Under The Willow – Silver Lining

[This is a portion of my serialised e-story. Read it from the start here]

Dreams In Time (contd.)

“You don’t know if you ate or don’t know why you did it?” Boomer asked.

He looked down at me with one of his confused expressions. I have never known anyone so contrary as Boomer.He is taller than all of us, though Ray and I are older than him by two years. He’s pretty big, in general, too. Not quite fat, not quite muscle-like. Just chunky. So, I guess a bit of both. He has the deepest voice I have ever heard in real life but it’s sort of soft at the same time. With all that, he is the most gentle, fearful and easily confused of us all. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t dumb or anything like that. He is actually very clever. Top of the class since I’ve know him from grade school and middle school. He just doesn’t understand people much. Especially when they are being round about or sneaky.

Boomer had a very expressive face but, again, that could confuse you. We soon got to learn that when he was confused or embarrassed, his face went into a kind of grimace that looked like he was angry. With his delicate, shy temperament all these expressions made it hard for him to make friends.

When he was amused he looked surprised and had a tendency to point and shout ‘Oh! Oh!’ with his eyes so wide open, you’d think they were about to pop out. Literally. Eventually, he would even out into normal laughter, which is loud, full of chuckles and quite infectious. It was doubly funny if he had just managed to work out a joke so the realization and amusement multiplied his reaction to ridiculous levels. It was such a treat to watch him at those times.

But when he was really angry, his face would go all expressionless. He would seem twice as large and became still and calm. He was  a glacier when he was moving. He had this supernatural strength that I wager could put down a bear if he wanted to. He was a totally different person, and quite something special to watch at those times, but only if you were not the object of his anger. If you were, running would be the best thing to do. But those times are rare and so Boomer is mostly just our likeable, fidgeting, ever-complaining Boom.

“No, no. I didn’t eat. I know I didn’t. At least I don’t think I did.” I told them what happened in the woods and how I met Persimal.

They were all silent. Something was hanging in the air. I knew Ray’s ‘thing’ had taken on a new life from what I just said, otherwise, my story would have seemed a little weird and exaggerated at best, a total load of bull at worst. Unfortunately, I sensed the reality was even worse that ‘at worst’.

I was the first to speak. When I opened my mouth I said something that was very unlike me.

“You know what, guys, we are here, we’re all safe, and we still have a few hours left in the day. Let’s forget all of this crazy stuff. Don’t anybody talk about Ray’s ‘thing’ or anything else that’s happened today. Let’s get out of these dreary woods and get back to the real world for some laughs.”

They all agreed. It felt so good to say, at the time. I knew there was more to come and I knew the real me deep down inside wanted to know every detail of what was going on but it had to wait. That was a cloud I didn’t want to look behind now. Couldn’t, even.

IV- Silver Lining

Two weeks went by and everything was about back to normal. Well, if you don’t count the fact that I hadn’t stepped foot in the woods since that day. I started taking the shuttle that runs round the forest and through the Three Towns. It’s too long to walk around. This was a shame because we were getting into the sweetest part of summer, just towards the end of season when things were most beautiful, especially the woods. It was kind of like a sunset all warm and intense but without bearing down on you with the burns, discomfort and sweats. This part of summer left us with fond memories before it made way for the fall.

Also, if you call not being able to sleep with all the lights off ‘normal’, then, yeah, things were back to normal. I stopped sleeping with a night light when I was five. But here we are, over ten years and a weird encounter later- I’m back to being scared of the dark.

People always talk about growing older and stronger and wiser. No one really talks about growing backwards or loosing the things you learn that make you grown and more mature. Unless when you’re super old or have a mental illness, this sort of thing is not expected. None of those applied to me. What’s more annoying is that I had nothing concrete to base it on, this fear. Just some unexplained gaps in time and space, suspicions, and a feeling that everything had changed.

During the summer, we would all meet up at least two evenings a week; Ray, Boomer, Flinny and I. Usually in Mid-town. Since that day in the forest our meetings had been different too. We still laughed, played pranks, fought about stupid stuff like who was going to end up working in Happy Things, Mid-town’s crummiest convenience store, and not go to University. But always with that cloud above us, it seemed. I sensed that at different times Ray or Flinny were on the verge of talking about it but then would think better of it. That’s how heavy the cloud was. It was like a magnetic field that we could all feel pulling us. Think about it too much or bringing it to the front of our minds and you could feel it shift and move in response. Ready to pounce the moment we let it out with our mouths.But we can’t always avoid what we want to avoid.

It was exactly two and a half weeks from meeting Persimal when my mom walked in one evening after work, almost skipping into the house. It had been raining. Normally she would take off her boots, jacket and dump them all, along with her umbrella and car keys, in the entryway before she stepped into the main house. Today, she had her hands full and just rushed in, heading straight to the kitchen.

“You will never guess what I’ve just discovered in town. There’s a new place I know you’ll just love, love, love!”

As she walked in past me I got up to help take some stuff from her and my nose was hit with the smell of apple and cinnamon. My heart sank.

“Mom, what’s that smell?”

Stupid question considering the huge cake box she had balanced on her briefcase.

“It’s this wonderful new bakery in Mid-town. P’s Delight, I think it’s called. I was minding my own business, when I saw a little crowd of people, queuing up. You know, just by the old Library?”

“Uh-huh” I was frozen and scared stiff and that was all I could manage.

“Well, I was curious. I hadn’t even noticed they were renovating that old building and all of a sudden, like magic, there was this quaint little shop, all done up like a cottage with soft lights.”

“Yes, like magic.” I could hear my own words falling cold and weak from my lips but I didn’t know when or how I said them, being gripped by something that had just fallen on me.

Mom darted back and forth between the kitchen and living room, putting things away to make space, placing others here and there, all the while taking off her jacket, scarf and boots. She loves her slacks and t-shirts but dresses extra smart for work so she always rushes to get out of her work clothes as soon as she gets home. She was a clerk in the local accountant’s firm. I shouldn’t really call it local as it’s actually a small branch of one of those huge national partnerships that have glass and marble offices in big cities. You know the ones; black leather chairs and sofas  that have cold silver  lining along the edges and armrests, to remind you not to get too comfy in you super comfy seat. It paid fairly well to afford us a decent home and all the other things that we needed. My father has never been there. He’s alive somewhere but he may as well be dead

She continued gushing. “I could smell the food just driving past. Mind, I was driving pretty slow as they were causing an awful lot of traffic, the people waiting in line. Apparently, she was giving stuff away free but it was all outside, through the kitchen hatch, so some people were on the road.

“You know me, always rushing to get home as early as I can, but everyone seemed all abuzz and it’s Friday anyway so I parked up when I saw Betty’s mom in the line and went over for a gossip. Turns out it opened today. When I got to the front of the queue the owner came out at just that moment, and she said to me, ‘You look like a woman I need to get to know.’ She was just a plain slip of a thing but she exuded such a glow!

“Well of course, I was flattered. But I was not expecting what she did next. She asked me to come into the shop. She introduced herself, she showed me around and asked me what I did and all that, then she gave me this cake. Others were getting cupcakes and slices and I get this huge whole box. She called it her ‘random feel-good moment’ as she had a good feeling about me and just had to act on it. Talk about a sliver lining on this dreary, wet day. I just cannot wait to try this cake. I don’t even know what it is but it smells amazing!” She moved over to where the cake was to lift the cover of the cake box.

“It’s a pie.” I managed to say through my trance.

“What, Shelly?” She was distracted peeling of the securing tape on the box.

“It’s a pie. Apple and Cinnamon.”

She looked up at me. “Shelly! You look absolutely dreadful. Are you unwell?” She dropped the cover and came over to me, wrapping her arm around me, feeling my forehead. Her warmth was a comfort and a shaking back into a safe and hopeful reality.

“I’m fine, Mom. You shouldn’t eat that pie. I have heard things about that lady.”

“Really? But she just moved here. How do you know so much about it already?”

“I just heard stuff. Mom, promise me you won’t eat that pie.”

“Okay, I won’t eat it yet. You get to bed and rest. I’ll bring you some soup and we can talk about it in the morning.”

I walked up to my room in a daze. As soon as I got up to my room I really didn’t want any soup. I wanted the pie. But I also wanted to throw it in the dustbin. I got into bed and sent a text to the gang. “She’s in town. Forest Lady. Don’t eat anything from P’s Delights. Let’s talk tomorrow.” Send. The cloud had burst.

I had been avoiding this but I couldn’t fool myself any more hoping maybe it wasn’t real. This had to be talked about and I was almost relieved now. I also felt better knowing that I hadn’t lost my mind. She was real. The power of her tools was real. I felt it again with the pie in the house. And now I could have my friends go see her without going to the woods and getting lost and creeped-out. She was on our turf, out in the open. This had to be a good thing somewhat. Well, there’s my sliver lining.

[If you would like to read more, please let me know]

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