“Something is bothering you, Mistress?”
I looked up. Cleric was there, as she often was when I felt alone, confused, and angry. The concern in her soulful eyes touched me.
I nodded. “Yes. Something is bothering me.”
Cleric gestured toward the door. “It is a beautiful day out. Shall we retire to the deck to sip some refreshing lemonade and commune with nature?”
I was about to tell her I preferred keeping my own company that day, but then I reconsidered. “Yes, that sounds like a good idea. Why don’t we invite Dragon, Sorceress, and my Old Dwarf as well?”
Cleric furrowed her brow and stared at me. “If you wish. I will locate them, and we will meet you on the deck. We will bring the refreshments.”
Soon after, we were gathered on the deck. Cleric poured the lemonade and we all helped ourselves to cookies. Then we sat in silence, watching my Foreman and the lads work their illusory horses. My companions shifted uncomfortably and did not seem to know what to say.
My Old Dwarf was the first to break the silence, talking around a mouthful of cookies. “So’s, the holy lass be sayin’ thet summat be botherin’ ye.”
I nodded. “Do you remember me telling you about my friend, Ruth?”
The others nodded.
“She been an ol’ friend o yourn from back when ye been livin’ in thet udder place . . . New Jersey . . . an’ ye been runnin’ a stable where ye been keepin’ horsies fer udder people. Ruth been keepin’ ’er horsie wit ye, but then she been movin’ an’ ye dinna been keepin’ in touch much after thet.” My Old Dwarf tapped the side of his head. “I be rememberin’.”
“I remember as well.” Sorceress nodded. “If I recall correctly, a year or two ago, you discovered she was living near here when one of her relatives contacted you and asked you to visit her.” She sipped her lemonade as I nodded.
“Yes, that was two years ago. It was the first time I had seen Ruth in almost thirty-five years.” I sighed.
“That was not a pleasant visit for you, was it, Mistress?” Cleric gave me a sympathetic look.
I shook my head sadly. “No, not pleasant.”
My Old Dwarf nodded. “I be rememberin’ all right! Ye been all upset then by how she been. Ye been sayin’ thet she been robbed o ’erself by time. Ye been ta see ’er a few times since then, an’ each time, ye been just as upset.”
Dragon, in her form of a delicate maiden, tilted her head and stroked her chin. “I remember also. Had you not planned to see her again, right before this pandemic closed her facility to visitors?”
“Yes. I was supposed to go, but her niece called me and cancelled the visit.” I took a sip of my lemonade. “That was five months ago. The niece just called me this week to let me know the nursing home was allowing visitors again.”
Sorceress nodded. “You went to see her Wednesday, did you not? I recall you were not upset by this visit. You said it was a good day for Ruth.”
“The visit was remarkable. Ruth had some of her spunk back. There was a sparkle in her eye, and she sat a little straighter. And she remembered things! She talked and talked and talked about the things we used to do, the horses we owned, the places we rode, the auctions we attended.”
“That sounds like a lovely day, Mistress!” Cleric beamed.
“So’s why be ye so upset taday?” My Old Dwarf was still talking around a mouthful of food.
“Ruth’s niece called me this morning. Ruth passed away last night in her sleep.”
“Oh, Mistress, I am so sorry!” Cleric placed her hand on my shoulder while the others murmured their condolences.
“Thank you. I’m sad she’s gone, but glad she had a few good days at the end. When I saw Ruth this week, it seemed she was doing so much better and her niece told me Ruth had been doing well all week. She seemed stronger, more engaged, remembering things. She even started working on a crossword puzzle.” I sighed. “It seems so unfair that she’s gone now, just as she seemed to be a bit better.”
“Be ye writin’ summat aboot ’er agin, liken ye did afore?” The dwarf took another handful of cookies.
I wrinkled my brow and shook my head. “No, I don’t think so. I think the blog and the poem I wrote about her two years ago will stand as her tribute.”
I sighed again. “Rest in peace, my friend. Rest in peace.”
I hope you come back again next week to visit and see what’s happening with my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.