Strangers in a Strange Land

Chapter Ten: An Unwanted Invitation

With Selene safely returned and everyone packed and ready to go, the group of unlikely friends waited not so patiently for the storm that opened the time portal to arrive. It wasn’t that they minded helping Dan around the farm. As a matter of fact, it was quite the contrary. Dan’s expressed gratitude of whatever they completed was so strong he had them believing they were the best at whatever it was they did.

One time Ella asked Peter to shine Dan’s boots before he went into town on an errand. At the time Peter thought nothing of it. He brushed the mud off the heels and polished the top and sides while trying to recall a story Mrs. Almstead mentioned in passing. She’d tell them stories from ancient Greece like she’d been there. With the new eyes, Peter wondered if perhaps she was originally from a time period that had long passed.

After placing Dan’s boots on the rack, Peter went off to find his backpack. Occasionally, a book he hadn’t read, appeared in the front pouch. He hoped the one with the story, he only remembered in pieces would make its way to him.

He was at the top of the stairs when he heard Dan’s reaction. “Look at the shine on these boots!” Uncertain of the tone behind Dan’s response, Peter stopped between two steps.

Smiling broadly enough to show his gold capped molar, Dan said, “I can tell by looking at them you put a lot of effort into them.”

“Thank you.” Peter didn’t know why he thanked Dan. Maybe it was the level of gratitude or the sincerity behind the compliment.

Rubbing the side of the boot in appreciation of the softness, Dan said, “These boots are so nice, I think we should have a proper visit into town.”

Peter’s eyes widened in shock. Rubbing their hands on the towels tied around their waists for makeshift aprons, Selene and Andrea came out of the kitchen to discern what changed Dan’s mind about them keeping a low profile.

After Damien gave Dolph a lightning bolt to the chest, the Dan thought it best that they travel to town in small numbers. On those visits, he encouraged Demetrius to use his talents to convince people that they had a dream about some interesting visitors.

Dan turned to the girls, “Remember you’re cousins from afar stopping by to visit on your way to another destination.”

Before he had time to change his mind, the girls bolted into the kitchen to inform Ella of the change in events. From the room where he was wiping off his boots so they’d look nicer too, Peter heard muffled voices of excitement, doors shutting open and closed, and Dan’s reminders of conversations they may want to avoid.

Mutually amazed and disappointed, they took in the sights of the town. The boys only ever returned to the farm talking about the mercantile, feed supply store and the doctor’s office. They failed to mention that further down the road there was a drugstore/pharmacy with a window that boasted having a soda fountain. A tailor was on one side of the pharmacy and a shoe cobbler on the other side.

Across the street, a saloon boasted having the best whiskey this side of the border. Above the saloon, several windows displayed vacant signs. Ella explained the saloon doubled as a boarding house for travelers. Beside the saloon, a bakery with a large window displaying loaves of bread, cookies, and pies was on one side of the saloon. Ella pointed at a diner to the left of the bakery that was full with a lunch time crowd. “Dan took me there on our first date.” Smiling at the memory, she added, “Our parents sat at the table beside us.”

When they stepped inside the drugstore, the girls decided the logic behind Dan giving each of them a shiny nickel. The cost of a glass of soda was exactly five cents. While Dan went to the supply store with the boys, Ella and the girls sat at the red and white tiled counter top to sip their sodas and discuss their plans for the afternoon.

Andrea was the first to notice people stopping to look at a flyer tacked to the door before they walked into the drugstore. Their pleased smile and excited conversations prompted by the announcement ignited enough curiosity for Andrea to leave her soda and read it for herself. Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a little “O”.

Selene ran to her side to read the information and shared the reaction of the other patrons. She said, “As much as things changed, they remained the same. They announce events the same way we do. It’s a party. And the entire community is invited.”

“We can pretend like we never saw it,” Andrea said quickly. “Or maybe the storm will arrive and it will be a nonissue.”

“Why wouldn’t we want to stay away from a party?” Caitlin sided with Selene.

Seeing the sides were rising against her Andrea gave Ella a pleading look.

“How about we let Dan decide.” Ella said, “He’ll know how to handle the matter.” In an effort to calm Andrea she added, “He’ll probably say that since he didn’t see it, we’re not obligated to attend.”

For the entire ride home the girls bickered about the wisdom in attending the party. Marjorie sided with Andrea. True to her nature Angelica remained silent on the matter. They were wound so tight by the matter Dan said he heard them squabbling long before they got to the door of the house. “Imagine riding home from town with it.” Ella shook her head. Despite the complaints, the gleam in her eye said she was glad to be surrounded by the activity of the girls.

Dan’s face wrinkled with consternation explained the implications of the invitation. “This is a big deal. It means a couple things. First, Dolph is opening his farm to the community which means he’s staking his claim. He plans on being in Arcadia for quite some time.”

“Hasn’t he been here all along?” Nicholas asked like the answer to the question was obvious.

“No, he hasn’t. Demigods with dream transfer skills have the ability to travel through time. They tend to keep to themselves so they don’t interfere with events. It’s kind of obvious when a person has a house and what not and then one day all of it is gone.”

Different shades of confusion crossed the kids’ faces.

“Basically Dolph has closed the portals and has decided to live here permanently. He’s not moving to any other time.”

“That explains how he knew about the movies from our time!” Eugene exclaimed.

The information Dan shared started making sense to Nicholas. As the bits of information came together in his mind, the words to the next question formed, “Is it possible he knew us, way before we ever met him?”

“And the answer to that question is certainly,” Dan answered.

“How do you know all this?” Nicholas asked, “It isn’t in any of the books I’ve read.”

Dan placed his finger on his chin. He looked to Ella with an expression that asked her permission to share a secret. She nodded and said, “I think they can handle it.”

He began with a question. “Eugene, do you have the note I wrote before you went to Dolph’s”

Eugene pulled the note out of his pocket. “The part where I said, ‘Looking forward to seeing you over dinner?’ was a protection against Dolph. I made you see yourself with us that evening so he couldn’t deceive you into thinking you wanted to stay. You don’t have to look people in the eyes to get them to see what you want them to see.”

“You’re like me?” Demetrius asked.

“Used to be.” Dan placed his arm around Ella’s shoulder.

“Aww, don’t say it like that honey.” Ella rushed to his side.

The sound of a horse galloping in the distance distracted them enough to halt all reactions to the new information that answered questions like how Dan knew to expect them, and how he knew about the labyrinth. As Dan walked towards the front of the farm to meet the rider, Peter wondered the extent of their patron’s skills.

The rider reached into his pocket and pulled something from his pocket and handed it to Dan. They shook hands and the rider backed up the horse and left the way he came.

Dan’s somber face warned of them of what they didn’t want to know, but were going to hear anyway. He said, “It’s an invitation from Dolph, he wanted to make sure we knew there were no hard feelings.”

“In other words, he took away our excuse for not attending.” Ella clucked her teeth. “That man is a pest.”

“There’s still the chance of a storm happening before then,” Andrea suggested.

Everyone looked up to see the blue cloudless sky above them.

Her voice thinned conveying the struggle to muster the hope she wanted to feel, she added, “We can always hope.”

Authors note: That feeling when you know you’re going to walk into something you’d rather not. We can only hope the friends figure out Dolph’s scheme before it’s too late…. (dun da da)

I hope you’re still enjoying the story. Leave me a note to let me know what you think so far.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.