After a light breakfast of cereal, I washed my dishes and tried getting a hold of Madeline. She hadn't answered, so I left a short message, then waited around for Gloria to show up. She had promised to give me a tour of the nearby town.
Luki wanted to go too. She had nosed through my suitcase until she found her leash and harness. She was now staring up at me with the leash dangling from her mouth. She was such a silly cat. I attached the harness to her and went to grab her cat carrier, pillow, small container of food, water bottle, bowl, and a sheet for the seats. Hopefully, Gloria wouldn't mind.
When Gloria arrived, she didn't quite know what to think about the fact that my cat was on a leash. It was hard for her to keep from laughing, but she didn't mind the tag along in the least. We were out of the door and on our way into town in record time.
The whole ride there, Gloria gossiped about what the townspeople were up to, and who said this, and who said that. Luki occupied the back window, and I stared out at the forest as we passed by. It was so beautiful in all its untamed glory; it seemed almost magical. Certainly something I would rarely get to see, living on campus.
We parked the car a street away since the main street was a pedestrian walk. Gloria assured me that I would be able to bring Luki into the stores, but I brought her carrier along, just in case she started to flip out for some reason beyond human comprehension. Animals were supposed to be smarter than humans, but I had my doubts.
The first shop we stopped at happened to be a thrift store. The owner was an elderly lady named Rose who adored my cat and actually had three of her own, all of whom she was delighted to tell me about. Her inventory consisted of old clothes, some accessories, some toys, and a few overused pieces of furniture hidden away in the back. The store stank of mothballs and oil from the many lamps scattered around the place – Rose didn't believe in electricity. After looking around for a while, and chatting about with her about her youth – she had been an actress before settling down with her husband, Richard – I bought a lacy umbrella that had caught my eye.
On our way out, Gloria spotted one of her friends, more her age than Rose was – Gloria had thirty-three years to Rose's fifty-six. .I managed to sneak out of their group, now talking about how her friend's daughter had been caught "messing around" with a boyfriend, and moved on to the next store, which looked more promising.
I stood out in front of an antique shop with a variety of old-fashioned items and trinkets displayed in the window. Even from outside, the smell of burning incense and dust was pungent in the air. Luki spotted a cat through the window and pawed at the door. I went in, a bell chiming overhead as we entered.
Now that I was in closer proximity, the incense hinted of lavender, almost sickly-sweet. Behind the desk sat a rather short woman with a frog-like face and more wrinkles than I had ever seen in my life, let alone on one person. Her gray eyes were welcoming, and she didn't get up to hover over my shoulder as I looked around. She looked down at my cat and grinned with a knowing smile.
I didn't know where to start; there was so much to look at. I decided on working my way around to the back, where the old lady sat. As I was intently examining a little, hardwood jewelry box, the owner's cat came over and sniffed at Luki's neck, who returned the favor. They sat at my feet in companionable silence, moving along with me as I wandered to and fro.
Eventually, I found a small figurine section that had a considerable range of odd-looking characters. There were some depicting gnarled creatures with animal characteristics and, in contrast, others of remarkable beauty. I noticed that more of the pretty figures were missing than the gnarled ones. I guessed it was becau-.
"Those are elf and goblin figurines." Gloria informed me as I jumped a few feet into the air, startled.
"My gosh, Gloria, I didn't hear you come in," I gasped.
"Sorry, dear, I didn't mean to startle you." She gestured at the pieces. "Those are modeled after some local legends of goblins and elves. It's said that the goblins came out at night and looked for careless young girls out after dark. They would drag them underground, never to be heard from again, although it was commonly believed they'd been eaten. But the elves were good people; they blessed our wells, played lovely music and made wishes come true. They also defended the people from the goblins, or so the legend goes. I always thought it was just a just an old tale to keep the children from going out at night and making hellions of themselves," she finished, chuckling, and I joined in, disregarding the chill I felt down my spine. Goblin and elves didn't exist.
We finished looking around and finally I bought an old dream catcher. As the old lady was ringing it up, Gloria stepped outside to catch yet more of her friends as they walked past .I thanked the lady and was just turning to leave when she spoke to me.
"The real legend behind the elves and goblins is actually quite different from what dear Gloria told you," she said quietly, then smiled. "If you ever feel the need to know the true legend, feel free to stop on by and I'll be happy to tell you all about it."
With that, the lady walked behind a beaded curtain into another room and her cat took her place at the desk. Slightly confused, I left the store to meet back up with Gloria.
"-and then he said, 'I'm sorry, ma'am, but I can't tell you.' So I said, 'so there is some-'"
"Hey, Gloria," I tactfully interrupted, saving both her friend and I from yet another tale, "look what I got!" I held up the dream catcher. "Where to next?"
"Why, Iris, that's just lovely! Have you met my friend Anne? She lives just on the other side of town; she was on her way to the barber. Anne, this is Iris, Selene Wentworth's nieces' friend, here for the summer. She's going to be staying at that house by the know the one I mean. Anywho, I was just giving her a tour of the tow-"
"Could we go to the bakery next?" I asked Gloria in another attempt to stem her nearly continuous flow of speech.
Anne caught on quick. She pretended to glance at her wristwatch and put on a horrified face.
"Oh dear, I'm sorry I can't stay to chat longer but my appointment is right now! It was nice to meet you, Iris! Later, Gloria!" And with that, she took off at a brisk pace toward what I assumed was the barber's.
Gloria looked rather surprised at her friend's abrupt departure, but quickly recovered. "We'll have to loop around and see if we can't catch her when her appointment's done. I didn't get to finish telling her about what Mr. Clo-"
"Is that the bakery? It smells amazing!" I gushed as I walked ahead, Luki trotting ahead of me.
Bakeries meant I'd be suckered into buying her a treat of some sort. She liked extremely soft, buttered bread in particular, and sometimes a thin slice of bacon. I was hoping that if Gloria got enough food, it'd keep her mouth shut for a while.
"Mmm, it does! Oh, and Fred is working too!" Now she was in the lead .This was going to be one long day, and it had only just begun.