August 18, 2016 by Lyn
Rix’s Guest Story
April, Year 7 of the Addergoole School
It was after class and Penny had ditched her books in her room and was on her way to the Village to collect the twins from Lady Maureen’s. It was April and they were nine months old – two boys who’d discovered that they could move around on their own and were now guaranteed not to be in the spot where they’d been left unless precautions were taken. By their birthday in what she thought of as the summer holidays, they could well be walking. Kath had suggested they combine their resources and take all three children and her mother to the beach for the vacation. Her mind boggled at crossing so much territory with three small children and Penny suspected that Kath’s mother might rather have her daughter and grand daughter to herself for at least part of the holidays.
Penny still wasn’t used to April being spring, and felt it should be the middle of autumn. It was a pleasant walk, seeing things coming back to life, and at home the transition between seasons wasn’t so acute. She supposed the motorbikes parked in the street must be another sign of spring. Aelfgar and some other bikers had come through several times during the summer holidays. She had, briefly, been introduced to Aelfgar but all she knew of the loud, large man was that he liked women, beer and if he didn’t like fighting monsters, it was what he did. Apparently she had not been his type, but then eight and a half months pregnant with someone else’s twins was probably a type with limited appeal.
Penny opened Lady Maureen’s gate, went through and carefully latched it behind her. Putting all thoughts of the visitors out of her mind, she knocked on the front door and waited to be admitted. When Lady Maureen opened the door Penny noticed that her twin foxtails were twitching slightly, as if their owner were slightly upset or slightly worried. “May I come in? If it’s inconvenient, I’ll wait here and you can bring the boys to me.”
“It’s nothing like that dear,” Lady Maureen assured her, “Please come in. The boys have been as good as they can be when what they want to do is get into everything and put it in their mouths.” She finished as she led the way into the room where the twins were waiting, playing with blocks in a playpen. Other children were there as well of course, over under the window some serious railway building was in progress, but those were not the children Penny was interested in. The twins were glad to see her and she was, as always, almost desperately glad to see them. Greeting cuddles over and a baby on each hip, Penny looked around to say goodbye to Lady Maureen and pick up the boys’ baby bags.
Lady Maureen was just coming back into the room, followed nervously, deferentially almost, by a biker. “I’ve someone here who’d like to meet you,” explained Lady Maureen. “This is Leal.” He looked almost middle aged, but his sun squint and tan that seemed over polished by grease or oil made it hard to tell. His salt and pepper hair and beard were an overall number one cut with the main difference being that the beard was denser than the head hair. He was maybe five inches taller than Penny and dressed in black leather with what seemed to her to be random decorative chains. “He’s your father,” added Lady Maureen. “Leal, this is Penstemon sh’Valerie cy’Fridmar.”
“Hello,” he stepped forward hesitantly as if uncertain of what to do and say now he’d met her. “You’ve grown so much since I saw you last. I somehow thought you’d still be a little girl,” he indicated the height of a six year old, “With blonde hair like you mother. How is she, Valerie I mean?”
“She died when I was three,” the expression on his face when he asked his question made Penny answer gently. Oh Father, did you want her to stay with you? “She was unlucky and got caught up in someone else’s psychotic break while she was on her way home from work. The authorities advertised extensively at the time, here as well as at home, but no-one from Addergoole seems to have seen the appeals.”
“Appeals?” Leal was confused.
“She had no other family,” Penny explained. “Her parents were dead, and her mother had been the last of her family. There was nothing in her papers about you or her father’s family. They knew she’d gotten pregnant over here and that my grandfather had come from here too, but they couldn’t find anyone.”
“What happened to you?” He sounded, looked guilty. Penny had always thought that she would want to ask what she hadn’t dared ask the Addergoole administration. Where were you? Why didn’t you come for me? Why didn’t you know? But, looking at his face, she gave him the truth, “I was lucky. I went into foster care with good people and I was able to stay with them until I was eighteen. When I’m finished here, I plan to go back to be near them.”
He looked at her for a moment with his head cocked to one side, abstracted as if looking past her or remembering something. “Eucalypts and sandstone near where you’re going back to?”
“Well, yes lots. To the north and the west, and a lot of it’s built on and out of sandstone, well the old stuff anyway.”
“You’re right,” said Leal firmly, “You should go back. I remember from the naming rite. You’re going to belong there for a very long time, not forever mind you, and I think that you’ll know when its time to move on, but you should go back.” He paused, “But I would like to visit with you now, please?”
“Why don’t I put you all on the back porch?” suggested Lady Maureen. “You can be comfortable there and relatively private.”
It was obvious that Lady Maureen had not suggested the back porch at random, it was all set up for a comfortable chat between two adults while keeping two small boys under control.
Lady Maureen was just settling her guests in when Aelfgar stumped around the side of the house. “Leal, there you are,” he hailed, then looked the two women over appreciatively, “Your taste in women is improving.”
“Shut up, Aelfgar,” Leal spoke without heat or rancour, “This is my daughter and these are,” he suddenly looked as if he’d just made the connection in his mind, “My grandsons.” He reached out for George, who went to him happily and immediately started playing with one of the chains on his chest.
“Come along Aelfgar,” said Lady Maureen briskly, “I’m sure there’s somewhere else we can be,” and with that she took him by the arm and ruthlessly dragged him off with her.