The next morning I awoke with the sunlight blazing through my ‘window-at- the-top-of-the-world’. I grabbed a towel and clean clothes from my pack and carefully climbed backwards down the steep stairs to the kitchen.
‘ ‘Morning Val. ‘Morning girls.’
‘ ‘Morning!’ they all sang back at me.
‘Would someone show me whereabouts at the stream I can bathe, please?’
‘We will! We will!’ chorused the twins, and they took off down the spiral staircase. They were waiting at the bottom when I got there. Polly took my towel, and Molly my clothes, and holding my hands led me into the woods. We stopped by a natural rock pool. Not wanting to embarrass the girls, I waded into the water in my nightie and removed it when I was submerged. This caused a great deal of hilarity.
‘We all just take our clothes of before we go in,’ said Polly, and they both proceeded to strip off and jumped in with gusto. We ended up splashing and giggling. The water was cool, but it was great fun and very refreshing. I told the girls to get out and use my towel to dry themselves. Then I climbed out and sort of dried myself on the soggy towel, and we got dressed and headed back to the house for some breakfast.
‘Forty gone to work already?’ I asked Val.
‘Yes. Long gone. His shift starts at 5.00am…….. After we’ve had breakfast and the girls have gone to school, would you like me to read your tea-leaves?’
‘That would be interesting. I’ve not had that done before. Thank you.’
‘I get lots of people come for a reading,’ she said.
We had breakfast and packed up the twins’ lunch boxes.
‘I will be leaving this morning, girls. Thank you so much for looking after me and Maria. I hope I will see you again one day.’ They gave me a group hug and went skipping off to school.
Val took a tin down from the shelf. It was marked ‘Reading Tea’.
‘Is that a special tea that you use, then?’ I asked Val.
‘Oh, lordy, yes!’ she said. ‘You don’t want ordinary tea for a reading. Well…….. it is ordinary tea, but with added flavours. This is how it works: you have a cup of tea but leave a little in the bottom of the cup; I refill it and when you’ve drunk the second cup you have to swill the dregs around three times and then upend the cup on the saucer. Then I read it.’
I did as I was told. I tasted a hint of aniseed and rose, and something else that I couldn’t quite name. It was very refreshing.
‘There you are, Val.’ I handed her the cup.
‘Ooooh. Very interesting. I see the number eight and caves. I also see figures with outstretched arms. And water.’
‘Hmmm. Well, I am headed for Rainbow Beach, so that could be the water. The figures could be the friends I am meeting there, and I might pass some caves on the way. Thank you for the reading. That was a first for me.’ We sat talking for a while and then I went up to pack my things. Val offered to round-up Maria for me.
I descended the spiral staircase one last time, taking in the wonder of the structure and all the flowers decorating it.
‘Thank you so much for the pleasure and the unique experience of sleeping in a tree-house, Val. Your home is a delight. Please thank Forty for his kindness, too. I will never forget you all.’ Val kissed me on the cheek and wished me a good journey. Maria and I took the track through the woods and turned one last time to wave to Val before we disappeared from view around the bend. She waved back and we continued on our journey.
I wondered what our next adventure would be.