Faith: Two Hundred Laughs

Here is the next part of Faith (Book 4 of the Waldmeer Series).

Love isn’t a spell. Not if it’s the sort of love that wakes us up. Then it’s a spell-breaker, not a spell-maker.

Chapter 14: Babycakes 

In Wurt Wurt Koort:
The end of summer was fast approaching. The shortening days signalled the need to enjoy what was left of bare feet, long grass, and bountiful sunshine. Bethany had been attending a course in the city over the last few weekends and so Faith and Aristotle had been coming to Wurt Wurt Koort to stay with Lentilly. At twelve and ten respectively, Aristotle and Lentilly had great fun together as playmates. Wurt Wurt Koort had an inexhaustible supply of natural adventure spots for children – the creek, the woods, and the old buildings of the town. There was a children’s park but that fell short of the more interesting natural playgrounds and was only used as a last resort. Visits to Rybert’s cafe were a daily highlight.

“Hello, cutenesses,” said Rybert as Faith, Aristotle, and Lentilly walked into the tearooms midmorning. “Let me guess what you want,” Rybert said to the children who loved the guessing game. They all knew Rybert wasn’t actually guessing. He really could tell what they wanted. Even though this type of thing was baby play for Borderfirmarians, the children still enjoyed the game.

“Have I ever told you how I remember so many names?” asked Rybert of the little group.

“No,” chimed Lentilly and Aristotle together. “How?”

“By association,” said Rybert. “Lentilly is Lentil, of course,” he said patting Lentilly on the head. Lentilly was about to object as she had worked so hard on getting rid of her nickname but Rybert interjected, “Sorry, bub. Once it’s in my head, I can’t get it out. I don’t decide the association. It just happens.” Turning to Aristotle, Rybert said, “You look smart so I think of Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher.” Aristotle was pleased and smirked at Lentilly who responded with a whack to his arm.

“What about me?” asked Faith.

Rybert looked at her as if that was a ridiculous question. “Anyone can see what you are made of, hun,” he said.

Faith smiled and said, “We are expecting a visitor today.”

At that moment, Gabriel walked into the tearooms. Aristotle had been pestering Gabriel to come to Wurt Wurt Koort. He ran to Gabriel and jumped on him. Aristotle still possessed a childlike innocence. Teenage sophistication and aloofness had not even vaguely entered his mind. Faith wondered if he might skip the teenage attitude altogether. Lentilly also ran to Gabriel. Up until now, Gabriel had been polite but reserved with Aristotle’s niece, sister, and brother. After all, they were new people to him. He could not remember the strong bond he had formed with them when he was in the Borderfirma Mountains. Today, he was more relaxed and familiar.

Gabriel said hello to Faith and turned his attention to Rybert who had been watching him the whole time. They eyed each other momentarily and then looked away as if the other was of minimal interest. Underneath their easy, relaxed demeanours, neither was sure that they wanted to share Faith and her family. Both men belonged to the gay community and knew of each other but they had never met. Rybert rarely went to Darnall, however, some of the Boys of Darnall often called to see him on their way through to Waldmeer. Rybert would say that the witches were enough for him without another group of bitches. He said that to the Boys, themselves, and to anyone else who would find it amusing. “I can say that,” he would laugh, “because I am one too.” People often replied, “What? A bitch or a witch?” to which he replied, “Both.” Truth be told, Rybert was part witch but he didn’t have much bitch in him.

“Did you know,” said Rybert deciding that a change of focus would be a good idea, “that young children laugh two hundred times a day and adults only laugh twenty.”

Gabriel laughed. He had to admit, Rybert was a character.

“Really?” said Faith.

“Yes, really,” said Rybert moving closer to Faith’s face. “That’s one hundred and eighty laughs gone. But where? Where do they go? And what do they do when they get there?”

Gabriel and Faith laughed. “That’s clever, Rybert,” said Faith.

“Actually,” said Rybert, “I have to confess that I got it from Seinfeld.” Faith looked blank. “You know,” said Rybert, “he would say, ‘Where does the caffeine from decaffeinated coffee go and what does it do when it gets there?’”

“Oh, I see,” laughed Faith.

“Seinfeld?” said Gabriel. “How old are you?”

“Oh, I’m older than I look, babycakes,” said Rybert giving Gabriel a wink. Gabriel smiled with restrained amusement.

“Okay, you two,” said Faith, “the kids and I are going back to the cottage. I’ll leave you to flirt.”

“I’m not flirting, Faith,” said Gabriel with mock annoyance.

Faith raised her eyebrows and headed for the door with the children. On the way out, she pondered that the tone of Gabriel’s voice had a familiarity that she had not heard for a long time. She gave him a backwards glance. Although he was attentively listening to Rybert, he was also watching her. Something is different, thought Faith.

Chapter 15: Faith-Amira

Indeed, something was different. After twenty minutes, Gabriel appeared at the back door of Bethany’s rented cottage. “Come in,” said Faith. “The children have gone down to the creek but they shouldn’t be too long.”

“It’s okay,” said Gabriel. Faith didn’t know what was “okay” but Gabriel seemed to be gathering his thoughts and she didn’t want to interrupt him.

“I’ve been to see Erdo,” said Gabriel. He held his hands together. They didn’t have their usual composure. He was sweating.

“Come and sit down,” said Faith. “I’ll get you a cup of tea,” she added even though he had just had coffee. Gabriel put his arm on hers. He may have been unsteady but his grip was still firm. Faith tried to be calm but she also felt a nervous energy in her body.

Gabriel sat on the lounge and said, “I wanted to find out about Amira.” He looked piercingly at Faith. As Faith wasn’t sure what he was going to say, she tried to show nothing on her face except acceptance of whatever was coming. “I couldn’t come to terms with her disappearance,” continued Gabriel. “I felt that she was alright and so it wasn’t worry. It was…” He paused. “I couldn’t accept that she was gone forever. I was determined not to leave Erdo until he gave me a proper answer.”

“What did he say?” asked Faith. She was truly intrigued as to what Erdo would have come up with.

“He didn’t say anything,” said Gabriel.

“Oh,” said Faith somewhat disappointed.

“He didn’t say anything,” continued Gabriel, “because he wasn’t there.”

“Oh,” repeated Faith.

“I waited at the pond near the old walking bridge,” said Gabriel. “After a while, I settled into listening to the creaking of the giant hardwoods. Two black swans were resting in the reeds. It was very peaceful. Then something happened. I’m not sure if I saw it in the water or in my mind but it doesn’t really matter because it wasn’t the sort of thing that you make up. I saw it all, Amira.”

Amira? thought Faith.

“I saw the Borderfirma Mountains,” said Gabriel. “I saw the children, and Nina and Odin, and Indra and her snakes. I saw Aristotle and myself returning to Waldmeer through the frame.” The thought of the frame reminded Gabriel that it was the children’s father, Zufar, who had given it to Aristotle. He frowned slightly but pulled himself back to the story. “I know that when I arrived back in Darnall, I couldn’t cope with remembering about Borderfirma so Aristotle put a spell on me.”

“It wasn’t exactly a spell,” said Faith with a hint of motherly protectiveness.

“It was!” said Gabriel. “You lot are full of spells. You put a spell on me. Maybe, you are a witch.”

Faith laughed and then said quietly, “Love isn’t a spell, Gabriel. Not if it’s the sort of love that wakes us up. Then it’s a spell-breaker, not a spell-maker.”

Gabriel shrugged. He decided, years ago, that the best approach to Amira when she said things that went over his head was not to respond. He stood up and went to the window. He could see the creek at the bottom of the hill and, every now and again, the children appeared and then disappeared. “I saw your ten years in the Borderfirma Mountains,” he said with a little sadness.

“Did it make you sad?” asked Faith.

“It was so much time away,” said Gabriel. He closed the back door which had swung open in a sudden wind.

Gabriel and Faith were silent for a few minutes. Occasionally, the breeze carried the children’s voices up the hill and in through the open window.

“The most important thing is that you know who I am,” said Faith.

“That, I do,” said Gabriel.

Faith touched the middle of Gabriel’s chest. “I’m sorry that it was so long,” she said. “I don’t decide such things. Anyway, it wasn’t long here. Only there.”

Changing tone, Gabriel said cheekily, “I have to admit, I would prefer the younger version…”

“I’m terribly sorry,” said Faith with a smile.

“I’m going back to Darnall now,” said Gabriel. “Tell the children that I’ll see them in a few days.” He reached down and gave Faith a kiss on the cheek and left his face next to hers for a moment. “I’ll see you too, Faith-Amira, in a few days.”

That evening, Faith felt a great appreciation for the way things had worked out. She previously had no inkling that Gabriel would, or even could, realise that she was Amira. She wasn’t sure, going forward, how he would assimilate that information into his mental concept of life. She reassured herself that what had been overwhelmingly confronting and confusing for him several months ago was no longer that. His mind must have been adjusting to a different reality without him even realising it.

There are bound to be problems and life is not perfect, she thought, but I can be grateful for all the pieces of life that are happy and harmonious. The other pieces will have their own way of falling into place. The less ego there is in both the good and the bad, the more the good things can grow and the bad things will not be fed. Faith checked on the sleeping children, turned the lights off, lay on the bed, and closed her eyes.

End of Part 1: Summer

Read/listen to more of the Waldmeer Series.

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