[This is a portion of my serialised e-story. Read it from the start here]
As I walked towards her, my nose filled with the sweet smell of cinnamon and apple. I could almost taste the cream. I felt so at home. So comfortable. But there was also a sound very far away that I couldn’t really hear well but felt I ought to. That was not so comfortable. But I was too lost in cinnamon, curiosity and something else I could not explain, to stop and work it out.
I also noticed, as I got closer, that she wasn’t leaning against a normal a tree trunk but a rough and tumble sort of hut or cottage. It looked like giant tree trunk was hollowed out to live in. There was a roughly cut hole just above her head and to the right. I could see a ragged cloth flowing gently on the inside of it. That must be a window and the door must be on the other side. A giant tree but still a tiny place for a person to live in. But she was kind of tiny too, this soft talking woman.
“Is this where you live?”
“Yes, sometimes.” She was still smiling.
“But how come I’ve never seen you before? Or this place?”
“Under the willow, by the brook, there are things to be seen if you care to look.”
Oh no, you don’t. If there is anyone in this place that looks, it most certainly is me. I even look at myself in the mirror like three times a day, If I can, to see if anything’s changed. My mom used to say ‘Everyday we are all changing and growing in the funniest ways. Sometimes it happens so slowly that we don’t notice. Sometimes it’s three super quick changes that pop up an hour of each other to land you with a pimple or lock of hair sticking out or your ear. Some things are nice to see happen and some things are good to catch early and nip them in the bud.’
Don’t you go telling me about ‘things to see if you care to look’, lady! Of course I didn’t say all that to her.
“I always look. And I know every part of this forest. Well, most of it. What parts that count. How long have you lived here?” I asked instead.
“Would you like some pie?”
The pie did smell delicious. So delicious that I was upset because I knew I had to turn it down. I actually felt like I was going to cry for missing it.
“No thank you,” I said. “I don’t want to be a…”
“There’s more than enough for two. Even five or six.” She said, as if reading my mind. I always shared my best treats with my best friends. Besides, time was ticking.
“I have to be somewhere. People are waiting for me.”
“Okay, but you must come back.” Again, she smiled sweetly but it felt more like an order.
I know I didn’t want to come back but that pie made me want to a little bit, and I was curious about this lady and her home that seem to have just popped up from nowhere. I looked around to see if I could trace the location back. If not for the pie, at least to just note it and maybe bring the others along. I would feel safer with others. Something told me this strange meeting was just the beginning of things to come. I breathed in deep to get one full blast of that delicious pie with the cinnamon scent just dancing on the apple enough to make you wonder if it was cinnamon and apple or apple and cinnamon.
“Under the willow, by the brook. There are things to be seen if you care to look. Beyond the giggling, rolling beam of water light and yummy green.” She looked pointedly at me while she said this.
This was pretty awkward. Was this rhyme supposed to help me find my way back here? I didn’t know what I was supposed to say back or if I was supposed to respond at all. She didn’t look crazy, although she didn’t seem completely normal when you looked right into her eyes. I tried not to do too much of that.
Granted, the words did make sense as far as this spot was concerned. Our forest, Havlar Green, was in the middle of Pinerush in the north, and my village, Southpines, in the South. To the west of the forest was Everin, which everyone called ‘midtown’. So the three towns – and we imaginatively called this region ‘the Three Towns’ – curve around the north, west and south of the forest while the lake runs South, on the east end, from Pinerush along Havlar Green and down beyond Southpines.
Most of the forest is an odd collection of ‘thicks’ and various tall trees. The thicks are horrible clusters of stubborn and unstable roots, stumps and vines with pokey bits. They tangle you up and cut you or trip you over when you get too close. Even the snakes hated the thicks. For such a high forest, Havlar is surprisingly dark. But in a soft, dreamy cozy way. Boomer says it’s creepy. This part is brighter as it’s closer to the opening along the lake and, though there are more thicks around, the trees are more spaced out so it isn’t an impossible place to navigate. There are more weeping willows around and so the place feels more tranquil. Almost sunken, depending on the weather. Still, the rhyme only gives a general description of the area. There was nothing distinctive in the words or even this area, save from this tree-turned-home. But you’d have to find it first.
“Where’s that rhyme from?”
“It’s from me to you. You and everyone else who cares to think differently.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“You take a guess, young man. You look very clever.”
Of all the millions of names on the planet, I had to choose one for this plain-faced total stranger that I just met. That’s crazy. Well, I may as well have fun with this.
“Well, you’re not a Jane…”
“No. I’ve heard the term ‘plain Jane’ but that would be too obvious and cruel.”
“And you’re definitely not a Freya or Eugenia, on the other end.”
“Good. I have never met a Freya that I liked.”
I found it hilarious that she thought I was actually working with her. It was time to drop in the punch line.
I stuck my index finger in my mouth and held it up as if to check the wind direction. For a split second, I actually did think hard before I brought my hand down- I mean what if I could actually use unknown powers to do strange things. The thought was gone as soon as it popped into my head.
“So, I think I’ll call you Percy.” I started to laugh.
“Astounding! You really do have a gift,” she said as she shot up from the ground. She was now walking around me – the hissy muttering started again –and looking at me as if I were a fascinating sculpture. The smell of apple and cinnamon – definitely apple with cinnamon – was overpowering as she got very close. After the second round, she stopped right in front of me and held out her hand for a handshake.
“Pleased to meet you, Sheloch. I’m Persimal. If we become very good friends then maybe you may call me Persi. Until then it’s just Persimal.”
Everything in her response seemed genuine. Genuine surprise, genuine interest and genuine pleasure. I think I did shake her hand. I don’t fully recall – that moment was a bit of a blur. I was actually speechless. A strange chill ran down my spine.
[If you would like to read more, please let me know]