“Y-yes,” Elmi replied uncomfortably. Celeste put her hand closer to Elmi’s face. No. Don’t please, not the cheek! Elmi thought suddenly. PINCH! Uh, why do all old ladies go for the cheek? Then, she went on pinching everyone’s cheek, even her husband and he didn’t seem to enjoy it.
“Yup, it’s the same little gals,” He smiled. “Aww you little peeps made history!” squealed Celeste, giving another round of pinches with her wrinkly fingers. Her face melted into a concerned frown. “Are you lost?” she asked.
“Well, yes,” Elmi answered. “We came here by boat,” Annabel explained. “But a rush of water caught us a spun us far into the sea,” continued Kaylin. “We really need a place to stay until we can get back to Kenol,” Della added.
“I bet we can fix something!” Gery pronounced enthusiastically.
“Well, I’d better get you some supper, it’s already what? 9:27 p.m.! That is late for you little peeps!” Celeste pointed out, rushing around the little wooden island in their kitchen. She picked up a blue, old-fashioned kettle from the counter and placed it on the small stove.
Meanwhile, Grey showed them to their room. There was only one bed, so Kaylin and Della would sleep there. (“It was our daughter's old room,” Grey explained. “Our son’s room is full of all their childhood and teenager stuff.”) Elmi and Annabel would sleep on sleeping bags on the floor. As they continued to explore the wooden walls of Grey and Celeste’s house, it came to them that everything was quite wooden and cramped here. There was not a lot of space to believe that two parents and two kids had lived here. Hmm. Everything is made of stained wood or lesser, just wood! Kaylin remarked inwardly.
They were just about done rounding the small house for the third time, when they heard Celeste call for dinner. They sat down at the not surprisingly wooden table and looked over into the serving dish. There was some type of warm, beige pudding thing with speckles of veggies sprinkled in it. It looked like unappetizing, finely ground oatmeal. Celeste distributed out the slop with a tall, wooden ladle. It smelt like eggs, fish, and wet bread. “It’s tuna meal!” Celeste announced proudly.
Grey gobbled it up happily, but Kaylin let it slowly slide off her spoon, splatting it into her bowl. Must be an acquired taste! Kaylin thought roughly. She eyed Annabel and Elmi, slowly eating it, trying very hard to enjoy it.
After turning away some chocolate, beef pudding, the girls were off to bed. Grey had lent them some of his children’s old pyjamas. They were all quite uncomfortable, the sleeping bag really was quite too thin and the bed’s mattress was made of stale beans in a thick bag. They would not have the gut to complain, but not the cushion to sleep easily.
Della was whispering for Bear quietly, she couldn’t sleep. “Della?” Elmi asked. “You okay?” “Maybe,” Della whimpered. The others shuffled. They were not asleep yet either. “It’ll be fine, we have some nice people helping us, and-” Annabel stopped to the sound of crying. Kayling and Della were sobbing and hugging each other. “Shh,” Annabel whispered. Elmi heaved a long sigh, and they settled into a hard sleep.
Breakfast was no more enjoyable than dinner. It was some more of Celeste’s worse than mediocre cooking. “Basil bread pudding” is what she calls it. It’s just mushed up bread thrown in a salty custard with too much basil all over it. It was even cooked far too less than golden brown. She claimed it was “healthy.” Whatever that means. Thought Kaylin.
“Mmm,” grumbled Celeste, looking out the window. The air hung with mist, it was so foggy outside you couldn’t see a tree on the other side of the clearing. “It’s gardening day, I don’t really want to go out in this.
“Well, kids,” Grey said. “You can go play in the playroom upstairs while we get the gardening stuff ready. Then, you can come tend to our monthly-taken-care-of garden.” They agreed and ran upstairs.
The playroom was a calm blue colour, two untidy shelves of puzzles and activity books really set the theme. What was most characteristic about the playroom was the many posters lining the walls. Many had useless quotes and pictures on them. Some read: “A water is never boiled until it starts boiling.” -Condon Harsh and “Brown horses fly in many directions.” -The Stable News.
Della selected a jungle puzzle from one of the shelves and Kaylin handed it down to her. “Whoa! 100 pieces!” Della yelled. “Only one hundred pieces?” Asked Annabel, pushing her glasses up on her nose.
“Cut us some slack, Anna,” Elmi told her. “We’re not smart Brian-Os like you are.” Annabel rolled her eyes and flicked back her black hair. Soon, they had the puzzle all in a heap on the floor. Kaylin arranged the corners. “Okay, now we fill in the-” BRIIING! That was a recognizable sound. “The fire alarm!” Annabel breathed, panicking. BRIIING!
Annabel felt the doorknob, and they piled downstairs. They rushed to the back door, which obviously hadn’t been used recently because vines and foliage were covering the exit. BRIIING! They turned around with haste, knocking a spoon off the counter. Smoke was filling the wooden ceiling. They spotted an open window before they got to the front door. “Get out!” Elmi shouted. BRIIING! First Della, then Kaylin and Annabel and Elmi.
They stood there, coughing for a moment, then ran around the house to the front door. A muffled Briiing was heard from inside. “Out of my way!” Grey bellowed, running straight for the closed front door. He must have been farther in the forest. Elmi shoved the others back and opened the entrance just as Grey shot in, holding a large bucket of water. Briiing!
Expecting a collision, Grey dived for the unexpectedly open door, falling on the floor right where the fire was. He muffled it a bit with his coat, and sogged it with a splash of water. Phew. The alarm stopped.
Suddenly, from the back of the rock in behind the house came Celeste, happily humming a tune and holding a bucket of gardening supplies. When she saw Grey on the floor in a puddle of water, and the cubs looking out of breath, she stopped in her tracks. “Ugh… What did I miss?”