“Hey, guess what?” I burst into the kitchen where Miles was preparing lunch.
Miles put down his ladle. He cocked his head and furrowed his brow, taking in the ear-to-ear smile I wore. “Your characters found their way back into your manuscripts?” His voice was full of hope.
“Nice try, but no.” My smile stretched a little further. “I just got an e-mail from my cousin Debi. She wants to know if she and her grandkids can come for a visit this fall!”
Miles mirrored my smile. “Well, that’s wonderful! Can’t wait to meet them.” Without a second’s pause, he continued, “What about your characters? How will you keep Debi and the kids from finding out about them?”
I could feel my face crumple and my shoulders slump. I felt like a deflated balloon. “Oh, no! I never thought about that! What should I do?”
Miles picked up his ladle again and stirred the soup. “We’re going to have to think about this.”
“Wot be ye thinkin’ aboot?” My Old Dwarf marched into the kitchen and scooted over to the stove. He sniffed at the soup Miles was preparing. “Mmmmmmmmm. Creamy wild rice soup! Do ye be rememberin’ tha carrots an’ tha corn?” He picked up the pepper mill.
“It has enough pepper, thankyouverymuch!” Miles plucked the mill from the old reprobate’s hands. “And yes, I remembered the carrots and corn. Also, the onions, celery, mushrooms, thyme, marjoram, sage and rosemary. Anything else you want to know?” He scowled at the rotund figure, who ducked his head.
“I be thinkin’ I jes be roundin’ up tha rest o tha gang now. I be lettin’ ’em all be knowin’ thet ye soon be ready ta be servin’ up tha mid-day vittles.” My Old Dwarf made a hasty retreat, his armor rattling as his heavy footsteps pounded down the stairs.
“Oh, yeah, I can just see trying to explain that one . . . or any of them . . . to your cousin and the kiddos.” Miles pursed his lips and shook his head.
“Well, I can’t ask Debi not to come!” I chewed on my lower lip as I thought. “Why can’t we just have all my characters dress in regular clothes and tell them they must behave for the duration of Debi’s visit? We have taken them out in public before, and the neighbors have all seen them. My characters do know how to behave.”
Miles gaped at me. “Yes, we have taken them out in public. But know how to behave? I think not! I can remember once you had to all but drag them on a walk with you so you could keep an eye on them because as soon as your back was turned, your Old Dwarf, your Bounty Hunter, and your Arrogant One were back in their medieval apparel, weapons drawn, ready to engage in a melee. Your Foreman, your Gypsy, and your Young Hero were also in their traditional attire, astride their horses, preparing to joust.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/lost/
I started to sputter that Dragon had cast a spell of concealment on them, but Miles held up his hand. “And you are correct, our neighbors have seen them. As have the local sheriff’s deputies. Or do I need to remind you of the incident in the park after you allowed your characters to join the neighborhood festivities?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/solutions-or-more-problems/
My husband raised his hand again, cutting me off as I made another attempt at a reply. “And I know of several repair technicians who might not agree that your characters are well-behaved.” Miles gave me a knowing look. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/the-case-of-the-missing-tools/
I raised my hands in surrender. “Okay, okay. I agree there have been problems in the past. But this just has to work out. I can’t remember the last time I saw Debi, and I don’t think I’ve ever met any of her grandkids. I really want this visit to happen!”
Miles sighed. “Well, you said she wants to come this fall. We have a few months to figure out how to make it work. For now, let’s just get your gang in here and have lunch.”
I nodded. “Okay, but this is going to affect us all. I think I should tell them right away. The sooner we put them on notice, the longer I have to drum it into their skulls that they must be on their best behavior around my relatives.”
Miles quirked an eyebrow at me. “I think that might be a mistake, but it’s your decision. They’re your characters.”
* * *
“Are you sure?” The dragon frowned at her diminutive companion.
“Eh, I be knowin’ wot I been hearin’.” The dwarf thumped his armored chest for emphasis. “When I firs’ been goin’ ta tha kitchen ta be checkin’ on tha vittles, tha lass an’ ’er mister been sayin’ they be needin’ ta be thinkin’ on summat. So’s when I been leavin’ I been sneakin’ back ta be findin’ oot jes wot they be havin’ ta be thinkin’ aboot.”
The other companions crowded around to hear.
“So, what is this earthshaking information you have discovered?” The arrogant elf sneered.
“Tha lass been tellin’ ’er mister thet one o ’er kinfolk be plannin’ a visit in tha fall.” The rotund figure looked around, making sure he had everyone’s attention. “It be ’er cuzin, a lass by tha name o Debi.”
“Debi?” The foreman turned pale as a ghost.
“Aye, Debi.” The dwarf nodded. “Dinna thet been tha name o one o tha readers wot been showed up here one night a few years past, tha ones wot been lookin’ fer answers aboot tha keys?”
“Yes.” The cleric chewed her lower lip. “It was Debi, Arlene, Susan, Mary, and Dawn.”
The young hero swallowed hard. “Do you think it is the same woman?”
The gypsy shrugged. “She never identified herself as one of Mistress Writer’s relatives. In fact, none of the five acted as if they had ever met Mistress Writer.”
The sorceress shuddered. “It’s a good thing they were never here.”
“And if Mistress Writer ever finds out anything to the contrary, we will wish we had never been here!” The dragon was sweating, quite a feat for a scaly creature who thrived on fire and heat.
“She already knows, remember?” The cleric started pacing.
“She knows there were visitors here once, asking about the keys, but I do not believe we ever identified those people. Mistress will not be aware that her cousin is possibly one of those visitors.” The bounty hunter’s argument seemed quite logical.
“So, we are in the clear with Mistress Writer, as long as we never let her know her cousin may have been here once. But this cousin Debi, if she is the one who was here, must not know.” The dragon was adamant on that point.
“But what if this Debi is the one who was here, and she does remember?” The cleric wrung her hands.
“They were never here.” The sorceress repeated herself as if reciting a mantra. “She will not remember, because they were never here.”
“But what if she does remember?” The cleric looked as if her knees were going to buckle.
“They were never here.” The sorceress repeated, again. “They were never here.”
“Eh, this cuzin jes might be rememberin’ how she dinna e’er been here.” The dwarf raised an eyebrow at his companions, who turned an even paler shade of white.
“Well, you said she wants to come this fall.” The dragon stroked her chin thoughtfully. “We have a few months to figure out how to proceed. For now, we must try our best to remember exactly what happened, and what part we played in it all.”
“We had best get upstairs for lunch, before Mistress Writer becomes suspicious.” The young hero headed for the stairs, his companions following nervously behind.
* * *
Lunch seemed unusually quiet to me. There was no loud chatter around the table, and my Old Dwarf was the only one of my characters not picking at the food. Miles and I exchanged questioning looks.
“Something bothering you guys?” I furrowed my brow in concern.
A quick chorus of denials came from every corner of the table.
“Why isn’t anyone eating, then?” Miles looked upset. “I thought everyone liked this soup.”
A quick chorus of assurances came from my band of misplaced characters.
I shrugged. “Well, I have some news. This fall, we might be having company. My cousin Debi . . .”
Before I could get any further, Cleric keeled over, falling off her chair in a dead faint.
Will my characters reveal to me the identities of the five readers who visited several years ago? Will cousin Debi and the kiddos have an uneventful visit this fall, or will chaos reign? You’ll have to wait a few months to find out. But in the interim, keep coming back for more of the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll be sure to leave the porch light on for you!