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Rolfin's Orb
Book 2 - Spinal
Chapter 12

“All 13 of my guests showed up. Lovely.” Anne beamed from ear to ear.

“Anne, this is wonderful. You must have worked so hard getting all this ready. I’ve not talked to Jenny or Flora in such a long time, nor Elsie. Now I can catch up on the latest gossip.” Mairi laughed. “I love your roses and white iris. I should have offered some of the flowers from my garden.”

She and Anne looked at the crowd. “It’s fine, Mairi. I’ve got enough, but thank you.”

Jenny McDonald and her five-year-old daughter, Elizabeth sat at the table with Elsie, chatting away about the B&B.

“I’ve got a full house right now,” Elsie said. She went on to tell Jenny about where her guests were from, including Drayton.

Nellie Crawford sat at the table with Flora Stewart and her two girls, Annabella, age five, and Maggie, age seven. Flora’s girls were busy telling Nellie about what they did at school that morning.

Elspet, her mum, Catriona, Anne’s daughter, Shona, and Fiona sat at another table.

Lacy white tablecloths spread across each one. Linen napkins, pale pink with purple violets embroidered on them sat next to the china plates. Matching teacups sat on saucers, everything coordinating and flower. Vases with dried heather stood in the center, with rose petals scattered around it.

“The china’s simply lovely, isn’t it, Flora,” Nellie said. “It’s exquisite. Look at the pattern. It’s got pale pink, lavender and bright yellow flowers with tiny asparagus green leaves around the edge. The teacups and saucers match. I must tell Anne how much I like her table settings. The heather on the table matches the lavender in the china perfectly.”

“So do the rose petals,” Flora said.

“Would you like to help me serve the food, Mairi? I’m afraid I’ve got a lot of serving to do,” Anne said.

“I’d love to. After all, you went to all this trouble for Fiona and me,” Mairi said. “Malcolm did a great job with the gazebo and trellis, or was it you who decorated it with the violets and pansies?”

Anne blushed. “It’s amazing you have to ask that, Mairi. Have you ever known my Malcolm to touch a flower?”

Mairi laughed and they disappeared into the house, carrying out platter after platter of food, which they put on a large table.

“Everyone come and help yourself. We’ve got plenty to eat and an assortment of teas. Mairi and I will pour your tea once you’ve sat down.” Anne watched as they piled their plates high with finger sandwiches. “Try some of that, Annabella. There are egg salad and cucumber sandwiches on white bread, cream cheese and orange marmalade on pumpernickel, salmon on rye, pear and walnut on whole grain, cucumber and tiny shrimps on wheat and cucumber with nasturtiums on raisin bread. Try them all.”

Annabella took a few of the crustless sandwiches and then moved on to the other foods. There were fruit kabobs, chocolate dipped strawberries, warm cinnamon-raisin scones with clotted Devonshire cream and a variety of jams, bacon-asparagus-cheese tarts, cubes of cheddar cheese on toothpicks, Madeleine’s, mini spinach quiche, assorted tea breads – lemon and lavender, and cream of asparagus soup.

“Anne, you’ve outdone yourself. This food is all so delicious. I love the ice ring in the water. The citrus fruits make it so colorful and I can taste a slight tartness from them. It’s all delicious,” Elsie said, filling her plate with food.

“Wait till you see the biscuits and shortbread and cakes. I’ve got petit fours galore. When you’re all finished with this, I’ll bring out more,” Anne said.

“What are these?” Elizabeth looked at the plate. “They look like bird’s nests with eggs inside. Can we eat bird’s nests, Mum?”

Anne overheard. “Those are made from chow mien noodles and syrup. In fact, I used some of Mairi’s heather honey. The eggs are malted milk eggs. Have one, Elizabeth. They’re delicious.”

The girl put one on her plate next to her finger sandwiches.

As a CD with orchestra quartet music played in the background, Anne’s guests sipped herbal or fruit teas with or without sugar cubes, enjoying each other’s company and the plentiful food. Plates topped with shortbreads dipped in chocolate, pastel-iced petit four cakes, and tiny cream puffs lined the table.

Off in the distance Mairi heard dogs barking. “Oh no. It couldn’t be.” She looked toward the noise.

Two big gray dogs ran towards the tea party, each dripping with water after a dip in Loch Doon and a roll in the dirt to dry off.

“Anne, it’s the dogs.”

The group of women and girls looked in horror as Devlyn and Creanth jumped up on the tables and scarfed down the food Anne had worked so hard to prepare. The crystal punch bowl fell to the ground, sending a wave of icy cold water through the air. Elsie screamed out loud as it splashed all over her chest, running down the front of her dress.

The plates of cream puffs splattered on Maggie’s face. Cold cream of asparagus soup splattered on Annabella’s dress, covering her with a thick green mess. Orkney fudge, tablet, and chocolate strawberries flew into the air, landing on the grass, along with the marzipan fruits and tiny pickled onions.

Malcolm, Callum and Murdoch came running to help. “The dogs got away. I’m sorry,” he said, grabbing the dog’s leashes and dragging them off.

Callum and Murdoch stood with their mouths open looking at the mess.

Mairi and Fiona picked now dissolving pale pink, blue and purple malted eggs out of their teacups.

Nellie’s hair had skewered fruits through it and two upside down cucumber and egg salad sandwiches stuck to her face.

Anne looked at her friend and their children and burst out laughing.

When they saw their mother laugh, Callum and his brother started to laugh too.

“Look at you, Mum. You’re a mess. You’ve got candied violets on top of your head and soggy bits of tea bread stuck on your collar,” Fiona said.

The laughter was contagious. Soon all of them were giggling, picking the food off themselves. “You didn’t fare much better, Fiona. You’ll never get the shrimp out of your ears or the raisin scones from inside your dress,” Mairi said, holding her sides from laughing so hard.

“Food fight!” Callum shouted and picked up the food off the grass. He rubbed it in his brother’s hair.

Murdoch, who didn’t find it that funny, smashed pumpernickel bread and spinach quiche in his brother’s face. Soon food flew everywhere.

By the time Malcolm got back from penning the dogs he was caught right in the middle of it.

Anne rubbed whipping cream in his hair, and poured lukewarm tea on his shirt. “It’s your fault, Malcolm McAllister; you and your dogs. Have a taste of your own medicine here.” She pulled open the back of his shirt and dropped deviled eggs inside and then smashed them to his back with her hands.

An hour later, all the guests had gone home, leaving Anne and Malcolm to clean up. “That was the best tea party I’ve ever had. Thank you, Malcolm.” Anne gave her husband a big kiss.

Callum stood at the kitchen sink cleaning the fish he and his father had caught at the loch. He looked up at the clock. “Oh no. I’ve got to get to Angus’s house.” Wrapping the fish in butcher paper, he stuck them in the refrigerator and ran to meet his friends.

Elspet showered and changed into clean clothes. “I’m off, Mum,” she said. “Going to Angus’s house.” She ran outside, leaving her mother alone. The boys and her husband were still out with the sheep.

Elspet met Callum at the croft.

Angus opened the door. “Well, I see you’ve come to visit again. Johnny is still in the house looking at his book. He’s been in there for hours, studying and reading. Jimmy and Jesse are out back. Where’s Fiona?”

“I thought she’d be here by now. I’m sure she’ll be here any minute,” Elspet said.

“Why don’t you go and talk to Jimmy and Jesse until she gets here,” Angus said to the two children, “and I’ll be out shortly.”

He touched Johnny on the shoulder. “I know you’re enjoying that book, but Elspet and Callum just arrived, without Fiona. Maybe you should run along and make sure they’re all right,” Angus said.

Johnny slammed the book shut. “I had no idea so much time had passed. I got caught up in this book, I’m afraid. You’re right. I need to go and make sure they’re safe,” Johnny said. “I’ll be back later.” He left Angus’s house and ran towards Mairi’s.

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