Yesterday in the first part of the story we meet two sisters who are settled back in the town where they were raised. But things are a little different from what they remember. Jenny meets Mrs. Partridge and wonders at the change in her sister Sally.. Despite a tragic year, is something magical about to happen?
Three Sisters (Part Two) by Paul Andruss
Jenny was shocked by how neglected Pear Tree Cottage looked. When she was a kid it always seemed full of light and sparkle. Her and Sal often took the long way home from school just to pass it.
There used to be fairy lights draped around the inside of the windows and the glass panelled door; strung up the pillars of the porch and wrapped around every single one of the snow columned conifers in the garden. She loved the way the lurid coloured lights painted all sorts of patterns on the virgin snow.
One year Sal, who must have been a teenager by then, archly remarked how it looked like Santa’s Littler Helpers had been having a game of paintball. And Jenny thought her sister was dead clever for coming up with something like that.
Now, it was a dark old house, lived in by a lonely old lady. Thinking back Jenny never remembered a Mr Partridge. That must be, what, about twenty five years at least. All that time alone. Poor Mrs Partridge. Jenny felt a pang of shame for considering letting the old woman down on Christmas Eve. There were people worse off in the world, even if it didn’t feel like it.
Inside, the house looked just as sad. Mrs Partridge had not put up a tree or any decorations.
There were no Christmas cards on the dusty mantle-piece. She had not even lit the fire. It was heart-breaking to think someone who loved the season so much, no longer bothered.
When Mrs Partridge took her coat, Jenny wandered to the parlour window from where you could look down at the whole village. The star and snowflake Christmas lights twinkling on the main street and the Christmas trees in people’s windows looked hollow and garish. The lit up decorations of snowmen or Father Christmases on the house fronts and gardens smacked of desperation.
This wasn’t what Jenny remembered. She wondered if the magic had vanished from the place, or just from her. Somehow she thought coming back might recapture a time when she was happy and gave no thought to tomorrow; when she accepted things on faith, and believed.
Mrs Partridge joined her.
‘It looked so magical when we were young,’ said Jenny. ‘We used to take the long way from school just to walk past your house.’
‘It’s a lot of work.’
‘Of course it is. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… It’s just… We kids used to call you Mrs Christmas.’
‘Well, my name is Mary,’ the old woman chuckled.
‘You’re kidding, Mary Christmas. We’d have laughed our heads off if we’d known.’
‘Do you still think it was a mistake?’
Jenny nodded. ‘I shouldn’t have come back.’
‘Perhaps you need to see through a child’s eyes again.’
‘Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. Oh you still have it. Lovely.’ Desperate to change the subject Jenny touched the tall triangular candelabra dominating the narrow windowsill. In truth it was anything but lovely. Carved from black stained wood, and holding twelve thick candles, it was too big and ugly. Yet…
‘Sometimes you’d spot me and Sal gawking at your Christmas lights and invite us in. You and Theresa with a plate of her mince pies or gingerbread and mugs of hot chocolate. Then you’d light a candle for us, and it always seemed like something magical would happen.
We’d be so excited. It was like the countdown to Christmas. And afterwards, when all the decorations were gone, we’d walk past to watch you putting out the candles, one by one, every day.’
‘With the last candle always extinguished before the snowdrops bloomed.’ chuckled Mrs Partridge. ‘That was Flora’s time and it would have seemed selfish otherwise. Perhaps… would you? Oh go on, light one of the candles.’
‘I don’t know’, Jenny laughed, feeling a little self-conscious.
‘Try giving looking through the eyes of a child a chance. You know you want to.’ Mrs Partridge pressed a box of matches into her hand.
Feeling a bit silly, Jenny struck the match and lit the candle: watching the flame dance on the wick; its reflection dance in the window glass. Outside, a solitary snowflake fell, followed by another, then another.
‘Of course it is. Now you should not do it this way every year. But for once we can make an exception. Light the next and see what happens.’
Jenny did as she was told. Somehow the lights in the village looked cheerier; even through the snow, now falling thick and fast.
Old Mrs Partridge clapped her hands. ‘One more?’
Jenny could not believe her eyes. With the third candle, Mrs Partridge’s garden rippled and sparkled with fairy lights. Or perhaps it was the twinkling lights around the window reflected in the glass.
The old lady leaned forward and waved. Sally stood at the garden gate, with snow on her coat and in her hair, and a huge grin on her face. Jenny wondered how long she’d been there.
Seeing her sister, Sally enthusiastically waved back and started up the path.
‘Now quickly, before she gets here, just one more to make it feel like Christmas.’
As soon as the wick caught, the whole window filled with golden light. Jenny spun around expectant, excited to see a dazzling Christmas tree dominating the room. It sparkled, dripping with glittering baubles and festooned with thick twists of silver tinsel, just like the trees she loved as a child. A roaring fire crackled in the fireplace. The whole room swam with the scent of pine, leaving it cosy and inviting.
Seeing Sally burst in grinning, it suddenly felt real and a little frightening. ‘What’s happening to me?’ Jenny demanded. ‘Am I going mad?’
Sal rushed over and sat her sister on the settee. ‘I know it’s a bit of a shock Jen, but let me try and explain. First of all no one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to. I mean I want you to, but it’s up to you.’
‘This place isn’t called Three Sisters after the hills… Oh God, this is hard. I wish I could remember how Theresa explained it to me.’
‘But Theresa was dead.’
Sally looked a bit embarrassed. ‘Well, she was, sort of, but then… Who do you think taught me to cook?’
‘She seemed real enough.’
Jenny’s voice dropped to a whisper, she rolled her eyes to Mrs Partridge. ‘Is she a ghost too?’
‘I may be dead dear, but I’m not deaf.’ Mrs Partridge sounded mildly offended. ‘Think of me as a remainder, or a reminder. There have always been three to help the goddess turn the year.’
‘It’s the way it was everywhere, but it’s not the way it is anymore. That’s why everything is going to pot! Or at least that’s what Al says.’
‘But he’s the vicar!’
‘Yes, but he’s not one of those judgemental types. He thinks everything is part of God’s great plan. He’s quite spiritual. You know, for a vicar! Did you never wonder why you only see Flora in spring? She brings the flowers. Mrs Partridge tends to Yule, the twelve days of Christmas; keeping the hope alive the darkest days.’
‘An old Greek harvest goddess. They’re spirits of the seasons.’
‘Yes I got that bit thank you very much, I’m not thick!’
‘We were chosen as young girls by those before us,’ Mrs Partridge told her. ‘But the choice was ours; as it is yours. I’ve waited a long time to find you. I can wait a bit more.’
‘They lost us when mum dragged us away as teenagers. And they never found anyone else. Then Theresa died five years ago.’
‘What about you?’ Jenny asked Mrs Partridge
‘Not long afterwards I’m afraid. But we wouldn’t go without a safe pair of hands. I mean, it’s alright for Flora; she keeps coming back because spring is rebirth.’
‘It is a responsibility, Jen. But I think you could be happy in Pear Tree Cottage. Look at me in Theresa’s old place. There’s magic here and we bring it to life.’
‘And I don’t want you to think I will be in the way dear. It will only be until you get the hang of things. You will hardly notice me.’
‘Think of it as on the job training,’ Sally helpfully offered. ‘Tell you what though; when Theresa appeared the first couple of times it put the willies right up me. How we laughed! So what do you say Jen?’
Jenny nodded thoughtfully. Well, ‘I’m not saying I will.’
‘We always thought it was such a shame there were not three of you for us. But you know what,’ Mrs Partridge, confidentially patted the back of Jenny’s hand, ‘that’s Flora’s problem.’
‘Speaking of which,’ said Sally, ‘I’ve been wondering if mum would fancy moving back from Spain. You know just for summer. I might ask her over for a holiday. What do you think Jen?’
‘I think you should be careful what you wish for!’
* 6 *
A little before twelve Mrs Partridge poured three schooners of sherry. As the chimes of midnight mass announced the birth of the saviour, Jenny lit one more candle. It may have been her imagination, but she thought she heard something heavy skid across the roof and the faint tinkle of sleigh bells.
‘Did you hear that?’ she asked in wonder, thinking there were going to be some very excited children tonight.
‘Merry Christmas!’ announced Mrs Partridge.
‘No,’ Jenny raised her glass, ‘to Mary Christmas!’
‘And don’t forget the new Mary Christmas!’ added Sally.
Mrs Partridge chuckled. ‘I’ll drink to that!’
A huge thanks to Paul for writing this story especially for the blog and I am sure you enjoyed as much as I have.
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.
The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.
Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.
Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic
Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
Here is my review of Thomas the Rhymer
Challenge your senses with a rival to Harry Potter by Sally Cronin
After 60 odd years of reading it is easy to get into bad habits. By this I mean sticking to the tried and tested with regard to genres and authors. This is not healthy when you are a writer yourself, as I have discovered when reading Thomas the Rhymer by Paul Andruss.
I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling when it was released. Whilst I enjoyed it as a children’s story, I really did not find myself engaged or inspired to read the other seven books or watch the movies. I felt excluded from the millions who did and usually keep my silence in the face of fans.
However, Thomas the Rhymer had me hooked from page one and continued to keep me engaged the entire 319 pages.
This is an ensemble piece with a cast of characters that would be happy in starring roles in Alice in Wonderland or any Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. Jack Hughes, Ken, Catherine and the delightful Rosie, along with Thomas with his foot in this world and that of the Fairies; draw you into their inner circle and hold you fast.
Each of these wonderfully drawn characters face challenges in their past or present that make them feel isolated until they join forces to protect the most vulnerable amongst them and bring a brother home.
The story will challenge your beliefs in spectacular fashion. Is there another world or worlds running parallel with ours, are fairies sweet and delicate creatures or demons; is that tramp outside the Post Office real or an illusion? As you travel with Jack, Ken and Catherine on their quest, hurtling along ley lines and battling fantastic monsters and evil temptresses, you will find your heart beating a little bit faster. And probably checking under your bed at night!
The scenes set in London that criss cross centuries are filled with historical facts distorted with fairy dust. Next time you are in the city and walking the streets you will be looking into dark doorways and wondering if behind that old oak door with chipped paint lies a nest of elfin waiting to rob you of your senses.
The writing is superb with wit, humour and an edge that turns this from a children’s fairy story into a multi-generational adventurous fantasy that I believe knocks Harry Potter into a cocked hat!
I recommend reading Thomas the Rhymer and at £1.22 it is a steal worthy of the elfin themselves with a value of very much more in my opinion. There are more books to come in the Jack Hughes series and I would love to see the movies.
Challenge you senses and pick up a copy today.
Thanks for dropping in today and as always your feedback is appreciated.. don’t forget to drop in to read part two tomorrow.. thanks Sally