By the time they had finished enjoying the small swimming beach at the northwest of the island, it was late in the evening. It had been later than they expected it to be, but neither of them minded. They’d purposely left their phones in the house. No need for time, when you’re on vacation. But as it was already late, they took their time to get back, taking a long walk through the village to get familiar with it.
The village itself wasn’t big. It had about quarter of a hundred houses, with few way off on more isolated part with a small forest. None of the houses had fences. Tomas brought it out after they’d gone past half of the houses. There were apple trees and pears, some plums and even bushes with currants and gooseberries growing near buildings, but as far as separating the gardens, there was nothing. Even roads seemed to pass the houses right under the windows and many of the doors opened straight on the street. Only very few had bigger grass fields on front of their porches and few ornamental bushes that provided more privacy. They guesses those belonged to the locals.
They expected the Drasan to be a quiet place with crickets being the loudest they’d have here, or birds, but instead the village was live with people’s emotions, talking and laughing. The sunset had already began and most houses were casting shadows over the porches, which were lit up with fairy lights and glow in the dark stones edging the pathways to the houses had small bugs searching the last of lights, their wings glittering. There were many white blooms next to the steps which seemed especially impressive in those lights while the warmth of the lights themselves began to give out soft mist that joined the smoky rims slowly rising up from the edges of the village.
“I feel like I’m in a weird fairyland.” Tomas whispered, watching the ripples of mist forming on the warm ground while the cooling air pushed it further inland from the sea.
“And we’re the monsters sneaking in?” Reed couldn’t help the irony of it all – two giants watching in from the windows, unnoticed. “All missing here is some epic choir lamenting for the good old times.”
Answering his request a pair of crickets began their nightly serenade. Reed listened his brother chuckle and adjust the striped towel tossed over his shoulders. They hadn’t bothered with t-shirts, but looking around now, most of the men ran around just as they did, half naked with no concern on their faces.
The continued walking, following the small roads until they noticed another tiny line stomped in high grass with blue bells and daisies hidden among the grassy patch. Most of the middle of Drasan was covered in low chamomile, but here the tall grasses were shackled by bindweed, creating an odd sense of gates marking a passage between two red houses. They followed it silently, Reed first and then Tomas. Less than a minute later Reed stopped abruptly, nearly pulling Tomas over.
“What is it?”
“Green house.” He said grimly.
Tomas peaked around him. There it was indeed – a small house painted in most outrageous tone of green. The yellow edges really stood out, just like the woman had said, even in the beginning of dusk. It was nothing like they imagined. When theirs was classical summer house, its architecture typical to the village, then this was like two rooms separated with a small open kitchen in between, which was nothing more than spacious terrace with two large doors pushed on the sides of the house, waiting to be closed in case of bad weather.
There was a big round table right in the middle with warm skylight shining on top of it. Meredith was sitting behind it, her small body hardly big enough to reach over the edge while sitting on the large chair, her arms flat on the surface while she checked something in front of her while she diligently copied it on the paper in front of her. Valerie appeared a second later, setting two cups on the table while going back behind the wall and returning with steaming kettle.
Reed was planted on his spot and it took Tomas several nudges to get his attention.
“Come on.” Tomas pulled his bangle gently. He went around his brother and started walking towards the house and let Reed have a breather to gather up his courage.
When Tomas was five steps ahead, he had to follow or it would have looked odd to others. Reed hated how easily Tomas had forced his hands. They could have easily sneaked away without ever being seen, yet Tomas had to be direct in everything. Of course, to him, she was yet another convenient conquest. Maybe it was too late to visit? She’d frown to that for sure, or give them another paper with more rules. Uptight.
“R…” Meredith mumbled, sounding the letter she was busy painting. “I… Ghhh… TH!”
Valerie checked the paper and nodded while filling the cups and disappearing behind the wall.
“Hi!” Tomas made sure he was seen before he waved, scaring the little girl stiff. “Are we interrupting?”
“No, not at all.”
There was nothing in her voice to indicate any discomfort over their earlier encounter. She checked their outfits and smiled, her eyes stopping on their still damp hair. They both had used their fingers to comb the hair back over their head. Reed knew his short blond bangs hardly looked as impressive as Tomas shoulder length darker shade, but her eyes stopped longer on him instead.
“Two warm teas coming up.” She smiled, when her eyes declined and her cheeks turned light shade of pink when she knew she’d been caught staring.
“Sit down, we’re writing a letter to Meredith’s mom.”
“Thank you!” Tomas climbed up the few steps with Reed on toe.
That jolted Meredith back to life and she hissed, pleadingly trying to get her attention while she searched her cupboards for another set while her eyes never left Tomas, who tried the mildest face he could muster. Reed hid a grin, questioning his brother’s sanity. Then he realized his grin would look like wolf’s snarling to the girl.
“Valerie!” she stage-whispered and the woman spun around.
“Don’t tell them about mom!”
Valerie’s eyebrows arched, then her eyes returned on the brothers and she let out one very unladylike snort. The whimpering behind the table was almost too much.
“They might eat her if they know where to find her!” she shouted, hitting her little fists hard against the wood.
Tomas had the audacity to look hurt before he glanced at Reed, who was still standing behind him. “Try looking a bit friendlier, would you?” He asked, nudging his head towards the girl, who was on verge of huge cry marathon.
Reed wanted to cry himself, or at least swear aloud.
“For Pete’s sake!” he mumbled. With a sigh he passed Tomas and knelt next to Meredith, scratching his nose and looking her straight in her eyes. “Sorry, girl, but we only eat chicken in stews and roasted pigs.”
Tomas was coughing. And he was frowning, because he was confused. The girl sounded disappointed!
“I can make chicken drumsticks!” she announced a moment later and Reed was lost on how to comment that.
“That’s… nice!” he nodded after an awkward silence and rose to his feet, backing into a chair right next to him. He grabbed it to prevent it from falling and sat there instead. Tomas sat on the opposite to him and after Valerie had filled the other two cups, sat between them, opposite to Meredith.
“So, you’re writing a letter?” Tomas asked, thanking her for the tea. He received his next.
“Looks to me, you’ve got everything down already.”
“We did,” Valerie nodded, “she told me what she wanted to say and I wrote it down. Now she copies it correctly over to her postcard.”
Reed assessed the girl next to her with new sight. “How old are you?” He asked.
“How old are YOU?” Meredith demanded back, concentrating on her C.
Her pen wavered a bit and she spied him suspiciously. “I thought you were younger!” she announced without hesitation.
Can you even count to that number, he asked himself, but didn’t say it, guessing it would be too strange.
“I’m six.” She said, reading an A and pressing on the pen again, wrote it from the long list of letters yet to come.
He sent a help-me glance at Tomas, but both him and Valerie were grinning at him as if he was doing marvelous job getting aquainted with island’s very own pick pocketer entrepreneur.
“Keep going!” Tomas mouthed and his shoulders slumped. He had no intentions to help!
“I thought you were younger too.” Valerie added thoughtfully and his eyes hopped on her.
“How’s so?” he asked without thinking. Damn, he had to get his mouth under control. Each time he saw her, he was bound to let out something he’d regret later. He couldn’t help it, seeing the two sitting side by side made his blood boil.
Her brows furrowed. “Might be your tongue.” She didn’t miss a beat and Reed gritted his teeth. He wasn’t here to start a war – Tomas deserved better relations.
“Too plump and perfect pink?” he asked and watched his brother roll his eyes in desperation. The moment Valerie checked the target of his gaze, he was back to his stoic self.
Not funny, he read from her tired expression. He couldn’t keep from staring. God, what would he give to hear her laugh over his jokes too.