Elder

by Jennifer Bell

The music was loud, it flooded the lane. I was walking down towards the village and at first didn’t know where it was coming from. I stopped and looked around. This was not just any old music.

When I drew level with the house I looked up to the top window. It was open. The beats cascaded down to me. Then I saw there was a guy sitting near the window, he was looking at me so I gave him a massive grin and put my thumb up. He disappeared from view so I carried on walking.

“Hey!” I heard someone shout from behind me. It was the guy in the window with the music. I smiled at him and gave him a wave. He was about my age and looked slightly flustered. The reason for him being flustered might have been because he had rushed down to speak with me, the girl who stopped to listen to his music; a total stranger. Now he was here he didn’t seem to know what to say.

“I like your music,” I said to break the awkward silence.

“I like your flowers,” he said straight back. I was holding a small bunch of elderflowers I’d picked.

“I’m going to make biscuits with them.”

“Biscuits?” He didn’t get it.

“I make the best elderflower biscuits in the world.” I don’t mean to boast, but I really haven’t tasted better elderflower biscuits. The trick is in the sugar. I infuse sugar with elderflowers for five days, then pick out all the limp and dying flowers, leaving me with a subtly flavoured sugar. The biscuits only work if both the infused sugar and the actual flowers are mixed in together. I explained this to him. He nodded and said they sounded like the best biscuits in the world.

“Someday soon you should come along to the little white cottage opposite to the end of this lane. Judge for yourself,” I said.

“Okay. I might just do that.”

“Alright then. Good evening,” I said as I walked away. He nodded and went back into his house.

It was about three weeks later that I next saw him. This time I passed under his window at the beginning of my walk rather than at the end. He saw me and called down.

“Hey there,” he said. I looked up, squinting the sun from my eyes.

“You never came for those biscuits.”

“I came. You weren’t ever in.” I considered this.

“Well; I’m a busy person. I go walking a lot.”

“How about now? Can I come over now?” he asked. My neck was getting stiff from having to look up the whole time.

“You’d have the same problem. I’m not in right now.”

“I can see that! I just meant… we could go there now, together?”

I shook my head regretfully. “Sorry, no can do. If I don’t go for a walk right now, my day will loose its balance. Terrible things might happen.”

“How long will you be?”

“It depends. Sometimes I’m only gone for half an hour. Sometimes six or more hours.” He nodded slowly and looked somewhat disappointed.

“I’ll watch out for your return then, and come by later.”

“There are no biscuits left.”

“What?” I repeated myself. “So make some more.”

“The elderflowers are gone. No more biscuits for a whole year.” That is a lie. I froze five batches of mixture. But those are for very special occasions. There are a few weddings this summer that I promised a batch each to. I have a tea party coming up in August and that will take up at least one batch. I told him about the tea party and said that I had frozen one batch for it (no need to tell him about the other four).

“You can come to that if you like.”

“I won’t know anyone there,” he said.

“True. But at least you live only a short walk away. If you feel bored or uncomfortable you can just leave.”

“When is it?”

“August the 23rd,” I told him. He told me to wait and then he disappeared from view. I used the opportunity to stretch my neck out a little. He came back to the window very soon after and had a diary in his hand.

“I’m on holiday then.”

“Going anywhere nice?”

“Devon.”

“Hmmm. Devon is nice.”

“But I really want to try those biscuits.”

“Come visit the little white cottage at the end of the lane in a year’s time. Not exactly a year’s time; because you will have come by too late in that case. Come on midsummer’s day next year.”

Jennifer Bell lives in the countryside writing novels, short stories & comics. The rest of the time she plays in the woods.

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