A Picnic In The Park
“Apology accepted,” replies Ishandra to Stella. “Just keep in mind what I have told you.”
Ishandra looks about and sees that the confrontation with Stella has set all the Faeries and also the horses on edge. “I have a picnic planned for us all,” she announces to the Faeries. “I have packed all the provisions in your saddlebags. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes!” is everyone’s enthusiastic reply. Then Tecna rides up beside Bloom and whispers to her behind her hand, “I just hope it won’t be a buggy-wuggy banquet, yech!”
“I heard that,” says Ishandra, catching Tecna off guard and causing her to blush. “I have selected items that we all can eat and enjoy,” she assures the Faerie of Technology.
“Where is your horse, Ishandra?” asks Aïsha.
Ishandra makes a two-toned whistle and a horse neighs and trots out of the stable to join her side.
“Such a beautiful horse!” exclaims Flora. “What’s her name?”
“Latifa,” replies Ishandra with pride and love glowing in her eyes. “She is actually Latifa the Second. The original Latifa, for me at least, was a black mare I used to ride when I lived in Italy on Terra. She also had a twin sister named Nefert that my mother used to ride. They didn’t actually belong to us but were the property of a friend and trading partner of my father’s named Abraham, who sailed out of Morocco and around an inland sea called the Mediterranean Sea. When he made it into our port in Italy, he would stay for a time and ride them. In between times, he paid us to stable them and take care of them. My mother and I ended up riding them more often than he did. It was one of my small pleasures.”
Ishandra pauses for a moment with a sad look on her face as if reliving a tragic time of her life. “I don’t know what happed to either of them after my mother was killed by witch hunters and I had to go into hiding and then was brought by a rescue party to Alfea. I just hope that someone kind continued to care for them after we were gone … but I digress.”
Ishandra mounts Latifa and turns her towards the gates. “The horses know where we are headed,” she tells the Faeries. “Just relax, enjoy the ride and let them follow Latifa and me.”
Sometime about an hour later, the group reaches a clearing with a few trees standing like sentinels at its border. Ishandra tells the Faeries to dismount from the side in the manner they mounted their horses.
“Need we tie them?” asks Tecna.
“No,” replies Ishandra. “There is good grazing here and after we empty the saddlebags, we can allow them to wander and graze to their hearts’ content.”
Once the saddlebags are emptied and their contents set upon a large blanket that has been spread on the ground, the Faeries are all wide-eyed over the banquet that is spread out before them.
“You made all this yourself?” asks Flora, astounded.
“Yes,” replies Ishandra, “and I will be very disappointed if there is not something there to please each of your pallets. These are all dishes from Terra but I’m sure you will like them.”
There is excited chatter and fluttering of wings as the Faeries begin to open all the containers and explore the delicious smells and tastes.
“Whoa!” exclaims Aïsha, reaching for a glass of water. “This is fiery but delicious. What is it?”
“It is a mixture of boiled grains and a spice called piri-piri,” Ishandra tells her. “If you like that, do try the Japanese cucumber rolls here with the hot wasabi.”
“Is there any raw cassava?” asks Stella, hopefully.
“No, sorry,” replies Ishandra to Stella. “That is poisonous to Witches but do try the palm nut soup with fufu.
“What are these?” asks Flora, holding up yet another of the many dishes.
“Chilled agar-agar noodles in peanut sauce,” Ishandra tells her.
“And this?” asks Musa.
“Bok choy, water chestnuts, bean sprouts and fried tofu in soy sauce,” Ishandra tells her. “Why am I not surprised that you like it, Musa? There is also a soup there made with tofu stuffed wontons in a vegetable broth.”
“Kiko would have loved this,” says Bloom, digging into the carrot, walnut and raisin salad. “And the flower petal salad is delicious. It reminds me of the ones my adoptive mother would make for me.”
“This looks to be interesting,” says Tecna, holding up what looks like a large cracker with toppings.
“It is what we call ‘Arabic pizza’ at home,” Ishandra tells her. “It is a thinly baked, whole wheat foundation topped with pine nuts, finely chopped pomodoro and herbs but to make it Faerie friendly I have replaced the ground lamb with jasmine flavoured soy mince.”
“It’s delicious!” exclaims Tecna, relishing the taste and at the same time thankful that it’s not a Witches’ buggy-wuggy delicacy.
Aïsha then realizes that during all this Ishandra has not taken even a bite to eat. “Are you not going to partake of this feast?” she asks her.
“I have brought something special just for me,” Ishandra replies to Aïsha and opening a long box takes from it what looks like a slender stick through a brown blob with eight legs coming from it.
“Is that what I think it is?” asks Bloom, cringing.
“Could be,” Ishandra tells her, “if you are thinking of battered tarantula deep-fried in canola oil,” as she proceeds to bite off the legs.
“What’s that?” ask Stella.
“It is a large arachnid native to my home town, Taranto, in Italy,” Ishandra tells her.
Puzzled, Stella turns to Bloom for clarification. “It’s a big and hairy, creepy-crawly spider with bad ’tude and what-kick-butt,” says Bloom in a scary voice as she wriggles her fingers pretending that it is one of the large spiders about to land on Stella’s shoulder.
“Eeeek!” screams Stella, batting away Bloom’s hand and shoving her.
The two Faeries tussle with each other but Bloom, who is the stronger of the two, has Stella quickly wrestled to the ground and the blue eyes of the Mistress of the Red Dragon’s Fire are looking passionately down into hers.
“No, Bloom,” groans Stella near panic. “This is way too freaky for me. I feel really and truly sorry for you and about Sky leaving you and marrying Princess Diaspro. I’m pleased to have been able to comfort you some, but, I’m now happily married to Brandon and just cannot engage in the kind of relationship you want with me.”
“Peace out, Sisters!” exclaims Flora gently to the two Faeries.
“Viens ici, ma biche,” says the Mistress of the White Ice Dragon’s Fire to Bloom and pats the blanket beside her. Bloom comes over and rests her head on Ishandra’s shoulder while Ishandra rests her chin upon Bloom’s head and gently caresses Bloom’s cheek and runs her fingers through her shoulder length red hair. “You’re still not over him, are you, Little Sister? I can only offer you the wisdom of age and tell you that, in time, the pain will go away or, at least, become bearable. I’m sure that, very soon, a gorgeous, young Faerie, such as you are, will find a noble, young Faë who will be worthier of you than Prince Charming of Eraklyon ever was.”
“I know your pain, sweetie,” says the empathic Faerie of Nature to Bloom, “and we are all here, as your sisters, to help you get through this.”
“You can count on it, Bloom!” seconds Aïsha with a goodly jot of anger and disgust mixed with the consoling tones of her voice.