Storm saw me pause. I thought I saw understanding cross her eyes. As we walked through the stables, she said, “After the storm, I will show you the new quarter horse I told you about. Maybe you will even have a ride?”
I nodded and asked, “Where will we go?”
She shrugged and smiled, “Over the hills and far away.”
We ran to the house gate, past her mother’s little rose garden, and onto the verandah.
The old house was made of stone. It was small, with only a couple of rooms connected to the kitchen and a piano room. There were a couple of small single rooms built onto the verandah decades ago for farm workers. Kathy had never bothered with hired help or electricity.
Storm stoked the fire, and I settled into a chair at the kitchen table. “Just a moment,” she said.
A lightning bolt crashed into the mountains above. Three seconds later, thunder crashed off somewhere to the southeast. We both counted.
Storm said, “Above Graham’s run, is my guess. Maybe rainbows after the storm.”
Rainbows. An old table. Rough wooden floors. A cast iron stove against the rough-hewn stone walls. Pressed tin ceiling, flaking.
I remembered sitting here with Storm and Kathy in the weeks after Kathy had been stung by a bunch of her bees.
Storm and I took turns reading her stories and talking to here as her life-hue returned.
In turn, Kathy told how she had explored the local forests from top to bottom and had struck up an unlikely friendship with some of the old folk living in the isolated valleys. With a sly smile on her face, she told how she had seen some strange things.
“Hey, Jon.” She had said, sitting across from where I was now.
“You remember my name?” I replied.
“I remember lots more besides, but let us not complicate the present with the truth, nor the future with the past. Will you promise me something?”
I said, “Will you forgive me for the rising sun?”
She laughed, “Never. Be serious. Will you promise me something? Promise me you will not laugh at me.”
I couldn’t help smiling, “I laugh at you all the time. But ok, just this once.”
She said, “Maybe laughing is not what I meant. I want you to believe me. I know I am a bit mad. Will you trust me?”
“Sure” I replied, without much thought.
Storm rolled her eyes but I remember having a terrible premonition. I imagined a doctor had told Kathy she had cancer and only months to live.
Kathy said, “I have elves living in my garden.”
I waited for her to talk about the cancer.
She continued, “Except, they call themselves 'Aelfs'. Not Legolas nor that creature on the TV show that eats cats.”
I held my breath trapped in my body.
Her eyes would not meet mine, “They hunt for gold in the hills. They travel by rainbows.”
She paused, waiting for a reaction.
Storm had said firmly then, “Tell him about the dragon.”
That was enough to break the spell.
I said, “Wait. I promised to believe Kathy. I believe her. Absolutely. No need to gild the lily with talk of dragons, werewolves and bunyips.”
Kathy had looked at me sternly and said, “Werewolves and bunyips are imaginary.”
I said, “I thought you were going to tell me something terrible.”
She said, “I have. The aelfs will not leave. I am worried about the dragon.”
I wondered if they had planned this together. To see how far they could lead me. Not beyond the realm of possibilities. And then I started to remember. Stories I was told as a kid. Stories of rainbows and dragons and gold.
I bit my tongue and tried to see the innocent in the situation. It could have been so much worse. I could settle with having a friend with imaginary aelfs and dragons in the backyard. I said, conversationally, “I work with lots of dragons.”
Words I had forgotten were starting to fall back into my head.
My vision blurred.
Storm saw me shake my head. She brought me back to the present, “You took your time coming over.”
I took a deep breath. Now. I had to do this now. “It was a horrible shock about your mum. I am sorry.
Storm studied the floor, “Don’t be. Let’s not talk about it. Hear my confession instead.”