Although there were nicer shops a suburb or two closer to the city, Merlyn made a point of shopping at the Pittown ones. It seemed to her disloyal not to use them. Besides, she found the people interesting. Not infrequently, someone walked past her and turned their head to give her a second look. They looked like they thought they knew her, but then decided that they didn’t. Sometimes, they looked at her quizzically as if they were thinking that she didn’t belong in Pittown.
Although the Pittown cafe owner had misjudged Merlyn’s friend to be her husband, she actually did have a husband. An estranged husband, anyway. The estrangement was how she came to be living in Pittown. Merlyn and Benjamin had only been married for three years. It wasn’t long but, as it turned out, long enough. They had known each other for two years previous to getting married. Merlyn wasn’t a big fan of getting married but Benjamin had fallen in love with her and very much wanted the marriage to work. For her part, Merlyn both loved and was in love with Benjamin in return. However, unlike Benjamin, she knew that he was ill-prepared for the reality of a committed relationship. She also knew that love is the most powerful force in the universe, so she gave Benjamin and the marriage her best shot and put her faith in his love to get him through.
The bus driver announced that there would be a half hour stop at Wurt Wurt Koort to change a tyre. The road from Waldmeer to Darnall ran through the hills and forests of the Leleks. At the highest point was the little town of Wurt Wurt Koort. From the Wurt Wurt Koort Town Hall, if one looked further inland, one could see Darnall in the distance. In the other direction, one could just make out the sea. Waldmeer lay beside it.
At one time, Wurt Wurt Koort was a thriving, respectable hill-town, thus the presence of a rather pretentious town hall. However, the death of a local child changed all that and now it was surviving, but barely. Further, it was rumoured to be run by witches. It was said that they were the only ones who remained. They weren’t bad witches. In fact, a number of them had businesses and were visited, with some success, for healing, readings, and other mysterious type activities. There was a leadership group or coven of thirteen. They were all women, although, these days, they said that they were gender-neutral. They ranged from fifty to positively ancient. Their headquarters was the local cafe, the Wurt Wurt Koort Tearooms, which was next to the town hall.
After two days in Waldmeer, Malik said to his mother, “Enough lounging around. Today, I will get a job.”
“Alright,” said Faith hesitantly. “Do you have a particular sort of job in mind?” Malik had spent the first fourteen years of his life in a palace and the next ten in the Great Valley. He wasn’t overly qualified for Earth work. Aristotle, who was standing nearby, smiled. He had been on Earth long enough to realise the problem with Malik getting a job.
“I have many abilities,” said Malik. ”Someone will want me.”
Deciding not to dampen his enthusiasm, Faith refrained from giving him advice about the way things worked in Waldmeer and instead said, “Good luck. Anyone who gets you will be lucky.”
Spring had come and gone in Waldmeer and it was well into summer. As Waldmeer is in the Southern Hemisphere, summer carries with it a new year. Gabriel and Aristotle were travelling in the car to Waldmeer from Gabriel’s apartment in Darnall. It was Aristotle’s idea. Gabriel didn’t like going to Waldmeer anymore. Since Amira had mysteriously disappeared in early spring and her nasty cousin, Eve, had taken over the house, the whole of Waldmeer felt different. It was as if a light had gone out and a dark cloud had spread over the town. Nevertheless, Aristotle wanted to visit, so Gabriel said yes. Gabriel said yes to almost everything Aristotle wanted. They had been inseparable buddies for the last three months even though Aristotle was only twelve and Gabriel was forty. Aristotle was probably the child Gabriel had never had. What an exceptional child he was – intelligent, kind, quick-witted, and altogether delightful to be around. When Gabriel looked at Aristotle, a thought often popped into his mind – Look after my boy. He could not remember that they were Lady Faith’s parting words when he and Aristotle entered the frame which transported them from Borderfirma to Waldmeer.
Part 3 – Borderfirma Mountains – The Inner Circle Odin of the Great Valley
The boys lay on the wooden floor of the tree house and gazed up into the moving leaves. It was a grand tree house; three stories, with a flag at the top, and lights that came on every evening. It was fit for a king which is just as well because the boys were royal. Malik was fourteen. He looked over the nearby palace roofs into the Borderfirma Mountains. This land belonged to his mother and the surrounding Borderfirma lands belonged to her siblings. The Borderfirma lands, together, made up the Inner Circle.
Two months had passed. It was still winter but no one in Gabriel and Amira’s Dementia Unit dance class was cold. Everyone was hot and pumping jive. The class had come to an equilibrium of its own accord. Gabriel was given notes from the “proper” dance instructors, although, somewhat begrudgingly. The notes were enough to give a loose direction and Wolfgang and Madeline would demonstrate the technical elements of each dance for anyone interested. Although Madeline’s mind could not remember the technique, her body remembered perfectly well the movements she had practised for so many years. Lacking in technical knowledge, Gabriel and Amira decided to go with transferring the feeling of each dance and giving their students an immersive experience. Basically, all that meant was turning the music up and dancing enthusiastically with the class members in, more or less, the appropriate style.
A few years ago, when Amira first returned to Waldmeer from Eraldus, she had an unfortunate experience with a Waldmeer couple, Oswald and Billy. They were domestic and business partners and owned the upmarket Hattery in the main street of Waldmeer. It wasn’t exactly in the main shopping strip. A narrow path between the brick walls of two buildings led to a plain, black door which was the entrance to the exclusive shop. It didn’t have a sign.
Since Gabriel had been living in Waldmeer, he had not seen Thomas. They no longer had their styling-shopping sessions as Gabriel was no longer in the city. In Waldmeer, their circles didn’t intersect. Thomas’s world consisted, almost entirely, of school-related people and events. Kathleen, Thomas’s ex-girlfriend, was the only person he saw who did not belong to school. This morning, Gabriel saw Thomas walking out of the supermarket. At least, he thought it was Thomas, but he had to do a double-take to be sure. Thomas looked like he had aged five years in six months and had unfortunately reverted to his old man’s dress code which aged him a further ten years.