(advent) Day 22 – Something in the air…
Thursday, December 22
Molly had decided to move the castle to the tea room early, so she would have some room to work in the kitchen. But also, she decided that it was too pretty to hang out in the pantry all the time. So she pulled one of the tea tables to the side of the room, and placed the castle on top of it. Schrodinger promised that he would keep an eye on it, so no one would accidentally bump it.
He was lying in his bed, one eye closed and the other on the castle, when a tall, slightly older man walked into the tea room. He was a stranger; not that surprising, considering how many travelers came through the Cove, especially around Christmas, but there was something about him that made Schrodinger come fully awake. Nothing threatening, but something…odd.
His long, greying hair was neatly combed back under a knit woolen cap, and his plain clothes marked him as a sailor, or at least someone from the dock area. His big boots were worn and old, and his jacket had seen some heavy use.
He paused next to the castle, looking at it with a strange mix of pleasure and pain. Schrodinger, now fully awake and intensely curious, slipped from his bed and went up to the man.
It’s a gift, he said quietly, when the man noticed him and looked down. From the Snow Queen and Jack Frost.
“It’s lovely,” the man said. “Is it her castle?”
Yes, Schrodinger said. Have you been there?
“Not in a very long time,” the man said, and then gave him a sad smile. “I’m not sure I could remember it all, but this seems very familiar.”
I’m Schrodinger, the CrossCat said, tilting his head as he looked up at the man. I don’t recognize you.
“My name is Perry, and this is my first time in the Cove,” the man said, offering him a weathered hand. “I’m doing some traveling around, seeing where my heart takes me.”
That sounds like what CrossCats do, Schrodinger said. But normally we are younger than you.
“Everyone must make that journey in their own time,” Perry said, looking back at the castle. “Some of us realize it later than others, that’s all.”
Very true, Schrodinger said. Would you like some tea?
Perry shook himself, as if the question had startled him. “I…yes, that would be nice,” he said. “If it’s not an imposition…”
“It’s not,” Molly said from the doorway of the kitchen and Schrodinger wondered how long she had been standing there. “Do you have a preference?”
“I don’t know,” Perry admitted. “I’m not very versed in tea.” He gave her a wan smile. “I’ve not had many occasions to try more than simple black tea.”
“There’s nothing wrong with simple black tea,” Molly told him, and smiled back at him. “I certainly have that, and if you decide you want to try something else, I can do that too.”
“What is your favorite tea?” he asked her.
“I have a black spiced tea that I enjoy,” she said. “It’s a Christmas blend. Have a seat, and I’ll bring you out a mug.” She looked at Schrodinger. “Would you like a cup of your usual?”
Yes, please, he said politely, and then switched to their private mental channel. I think he should have some food, too, although I don’t think he’ll ask.
I agree, Molly said, and then told Perry, “Please, take a seat anywhere you would like. I’ll bring some tea out to you.”
Schrodinger waited until Perry selected a chair, and then he said, You don’t mind if I join you, do you?
“No, of course not,” the man said.
Molly came back with a tray containing not only the two mugs of tea, but a plate of orange-cranberry scones and sugar cookies dusted with green and red sugar crystals. “Let me know if you need anything else,” she said, setting them all down.
Perry looked at the tray, and then looked after Molly as she went back into the kitchen. “She really does treat everyone the same, doesn’t she?” he said quietly, almost to himself, as if he’d forgotten Schrodinger was there.
Yes, unless they give her a reason not to, Schrodinger said, cocking his head to look at Perry closely. You’ve heard of her?
“Very few people can come to Carter’s Cove and not hear of the kitchen witch at the tea shop in CrossWinds Books,” Perry said, taking a sip of his tea.
Oh. Schrodinger hadn’t thought of that. Well, yes, I guess not.
Perry didn’t say much more, but he and Schrodinger shared a companionable tea and silence. Then, as he got up, Perry looked once more at the castle, and then down at the CrossCat.
“If you do see the Snow Queen, please tell her that Perry the Wanderer hopes her Christmas is good.”
Of course, Schrodinger said. I’d be happy to.
“What a strange man,” Lily said later, when Schrodinger was telling them what happened. “I wonder who he was.”
-Maybe he was someone who started the Cove with them?- Jack suggested. He looked at Schrodinger. Maybe?
He didn’t look that old, Schrodinger said. And I remember what he smelled like. Perry smelled – well, not like fire and anger. He shook his head. Maybe he was just a traveler who knew her from before. She’s been around a long time.
Gideon and Kaylee had already lost interest in the conversation and were over at the castle, looking for the next number. The other three joined them just as Gideon said, “Oh, here it is!”
The 22 was perched on the top of one of the towers, and the window opened to show row upon row of gleaming ice skates, hanging next to a glassy surface where a single skater was spinning. Her skate edges kicked up icy shards that flew around her, and one of them came through the window, landing in Gideon’s hands as a curl of paper.
“Skating is flying over ice,” he read, and looked at the others. “Are we going skating? I’ve never been skating before!”
“Then you’re in for a treat,” Lily said. “Indi’s is amazing!”
>Activity: Go skating!