Enar's belly growled.
“Oh, right. Food. Bolvar. Let's eat.”
The dog rose and came and sat by his feet, looking at him expectantly. Enar rummaged through the rucksack and produced two linen bags and the cup. The larger bag contained his bread roll sandwiches and the smaller Bolvar's slab of meat.
He unwrapped the meat and placed it, on top of the bag, on the bench beside him. Bolvar picked it up in his big jaws and carried it off to eat at his chosen spot. The tall grass nearly hid the beast, but did nothing to block out the noise of it eating. Enar listened for a bit to the growling and chomping of the dog tearing into the meat.
It hadn't been so bad after all. Sure, Bolvar was as big as a house, but he kept his distance – mostly. They'd had their disagreements, but they understood each other now. Enar stayed on the path and didn't take any pictures and Bolvar kept his distance and stayed quiet.
He'd quite like a dog like that, except maybe not that big, and perhaps not so willful. A dog like Pride would have been perfect for him. He could take her for a walk in the park back home. It would be a great way to meet girls.
Did Jolene like dogs? She probably did. People out here were hardy and tough. They didn't hold with this nonsense of being afraid of dogs. Of course she would like them.
Enar unwrapped his sandwiches and ate. Freshly baked bread with ham and cheese. He chewed in silence. Too bad Bolvar didn't like him taking pictures. He'd really like a photo of the view from here to show the guys back at the office. They'd be impressed he'd climbed all that way on his own. Fat little Enar they'd say, you wouldn't think it to look at him, not with those short legs.
It should be possible to see the orchard and the burrow back in Hyardum from here. The hill and the tree were clearly visible from the front porch so it made sense he'd be able to see back the same way. Then again, the big tree had looked like a mere dot in the distance. He wouldn't be able to make out the orchard even if he knew where to look – which he didn't. Somewhere to the north, the direction he already faced, was all he know. No way he'd be able to spot it. The hills all looked the same, round and covered in trees in various shades of green. He couldn't even make out which one was Lookout Hill, where he'd been yesterday.
It didn't really matter. He was here now and he'd seen the world and felt the presence of the tree and that was quite enough in itself. His thoughts drifted away, like thoughts sometimes do, to nowhere in particular. He let them. Work. Life. Mom. The future. The hills. His friends. Jolene. Dogs. The forest. Drinking water from streams. Wandering across the land. Riding the cart with old man Hasse. Apples. The sylph in the pump. Wind sprites.
Enar stopped himself and listened. He had no idea how much time had passed; surely not much. He'd lost track for a little bit was all – just a few minutes. He turned and looked up into the tree trying to catch a sign of movement. Much as he'd enjoyed seeing the wind sprites yesterday he didn't fancy being attacked again. There was only so much excitement he could handle.
But the tree didn't move and no hidden giggles reached him from among the leaves. He heard something else though; Bolvar snored.
The big dog had finished his meat and now slept, stretched out like a big furry log some lumberjack had felled. Maybe the beast wasn't so tough after all. Enar didn't know much about dogs, but if Bolvar was even half as old as Rufus had claimed, he'd be far older than any other dog Enar had ever heard of. No wonder he'd be tired then. The secrets of the hills or not, old dogs and people still got tired.
He looked at Bolvar for a bit. Not quite hidden in the grass its chest rose and fell in long, slow, breaths. He didn't seem so threatening now; a tired old beast resting after a long walk.
This was his chance. He put his hand in his pocket and touched the phone. Bolvar made no move he'd noticed. He didn't wake up. He didn't even change his breathing.
Enar stood up and took a few steps towards the dog. No reaction. He looked around to make sure he was alone on the hilltop, but didn't see anyone. Still, it wouldn't hurt to be on the safe side. Checking the slope on all sides he made a slow lap around the tree.
He saw no one. Even the sheep kept their distance and the shepherd, if there was one, must be fast asleep in the grass somewhere. He was safe.
Even so, he stepped up on the bench and stood with his back to the tree; making sure to be as out of sight as he possibly could. Probably overdoing it a little, but you never knew. Better safe than sorry. The tree didn't seem to mind.
He took a deep breath, looked around one last time and pulled the phone out of his pocket. So far so good. He turned it on and activated camera mode. Bolvar made no move. Enar looked out over the landscape. For all he knew the dog might wake up the moment he took the picture and then there would be no end to the barking and growling and there surely wouldn't be any more photos taken.
Maybe he shouldn't take a picture of the landscape. Maybe he should take a picture of Bolvar instead. People would have seen nice views before, but no one would believe a dog as big as a pony.
He held up the phone and aimed the lens at Bolvar. No. The scale wouldn't be right. You wouldn't be able to see how big he was without anything to compare with. He aimed out over the hills and the forest again. This was it; a nice wide angle – a panorama like nothing anyone had seen before. He glanced at Bolvar to make sure he still slept and then back at the camera again.
“I thought they asked you not to do that kind of thing out here?” said a woman, standing right by the tree just a few steps away.
Enar jumped. He hid the phone behind his back, took a step away from the woman and fell off the bench.
Someone had seen him. He'd been so careful and someone had seen him anyway. She'd be angry and yell at him. She'd tell on him and everyone would be disappointed and he'd have to leave in shame. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I didn't do anything.” His arm hurt.
“Are you okay?” The woman came around the bench and looked down at him where he'd fallen.
He stared at her, his mouth dry. With her mouth a little too wide and a nose like a potato her face wasn't much to look at. Her hair on the other hand – redder than autumn leaves, standing on all ends and half covering her eyes – was something else entirely. If it hadn't been for the faded white dress with little flowers on it she'd have fit right in with the punks outside the train station back home.
Enar swallowed. “I... I'm so sorry. Please don't be angry.” The words came out a whisper and he had to take another deep breath to make sure he would be heard over the pounding of his heart. “Please don't tell anyone.”
The woman laughed. “Who would I tell?” She pushed the hair out of her face and smiled at him. Her eyes curious and alert she didn't look too bad after all. “Are you okay? That looked like a bad fall.”
“Fall? Yes. Yes, I'm okay.” He sat up and flexed his arm. It hurt, but didn't seem broken. He'd probably know if he'd broken it. “You're not angry?” He looked up at her again.
“No.” She reached out a hand to help him up. “I'm not angry, but you should be more careful. A lot of people here take that kind of thing very seriously.”
“But I was...” He grabbed her hand and she pulled him to his feet. “I even walked around the entire tree to make sure no one would sneak up on me. I didn't see you.”
“But I saw you clearly? I even waved to let you know I was coming up your way.”
He stared at her. “No, I would have seen that. I'm sure. You're messing with me. I saw nothing but sheep.”
“Now now mister. I know I'm not the prettiest girl around, but if you call me a sheep again I'll kick you off the hill.” She grinned at him.
“I'm serious. I really didn't see you. I didn't mean to say you look like a sheep.”
The woman laughed. “Don't worry, I'm just kidding.” She smiled at him and turned to look up into the tree. “I believe you. Anna probably didn't want you to see me. She's always near in this place.”
“Anna?” Enar looked up among the branches but saw nothing but leaves and one of those red birds. It flew away a moment later. “What does she have to do with it? Why wouldn't she want me to see you? ”
She stared at him, her mouth dropping open. “You mean no one told you? This is one of Anna's resting spots.”
“Wow, really?” He looked at the bench and took a step away from it. He'd stood on it; waving a camera around like some silly tourist. Not that he wasn't, but still. “Are you sure? I didn't know that. You're messing with me again aren't you? They didn't say anything about it in the brochure.”
“So you did read it and you used the camera anyway.” She sighed. “You city folks. Perhaps Anna felt you needed someone to tell you off for being a naughty boy.”
“Err, yes, sorry about that.” Enar's face heated up. He stared at the ground and said in a small voice. “I didn't think anyone would notice. I didn't know. Is this really one of Anna's resting places?”
“Yes. Yes it is – can't you tell?” The woman spread her arms wide and spun around slowly, dancing through the grass. “Don't you feel how calm and peaceful it is here?”
Enar looked at her and smiled. Someone who danced like that couldn't be too angry. “Well, it is, but I didn't really think about it. I was just sitting around feeling good and enjoying the view. I thought it was just me being tired from the walk.”
“You're nice and warm though, aren't you? It's pleasant here, isn't it? Even though the wind blew real cold when you climbed up, right?”
“The wind...” He looked around. The grass barely moved and the leaves swayed gently back and forth. “You're right. I didn't think about that. It was pretty cold on the way up here.”
“See.” She laughed and stopped dancing. “...and the bench is nice and warm to sit on, despite being in the shade.”
Why hadn't he thought about that? “Yes. Yes, you're right. I didn't think about that either. How strange.” He blushed again. “I've never been to one of Her rests before. Do you know how old it is?”
“It's one of the really old ones they say. They say she created the bench and took a break on it after she'd created the three hill tribes here.”
“Oh, wow, I had no idea.” He stared at the bench again. “That's pretty special. No wonder they wanted me to come up here and have a look.” He turned to the woman and bowed his head to hear. “I'm glad you told me. I enjoyed sitting here already without knowing, but now I feel extra special.”
She laughed. “Well, I'm glad I could cheer you up after scaring you like that earlier.”
“Oh, don't worry about it, I'm sure I needed that.” He looked at the tree and the grass and the sky, trying to keep his face normal and relaxed and free from that embarrassing, self-conscious, smile. “If it's Anna's will it's probably just fair. Maybe she had a plan with it”
“A plan you say? Like teaching you some manners?
“What? Oh, well, yes, I guess.”
“So,” she said, dragging the word out real long. “...is it working? Stranger?”
Enar looked at her. “What? Oh...” He blushed again and hurried to say. “Please accept my apologies. My name is Enar. Enar Ryebloom. I'm terribly sorry. Would you care to enjoy this rest with me? Miss, mrs?”
“Name's Amanda, and I'd be happy to.” She smile at him and walked over to stand next to the bench. “I thought you'd never ask. Can we sit down now?”
“Sure thing, after you.” He bowed a little and extended his hand to indicate it was okay for her to take her seat; like an old fashioned, respectable, gentleman.
“Thank you.” Amanda giggled and sat down. She patted the seat next to her to let him know it was okay for him to join her. Then her cheeks reddened and she giggled again.
Continued in Day 3 - Scene 6 - Part 2.
Back to Enar's Vacation.