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Cricket Lone Wolf Part 19
By
frogprince

Cricket Lone Wolf Part 19

Daria returns to school. Polina and Naomi notice a different girl.

A heavy grey fog shrouded the castle, obscuring it from the village below. Hans prepared the limousine to carry Daria back to school from the hospital. Part of the preparations included a small picnic hamper with snacks and drinks for the ride. Twelve weeks ago, Daria's accident happened and the doctors declared her ready to leave the hospital. The headmaster chose to have Polina and Naomi accompany Hans on the drive. Polina was Daria's roommate and best friend from her life back in Belarus. Naomi was Polina's choice to make the trip as a friend.

Polina and Naomi left the dining room and went to the garage where Hans readied the car. Hans left the rear door open for the girls to climb in for the ride. When the girls were in the car, Hans drove out of the castle down into the valley through the village across the river to the hospital. As the car crossed the river, Naomi looked up at the fog-shrouded castle. The sun appeared through the fog as a small white disc above the tall spires of the parapets. The valley was dark from the shrouded sun and castle.

The hospital was seventy-five miles from the school in a small city along the river. With low hanging fog along the river, the trip went slowly and Hans kept alert listening to the girls chatting in the back. Along the highway, which meandered next to the river, were several small villages that used the river for power. As the drive wore on, the fog burned off and the drive became easier. The girls quieted, as they gazed out at the Swiss countryside with the farms and villages. Naomi talked with Polina about the landscape because New Jersey was vastly different from Switzerland. The area in Belarus where Polina grew up was similar to the river highway with small villages and cities.

After a three-hour drive, the city, where the hospital was, came into view from the top of a small mountain. Hans slowly descended, as the highway curved around several coppices of Birch woods. Naomi noticed all the Birch trees with their closeness to the front of the farmhouses. She turned to both Hans and Polina and curiously asked, "Why are there so many Birch trees near farmhouses and barns?"

Hans looked in the rearview mirror and saw Polina's questioning face. He answered easily, "It is an ancient superstition, that if a coppice of Birch trees sat near the front door of a house or barn any witch trying to enter and do harm would have to stop and count all the leaves on the trees. This would prevent the witch from entering and doing harm to the family or their livestock." Naomi and Polina looked at each other and smiled at the explanation.

On the edge of the city beside a sprawling factory complex sat the shiny bright hospital. Hans proceeded up the long winding driveway to the main entrance, stopping in the area designated for patient pick-up. The girls stumbled out of the back seat, stretched slowly and moved to wake up their minds and bodies from the trip. Hans met them at the rear of the car and directed them to the hospital entrance. After inquiring at the main desk, the trio proceeded to Daria's room on the third floor.

As they exited the elevator on the third floor, the magically sweet sounds of a flute tickled their ears. The trio followed the music, as if the Pied Piper of Hamlin played to attract them. At the nurse's station, they inquired for Daria's room and listened to the enchanting music. The nurses directed them to the second room down the hall, where the flute was loudest. As they entered the room, they saw Daria dressed sitting on the edge of her bed playing the lively enchanting music. Daria smiled, but never stopped playing her flute, as her friends gathered near.

A doctor and a man dressed in a finely tailored suit entered Daria's room, which caused her to stop playing. She gently laid the flute next to her on the bed and turned to face the doctor. "Do I get to leave the hospital today, doctor?" Daria asked. "My friends and driver are here and I am ready to leave."

"Yes, reluctantly we must release you today. You are well enough to join your classmates and continue your education at the fine Bard school. We will miss your beautiful serenades each day, but you need to open a bed for another deserving patient," the doctor replied, smiling. "The hospital administrator came with me today because he wanted to meet you and see you off. He also has something special to say to you."

"Daria, I want to thank you for being here as a patient. Your daily concerts throughout the hospital benefits everyone. We will miss your playing. We know that you borrowed the flute from the doctor's lounge and it will have to go back there when you leave," the administrator said. "However, we have a gift for you to take back to school, which we hope you use to bless your friends and school. Here is a brand new flute in a handmade carrying case made especially for you. Thank you and use it in good health at school."

Daria's mouth fell open, as she took the proffered ornate flute case. She opened the case, took out a highly polished silver flute and lifted it to her lips. She quickly ran the scales up and down several times and stopped. Happy with the instrument's feel, she smiled and thanked the two men. She quickly put the flute away and stood up off the bed gesturing to her friends to come to her. Hans grabbed her flute and her few possessions and followed the group to the elevator. The nurses lined up at the desk and bid Daria goodbye, some with tears in their eyes.

Daria used her crutches to walk to the car with everyone following her. The doctor made sure she had all her things and secured in the car. Polina and Naomi flanked her in the large back seat. Hans put the snack hamper on the floor in front of Polina for the trip back to school. Hans made sure everything was secure before he sat behind the wheel and drove from the hospital.

As the car moved up out of the valley, Polina watched the river move by the window. Her mind was deep in thought about Daria and the changes she saw in her. Daria seemed as if she were a different person, after the twelve-week stay away from school. Polina never knew Daria played the flute and did it so well. Daria's attitude changed too, tolerance for things was broader and nicer than it ever was. She liked what she saw, but also wondered how long it would last. What bothered Polina more was that Daria was polite and friendly to Naomi, which never happened.

Naomi opened the snack hamper at her feet and was surprised with what was inside. There were bottles of juice, pieces of fresh fruit, cheeses and fresh baked bread sticks. She turned the lid of the hamper and made a small table to lay out the food. She selected a bottle of juice, some bread and cheese. Polina took fruit and cheese with juice, followed by Daria's choice of a little of everything. The girls giggled and chatted as they ate the snacks and Hans watched the road and the girls.

The girls ate their snacks and watched the countryside change as the drive went into the mountains and back to the river's edge. As the miles passed, the girls grew tired from the food and the warmth of the sun filling the car. Soon they fell asleep leaning against each other and Hans made sure that he slowed a little to prevent the girls hurting themselves. About an hour from school, Hans stopped in a village to fill up the car with gas and take a short break from driving. The girls slept through the stop, which pleased Hans, as he drove and sipped his tea.

As the car descended out of the mountains toward the bridge to the village, the girls woke and stretched their arms. Hans slowed and turned down the road beside the post office and turned into the restaurant parking lot. Naomi recognized the lot and the building, but said nothing about it, hoping not to spoil any surprise. Hans turned to the girls and said, "Please wait here, I need to get something special for the headmaster's dinner tonight. I will be right back."

Naomi looked at Hans, as a sad expression crossed her face, but she still said nothing. Daria and Polina chattered incessantly about changes at school while Hans was gone. Naomi wanted to tell the girls to stop, but thought it better to let them continue. Things at school changed daily as classes challenged everyone. Naomi spent a lot of time honing her abilities in the art of forgery, which she found easy, but Marcia was still best at it. Just once she thought, maybe she would beat Marcia at some school subject.

As Naomi thought about school, her mind shifted to her favorite class, bomb design and building. Final exams started in two weeks and school ended in less than a month followed by summer school. Naomi knew all about summer school from her weekly dinners with Marcia and the headmaster. She wished she could tell her classmates about the upcoming trip to the special campus for summer school. She felt the new campus would allow her to beat Marcia at something. She anxiously awaited the start of summer school and her ability to use what she learned about making bombs.

Hans returned to the car, which caused a disruption in Naomi's thoughts. Tonight Hans would serve what he purchased for dinner with the headmaster. Naomi looked forward to these dinners, not because of the food, but the special classes and the close relationship with the headmaster. It felt as if what Marcia and she contributed really mattered to the school. With classes ending soon, Naomi wondered if there would be a break between classes. It was something she noticed with the school calendar, no real holidays or time off.

Hans drove to the stairway entrance to the school where the headmaster and the small medical staff waited. They carried Daria up the stairs to the landing where her room was. Polina followed them carrying all Daria's things. Marcia greeted Naomi and walked with her to their room. Naomi flopped on her bed and filled Marcia in on what she saw with Daria. Marcia sat dumbfounded when she heard how much changed with Daria. In her mind, she felt there was something new with Daria that she would like to do.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright 2012, 2013 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Cal Erickson, aka frogprince

Posted with permission at storiesspace.com

All other rights reserved.

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