I asked them to wait while I went to the hall to open the door. I started to have reservations about showing them the secret that Granny had guarded to closely. I’d know Mr. Barker for years and always felt that I could trust him. Now more than ever I needed someone I could talk to, confide in. My instincts were always good, so I decided it would be alright. I pushed the button and the door popped open. The least I could do for Granny was keep way to open it to myself.
I went back into the dining room and told them to follow me. We all knelt around the door in the corner of the basement. I held the flashlight so we could see the carving around the door frame.
“That one on top is the same as Mother’s pendant. It’s called a Triquetra; it’s for protection. I’d like to start wearing her pendant but it needs to be cleansed first. Even though she’s been gone for almost four years, it will still carry her energy.”
“Mind if I take some pics?” Cooper asked. “Might be able to find out more about them.”
“Sure, go ahead.”
He got out his phone and snapped several pictures.
“I know what that is one.” I pointed to the symbol shaped like a crescent. “The moon.”
I pointed to the seven-pointed star. “There’s the number seven again. Not sure what it means. I know seven is special, but I’ve never seen a seven-pointed star before. I’ve seen a pentagram, but it only has five points. And I’ve never seen that anywhere here or at Mother’s, ever.”
“You wouldn’t,” Mr. Barker said. “Like I told you earlier, you’re similar to a witch, but not the same. I doubt you’ll find a pentagram anywhere here.”
“I’d like to see the one in the garden, if you have the time.”
“It’s only just past eight and the garden looks especially lovely in the evening. Magical. That door is nicer than this one too.”
* * *
Granny loved her garden. She was out here all the time. I don’t know how she managed to keep it so nice. I always saw her enjoying it, never working in it, except to pick veggies and herbs. Never a weed anywhere though.
Cooper held out his phone and looked at me. He had a crooked grin and a twinkle in his eye.
I turned to Mr. Barker and pointed to the willow tree a few feet away. “Over there.”
Cooper laid down and took a couple of shots at ground level.
“I’d like copies. I’ll give you my email before you go. I’d like to frame this door. The pic that is. I love the gentle arch at the top, and the floral carving on it is so intricate. And those teensy hinges. They look like they’re wrought iron. With the landscaping around it, it’s picture-perfect. I think Granny may have planted a special garden around the tree for the gnomes.”
I took a step back and took in the whole picture, visualizing some changes.
“Do you think they’d mind some decorations?”
Mr. Barker laughed. “You’ll have to ask them.”
I smiled. “Maybe I will.”
I crouched down and knocked on the door. “Hello? Anyone home?”
We were all laughing when a soft voice said, “How may I help you?”
One by one we turned and looked down at the door. It was open a bit. I know it was closed when I knocked.
“How may I help you?”
“Um, can you come out?”
Silence. The door closed a little.
“Please. I live here now. I’m Francine’s grand-daughter.”
The door opened a little. We waited. It opened a little bit more. A tiny woman cautiously peaked around the door. She was not what I expected. I was picturing your basic garden gnome. You know, like the statues that sit in the garden looking tacky, complete with the red point hat. She stood about twelve inches high and wore a floral dress.
She looked at each of us, spending a minute taking us in. We seemed to meet with her approval. She nodded once, stepped clear of the door and shut it. Her dress stopped just above her ankles, and was partially covered with a crisp white apron. Her little shoes looked like those Dutch clogs, but were made of leather, not wood. Her head was uncovered and I guessed her age to be about sixty or so. Kinda hard to tell really.
“Have you lived here long?” I asked her.
“No, only eighty-seven years. Ever since I married. I come from the farm just up the way, over the hill.” She smiled and her eyes twinkled.
“My family doesn’t approve of mixed marriages. Haven’t spoken to them since. They’ll come around in a hundred or so years.”
“Yes, I married a house gnome. It’s just not done you know.”
I didn’t know. “So what’s the big deal? He’s still a gnome.”
She giggled softly. “Francine really didn’t tell you anything, did she? She has lots of books. Might I suggest you take the time to read them? Study them carefully when you get back from your Great Aunt’s. You won’t have time before you go.”
“How. . . ?”
“We hear all sorts. Can’t keep secrets from us. We try not to intrude.” She looked past me at Cooper. “Any time you feel you need total privacy, just let us know. There are places we can go.”
I heard Cooper snicker and tried to ignore it. “That won’t be necessary.” Unfortunately.
“I believe it’s time Cooper and myself took our leave. You have arrangements to make.” I had forgotten about Mr. Barker and was startled when he spoke. “If you need any assistance when you return, you know where to find me.”
They headed to their car, and I turned back to the little gnome. She was gone. Once again I was on my own. I decided to go through Granny’s books again. I had the one book on gnomes and such that I left on the chair when Mr. Barker arrived. Maybe there was more. I grabbed the book and went back to the basement. Before I reached the bookshelf I could hear movement behind me. I turned and sat that the door was open and the garden gnome was standing with a male gnome.
“I’m afraid I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Nenka Lindtwiss. This is my husband Tinkus. You’ll meet the rest of the family eventually. We thought you might need some help finding the right books.”
“I found one earlier. Are there more?”
I bent down and held out the book so they could see.
“Oh, that’s a very good one. You’ll find another one up on the top shelf.”
“Thanks. Not to be rude or anything, but why are you here?”
Tinkus took a step closer and cleared his throat. “We’ve always worked alongside your kind. My father came over from England with your great grandmother. Nenka’s family came over from Holland. We enhance your special skills.”
I turned to Nenka. “I’m guessing you help with the herbs and stuff like that? Could you be the reason I never saw Granny working in the garden, but I never saw weeds?”
She smiled and nodded.
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