Situation Vacant - Chapter Five
Posted: 02 September 2004
Word Count: 1690
Lantira. Spring 5454 Tempus Parallel
Ruth rolled over stretching out an arm to hit the snooze button on the alarm that was buzzing beside her head. This was a very bad habit that she had gotten into over the past few weeks. Unable to face the days where she would have to write yet another batch of hopeful letters responding to advertisements for jobs she didn’t really want, she had begun to sleep later and later in the mornings.
Her hand batted up and down where the alarm clock should be but she couldn’t find it. “Hell and damnation” Opening her eyes she squinted against a very bright light she peered at the bedside table. Strange, it wasn’t there. From her prone position in the warmth of the bed all she could see was a brightly coloured rug on a stone flagged floor.
She squeezed her eyes shut again. She didn’t remember going to sleep in a bedroom with a stone floor and a brightly coloured rug. Raising her head a little, she chanced another look. The light was coming from a window through which the sun shone remarkably strongly for December in England. The buzzing noise, which she had thought was the alarm, manifested itself as a large bee frantically beating against the glass.
With a surge of pure adrenaline, the events of the recent past came flooding back into her consciousness. She sat bolt upright in the bed, wrapping her arms around herself to try and stop shaking. She must have had an accident and lost her memory. It was the only rational reason for her waking in a strange room with the memory of such a vivid dream.
She looked around her. The room was quite large and, despite the sun streaming through the window, a fire was flickering comfortably in a vast fireplace. Beside the fire were a chair and a table, which held a tray of cakes and a jug. The bed was large and soft with clean sheets and an old-fashioned patchwork quilt on it. Wherever she was they certainly made things comfortable. But it certainly didn’t look or feel like a hotel or a hospital.
She threw back the quilt and swung her legs down to floor. She took a step towards the table by the fireplace and very nearly fell flat on her face as her legs tangled in a long cotton nightgown. It was the sort of thing her great grandmother might have worn. Certainly not something you could pick up from Marks and Spencer.
A quick inspection confirmed that she did not have anything underneath the tent like garment and her face began to feel warm as she wondered how exactly she came to be in this state. More to the point, who had been involved in the involuntary change of clothes? “Damn,” she said as she gathered up yards of cotton and shuffled across to the window. She was trying to reach into the deep embrasure to open the window and let the bee out when she heard the sound of the door opening behind her.
Aware that she must look a little odd with the folds of the night-gown bundled up over her arm, Ruth let it fall and turned.
“Oh. I….I..thought you were a dream. Or is this still ….I haven’t woken up…?” The question died on her lips.
Amariel smiled hesitantly at her. “I’m sorry. It isn’t a dream. Are you all right? Thomas and I were worried that the shock of all this would frighten you so much you wouldn’t accept our offer”
“You’re right,” Ruth said. “I haven’t taken the job, and quite frankly, I don’t intend to. I still can’t work out if this is a dream or not but in any event I’m not staying. I don’t know what you people are or what you want but I would like to get out of here. I must get home. My son will be frantic. He’s probably called the police by now. He will certainly have called his father and the last thing I need is Alex thinking I am neglecting Will. So, if you would please leave while I get dressed …” Ruth looked around for her clothes.
“I’m sorry, your clothes are being cleaned, they got blood on them when you fell and Thomas tried to catch you. The housekeeper and I put you to bed – I hope you don’t mind. The clothes will be ready later today.” Amariel looked truly apologetic.
“Have you got something else I can wear to get home?” Ruth asked. “You can send my stuff on to me later.”
“I’m afraid you can’t go home yet.”
Ruth turned at this new voice and stared, mesmerised. If this was a dream then suddenly she didn’t want to wake up. She had an impression of someone tall and slim; deep brown eyes and long brown hair that was tied back at the nape of his neck. He could have been any age between thirty and fifty.
For a moment she stood gawping. He was fantastic. The most startling thing about him was the way he was dressed – black leggings and boots that came up to just below his knees, with a tunic of midnight blue satin belted over a white muslin shirt. If that were not enough the tooled leather belt he wore was set with silver decoration and had a beautifully worked scabbard hanging from it which held what she assumed was a real sword. To top it all off he sported a pair of knives tucked into the tops of his boots.
“Don’t tell me,” Ruth said, “I’ve woken up on the film set of a costume drama.” She immediately regretted the comment but it was too late to take the words back.
“I am afraid I don’t know what a costume drama is.” His eyes crinkled at the corners. Ruth could feel herself going slightly wobbly at the knees. What on earth was the matter with her? She could have happily gazed into this man’s eyes for hours. Unfortunately, Amariel bought her back to reality.
“Ruth has just woken up, Richard, and she is still a little disoriented. She needs to get dressed and have something to eat before we talk about what is happening here.”
“I understand. This must be somewhat disturbing for our visitor. I will see you in the flower room shortly. I’ll see if I can find your mother and Orselon as well.” With a bow and a smile the vision in midnight blue left the room.
“Who was that?” Ruth asked somewhat breathlessly.
“That?” said Amariel giving her a knowing look, “That is Richard, Duke of Bardshelm. This is his castle you are in. He is leader of the Security Council. They have been here for weeks because of the parallels crisis.”
“I’m sorry, you’ve lost me there. What are the parallels? On second thoughts, don’t tell me. I have to get home – now!”
“Richard was right, you can’t go home yet, but please don’t get upset. Your son won’t even know you have gone. Time here isn’t the same as time in your parallel, because we are on a different divergence. Even now only a few seconds will have passed there. We will get you back there soon – I promise. It is just because Thomas had to shatter his Locus crystal and it will take us some time to make another one.”
Ruth sat down in the chair near the fire and wrapped her arms around herself again. Suddenly she felt very cold. She didn’t understand the words she was hearing or what was happening to her.
“How did I sleep so long? It was sunset when we came here.” Ruth asked as Amariel pulled some clothes from a chest underneath the window.
“Here, see if these fit” she said handing Ruth a long skirt and tunic. “You were so distressed that I cast a small spell to calm you and make you sleep. We thought it was for the best.”
She passed Ruth a supple leather belt, which turned the rather shapeless clothes into something more recognisable. Their colour was rather good – a deep red trimmed with silver embroidery. Ruth quite fancied herself in them.
As she dressed, Ruth began to accept the reality of what had happened. Amariel’s words, while strange, seemed sensible and she decided not ask any more questions. She would keep them for the meeting.
She ate some of the cakes from the tray and had a cup of what turned out to be a drink similar to spiced chocolate in the jug. Both were quite delicious, if a little different, to anything she was used to.
All the while Amariel watched intently, playing with a wisp of her hair between her fingers. Ruth finished eating and glanced at Amariel. “Tell me about the wings. Don’t they get in the way?”
“Oh, They’re just like arms and legs – you don’t think about them very much and wings are the same. I suppose if you had never had them it could be a bit awkward but when you grow up with them they are just there.”
“But what are you?” Ruth quizzed “Last night I seem to remember you said you were a fairy goddaughter but I wasn’t in any frame of mind to really understand that.”
Amariel laughed, “I am of the faerie, but I was joking about the fairy goddaughter bit. I only said that because my mother is leader of the faerie at the moment. You’ll meet her downstairs. She is partnered with Orselon. They got together after my father died.”
“I’m not sure I’m any the wiser” said Ruth “Hadn’t we better be going? I want to sort out getting home. Despite what you say about time, I really have to get back to my son. On my world you can’t just abandon a child….” Had she really said that? She shook her head.
Ruth picked up her skirts and followed Amariel out of the sunny bedchamber.
Ó Gabrielle Staples 2004. All rights
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