The training was easier than expected. Did the entire clan gathered? Many faces I saw for the first time.
"With how many are you," I asked my friend.
"With enough, at least that is what I hope. We are divided in 5 groups, a training together isn't possible."
We ran, jumped, exercised techniques to get out of difficult situations and holds. It felt we were drilled to combat, although my friend called it self-defense. It was obvious not each one of us was equal strong and we not shared the same skills.
"What counts is you know your weakness and find your strong points. Do not let anyone use your weakness! It is what Atlas did. His kindness was abused. Remember in love and war everything is allowed and the dirtiest tricks are used to win."
The instructor was good but not what I expected from a drill Sergeant.
"Never let your eyes fool you," Basil said. "Can I invite you to fight me?"
"You don't need to kill me within the first second," he smirked.
I nodded and before I knew he grabbed me and stood behind me. One arm he kept around me and pressed against my chest while his hand enclosed my throat.
"How I looked forward to do this. Saw Rick?"
I felt his body pressed against my back and how he pushed something in my side.
"Now, what shall I do with you?"
I felt his lips on my ear, his warm breathe and even if I could speak his hand around my neck made it impossible. When did Basil grow in such a tall and strong man? Why he asked about Rick?
"Do you trust me?" Basil groaned.
I nodded. Idid although I felt uncomfortable with the way he held me.
"What a dumb thing to answer!" The instructors face showed up in front of mine. "Too close dear? I could swear I told you something about dirty tricks used if it comes to love and war."
With wide-open eyes, I stared into the instructor's his. Basil gave me a hard time and had no intention to let go.
"Never trust a man, not even your friends, a war you fight alone. This is your fight. Get out of here," the instructor hissed.
Was Basil distracted? I stood still and closed my eyes, concentrated while I shut out the words, every sound and focussed. He enclosed and the chance was small I could get that big guy of my back with a single movement. What was it he pressed against my waist?
"I love you dearly," I said while a bump of my elbow hit him in his abdomen, my teeth bit his hand and my heel kicked against his shin, "but..., " I managed to turn around as he lost his grip "don't ever touch my throat again!"
Hard my knee landed between his legs.
"The tables are turned mister."
"Interesting move", the coach said as he saw Basil land on the floor.
"I surrender, I hope Rosemary won't start practicing this on me."
"You can give me some tips," she said to me showing up out of the blue, "for today it's enough. Tomorrow is..."
"Not with me," Basil groaned I need some nursery, a caring..."
"Don't be such a pussy Basil, you can't always win."
She laughed and didn't show any mercy for the man she seemed to be so close with. I offered Basil my hand which he accepted.
"You did it very well for the first time. I'm impressed. Will you join us?" he moaned.
"I can't answer that question."
"I understand. Know you are more than welcome, you are one of us and..."
"Not everyone will leave if we leave."
- - - - - -
I felt tired but satisfied with the training. It gave me the needed distraction. Before I walked home I decided to visit the animals. The pigs grew and were too busy to great me. They dug around in the mud while the sheep, no longer lambs, patiently waited for someone to feed them.
"Off you go there's enough grass," I told the ram who kept pushing me against my back. "If you behave I bring you a treat tomorrow."
I am not sure if he heard me or felt bored but he let go off me. The amount of rabbits increased. To my joy I noticed two females had given birth. It wouldn't take long before a stew or roasted piece of meat enriched our meal. The last time we had meat I could hardly remember. It was long before Carmen left and suggested to provide in it ourselves. So much happened since then. The clan grew, became stronger, the animals arrived and by now they started reproducing. Big was the surprise as I entered the hen house. Eggs! The first eggs were laid. I wasn't sure if I should take them. I hesitated. The hens looked pleased.
"You can take a few and leave them the rest for more chickens if you like." The cabinet-maker showed up next to me.
"I kept an eye on them, even marked the eggs. You forgot to visit us during the past days. How many eggs you need?"
I thought about it. A cake needed eggs, Carmen needed it, the clan...
It was a hard question.
"Take six. There will be more. We waited long and can wait longer. Sit down and hold up your skirt."
I did as he told me and carefully he placed six eggs in it. Each egg was shaped differently. I took one in my hand and studied it. It was a miracle how the chicken created it.
"They will look better and get bigger once the hens are older," the carpenter said.
"You live here?"
"Sort of, they make good company. The ladies are talkative. Later I'll go back..."
The tiny carpenter stood in front of me and pointed at the egg in my hand.
"Any plans for it?"
"I thought about an omelette and pie, a birthday or perhaps a farewell cake?"
"Farewell sounds so sad. You leave?"
"I have no intention to unless Carmen does. This is my home. The house, the animals... What will happen to them?"
Tears welled up in my eyes. I loved the clan but I loved this place more. The scent of the herbs, the animals, all the effort put in the vegetable garden, the medications and soup we brewed, the owls.
The carpenter sat at my feet and waited for more to come. He had time and no one to care for except the animals and the wood he worked with.
"How about a drink?"
He held a cup in his hand.
"It will do you good. Home made by me."
As I took the cup over between my fingers another one showed in his hand.
"The cup is small but therefore never empty. If you have enough put it down, if not keep holding it and enjoy. The berries here are delicious. Cheers girl!"
He lifted the wooden cup in his hand, drank, smacked his lips and enjoyed. Why not I thought and emptied the cup.
"Better lay that egg back in your lap before you crush it."
After I finished my second cup and he did too he said, "I stay here. My life is good, I'm satisfied with what I have. If you leave..."
he finished his third cup while I did the same,
"you have two options, no three. You take the animals with you to wherever you go and start again, you take their meat or... you leave them behind. It's not black or white, there's so much more which means..."
he took another sip,
"there are more than three options and it's up to you. No need to decide now. What about the eggs?"
He was right.
"Come with me and we share the omelette. I have onions, garlic, tomatoes and fine herbs if you like?"
"You invite me, a quirky like me?"
He blushed as I nodded.
"Quirk or not, to me you are a friend and the first egg I like to share with you. Or... did you eat eggs already?"
I bent forward and looked the quirk in his eyes, innocence, honesty and friendship was what they showed me. His big ears turned read while he pulled his beard.
"You make me nervous if you do that."
"Come on my friend let's fry an egg. Shall I carry you?"
"Better not you will break the eggs plus it makes me feel embarrassed. I can walk and well, you know use some magic if I want and you don't mind. Call me if you arrived at home, if the table is set that's all."
The eggs, the drink, Quirk comforting me, his friendship made me feel rich. The carpenter was a good guy. Not a fighter as he told me and he didn't feel the need to leave, give up on something good in the hope of something better. His war was fought he wanted an easy life and had found it. Underground was room enough, the place where he lived if everyone left. This all here was part of the world he built out of wood.
Carefully I put the eggs in a bowl and made a fire. Today I would make an omelet, the first in my life. I read about it in one of the books with easy recipes. One egg I liked to save for Carmen and the others I would use for the cake.
"I'm home," I yelled and within a second the carpenter appeared on the table.
"It's a long time ago I saw this one, " he said while he stroke the wood, "how nice it is to see it's still in a good circumstance. You took great care of it. You did... indeed."
He looked around the room and observed the furniture.
"I wonder who brought it here. It was made for different people, different locations but it looks wonderful here, it fits. I never thought I would see it back. Do you mind a toast?"
He handed a cup and we toasted on the reunion of his furniture and his wellbeing.
After we shared the omelet he leaned against the wall and told me about his life as a cabinet-maker.
"It was a long time ago. Long before the big Misery. A group of elderly visited me at the shop with a special request. A large table and seats had to be made for an unusual purpose. Just not an ordinary table but one made out of the magic wood they gave me. They heard I was the best, without a family, free from anxiety and superstition and open-minded so to say. I agreed with their terms, closed the shop, and went to the place they instructed me.
I left the village and went to an abandoned area where they said they could use my talent. I still remember that unique habitat, the forest. The old, holy tree, how it looked like and smelled. I remember their faces and voices, each one of them. It feels like yesterday. Can you imagine that?
In that particular forest they gathered together to build a safe-house. Not for them but for those who needed it. They called it the club. This table, this very one, I made for the library. It was one of the tables. Not a kitchen table but a reading table."
He cherished the wood and looked proud. His story intrigued me.
"Did you meet other colleagues," I informed.
"No, it was just me. With their magic they could have easily furniture the club but they insisted I would do it. It took me years and they didn't care about time or expenses. They provided me in whatever I needed, gave me a home, food and rewarded me very well. Each morning the workshop was cleaned up. You couldn't find a piece of wood or a bit of sawdust back in it."
"Why was that?"
"I can only guess. Too much magic doesn't do anyone any good but I inhaled it, inhaled a lot of it.. They rewarded me well, very well, showed me the way out, over here, once I finished the job."
With what exactly he had been rewarded Quirk didn't tell. Perhaps it was an escape way out of a world filled with wars or the magic he inhaled. What counted most was he looked happy and satisfied with his life.
That night I didn't come to reading but Quirk's story taught me a lot and gave me even more to think about.
Before I went to bed I cuddled the owls and put one egg on the kitchen table with a note saying 'This one is for you my beloved mother, get well soon'.
I slowly wiped out the blackboard and put it aside. I knew what I needed to know and the notes I wrote down about my dreams would solve themselves. A reminder was no longer needed. Once the time was right I would know. The clan, Quirk, Carmen, the books were all pieces of the puzzle I intended to solve.
Total amount of words episode 14: 2848
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