We’re deep in the decked halls of Christmastime, folks! I hope you’re feeling the spirit. Don’t let the pile of To Do’s steal your fa la-la la-la. This is the one time of year when you can say, “Sticky notes, lists, emails–all of you can hush it! I’m going to put on Handel’s Messiah and drink my cup o’peppermint mocha madness by the fire!”
While you’re there, read the next installment of my blogged short story: The Plains Fairy Tale. Scroll down and catch up if you haven’t read Parts 1 & 2, and feel free to pass it along to your friends and family. We could all use a good old-fashioned ‘Once Upon A Time’ these days. Enjoy!
Yours truly, Sarah
by Sarah McCoy
In the Plains, physical contact was permitted only by invitation, and she had certainly not invited. “You aren’t from the Plains, are you?” asked Ezie.
Coz laughed and dropped his hand. “Not at all. I’m from the Island of Wilds.”
“The Island of Wilds?” Ezie had never met anyone from outside the Plains, never mind the Wilds.
He took the empty seat beside her. “Born and raised. My family lives there.”
“So why were you in the Plains?” she asked brusquely.
“Just passing through on business. I’m a doctor.”
“Of animals?” She assumed.
“No, of people.” He chuckled and the sound reminded Ezie of holiday bells. “A good friend of mine is the head of surgery at Plains General Hospital.”
When Ezie looked Coz directly in the eyes, her palms sweat, so while he talked, she kept her gaze focused on the tray table folded neatly into the seat back.
“When he needs my help, I fly to the mainland, but I have my own practice on the island. I do hearts,” he explained.
“Hearts?” Ezie turned to him, not six inches between their faces. “That’s why I’m going to the Wilds—to find a woman who knows hearts and can tell me my Purpose.” She realized she said too much. He was, after all, a complete stranger and a savage. Yes, an educated, handsome savage but a savage nonetheless.
She cleared her throat. “I don’t know my Purpose. I’m afraid… I don’t have one.”
“Everyone has a Purpose,” said Coz and the way he said it rang truer than when Lilith, Odette or Penny had. She believed him.
“That’s what I hope Diane can tell me.”
“Diane?” Coz blinked hard and leaned back. “Ha. Well, I’ll be—you’re coming to see my mum!”
“Your mother is Diane?” In her excitement, Ezie’s fingers grazed Coz’s arm. She immediately retracted. Her cheeks blushed hot. Since Coz did not know the ways of the Plains, she hoped he wouldn’t notice her indiscretion, which he seemed not to.
“Yes, Mum’s the only Diane on the island, and she’s been known to speak her mind.” He drew a deep breath and smiled wide, exposing both of his pointy incisors. “This is quite providential!”
Ezie turned away. People of the Plains never smiled so wide. It was considered boorish and vulgar. Never mind that she’d never heard that word used before and didn’t quite know if he was being lewd. “Provi-what?”
Ezie looked up. He winked, and she felt her toes go tingly cold and numb like her tongue when she ate vanilla ice cream.
“Us meeting must’ve been destined,” he continued.
The Plains people did not believe in fate or God or luck. They believed in fortune and happenstance and thus, tried to maintain a common standard that afforded everyone great fortune and minimal happenstance. To believe in fate meant that you could not control all aspects of life and this was intolerable.
“But if there is only one Diane on the island, then whomever had been on the plane with me today would have known her,” she rationed. “And since I hear she has five children.”
“—seven,” interrupted Cos.
“Gracious! Seven?” She composed herself and continued. “With seven children, there was a high probability that one of them would be you.” She nodded to herself, satisfied with the logical explanation.
Just then the plane bucked. Ezie clenched the chair arms and squeezed her eyes tight. When the momentary freefall righted itself, she saw that she was not holding the chair but Coz.
“There,” he put his hand over hers. “Just turbulence.”
She didn’t pull away, couldn’t release her grip. And, truthfully, she rather liked the comfort of his touch. His hands were different. All the men she’d ever known had doughy, cool palms that left her own slightly too moist for liking. It was that way for all the Plains people and one reason for their physical modesty. But Coz’s hands were warm and strong, and she wished the feeling would spread up and over her entire body.
“Please prepare for landing. It’s going to be a bumpy one,” announced Pilot Tom Thomas.
The blue skies turned dark grey and worms of water skittered over the window. Coz stood to return to his seat, but Ezie stopped him.
“No need to move. You’re fine here. And I—I think I need someone beside me.”
He sat back down. “When we land, I’d be happy to introduce you to my mum, if you’d like.”
Ezie realized she hadn’t planned for how she’d actually arrive at Diane’s doorstep and the fact of the matter was if Coz hadn’t been on this very plane on this very day, she didn’t know what she’d have done. “I’d like that very much.” The plane dropped suddenly and she tasted blush wine in the back of her throat. “If we make it.”
“We’ll make it,” Coz said, even and confident despite the unsteadiness of their flight.
The plane began its decent, bumping and jolting over pockets of angry storm clouds and rain torrents. Ezie held Coz’s arm tight and decided if there was such a thing as providence and fate, it would certainly be a most useful commodity.
After a rough landing, Coz quickly escorted Ezie to his Jeep parked in a small gravel lot at the far end of the short runway. In the three-minute walk to the car, the force of the tropical wind and rain soaked them to the bone. At first, Ezie had been terribly put out by the drenching, but soon found it surprisingly invigorating. Her skin tingled as it never had before and her head felt unusually light. Inside the dry safety of Coz’s car, she laughed out loud at the wet jumble of hair atop her head and the way Coz’s eyelashes clumped together in spikes. They were a dismal mess, but she couldn’t recall ever feeling so wonderful.
A brief drive through the waves of rain and waving elephant palms, and they arrived at a very peculiar purple house in the long shape of a capital ‘L’.
“Here we are. I’m sure Mum’s got Sunnyberry tea to warm us up,” offered Coz.
But Ezie wasn’t cold. In fact, she felt aflame, sweat mingling with the rainwater on her skin. She was about to finally discover her Purpose and the weight of that coming moment made her head swirl.
The front screen door swung open and a tall, statuesque woman came onto the veranda waving a hand. Ezie couldn’t make out much more through the watery windshield.
“Is that Diane?” Ezie’s throat knotted.
“No, that’s my sister Lenna.” Coz opened the door. “Stay right here, I’ll get an umbrella.”
Ezie squinted hard. Yes, of course. The woman was far too young to be the sage Diane. Her pulse slowed slightly.
“Welcome home!” called Lenna from the porch.
“Glad to be. I’ve brought someone.” He pointed inside. The rain pelted his cheeks. “Get an umbrella!”
Lenna ducked inside the lighted doorway and returned with a large, red-striped umbrella. She opened Ezie’s passenger door. “Well, hello.” She smiled wide as Coz, locks of black spirals cascading wildly over her shoulders.
“This is Ezie,” said Coz. “She’s from the Plains to see Mum.”
“Come in.” Lenna put an arm around Ezie. “What a way to bring a lady home, Coz. Soaked wet as a dog.”
Ezie leaned into Lenna’s shoulder. She smelled of new honeysuckles on the vine.
Inside the warmth of the purple house, Lenna shook off the umbrella and set it by the door. “Dear, let me get you something warm to wear.” She went down one side of the L-shaped hall and called over her shoulder, “Mum’s in the kitchen baking apple-cinna-lát scones. You interested?”
Ezie hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since the blush wine and the smell of sweet spices made her stomach growl. “Yes, please.”
“Good,” Lenna said from a room deep beyond. “Sweet and flaky. They melt like butter in your mouth. Delish! She’s got tea, too. Sunnyberry—Coz’s favorite.”
“Excellent!” said Coz, suddenly standing behind Ezie with her bag.
Lenna returned with a pair of jeans and an over-sized pink sweater with sparkling fringe. “This may be too big, but it’s soft as heaven.”
Ezie took the items. And though the sweater looked like it’d been soaked in Pepto-Bismol, she had to admit it was exceptionally soft. Velvet or silk, perhaps.
“The bathroom’s the first door on the right,” pointed Lenna. “I’m going to help Mum pull the scones out of the oven.” She winked and went in the opposite direction.
Coz handed Ezie her bag. “I tried to keep it dry.” Water dribbled down his wrist and onto her hand. “Better get dried up myself, eh?”
The rainwater made his eyes brilliant, like emeralds in a sunken treasure chest. Ezie found herself staring and couldn’t will herself to look away. It satiated her like a feast to the appetite.
Quickly changing into the soft, pink sweater, she rather enjoyed the unconventional way its sparkles caught the light and twinkled rainbows in her wake. Following the sound of laughter, she entered a bright kitchen dotted with mason jars overflowing with colorful herbs and flowers.
It was then that she saw Diane. Built similar to Lenna, her stark white hair was swept up in a beehive twist making her seem taller. Her skin glowed, tanned and toned, making her hair whiter. She smiled the same wide smile as her children, and her eyes winked green as the bloomed stems about. Ezie’s breath stopped. She was exceptional.
“Mum, this is Ezie,” said Coz.
Diane held out a plate of crescent-shaped pastries. “Apple-cinna-lát scone?”
The final Part 4 will be posted by the end of the week!