YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time
The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 3
Arriving in rain-lashed Alsalem, Lea Chantry is rescued from luggage overload by three clowns and receives a marriage proposal from one of them.
There was no sign of my brother Tavi in the crowd when I alighted at Gorecki Terminus. It had been agreed that he would meet me, but when I phoned him now, he said, “Gawd, I totally forgot. I’m terribly sorry. Listen, why don’t you get yourself into a taxi and get on home? I mean, it’ll take me forever to reach the station, and you don’t want to wait there forever, do you? I know you have all that luggage, but you can handle it. Put it in the taxi one at a time.”
I called Mum, who was at home, and Daddy, who was still at the veterinary clinic, and vented at them, but I didn’t want to hang around till they came to the station either and I said I would get a taxi. It was going to be no small feat. The train had stopped at the No. 14 platform and there were two bridges to cross to get to the main entrance. I loaded myself with the luggage and walked slowly and determinedly towards the end of the platform and people turned to look at me. I did make quite a sight, I suppose, with one rucksack on my back, one carried in the front, two shoulder bags weighing down on each shoulder, one shoulder bag slung around in the front, under the rucksack, with Mack perched on it with the nonchalant flair of an experienced puppy traveler, with me holding him in place with my right hand and carrying the jute shopping bag in my left, with my portfolio clutched underarm. I heard some distinct snickers in my wake, and a child cried out, “Ma, look, doggie! Ma, look, doggie!”
“Where?” asked his Ma.
“With that Ninja Turtle there!” shouted the child, pointing at me, and more snickers erupted.
I particularly noticed a trio of clowns grinning at me as I trudged past. Yes, actually dressed up in stupid clown costumes, with painted faces, pink woolly wigs, and round red noses, and they had the nerve to laugh at me? I became even more annoyed with Tavi. It was just like him to not turn up. He was always completely unreliable.
One of the clowns made twittering noises at Mack and exclaimed into his phone, “Oh, c’mon, Ma, you were supposed to meet us here! We even got all togged up in your honor. How could you do this to us?”
He had a beautiful voice, warm, deep, and well-modulated, with a pleasantly lilting accent, an unmistakably Kirzheik accent, and it was this that made me glance about, not the wisest thing I might have done in the circumstances. I bumped into someone coming the other way, got a sharp reprimand, was jostled aside, and nearly lost my balance. I saw the clown’s eyes widen in alarm – they were bright green eyes, I noticed – and, the phone still to his ear, he lunged forward to seize hold of my rucksack before I tumbled entirely over.
“Talk to you later, Ma!” he cried, and grabbed me with the other hand as well and braked with his heels. We teetered together and, for a moment, it seemed like we were both going to fall over, but then his friends jumped to the rescue and, happily, everyone stayed upright.
“Gawd, me darling, that was close!” he said, as he steadied me. “This is why I tell people to travel light. Not right to carry your entire household on your back like this. How much does one human being need anyway? You might have crushed that wee pup there. C’mere, let me take some of it.”
He took off the rucksack as he spoke and one of the shoulder bags and nodded to his friends to take the rest, leaving me with only Mack. Later, when I had had the time to think it over, I thought I ought to have been alarmed. They might have very well run off with everything. Right then, I was only embarrassed, relieved, and grateful, and did not demur when they took it upon themselves to carry my luggage for me outside to a taxi. It was no trouble, the boy insisted, they were headed out anyway and they might as well lend me a helping hand. I was in sore need of assistance, wasn’t I? Well then?
“After me then, me darling. I’ll see you out safely.”
We turned a lot more heads than I had done on my own, and Tavi would have really enjoyed this sight, me with three clowns. Appropriate, he would have said. They were not at all the louts I had taken them to be though. They bore my heavy luggage without complaining, and the one that had saved me had a friendly, lighthearted air about him that was very, very appealing. I probably would have taken strong exception to any other stranger referring to me so continually as ‘Me darling’, but it didn’t have any creepy connotation coming from him. It wasn’t out of line familiarity, just a casual, innocuous way of address that was actually commonplace in rural Mahmonir. It wasn’t even always an affectionate term of address. I had overheard an elderly couple arguing once in a village shop where we had stopped to buy supplies during our trek.
“Me darling, you are a jackass!” the wife had said to the husband.
It made me smile, remembering that. The fellow looked about and smiled back.
“Me darling, watch your step,” he said. “Slippery floor. I don’t know what the jackasses were even thinking of when they renovated this place. Now it’s more suited to skating than walking. And for examining your mug after you have taken the tumble, I suppose, they’ve certainly given it a fine mirror finish, eh?”
I had to chuckle and he winked back. His Ma had been on the same train as me, arriving from Mahmonir, he told me, but, drat the darling, she had clean forgotten that her welcoming committee awaited her here and had got off in Bella Vista instead. She had met a cousin of his on the train, you see, and this cousin and Ma had somehow managed to bury a long-standing family hatchet on the journey, and it was the joy of that event that had clouded the normal clarity of Ma’s mind. Ma was sentimental like that. Always the first to forgive all her enemies. Everyone except his Pa, of course, but that was a different and long story. At once, his friends, walking behind us, prompted, “Oh, go on, tell her!” and “C’mon, don’t stint on any of the details!” and that prevented him from narrating it.
“Shut up, just making conversation,” he informed them, and told me, “You wouldn’t want to know anyway, why spoil your day? Anyway, so it’s good Ger and Ma cleared the air. Didn’t think it would happen, but, hey, I’m not complaining. Excellent thing, but how about some consideration for her own son, eh? I went to all the trouble of hiring these costumes. It’s not my normal getup, in case you’re wondering.”
“No, nothing normal about you normally,” said one of his friends from behind.
“They on the other hand never look any different,” he told me and got shoved. “Anyway,” he continued, with a grin, “where are you coming from? Mahmonir too? Wonderful. Good of you to not get off at Bella Vista also, me darling, or we would have been left without anyone to welcome.”
Which struck me as ridiculously hilarious then and he laughed too and told me that he was sure glad to meet a turtle from the home turf. I informed him I wasn’t a native, I had only been visiting, and he said it was still a joy to make my acquaintance. Had I had a good time? Wonderful! Yes, Mahmonir was sheer magic, wasn’t it? Where had I been? To the Gulbari mountains? Oh, marve! That was his most favorite part in the entire, whole world. His Ma had a place there and they had relatives close by. A lovely lot, the whole bunch of them. Gawd, he envied me, he had such a great longing himself to visit. He hadn’t been over in a while. Not since last summer. It was gnawing away at his soul. He dreamed of the open, wide spaces every night. One of these days he was going to go back there to the mountains and never return.
“Dream on,” said one of his friends. “You’re never going to be a Hermit on the Hill.”
“Watch me!” he retorted and told me, “I mean, Alsalem is all well and good. I love it here. Totally. But Mahmonir is, well, Mahmonir. Don’t you agree?”