Copyright is held by the author.
IT WAS a very warm day and I’d started sweating under my suit jacket. The air conditioning in my Volkswagen Rabbit was broken and the sun was beating down on me relentlessly.
This morning, my boss, Mr. James Wolfe, had said to me, “Take these papers to her immediately, and make sure she signs all three copies. We need them back today.”
“Sure,” I said. “Just give me the address and I’ll be on my way.”
Who knew one young lady would be so difficult to track down. I’d been driving around the countryside for quite some time now. The GPS just kept spinning and telling me it was re-calculating. The roads were all starting to look alike. I’d passed Silverbell Drive twice already. Finally, I stumbled across Drury Lane and made a sharp right turn. I found the right house, but the landlady was so frazzled that I didn’t think she’d be any use in locating my client. She had so many children running around that she didn’t know what to do. Finally, with a dismissive wave of her arm, she managed to direct me vaguely towards a trail that led into the woods.
“She was headed that way the last I saw her,” she said as she ran after another child.
I figured that was all the help she was going to give me, so off I started down the path. I was definitely not wearing the right shoes for this. I was slipping all over the place in the mud from yesterday’s rain. I soon came upon a boy sitting on a stile, looking frantically about for something.
“Hey mister, I’ve lost some of my sheep and I don’t know where to find them. They’re supposed to be in the meadow, but there are two missing. Have you passed any on your way here?”
“No, sorry, I haven’t seen any sheep. I’m looking for the young woman who lives down the lane. Her landlady said I might find her this way. I don’t suppose you’ve seen anyone come by?”
“Nah, I fell asleep in that haystack over there and I haven’t seen anyone. Sorry mister, I gotta go. I’m going to be in big trouble with Old man McDonald if those sheep don’t show up. Holler if you find them, will ya?”
“OK, will do. Good luck.”
I heard a crackling of leaves and twigs ahead of me and hoped it wasn’t a wild animal. To my surprise, a young girl emerged from the path. She stopped suddenly when she noticed me standing in her way. She was wearing a red jacket and was carrying a basket over one arm. She had the most amazing auburn hair I’d ever seen. I was pretty sure my client was older than this girl appeared, but I asked anyway.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Are you Ms. Moffat?”
She looked at me nervously. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” she replied.
“Oh,” I said. “I quite understand. It’s just that I’ve been sent to find Ms. Abigail Moffat, to get her signature on some papers. My employer, Mr. James Wolfe, has been in touch already and if you are in fact, Ms. Moffat, then you’d be expecting me to show up.”
She studied me for a moment and then said, “My name is Rebecca Hood, but everyone calls me Red, ’cause of my hair. I don’t know any Mr. Wolfe, but I do know Miss Moffat. She’s sitting in that clearing behind me. Don’t sneak up on her!”
“Oh, I won’t! Thank you for your help. I was getting quite discouraged trying to locate her. By the way, have you seen any sheep? There was a little boy back there who’d lost a couple.”
“Was he dressed in blue jeans and a blue shirt, with a horn tied to his belt?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s him.”
Red made a snorting sound. “That’s Jack. He’s supposed to be keeping an eye on things but yesterday he didn’t close the gate properly and the cows got into the corn. He was too busy planting some beans that his brother told him would grow so high they’d reach the clouds. My grandmother said he’s not very smart sometimes and lives in a land of fairy tales. I’m on my way to see Gramma now. She’s been sick so my mom gave me this basket of goodies to take to her.”
With that, she turned and skipped past me. Very interesting people around here, I thought. I approached an opening in the trees and sure enough, there was a very attractive young lady who looked to be sitting on the ground. She was eating something out of a bowl. I was about to let her know I was there when I walked right into a spider web. I hastily wiped the sticky strands off my face.
“Excuse me. Are you Abigail Moffat?” I asked as I wiped the remnants of the web onto my pant leg.
She turned quickly in my direction and stood up. It was then that I noticed she wasn’t actually sitting on the ground. She was on a tuffet. She must have brought it with her, because you just don’t come across a tuffet in the middle of the woods.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Mr. Sicarius. I believe Mr. Wolfe told you I’d be dropping by today. You’re a hard person to track down!”
“Oh, Mr. Sicarius, yes I was expecting you. I thought you’d be here later today, so I came here to eat my lunch. I was just finishing my cottage cheese.”
I walked over and stood next to her. She was quite lovely with her blond hair catching the sunlight. Suddenly she jumped up, let out a screech and pointed toward my shoulder. I looked down and saw quite a large brown spider crawling along my collar. Damn spider webs, I thought. I quickly flicked the spider to the ground. When I looked back, Ms. Moffat was nowhere to be found.
“Ms. Moffat, where are you?”
“I’m over here,” she replied. “I hate spiders!”
I saw her peeking out from behind a tree. I pointed to the ground. “He’s gone now. Thank you for warning me. You can come out now. It’s quite safe.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m very sure. I’ve left the papers in my car. Perhaps we could go back together and I’ll get your signature. I’m sorry about the passing of your aunt. You must have been close to Mrs. Hubbard for her to have left you her house.”
“Well, I haven’t actually seen her for a while. She was a bit of a recluse. She became very forgetful toward the end and she didn’t like to leave the house. My brother lived nearby and would often take her food. He told me her poor dog, Bingo, was starving most of the time because the cupboard was virtually bare; not even a bone for him to gnaw on!”
On the way back, we came across Abigail’s friend. She was walking along with two sheep close on her heels. One was black and the other one’s fleece was white as snow.
“Oh Mary,” asked Abigail. “Are those Jack’s sheep? He’s been looking for them everywhere.”
“Why yes, I think they are. I’m just bringing them back to him. They seem quite attached to me. Everywhere I go, these lambs are sure to go!” We finally reached the car. Abigail waved at her landlady.
“Mercy! Abigail, I finally gave the children some broth and big slices of bread and kissed them all soundly and sent them to bed. I’m exhausted!”
“That sounds wonderful. You should go rest now, before they wake up!”
We got the papers signed and when I looked down at my ruined shoes, they suddenly didn’t seem to matter much. The fact that Ms. Moffat was single made me brave enough to ask for her cell phone number in case I needed to reach her for anything else.
Just before I climbed into my car, I reached down and picked a bunch of posies and handed them to her. As I drove toward the highway, I passed by Cockleshell Lane and found myself singing a rhyme from my childhood as I thought of Abigail’s smile.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.
Funny, I thought. Whatever made me think of nursery rhymes?