River Mist Tales: The Birthday Guest

Don’t be shy. Come in, the mist is settling over the river, the dark will be upon the forest any time now.

Here you’ll find some small comforts, a pot of tea, some spice cookies, a soft pillowed chair tucked between the window and the fire.

Ignore the cats, gossip mongers all of them.

I’ll be working at the desk tucked into the far corner if your any needs or she knocks upon the door.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales. She’s a bit loose with the truth, a bit too revealing with her magic.

Until you come again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

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The Birthday Guest

“I know somethin,” said Gabby, her voice singing, teasing, “ I know somethin, ya don’t need to tell.”

“Hush child, she’ll learn soon enough” said Hannah straightening the knives and forks, turning the plates so their tiny jeweled morsels were further from the table edge, the long view showing off her culinary handiwork.

“Can I ask Miss Plums…,” the young girl stopped mid name.

“Miss Plumworth, Gabby, her name is Plumworth, yeah after we eat you can, if mom hasn’t asked her to leave,” said Hannah.

“Mom won’t ask her, she knows’er, that’s what I know, mom knows Miss Plums, Miss Plumsworth.”

“Plumworth,” Hannah glared at her sister, her mind moving back in time, the late night conversation with her mother, words knotted with anger and fear, until Hannah had made a promise she would never keep.

How did their mother know the traveling collector, Hannah hadn’t heard about the woman until months after the encounter with the boy, when the letter arrived, its author requesting a visit, a simple conversation, a few questions, providing the date and time of her arrival, there was no return address.

Maybe the boy told the truth, maybe he had met their mother, years ago, when she was a mere girl herself.

And if the boy had told that truth, maybe all his other stories were true as well, maybe their brother, Paul, was away, not dead, maybe he was living with family, their family, maybe he was celebrating his birthday just as Hannah was celebrating it here today, but none of it made any sense, why would mother lie, and where does she go when the moon is full and the woods hide her steps, her path, preventing Hannah from following.

A firm knock on the front door pulled Hannah from her thoughts, from her confusion, her speculations, taking a deep breath she smoothed her dress, took another glance at the celebratory table satisfied Paul would have liked his birthday tea, and wondering if everything was about to change, again.

She was tall, more curving, wearing so many different colors and patterns and textures, her boots well worn, her hair a constrained mass of curls pushing hard against tightly braided ribbons, both curls and braids trying to free themselves, she carried an oversized carpet bag, a smile brightening her face, not at all, Hannah thought, as formal in appearance and stature as her handwritten letter had suggested.

“Hannah, I see your mother in your curiosity, especially when she was your age,” said Miss Plumworth, “though I hope you are more imaginative, possess more courage, a more open heart.”

Hannah glanced from Miss Plumworth towards her mother who was standing quiet, head lowered, eyes downcast, a posture she had never seen her mother take before, then returning her gaze to their guest, Hannah, her mind galloping ahead, asked, “Are we related to faeries?”

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