August 19, 2016 by Lyn
Rix’s Guest Story
July between Years 8 and 9
The twins had gone shopping with their grandfather, Leal. They were not quite two but they were very amenable to Grandad’s suggestion that they were experts on teddy bears. And it was obvious to anyone that the new baby brother and sister were going to need their own bears once they were born. So the boys had gone off with their grandfather with the promise that if they were good, there would be pizza for lunch before they came home.
Given a morning to herself Penny had tidied the Village house that was theirs for the summer, done then hung out the washing and cooked a quiche for lunch. She set the outdoor table for three, she’d noticed that if Leal was away for more than a couple of hours someone always dropped by for one reason or another. This second lot of twins were technically due in early September, but being twins was likely to carve a good three weeks off that so here it was in mid-July and people in general were keeping a very close eye on her. Instead of worrying about who would be joining her for lunch, she settled herself on the banana lounge with her notes from her last lesson on charms with Lady Maureen. She found the subject interesting, all the more so because it followed on from the work they’d done together during the summer of Penny’s first pregnancy.
Some time later she was interrupted by a male voice at the fence, “Are you from the school?”
She looked up to see a tall young man of perhaps her own age with short hair and a broken nose regarding her from the other side of the fence line. “I go there, yes. Can I help you?”
He looked up and down the laneway then over his shoulder before putting his hand on a fence post and vaulting over the white pickets. “Don’t know. Wanna fuck?”
Penny swung out of the banana lounge on the side away from him and considered the distance to the door. “Who are you?”
“Baram. Who are you?” Penny did not care for the smile on his face at all and she backed away as he advanced.
“I’ve heard of you.” Damn, he was manoeuvring to get between her and the house.
“Have you?” His grinned widened as he positioned himself for a lunge if she tried to get to the back door, “What have you heard?”
“Girls’ locker room gossip, cyree comment.” She tried to sidle round towards the door some more. “I’m Penny cy’Fridmar. Phelen and Bowen mentioned you.”
He paused, “Cy’Fridmar, heh? So what about it?” He accompanied his question with a hand gesture below his belt.
“As it’s you,” she paused, “Not without a Working to help me accommodate you, not that I have the room to spare at the moment,” she tucked her notes under one arm so he could see the full size of her swollen belly, “And you’d have to agree that these two,” she pointed at her bump with her free hand, “Have right of way.” Baram suddenly chortled and Penny looked at him oddly but went on, “And then there’s position. I can’t think of anything I can sustain at the moment that would let you get close enough to do anything useful.”
“Right of way,” Baram smirked, “That’s good. You’re actually funny. So, you don’t wanna fuck, what will I do instead?”
“You’re a man,” Penny stated the obvious, “You have other appetites. Let me feed you.”
“Lunch. Let me give you lunch.”
“You’re inviting me inside?” That question was definitely accompanied by a sly look.
“Of course not,” Penny replied briskly, “I don’t trust you but I was planning to eat out here any way. Do you have any allergies, aside from the obvious?”
“Then decide where you want to sit while I start bringing things out.” He let her swish into the house and perhaps she surprised him when she actually remerged a few minutes later carrying a bowl of salad and a jug of dressing. She regarded him for a moment, leaning back in the chair that gave him the best view of the house and path down its side then asked, “What would you like to drink? There’s water, milk and homemade lemonade. I should warn you, the lemonade’s still a bit experimental.”
“Lemonade’s good.” He eyed her appreciatively, “You’ve got a nice ass. Who’s the father?” That had a slightly arrogant ‘should I be worried’ tone to it.
“A Nedetakaei Hunter who had me before I killed him.” She looked at him coolly.
“You poison him?”
“No, I stabbed him with his own rowan knife and suffocated him.”
“Nice.” A look of approval. “You planning on trying to kill me?”
“Not unless you try to harm me or my children.”
“Fair enough,” he nodded and she went back into the house to return a few minutes later with plates, glasses and a jug of iced lemonade. Penny put the jug on the table near Baram and added glasses and plates to the setting in front of him and the one opposite,
On her next trip she brought out a plastic basin, a plastic jug of water, towel and a bar of soap. Those went on the banana lounge. “So you can wash your hands,” she told Baram. “If I’m going to do this sort of thing, feeding people I don’t invite inside,” she clarified, “I should get a nice basin and ewer set. Make it seem more of an occasion and less rude.”
“Don’t see the point,” Baram commented.
“In hand washing or not being rude?” Penny asked over her shoulder.
On her last trip she brought out the quiche and fresh bread. Putting them on the table she asked, “How big a slice of quiche do you want?”
“Quiche?” He looked at her.
“French farmers’ egg and bacon pie. How big a piece would you like?” She made the first cut into the nearly three inch deep tart.
“About that,” he indicated with his fingers about three inches wide. Penny duly cut and lifted it onto his plate.
“Help yourself to salad, dressing and bread,” she told him as she dished up her own. Then as she sat, “May I have the lemonade when you’ve finished with it?”
As he was pouring himself a glass, he asked, “What’s the problem with this?”
“I’m not sure I’ve got the balance of sweet and tart right.” Penny was helping herself to salad, “What do you think?”
He took a swig, “Tastes just right to me.” A thought occurred to him, “What’s your power?”
“Hearthmother seems to sum it up,” she sighed, “Food, drink, shelter. Though I must say if you needed a bed for the night you’d be getting a ground sheet, pillow and sleeping bag on the back porch.”
“Sounds safe,” he smirked as he put the jug on her side of the table. He began to eat, “This is good!” He sounded surprised.
“Thank you.” She went on eating.
“So, what do you do to newbies for fun?”
Penny looked up at the conversational gambit. “I don’t,” somehow that came out sounding like an admission, “There’s nothing I want that can give me.” Baram looked disbelieving, “Sex? I was eighteen and a half when I came here, I’m twenty-one now. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and even nineteen year old boys aren’t as interesting as they think they are, and girls just don’t do it for me.”
“Sixteen year old girls’re sweet,” Baram’s comment was accompanied by a wolfish grin.
“You make them sound like candy.”
“If we’re going with the food analogy, sixteen and seventeen year old boys are under done,” Penny replied tartly.
“So what do you fancy?” The wolfish grin was still there.
“I refuse to answer that on the grounds that no matter what I say, the most embarrassing person possible will walk into earshot just as I say it.”
He laughed, “Ain’t that the truth?”
They ate on in what could have been a companionable silence. As Baram was reaching for the knife to cut himself a third piece of quiche Penny asked, “Would you like dessert? There’s two sorts of pie in the fridge.”
Baram pulled his hand back and pushed his plate away. “Do I have to choose?”
“No,” she smiled and stood up carefully, then cleared away the plates. Two trips into the kitchen later salad and quiche were gone, replaced by partially eaten apple and lemon meringue pies, dessert plates and a jug of cream. Baram happily helped himself.
About half way through a slice of apple pie he looked up, “What’re you doing after Addergoole?”
Penny paused, lemon filling on a spoon in midair. “Take the kids home to Australia, you might have noticed the accent,” he nodded, “Here I’ll always be the woman with the funny accent and lots of kids. There I won’t stand out so much. Learn about building houses off the grid I think, then build us a better bolt hole. What are you doing?”
“Haven’t managed to settle anywhere or to anything,” he admitted. “Had to move on a few times just ahead of trouble.”
“Your pick up line and technique could use work,” Penny pointed out calmly.
“Not my looks?” He dropped his Mask, and sat with there a nasty grin in all his solid, muscular, white glory, dreadlocks and all.
Oh, departed gods, another one! Penny carefully didn’t react except to say calmly, “For the right girl, that could be a turn on. You just have to stop scaring them away before you find out if they are the right one.” And no more out of you on the subject, my girl.
He helped himself to a slice of the lemon meringue pie and continued eating while Penny sat back and watched him, folded hands in her lap. Baram looked up to see the smile on her face and asked, “Enjoying yourself?”
“I am actually,” she smiled a bit wider, “I don’t usually get to just sit and watch the people I’m feeding eat. I’m finding it gives me a great deal of pleasure.”
“Given that my two experiences have been an arrangement for meeting graduation requirements when I had no practical idea of what I was doing and a serial killer who saw rape as foreplay for the slicing with sharp knives that really got his rocks off,” she smiled beatifically at him, “I’d have to say yes.”
“That’s a first.” That was flatly said, but Penny thought he had a pleasantly pleased smile as he finished his pie.
They were drinking coffee and Penny was wondering what she was going to do next when there were cries of “Mummy, Mummy,” and two small boys came hurtling out of the house. “We’s back!” They went one to each side of her chair, and grabbed an arm each to take her somewhere when they realised she wasn’t alone. “Who’s that?” asked Sextus.
“This is Baram who had lunch with me while you were shopping. Baram, these are my sons, Sextus and George.”
“Hi,” he stood up, looking, Penny realised, over her head.
A hand dropped on her shoulder from behind. “Ambrus and Maureen told me you had a visitor,” Leal said. “Enjoy the visit?”
“I did actually. Baram, this is my father, Leal. Father, this is Baram.”
“So I’m told,” said Leal.
“I’d better be on my way,” Baram looked as if he might be going to leave the way he’d come, but turned toward the side path and the front gate.
Penny stood up and held out her right hand, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Baram.”
He took her hand and leaned forward in what looked like it was going to be an air kiss, “You haven’t seen the last of me, I promise,” he said in her ear. The air popped and as he moved back she saw the wolfish look on his face again. The last she saw of him, he was sauntering casually down the side of the house towards the front gate.
Ninety Years after the Apocalypse
“Mummy! Mummy!” The terrified screams woke Penny and she rolled out of bed and hurried to her son’s bedroom along the sandstone corridor.
A quickly muttered Working turned on the glow light, revealing the small, terrified boy sitting bolt upright in his bed, sheets kicked off in disarray. “It’s alright, I’m here.” She sat down beside him and he wrapped his arms and legs around her, holding on tight and sobbing into her shoulder.
“They pulled me apart, and I didn’t do anything! Why did they do that?” he sobbed and hugged her even tighter.
“I don’t know, dear. It’s just a dream,” she soothed, “It’s not going to happen. Now here’s Wash Bear,” she knelt down with the child still clinging to her and picked up the toy. “Why don’t you and he cuddle up together and get some more sleep?” She put the bear up to his chest and he grabbed it with one arm. Once he’d done that, he settled happily back into his bed. She tucked him in, kissed him good night again and he was asleep before she turned off the glow light.
Outside the room were the child’s father, who’d followed her from her bed, and her great-great grandson, Moonwash. In the light of the fluorescence that gave Moonwash his name, she could see that the two unrelated winged men had very similar disapproving expressions on their faces. She could also see her two daughters, whose ages bracketed their brother’s, holding hands and looking on. “Terpsica, Kimi, what are you doing out of bed? Did Bastion wake you?”
“No,” eight year old Terpsica was almost incurably honest, “We had to go to the bathroom. Was it one of his bad dreams?”
“Yes,” her mother nodded. “Time for you to go back to bed. Do you want me to come and tuck you in?”
The two girls looked at each other, “No, thanks,” Terpsica replied for both of them, “At least it wasn’t the ‘I won’t tell’ dream. That one’s horrible.” Penny watched the two of them go back down the hall and into their own rooms.
“If you two have something to say,” Penny looked at her two menfolk, “We will talk about it in the kitchen, not here.”
“Yes,” Stoneface nodded. At this time of night he still had a heavy Eastern European accent. The three of them moved quietly down the hallway, through the dining room then out under the roofed walkway to the separate kitchen. Once there Stoneface said, “You are babying him.”
“And those dreams are getting worse,” added Moonwash, “Waking up screaming in the night is new, isn’t it?”
“Actually, I’m not babying him and they’re getting better,” Penny sighed. “It’s just that neither of you has been here before when that’s happened.” The two men looked at each other disbelievingly. “He’s one of those who return,” she explained quietly. “The nightmares are relived memories of his deaths. I can tell him they’re not going to happen,” she said bitterly, “Because they already have.”
“And the bear?” asked Stoneface quietly.
“Has comfort and safety charms sown into it. It means the difference between him mentioning that he’s had bad dreams in the night at breakfast and waking up screaming, like tonight. If he’s getting too old for Wash Bear,” she shrugged, “Then I’ll have to sew the charms into his pillow and his mattress. The dreams are happening less often and I hope they’re going to go away soon, at least until he hits puberty.”
“Do you know who he was?” Moonwash’s question was quiet.
“I think so.” Stoneface had stopped being adversarial and had moved close enough to put an arm around her. She leaned into him. “Not all the dreams are bad. There’s one he has where he’s grown up, he and I are having lunch outside and I’m talking about what I’m going to do after I leave school. He thinks the idea of me being at school is funny.” She looked up at Stoneface, “It took me a while to remember, but I had that conversation a very long time ago with someone who was quite dangerous back then.” Stoneface wrapped his other arm around her, drawing her in tight. “I don’t care who he was. Right now he’s Bastion, he’s six years old and he needs me.”