This is a continuation of the earlier story:
“What May Enter Here” Part Two
He dropped by the first time like a new neighbor: casual, carefully neutral, vaguely friendly. A painfully bright red on the landscape, which approached my back door, then sat on his haunches waiting, toenails just barely skirting the edge of my threshold. We contemplated each other for a moment with equal curiosity. He tilted his head in foxy interrogative, then he stood in a flourish of transformation. Now a naked, tall man with painfully red hair in just a few places, I blinked several times before tossing him the tea towel I had dried my hands on. He held it loosely before him and tilted his head again.
“Come in, shut the door.” I called over my shoulder on the way to accumulate some clothing. The click sounded behind me, nothing more. If I had not been expecting him it would have been distinctly off setting. As it was, I was already sweating and wiping my face as I walked with what I hope sounded to be authority, in my own home. I returned shortly with pants and shirt from Dain’s closet. I had not touched it in 4 years, I took a breath, let it go and set them on the kitchen island between us. Todd, for it could only be Todd, whom I had called, put them on clumsily. “They suit you well. Would you like some tea?”
“Yes, please. Have you honey?”
He smiled now in a dazzle and I reminded myself that he was fey to the core and not to let this influence my mood of resolution. He was adroit and seeing my resistance toned it down a bit. I liked him for that and returned a curt nod.
“Honey it is. Please take a seat in the front room and I will join you.”
I brought in a tray to set a formal mood. I wished I could appear formidable, but knew my stature for what it was: tiny. The tray held scones, cream and jam to balance the teapot. It looked bountiful. It was a small tray. Todd’s proud carriage and dexterous, self-possessed movements were worth watching. He was a spokesman of redoubtable presence, and some fame in his own place. I knew that when I named him. Dain spoke always of him as a friend. That gave me courage and a snippet of hope. I sat a little straighter with my cup resting on its saucer quietly. This was no time for nerves. Finally, he set down the cup and I followed suit.
“You wish to Parley?”
“I do.” The following silence made me tighten.
“Is Culley here?”
“He is at the neighbors; she asked him to bake tarts. He loves sweets.” Nothing had been said and already I felt myself losing ground. My shoulders were dropping with my heart. The fox smiled again; not so many teeth this time.
“Why did you call me, may I ask?”
“Dain named you as friend many times.” I glanced down feeling too weak for this, too powerless.
“Your power lies in your love.” He spoke quietly, reading me easily. I flushed and tears rose, to my shame. “Dain was won over by that very power. Rest in it.”
I looked up at him, ginger halo caught by the sun from the window. He was watching me, but what I had anticipated as calculation had melted from his face.
“I have no idea where to begin. I only fear to lose him. To lose him, too.” Something moved in the creature’s face, something I would have known as compassion in a human, but my mind strove against it. We are such pathetic beings; tortured by our ignorance and defined by our arrogance. I held a flicker of hope then and carelessly brushed it aside. He laughed at me. I saw it and was consumed by my shame.
Contemplating my ruddy flush he spoke again, this time more gently, as if to a child. “I will not seek to manipulate you, but I am sworn to my duty. You called, I was asked, and I accepted. This is all outside of any friendship I have ever held. If it is not, it is meaningless.” He waited for my acknowledgement. I sat straighter and turned up my eyes to him.
“I asked for you because I hoped you would honor us all. All concerned here held Dain in our hearts.” For this I received a whisper of a smile. “I called for you with the understanding that the outcome would be binding. I am frightened, not perfidious.” This time I let go of an edge of my fear and smiled back at him. He somehow emitted radiance that out played the afternoon sun. Hope wormed its way back into my heart and we began to talk in earnest: to plan, barter and plead our cases.
When evening fell and Culley returned with a plate of warm tarts to show me, he looked around expectantly.
“He was here!”
“Have you agreed?”
Ah, the simplicity of childhood; love them because I do. All will be well!
“We have. You will live with me, just as you would at regular school. Lessons begin after the summer.”
“Are you happy?” Culley’s candor was always foremost. I hoped it always would be. I smiled easily at him.
“All will be well, my darling, all will be well.”
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