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Due North

By Katya Kolmakov All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

Right as Rain

Farmer Thorne slightly moves away from Etta, still holding her in the circle of his arms; and exhales softly. Etta feels like an overcooked perogy - warm, squishy, and lacking any structural integrity.

Etta wants to know what in the name of the High Council of Gallifrey that was - and she doesn’t. Besides other things, her hands are still splayed on his pectoral muscles, the coarse chest hair under her palms; and the water is still running; and maybe she just wants to continue snogging him.

“We will talk about why you’re here later,” he rumbles, and Etta looks up at him in surprise.

That’s funny. She was just thinking that if he asked her about the purpose of her visit to Canada and her admittedly very suspicious behaviour right now, it would look like he only kissed her to snooker the truth out of her.

So, that’s fair. And nice. Nice to know he did it just because… wait! Why exactly did he do it? She throws him a suspicious look. He doesn’t particularly seem like he’d lost control and was overcome with passion. He’s just calmly studying her face. Is he trying to guess why she is meticulously weaseling her way into his life?

“I love the freckles,” he notes.

So no, he isn’t trying to guess anything. He’s looking at her freckles. Etta blushes. She’d like to answer that she likes his... everything, but she’s tongue-tied. She suddenly wants him to like her... everything as well - and she wants him to know that she can be trusted, and she isn’t after his money, and that she might fancy him. A bit. Just a tad. Etta is no idiot. She doesn’t know him, and under no circumstances has she been dreaming of moving in with him, and waking up every morning and seeing his sleeping face, and cuddling into his warm side every night. Is Etta PMSing? It’s properly too soppy!

She chews on her bottom lip. What is a girl supposed to say in these circumstances? Etta has so little experience with men and zero experience with the descendants of the ghosts she’s seeing in her waken state that she’s properly lost here.

And then he pronounces the sad, but true statement.

“We should go back.” She nods, he releases her, and she steps back.

The shirt is finally washed; dried under the hand dryer; and they're silent through the whole process. The difference is that he seems completely comfortable with no verbal communication, while she’s opened her mouth about fifteen times with something to say, and then closed it sharply.

The rest of the wedding passes in peace - if dancing with every bleeding person, and dodging a surprising amount of chat-up attempts can be considered peace. Farmer Thorne predictably doesn’t dance. Way past midnight - but surprisingly early in Etta’s understanding of a wedding - Farmer Thorne rings up a cab for Etta, and with a soft ‘goodnight, Etta’ - and with a sad lack of a goodnight kiss - Etta is helped into a car.

Before they leave, Etta commands the cabbie to hold, and sticks her head through the window. Firstly, she needs one more look. For cataloguing purposes. He's utterly lush in the waistcoat, hugging his waist, and the crinkled shirt, with his hair slightly disheveled, probably by Etta herself. She will revoke this image later, when she’s alone in her room.

Secondly, she needs to schedule their next meeting. For his ancestor’s sake, of course!

“When should I come to your place tomorrow?” she asks, and he gives her a strange look.

“Any time.”

Yeah, his eloquence is breathtaking. Etta rolls the window up, and back to the hotel she goes.

The next day Etta’s phone promises +35C; and Etta spends additional half an hour pondering the content of her suitcase. Firstly, they kissed; and now it’s awkward, especially after she had a night to think about it - after she was done imagining what could have happened after that kiss if they happened to be the only two people in that building.

Secondly, she wasn’t prepared to such heat. Eventually, she settles on a blush coloured, maxi dress, and comfortable gladiator sandals. Heels would be daft. She is going to a farm.

After a prairie breakfast - she once again manages to consume only a third - she calls a cab, waits - while squirrels are still going at it at the background - and then she’s trying not to chew at her nails through the drive. She wants to see him - and doesn’t know what she’ll do when she does.

After that, it all goes pearshaped. It’s already scorching outside, and for some reason the AC in the cab is off. The tit area ruffles on Etta’s dress are now sadly drooping. Etta's starting to get jittery. She did dress up for Farmer Thorne; it’s time to admit it. And now instead of being elegant and slightly seductive, she looks like a ball of candy floss someone sat on. More so, with the fabric clinging to her skin, everyone will now see that she doesn’t have a bra under the dress.

Her previous habdabs pale in comparison, when after paying the fare, and stepping out of the car, Etta pauses by the gates distracted by the view of seven rabbits chewing grass with blissful expression on the faces. They're round, fat, and completely undisturbed by Etta’s presence. Who needs a zoo in this city when there's wildlife everywhere?! And then Etta feels like someone toppled a bucket of lukewarm water on her.

It is almost the literal truth. It rains. Apparently, just according to idiom, when it rains… Etta squeaks and looks up. Her jaw drops ungracefully. Half of the sky is still as brilliant and cerulean as Farmer Thorne’s eyes. While above her head, Etta sees storm clouds as dark as her mood is quickly growing to be. And then there're lightnings. And then hail. The size of a kumquat.

Etta squeals again and speeds up towards the house.

The downpour is so intense that in three seconds she’s running almost knee deep in water, her shoes are probably quickly dying, and her curls that she - somewhat bashfully - tried to style in a nice messy bun on her head - are now sticking to her face and her neck.

Farmer Thorne is standing in the door of the house, holding it open. And instead of running into his arms - preferably with him unprepared enough so that she could snog him so that he would ignore her pathetic state - Etta slips… and doesn’t fall, because although it would be a cliché, it would still be less embarrassing than this half arse fall, with a daft half cry, her arms flailing, her legs wiggling, but no eventual horizontal position achieved. She thrashes, remains standing, but half-bent, straightens up, and finished the last few feet between the cursed puddle and Farmer Thorne, who’s watching her misadventures with the same good old unreadable expression.

She walks by him, water pouring down off her, and sloshing in her somewhat stylish handbag; and she starts pulling off her sandals, sighing, and feeling sorry for herself.


Alright, maybe Etta fancies the bloke, or something; but she’s wet and humiliated. His habitually short, lacking in sympathy statement just grits at her nerves. She lifts her face to hiss at him, and realizes he isn’t even in the room. What is she supposed to do now? The answer is to stop rubbing her stinging eyes, fighting back tears, and sniffling.

He comes back with a giant fluffy towel and something that turns out to be his tee.

He throws the towel over her shoulders, and rubs her upper arms.

“The bathroom is there. I’d offer you my pants, but they are too big.” Is he aware that in British English ‘pants’ are underwear? Probably not. Etta shakes off the mental image of herself in paisley print boxer shorts. “I’ll bring a blanket.” His voice is warm and comforting, and his eyes are smiling.

He then lets her go and considerately steps back from her. Etta gives up. She is bloody in love with him.

Etta minces to the bathroom, pressing the towel and Farmer Thorne’s tee to her nonexistent bosom. The tee is indeed huge, and smells very nice. And no, Etta didn’t sniff it! There’s the pleasant but not overpowering smell of tumble dryer sheets that tickles Etta’s nose. Will she now get aroused every time she’d smell Lenor Summer Breeze 34 Pack? Probably.

She drags her dress off and pauses pondering the knickers. They're of course soaked; but if she takes them off there will be just the tee hardly covering her buttocks. She dries her hair; and since she has no better solution, she pulls the sad lacy piece off and wraps the towel around her lower half. The look over herself in the large mirror on the door presents her with the view that she can’t describe anyhow else but a ‘wet frumpy squirrel.’ The hair hangs down in pathetic orange eel like strands; the tee makes her look even shorter than her incomplete 5’3’’ - and the improvised skirt looks simply daft. Etta sighs. Now, she needs to step out of the bathroom looking like that, and face the man she snogged last night. After running by him looking like a used teabag.

Etta rolls her now hated dress and knickers in a ball, makes sure the towel is secure, and edges out of the bathroom.

Farmer Thorne is standing in his kitchen, leaning on the counter, and pinching the bridge of his nose. Does he have a headache? Etta wouldn’t be surprised. She seems to make a faux-pas after a faux-pas in this relationship. Of course, he’d have a headache the day she came with a vague hope for something of the same sort as the shirt incident from last night.

“Um, thank you...” Etta mumbles, and he throws her a look. It’s a dark, seemingly pained look. Definitely a headache.

“Coffee or tea?” he asks in a very dischuffed tone, and Etta sniffles.

“Coffee, please.”

He turns away and starts making coffee from a large red tin - Tim’s of course. A plate with more muffins, a sugar bowl, and a carton of milk appear on the table as well.

These muffins are bright orange and look very jolly. Etta is ogling the one on the right side of the plate, while putting sugar in her coffee. And then she freezes and stares into the sugar bowl.

“You said you had no sugar in the house last time!” That wasn’t very polite, but she has accepted her own blabbering long ago. It’s rather hopeless now, isn’t it?

“I bought it last night.” He’s still standing, leaning on the counter, his bare feet crossed in the ankles. Has Etta mentioned that she has suddenly found a bare foot kink in her convoluted psyche? Who knew. And then she realises he bought sugar for her. Because she took sugar in Tim’s. Is that a gesture? That certainly looks like a gesture. She’s staring at him; he’s calmly sipping his black coffee.

To silence the cacophony of thoughts in her mind she takes a large sip of her cuppa and burns her tongue. With a sad whimper Etta decides that she might as well just give up.

“What’s the topic of your research?” he suddenly asks, and Etta blinks, jerked out of her sad thoughts of how that romantic kiss on the green grass of his lawn - that she had imagined this morning and knew was completely unrealistic - is now as probable as her figuring out what he’s even thinking about. At least she has prepared an answer for this question.

“There is this mad millionaire in Yorkshire who has a conspiracy theory that Titanic and Olympic, the two sister ships were switched, and the fake Titanic was sunk on purpose as an insurance scam. And he offers a generous reward to those who can offer some evidence to support his theory. And there's also the Royal Navy bursary for people conducting research in this area, so I reckoned one way or another I’d get some nice result out of this trip. I swear I didn’t know about Gran Etty!”

Etta might have come here led by a ghost. But if there is one thing Etta does best, that is research and fundraising.

He’s studying her; and she squirms on the chair. She doesn’t dare picking up a muffin, in case it might look as if she were hiding behind the pasty, but she really wants the muffin!

“This is a coincidence then,” he draws out, and Etta nods enthusiastically. It is! She wishes she could convince him she's telling the truth without telling him about having snogged his long time dead ancestor. She can solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that she’s telling the truth, maybe not the whole truth, but at least nothing but the truth. He sighs; and Etta takes it as a green light to sink her teeth into the muffin.

“It is just an astonishing coincidence,” she mumbles between bites.

“The universe is rarely so lazy,” he deadpans; and Etta freezes with her mouth full.

“You watch Sherlock?” she asks, feeling that - although she didn’t think it possible - he’s just become 200% more attractive.

“Who doesn’t these days?” he asks, and lowers the mug on the counter. “Do you want that box now?”

“Yes, please,” Etta answers politely, decorously folding her hands on the table, but he doesn’t move. He’s squinting, back to pinching his nose. Etta fancies the nose. It’s long, and the bridge is narrow. Etta wants to touch the nose too. Etta thinks she’s hopeless.

“Would you like to have dinner?” he suddenly asks from behind his hand, and then looks at her with one bright blue eye.

Etta blinks. Seriously, he needs to learn the valuable skill of elaborating. Does he mean if she’s hungry and wants to have an untimely dinner in the middle of the day? Is he - Rassilon help her - asking her out? And when - if at all - is he offering her to have dinner? Is he asking whether she wants to stay and eat together later? Or does he mean a fancy dinner for which Etta needs to buy a dress, put mascara on, and overanalyze every little detail of?

And then she isn’t sure if he even means a dinner with him, because he - for god's sake - hasn’t elaborated! The answer she blurts out is of course consistent with her frazzled 165 IQ - which has processed three hundred twenty eight possibilities by now and hasn’t arrived to any definite result - and her uncontrollable gob.

“I need clarity!” she squeaks, and his eyebrows jump up. He lowers his hand and is looking at her from under a raised eyebrow. It’s a very sexy gesture, and Etta's feeling even more flustered. “You can’t just say six words, after we kissed, and I unbuttoned your shirt! Wait! It was the other way around! The shirt was first, and then the kiss! But nonetheless...” She gathers lungfuls of air. “I’m sorry! I get it’s your personality, but you’re driving me bonkers, and the whole situation is a bit too much, and it’s Canada, everything is different, and the squirrels were shagging there, and my head is going to explode!” Etta imagines that her hair is starting to dry and rise around her head right in front of his eyes. She does feel like her noggin is boiling. “Sod the Cosmo advice, I’m just going to ask. What dinner? With whom? When? Why?”

The man smiles. Seriously?! The smile is wide, white-toothed, and very jolly. Great, at least one of them is entertained. Through the fretty haze in her noggin, Etta notices that he’s looking at her somehow differently. Is that an ogling element added to his looking, as if her mental behaviour seems somehow endearing to him? Etta can’t tell. She’s too busy hyperventilating.

“A date like dinner. With me. At your nearest convenience. You’re hot.”

And then he finishes poor Etta up with a bloody lopsided grin.

One would think this declaration - and don’t all women fancy having the status of their relationship with a man put into definite words? - would make Etta feel better. It didn’t. His answer just sprouted more questions in her oversized brain, and Etta knows only one way to shut the cursed organ down.

She hops off the chair - everything in this country is bleeding giant - decisively walks around the table, and places a hand at the back of his neck. She pulls down, he isn’t fighting. More so, he’s clearly very much pro this development of events.

His lashes flutter; eyes close; and something loudly pops in Etta’s head. That might be the ‘sanity valve.’ Instead of keeping her cool, and being skillful and somewhat detached, she grabs the man like she hasn’t had any in forever - sad, but true - and as much as attacks him. He doesn’t seem any less enthusiastic, but she certainly shows herself just as starved as she really is.

From the force of her ‘assault,’ he sways backwards; and his back smashes into the fridge. Something crashes inside; and then the painting hanging above it gets knocked off the wall by the dried flowers in a vase on top of the fridge. The frame hits the floor and shatters. Which Etta registers but couldn’t care less about, considering that Farmer Thorne has just picked her up under her arms and plopped her on the table.

Apparently, the one lane street of Farmer Thorne’s thinking has just turned towards shag. Etta reckons she’s starting to suss out his personality. It’s all neatly packed in little boxes in his head. First, she was an odd visitor. Then she was suspicious. And now she’s apparently ‘hot.’ Judging by his hands that have just slid under his tee and covered her tits. Mama mia!

And then he dives in, and his hot lips are on her neck. Etta whimpers, and her head drops back. Under just the right angle for her to see the painting on the floor.

If it’s true that a person uses only 10% of their brain capacity on everyday basis - which isn’t true, by the way - there might be only about 0.5% of Etta’s grey cells right now that aren’t flooded by oxytocin and are still functional. But those 0.5% of her brain cells note that: A. That painting is after all the portrait of her cat, Mr. Thornton. B. The cat was named after Gaskell’s character, and there was a clue in Etta’s instructions from her Gran Etty and Officer Thorne with a quote from the BBC mini-series. And finally, C. There's a map drawn on the back of the portrait that is clearly visible now that the frame has broken, and the canvas covering the reverse has torn.

Etta knows that it would be responsible to let the man - who currently, just as romance novels describe, is cupping her jaw with a large masculine hand, tilting her head to gain more access to the sensitive skin on her throat - know about this discovery; but for that Etta needs to be able to speak. Which she isn’t. Also, she sort of doesn’t want to interrupt him.

Farmer Thorne has very large hands. And they're scorching. When described in detail, his efforts might sound rather medical, but not when one is experiencing them first hand. Etta is swiftly melting into a muddle. While his index finger is on her cheekbone, his firm palm is pressed to her jaw, and the middle finger is on that little bone behind her ear. And then he brushes his thumb onto the corner of her mouth, while his soft warm lips slip along her neck.

And then something slides along Etta’s leg, and she realises the towel has almost unwrapped. That sobers her up a wee bit. It’s not like she’s opposed to continuing all this snogfest with Farmer Thorne! Not at all! But she would prefer to be in control of her undressing, as opposed to her gender bits suddenly put on display due to the gravity affected towel. She starts rummaging down there, trying to find the cursed piece of fabric. Farmer Thorne stops his divine nibbling at her throat and chuckles into her skin.

“Do you need help?” he murmurs into her neck, and Etta squirms. She doesn’t want him to stop, but the towel is annoying. He moves his hips - that he has wedged between her legs, by the way - slightly away, which makes her feel cold in all the places one wouldn’t want to feel cold. Etta would also want to say, ‘Brava, Mother Nature! Thank you for your generosity.’

Etta quickly adjusts her ‘modesty belt,’ and meets his eyes. God, he is gorgeous! His attractiveness was sort of subdued, due to the excessive hair, and the grumpy expression. But now, with a sexy smirk, and shiny eyes, he’s worthy of some macho cologne ad, in a plaid shirt, and with an ax, and maybe a bear at the background. Or, he can play in films! But not a romcom, of course. Something with long and wide swords, and maybe even a dragon! Definitely a dragon.

“Etta?” he asks, and she can see his shoulders shake from laughter.

“Um… Sorry… I got distracted… But not from you, I was just...” What should she say? Should she confess she’s been ogling and imagining him in some daft shining armour, with golden ridges on the excessively wide breastplate and gauntlets? Or should she make up an excuse? Say, maybe, that she was pondering the protection question. That would be responsible. Etta goes for a cowardly option. “Um… There’s a map on the back of Mr. Thornton’s portrait.”

He gives her a confused look. Right, he doesn’t know that that's her cat on that painting. He thinks his Granny hung it on the wall, and he doesn’t know that his great grandfather has visited his house in the astral form to observe the painting, previously having seen the cat on it in flesh in her flat. How did everything get so Pebble in the Sky?

“The painting. That fell down,” Etta explains, pointing at it. “It has a map on the reverse.”

He looks; and while he’s studying the map, Etta’s studying the adorable small curls near his ear. Etta wants to twirl one on her finger.

He makes a surprised humming noise, and leaves Etta, to pick the painting up. She hurriedly wraps into the towel more securely.

“It is a map,” Farmer Thorne pronounces pensively. Seriously? He says six words at a time, and he decides to waste them on stating the obvious?

He flips the painting and shows her the back.

Etta knows very little about maps, but this seems like some sort of rural terrain. There're a few bodies of water, and some sort of hills, maybe?

“It’s Whiteshell.” Farmer Thorne is back to his conversational equivalent of throwing a bone to a hugnry dog. In normal circumstances Etta would pull out her mobile to Google, but she’s scarcely clad, her mobile is still in the bathroom; and she wants to go back to what they were doing before, which makes her a bit peevish.

“A what what?”

“Whiteshell Provincial Park. Echo Lake, Horseshoe Lake...” He points with his long finger. Etta’s looking at the hand, not the map. Map won’t tell her anything, while the hand… “I camped there with my Dad as a kid.”

Etta finally tears her eyes off the surprisingly artistic wrist and focuses on the map. It’s a neat ink drawing on the canvas. Clearly unprofessional, but very detailed. And there is a large red cross near something called Caddy Lake.

“X never, ever marks the spot,” Farmer Thorne murmurs, and Etta gapes at him. Now he’s quoting her favourite childhood film that actually inspired her to become a librarian at the first place?! Can the man be any more perfect?! Which reminds her… Weren’t they sort of preoccupied?

“What do you think is there?” Sadly, it’s quite a different Thorne that asks this question.

Etta whips her head and sees Officer Thorne standing by the wall, pensively rubbing his chin, and scrutinising the map in the hands of his descendant. Exactly for how long has he been here?!

Etta clears her throat.

“What do you think is there?” she asks the farmer, and he hums noncommittally.

“Probably a prank,” he shrugs.

“It is probably worth investigating. It is clearly a part of Madame Katerina’s plan,” the officer insists. Etta would like to remind him she isn’t exactly in a situation to lead a discussion with him. She quickly throws him a meaningful look and returns her attention to Farmer Throne.

“Maybe we should look into it?” she offers innocently. “Maybe it’s a treasure map. You do have treasure maps here, in Canada?”

“Only in Dora cartoons,” he answers, and then lifts his laughing eyes from the map. Etta swoons. Again. She’d hoped her overwhelming reaction to him - every muscle in her body sweetly shivering - would start wearing off by now, but tough tits!

“Still… Maybe it’s some hidden heirloom. Something valuable.” She remembers she’s sort of part of his family. “We can split it, and it could help you out financially… You know, with the farm?”

It might be very hard to suss out, since he’s so inexpressive, but Etta has been having - for a while now - a growing suspicion that Farmer Thorne is far from thick.

“What is it that you aren’t telling me?” he asks, holding the portrait of her cat in his hands. Etta fidgets with his towel.

“Ms. Ryan, perhaps you should either tell him the truth, or retreat,” whispers Officer Thorne, and Etta screws her eyes and glares at the barmpot. Either option is hardly achievable here, isn’t it? And why is he whispering?! She’s the only one who can hear him! “I personally would consider the first path. Perhaps, my descendant could be persuaded to participate in our pursuit, and...”

The officer continues droning in the similar manner, and Etta’s trying to block the babbling out. She needs to concentrate.

“I don’t know anything about the map,” she mumbles. “I only saw it when it fell… When we...” She clears her throat, and peeks at the man.

He’s studying her, with the same attentive look he’s had before. Bugger. She’s been moved back into the ‘suspicious’ category, wasn’t she? No, no, no, Etta doesn’t want to! She wants back to the ‘hot’ category!

“Would you go to the park with me tomorrow?” the corporeal Thorne asks, and Etta blinks. What now?


“Yes. Assiniboine Park. At 10 maybe?”

Etta’s just received a mental equivalent of a whiplash.

“Why are we going to the park?”

“It’s my birthday. I want to spend it in a park with you.”

Yeah, the man doesn’t speak much. But when he does, it’s on point. How can she refuse?

“Um… OK,” Etta squeaks, and he nods to his own thoughts.

“I’ll get you the box,” he mutters and leaves the kitchen. Is that it? Is he not going to acknowledge that they’ve just copped off like fifteen year olds in a fortunately empty flat? She’s still sitting on the table! And what about the map? By the way, she didn’t miss that he carried the frame away with him.

Etta sighs and slides on the floor, making sure not to flash poor Officer Thorne.

“Has something happened?” he asks in a considerate tone. “You seem preoccupied.”

She is. She’s preoccupied with the thought of telling Officer Thorne - and his psychic, and the time travelling, and ridiculous riddles - to sod off. And then she can just push that door the farmer disappeared behind, and hope that the towel hits the floor, and…

The door opens, and the farmer is back with the box.

Etta groans, and plops on a chair.

“Coffee?” the man asks, and she nods in defeat. By now, she’s properly addicted to Tim’s.

She opens the lid and starts pulling envelopes out of the box.

“Oh god...” she breathes out and stares at an envelope titled Caddy Lake Tunnel Canoeing.

Why does she have a feeling this envelope has something to do with her? Maybe because there are her initials - H. E. G. R., Henrietta Elizabeth Guinevere Ryan - in the corner of it. She opens the envelope and sees another map, a smaller one, and a few unprofessional, but rather decent drawings of landscapes with little boats gliding on water.

“Can you canoe?” The question falls off Etta’s lips, and she isn’t at all surprised when Farmer Thorne nods without a word. Of course he can.

Besides the rather transparent instructions to how to canoe to the - alleged - treasure hidden in the tunnels of Lake Caddy, depicted in ink and watercolour sketches with signature L. M. T. in the right bottom corner - Linnet Murphy Thorne, no doubt - Etta can’t find anything else pertaining to her case. The rest are personal letters, old photographs, and postcards. One thing for sure, Thorne men age well. Etta sees a photo of Officer Thorne in his late years, and indeed if the corporeal one will be that much of a totty at sixty… Once again, 'oh my-y-y...' in the immortal words of George Takei.

She throws Farmer Thorne a quick look. He’s sitting on the other end of the table, his surprisingly - or already not so much - stylish Mac in front of him, comparing Gran Etty’s drawings to the Google maps. The lips are pressed in a strict line; eyebrows frowny, just as during her first visit; and she sighs. Her dress and knickers are finishing their cycle in the dryer, and it’s surely time to go. And it started so well! Her on the table, him between her knees… Alas.

Once her clothes are dry, and the contents of the box are studied, Etta calls a cab. He’s clearly not holding her. Just as before, his face is as expressive as the Tim’s Smile Cookie; except if they drew him on those biscuits, the pink line of the mouth would be strictly horizontal.

She mumbles her goodbyes, confirming that they’re meeting the next day in Assiniboine Park at 10, and goes down to her cab. The bunnies are now following the squirrels’ example, and Etta throws them a glare. Life’s so unfair! She wants someone to… scratch her behind her ear as well!

Etta falls into her hotel room, and decides to have a lie-in. The sheets are crisp, white, and cool. She orders room service, and lounges in front of telly all evening. While Brosnan wooes Moore in Laws of Attraction, Etta’s twirling in her fingers the fire opal ring from the envelope. Officer Thorne said the stone was the colour of her eyes. She bets, the farmer one hasn’t even noticed.

The ring is small, and perfect in all possible ways. The cue in the instructions left to her was a quote from Lord of the Rings; and just like a certain Hobbit, Etta just can’t explain how the ring slides on her left hand ring finger.

Her tummy full of the ever so popular here red velvet cake and Earl Grey, she falls asleep, happily purring into her pillow of just the perfect firmness. She’d been given five to choose from, and the rest of them are arranged around her in her habitual nest.

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