Jumbly joined them for breakfast every morning. Lauren was delighted to have so much company and someone to fuss over. Deirdre grew stronger every day and learnt about all the people of the village long before she met them. The Elders came to visit her and solemnly heard her story. They wrote it down and sent word to the villages around to be on the look out for these criminals. For the first time in a long time, Deirdre felt cared for and safe.
It wasn’t long before Lauren took her out to the market, stopping to chat to everyone along the way. Deirdre soon learned that everyone knew her tale. They all felt furious on her behalf and spoke their condolences for her father’s murder, her kidnapping and torture. Deirdre wondered that she didn’t feel ashamed that they all knew but it seemed that all of them placed the blame with the criminals and all of them wished her well. There is nothing like open, honest empathy to assist a traumatised person to heal and Deirdre flourished under their care.
Every morning she woke, Deirdre would freshen up and rush downstairs to help Lauren with the breakfast, watching anxiously out the window all the while, to Lauren’s amusement. Jumbly always came, right on time and they would share their morning repast after giving thanks. Quite how they communicated, Deirdre wasn’t sure, but they did.
One morning Jumbly indicated that he would take Deirdre and his little mate fishing the next day. Deirdre was delighted. She had never learned to fish and excitedly planned what they would take and where they would go. Before the day was over, Jumbly returned with her very own fishing rod and they spent a few hours casting and catching Lauren’s flowers before evening came. Jumbly went home and Lauren fairly danced into the house, smiling at Lauren. Lauren smiled back and said she could see how much Deirdre was looking forward to it and that she would pack them a lovely picnic basket. Deirdre was thrilled and helped Lauren by flittering around, getting in her way, until Lauren laughed and sent her up to bath and bed. That night Deirdre knew what her feelings for Jumbly were. His kind brown eyes, his handsome face, his big strong body and gentle hands. Holding herself tightly, Deirdre sighed and smiling, slid into sleep.
She was awake again as the sun rose over the hills to the east and flooded her room with its golden warmth. Deirdre dressed warmly and went down to the kitchen to find Jumbly and his little mate already hunched over hot cups of tea and a bundled and not-quite-awake Lauren bumping around getting breakfast. There was already a big basket of food ready packed. Deirdre exclaimed over every item and Lauren looked very pleased. The two males made appreciative sounds as they ate and Lauren felt it had been well worth loosing her beauty sleep. Jumbly and the lad snickered and Deirdre, eyeing Lauren, bustled them out the door, calling good bye.
They walked quite a way in the crisp dawn, still damp with dew and the birds just beginning their calls. The lad and Deirdre carried the rods and Jumbly the picnic basket. When they finally reached the river, the lad declared he was starving. Jumbly laughed and Deirdre agreed, knowing Lauren had packed enough food for two growing boys. After inhaling a second breakfast, the lad groaned and laid down for awhile. Deirdre and Jumbly were soon sniggering at the snores coming from such a small boy as he slid deeply into a food nap. Not long after they were laughing outright as Jumbly chased Deirdre around with squishy pieces of bait and she shrieked in horror any time he got near. Eventually they collapsed onto the bank of the river and caught their breath, still burbling with laughter whenever they caught each other’s eye. After a bit Deirdre stopped looking away and gazed deeply into Jumbly’s eyes of dark dark brown. Jumbly gazed back, a small smile tucked into his beard. Her eyes weren’t just green, he decided, they were gold too. Now that her injuries had healed and she had her health back, Jumbly thought Deirdre glowed with goodness.
“Alright, you two, I thought we were supposed to be fishing!” Deirdre blushed but smiled when Jumbly laughed good naturedly at the lad and patted his belly, causing the boy to groan. It wasn’t long before all three of them were sitting on the bank mesmerised by the glittering water. Deirdre caught a fish and excitedly squealed, following Jumbly’s gestures and the lad’s instructions until she landed it. The two males ended up on the grass, helpless with laughter, watching Deirdre’s horrified efforts to removed the hook from the flapping fish. Eventually Jumbly, unable to stand, crawled over to her to help.
So the day passed, in good friendship and fun. It was quite the best day Deirdre had ever had in her life. After cleaning their catch, more cause for shrieking and chasing, they bucketed up their fish and headed home. The lad ran ahead with the fish, eager to show his mother, and said he would drop their share at Miss Higginbottom’s. Jumbly and Deirdre waved him off and began their ramble home. Deirdre shouldered their fishing rods and Jumbly their basket which left them a free hand each. Jumbly offered his arm to Deirdre who, with much blushing, took it. Jumbly was so focussed on the feeling of her close to him that it took a moment for him to notice a change in the bush.
All was quiet. The birds were silent. The animals were not moving. Even the insects seemed to have ceased their drone. Jumbly came alert just as two filthy men stepped into the path. Deirdre screamed and pulled back behind Jumbly.
“Well, well, what have we here. I believe that belongs to us.” said one. Jumbly looked around confused, not sure what they were referring to but certain of their menace.
“Her, you bumbling idiot, she belongs to us! Must say you’ve taken good care of it and we’re very grateful it’s cleaned up so well, but we’ll be taking it now.” and the second filthy man actually reached an hand toward His Deirdre.
Jumbly looked at Deirdre and saw the fear in her eyes. He nodded at her and gestured to the men.
“Yes,” she gasped,”They killed my father and tortured me.” At her own words, some of Deirdre’s fear fell away. She wasn’t alone any more. She had an home, Friends and Beloved. Deirdre shook off the last of her fear and anger boiled up.
“Oh, come now, your old dad dying was an accident and what torture? We were just having a bit of fun. You know how it is.” the shortest filthy criminal assured Jumbly, with a sneer.
Jumbly roared! He was absolutely furious! These were the criminals who brought his Love so low. How dare they! How dare they hurt any woman! Deirdre screamed her fury at the cruel vagabonds. Yes! How dare they?! How dare they kill her father and torture her and try and excuse it. How dare they!!!
The two filthy men stumbled back in surprise only to find the villagers gathered behind them. The lad had noticed the silence and raised the alarm. The Elders and all their Friends had come running when they heard Jumbly roar. The men were quickly taken into custody and locked in the cellar of the Meeting House until the local constabulary could be contacted and deal with them. The men were pleased to go, away from Jumbly’s fury and Deirdre’s wrath. They were frightened and pleaded to be kept safe.
Jumbly and a shaking Deirdre were returned to Lauren’s home where she took care of them. Later the Elders returned and sat in Silence until balance was restored. They talked with Deirdre and would do so as often as she needed. Deirdre was fine. She knew what she needed. She needed Jumbly. Somehow the shock and horror of seeing the two men, roaring her fury at them alongside Jumbly had broken through any last reserves. Deirdre returned to the kitchen to talk with him.
Jumbly had gone home. Sadly. He understood that he loved Deirdre. For the first time in his life, Jumbly was deeply in love. He also understood that a terrible wrong had been done her and it may be some time before she would be ready. He reckoned he would just have to be patient and wait. He reckoned without Deirdre.
Just as he reached his front door, he heard his name called and turned to see Deirdre flying down the path. She hurtled into his arms, gasping and laughing. “Jumbly! I love you!” He looked down into her green eyes with the golden specks as she gazed into his deep brown eyes, full of love, for her. Jumbly smiled and his smiled curled into his beard until his mouth opened and he laughed.
and that is the end of the story
(c) CLHHarper February 2014