OK, this is absolutely my last post on this topic. It’s an update on, “So, Rusty, what happens to the women who won’t behave?”
As far as Sabrina and Chai go, I don’t know. I’ve more than 80% through the 1st draft, and I have only the vaguest idea. But Meg’s story is complete, at least for now. I’ve got a real itch to do a sequel — and yes, I know, I don’t do sequels — that follows her life after Return from Avalon (and Points West). So here are the scenes where we see her next. Arnie has done his save the world bit, and has come back to tell Meg what it was all about, as he promised (and you previewed in Women Who Won’t Behave Part III). If Meg doesn’t completely steal your heart, well, you might not have one.
By the way, Return from Avalon (and Points West) is scheduled for publication in June.
* * * * *
Midmorning Saturday found Vivian and me indulging in an intimate picnic on the bank of the Avon, accompanied by my little prepubescent changeling. Meg was in little-girl heaven, walking along between us, one hand protectively holding each of ours. Talking to first one of us and then the other, stopping and staring while she talked, concentrating totally on that person. After a bit we spread a blanket and pulled out lunch goodies, and while we ate I told Meg what it had all been about, as promised. But of course she managed to steal my thunder. “Yeah, I saw it all on the telly last night. It was pretty odd in a way, like it was you and not you at the same time. But I don’t mind hearing it all again, ‘specially with you telling it.”
Meg’s fascination with Vivian certainly wasn’t one-sided, either. After lunch they spent quite a bit of time with their heads close, talking in very low voices. I couldn’t follow the conversation and was dozing off when Vivian sat up and said, “OK, I’ll show you. But it’ll have to be our secret.” To which Meg replied – I’m sure I don’t have to tell you – with a serious single nod.
So they went off a little ways and came back with handfuls of twigs and kindling. Vivian stacked the fire makings into a little teepee, at the same time telling Meg, “Back when my Grandmother showed me how to do this, it was a lot more useful than it is today. Matches weren’t common yet (matches weren’t common yet?), and you either kept your fire going all the time or used flint and steel to relight it. Now you can just carry a lighter if you need a fire.”
Then she knelt down, spoke something under her breath, and touched the twigs. And it was like a flame sprang from the tip of her finger and started the kindling gently burning. And her description of it was right on – it made a subconscious sound. Sort of like a siren faintly rising and falling one time off in the distance, except too faint to hear except in your mind. Having heard the stones sing, which I guess is in the same vibration category, I wasn’t all that surprised by it.
Meg, on the other hand, was totally fascinated. She closed her eyes and cupped her hands over her ears, like she was trying to hold the sound in. She stayed like that for a long time, then took Vivian’s hand and ran her fingers all over and around the fingertip that the flame had come out of. And then sat back and pondered for a while. We indulged her fondly without speaking. It would be hard to say which of us was more taken by her charm.
Finally Meg gave the nod – more to herself than to us, I got the feeling – got up to collect more kindling, and piled it up just as Vivian had done. Then she stared at it for a while with her precious little face screwed up in serious concentration. At last she closed her eyes, moved her lips without speaking, and extended her finger toward the little pile.
Holy shit, it was like you were climbing up in the bell tower of Notre Dame and all of a sudden Quasimodo decided to play Tarzan and started swinging on the ropes. Clanging and bonging loud enough to wake the dead. Meanwhile, the poor little defenseless brushwood went up like someone had turned a flamethrower on it. Not to mention scorching the living shit out of everything in a streak a couple of meters long on the other side and starting a grass fire which we hurried to stamp out before it turned Clive’s place into a smoking ruin. While we did our Smoky the Bear thing Viv turned to Meg and gently remarked as if nothing remarkable had happened, “Maybe not quite so much force next time,” to which Meg just nodded, looking pretty pleased with herself.
(next chapter, next day)
When I rang Millie’s doorbell to pick up Vivian, I walked right into a gloomy little ceremony. Millie’s eyes were red and her laughter was perhaps a bit more subdued than usual, Drew was keeping a stiff upper lip with obvious effort, and Baby Gail was wailing and hanging on to Meg’s leg. It took a bit of sorting out before the impetus for this emotional display became apparent: Meg was going with us. Predictably, she was the least emotional of the lot. “Oh Mum, don’t be such a sissy. I shan’t be THAT far away, I’ll be home for Christmas before you know it, and we can write and talk on the phone and everything.”
With Meg’s bags added to the rest of our stuff, our little car was pretty well packed. But she squeezed in back without complaint, then leaned forward and gave me a quick pat on the arm. “Let’s just go, Mr. Artie.” Vivian’s matter-of-fact explanation, “She coming to live with me for a while,” didn’t do much to clarify what was going on, but neither did it really surprise me – I’ve pretty much learned to take the small stuff in stride. Same with the fact that she was back in her eye-popping white outfit, which was impressively wrinkle-free after a week in her knapsack. Well, Vivian had already demonstrated much more remarkable skills that couldn’t be explained by normal science; this one could have been affected merely by borrowing an iron. I was more surprised that Meg was wearing a dress but didn’t give her any ribbing about it.
We made time to swing by Stonehenge on our way out of town. Vivian wasn’t all that impressed – said it hadn’t changed much since she’d last been there (I cleverly deduced from what I knew of restoration at the site that her previous visit had been in the last 50 years). Meg, on the other hand, had never been there before (how can you live less than a hour away from one of the most significant archeological wonders of the world and not have visited it?) and was properly awed. She stood as close to the giant stones as the crowd-control ropes would let her get and just stared for a while. Finally she ducked under the rope (I made no attempt to stop her – wasn’t my job), walked over to one of the sarsens, and put her ear as close as she could get it without actually touching it. She stood that way for a moment, then put her hand over her other ear and closed her eyes; listening intently for several minutes.
During all this the crowds began to take notice. At first there was just a mild rise in the conversational buzz, people nudging their companions and pointing her out. But quickly that died down, to be replaced by a respectful silence. One of the attendants walked down the path a bit toward where Vivian and I were standing, skirt snapping with the authority of her stride. But something in the tableau made her think better of interfering, so she stopped and joined the spectators instead.
Finally Meg turned toward us with huge eyes and a giant smile. “Mr. Artie! Miss Vivian! They sing!”
At her words, the crowd let out a sound that was half-sigh, half-moan. And they moved back a little as Meg came back under the rope, perhaps a little intimidated.