Enar sat down next to Amanda with the red red hair. He didn't say anything. She didn't say anything. The silence grew.
“So,” said Enar. “Do you come here often?” He groaned inwardly. Real smooth there Enar.
“No, not at all.” She stopped and pulled a straw of grass from the ground. “I love it when I do come here though. Just sitting here for a while always makes me feel better.” She sighed and stared out over the landscape, twisting the straw between her fingers. “This view is amazing, isn't it?“
“Yes.” He nodded and followed her gaze into the distance. Somewhere out there, across hills and streams and forests, lay the burrow where he'd woken up this morning. He'd come a long way. “I was wondering why they wanted to send me all the way over here – to some tree on a hill so far away I could barely even see it, but I understand now.” Enar thought for a moment. “I'm surprised there isn't a whole lot of people here. Maybe they try to keep it quiet? So the place doesn't get crowded? Kind of like that shrine and gardens I heard about. It's not really secret, they just don't tell anyone about it.”
Amanda looked at him and frowned. She thought for a moment. “You're probably right. I think they're happy with the amount of tourists they get here. If they advertised Anna rested here there would be so many more. It wouldn't be the same.”
“I promise I won't tell anyone. Don't worry. You can trust me.”
She tilted her head and turned to look at him, not bothering to brush her hair out of the way of her eyes. “Like you could be trusted not to take any pictures?”
“Hey.” His face grew warm. “I said I'm sorry – and it's not the same anyway.”
“I'm kidding, I'm kidding.” Amanda giggled. “How did you find your way up here anyway. They drew you a map or something?”
“No, my buddy came along to show me the way.” Enar sat up a little straighter, puffing out his chest. “Name of Bolvar, he's a wolf hound you know.”
“What, you had Bolvar guide you? Where is he?”
“You know him?” His shoulder's sank. “He's sleeping over there.” Enar pointed over to where to dog lay, quiet now.
“Oh, I thought that was a pile of dirt someone had dug up.” She stood up, tiptoed over to where Bolvar slept and knelt beside him. “Poor thing, he must be really tired, sleeping through all the noise you made. You must have worked him hard?”
“Hey, you made noise too.” He'd probably made more noise, but that was beside the point. “And I didn't do anything. He's probably just tired from the walk. It took us a few hours to get here.”
Amanda rose and came back to the bench and sat down. “He's from Hyardum, isn't he? Stays with Rufus, right? You didn't walk all the way from there though, did you?”
“As a matter of fact, we did.” Enar sat a little straighter again. “Got up really early and walked most of the day actually. We just arrived a few minutes before you showed up.”
“Really?” She looked him up and down. “That's quite impressive. You don't look the type for long hikes.”
“Hey. You calling me fat!” Enar put on his best indignant face and tried to look insulted. “You... you sheep. I'll kick you down the hill.”
Amanda laughed and slapped at him. Giggling, Enar raised his arms in defense.
“Hah, I guess I walked into that one,” she said and smiled. “It really is quite a walk though. Most city people aren't quite used to that kind of exercise.”
“No, I know, and you're right. I could do with dropping some dead weight.” He sighed. “Maybe the fresh air and all the walking will get me started though. I was thinking I should try and join a gym or something once I get back home.”
“Aww, you're not that bad Enar. A man's supposed to be a little round. It means he's respectable you know.”
“Well, then I'm very respectable.” He laughed and looked over to where the dog slept. “You never told me how you knew Bolvar. You've met him before I take it?”
“Well, I know of him. I haven't seen him for years, but he's really well know around here. He's supposed to be the best guide dog in generations. Your host is really pulling out all the stops to make sure you have a good time. You're a lucky guy Enar.”
He thought about it for a moment. “I guess I am. They've been real nice to me ever since I arrived, but I thought that was just local hospitality.”
“Well, yes, hospitality is important so there might be that.” She grinned at him. “Or they're just trying to out-do their neighbors. That's important too – if you know what I mean.”
“Really? Here too?” He looked at her with raised eyebrows. “I thought that was just a city thing?”
“Well, who knows? It could be they're just really nice of course.” Amanda shrugged. “You're enjoying it out here then? You've come before?
“No, this is my first time, but it's been really great so far. Yesterday I got to take part in the Restday meal outside the inn back in Hyardum. It's supposedly a really local tradition that they don't do anywhere else. Then we all had our afternoon naps under those great big oaks they have in the field there.”
“Oh,” said Amanda and looked away. “That's nice...”
“Yeah, and I met this really pretty girl who work at the inn. She was really nice and we napped on the same blanket. I'm going to be helping out with something at the inn the day after tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get to meet her again.”
“Yeah, well, that's nice...” Amanda shrugged and turned to face him with a smile. “Do you want me to take a picture of you?”
Enar stared at her. “A picture? You'd do that?” He remembered himself and slammed his mouth shut. “I thought you weren't allowed to do that out here?”
“Who cares?” She waved his objections away and stood up. “No one's going to find out and I don't think Anna really minds one way or another. Give me your phone and I'll take a picture of you.” Amanda reached out her hand, waiting for him to hand it over.
“Are you sure?” Enar looked around, but saw no one else. Even the sheep were keeping their distance. He dug in his pocket, unlocked the phone and handed it over. “Do you know how to use it? You look at the screen and press the little symbol that looks like a camera and it saves the picture.”
Amanda laughed. “Shush, silly. I know how to use a camera phone. I've got my own one at home.” She backed away a few steps and grinned at him. “I just don't bring it where I'm not meant to use it.”
Enar heaved an exaggerated sigh but said nothing. He crossed his arms, tilted his head and gave her the serious, disapproving stare. Amanda giggled.
“Perfect. Hold still.” She held up the camera. “There. Now everyone can see what a great time you're having on your vacation and how happy you are.” She skipped back to the bench and, sitting down, she handed him the phone back.
Enar glanced at the picture. He looked horrible as usual. “Thanks. Very respectable.” The phone went back into the pocket. “I thought you were a local girl... lass,” he corrected himself and grinned at her. “Are you here touristing too?”
“No, I'm just visiting old relatives. Normally I live in Got.”
“Okay, I see, and then you decided to come up here for some peace and quiet. Are you staying nearby then?”
“No, I'm at my grandparent's place, way east of here.” She waved a hand, indicating a direction that could be pretty much anywhere to their right. “I like to drive the horse and cart though, so I do that a lot when I'm here. Today there were some monks that needed a ride to Hemvid, just south of here, and then I decided to stop by on the way back.”
“Oh, I get it now.” Enar shone up. “You're that Amanda – the Storvak Girl, right?”
Amanda frowned at him. “Yes...”
“Yeah, I didn't recognize you without the hat. I saw you when you came by Hyardum yesterday, outside the inn you know. You had some monks on the cart then too.”
“I see...” Amanda sighed. “Yes, that was me.”
“I'm so sorry. I heard about what happened. It must be... I mean...” He stopped himself.
Amanda didn't look at him. Her head hung low and she stared at something in the grass in front of her. Enar swallowed and waited, but she made no move and didn't say anything.
He cleared his throat. “I'm sorry. You probably don't want to talk about it? I'm sure you don't want to be reminded about all that here in a place like this.” He brushed some dirt from his jeans and didn't look at her. “I'm really sorry.”
“No, it's okay. You didn't know.” Amanda looked up and then turned to Enar with what was probably meant to be a smile. “But, maybe we could talk about something else instead? Why don't you tell me about yourself? It's only fair if you know all about me already.”
“Oh, I'm sure there's a lot more to you than that, right?” He smiled his most charming smile.
“Hah. Nice try mister.” She chuckled. “Now. What do you do for a living. Spill it.”
“Well, that's pretty dull really. I'm working as an archivist at the police in Kul Viller.”
“Aww, that can't be so bad? I bet you've got access to all kinds of exciting information about unsolved crimes and things.”
“No, not really.” Enar shrugged. “I used to be with Public Order, and then you could get reports about famous people getting drunk and being a nuisance and such, but I got promoted to Shams and that's all just really dull, boring, stuff.”
Amanda perked up. “You're with the Shams? I have a friend from KV who's a shaman and I think she used to be in the Shams – Neta. Do you know if she's still there? I haven't seen her for ages.”
“Neta?” Enar nodded. “Yeah, I know her. She's still around. She even got promoted recently. How do you know her?”
“Oh, we go way back me and Neta, way back.” Amanda leaned back and looked up into the tree with a big grin on her face. “She'll kill me if I tell anyone. Absolutely kill me.” She turned back to Enar, clasped her hands across her lap and, still smiling, continued to interview him. “What else do you do? Do you have any hobbies? A garden?”
Enar sighed. “No, nothing... Not really.” He should though. It'd keep him active. Once he got back home he'd think of something; maybe join a park. “I haven't really had the time for anything. I spent all my free time with my mother.”
“Really? Aren't you old enough to take care of yourself?” Amanda grinned at him.
“Well, my mom... she had cancer and, well...” It was Enar's turn to look away and stare at the hills in the distance. “I haven't had time for much else.”
Amanda's face fell and she put a hand up to cover her mouth. “I'm so sorry,” she whispered.
“It's okay. She rests now.”
“Yes. Yes she does.” Amanda hurried to say. She sat silent for a while, chewing on her lip. “It's hard to be left behind though. Do you have anyone else around? A wife?”
He waited a bit before he answered. “No... I'm single.” His voice didn't quite crack. “I... I haven't had the time... It's just me. I'll try and get out some more once I get back home. Maybe I'll meet someone.”
“Really? I'm sorry to hear that. No other family?”
“Well, there's my mother's brother but he lives in Got so I don't see him very often.”
Amanda put a hand on his arm and smiled at him. “You should go visit him. It's good to see your relatives now and then. It'll make you feel less lonely. He probably misses his sister too and will be happy to see you.”
“Yes, I know. I should. There just hasn't really been a good time since, well, you know...”
“Come on. You should totally go visit him.” Amanda shone up, all gleaming white teeth and sparkling bright eyes. “I know – I'll give you my number and we can meet up for a cup of coffee or something when you go there. We've got some really nice cafes around Old Locks and I know where the play good music if you want to go dancing. Lots of pretty girls there for you to meet.”
“Heh, thanks.” Enar blushed. “I'm not too into dancing. It's not my thing I think. I'm no good at it – coffee though, that I'm good at.
Amanda snorted. “Nonsense. Dancing isn't about being good, it's about enjoying the music.” She looked at him. “You do like music, don't you?”
Enar smiled. “Yes, I do, just not dancing. I like music. I used to be in the choir, both in school when I was little and then when I was at uni. It was good fun. Maybe I should try and pick that up again.”
“The choir.” Amanda clapped her hands together and sat up a little straighter. “Sing something for me.” She tilted her head, smiled and made her eyes real big. “Please.”
“No!” Out of the question. No way. He did not sing solo; puppy eyes or not.
“Aww, you're no fun.” She boxed him on the arm and smiled. “You should totally join a choir though. It's a great way to get to know people. You'll make some new friends and maybe you could meet a girl through that; a nice little soprano.”
They both laughed at that.
“You're right, one can hope.” Enar sighed. “I would like to meet someone; settle down and start a family you know – with a little wife of my own.” He looked at the horizon, a hazy grey and blue where the sky met the world. “A soprano.”
Amanda giggled. “I bet you'd make a great husband. You seem like the responsible and sensible type. I'm sure you'll make some lucky girl a good match.”
“Thanks.” Enar's face grew warm and his mouth twitched, threatening to break out into a foolish grin at any moment. “I'd like to think so too.”
“I'm sure of it.” She grabbed his shoulder and squeezed it. “You'll find someone. You'll see.”
Enar thought for a moment and then smiled. “I met this girl Jolene at the inn yesterday. She was very pretty and really nice. She even offered to share her pipe with me. I was hoping I'd get to see her and talk to her again.” Once more his cheeks heated up. He really did hope he'd get to meet Jolene again though.
“Jolene?” Amanda frowned. “I've met her – bit of a wild one. She's got spring blood you know.”
“Yeah, I heard about that. I'd like to try and get to know here a little better. We're doing some work at the inn later this week, maybe I'll see her then.”
Amanda hummed and nodded. “Yes... maybe...”
“Yeah. I was thinking already about how nice it is here. I was thinking maybe I could get me a little hillside burrow of my own somewhere and move out here. That would be real nice wouldn't it? Then I thought maybe she and I, you know...” He blushed again; face growing hot enough to fry eggs on.
“Well...” Amanda hesitated. “Life here's a bit different to life in the city.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know.” Enar smiled and nodded in agreement. “It'll probably take some big adjustments. And then she's a girl of the hills and I'm a city guy. That's also bound to be tricky you know.”
“Yeah, it bears keeping in mind, but I should at least look into it. I mean, it could work, right? If you really want it to. It doesn't have to be like...” He looked over at Amanda and the smile fell off his face, like a dead bird out of a tree. “Oh my dear, I'm so sorry.”
“I...” Amanda took a deep breath and stood up. “I should go. Goodbye.” She turned away and started walking.
“Wait! Wait, please, I'm sorry!” Enar sprang to his feet and took two steps after her.
He wanted to grab hold of her and make her stay. He wanted to explain, to apologize, to make everything right again – like it had been a moment ago, when he was happy and she was smiling.
He let her go.
What was the point? He'd been thoughtless and cruel and he'd hurt her feelings. Sure, he hadn't meant to, but he'd done it anyway. Too late now. No explaining and apologizing would make that undone. He was a bad person; socially inept, thoughtless and stupid. Fat too.
Enar kicked at the grass and went and sat down on the bench again. The hills and the forests still lay before his feet like they'd done a minute ago, but they didn't impress him the same anymore. He'd have to walk all that way back again. All day it would take. All alone.
He'd quite like someone to talk to right now.
Continued in Day 3 - Scene 7 .
Back to Enar's Vacation.