Upon Awakening at Riversleigh

I awaken slowly, my eyes trying to adjust to the light streaming through an opening in the curtains. I prop myself up on my elbows, realizing that I am no longer in the chair by the fireplace. Somehow, someone has placed me gently in my bed back in my old room at Riversleigh. I take a deep breath and slump back into my pillows, sinking deeper into the featherbed. Pulling my lovely faded old patchwork quilt up to my chin, I take a look around. My room is still the same as I left it, a fact that brings an even bigger smile to my face. Yes, I have literally awakened with a smile on my face. Of course, that always happens when I am in the manor. There is just something about it here that makes me smile, knowing that I am loved, respected, and oh so well-cared for here. Sibyl and her staff always seem to know exactly what I want and need, sometimes even before I do myself!

Continuing to look around, I see that, Colleen has indeed placed vases of freesia around my room. In fact, she has clearly been hard at work in my room for it does not look nor smell like a room that has been uninhabited for the last year. There is no dust covering everything as I might have expected; no musty smell lingering in the linens or the curtains. No, my room feels as fresh as it did the day I left it. There is a soft knock at the door and I open it to find Matron standing there, tray in hand. “I’ve brought your breakfast,”she says. “You’ll not want to dawdle. The ship won’t wait for you forever.” “The ship?” I ask. “I think you must be mixing me up with someone else Matron. I have come home to Riversleigh and Riversleigh is where I intend to stay. I’ll not be getting on any ships.” Colleen had slipped quietly into my room while we were talking, and she began bustling about, clearing away some invisible cobwebs and dust. A knowing smile passes between Matron and Colleen upon hearing my declaration that there is not to be an ocean voyage in my immediate future. “What do you two know? Am I to be let in on the secret?” I ask. “You will have the knowledge you seek,” Matron states. “when the time is right.” With that, she deftly opens up its folding rack and places the tray on it in one smooth movement. Another knowing smile passes between Matron and Colleen, and then they join arms and quickly head for the door. As they reach the threshold, they both pause and glance back at me over their shoulders. The two of them, in unison, burst into laughter and skip away down the hall.

I close the door behind them, shaking my head in confusion. I hear a tap-tap-tap. I look at the door, puzzled, for the sound does not seem to be coming from that direction. I remain still, silent, confused for what feels like several hours, but is truly only several seconds. Giving my head a firm shake (hoping to shake loose the cobwebs), I look around the room. Nothing appears to be out of place. Everything is still the same as ever….except for the addition of the tray Matron left behind for me. I go to the tray and lift away the protective covers over the food. There is a lovely fresh fruit salad (no strawberries though – thank you Ebony for remembering my allergy!), some moist, tasty looking muffins (lemon cranberry – my favourite), fresh squeezed tangerine juice (oh my! it has been years since I had any! such an indulgence!), and a perfectly soft-boiled egg with a slice of whole wheat toast. The only other thing on the tray is a copy of the Lemurian Times. I take a sip of the juice (not able to resist any longer!) and reach for the newspaper, having momentarily forgotten about the tapping sound.

As I pick up the Times, another, louder, more insistent tapping sound begins, “TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP!” Startled, I drop the newspaper to the floor and look about frantically, searching for the source of the sound. My stomach does a flip-flop as I realize the sound is coming from the window. “How could that be?” I wonder. “My room is on the top floor of Riversleigh Manor. No person could ever reach my window. At least, no living person could.” My stomach is now a mixture of earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, and tornadoes! I take a step towards the window. The tapping stops. I turn my back to the window and begin to walk away from it. The tapping begins again, even louder still. I put my hands over my ears in an attempt to shut out the noise but it is no use. It is like the sound is coming from right inside of me. I know there is only one way to make it stop. I take a step towards the window again. Pausing, I take a deep breath and make short distance of the rest of the way to the window. Steeling myself, I fling open the curtains and there, staring me right in the eye, is the blackest raven I have ever seen. She tips her head and motions toward the latch on the window. Obediently, I unlock the latch and swing open the window. I can see now, upon closer look, that the raven has a scroll grasped in her talons. She nods her head at me again. I take the scroll from her grip, untying the black silk ribbon and breaking the wax seal bearing L’Enchanteur’s insignia. The scroll contains an invitation, more a command performance actually, insisting that I join L’Enchanteur on her latest adventure, a TransLemurian voyage aboard the SS Vulcania. I am already protesting in my mind; after all, I just arrived back at Riversleigh and I was so looking forward to cocooning in my room, just hanging around the manor, writing, working on my art, and basically just living a nice quiet, gentle life. Surely, none of that will come about if I set off on a trip with L’Enchanteur! Then I notice a message, a “p.s.” really, below the engraved calligraphy, in L’Enchanteur’s own hand: “SHE” arrived on board yesterday. Five small words. That’s all it took. Behind me, I hear Matron’s voice saying with a chuckle, “I suppose it’s a good thing Colleen and I haven’t had the opportunity to unpack for you yet eh?” I smile knowingly at her.

Suddenly, I remember the newspaper. I had it in my hands and…..now what happened to it? Ah, that’s right. I dropped it when I heard the raven at the window, so it must be right here on the floor. I look around and spy this morning’s copy of the Lemurian Times lying on the floor, right where I had dropped it. The paper has fallen open and there she is, staring at me from its pages, her dark hair flowing out wildly behind her. Looking closer, I can see the corner of another piece of paper peeking out from underneath the newspaper. I reach for it. It is a small worn slip of paper, about 1 inch by 2 inches. It looks like one of those “fortunes” you receive from those old-fashioned gypsy fortune telling machines. I turn the piece of paper over in my hands and read the faded writing it contains. It says, “Playing with fire is bad for those who burn themselves. For the rest of us, it is a very great pleasure.”

Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 2:10 am  Comments (6)  
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Return to Riversleigh

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I step out of the forest into a clearing. Riversleigh Manor lies just ahead. I take a deep breath and inhale the fresh clean air. I have been away from Riversleigh for far too long. But, if there’s one thing I know about Riversleigh Manor and its mistress Sibyl Riversleigh, it’s that I will be welcomed back with open arms. I take in the view and feel a sense of calm washing over me. Riversleigh. It may not be my family home but it is home nonetheless. It has always been a place that I could depend on for comfort, for support, for inspiration. I smile.

And then…worry, insidious as it is, creeps in. What if the manor is full? What if there are no rooms available? What if no one is home? I had heard rumours that Sibyl was planning to embark on some new excursion (as is often her way…I bet L’Enchanteur is the impetus behind this latest venture. Something to do with a cruise? Sounds like her cup of tea for sure.) Another deep breath. “Stop that!” I tell myself. “You are getting ahead of yourself. Just go up to the door and knock!” I take one step forward. One more deep breath. I straighten my cape, adjust my gloves, and steel myself for what may come next. “Enough,” I say aloud, somewhat louder than I intended.

A voice, this time not my own, asks “Well, are you just going to stand there all day or are you going to come inside?” I look up to see Regina Stoby standing in the doorway to the manor. “Come come now,” she says. “We’ve been expecting you. Colleen has aired out your room and freshened things up a bit in there. She knows how much you love fresh flowers…freesia is your favourite is it not?”

I stand mute just staring into Regina’s (Matron as we call her) kind eyes. “I don’t understand,” I say, almost in a whisper. “I didn’t tell anyone I was coming. I didn’t even know it myself until there I was, duffle bag over my shoulder, headed down the path into the forest.” Matron simply laughed. “Come child,” she says. “Come inside and warm yourself by the fire. You are shivering and must be weary from your long journey back to us.” I am confused, but I obediently walk towards her.

She slips a cozy rug around my shoulders and embraces me. “You have been missed,” she tells me as she leads me into the house. “Come sit by the fire. Ebony has a pot of her famous chicken soup simmering on the stove for you.” She leads me to a large wing chair and I sink into it. Ahhhhh. The tension in my body begins to fade as Matron places a small tray on the table beside me. A bowl of Ebony’s chicken soup, a cup of warm milk and honey, and a small plate of delicious looking scones. “From the tea room?” I ask. Matron smiles and nods. “Bridgette made them fresh when she heard you were coming.” I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I saw the food she had placed before me. It tastes even better than I remember.

I feel my body sink deeper into the chair. My eyelids flutter as I unsuccessfully try to fight back sleep. I feel Matron’s gentle hands pull the rug up, tucking me in like a mother with her child. Her voice sounds far away. “Sleep child sleep.” My mind fights against sleep. I have so many questions to ask, starting with how did they all seem to know that I was coming? As if she could read my thoughts, Matron replies, “There will be plenty of time for questions later. Now you must rest.” Her voice sounds so far away and I realize that I cannot fight the sleep. “That’s it child,” she says. “Just let go.” As I drift away, it occurs to me that Matron has been calling me child. It’s been so long since anyone referred to me as a child. I think I like it.

Published in: on December 29, 2008 at 3:50 am  Comments (6)  
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