“There are giants on the island!”
She could hear the little girl from far as her screaming was so loud it surely reached the other shores too.
“Giants do not exist, Meredith.” Valerie said firmly, not raising her look from the book she was reading.
“Yes they do! Two just walked off the boat!”
She had to raise her eyes now to see if Meredith was indeed telling the truth or lying. She could never be sure in her words before checking her eyes. This time they were truly scared and she knew who to blame for this – old Jasper from the boathouse. The old man was so daft he thought he was still living in 1890s, yet sharp witted when anyone dared him to tell one of his odd stories. And he just enjoyed telling them to Meredith.
She peered her eyes in Meredith’s and sighed. “You’ve been talking to old Jasper again, haven’t you?”
Shy yes cleared the little girl from guilt before she insisted that this time old Jasper had spoken the truth and there were indeed giants on the island. The only giants Valerie could think of were footballers and unfortunately that knowledge was just as intimidating as knowing there were real giants walking the Earth. She carefully closed her book and gave her full attention to the child.
Meredith wasn’t stupid, only too gullible. Valerie hoped she could cure her from this illness one day, but so far teaching this child during the summer months she spent here seemed very short time compared to attention she thought Meredith needed.
“Giants do not exist.” Valerie repeated and rose. “What’s that?” she asked as the girl reached out her little hand with a piece of something that looked like a fabric.
“The bigger giant’s pocket…” She opened her hand so Valerie could see her little trophy, a hunter’s pocket knife.
Valerie’s heart sank. She wasn’t hearing this. This thing in Meredith’s hand did not exist.
“Jasper said if I see a giant I must take something from them, ’cause this will work as a talisman and they won’t eat me.”
Valerie let out a snorting breath. Oh, they WILL eat you now, my dear. But she couldn’t tell that to an eight year old.
“That’s called stealing, Meredith!” She jumped up and grabbed the thing from her.
“I will deal with Jasper later! What you just did is wrong! Very wrong!” The book was forgotten and she started back to the beach, dragging the girl with her.
The new arrivals were still on the beach. She couldn’t notice anyone that much taller to remind giants, but as she got closer she did see one slender guy, who was a head taller than the others and that’s where she dragged the little girl to, too.
She saw the tall boy turn and watched them approach for a while, before recognizing the girl. His friend was with back against them and seemed busy searching his bag through.
“Hey, that’s the pickpocket!” he yelled over the crowd just as Valerie pulled the terrified girl before the so-called giants. The boy was indeed head taller than she was, but nevertheless a man.
“Hi! Meredith has something to tell you!” she ordered the girl and wrapped her hands on her chest.
The crouching man flew up and turned and in that moment she knew what the girl had meant by the giant. That man was huge! Compared to his slender friend he seemed indeed gigantic. She gulped, taking in the size of the man.
She realized then she had taken too long to stare at him and was mostly staring at his chest, so she raised her eyes and tried to be as calm as possible while looking straight in his eyes.
“Meredith?” She asked steadily.
Meredith whispered her apology, but so quietly it was hard even for Valerie to hear it.
“I didn’t hear it!”
“I’m sorry I took your knife!”
“That’s much better.” She nodded. “Here’s your knife, sir, sorry about that.” She returned the knife to him and her eyes landed on his threaded pocket. ” I’m sure she’s learned her lesson now.”
He took his knife. “You ought to teach your kid better, mam!”
She flushed. “Uh, Meredith is not my kid. And I’m still miss if I recall it right. She didn’t know better of her ways, but I assure you – the source of her mischief will soon regret it.”
She turned around and dragging the kid with her, stormed back to the shore, where she did a fast turn around the closest bunker.
“The girl has spark!” his brother commented with approving nod. “Both of them.”
“She’s nuts if you ask me – what did she mean by the source of her mischief?”
His brother shrugged and he didn’t ponder over it much longer. He did admit though, the girl had spark, only not the way his brother saw it. She had way more than just spark – she was all fire and her shimmering golden hair that glint in the sunlight seemed proper to her temper. At least he hoped she had some temper.
Valerie didn’t stop before they reached to Meredith’s home.
“Now go inside and think a little about those giants!” she ordered the little girl. “Taking another person’s stuff is called stealing and even if Jasper calls it ‘taking talismans’, it is still stealing!”
She didn’t mean to make the little girl cry, but that’s exactly what she did, wailing her way to the kitchen.
Next she decided to take up Jasper for misleading her like that and make him stop the stories he was telling her. It was enough that he told them, but encouraging her to act them out – that was way new level even for him. He must have gone dafter in the past few days when she last saw him. But the old man was in luck or too perceiving as when she got to his old blue house, he wasn’t there anymore.
On her way back to her home she saw the giant come up the village street. He had changed his pants and was rolling the torn pair in his hand. She stopped on such an odd site, but he stopped right before her and without any introduction tossed the pair to her.
“What’m to do with them?” she asked surprised, shocked even, feeling the warmth of his body the trousers still carried.
“Your kid – you repair them.”
She frowned. He did sound like an ape. Perhaps daft Jasper wasn’t so out of his mind after all?
“She’s not my kid! I told you that before.”
“But you seem to take responsibility for her.”
“It’s an island!” she snorted, but he didn’t get her amusement. “Live here a week, you’ll get it.” She added shortly and she changed her mind, realizing it would be pointless to start a fight over some stitches. A flower perhaps? Pink or Yellow would look good on denim…
“Where will I bring them?” she asked with growing healthy grin.
“I don’t like how you sound.” He added quietly, observing her closely.
“I just agreed to repair your trousers! That’s the thanks I get? You can take them to your mama if you don’t want it!”
His eyes turned ice cold and he walked away without another word. She understood immediately she had forced some pretty thick boundaries and her last words did more damage than the missing pocket.
She did the repairs, but without the flower and returned the pair an hour later. It wasn’t hard to find where they lived, as there only were three houses vacant in the beginning of summer. Plus he had already started with roof work and could be seen far from the top. His friend helped him by carrying up the materials.
He had bought the house only a month earlier. After six years of vacation-less work, which drove his family crazy, he had finally taken the step and bought himself a summerhouse. He planned to stay there for the whole summer, he needed change. Change that would break his bonds to his family he wasn’t interested of knowing.
He saw her approach, but did like he hadn’t noticed even when his brother poked him and brought his attention to it. She was checking the patch.
“What is she doing with your trousers?”
He blushed. “She’s repairing them.” He said coldly and continued working.
“Her kid tore them, she repairs them. Simple.”
“That’s not her kid, Tomas.”
“But she was responsible for her at that time.” He said rigidly. He pulled himself up and watched her walking before putting the hammer away and climbing down the ladder.
“Takes an island to bring up a kid, Tomas.”
She stopped and waited, pants neatly cradling in her lap.
“Hi.” She came to offer peace and she made sure her voice carried the message. “Sorry what I said earlier. About your mom.” She apologized without delay and gave him a curt smile.
He didn’t say a word, only nodded. Valery was seriously thinking now they might be the giants Jasper talked about – dumb as an ax and big like mountains.
“I see you’ve started with repairs.” She said after silent pause, while his brother came down the ladder too.
“Yes. Roofs don’t usually wait.” He drawled awkwardly.
“You have plenty of time,” she introduced them the local weather, “it will probably rain again in ten days, it’s unlikely to rain any earlier.”
“Hi, I’m Reed.” The skinny one introduced himself. “That’s Tomas. We’re the Bradenton brothers!”
The joke was flushed down by the embarrassment long before it got through and he disappeared back to the house, preventing what might happen next if he stayed next to his brother a second longer.
“Your trousers.” She said coughing harshly and returned the pair to its owner before walking fast only in one direction.
“She’s rude.” He heard Reed only a second later.
“In what way?” he had hard time believing that.
“She didn’t tell us her name.”
Indeed, he suddenly realized, she hadn’t done it indeed.