|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Turn, Turn, Turn
Annie spends more time with Gertie and meets Mrs. O’Leary before they leave.
Music Referenced: Turn, Turn, Turn – The Byrds http://youtu.be/V6jxxagVEO4
Some photographs courtesy of FreeFoto.com
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! Giant thanks also to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the very last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
Early the Next Morning, Saturday, September 10th, 2011:
Annie wandered around Gertie’s back garden as the sun rose, lightening the sky in gradual shades of pink, lavender, and blue. They’d ended up staying the night here, sending Jeremy and the car back to T-2-T and the bed and breakfast there. He’d be back for them later this morning.
Annie was still conflicted about this trip. She really enjoyed talking to Gertie; the witch was the strangest person she’d ever met, but her beliefs intrigued Annie. They never talked much about religion at home: not old-fashioned God religion or new-age, mother-earth religion or anything in between. It was like a whole different world talking to Gertie. Annie knew her mom thought Gertie was perhaps from a whole different world, like ‘Looney-Tunes Land’ or something. But that was okay; Annie thought the witch’s ideas were really interesting and thought-provoking.
While Gertie’s front garden was dedicated mostly to growing food and herbs, the back garden surrounding the tall windmill was made to please the senses and soothe the soul. Colorful flowers lined a narrow stone walkway that meandered around tall, sweet-smelling, green-leaved bushes and rough boulders the size of elephants, past rustic benches and all manner of statuary, and through small patches of well-trimmed lawn. The way the path was laid out, you couldn’t see far ahead because of the many tall bushes and boulders. Although Annie knew the garden couldn’t be very large, you couldn’t really get a sense of its size because of how the path twisted and turned and the tall garden features that screened your view.
As Annie waked, she passed purple Passion Flower vines which hung precariously on the craggy cliff-face at the back of the garden, trying to climb to the sun. The yellow passion fruits that still clung to the vines smelled like apricots and made her stomach grumble a bit, wishing for breakfast, but everyone else was still asleep. Further on, colorful lichen, ranging from sage green, to orange, to lavender, clung to the shady sides of the large rocks that were scattered like a giant’s forgotten tinker toys around the long, narrow garden.
Most of the flowers had begun to fade after the long summer, getting ready to rest for the winter, but their well-tended grandeur was still evident. Once in a while a hardy hanger-on graced Annie with its sweet fragrance as she wandered slowly along the path. Even though everyone else was still sleeping, but Annie wanted to explore everything she could before they had to go; she didn’t think Gertie would mind. She wanted to know as much about the witch as she could. She reasoned the more she understood her possible mentor, the better her chances of succeeding when the time came to tap into the power the monks had hidden inside her.
“Tis a lovely way to greet the new day, wouldn’t you agree?” a soft voice came from somewhere ahead of Annie.
Annie smiled as she rounded a boulder the size of a VW Bug to find Gertie sitting in a lotus position on a patch of green grass.
“It’s beautiful,” Annie agreed, plopping down cross-legged next to her.
Gertie gave the girl a crooked smile, revealing her deep dimples and the gap between her teeth. This morning she was dressed in an overlarge fisherman’s sweater to ward off the chilly morning air, and a pair of stretchy, calf-length yoga pants. Her feet were still bare, despite the cold. Gertie’s hair was pulled back into a neat French braid that continued halfway down her back. The pink stripes looked like ribbons twined through the luminescent platinum-white.
“Whatcha doin’?” Annie asked, moving her feet and legs to mimic the way Gertie was sitting, with her feet resting atop her thighs and her knees touching the soft grass.
“Connecting with the Mother. Thanking her for a new day, and beginnin’ it by takin’ in Her energy and grace,” Gertie explained, closing her eyes again. “You try…” she suggested to Annie as she relaxed her arms and shoulders again with the back of her hands resting on her knees. “Close your eyes and feel the energy flow up from the soil and down from the air. Allow it to meet within your chest and fill you with the life-force of our world.”
Annie made an ‘eeek’ face, which she hoped Gertie didn’t see, then closed her eyes and tried to sit the way Gertie was: straight backed but with her shoulders and arms relaxed.
“Concentrate on your breath, lass … feel the Mother’s energy flowing in with each inhalation, and give Her your energy in return with each exhalation,” Gertie encouraged. “Her oxygen in, your carbon dioxide out … give and take … perfect balance as in all things, just as the Mother intended.”
Annie tried; she really, really did. But, after a little while, she just got bored concentrating on her breathing. Her mind started to wander and she ended up thinking about the trip home, about seeing Stonehenge again, and school on Monday. She wouldn’t be able to tell anyone at school that she’d actually seen Stonehenge, since a weekend trip to Britain would be a little hard to explain. That sucked! Maybe she could say they came here for summer vacation and explain the trip that way. Her mind continued to wander and she wondered if her dad had left the house painted in bright colors or if he’d put it back to white, and … on and on. After just a couple of minutes, she opened her eyes and began watching a bee work on collecting the last pollen from a fading marigold. When it flew away, she turned to see Gertie watching her, a small smile playing on her lips.
“Sorry … I got bored,” Annie apologized sheepishly.
“No worries, a ghrá. It be a process, no doubt. One minute today … perhaps two on the morrow,” the witch assured her.
Annie gave her a thankful smile in return. “Can I ask you something?”
“Why did you … pick me? Yesterday, I mean … you brought me out to the garden to talk … but not Dawn.”
“Ah well, it be simple, really. Although it be true you both share an ancient secret, her path be as clear and solid as this very ground, while yours be … fluid … blurred … like the water beyond the shore. Tis you what needs a hand to guide, not your other-worldly friend.”
Annie stared at the thin woman in shock. “You can … see that? See that she’s not … from here?”
Gertie gave a small nod. “Tis not hard t’ see, if you only look through the eye o’ wisdom, lass.”
Annie sighed. How would she ever get this mysteriously abstract ‘eye of wisdom’ and Mother Earth energy stuff?
“It will come, a ghrá, as with all things in life, in its proper time,” Gertie assured her, as if reading her mind. “You be a bright child; you’ll be knowing when it is time.”
Annie wondered if the witch could actually read people’s minds. She remembered the first time their eyes had met – it felt like Gertie was looking right into her soul. Was that the eye of wisdom she kept talking about? Could she see into people’s souls?
“I’m not a witch or anything like that …” Annie pointed out.
“And there’s no need t’ be. Your energy be ancient … older than time … as old as the cosmos themselves. You need only believe that it be possible to touch it, and your path will become clear. All things in time, lass … there be a season to all things. Tryin’ t’ touch that power before you be ready would be like tryin’ t’ plant the corn in the winter. No use in it, a ghrá.”
Annie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She hoped Gertie was right.
“Would you come with me t’ see Mrs. O’Leary this morning, lass? I know she’d love t’ meet ya,” Gertie asked as she easily unfolded her legs and rose to a standing position, graceful as a dancer.
Annie smiled, pushed her feet off her thighs with her hands, and jumped up. “Sure!” she agreed, happy for something tangible to concentrate on.
As Annie followed Gertie back into the house she asked about some of the plants in the garden. “What are these big bushes?” she asked as they passed one of the tall, sweet-smelling plants.
“They be Camellia Sinensis,” Gertie replied easily, picking a leaf and rolling it between her fingers to release more of the scent.
Annie looked at her blankly.
“Tea, lass … Tis where I harvest m’ tea leaves,” Gertie explained.
Annie looked at the bushes with a bit more awe. “I thought tea grew in Asia mostly.”
“To be sure,” Gertie agreed. “But the Channel keeps the chill away and I be keeping them well tended with the things they desire. They be gracious enough t’ reward me with their energy. Tis an indulgence, I know, but I believe they be happy here – the view’s brilliant-like and the weather’s fair, if a bit windy.”
Annie looked around and had to agree that the view was pretty nice. Beyond the flowers, lawns, and boulders you could get glimpses of the sea – or apparently the Channel – in the background and the sky was once again blue. The sound of the waves lapping against the rocks below was ever-present and had started to fade into one of those sounds so familiar that you no longer heard it unless you really concentrated. Annie looked back at the bush and supposed it looked happy enough. There were probably worse places to live if you were a tea plant.
Inside the house, Dawn and Buffy were still sleeping in the living area. Buffy was curled on the thickly-cushioned couch and Dawn was sprawled on a pile of hand-woven rugs on the floor that she and Annie had shared. Gertie and Annie moved silently back to the kitchen, careful not to wake them. On the wall that pressed against the cliff, Gertie pulled open a door to what Annie thought was an upright freezer. It was stainless-steel and looked just like the other appliances, but behind the door was an opening into another room that was actually embedded into the face of the cliff.
“Jus’ a quick stop in the larder, lass … Mrs. O’Leary dearly loves her a wee bite o’ sugar-beet and carrot,” Gertie explained as Annie followed her into what looked like a root cellar. The larder seemed to be carved out of solid rock, was about twelve feet square, but very tall, and was lit with a line of LED lights that hung down from darkness above, running down the center of the room. There were rustic, well-worn wicker baskets stacked on sturdy shelves lining most of the cool rock walls. All were packed full of root vegetables: carrots, turnips, beets, onions, and loads of potatoes.
Annie watched as Gertie selected three large beets, four carrots, and two potatoes, and then chopped them into bite-sized pieces on a butcher’s block table in the center of the room. On the wall that backed up to the kitchen there was a large, deep sink. She dropped all the veggies in there and washed them, then put them in a steel pail. On top of the carrots, potatoes, and beets she laid a small biscuit tin, and then she filled another pail half-full of warm water. The witch picked both buckets up and headed for a spiral staircase that was half-hidden in the furthest, darkest corner of the larder.
“We just be going up there, lass,” Gertie told her, motioning towards the staircase. “Mrs. O’Leary’ll be waiting up on the highland for us.”
Annie reached out and took the pail with the vegetables in it from Gertie’s hand just as the witch started up the narrow staircase. If Annie had any doubt of the witch’s physical strength, it would’ve quickly faded as she climbed the stairs, lugging the heavy bucket and the ‘wee bit’ of vegetables. Gertie may look like a fragile twig, but her thin frame was apparently made of hardened steel.
At the top of the staircase, Gertie pushed a trap-door open and a flood of sunlight flowed down from above them. The door crashed loudly against what sounded like a wooden floor … or ceiling, depending on your perspective, which surrounded it. Along with the light, the aroma of … well … farm wafted down from above them as Gertie continued up and out of the opening. It was musky and earthy and a little bit rank, to be honest.
It smelled a lot like Big Thunder Ranch, the petting zoo at Disneyland. It had never been Annie’s favorite thing – the animals were all just a little too pushy for her liking. Her earliest memory of it had been when she’d gone there one year with just Willow and Tara, she must’ve been four or five. One of the goats had rubbed its musky scent all over her skin and clothes, and ended up knocking her down in its exuberance. She stunk like goat the whole rest of the day. No, it had never been her favorite attraction.
Annie struggled to lift the heavy bucket up ahead of her when she neared the top of the stairs. Gertie managed to grab it from her grasp just as Annie thought she might drop it. The girl sighed in relief and clambered the rest of the way out of the staircase. The first thing she saw when she emerged were a pair of giant, glistening, chocolate-brown eyes and a huge, wet, dark nose which breathed warm, smelly air in her face.
She scrambled back away from the creature, stifling a shriek of surprise at how close the cow was to her.
“Nothin’ t’ be feared,” Gertie assured … someone – Annie wasn’t sure if it was her or the cow the witch was talking to. “Mrs. O’Leary’s just a friendly sort … over-friendly some might say.”
Annie smiled nervously and stepped back towards the cow, which couldn’t actually move any closer because of a wooden half-wall that kept the compartment with the stairwell opening separate from the rest of the barn. Annie put her hand out tentatively and stroked the cow’s large, reddish-brown face from between her eyes down to just above her damp nose. Near the top of her head, Mrs. O’Leary had a heart-shaped, white blaze, which Annie traced lightly with her index finger.
“Hi,” Annie greeted the cow. “I’m Annie.”
Mrs. O’Leary snorted and shook her head up and down in greeting, sending damp air billowing out from her nostrils. Annie flinched back and held her breath. Her eyes closed involuntarily as droplets of what she tried hard to think of as water, rather than snot or spit, coated her shirt and neck.
“She be proud t’ meet ya, lass,” Gertie translated, the smile on her face evident to Annie even though her eyes were still closed.
“Great…” Annie croaked out through clinched teeth as she slowly opened her eyes and looked down at her shirt. She made an ‘oh gross’ face at the thousands of tiny droplets of … liquid that covered her. She pulled the back of her shirt as far forward as she could and wiped her face on it, thinking ‘water … just water’ the whole time so she didn’t freak out.
“Would ya like t’ help me with the milking?” Gertie asked Annie as she opened a gate in the half-wall and entered the area where the cow was.
“Uhhhh…” Annie stammered. “I don’t think I’m very good with … cows.”
“Piffle!” Gertie disagreed, holding the gate open for Annie to follow her. “How many cows have ya known in your life, lass?”
Annie rolled her eyes. “None, really…” she admitted.
Still holding the gate open, Gertie gave her an encouraging look and motioned with her head, indicating that Annie should follow.
Annie took a deep breath and steeled herself as she moved forward, following the witch into the side of the barn where Mrs. O’Leary waited. The cow watched Annie, turning her head to the side to follow her movements. Annie braced herself for another snot-shower, but thankfully, none came.
Gertie removed the biscuit tin from the bucket of vegetables and hung the bucket on a hook in front of Mrs. O’Leary. The cow immediately dug into the bounty, chomping and chewing loudly on the crunchy morsels.
From the biscuit tin, Gertie removed two of the heart-shaped cookies like she’d served for tea the previous day, and handed them to Annie. “I reckon the wee one would be chuffed t' bits for a bite o’ biscuit,” she told Annie, inclining her head to the other side of the large cow.
Annie furrowed her brow and walked around the back of the cow – giving her back feet a wide berth. Did cows kick like horses? She didn’t know and didn’t want to find out.
On the other side of the large, reddish-brown cow was a calf that looked like a miniature version of its mother. When Annie came into view, it pulled away from the teat it had been suckling and gave her a slightly wary look … until she broke a piece of the cookie off and held it out towards it. A flash-back of the petting zoo whirled through Annie’s mind as the ‘wee one’ charged her, a mewling ‘moooo’ announcing its excited delight.
After initially freezing in fright, Annie giggled as the little calf’s long tongue snaked out and curled around the bit of red biscuit she offered. The sweet-treat was pulled away from her fingers in one deft motion. Before Annie could break off another piece, the calf had chewed that bit up and its tongue and lips were searching her fingers for more. Mrs. O’Leary turned her head and watched as Annie alternately doled out treats and petted the soft, shiny coat of the baby. Apparently satisfied that the two were getting on okay, the cow turned back to her own meal and sighed contentedly.
“I don’t have any more,” Annie told the little calf, holding both hands up to show their state of emptiness.
“Can he have more?” Annie asked Gertie, moving back around Mrs. O’Leary.
“She,” Gertie corrected as she deftly pulled milk from the two teats on her side of the cow into the bucket which had contained the warm water. “Not good t’ overdo on the sweets, a ghrá. All things be best in moderation.”
“Sorry,” Annie apologized to the calf as it bumped Annie’s hand with its nose, trying to make her produce more sweets.
“Shall ya give milking a try, then?” Gertie asked, standing up from the low stool she was sitting on.
Annie’s eyes went wide. “I … don’t … know … I don’t want to … hurt her,” she stammered. Annie started to step back, but Gertie’s hand on her shoulder propelled her forward toward the stool.
“No worries, lass … I be showing ya how,” Gertie assured her.
Annie swallowed hard but sat down obediently. The calf nudged Annie one more time, bumping its dark nose against her arm, but then gave up and went to see what her mother was eating.
“Her bag be clean, so no need t’ worry yourself ‘bout that,” Gertie assured her. Annie realized that was what the warm water had been for – Gertie had used it to clean the cow’s udder.
“Okay, t-that's … good,” Annie drawled out uneasily, as if whether the udder was clean was her main concern … or had actually crossed her mind at all.
Gertie squatted down on her heels next to Annie and positioned the girl’s right hand on one of the cow’s teats. “Gentle-like now,” Gertie explained, her larger hand covering Annie’s, prompting her to squeeze and slowly pull down at the same time. A trickle of milk dripped from the end of the long teat.
“Oh my God!” Annie exclaimed, her eyes wide with shock as she felt the warm, thick, creamy liquid on her fingers. “I made milk!”
Gertie laughed. “Mrs. O’Leary made the milk, lass. She be allowing us t’ share it with her wee bit, nothin’ more.”
Gertie released her grip and guided Annie’s hand back up higher on the teat, allowing it to fill with milk again, then again pulled down slowly and gently. More milk poured from the end, this time enough to actually splash in the bucket below. Annie’s excitement grew as they continued like this for some minutes. It didn’t take very long before Annie could do it all on her own, and long, hard streams of warm, creamy milk were filling the bucket with each pull.
Mrs. O’Leary had finished her meal and was bathing her calf while Annie worked; the cow was seemingly unperturbed by the newcomer. When the pail was about a third full, Gertie announced that they had enough for the day and Annie stopped. Gertie retrieved the bucket from beneath the cow’s belly and set it, along with the stool, across the half-wall, away from any danger of being knocked over.
Finally, Gertie got one more biscuit from the tin and handed it to Annie. “Reckon Mrs. O’Leary would fancy a sweet,” she said, inclining her head towards the cow.
Annie walked up to the cow’s head and held the cookie out; all memory of the snot-bath she’d gotten earlier had drifted away in her excitement about learning to milk. Like her calf, Mrs. O’Leary’s tongue reached out and encircled the cookie, easily pulling it away from Annie. Annie stroked the cow’s neck, feeling the strong muscles just beneath her soft, fawn coat, as the cow enjoyed the treat.
“I thought you said she was with a herd,” Annie commented to Gertie as the witch grabbed a shovel and began scooping up manure from the floor of the stable.
“To be sure,” Gertie replied as she piled the cow-patties into a wheelbarrow.
“Then, where are they?”
Gertie inclined her head toward the open door of the stall and Annie walked outside. On the hillside, she could see more cows grazing on bright-green winter-rye not far from the barn. Further down the sloping terrain there were a dozen or more plump, white dots: sheep.
Gertie came out of the stall with the manure, followed closely by Mrs. O’Leary and the calf. The cow seemed to be supervising the cleaning of the barn and watched Gertie wheel the load along a well-worn path to the edge of the cliff and then dump it over the side. Annie’s brow furrowed. She walked up to the edge and looked over. Below was a compost and manure pile in the corner of Gertie’s back garden, as far from the house as possible. Annie hadn’t gotten that far in her wanderings.
Looking out over the long, narrow garden, Gertie’s unorthodox house, and the sea beyond, Annie smiled a bit, remembering Gertie’s lecture about a cycle of life. Mrs. O’Leary’s manure helped grow the carrots, potatoes, and beets, which Gertie shared with her to help create milk, which she, in turn, shared with Gertie. It was a giant circle of sharing – of working together, of giving and taking, of not wasting anything.
Annie turned and watched Gertie petting the cow and speaking softly into one large, fuzzy ear. After a few moments, Mrs. O’Leary turned and seemed to nod to Annie, as if to say goodbye – or good job – before sauntering slowly away, back towards the waiting herd that grazed nearby. Annie watched her go and it only then occurred to her that Mrs. O’Leary had never been tethered in the stable – nothing had been holding her there except perhaps the vegetables and the promise of a cookie at the end. The little calf ran in circles around her mother, kicking her heels and bucking joyfully in the cool, fall air as they made their way back to the others. It made Annie laugh watching the wee bit run and play with not a worry in the world.
“What will happen to the baby? … I mean … ummmm … no one’s gonna eat her, are they?” Annie wondered as she watched the herd part when Mrs. O’Leary walked through the center of them like the queen Gertie had said she was.
“There’ll be no eatin’ o’ the wee bit; no worries, a ghrá. Séamus be right kind; a gentle man. He lives as we all do here on these cliffs: with respect for all o’ Mother Earth’s children,” Gertie assured her.
Annie thought this over a few moments as they watched the herd begin to follow Mrs. O’Leary further down the slope. A couple more late-season calves broke away from the herd and all the youngsters joined in a game of tag, running round and round their elders with seemingly unending energy.
“But … you said that beets had souls and … you eat beets. So … what’s the difference?” Annie asked, finally looking at Gertie. “What’s the difference between eating a beet and eating a cow?”
“To be sure, they are all children of the Mother. The beet and the cow, they are both our brothers and sisters,” Gertie agreed. “And I be knowin’ the laws o’ nature: predator eats prey. It be the way of our Mother to keep all her children strong, and so it has been for millennia. You canno’ fault the lion for eating the gazelle no more than you can fault the gazelle for eating the grass.”
“So,” Annie concluded, her brow still furrowed in thought. “It’s ok for humans to eat cows … because we’re like the lion? But you don’t eat meat … I didn’t see any in your kitchen.”
Gertie tilted her head in a slow nod of agreement. “To be sure, we are the lion. Truth be told, we are the lion’s lion … we are the thing the predator fears. I do not fault the man that kills the rabbit or the cow to feed his own family; it is our Mother’s way. I fault the man that eats the cow without first lookin’ into her eyes and honoring the gift of her life-force with respect and gratitude.
“I must admit t’ not being able t’ look into those eyes and take that life-force for my own. There is no failing in those that can, I simply have never been that wantin’ … that needin’ o’ sustenance,” Gertie explained. “Perhaps one day I will find myself at that ledge, but it isn’t this day.”
“But you must eat some things that you didn’t grow … like the wheat for the bread. I know you didn’t grow that,” Annie continued, really wanting to understand.
Gertie sighed and held her palms out, upturned in resignation. “Indeed, there is compromise in all things,” the witch agreed. “I search for like-minded guardians of the Earth with whom to trade. I must hope that they are true to the Mother – true to their word – and have allowed all the Earth’s children in their care to reach their full potential.
“I admit that it is not a perfect solution, but little is perfect in this time. We can only strive to do our very best; to honor all life-force with our gratitude, and treat Mother Earth, and all her children, with respect.
“Very few seem to understand that we are killing our Mother, killing ourselves, with our greed. Just how do they believe we will live when the Mother gasps her last ragged breath and falls cold and silent? Where shall we turn when the last tree falls? The last bee dies? The last of the ozone is depleted?” Gertie shook her head sadly. “Where will our souls go then? How can our spirits grow if there is no life left to live? Those who have not moved on will start over … begin again as amoebas. And what if not even an amoeba can survive our pervasive disrespect of Mother Earth? It is a daunting prospect, a ghrá.”
Annie furrowed her brow in thought, taking this in. That idea had never occurred to her before. Of course, like everyone else, she’d heard the debate over Global Warming and the greenhouse effect. There was always someone on TV spouting off about how we’re killing the planet and how the rainforests were disappearing, how various species of animals were being threatened or extinguished, and about holes in the ozone. What she’d never thought of before now was that it wasn’t just a physical problem … it wasn’t just our bodies that may be in danger if we completely ruin the environment, but our souls, as well.
After a breakfast of whole-wheat, blueberry pancakes, and unfiltered, organic maple syrup, Jeremy had returned with the car and it was time to go. They exchanged mailing addresses and Buffy gave Gertie their phone number and email addresses, as well. Gertie did have an email account, but only checked it a couple of weekends a month when she went into town, as she had no internet access at her house. Still, she gave it to Buffy, along with the phone number of Séamus Flannigan whom could get in touch with her on the short-wave.
Gertie walked them out through the front garden, still barefoot and looking unnaturally clean despite having connected with Mother Earth, fed and milked a cow, mucked out a stall, and cooked her guests breakfast already that morning. Her spotless, ecru fisherman’s sweater hung down to mid-thigh over her equally unblemished blue yoga pants. Not a single strand of silver-white or pink hair had come loose from her French braid; there was not one smudge of dirt on her face, neck, or hands. Her bare feet were the only part of her that showed any sign of the work she’d done already that morning, but even they were barely soiled.
“Your daughter is a special lass,” Gertie told Buffy as they reached the car.
Jeremy took their backpacks and stowed them in the trunk as the women said their goodbyes.
Buffy nodded and smoothed a hand down Annie’s long, curly hair. “We know she is,” Buffy agreed, giving Annie a soft smile.
“She’ll be knowing when the time is right,” Gertie continued. “When she be ready, it’d be my honor t’ help her find her path.”
“Thank you,” Buffy replied, extending her right hand out to the witch. “We really appreciate your help and your hospitality,” she continued a little stiffly, as if forcing herself to be polite.
Gertie took Buffy’s hand in both hers, squeezing it with a strong grip, as she met the Slayer’s eyes. “You be a strong warrior, an old soul. There be many promises yet t’ be kept; many miles t’ go before your soul can again rest. Our Mother be countin’ on ya, lass.”
Buffy’s brows went up. “Are you some kind of seer? Do you know something?”
Gertie shook her head. “No seer o’ the future, just see how the Mother surrounds you and how your aura reaches out. Always searching for a purpose … a mission, you are. Your final journey will one day be clear. The Mother within will show ya the path; take heed of her call, Slayer.
“And don’t be neglecting what lies inside, Buffy. To find your way, your soul be as needin’ o’ nourishment as your body … so does his.”
“His who?” Buffy asked, her brows furrowed.
Gertie’s plum-colored irises glittered; the specks of lilac seemed to dance within them. “The man whose bit o’ soul you carry within your own. Never take it for granted, Warrior. Your souls have traveled untold miles, lived lives and died deaths without number, t’ find the other. Tis a pure and honest treasure not oft found.”
Buffy looked momentarily shocked but then nodded as Gertie released her hands. “I know, I … I’m very lucky.”
Gertie turned to Dawn and gave her a smile. “Thank you for bringing them. It gives me hope that I can help Annie find her path as you have done.”
Dawn nodded and hugged Gertie. “You can,” she whispered in the witch’s ear, standing on tip toes. “You might need Shiro to help. Ancient power doesn’t necessarily mean ancient wisdom or patience.”
Gertie chuckled lightly, that melodious laugh that seemed to rival angels singing, as she released Dawn and nodded. “I will endeavor to remember that.”
Finally, Gertie turned to Annie. “You be bright and lovely as a star, a ghrá. Never let a question go unasked, it be the only road to knowledge and enlightenment. Your path will one day be clear, you must only ask and I’ll be honored t’ help ya walk it.”
“Thanks for everything,” Annie replied, hugging Gertie around the waist tightly. “I’ll email you … and write,” she promised. “You’ll probably get tired of all my questions.”
Gertie laughed again and it seemed even the birds stopped chirping to listen to the joyful sound. “Never be a chance o’ that, lass.”
“So,” Dawn asked her traveling companions as they bumped slowly down the rough track away from Gertie’s house. “What did you think of her?”
Buffy and Annie both answered at the same time.
I promise that Spike will be back in the next chapter and he has a surprise for our ladies! My wonderful beta Anona is back from her honeymoon, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to post the last few chapters of this story more quickly than I've been posting lately. We will be drawing to the end of this 'season' here soon.
Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season), The Byrds
To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
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