand began to push the window open further. A voice called to her from the waves.
Don’t be afraid. The water is fine. Come to me.
The kettle whistled sharply. Her eyes shot open. She slammed the window shut and bolted it. Her hand shook. She winced as she touched it with her other hand. It was numb and cold.
She turned back to the window. A thick layer of frost coated the window, but was melting into condensation from the screaming kettle. She removed the kettle but kept it close. She warmed her hand by holding it just over the hot surface. Feeling began to creep back into her fingertips, tingling. The cold went away, but her fear only grew. The nearest ocean was hundreds of miles away.
“What’s for breakfast?”
She yelped as the kettle clanged against the tiled floor, the hot water hissing as it sprayed across the floor, sending up a puff of steam. Aunt Jenna stumbled out of its way and fell backwards into a chair, nearly tipping it over as Andrew came to her, his small hand touching her shoulder and steadying her chair.
“Aunt Jenna! Are you okay?”
A few tears fell down her cheek. She opened her mouth to say something to him, but nothing would come. He apologized profusely to her, which just made her more upset. It wasn’t Andrew’s fault. She hugged him, which did not help. She could sense his worry and it only added to her own.
* * *
They ate breakfast silently.
Aunt Jenna had refused to say what was the matter and he knew well enough that when an adult didn’t want to talk it was no use badgering them. They were stubborn like that. Besides, he had enough to think about, especially with the new kids to play with. It was easy enough to get her to talk about them instead.
“Can they come over and play?”
“Maybe you should give them time to settle in,” Aunt Jenna suggested, “Not everyone is a morning person like you, Andrew,” she added with a knowing smile. He knew she was kidding. “They had a long journey yesterday. I’m sure by lunchtime they’ll be up and ready to play.”
That didn’t make it any easier to wait for them though. He wished he had slept in but he couldn’t sleep, he was too excited.
“How come they get to stay in the caves with everyone else?” He asked, meaning the scaly members of the clan. The underwater den had fascinated him and he couldn’t wait to visit it again any chance he got. There was so much left there unexplored!
“Because they are our guests and this little farmhouse doesn’t have enough room for all of them,” she said.
“So there are human bedrooms in there!”
“Of course there are,” she said, laughing as if he had suggested they should breathe water instead of air.
“Then how come you don’t live down there?”
“Because I have duties up here.”
Andrew was not satisfied with her answer, but she didn’t give him any time to reply with another question.
“I promise you I will let you know as soon as they’re up and ready to play.”
“Can I go to Fort Andrew then?”
“It’s too foggy Andrew. You should stay inside.”
“Please? There’s nothing to do in here.”
Aunt Jenna sighed. She looked out the window for a few moments. What was she looking at? There was nothing out there. Finally she replied. “Alright, but this time you need to come back for lunch. And stay--”
“In the borders, I know.” She didn’t have to say it so sternly.
“You had me worried.”
“I know. I’m sorry I was late last time.”
She didn’t reply but gave him a long look. He took that as an okay and started to head out the back door.
“Going out in your pajamas are you?” She laughed, her mood brightening a little. “Go change.”
He rolled his eyes but complied, glad her sternness was gone for the moment. He returned to his bedroom. He looked at himself in the mirror. He wished he was a lone adventurer. Then he could go where he wanted when he wanted and he could even wear his pajamas while doing it. He wouldn’t even have to comb his hair if he didn’t want to. Andrew couldn’t wait to be an adult.
* * *
A little later Andrew was walking through the woods, tossing and catching the magical pearl that Duke had given to him. This morning was the perfect opportunity to test it out and he knew just the place to do it. Technically he wasn’t doing anything wrong since the creek was one of the borders, but he still felt a pang of guilt as he sat down at the short cliff edge overhanging a deeper section of the creek.
He stretched his arm out above the water, clutching the pearl. He focused on the water and willed for it to rise, concentrating, imagining the water forming a neat spout.
Maybe it needed magic words or something? Or maybe it wasn’t even magical to begin with? Had Duke lied to him? But he had seen it glow when the gulariss had held it in his whisker. What had Duke done that Andrew had not? He frowned. He knew it had to be something he wasn’t doing right, making him more frustrated. TJ would have figured it out by now for sure.
The thought of his new friend made him smile. It was here he had been fishing with TJ. It was only yesterday and yet after the ceremony it felt like days ago. He half-wondered if he hadn’t imagined TJ. That is, until he reached in and pulled out the whistle hanging around his neck on the thin leather cord.
Then he looked at the pearl once more. Maybe it wasn’t special after all. He replaced it in his pocket and took off his whistle instead and examined it.
The ivory whistle was cool between his fingers, even after resting close to his chest. He traced the spiral shell design, turning it over again and again but finding no seams or “Made in China” or any indication it had been made any other way than being carved by hand. He wondered if it wasn’t from Africa or some other far off place, maybe an artifact passed down through generations. Mostly he was impressed that TJ had given him such a special item. He must really think a lot of him, even though they just met.
Thinking of his friend brought a pang of loneliness. The forest felt emptier than it ever had, the wind dispelling the morning fog.
Without any hesitation he put his lips to the mouth of the whistle and he blew as hard as he could. A soft note tuned to a perfect middle C rang out as if the wind itself had sung as it passed through the trees. Andrew pulled it back in astonishment. He had been forced to play the piano at home, but he had never considered himself musically-inclined at all. Yet the note he played was beautiful! He couldn’t help but stare. Maybe he had found something he was good at! He smirked.
“Whatcha looking at?”
Startled, Andrew nearly fell off into the creek. He fumbled to scrambled back up and froze as he felt the pearl tumble out of his pocket. He reached too late and before he could grab it, it slipped out of his fingers. Just before it hit the water, a swift hand snatched it out of the air.
TJ held the pearl up towards Andrew, smiling as he had when they had first met. It hummed, turning neon blue in his hands.
To be continued…