Miles has moved back to the house Sarah and Geoffie had been living in in Woodtown to start up his search. Since Miles was only half-faeryfolke and town was very near the Whimsical Woods, Miles could stay for long periods of time in town without any ill effects but he would miss the Woods a great deal. He had hardly had a chance to get re-aquainted with his parents in the week between his talk with his mother and moving back to Woodtown.
He'd had the phone lines re-activated and signed up with an internet service. All the information he had was at least 14 years old. Amanda would be 30 years old. A lot changed in a woman's life between age 16 and 30. He would probably be more successful with Amanda's father. After a week of searching, Miles was certain of a couple of things. Amanda's father had definitely moved from Metropolis and Amanda was only there if she'd married and had a new last name. He was hopeful that a visit to Metropolis might be avoided. He had never been there and would be content to keep it that way. Of course, had he known that was where Sarah and Geoffie were for that one year, he would have gone there. Figuring out the next step was proving more difficult. Before Susannah and her family had moved to Metropolis, they had lived in Watertown located on one side of a large lake. Across the lake was a forest known as the Atlantean Woods. This was where Susannah's faeryfolke community was located. Miles thought Watertown might be the next logical step. Initially he had rejected that idea feeling that had Amanda, at least, returned there Susannah would have felt her presence. But Margaret had pointed out that Susannah had some permanent effects from her illness. She could not feel presences as well anymore even within her Woods and definitely not feel them in the Outer World no matter how close. He had barely begun searching the records of Watertown when he exclaimed,
"Bingo! Finally a match!"
It was just a telephone listing for Susannah's husband but at least it was a starting point. Miles still hadn't figured out what he would say when he found Amanda or her father. How do you tell them of a loved one that had disappeared 14 years before? Especially to Susannah's husband who would not be allowed into the settlement to see Susannah and Susannah would not being allowed out to see him. One thing was certain. He would have to go to Watertown. This had to be done in person. Watertown wasn't terribly far by human standards but for faeryfolke, and even half-faeryfolke, travelling had to be broken up with frequent stops in natural places. Miles would need to plan the trip to allow for an hour in a park after each hour spent in the car he would rent to travel in. Camping out at night would also be helpful. So Miles plotted his trip to Watertown to begin the next morning.
Cars and highways are not faeryfolke-friendly but with frequent stops in park areas to renew his energy and camping out at night, Miles made it to Watertown midway through day three of his venture. He parked at a large park near the waterfront. Now he needed to decide on his next step. As he wandered the park area absorbing the spirit of the trees and plants he wondered if he should he go to the address he'd found in the phone directory. That seemed rather bold to him and he had no idea what he would say. He had felt a weak presence in the area. Could it be Amanda? She was only half-faeryfolke like himself and from what he could tell had not really been given the opportunity to let that side of her grow. That might account for the feeling being so difficult to pin down. Watertown seemed like a nice small town. He decided to have lunch at a restaurant he had spotted close to the beach area that he felt drawn to. He sat at a small table near a window looking out onto the lake.
A young woman wearing a black skirt, white blouse and red gingham apron came over to his table and handed him a menu saying,
"Hello. My name is Amanda and I'll be back in a few minutes to take your order."
As he took the menu from the waitress, while both their hands were still touching it, he felt a definite surge. From the expression on her face, she had felt it as well. Could this be the Amanda he was looking for? As Miles studied the menu, he stole glances at Amanda as she went about her job on the tables near him. Could this be a grown-up version of the girl in the pictures? The coloring was right with her dark hair and eyes. He was sure there was a resemblance. She looked about the right age. He took a close look at her left hand and was surprised that he felt relief at the lack of a wedding band. It was a little past two in the afternoon and obviously a slower time in the restauarant. Amanda was over at a counter re-filling condiment containers. While he was watching she over-filled the ketchup container, spilling it on to the counter. She grabbed a sponge from next to the sink and wet it. Then she seemed to look around as if to see if anyone was watching. Then she just touched the sponge to the spill and it was gone. She may not know the source of her magic but she obviously knew she had some. Miles couldn't help chuckling which brought her attention to him, so he quickly looked away.
When Amanda returned to take his order, Miles ordered poached fish, baked potato and a salad. He was dying to ask her questions but didn't want to scare her off, so kept to just ordering his meal. Part way through the delicious meal, Amanda returned to ask if everything was alright or if there was anything else he required. Miles decided to take the opportunity to ask a couple of innocent questions.
"I'm just visiting this area and have never been here before. Are there any sites that you would recommend seeing?" asked Miles.
"Well we have very fine beaches if you care to sun or swim. But we are really a very quiet town and don't have much tourist things. I think a miniature golf place just opened recently out by the highway. There's a stable you can rent a horse from if you are so inclined and boat rentals should you care to go out on the lake. There are some nice little shops. I especially like the Book Store which sells both new and used books; the Curiosity Shop which mainly has old and unique items; and By Our Hands which sells crafts made by local residents. I think that is pretty much all."
"Thank you for the information," said Miles sensing she was still very wary. "I think I'll have a slice of apple pie and some tea now."
After having his dessert and paying his bill, Miles decided to spend some time on the beach. He had overheard Amanda tell another waitress that she was working the supper shift as well and would be getting off at seven. If he went back for supper at six, he might be able to time things to finish as she was getting off work. Miles smiled at the thought of seeing Amanda again.
Six o'clock turned out to be a much busier time at the restaurant. It wasn't simple but Miles managed to get a table in Amanda's area again. When Amanda brought over the menu, Miles could feel her tension at seeing him again. This time she set the menu on the table instead of handing it to him.
"So," thought Miles, "she not only felt the surge but she's afraid it could happen again."
"Hello again," Amanda says. "I'll return in a moment for your order."
Miles had hoped her anxiety would have eased. How was he to talk to her unless he could get her to relax and trust him? The emotion he felt from her was very close to fear.
When Amanda returned, Miles ordered Fettucine Alfredo with a side salad. While he ate, Miles often felt Amanda looking at him. Perhaps having someone with faeryfolke blood was causing her faeryfolke side to be more active? Perhaps she was feeling his presence as he felt hers? If that were true, Miles thought, he needed to keep himself very relaxed to aid in reassuring her. He sensed that she was doing a battle within herself between caution and curiosity.
Just as Miles finished, Amanda returned to ask if he wished dessert. Having spent the afternoon walking the beach or swimming, Miles was hungry tonight. He ordered a hot fudge sundae. Just as Amanda was approaching, Miles noticed a tiny blur pass in front of Amanda and she stumbled spilling the sundae in his lap getting ice cream and fudge topping all over his thigh. Amanda apologized and quickly got her sponge. she barely touched his leg and all traces of the sticky substances were gone. The pant leg was not even wet.
"Amanda,"said Miles. When she looked at him, he looked her in the eye and said, "That's quite the trick."
Amanda took a deep breath and started to say, "It's a special sponge," but Miles was still holding the eye contact and she could not continue with that story.
"Who are you?" Amanda whispered.
"No one to fear," said Miles. "If you'd like to talk when you get off work, I'll wait for you. We can sit just sit in the open where passers by could see you if that would be alright with you. I promise you I mean you no harm and will not ask you to go anywhere with me. I think I may be able to help answer some of your questions. It's up to you. I'll be here for a few days so if not tonight perhaps another day."
"Will you be coming in here for all your meals?" asked Amanda.
"I plan to but won't if you'd rather I didn't," replied Miles.
"I don't mind you coming here. Maybe in a couple of days, we can talk."
"Alright," Miles said with a warm smile. It was progress.
He also now knew the source of her 'awkwardness' although he was surprised that Susannah had not realized it. Perhaps, by the time Amanda was a child and it became noticeable, Susannah was already starting to lose some of her faery senses. Miles had had no such problem spotting the imp that had caused the spill. If Amanda developed her senses more fully, she'd see the imp and be able to banish him.
Over the next two days, Miles saw Amanda each lunch and supper. Each time she seemed more relaxed. When the imp had tried to trip her again, she must have sensed something as she stopped in time to avoid him. Thwarted in his mischief, the imp stopped and stared at Miles. The little guy knew his game was over so shrugged his shoulders and left. Miles knew that Amanda's 'awkwardness' went with him.
They kept the conversation light and general. Miles went for a swim each evening after dining and then spent his nights back at his small campsite reliving the day. He spent one morning seeing the area on horseback followed by an afternoon exploring the shops. The next morning, he rented a boat and rowed near the Atlantean Woods. He saw much activity there that he knew no human would be able to see. That afternoon was spent quietly reading a book he'd bought the afternoon before.
All these activities helped pass the hours till he saw Amanda again. He was becoming increasingly anxious for those moments to arrive each day. She was changing as she relaxed more and grew to trust him. He found himself growing very attracted to her.
As Amanda left the bill for Miles on that third evening, she said, "Tomorrow I only work the lunch shift. If you like we could talk after I finish at 2."
Miles could not help beaming at her words. "That would be very nice," was all he said although he wanted to jump for joy and yell "Yes!". He was 39 years old but he felt like a teenager again; about to go out on a much anticipated date.
As Amanda watched Miles leave the restaurant, she wondered about what she had done. On the one hand she felt rather foolish as she had just agreed to meet a stranger. On the other hand, there was something so terribly attractive about Miles. On the other hand she was 30 years old and not a naive teenager. Ooops! Too many hands! She smiled at her own silliness.
What was it about Miles? She thought back over the last few days as she changed from her uniform to her regular clothes in the employee change room. As soon as he had walked in the restaurant that first time, she had felt something odd but almost familiar. She looked over to the door to see a very handsome man a few years older than herself. She felt very drawn to him and was glad that he took a seat in her section. When she handed him the menu and he touched the other side she'd felt something akin to an electrical shock. It had scared her at the time. She could have sworn he laughed at her when she cleaned up the ketchup. When she'd cleaned the spill she made on his clothes, he did not seem surprised and had implied he knew why she could clean spills so efficiently. She had really looked forward to his visits to the restaurant and the bit of conversation they had each time.
She felt young and vital again. When had she lost that part of herself? Actually, a more accurate question would be, had she ever felt that way? She couldn't remember a truly happy time. There always seemed to be shadows. Memories were flooding back to her as she left the restaurant and walked to her car. Once when she'd been around 10 and had been visiting the beach with her parents, she and her father had headed to get some snacks when they realized that they'd not asked her mother what kind of drink she'd like. So Amanda went back to ask. Her mother was staring across the lake at the woods on the other side with an expression of pain and longing. As if her mother had sensed Amanda watching her, she turned turned to Amanda wearing her usual smile that Amanda now knew had nothing to do with any sense of happiness. After that Amanda was much more aware of her mother's pain. A part of the child in her left that day. She could sense her mother's reluctance to moving to Metropolis but also her determination to go. In Metropolis she watched her mother's decline with an awful fear. When her mother left to seek help, Amanda had been so hopeful. But the months past without a word. Her father became so sad. He talked of his many regrets but especially these three: "I should have told her I knew."; "I should have gone with her."; and "I should never have brought her to Metropolis." Amanda never really understood what he'd meant.
After a year her father decided that her mother would never come back to Metropolis but thought she might to Watertown, so she and her dad moved back. Amanda had never liked Metropolis and was glad to return to Watertown. She, too, had hoped her mother would find them there. But that hope faded over the years.
So did her father's health. She was still very puzzled by some of the things her father had said before he died. He spoke of her mother in terms of being "other-worldly" and having had needs he'd ignored which he was so very sorry for. At the time, Amanda had thought it due to the illness, or the pain, or the medications but having thought on it more in the years since, she had seen some of the truth in the things he'd said. The way she could touch spills and have them disappear was a little thing but one that she knew of no logical explanation for. It was some type of magic. And a very handy one too with all the spills she'd made over the years.
That thought made her smile. It also brought her thoughts back to Miles. He had said he might have some answers for her. Is that why she was so eager to be meeting with him tomorrow? Was it the answers he may have to things she'd always wondered about? Or was it this wonderful, handsome man was going to spend time with her? Amanda had never really made many friends as she always had felt different. Her awkwardness had had her nicknamed "Klutz" for as long as she could recall. She'd never considered herself attractive either. In her mind, and she was sure everyone else's, she was a tall, solid, frumpy klutz. She had dated very little and had never felt close to any of those few men. Not the closeness she felt for Miles after only three days. Well, she thought, to be truly honest, she'd have to say the closeness she had felt when she first saw him. That feeling had scared her then but, in the course of three days, it had evolved into a warm and wonderful feeling.
"Tomorrow afternoon," she whispered softly to herself realizing she'd just been sitting in her car thinking for quite some time. On the one hand, it seemed so far off and she knew time was likely to pass very slowly. On the other hand, would there be enough time to prepare herself? She had questions to decide as well as wanting to look her best. On the other hand ... oops there she was needing more hands again. She chuckled softly to herself and realized she'd never really done that before; laughing out loud at her own thoughts. She'd always been so serious. She'd never smiled much, let alone laughed, till these past three days when either talking to Miles or thinking about him. It felt so very, very good and so very, very right.
Miles was awake extra early the next morning. He'd had a restless night. His thoughts and dreams had all been centered on Amanda. He went to the campgrounds showers to get ready for the day. He reminded himself that he was on an errand for his mother but that had not kept him from having some dreams about Amanda that were not something he'd share with his mother. He smiled at the memory of the dreams. In the last 10 years, he'd never really had much time or inclination to date. Besides being occupied with watching out for Sarah and Geoffie, he'd been feeling the pain of his sister and of his best friend. It was a pain that was difficult enough secondhand and he had had no desire to experience it directly. Over the last few weeks, since Sarah and Kevin had been reunited, he had felt their joy. Now he thought that the risk of pain might be worth it to feel that kind of happiness firsthand. He was happy, too, for Kevin and Geoffie and their growing closeness. But being honest with himself, he also felt a twinge of jealousy. He had been the man that Geoffie had looked up to for so long. Miles longed for children of his own. A son would be great but a daughter would be wonderful too. Miles shook his head and laughed at himself. He had just finished shaving and looked at himself closely in the mirror. Hmmmm, he thought. Not getting any younger. Is that some grey hairs? Where had the years gone?
Driving from the campground to Watertown, he drove through the only fastfood place he had seen in the area and got some breakfast. He stopped at a small park area with a couple of picnic tables by a river to eat his breakfast. Sitting there on the grass, he wondered about the best way to spend the morning which he was sure would pass much too slowly. He was quite sure thinking about Amanda was not the best way to spend the time but he couldn't help himself. The first day she had had an aura of tension, sadness, confusion and wariness but it had changed in the days since. She was more relaxed and was starting to radiate some happiness. It was especially noticeable in her face. She looked years younger. That first day she'd had a polite, half-smile for greeting customers but it had not gone beyond her lips. Now her smile included her whole face and went deep inside her producing a glowing effect. Her laugh had seemed rusty from lack of use at first. She even seemed embarrassed to laugh. Last night, she'd finally seemed to enjoy laughing. The smile made her so beautiful, thought Miles. And her laughter was sweet music to him. Her deep chocolate eyes had started to sparkle. He hoped she would set her rich, dark satiny hair free of the tight bun she usually wore it in this afternoon. In his dreams last night, it had been free and flowing over her. Well, he thought, best not to think about that too much. The erotic dreams about Amanda had surprised him. He'd never had dreams like that of someone he knew before. There had only been very general dreams. These were also so clear and detailed that they felt more like memories than dreams. Miles wished he'd paid more attention to the few classes he'd attended on Dream Reading. It had not interested him that much then and he'd felt he could consult one of the settlement's Dream Readers should he ever feel he had a dream that required interpetation. He smiled. If he were in the settlement, he'd not have shared these dreams with the Dream Readers! He tried to search his memory from the classes. He had a vague recollection that such specific dreams meant you'd found your life-mate. He found the idea that Amanda was to be his mate had great appeal. In his 39 years he had never fallen in love. He knew love as in love of family or friends but not that one special love. And he'd certainly experienced lust. His human male needs and interests were quite normal and increased by his faeryfolke side as faeryfolke are very sensual. They were also very loyal once they found their life-mate.
With a twinge of guilt, Miles realized he had not given Mother or Susannah much thought in the last few days. If this was not the Amanda he sought, he would need to continue the search. He did feel very strongly though that his (when had he started to think of her as his?) Amanda was Susannah's daughter. When he had been out in the boat the other day and seen some of the faeryfolke in the Atlantean Woods, there was one in particular that drew his attention. There was a sad woman looking out over the lake toward Watertown. He was sure it was Susannah. Whether she looked at Watertown knowing Amanda was there or just remembering the time she'd lived in Watertown herself, Miles could not be sure.
He admitted to himself that he hoped he could avoid the subject of faeryfolke during his afternoon with Amanda. He just wasn't sure if it was because he wanted to proceed cautiously or he selfishly wanted this time to be for just the 2 of them. He did have some fear as to how she would react to the news of her faery nature and her missing mother, and how that might affect her feelings toward him.
Miles looked at his watch and was surprised to find it was past twelve o'clock. He'd been so wrapt up in his thoughts time had actually passed quite quickly. He was glad he'd spent the time sitting on grass looking out at the river and absorbing natural energy. He would need to be at full strength this afternoon. He'd better get going to the restauarant. His plan had been to arrive around one so that he'd be just finished his meal about the time Amanda got off work. He could hardly wait to be able to talk with her outside of the restaurant.
Amanda sensed Miles approaching the restaurant. She had noticed an increasing awareness of Miles proxinity and feelings. She was surprised that he was nervous today just as she was. She found that oddly reassuring.
Miles entered and found what had become his usual table empty. Amanda brought over the menu and went through her waitress routine. Miles played his part and order some lunch but the smiles they exchanged were completely heartfelt. Miles ate his meal by rote as he was busy watching Amanda. And the clock. He lingered over his dessert of pie and tea till 2 pm. Amanda came to the table.
"I'm finished work now. I'll just be a few minutes changing and then meet you out front if that is okay."
"That sounds fine." replied Miles.
He finished eating, paid his bill and went out to the front stoop to wait. He hoped she wouldn't be long. He felt like he'd waited his entire lifetime for this afternoon.
Meantime, Amanda was busy changing from her uniform. She had brought a simple summer dress to wear. She felt the sunflower print went well with her dark hair and eyes. She could not recall ever worrying so much about her appearance. She was a bit tall at 5'8". She tried to think of the best way to describe herself. She heard so many over the years from pudgy to substantial to pleasingly plump to solid. She wasn't fond of any of them. Tall, solid and awkward she knew were not a very attractive combination. With a smile, she realized she hadn't had so much trouble tripping over her own feet or spilling things in a couple of days. Her smile widened thinking about Miles and the fact that he was taller than her by about 6 inches. And somehow he made her feel feminine instead of 'solid' when he looked at her. She looked at herself in the full length mirror. The dress she felt was very flattering. A part of her wished for the svelte figure of a model but she was sure she'd seen approval in Miles' eyes. Or was that wishful thinking? She hoped her impression was right. Oddly enough, Miles approval was important to her. Amanda also wished she'd have taken the time at some point to learn about makeup but she'd never worn any and didn't think this would be a time to experiment. She took her hair from the bun she always wore. She realized she'd been wearing it like that for at least the last ten years. As she brushed it out she was sure her hair color had changed. She'd always considered it a rather dull brown. Today it seemed to shine. She decided to leave it down and loose. She packed away the brush and took a long last look in the mirror. She grabbed the bag with her clothes she'd worn this morning to work and took a deep breath. Here goes, she thought as she left the room.
Miles watched as Amanda came through the restauarant door. It was the first time he'd seen her in something other than her uniform and the first time he'd seen her hair down as it had been in his dream. She was beautiful and he was even more sure that she was his true mate.
Amanda returned Miles smile and said, "I'll just put these things in my car and then we can go for a walk if you like or find a place to sit and talk."
"Alright,"answered Miles. "Wherever you'd be most comfortable is fine with me."
Amanda led the way to her car where she stashed the bag in the trunk.
"There," said Amanda. "Do you want to go down to the beach or would sitting over in that park be all right?" Amanda pointed to a nearby park with playground equipment, picnic tables and an open gazebo overlooking the lake.
"I think the park," chooses Miles.
As they are walking Miles tells Amanda, "You look beautiful with your hair like that."
Amanada stopped walking and looked at Miles. She saw and felt the sincerity of his remark. "Thank you."
She started to walk again and realized she suddenly felt beautiful too. She smiled and wanted to whirl around with the joy of it. Miles had a pretty good idea what she was feeling and said, "Go for it."
"What was I thinking? I'd trip over my feet."
Miles watched that bright smile vanish and felt the sadness set in. He stood in front of her and took hold of her hands. He could feel her sadness and hope she could feel his confidence. This was the first time they'd touched and the connection was quite strong. Amanda felt it too and for a moment thought she should pull her hands from his. Instead she looked up into his face. She saw his handsome face but she also saw more. She saw love and understanding. She shook her head. How fanciful she was getting.
"Amanda, please listen to me. You are not now nor have you ever been clumsy or awkward." She opened her mouth to protest. but Miles released one of her hand to place a finger over her lips.
"There were things you could not see causing the problems but I think they've gone now."
Amanda didn't argue but she did look very perplexed. Miles led her to an open gazebo.
"I guess we better talk," he said.
[Whimsical Woods Index]