• Gina Fegan

Chapter 23. Back to the woods

Over breakfast Maeve went through her plan,

“The problem with this lockdown is that we are all fed up with lockdowns, and now that winter is here it’s far too easy to cozy up inside, eat too much, drink too much and forget about any exercise.” As she was talking Maeve was rubbing her hands together.

The other three were looking at her, waiting, they knew that something was coming.

“So we need an exercise routine.” As she wafted her hands around, emanating a sweet smell.

Groans from Orla and Marianne, who knew that when Maeve had an idea in her head she wasn’t going to let it go. They liked exercise and the outdoors, it was the idea of a routine that was the problem. Sleeping in till you felt like getting up, was one of the joys of being at home, they sensed that this was where she was going.

“Starting today, I’m suggesting ‘group walks’ first thing in the morning, which should set us up for the day. Evening yoga is optional.” Maeve liked to be on her own for Saskia’s online classes but she was prepared to share.

“What exactly are ‘group walks’? And what is that smell?” Marianne liked clarity.

“Good question. Since all of us will be in the same house twenty-four hours a day, we might get on top of each other. So I thought we should go in pairs for the morning walk, changing partners each day. Variety but still routine.” Maeve smiled, at least she thought this was a good plan.

“And this is ‘Wild Rose’ massage oil because I won a goodie bag of Weleda stuff, and I know that a symptom of COVID is loss of smell. So I was checking. And clearly you are okay. What about you two?” Maeve checked for affirmative nods from Orla and Adam.

“This morning, I am suggesting, that Orla and I go on the ‘woods towards Fordwich’ walk. I want to see if I can sort out the issue for Edward.”

By now Adam had come to terms with the fact that spirits were part of this family, normal in the way that goats were part of life for him in Folegandros. Wanting to participate he offered,

“Maybe I could show Marianne the medieval water conduit that’s just by those woods?”

Marianne liked the idea of a long walk with Adam,

“We could start there all together, and then Adam and I, could walk home via St Mildred’s Church. I want to see if I can find the grave of James Hales’s wife, Margaret. Apparently she’s buried there. As neither Adam nor I are likely to be in touch with any spirits it's nice to feel that we can see something personal that’s physically here, but from that era.”

Adam nodded.

Maeve noted the use of ‘we’ as if they were forming a bond, she wondered how this was going down with Orla.

What Maeve hadn’t shared with the others, was the rest of the information that Steve had discovered.

Steve had done some digging and found that twenty-five years ago a grim crime committed in the woods. Someone had attacked a family of three, they had beaten the mother and one of the daughters to death, the other child had been badly injured but had survived.

It was also why she was keen on taking Orla into the woods with her, but she didn’t want to prepare Orla, she wanted to see if Orla would connect with that child again before knowing any of the background details. Generally Orla was pretty open to spirits but the last time had given her a shock. Maeve thought that if they were together and she focused trying to ‘pick-up’ whatever spirit was there, maybe they could talk to the child together.

But first Maeve needed to see if she could get rid of Thomas Apps so that if she was ‘tuned-in’ to the other side she wouldn’t be calling him by mistake.

They set out together. There had been a lot of rain overnight and the morning was grey, not promising. Not ideal for a walk off the beaten track. On the other hand less likely to meet anyone else.

Adam took them to King’s Place and showed them all the collecting point for water that was used to feed the St Augustine’s Abbey.

“It’s really clever,” he bobbed with excitement as he warmed to the subject.

“we believe that in the mid twelfth century, Prior Wilbert of Christ Church which is the old name for the Cathedral, studied the Roman systems for managing water and created this amazing system.”

He had brought them to the side of a large stone circular pit full of water, luckily there was a diagram showing how the water flowed in from three nearby springs.

“It just looks like a pond, I don’t see anything special.” Orla was unimpressed, or maybe unimpressed with the rapt attention that Marianne was paying Adam.

“How does it work?” Marianne was enjoying Adam’s passion.

“Well, there is a small lead pipe lower down that …..”

Maeve was holding on to Orla’s arm, tightly. Orla turned to look at her and saw that she had gone white.

“We’re off.” She interrupted Adam, and steered Maeve off in the direction of their walk. Leaving the other two absorbed in each other.

They walked on a narrow path overhung with trees, that was a right of way between some modern houses. Hitting the scent of the earth, of the fresh leaf mould, still wet, helped Maeve to ground. A few minutes later she registered the blackbirds and the robins singing their hearts out, defending their territories, she was back to herself.

“I don’t know what happened there, but I didn’t want to find myself in that well.”

“You were holding on pretty tight, I might even have some bruises on my arm.” Orla was partly trying to make light of it, partly annoyed that they had left the others together and who were too interested in each other to notice anything had happened.

They had driven over here, Maeve had packed some coffee in a flask along with a packet of biscuits in case they needed reviving, so Orla said,

“Let’s just have some sustenance before we head in for any more ordeals. Limit the coffee though, there are no loos in there.”

Opening the hatchback, they sat side by side on the edge of the car, each lost in their own thoughts.

Maeve turned towards Orla,

“I wasn’t going to tell you this but I think I have to.”

“Sounds ominous” said Orla with a mouth still full of biscuit.

I’ve been sitting here thinking back to some of the things that Ada did that caused the trouble between us. And I don’t want to be like her.”

“Mum, you’re not like Ada.” They both smiled.

Not knowing quite how to put it, but wanting Orla to know that she was there for her, Maeve put her arm around Orla’s shoulders.

“Your gift is different to mine…..” Pause. “I want to know if you can talk to that child again. Then I think if I empty my mind, I will be able to feel her too. Together we would be stronger.”

Orla breathed out heavily.

“When you suggested this walk, I thought you had something like that in mind.”

Orla spoke slowly, she was still thinking, in fact she was deciding,

“I don’t want this ‘gift’ to define my life any more than you do. Like you, I need to understand what we can do. This may be tough for both of us. But you are right, we are in it together. Let’s do it.”

“Thank you love, I needed to hear that.” Maeve gave Orla a hug, before putting everything away and locking the car.

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