The end of summer is announced by school starting again. Even though the days are still extremely warm and sunny, there’s a feeling of autumn and seriousness. New clothes, new books, new teachers, new… New friends?
Taïga has spent the night tossing and turning, unconsciously worrying about starting school again. The little sleep she got was haunted by a raven and a bearded man with a peculiar hat who emanated evil. It was almost a relief to turn off the alarm before it rang, and get up.
She grimaces at her image in the mirror while brushing her teeth. God, she looks tired… She sighs and splashes some cold water on her face but when she looks back up, she stumbles backwards and almost falls into the bathtub.
She stares at the mirror. What the hell was that!?!
A soft voice echoes in her head, whispering, Let me in, Taïga… You must let me in…
Hesitating, she scrambles to her feet and forces herself to look at her reflection, peeking through her fingers. The image that meets her gaze is slowly fading, an image of a tall woman with freckles and grey solemn eyes… What does she want?
‘TAÏGA! The bus is here!’ Granny calls at the same time as the school bus is honking downstairs.
Taïga looks at her watch, it can’t be an hour already? She throws on her underwear and the new dark green dress Granny has bought her. Grabbing an apple from the bowl on the counter in the kitchen, she kisses Granny’s cheek before dashing outside, only to see the school bus drive off.
She sets off after it, but the driver can’t see her through the cloud of dust and exhaust fumes. Coughing she throws her apple at the vanishing bus… This morning really starts out good… She goes back for her bike, and begins the long ride to school, swearing to herself.
Humming joyfully, Headmaster Nowak enters his large office. He puts his briefcase on the huge desk and straightens a diploma hanging slightly askew. Whistling an air from “Carmen”, he leans back in his leather backed super-seat, checking his phone for messages. A sharp knock on the door makes him lean forward and the seat bounces back to a serious posture just when his secretary appears.
‘It’s almost 8, sir. Would you like some donuts with your coffee before receiving the first batch?’
‘Yes, please.’ The first batch? He sighs, he had almost forgotten that today the students invade his school. Freshmen at 8:30, Sophomores at 9:30, Juniors at 10:30… It has been such a nice week, just him and the teaching staff. There are two new faces this year, a young math’s teacher fresh out from college and a sports coach… He turns on his computer and opens the file with his welcome speeches…
Fairview Heights High School is busting with activity when Taïga shows up at 10. The high school juniors are coming from all directions, biking, walking, by car… The buses line up, spewing students onto the sidewalk.
Linn waves and jumps up and down, ‘Over here, Taïga!’
She swerves and jumps off her bike, hugging her best friend. The bike rack is complete, so she leans on her bike, taking in the activity.
‘I waited for you at the bus stop. Gosh, you look hot!’
‘Err… I mean hot hot. It’s not that I don’t like your dress, it’s fantastic, but why didn’t you take the bus?’
Taïga sighs, ‘I missed it.’ Self-consciously she pushes a strand of hair from her face, ‘Do I really look that awful? I feel like a mess-’ She’s distracted by a gangly girl, ‘Oh, hi, Charlene!’
Charlene scans the crowd, ‘Just look at them!’ Taïga and Linn follow her gaze. ‘Already dividing into groups… Don’t you think stereotyping is so dang wrong? I mean how do you know which group you belong to? Who decides if you’re a nerd or a geek?’
She gesticulates towards Valeria Morales and Ana Kempinski, already drawing a crowd of yes sayers, ‘Who decides you’re a prep and popular?’
Or just plain stupid… Taïga thinks to herself, watching Ghana Washington and Ibtihal Othman make silly but cute faces to draw attention. Must corner Ana about that groom job at her dad’s yard…
Linn interrupts her thoughts, ‘OMG! Is Leilani a Goth now? Watch her dress!’
‘Nah, I guess she’s still Emo… But you’re right, she’s awfully pale after the scorching summer we’ve had.’
‘Yeah, she seems to be cultivating that Goth pallor that-’
‘But that’s what I’m trying to say! Why do we have to be part of a group? Why can’t we just be ourselves? We’re only in High School and society already put a label on us… Where do I belong? I don’t fit into any group…’
Linn and Taïga looks at each other and burst out at the same time, ‘Rebel!’
‘And you two are… are… dorks!’ Charlene adds, exasperated.
A car screeches to a halt in front of the school entrance, drawing Taïga’s attention from Charlene’s rantings. It’s notorious bad boy Jayler Moroni who makes an appearance even though he graduated last year. His sister Lolita and Tyler piles out.
Tess squeals with delight and hurries over, forgetting all about her BFF Valeria Morales… She throws herself into Jayler’s arms as he emerges from his customized car.
‘Aww. So sweet of you to come!’
‘Yeah, well, I had to drive Lolita.’
‘I’m sure everything will work out great, Charlene. You’ll get your job at the bookstore back… Don’t you think so, Taïga?’
‘Huh? Yeah, sure. It’s probably a misunderstanding.’
Taïga doesn’t know Charlene that well, she moved in from Riverview last year after some kind of bullying problem. Linn has told Taïga how Charlene was the target of cruel classmates and how she was hung out on the social Medias at her old school. It’s true, she’s got rather big ears and a prominent nose, but she compensates with a really sweet personality and in Fairview no one has been really mean. Charlene is hell bent on getting plastic surgery anyway, and the part-time job at the bookstore helped her get closer to her dream…
The bell rings, and this year’s sophomores pour out of the double doors. Taïga locks her bike and follows the steady stream of juniors inside.
Linn stops suddenly and tugs at Taïga’s arm, waving her cell, ‘Just have to take this, I’ll catch up!’
‘Good morning Mr. Khan!’
‘Morning’ Tyler, Taïga, Tess…’
Hafeez Rahman Jaffer Khan ushers the students into the lecture hall with a smile. Originally from Iraq, he has been working at the High School for two years now, and he knows everybody.
‘Jayler Moroni! I remember you!’ he says with a thick accent.
‘Hi Mr. Khan.’ Jayler tries to step past, but Mr. Khan blocks his passage.
‘Yes, I remember… You graduate last year!’
‘Oh, c’mon, Mr Khan.’ Tess looks pleadingly at him, ‘Just once? Nobody will notice…’
Hafeez rubs his chin pretending to think about it, ‘OK. Just once today! And no hokey pokey!’
Linn is the last in… Out of breath, she stops and scans the crowd for Taïga who discreetly waves her over.
‘Are you serious?’ she whispers as Linn slides into the empty seat next to her.
‘It was my dad, pretty serious stuff. He’s leaving for Champs-les-Sims, an award or something. OMG! Is that Jayler? The guts… Sitting right in front of the head and-’
‘If Miss Valstrom is comfortably installed, maybe we could get started?’ Headmaster Nowak’s voice booms out from the loudspeakers, making everyone look at Linn, who blushes and sinks deeper into her seat.
Headmaster Nowak readjusts the microphone, making a screeching noise that snaps everyone back to attention. He smiles at the audience and clears his throat, ‘The School year at Fairview Heights High School is about to commence and I would like to take the opportunity to welcome you all. Blablabla…’
Taïga tunes the headmaster out and picks on the hem of her skirt. She knows this year will be more challenging, not only because of the increased difficulty, but also because of what happened to her last year. Her closest friends are behaving as usual, but she saw how the other students looked at her, and whispered… All her friends are there, even Jayler who supposedly has moved on to University. She was afraid everyone would have changed over the summer, but she’s the one who feels different from last year. It’s not as much the staring, or whispering behind her back, as a general feeling of estrangement. She doesn’t belong anymore. Is it the months away at APYR? Or the loss of Derek? She’s almost 16, but in her mind she feels old and jaded.
‘The teachers at FHHS will take action and help the students to achieve academic, sporting, cultural and life-long learning. May I take this opportunity to welcome our new colleagues, Mr. Hawes and Mr. Cottoneye.’ Mr. Nowak nods and smiles at the two new teachers on his left, ‘… and thank the teaching staff for their continued professionalism, excellence and dedication… Blablabla…’
It’s the first school start without Loki since middle school and Taïga misses their carefree friendship… Why did they have to start dating? Mentally she slaps herself. Because you fell in love with him, stupid girl! It wasn’t his fault you met Derek again…
Linn nudges Taïga, ‘I wonder what the blond guy is teaching?’
‘Huh? Err… I bet he is our sports coach – I heard Valeria talking to Tess about signing up for extra hours…’
‘Geez… My dads are forcing me to take a pre Ap algebra 2 extra math’s – just look at how mean looking he is… probably jams the equations down your throat with sheer force…’
‘… this is our goal as the year at FHHS commences! Let’s continue to work together to help each other to be our best for the world!’ Headmaster Nowak beams at his students and teachers, and adds to himself ‘So help us God…’
Everybody clap their hands politely, and stand up. They follow their respective teachers to their homeroom to get their schedules and administrative papers, and then they’re free to go home. Tomorrow the serious work will start… Their home teacher, who they’ll also have in History, seems very nice. His name is Connor Frio, and he told them he’s moved in from the west coast last year, and that he’s a history freak. He made them laugh more than once during the go-through.
She compares her schedule with Linn, the only subject they don’t share is French and music. She’s happy to see none of the teachers are the same as last year. Better to start the term with a clean slate… They both have Constance Campbell-Black in English, Indra Peacemaker in Art and the new terrifying math’s teacher…
They decide to sign up for computer studies. On the way to the office to pick up the paperwork, Linn tries to convince Taïga to take PE with her.
‘I jog in the woods with Valkyria, that’s enough for me.’
‘Oh c’mon. PE is fun!’
‘Are you sure it has nothing to do with a certain blond teacher?’
Linn is a little taken aback, ‘Definitely not! Do I look like Ghana Washington to you? Or Valeria Morales? It’s because PE will make you feel good, and look good!’
She looks pleadingly at Taïga, who sighs. ‘I’m sorry Linn, I just won’t have the time… And what about swimming? Will you have the time for Cheerleading, swimming and PE?’
Linn thinks about it. ‘You forgot horse riding!’ she adds with a huge Linn-smile.
They pick up the paperwork and head out. ‘I’ll see what my dads think about my schedule before signing up anyway…’
Linn hails Ana on their way out, ‘Hey, Ana! Wait a minute! Is that groom job still available?’
‘I guess it is. Why?’
Taïga breaks in, ‘I’d like to give it a try…’
‘Great! Why don’t you come over around noon, we’ll catch dad before lunch! ’
‘Oh. Yeah. Great!’
‘See you!’ Ana hurries off with her BFF Valeria Morales. Taïga can hear her asking ‘What was that about?’ before they disappear out of earshot.
Linn is excited, ‘I’ll drive you to the stables, I have to check on Scarlett anyway.’
‘But I have to tell Granny, and what about my bike?’
‘Here.’ Linn hands Taïga her cell, ‘I’ll just drop you off here after you’ve talked to Mr. Kempinsky…’
But Granny isn’t answering the phone. ‘I guess she’s out in the garden or something…’
‘We’ll make a stop at your place first.’ Linn dangles with the car keys. ‘C’mon!’
The fruit trees are heavy with ripe fruit and Granny decides to get some gardening done while Taïga is at school. Maybe surprise her with pancakes and homemade stewed apples tomorrow morning… She’s sure Arthur Moon would like a couple of jars too…
She climbs down the ladder at the sound of a car screeching to a halt in front of the mansion. Missy! She smiles to herself. Even if Missy is mostly a nuisance, she misses having her boisterous sister around.
‘Granny! I was looking for you!’
Missy pushes open the little gate. She frowns and swings it open again. ‘Did you finally oil it?’
‘No, it was Arthur who-’
Missy’s attention is drawn to the overflowing basket. ‘Oh! Apples! Can I have one?’
She doesn’t wait for an answer but picks one up and takes a bite. ‘Mmm…’
‘What brings you here so early in the morning?’ Granny asks and goes to close the gate. Valkyria has taken a liking to digging lately, and she doesn’t want the dog to sneak in and do damage to her beloved garden.
Missy avoids the question and hands her sister an apple, ‘Here. You should try one. It’s good for the health!’
Granny accepts the apple and takes a bite. Missy is right, she should eat more fresh fruit instead of just gathering and cooking.
‘What are you making? Jam?’
‘No, stewed apples. French style with vanilla. I thought I would can some for the winter, instead of just stashing a random pot in the fridge…’
‘I’d love a couple of jars. Maybe I could pop in and help you? I might take some of those apples too, there are more than enough to stew. Juan and Lucky can make apple brandy! Would you mind if I took some of your Valerian with me? I know I should start a little garden of my own, but there doesn’t seem to be much time…’ Missy rambles on a little nervously before adding slyly, ‘I would really do better with a little magic!’
Granny hides a smile and finishes her apple. She knew her sister was here for her wand…
‘Well. Your wand won’t help you gardening, but let’s go and get it then.’
Granny stops in front of the bee hives, ‘You must promise not to use it in front of Juan.’
Missy rolls her eyes.
‘Yes, I promise.’
‘And you mustn’t use it any way that will make him suspect something supernatural is going on…’
Missy sighs, ‘Of course!’
‘You do understand it’s dangerous for us all if he finds out that you’re a-’
‘Granny! Where is it!?!’
Granny points towards the nearest bee hive.
‘But??? Seriously? It was in there all the time?’
‘I told you it was guarded by an army!’ Granny chuckles, ‘Do you want some fresh eggs when you leave?’
‘Err… Yes. Yes, of course…’ Missy scratches her neck, looking at the bee hive with a bewildered expression.
‘The bee smoker is just behind the hive.’
‘Oh. Yes. The bee smoker.’
Missy lights up the mixture of pine needles, burlap and old egg cartons. Holding the smoldering arm ready in front of her, she opens the hive, making sure to bomb the angrily buzzing bees with smoke.
Lazily the bees separate under the assault of thick smoke.
‘Salagadoola mechicka boola… Aah… There it is! Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo…’
Humming to herself, she quickly snatches the wand out and closes the lid.
Happily Missy kisses her wand, singsonging, ‘It’ll do magic-’
Granny turns around from collecting eggs.
‘-believe it or not…’
The eggs fall from Granny’s arms, crashing to the ground as she desperately runs towards her sister.
Too late. A loud POUF! and a cloud of smoke hides Missy from her view.
‘I told you to be careful!’
‘I’m sorry… It was just and old Disney tune.’
‘An old MAGIC Disney tune! Just look…’ She points an accusing finger at the gnome on the ground, ‘Maybe it’s one of Snowhite’s dwarfs?’
‘I’ll get rid of it!’
‘You can’t just stomp on it! You might KILL it!’
‘Who says it’s alive?’
‘I think it is unconscious…’
‘Stay away from it!’ Missy whips out her wand and backs away, ‘Maybe it’s Rumpelstiltskin!’
‘Missy! Look, I can see the chest heaving!’
Granny lifts the little bundle, ‘Now stop waving that thing in my face before something really bad happens!’
Missy hums and lets her arms fall to her sides, but she doesn’t let go of her wand. ‘What shall we do?’
‘We’ Granny mutters… ‘I think the little gnome just passed out from fear. We’ll see when he wakes up.’
She starts walking towards the mansion, Missy on her heels.
Granny carefully puts the little gnome in the old crib. It immediately starts snoring, making Missy jump back, raising her wand in defense.
‘Missy! I already told you to put that away!’
‘But Rumpelstiltskin is definitely alive!’
‘Come on… We don’t know if it is Rumplestiltskin. And someone who’s snoring like that can’t be dangerous.’
‘What makes you so sure about that? I’m sure there are mass murderers who snore!’
‘I just meant that he’s asleep. A sleeping gnome can’t do much harm, can he?’
Missy nods and reluctantly puts away her wand.
‘Now, I would like to clean myself up a little, we can discuss what we shall do about him over a nice cup of tea…’
Granny is serving tea when suddenly Valkyria sets off barking.
‘I guess Taïga is back from school.’
‘Already? But it isn’t even noon.’
‘First day is only formalities, she’ll start for “real” tomorrow.’
Taïga and Linn comes giggling around the corner.
‘Hi Mrs. Grey, Mrs. Darer!’
‘How was school?’ Granny pours herself a cup.
‘OK. Do you remember I told you about getting a job?’ Granny nods. ‘Well, Ana Kempinsky has fixed an interview with her dad. I’d love to groom for them, and I’ll get free riding lessons!’
‘But that sounds great, darling. If it doesn’t interfere with your schoolwork, I don’t have any objections… When shall you start?’
‘I don’t know if I get the job yet, but the interview is supposed to take place before noon.’
‘You’d better hurry then!’ Missy adds tartly. ‘It’s almost noon.’
Granny starts to push back her chair, but Linn stops her, ‘I’ll take her. It won’t be any trouble, Mrs. Grey. I was going to check on my horse anyway!’
Granny looks from Linn back to Taïga. ‘Well, then. Drive carefully. Better to be a little late…’ She lets the sentence hang in the air.
‘Thanks, Granny!’ Taïga hugs her grandmother, ‘Can we take some cupcakes with us?’
‘Yes, of course, dear. There’s lemonade in the fridge.’ Granny smiles at them, ‘And take Valkyria with you, she needs a walk!’
The girls take a cupcake each before rushing off, Valkyria excitedly jumping around them.
Missy leaves after finishing the cupcakes, and Granny hurries upstairs. She sits down in an armchair with a book, waiting for the gnome to wake up.
‘Good day my good lady.’
Granny startles awake, her book falling to the floor. She looks around her. The little gnome rolls over on his stomach and scratches his beard.
‘Good afternoon, Mr. Gnome.’ Granny squats next to the crib, ‘I’m Granny Grey. How do you do?’
‘I don’t know. The bed is soft enough.’ He pushes back his hat with a tiny hand, ‘Where am I?’
‘You’re at my home in Crooked Bayou Swamp, and it was my sister who… well, who “transferred” you here.’
‘Oh. I’m very tired. I think I shall sleep a little more, but when I wake up I wouldn’t say nay to something to fill my stomach…’ He resolutely lays on his side and closes his eyes.
Granny puts her hands on her thighs and struggles a little to get on her feet. What kind of food could please a little gnome?
‘Pig-nuts’, he mumbles.
‘Pig-nuts. Tell ye what, I like them pig-nuts… with butter.’
‘Oh. And what exactly is “pig nuts”?’
But the little gnome doesn’t answer, just takes up his snoring… Frowning, she leaves the room.
Pig-nuts… I sure hope it isn’t what it sounds like! She chuckles to herself. He seems to have an Irish accent, I’ll call my old friend Lorna McCann in Dragon Valley to hear what she has to say about those pig nuts…
Barking and a loud crash makes her run downstairs. Minuit is sitting on top of the old statue, hissing at Valkyria. The huge antique vase is broken and sunflowers are littering the floor together with shards and gallons upon gallons of water…
Linn and Taïga drive past lush green fields lined with white fences, a sign they’ve entered the huge Kempinsky estate. Grazing horses are raising their heads when they drive past. Taïga has never visited the fancy estate before and soon loses track of the number of horses in the fields.
Linn fills her in on important things to know, ‘… They’re all named Kempinsky something! I’d love to have one of those when Scarlett retires, but they’re so expensive…’
Taïga nods and continues admiring the long legged wonders.
Linn slows down, ‘Did you know that Kempinsky Moonrise has won everything that’s worth winning?’
‘He’s a race horse, right?’
‘Was. He’s retired now. But I guess he’s the father of most of those expensive buggers!’ Linn nods towards the foals playing alongside their mothers.
‘He’s incredible, you should see the color of his coat! It’s shiny like an Akhal-Teke, light silver with a black mane. Some of his offspring also got it…’
‘Like the mare over there?’
‘Yeah. Must be his daughter!’
Taïga fiddles on her seat as Linn swerves into the parking lot and parks among the many fancy cars.
‘Gosh, I’m nervous.’
‘You should be,’ Linn teases and locks the door, ‘Nat Kempinsky is rather intimidating after all!’
Taïga slaps her arm. ‘Don’t make it worse!’
‘Look, there’s Ana! I’ll leave you two and check on Scarlett…’
Ana Kempinsky is waiting for them.
‘Dad’s out somewhere with Hawk Blackwater but he said he would talk to you as soon as you got here,’ she says and pulls out her cell, ‘I’ll show you around.’
She pushes open the large stable doors and Taïga follows her through the pristine stable, admiring the Kempinsky thoroughbreds moving around in the spacious boxes. A beautiful chestnut mare is being lunged in the indoor arena, urged on by a tall blond man clicking his tongue.
‘That’s Araminta Sempill-Lovatt’s horse, but she’s been cancelling a lot lately, and the poor horse needs to be mounted… And that’s Ozzie. He’s hot!’ she mouths and fans herself.
Taïga just shakes her head. What’s this about older guys suddenly being interesting to her friends?
‘How’s Sunny?’ Ana asks, ‘Has Mrs. Sempill-Lovatt cancelled again?’
The blond man doesn’t acknowledge them, just keeps walking in a smaller circle, not leaving the mare with his eyes.
‘I guess that’s a no.’ Ana adds a little disappointed. ‘Ozzie is terribly rude, but dad keeps him as he’s so good with the horses. Almost as good as Hawk Blackwater, who’s a horse whisperer. Do you know what that is?’
‘Yeah, I’ve met one…’ Taïga says, thinking of Tate Curley*, and automatically her thoughts wander to Derek.
‘I think your friend left!’ Ozzie’s voice interrupts her daydreaming.
Ozzie nods towards the far wall with an amused smirk, ‘Ana. She just left.’
Taïga blushes and scurries after her friend. He must have thought I was just standing there ogling his stupid muscles…
She catches up with Ana just as her father appears.
He shakes her hand, ‘You must be Ana’s classmate? She told me you’re interested in the job.’
Taïga nods eagerly, ‘Yes, sir.’
He looks her over, and she regrets not having had the time to change into something more professional. ‘Hmm. Do you have any diplomas?’
‘Yes. In horse care.’ Seeing the young girl’s discomfiture, he adds, ‘We’ll see to it you take qualifications along the way.’
‘Oh, I’d love that! I have already taken care of horses, but I’d love to learn more…’
‘The most important in this business is to love horses and caring for them…’
After a cross-fire of questions, he explains the basics of the job.
‘… you’ll get paid on an hourly basis, and get free lessons…’ Taïga can’t help grinning at the intimidating man. ‘… and you’ll be under Ozzie’s supervision. He’ll show you everything about grooming.’
He checks his watch, obviously the cue for her the interview is over. ‘It was nice to meet you, Miss Grey.’
He shakes her hand vigorously and Taïga thanks him profusely before hurrying off to find Linn and Ana.
‘I got the job!’
‘Come on girls, you’re scaring Moonrise!’ Nat Kempinsky rides past them on his beautiful horse who once made his fortune on the racing tracks…
Taïga and Ana moves out of the shying horse’s way, and giggling they high-five…
‘Thanks, Ana. This job means a lot to me.’
‘I didn’t do anything special. If dad hired you, it’s not because of me…’
‘How did it go?’ Linn asks.
‘Good. I got the job!’ Linn hugs her friend. ‘See? Seems this term starts out rather good, huh?’
‘Why don’t you come and have lunch at my place, we have a pool.’
Linn and Taïga looks at each other, ‘But we don’t have any swim wear…’
‘That’s not a problem, I have lots of spare bikinis and swimsuits. So will you come?’
Taïga and Linn are both excited to see Ana’s swimming pool, they’ve heard Valeria boast about it… And it would be wonderful to cool off a little…
Ana’s pool is huge, and they even have a butler who is setting up a delicious buffet by the poolside. Unfortunately Taïga is a little larger than Ana and Linn, so Ana’s swimwear doesn’t fit.
‘The bottom is all right, but I can’t really go topless!’
‘I think Mother has got something your size…’ Ana disappears, only to come back a few minutes later with a future looking creation in purple…
Mrs. Kempinsky does a double take. I could swear I’ve got the same! Won’t ever wear it again if bayou kids can afford it…
Granny is finishing mopping the floor when Taïga gets back from the stables.
‘I got the job, Granny!’ she announces happily and jumps over the puddle on the floor, ‘What happened?’
‘Valkyria and Minuit happened!’ Granny mutters under her breath.
‘Let me help you.’
‘I’m almost done, dear.’ She wrinkles her nose, ‘Maybe you should just warm up dinner in the microwave and go have a shower…’
‘I’m not hungry, we had a late lunch at Ana’s and their butler plied us with English sandwiches before we left! But thanks. I’ll just throw my dress in the washing machine.’ She starts up the stairs.
‘I’m so glad you got the job!’ Granny calls after her.
Granny changes out of her wet clothes and joins Taïga in her room. She sits down and taps the bed next to her, ‘Come and sit down. Tell me everything about your interview.’
Taïga finishes disentangling her hair and rushes to Granny’s side, telling her everything about the beautiful horses and the well-kept grounds, about the imposing Mr. Kempinsky and his horse Moonrise, about the promise of free lessons and her salary.She describes the Kempinsky’s huge mansion, their pool and how nice Ana is. She doesn’t mention Ozzie though. She can still feel her cheeks heat from embarrassment when she thinks about how he looked at her with that knowing smirk…
Granny listens and nods, squeezing her granddaughter’s hands. When Taïga has finished, she looks her in the eyes and tells her about what happened at home today…
Together they check on the little gnome, who’s still soundly asleep.
‘Who is he?’
‘I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.’
‘Why can’t we wake him up and ask him right now?’ Taïga whispers.
‘Because it’s very rude to wake up your host, that’s why!’
‘Did you hear that, Granny?’
But the little gnome takes up his snoring again, sounding like a wounded warthog…
Taïga stifles a giggle, ‘I can’t wait to meet him! Promise you wake me as soon as he gets up?’
‘Promise. Now go to bed. Tomorrow school starts for real. And I have an important call to make.’ She hugs Taïga and tucks her in. ‘Lorna McGann in Dragon Valley might know something useful…’
Granny settles at her desk in the study and checks her watch. 11:30 p.m. That makes it 4:30 a.m. in Ireland… I should read a little and try in a couple of hours… Lorna is always up around 6 o’clock. Hmm… I should really take care of the lime I picked this afternoon…
‘Jaysis Tara! What a pleasant surprise! … Oh, no I was up and about! There’s so much to do to in the garden… Oh yes, it’s already quare warm today but you can feel winter is coming early this year.’ Lorna nods and hums, listening to Granny.
‘What? Pignuts!?! Buttery Pig-nuts? That’s potatoes with butter. But why are you asking?’ She listens to Granny telling her about the little gnome…
‘A leprechaun it is… A leprechaun, yes… Aw, sure look it… No, I have never seen one, but my grandfather did. Little fellow was hammering on fairy shoes and didn’t hear him coming. Like hen’s teeth they are nowadays… They live in holes in the ground, preferably under a medlar and can be real tricksters! Ye better watch out not to displease him… A capricious creature it is. Uh-huh… Uh-huh… He’s no cute pixie fairy, he isn’t. Leprechauns can be lustful, nasty… Uh-huh… Uh-huh… He seems kind? Watch out! His magic might delight you one day and kill you the next! … Where is he now?… Sleeping? … Hmm… He hasn’t asked you to take him back home, has he? … No? Beware! Maybe he likes it at your place! Well, you’ll be better off without him, that’s for sure… Did I tell you about leprechaun magic? Well, a leprechaun is very small…’
Granny’s head is spinning with thoughts when she goes to bed that night… A leprechaun… Taïga will be surprised when she meets him tomorrow… There are still potatoes in the garden, I can fix him fresh buttery potatoes for breakfast… I wonder if he’ll like mashed potatoes too. But that will have to wait until fall… She falls asleep, softly snoring, dreaming about small gnomes and potatoes…
Part II – End of Chapter 29
Special thanks to RomerJon17. All interior school scenes have been staged at his awesome school, Lucas College.