Six months ago, in the interdimensional Borderfirma Lowlands:
In the middle of winter, three intrepid travellers stood below the ancient portal bell of Floating Cave Monastery with the equally ancient monk looking on.
“Welcome back, Lady Faith and Rybert,” said the monk with eyes that resembled the mystical waters of Floating Cave. “I’ve been waiting for you.” He walked towards Maria and peered at her. Into her would be more accurate. He nodded in approval and said with a half-smile and a half-bow, “Welcome, Lady Maria. I see your father, young Malik, has done a good job.”
Summer was in the thick of things; smack-bang in the middle of Waldmeer. The tourists had taken over the little town, as they always did at this time of year. The locals oscillated between threatening to run them over and reminding themselves that without the summer trade, the businesses would not survive. They cursed the noise, rubbish, traffic jams, and “obnoxious, selfish, self-entitled” city-dwellers. The long-term business owners pleaded with their fellow-locals to be patient and polite. They coaxed them along with, A smile costs nothing. They reminded them that the majority of the visitors would only be around for six weeks and then they would have their beloved town back to themselves. Mostly.
Bob Owens’s Indian guru was a tough nut. His students never knew what he was going to do next. He could do anything, and often did do all manner of things to surprise, awaken, and shake his students from their mindsets. All of his followers were certainly kept on their toes. Actually, he had a relatively small group of followers. Bob was not sure if that was by the Master’s choice or if most people couldn’t tolerate his style.
It was Monday morning. As Ben walked through the glass doors of the State Ballet building, he came across one of the older professionals of the company, a friend of many years.
“Morning, Ben,” said the man. “How’s Store Creek going?”
“Morning,” said Ben. “Fine. I suppose.”
Truth be told, two weekends had passed since Ben had seen Merlyn. More, he hadn’t even spoken to her. Nor had he messaged. Every day, if not many times a day, he checked his messages to see if she had messaged him. She hadn’t.
Seeing the look on Ben’s face, his friend said tentatively, “Look, buddy, I thought you were back together but if things aren’t going quite to plan, I have a suggestion.” He waited to see Ben’s reaction. As there was no obvious displeasure from Ben about a suggestion, he continued, “The missus and I have had our ups and downs over the years. I think most people think that we have been very fortunate with our marriage and we have been but, the thing is, everyone has their problems. God knows, we’ve had many.”