Mary's finally going to reunite with her family! I’m so excited!
Last time she led her friends in Frinkeltong – the gnome city full of wonder and mechanical advancements (like a tram, travelling on rails!) They saw decorations all over the streets but when asked about it, Mary said that it was normal and that there was something coming up later in the day – but she didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
I wonder what it would be!
The Windfiddle home was in one of the less central areas of the city. The neighbourhood was quiet and most of the people inhabiting it were young families. All the houses were pretty and neat, with lots of flowers on every window and small gardens out front. The facades were made out of smooth red bricks giving the neighborhood its name, 'The Bricks'.
Mary reached up and peeked through her house’s window.
The kitchen hadn’t changed much, except for Leefie’s high chair which was missing. He was probably eating with the rest of the family on the big table now. Next to the stove, with her back to the window, Lilly was cooking and dancing to music only she could hear. Mary watched her lovingly for a few seconds before clearing her throat.
“It smells delicious!” she said. “What's cooking?”
Lilly spun around. It took her a couple of seconds, either to recognize her, or to believe her eyes. She gave out a scream of joy (“Muffin!”) and ran out to greet her outside.
“Oh, I’m so glad that you’re here!” she kept screaming, hugging and kissing her. “We missed you so much! How are you? How have you been? Oh, those must be Bruno and Aurum!” She turned to the two. “Mary has told us so much about you!”
Mary smiled. All she had said about her friends was that they were coming with her, but Lilly was obviously just too excited for her to bring friends over. She'd never done that when she was younger.
Lilly ushered them in the house, took out two human-sized chairs for Mary and Aurum and invited them to sit around the table. Then she stared at her daughter with a little frown.
“Muffin, you look… different,” she said.
“I’ve changed my hair,” Mary smiled stroking her yarn braids.
“No, you’re thinner!” Lilly said accusingly. “When was the last time you ate something?”
“Well, this morning we…” Mary began.
“Real food, Muffin! And tea? What about tea?”
“Ooh! Tea!” Mary’s eyes lit up. “I have the best tea, I’ll show you! It was made especially for me, from all sorts of herbs and flavours!”
“Really?” Lilly said. “Who made it?”
“Oh, it was…” Mary hesitated. She hadn’t told Lilly and Bramble about Gillean. “It’s a long story," she said. 'I’ll tell you later!”
“All right,” Lilly said. “Oh, Bramble is going to be so happy when he comes home and sees you are here!”
That was when the front door opened and Bramble’s melodic voice came from the hall.
“Leefie is with mooom!” he sang. “Are you ready?”
He barged in the kitchen, shirt half unbuttoned, saw all the people around the table and froze in place. Lilly’s face went red. Bramble’s eyes scanned the newcomers and when he saw Mary, he smiled.
It turned out that Mary and her friends had to stay with her grandmother Mona. Lilly and Bramble had cleared out her old room to make space for Lilly’s new endeavour.
“We turned it into a dance studio. I’m going to teach,” she said and stared at her daughter’s face with worry. “Are you… upset?”
“No!” Mary exclaimed maybe a bit too loudly. “Are you kidding me? You’re going to dance again! That’s wonderful!”
There was a little tinge of… something… in her heart but she didn’t pay attention to it. Instead, she took Aurum and Bruno to show them the house, and even made them come to the attic where all the stuff from her old room was stored in boxes. There were things in there that she thought had been thrown away years ago, like a small swinging horse with scribbled-on wings on its back, or her clumsy childhood attempts at origami.
When they went back downstairs, Lilly and Bramble had changed into more festive clothes. Lilly had even put on a small diadem of gilded flowers in her dark curly hair. Mary glanced at the grandfather clock on the wall. It was almost time.
Seven bell chimes filled the air.
Next thing they knew, the city erupted with festivity. Loud music played from different directions, making a cacophony of sounds. People filled the streets, dancing and throwing ribbons and confetti in the air. Someone howled in the wind. Through the window, they could see one of the neighbours sitting on his roof, drinking from a tall glass with a little umbrella inside.
Fireworks popped off in the sky.
“What’s that?!” Bruno yelled, covering his ears. “What’s happening?!”
“That’s what I was going to tell you about,” Mary raised her voice over the commotion. “Here in Frinkeltong there’s a city-wide celebration every day.”
“Work hard, party hard,” Bramble chimed in. “It’s like the city’s unofficial motto.”
Mary scanned the room. Lilly was trying to stand still but her body was moving involuntarily with the rhythm of the nearest band. Bramble stepped from one foot to the other, eagerly looking at the door. Aurum was smiling wistfully at the merriment, and Bruno just looked curious.
"We could, um, join the party?" she said hesitantly.
And twenty minutes later they were all outside.
Mary had also changed clothes and was in a white summer dress and knee-long tights. Her dress and hair twirled through the air whenever someone spun her for a dance. And people did spin her a lot. They didn't care that she was so much taller, didn't scold her when she stepped on their feet and didn't giggle behind her back. They just wanted to have fun.
Mary couldn't remember why she'd never taken part in the city festivities. She didn't know it could actually be so… nice. Maybe it was time she started living life to the fullest, just like the other gnomes in the city, or like her friends who'd joined in this strange tradition without hesitation.
When she broke off from the dance to take a breath, Mary suddenly realised that she was alone. Not in the sense of there being no one around--people were still partying all over the streets--but she couldn't see any of her friends or family. Last time she'd had a glimpse of Aurum, he was talking to a group of youngish looking gnomes, and she couldn't remember when she'd lost sight of Bruno. Lilly and Bramble had probably gone to party with some of their friends from the neighborhood.
Mary didn't feel like dancing anymore. She sneaked away, close to the walls of the surrounding houses, and went to see the rest of her family.
Oh, poor Mary! Abandoned in the middle of a party! I feel for her, I’ve always needed to count on my friends during social events. They’re scary!
Next time we’ll go to see Mary’s grandma and her little brother. More domestic stuff coming up, sorry for those of you who want dragons and epic fights. I find it very charming when characters have time to just live their lives for a while :) Plus, that’s what ‘down time’ is for!
Take care and be well!
(Also, here's a link to the Chapter Guide and the Glossary for the series. You're welcome!)