Thursday, October 28, 2010


Continued from October 27.

At the back door, Kath wrapped her arms around her much taller son and rocked him back and forth. “I know, I know,” she whispered. “He was such a good soul, old Badger.”

Iain lurked behind Will. There were too many people. He’d never get through the kitchen without going through someone. He went back outside and drifted around the house toward Beth’s green presence.

The grief and stress of the past couple of years had dimmed her aura to a sludgy olive. Iain’s time was growing short. He’d managed to influence her to come home to the family; they’d ease some of her burden. But he had only a few days left before his next passage.

He came through the wall behind Beth. Her glossy, honey-brown hair slithered over her shoulder to her waist, freshly washed—he breathed in—but he couldn’t smell it anymore. She heaved a shuddering sigh.

Iain whispered, “Oh, sweetheart, you’re so lonely. Will you let someone love you again?” He wanted to see her aura glow spring green again, with flashes like sunlight through trees, before he had to leave.

Tassie had circumnavigated the room to return to Beth’s knee. “Up.” She climbed to her mother’s lap and nestled into her shoulder. Her thumb crept toward her mouth.

Beth stroked the baby-fine hair and, with the other hand, tried to reach her tea mug.

Kath resettled beside her and passed her the mug. “Now we’ll hear some tunes. Will brought his fiddle.”

Beth glanced up—“Iain’s brother, Will?”—and stilled.

An Italian angel—black curls to his nape, deep velvety eyes, broad shoulders crowding his father at the kitchen table—had just put his bow to the fiddle strings. He looked up, caught sight of Beth, and froze. The bow skittered down the strings with a squeal.

The crowd applauded, laughing. “What song’s that, Will? Don’t know that one.” Will shook his head.

Kath called, “Play us ‘The Mortgage Burn,’ dear.” She leaned closer to Beth. “That will take his mind off Badger, his dog. Badger had a good long life, but it was his time.”

Will launched into a fast, rollicking tune. Feet stomped. A guitar came out and joined in. An aunt at the piano in the parlour raced to keep up.

Tassie woke up from her doze and gaped at the dancers clacking their heels on the floor. “Mummy?”

“Is that…step dancing?” Beth reached out to Flora, who had reappeared from the bedroom, drawn by the music.

“This is your first kitchen party, isn’t it, dear. Yes, folks are out stepping as soon as the fiddler starts up.”

Beth couldn’t look away from the flying fingers and flashing eyes of the musician. Iain’s brother, Will, the one she hadn’t met yet.

Come back tomorrow for part four.

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