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Do The Right Thing by Trevor

© Trevor

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A short story.
***



‘Don’t you go running!’ Mum said, pausing from washing up. ‘Stay where I can see you.’

Rheon glared at his mother as she swiped a lock of blonde, almost white hair from her forehead. ‘Oh, Mum!’

‘Don’t oh mum me. Think on, lad. You know how much I love you, so don’t give me the evil stare.’

Rheon shuffled into the farmyard, Mum’s words droning like a bee in his ears.

Bruce scampered away across the yard, his paws kicking up dust.

‘Huh! It’s all right for you,’ Rheon said, sniffling. ‘No one tells you not to run around. Dumb collie!’

Dad stood over by the barn, eyeing up the chickens. Rheon headed over, boredom overcoming his apprehension. He hated when Dad had that look.

‘Dad, can we do something?’

Dad turned, shielding his eyes from the sun with a crooked arm. The exposed part of his face glowed red with craggy lines etched into his skin, as though God gave him a covering to withstand all weathers.

‘Do what, son? I’m a bit busy.’

Rheon shrugged. ‘Dunno.’ He pushed the toe of his shoe into the ground, twirled it round, then, as a thought came to him, looked up with expectation. ‘Maybe I could show you my drawings. That’s not running.’

Over by the door, a little way from the rest of the flock, a black cock smooched up to a snow-white hen. The notion they were a married twosome appealed to Rheon. He wondered if the hen might have chicks and become a mother.

‘Can’t look at drawings of buildings today, son. Too much to do.’

A red hen clucked loudly, pushing its way between the black cock and white hen, pecking and shoving away the white hen.

Infuriated by the red's behaviour, Rheon balled his hands.

Dad headed toward the chickens.

Rheon’s spine tingled. His throat tightened. He wanted to speak, but a garbled noise came out.

‘What?’ Dad asked. ‘Farmer’s lad, should be used to this.’

Rheon would never get used to killing chickens, nor would he ever be a farmer’s lad. He hoped Dad would leave the white one alone. 'Please, Dad. Not the white one.'

But he didn’t. 'Have to, son. Its layin' days are over.' He grabbed its neck, and took the squawking chicken into the barn.

Rheon stared at the closed barn door, squinting against the shine from the sun-bleached wood. He looked up, and tried to occupy his mind with other thoughts. Above the ridged overhang, the sky spread out, blue, cloudless. He lowered his gaze and traced the vertical lines of the wood-slatted door. Rats, tempted with the smell of fresh corn had gnawed out a triangle. Through the triangle sound escaped. Squawks. A shadow passed over the door, coming from nowhere a dark cloud. Rheon trembled. The noises seemed out of place, in there with his father. ‘Always do the right thing,’ Dad frequently said. The bad noises didn’t sound like the right thing. Confusion seemed to be a part of growing up, he guessed.

Just like the closed barn door.

Like a big secret, the door always seemed closed lately.

The toe of Rheon’s shoe returned to the hole he’d bored into the soil. Unlike his father, he found little to interest him amongst the fields and animals. He was more like his mother, and craved the city. He admired how architects designed towering buildings, with windows that glittered in the sun. But little hope existed. His thoughts would have to remain a dream. Dad was rooted to the farm like an ancient tree.

Rheon turned from the closed door. He decided to go climbing. His father had been in a bad mood lately, so Rheon hadn’t chanced going to the wild orchard in weeks; in fact of late, his father hadn’t even visited him at bedtime to say goodnight, which saddened Rheon. He missed his father placing an ear of fresh wheat on his pillow, and saying, ‘Green to gold, son. This is how you’ll grow and mature.’

So long as Dad stayed in the barn he would never see him. Mum had warned him not to run and to stay in sight, but she busied herself in the kitchen making bread. He knew because a sweet baking smell now wafted through the air, mixing with the smells of drying hay and cracked wheat.

He raced across the farmyard toward the wild orchard, jumped over puddles and sent chickens clucking to either side. Bruce chased at his heels, barking in the spirit of the game. The trees used to frighten Rheon: branches turned into arms, leaves into hands, and gnarled knotted eyes followed him. Once, a few years ago, he’d sneaked from his bedroom window, climbed down the green vines, and ventured into the wild orchard after dusk. Moonlight painted the trees silver, and their twisted limbs creaked all about him. A wind swirled, rustling leaves so they hissed like snakes, while moon-shadows stalked his feet. He’d scuttled back to his bed, and lay still until his heart stopped thumping. Rheon vowed he would never go to the orchard in the dark again.

Now he’d reached his tenth year, the trees adopted a different image. The tall trunks became buildings that reached for the clouds; their barks adopted the colour of red brick, or grey stone. Branches transformed into rooms, and when twisted together they formed corridors. Leaves of copper, olive, chocolate and gold decorated the rooms, and at sunset, they absorbed its orange glow, and reminded Rheon of city streetlights.

Bruce barked, his white-tipped tail wagging, wanting to keep running. ‘Be quiet,’ he told him at the base of the oak. ‘Dad will hear you. Lie down and be good.’

The dog obeyed, despite a reluctant glimmer burning in his hazel eyes. Rheon slipped off his shoes and socks, and climbed the oak. His bare feet gripped the rough bark; a nutty odour filled his nose as he brushed against the leaves. Great for climbing, it remained his favourite tree. Mum often said Father loved the tree too, and when dusk descended on the farm, she would smile and say, ‘Your father is snuggled under that oak again, feeding corn to that wood pigeon. He should have married the blessed thing instead of me.’

Rheon reached a comfortable bough, a spacious room. Bruce barked his annoyance. Rheon looked down at the frustrated collie. ‘Be quiet. Mum’ll go mad if she sees me climbing.’

From Rheon being small, his parents banned him from running around the farm, lifting anything heavy, or climbing. If caught, Mum insisted he rest on his bed for an hour, which bored him no end, but worth the punishment just to feel his heart pump. The doctor said Rheon’s heart didn’t work so good, which confused Rheon. When he did run and climb, his heart thumped in his chest as strong as anything.

‘Be quiet, stupid dog.’

Rheon looked to the mid-high limbs. He’d never been so high, but today he felt brave. Besides, the foliage would hide him. Bruce might give up and trot back home. When he reached the middle boughs, a fresh breeze tickled his face; a flurry of beating wings flapped around him as a couple of wood pigeons hastened from the branches. Rheon thought they were the birds fed by his father. He watched them wheel across the blueness for a moment, and then placed his feet on an arched branch, craned his neck, and surveyed the surrounding trees – his city.

Beyond his city, he observed the track leading from the main road. A blue car headed down the track, sun glinted from its shiny bits, dust billowed from its wheels. A woman with long red hair sat at the wheel.

Rheon recognised the Escort as belonging to Kim, the vet. She treated Rheon to candy bars. The box he stored them in had once been so full he couldn’t close the lid, now the red drawer-lining stared at him every day.

The collie barked louder and started to worry Rheon’s shoes.

‘Be quiet!’ he ordered again, leaning out to throw a stick. Movement caused him to turn towards the farm.

His father headed toward the tree, his blue check shirt blazoned against the grass.

‘Shhh, you daft dog.’ Rheon hissed.

His father hurried now, his face red and puffed up. Suddenly he dashed a hand to his chest; his legs disappeared beneath him. A horrible gasping noise rasped from his throat. The dog barked.

Rheon edged forward.

His mother rushed from the kitchen, her hands wringing her apron.

Rheon searched for a better footing.

The dog growled. Meadow grass covered his father's face. His mother dropped down beside him.

For a moment, Rheon wondered why the sun had vanished, why ice frosted his skin.

A branch snapped. Falling. Branches reached out, but failed to catch. Grass raced toward him. The world disappeared.

**

Rheon could make his breakfast of cornflakes much better now that the doctor had removed the cast from his arm, and he hardly ever spilt the milk now.

The big problem lay with Mum. She would only eat a cooked breakfast. In the past, Rheon had watched her switch on the cooker, put bacon in the pan, fry it until it sizzled on both sides, then crack an egg alongside it. She usually did French toast, too, but he thought that skill lay beyond him. The eggs and bacon though, well, maybe. He dressed and went downstairs.

Mum sat at the kitchen table, a cigarette dangled from her left hand, smoke coned from her pursed lips into the veil of grey cloud that drifted around her gaunt body. In her right hand, she clasped a smeared glass containing gin, which she sipped between dragging smoke from the cigarette. Remnants of the night were scattered on the table: cigarette stubs, ash, bottles, and abandoned tissues. Her skin, now as grey as the ash, looked lifeless; her once full cheeks seemed tight against her bones; dark circles ringed sunken eyes.

Rheon sighed, scarcely recognising the woman in the kitchen. This wasn’t his mum, but someone who pretended to be her.

But, no matter how much that thought displeased him, he still loved her, still sought her love. But he wanted a lot of things. He wanted his dad back, but that was impossible. He doubted his mother would ever love him again, but he wished it could be so. What’s more, he’d never give up trying.

‘Hi, Mum.’ Rheon said cheerfully, hoping for a smile, a word of encouragement.

Behind the cloud of smoke, Mum’s eyes narrowed as she briefly studied him before dragging from her cigarette. ‘Hum,’ she managed between coughing.

Rheon shrugged and headed to the cupboards for his cereal. He turned and glanced once more at his mother, her thin arms stuck out of a nightdress she’d slouched around the house in for what? Days? Weeks? He left the cupboard unopened, approached the cooker with apprehension, and switched it on.

‘Wh …what you doing?’ Mum said.

Rheon turned to look at her. Had a glimmer of life returned to her eyes? Did a gleam of interest kindle for a moment? Since Dad’s death, neither of them spoke much, all because of guilt. He shouldered the blame for making Dad come running after him, to chastise him for climbing. Mum claimed responsibility because she believed she should have been watching Rheon.

‘I’m cooking you breakfast,’ he said, taking a deep breath in anticipation of an unknown reaction.

A frown creased her brow. ‘You? You cook breakfast? Why?’

Rheon moved over to the table and started to clear the junk from it. ‘Because you’re not eating. You’re sick, Mum.’

‘Who’s sick? Not me. Now what are you doing? Leave the table alone.’

Rheon stopped. He had an overflowing ashtray in one hand, an empty bottle in the other. ‘But, Mum. It’s dirty.’

‘I like it this way, makes me feel comfortable. You sit down … join me, if you like.’

He ignored her pleas and her astounding invitation, and cleaned up the table, leaving the half bottle of gin and her glass. To remove them would be pushing things too far.

‘Anyway,’ she said, resting her elbows on the clean top, ‘don’t know why you put the cooker on. You haven’t got a clue.’

Rheon frowned, stung by the truth in the words. He’d planned to cook Mum’s breakfast based on just having watched her do it, and now the idea seemed daft, a silly scheme doomed to failure before it began. But he’d hoped Mum would see an apology through his endeavours.

He returned to the cooker, put the pan on the hob, added a bit of oil, went over to the fridge and got out bacon and eggs. He’d collected the eggs himself yesterday when he’d fed the chickens. The vacuum-sealed bacon had a good date stamped on the pack. He put two rashers in the pan and waited until they sizzled before turning them over. When they sizzled again, he cracked an egg on the side of the pan, which wasn’t too successful, as some of the yucky bit dribbled down the pan. Still, things were going better than he expected. It smelled good, too.

‘Think you’re quite the big man,’ Mum said, taking a gulp of gin. ‘Think you can take over …won’t eat it, you know.’

Holding the spatula in his hand, Rheon turned, disappointed with Mum’s attitude. ‘But Mum, you need to eat.’

She clunked the glass onto the table. ‘Why? Why do I have to eat? No point.’

Rheon placed the spatula beside the cooker, moved toward her, and curled his arm around her shoulder. ‘Mum, how many times do I have to say I’m sorry?’

She brushed him away as if he were a bit of rubbish, something that had wrapped itself around her from an unwanted wind. ‘Get off me!’ she said loudly. Then more quietly as she folded herself onto the tabletop, ‘My fault anyway.’

A mixture of sympathy and guilt flowed through Rheon. This whole business had torn them apart, ruined their lives. If Mum didn’t get better soon, well, he didn’t want to pursue that thought. ‘Maybe it was no one’s fault,’ he said quietly. ‘Maybe I’m not the one with the bad heart, perhaps it was Dad.’

‘You have the weak heart! Doctor said so! Shouldn’t have been up that tree. Now look. If you’d done as you were told.’

A tear escaped from the corner of Rheon’s eye. ‘You’re drunk, Mum.’ He grabbed hold of the gin bottle, ready to pour it down the sink. Despite her condition, his mother managed to grab a hold too. They both tugged at it. Suddenly Rheon smelt burning. The kitchen filled with blue smoke.

‘Hah,’ Mum cackled, looking at the burning breakfast, ‘trying to be the big man. Told you couldn’t do it! Now I’ll have to clear up your mess.’

Rheon’s entire body trembled. ‘I tried, Mum! I tried!’ He darted upstairs and collapsed on his bed.

**

Rheon had never given much thought to the existence of ghosts. He knew the word, knew what they were supposed to be, but he didn’t know if they were real. He wanted to talk the subject over with his mother, but he knew he’d get no kindness from her, not at the moment.

Not just any old ghost caused him to have these thoughts, but rather the ghost of his father. Father’s presence always emerged at night, when the house slumbered in darkness. He recognised Dad because the ghostly presence smelled of grass and wheat and country air.

Rheon’s attempts to coax Mum out of her condition had tired him, so now, much later, he lay in bed and waited for sleep. Heat covered his body. He opened a window, gratified by the chill a breeze offered. A strange coolness brushed against his skin, and heightened his senses to the earthy smell of the fields, the sound of distant animals foraging, leaves on the trees rustling. With his skin tingling, he returned to his bed and gazed out the window.

The sky spread out, deep, vast and black. Rheon succumbed to its mysterious velvet-like quality. He searched the stars for some kind of bearing of his place, a key to where he fitted in to the grand picture. His blanket grew hot, and wrapped him in heat that spread from his chest and reached his face. The blackness of the night swirled into spirals, then tunnels, which pulled at him, and, as though by gravity, the blackness sucked him in, and once there a sensation of loss and loneliness enveloped him in a spiritual cocoon.

Another vaguely familiar force surrounded him now. Father’s presence ebbed from the corners of the room, weak at first, then growing stronger, until Rheon sensed his father’s touch as he grasped his hand. Rheon trembled, ashamed to be in his father’s presence. He tried to turn away, to run away. *Father, I’m sorry… I…I.* The oak tree spread beneath Rheon’s feet. Bruce barked. Kim’s blue car raced along the track, trailed by a cloud of dust. *Beating heart…Beating heart…Must stop beating heart. Falling…Falling.*

A sound came, gentle through the night air.

Ru-hoo ru ru-hoo. The sound came again; a soothing, peaceful cooing filled the room. Perched on the windowsill, a woodpigeon bobbed his head. Something stuck out from the side of its beak. It spread its wings, took flight, and circled the bed before landing beside Rheon’s head, where it dropped on the pillow an ear of golden wheat.

The bird returned to the windowsill, bobbed its head as its gimlet eye studied Rheon.

An all-consuming chill doused the fire within his body. He dragged away his eyes from the bird, held the ear of wheat between his fingers, and smelled its fragrance *the smell of father.*

His body trembled with tiny spasms of iciness. However, the fire returned. Fear and guilt coursed through his veins, but love and need warmed and swelled his heart.

Ru-hoo ru ru-hoo. The bird called, flapping its wings. *It wants me to follow.*

Rheon slipped on his dressing gown and slippers and dashed over to the window, his wakened state confirmed as the cold wind chilled his face. The bird took flight. It wheeled in the sky, its wings spread wide as it soared in circles before heading to the wild orchard.

Rheon knew the bird wanted him to follow, but he remembered the last time he went there in the dark. Fear rooted his feet to the floor.

The rest of the night dipped and climbed into a roller coaster of fuzzy dreams mixed with waking moments. During one of these waking moments, Rheon thought he heard a noise and worried about Mum. Dressed in stripy pyjamas, with his head full of what seemed like cotton wool, he headed toward the stairs. On the landing, he thought he heard a sound in Mum’s bedroom. He stepped inside and switched on the ceiling light. The illuminated room revealed only furniture and a red carpet; against the left wall stood Mother’s dresser; a triangle of paper stuck out from the top drawer. Intrigued, he opened the drawer to see the paper in its entirety. A gold-embossed edge attracted his eye, and then, sketched in the centre, a magnificent building.

He tilted the paper toward the light, and studied the design. He soon realised the image portrayed a multi-floored hotel. Drawn with exact precision, windows stretched across the entire front of the building, flags fluttered from the top of a grand foyer with an arched roof extending from a cavernous doorway flanked on both sides by statues of a man and a woman wearing strange robes. Rheon couldn’t resist searching the drawer for other beautiful designs.

Many pieces of paper and cards of blue, pink, yellow and gold lined the drawer. There were advertisements for fashion shows, art galleries, museums, theatres (including programmes), and invitations to balls. With all the gilt edging, the collection sparkled like a treasure trove of life in the city.

The contents suddenly saddened him. Mum had seldom visited the city since he’d been born. Had she given up her dreams because of him?

A long brown envelope, stamped in black ink with a medical mark, lay buried amongst the treasure. Rheon wondered why his mum hadn’t opened the letter - the postmark was a week old.

A crash sounded downstairs. A bottle?

He dashed down the carpeted stairs.

Mum was crouched on her knees on the kitchen floor, gingerly picking up shards of glass. Her matted hair dangled across her face; a puddle of gin seeped under her knees; her stained nightdress looked like a discarded rag. The table was once again a littered battleground.

Shocked, Rheon gulped, dropping the envelope he still carried. ‘Mum?’

She looked up with sad bleary eyes that tried to focus, but easily surrendered.

Rheon realised in that moment something had to be done. ‘Mum, if you don’t stop drinking you’re going to kill yourself.’

‘Whadayouno,’ she mumbled, scowling. ‘Think you can tell the future now?’

Rheon stooped and started to pick up the broken glass. ‘You can’t go on like this. I’m …I’m frightened.’

Mum smiled in an odd way. ‘You can join me, if you like. We’ll get drunk together.’

Abashed, he looked away. ‘No, Mum.’

The smile dissolved from her face. ‘Then leave me alone. I can take care of this. Spent my life cleaning up.’

‘But Mum!’

‘Get away! Leave me alone. Alone …that’s all I am …alone.’

Rheon stood and backed away. He had to do something.

‘Mum, if you don’t pour that stuff down the sink now, right this minute, I’m going to go outside and run until my heart bursts.’ He glanced through the window at the darkness, then at the sink, and hoped she would see sense.

‘Whadyawanta do that for? Come and be with me. We’ll have a drink together. Just the two of us. I’ll be your mummy.’

Rheon wanted nothing more than to hear those last words, but he knew they were words spilled from a bottle – a bottle that was killing his mum.

‘No, Mum,’ Rheon said. He started for the door, terrified of both the dark and the uncertainty of whether or not his heart would truly burst. ‘I’m going to run and run, and when I can’t run any more I’m going to climb to the top of that oak.’ Would she believe he would climb to the top of the tree? He was unsure himself. Did he have the courage to go all the way?

He waited for a response. They looked at each other, neither one blinking, neither one willing to give up.

‘I mean it,’ Rheon said. He glanced at the floor, spotting the brown envelope. A thought came to him. ‘Is that letter from the doctor? Did he write to tell you my heart had got worse?’

Mum recoiled, staring at the letter as if it were a harbinger of The Black Death.

Her expression frightened Rheon. Was it true then? Had his heart worsened? The sight of the letter was the only thing that had any impact on her, so it must be. Maybe, deep down, she still loved him. If he continued with his threat, she might empty the gin into the sink. Gripped with fear, Rheon opened the door and faced the darkness. He turned, hoping to see his mother coming toward him. But, with her head bowed, she resumed picking up shards of glass.

‘Goodbye, Mum,’ Rheon said, his voice hitched. He snatched a deep breath, and, still dressed in striped pyjamas and slippers, he forced himself into the darkness.

With Bruce at his heels, he ran and ran around the moonlit farmyard, forever looking at the door, waiting for his mother to come and stop him. He had faith she would pour the gin down the sink, stand at the open door with outstretched arms, and once more be his mother. But she didn’t.

Panting, Rheon’s breath misted before his eyes. His chest pained him. The doctor’s warning filled his head, and he truly began to think his heart would burst. He stopped, bent over, his head bowed between his knees. Bruce trotted over, and as if checking he was okay, his paw nudged Rheon’s leg.

‘What are we going to do, Bruce?’ he said. ‘I’m all out of ideas.’

‘Woof!’

‘Some help that is,’ Rheon chastised.

Ru-hoo ru ru-hoo . Above him, on the barn roof, a cooing sounded. He looked up, and there sat the woodpigeon, bobbing its head. The bird swooped down, and flew so close to Rheon’s head the draught of its wings breezed by his cheek. It circled the sky before it lunged down once more and then headed toward the orchard.

He stared at the dark, foreboding entanglement of trees that formed the wild orchard. He remembered the time when he was young and the trees were his monsters of the night, and the time not so long ago when his father died while coming to reprimand him. His whole body shivered, and a cold liquid churned inside his stomach.

‘The bird wants me to follow, Bruce,’ he said. ‘But I’m scared.’

‘Woof!’

‘Come on, Bruce. You come with me.’

‘Woof!’

Rheon stood at the foot of the oak. Nearby, father’s gravestone, washed with silver moonlight, looked strange as leaf-shadows played on its surface, as if waking it from a deep sleep. The woodpigeon circled Rheon, perched in a hole in the trunk, then returned and fluttered around his face. The hole looked high; to reach it he would have to climb. He remembered the last fateful time he’d climbed the tree. He turned away.

The bird swooped down fluttering its wings in his face.

‘Rheon! Rheon! What are you doing?’ His mother's voice pierced the air. The moon was bright on her lined face. She gingerly held the brown envelope in an outstretched hand, as if it was distasteful.

He gulped, surprised. ‘It’s Dad,’ he murmured.

Mother froze. ‘What?’

He knew how it sounded. How bizarre it all was, but he still believed it to be true. Mum had to be convinced.
‘It...it’s Dad. He wants me to look in the hole.’

Her brow creased, and her eyes gazed into the distance. ‘Hole? What hole?’

He twisted and pointed. ‘There. But I’m scared.’

‘How do you know all this?’

Rheon’s small body hardened as he raised his chin. ‘I just do.’ He desperately wanted to climb to the hole, but the letter in Mum’s hands drew his attention, causing him to be even more afraid. He looked directly into her eyes.

‘Mum, if you’ve ever loved me, open that letter.’

She looked at it and blinked. It was almost as if she was unaware she carried it.

‘I...I can’t,’ she whispered. ‘I just can’t.’

‘Please, Mum. Dad wants you to. I know he does. Have faith.’

'But I don't. I don't believe in anything anymore.'

'Please, Mum.'

She gazed wearily at the envelope, and, as if at the end of her tether, opened it.

Rheon held his breath.

She read the letter, and slowly the tiredness left her eyes. ‘I don’t believe it! The doctor made a mistake. Your heart is perfectly healthy!’

Rheon released a lungful of air. A smile lit his face.

‘Then I have to climb that oak.’

‘No, it’s too dangerous. Look what happened last time.’

‘I have to. Dad wants me to.’ He turned and ran toward the tree.

He climbed. The hole, filled with dark shadows, tunnelled deep into the trunk. He reached down and touched paper, small envelopes, and grabbed hold of them. They jumped from his hands, and fluttered to the ground.

By the time he climbed down his mother had picked up a collection of them and was reading avidly.
Her face darkened by the second. She finally tucked them into a pocket of the cardigan she’d slipped over her nightdress.

‘What are they?’ Rheon asked.

‘Nothing important.’ The months of darkness melted away from her face, as if a great responsibility floated from her.

Rheon’s heart lightened. He would never forget Mum’s strange smile in the moonlighted orchard.

She said, ‘Sorry I’ve been such a terrible mother. Things have changed now. Everything’s going to be different. We’ll start by putting this place on the market. ‘

‘We’re selling up?’

‘Yes, we are. I rather fancy city life would better suit us both.’

Rheon’s heart swelled with exuberance. ‘But what about Dad? You made a promise to never leave him, didn’t you?’

Mum glanced at Dad’s grave, then reached for Rheon’s hand. ‘Help me back to the farmhouse. I think I misjudged things as much as the doctor. I do believe your father has released me from that promise. He’s also freed us from any guilt that consumed us. Your father hadn’t seen you climbing on the day he died. He wasn’t rushing toward the oak tree. He dashed across the field to stop from happening something entirely different.’

‘But what?’

Mum cuddled Rheon’s shoulder. ‘That’s not important now.’

‘But won’t he get lonely under that oak without us around?’

‘No, he’ll not be alone. He’ll have company from the woodpigeons, and eventually, they might have someone to care for them. Someone especially qualified just for that job.’

Rheon squeezed his mother’s hand. ‘Are we doing the right thing? Dad always told me that I should.’

Mum paused, and with her free hand patted her cardigan pocket, the one containing the envelopes Rheon had found. ‘We are, it seems, doing just what your father wants us to do. I don’t know how he did it, but by leading you to the oak, he did do the right thing – eventually.’




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