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Rolfin's Orb
Book 5 - Topaz
Chapter 1

            Mairi woke up to the sound of rain. She climbed out of bed and went to the window, pulling the curtains back. “Rain! Sometimes I think Fiona’s right and all it does is rain here in Inveralba.” When she lifted the window open, the musty fragrance of rain hitting the street flowed into the room. She looked at the roses. The drops puddled on the petals, adding their perfume to the already sweet air. “Maybe the rain’s not so bad after all.” She took a few deep breaths. Picking up her bathrobe from the back of the chair, she slipped it on and went into the kitchen. After putting on water for tea, she peeked in the living room. Johnny was still asleep. “We’re not going to get much done today with all this rain. I know, I’ll take them shopping. Men from hundreds of years ago would delight in seeing what is at their disposal today.” She smiled and set the table.

            Fiona was the next one down. “Morning, Mum. What’s for breakfast?”

            “How about pancakes or waffles?”

            “That sounds great. Oh no, it’s raining again. It’s Saturday and the weather sucks. Why does it rain so much?”

            “Oh, Fiona, stop complaining. Without the rain we wouldn’t have a nice garden and lots of flowers. Why don’t you go and wake Johnny and Jesse up. I thought after breakfast we’d go and pick up the others and go shopping. Does that sound like fun?”

            “Can we go to The Hogshead Inn for a pub lunch? I want Johnny to try some trifle. Jesse said he’s brave enough to eat haggis.”

            “Yes, we can do that. Now go and wake them up.” Mairi patted Fiona on the bottom and pulled the waffle maker out from the bottom cupboard. She whipped up some batter and added a few chocolate chips to it.

            “Something smells good,” Johnny said. He sat at the kitchen table.

Jesse and Fiona appeared.

            “Sit down. I’m fixing waffles.” Mairi put plates down in front of them.

            “Waffles? I’m not sure if I know what a waffle is. Do you mean truffles?” Jesse took the forks and knives from Mairi’s hand.

“No. I mean waffles. Fiona, put out the syrup, raspberry jam and the marmalade. If you find some whipped cream in the refrigerator, put that out too. Johnny, would you and Jesse slice these strawberries please.” Mairi handed them each a knife and a bowl full of fresh berries.

            “Waffles sound like they’re going to taste delicious. I can’t wait,” Jesse said.

            Mairi put one down on each of their plates. They topped them with fresh fruit. “Go ahead and put syrup or jam on top. If you want, add the cream. It’s good.”

            Fiona didn’t wait. She poured the sugary syrup all over her waffle and then plopped the whipped cream on top of it all. She topped it with a few more sliced strawberries.

“That looks good,” Johnny said. “I’ll do it the way Fiona did it.” He copied her.

            Ten minutes later they sat with full tummies sipping tea. “This is only the first surprise for the day. We’re going shopping. We’ll go and get Jack and Jimmy and head for downtown Inveralba.”

            “What about Jeffrey and Uncle Angus?” Fiona stood and took the dishes to the sink.

            “I think Jeffrey needs to spend some time with Uncle Angus. Besides that, they said they were going to Crianlarich today on the train. That means someone needs to stay at the croft and guard the books and the orb!” Mairi helped Fiona clear the table.

            “I’ll stay with him. I’m not really feeling all that great yet. I could use a day alone to sleep,” Jesse offered.

            An hour later they stood at Angus’s door. Jimmy and Jack were more than happy to go shopping. Uncle Angus and Jeffrey had already left to catch the train. Jesse sat on the bed and collapsed.

“Well then, we’re off,” Mairi said.

            They marched through town in a line. Mairi led the way. Johnny walked behind her. Fiona was next in line with Jimmy and Jack following her. “What are we shopping for exactly?” Jimmy asked Fiona.

            “It doesn’t matter. That’s the joy of shopping. You just shop and you can buy whatever you want. There are no rules. We’re going to The Hogshead Inn for lunch. It’s a pub. You wanted to try haggis, didn’t you, Jack?” Fiona put one hand in Jimmy’s and the other in Jack’s. “You two walk up here with me. Johnny and Mum can walk together.” She leaned over and whispered to Jack. “I think they’re in love.” She put her hand over her mouth and giggled.

            At the street corner, Mairi stopped. “Johnny, this is where I saw you for the first time. Do you remember?”

            He smiled. “Of course I do. How could I forget that?”

            Fiona, Jimmy and Jack stood behind them. Fiona giggled again. “See I told you.” Jimmy and Jack snickered and winked at her.

            “What shop are we going to first, Mum?”

            “Let’s go to Dougal’s Woolens. I think they could all use a new jumper, don’t you?” Mairi led the way into the shop. Jimmy, Jack and Johnny entered hesitantly. After seeing all the woolen products, they relaxed and tried a few things on.

            “You look handsome in that jumper, Jimmy. It matches your eyes.” Fiona wanted him to buy the dark brown woolen one. “Do you like it?”

            Jimmy laughed. “It’s warm. I guess I should get used to wearing things like this. Where I come from all we ever wore was a long flowing white robe and sandals, but we’re not in Burell any more. I love it, Fiona. Thank you.”

            “What about you, Jack? You look a lot like Jimmy. I think you should get the light brown jumper. Try it on,” Fiona urged.

            Jack slipped it on over his head and pulled it down to his waist. “I like it, Fiona.”

            “Good. Mum will buy them for you. It looks like she’s picked a nice Arran jumper for Johnny. He does look nice in it though, doesn’t he,” Fiona said.

            “Smashing,” Jimmy said. “Do I sound British now?”

            Fiona laughed out loud. “That’s funny. You do sound British. Will you tell me about Burell? I know it’s on the Arabian peninsula where Yemen is now.”

            “I hardly think this is the time or place for tales of Burell. If you remind me, I’ll tell you a few things tomorrow,” Jack promised.

            Mairi bought them each a jumper and they left the shop wearing them. “I say we had for the soap shop. Do you know what soap is?”

            “I’ve used it at your house. I doubt if Jimmy and Jack have any idea what it is,” Johnny said.

            “Come with me, gentlemen. I’m going to introduce you to the world of cleanliness in a fragrant way.” They followed Mairi into ‘Let’s Make Scents’.

            “It smells like a flower garden in here,” Jimmy said, “but it makes me want to sneeze.”

            “Do men come into this shop? If seems to me it’s mostly for women,” Jack said, plugging his nose.

            Fiona said, “I guess women are the ones who usually come in here, but they buy this stuff to make their men happy. Women of today like to smell pretty. Mum likes to buy soap to put in her underwear drawer.”

            “Fiona McAllister! You keep that sort of thing to yourself,” Mairi said, aghast at having her under-things discussed by the men.

            Putting her hand over her mouth, Fiona giggled. “Sorry, Mum.”

            Seeing the men weren’t comfortable in the shop, Mairi hurried. She bought a few bars of pine-scented soap for them and hurried out. “That was an interesting place. I can’t believe they have been able to capture the smell of roses and put it into a bar of soap.” Johnny opened the bag and stuck his nose inside. “It smells lovely.”

            “You’re trying to talk British too, aren’t you, Johnny.” Fiona took the bag from his hand. “I’ll carry it, thank you. Let’s take them to ‘The Perfect Bee’. Mum sells our honey in there. They sell candles and things made from bees wax and everyone buys Mum’s honey. The bees gather pollen from heather and make honey from it. Mum, you’ll have to send a jar home with Jimmy and Jack.”

            “Good idea. I do need to stop by and see if they need any honey. Why don’t you come in too. You can look at all the different candles,” Mairi said. They ran across the street and went into the shop. When Mairi finished her inventory and they had smelled every scent of candle, they went up and down the street, going into every shop. Jack, Jimmy and Johnny carried all the packages. Fiona carried the bag of soap and Mairi marched along, leading her group like a bandleader.

            “My feet are sore,” Johnny said as they left McEwan’s Butcher Shop. “I think I’ve had enough of this shopping.”

            Mairi couldn’t help but laugh. “I suppose you’re not born shoppers like Fiona and me. There’s The Hogshead Inn across the street. We’ll get a bite to eat and head back to Angus’s croft. They shouldn’t be much longer. Follow me.”

            “I’ve never been on a train before,” Johnny said. “Neither have any of us. Maybe we could take a train ride. I like the whistle and the way it chugs in and out of the station, blowing steam into the air.”

            “Boys, and men, are fascinated with trains for some reason. All right. We’ll take a train ride soon, I promise,” Mairi said.

The smell of roasted beef, onions and potatoes lured them inside. They sat at a table and put their packages down on the floor next to them. After shaking the drizzling rain off their umbrellas, they put them on the floor under their chairs. A man came to their table. “Good after noon, Rabbie. We’d like to see your menu,” Mairi said.

            “Aye, Mairi. Looks like you’ve got quite a group with you today,” Rabbie said.

            “This is Johnny, Jimmy and Jack Thomson. They’re brothers from London and have come to Inveralba to do some fishing and hunting,” Mairi explained.

            “Malcolm came in last night with Anne. He told me about your guests. He’s a wee bit disappointed that you’ve all been too busy to go fishing with him. Maybe you ought to give him a wee call,” Rabbie said. “It’s a good thing the rain stopped. You’ve been out shopping then, have you?” He spied their packages.

            “Good idea. We have ignored Malcolm lately. There’s so much to see and do around here. Thanks for the suggestion,” Johnny said.

            Rabbie handed out the menus. “You’ve got to try haggis,” Fiona said to Jack. “You promised you would.”

            “I’d like to look at the menu and see what else they have to offer,” Jack said. “You don’t mind, do you, Fiona?”

            “Nope. Take your time. I’ll show Johnny and Jimmy what’s good.”

            When Rabbie came back, they were ready to order. All had ploughman’s pub lunch except for Jack, who ended up with the haggis after all. A few ales later they were ready to go. “I’ve got to make a quick stop at the bakery,” Mairi said, “and then we need to stop by my house to put everything away. The meat will spoil if it’s not properly refrigerated.”

            “Do you know how happy Queen Sarmantha’s cooks would have been to have a refrigerator? I can’t tell you the less than fresh meals we had to eat. Things have certainly advanced,” Jimmy said.

With arms full of bags, they stopped at the bakery. Mairi checked on her hours and picked up another box of day old pastries. She kissed Mac McKenzie  on the cheek and thanked him for saving the leftovers. They stopped by Mairi’s long enough to put the food away and then went to Angus’s croft.

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