The Dragon's Lair
Jason and I biked home, mainly in silence. When we reached Windgate Cottage we found Harry saying goodbye to a customer with Regina next to him. As always she went crazy when she saw someone in the family approach. Laughing I got off my bike.
“Hey girl, take it easy. Yes, I’m happy to see you too,” I said as I was covered in kisses when I knelt down to greet her. She then turned her attention to Jason.
“Regina, Harry, this is Jason. Jason, this is my uncle Harry and his dog Regina. She’s friendly, as you can tell. As long as you don’t attack anyone in our family, she’ll be your best friend!”
Jason laughed at this and greeted Regina. He looked completely smitten. I felt myself growing jealous — of a dog. I’d had to fall off a bike to get Jason’s attention, all Regina had to do was wag her tail and lick his hands.
Life’s unfair, there’s no question about it.
Harry also came over to greet us. Wearing faded jeans, muddy boots, a checkered shirt and a vest to keep him warm, he looked like a commercial for country vets.
“Hey Jason, welcome!”
“Hey, nice to meet you Harry.” Jason temporarily looked up from Regina and gave Harry one of his quick smiles.
It looked like Harry was just about to say something when he spotted my leg. “What happened to you Lulu?”
I shrugged my shoulders. I couldn’t exactly tell him why I had fallen. Not in front of Jason.
“I fell off my bike. I was thinking about something and was, uh, not paying attention.”
Harry looked at me with one eyebrow raised. I was never a good liar. I bent down to pet Regina again, as she’d come back to my side, and my head protested wildly with pain. And that’s when Harry saw the blood that, by now, was probably caked to my head in a charming fashion.
“You hurt your head? Let me have a look at that.” In two easy strides, Harry was by my side and inspecting the wound.
“You need to have that cleaned up. Doesn’t look deep. Are you feeling dizzy? Nauseous?” He was looking at me all professionalism and concern at the same time.
“No Harry, I’m fine. It just hurts a bit. It wasn’t that hard a hit. I just wasn’t expecting to fall, so it was…disorientating at first.” I bit my lip. I was wondering what Jason thought about all the things I’d said when lying on the ground? Seeing ghosts can make anyone a bit confused given one doesn’t really see them most of the time. One hears them.
“That’s good. Hopefully not a concussion, but look at that knee! Just a bad scratch or did you hit it hard? Is it swollen? Let me have a look at that too.” He kneeled down next to me and gently examined the knee. “It’s a tad swollen I think, but it’s minimal if, at all. Hard to tell out here and with the jeans on, I’d have to examine it properly. Does it hurt? Hard to move?”
“No, it was mainly a scratch. A bad one. I somehow fell so that I both slid along the ground and hit my head. I’m clearly more talented than I thought!”
“You should be fine with some rest then. Get Wilda to give you something for the pain and have her clean you up and put some ointment on the wounds. Make sure someone’s with you for observation for the next twenty-four hours. You shouldn’t be alone. Not even when sleeping.”
“That’s what I thought,” Jason was nodding appreciatively; messy curls dancing as he’d now removed his hat. “You’re a vet, right?”
Harry nodded. “Yep.”
“I’m thinking of becoming a vet,” Jason said. His eyes were suddenly alight.
“Really?” I asked. This was news to me.
“Yes, I love animals,” Jason replied, though he was beaming more at Harry than at me. “I’ve been thinking about conservation too, so I’m not sure. I just know I want to work with protecting animals somehow.”
“Yeah,” Harry nodded. “Kids are all excited about technology these days and they should be, but without nature and animals us humans have nothing. We still need to learn that.”
Jason nodded. “Yes, I agree. There are ways to use technology to help nature as well.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “Just the other day someone sighted a grey owl near here. Technology at least help us keep count of species like the grey owl that are almost extinct in some, or all, parts of the country.”
“Yes, I heard about that,” Jason said. “I wanted to go out myself and have a look.” At this point Jason’s eyes were alive with passion.
“Well, if you ever need an internship, let me know,” Harry said with a smile.
“I’d love to,” Jason said, looking ecstatic. “I used to help out at an animal shelter before I came to Rocky Creek. I was often with the vet there.”
Uh-oh. If Jason came for an internship, he’d be around all the time. That was…good? Like seeing me walk around the house looking a mess, kind of good? How can you want to be with someone so bad, yet panic at the thought of having them around?
I shook my head. Bad idea. That hurt.
“I think you need to go inside,” Harry said, looking at me. “You need those wounds taken care of.”
“Oh, yes, I’ll go with you,” Jason said, looking abashed. He probably felt guilty having forgotten about me being in pain. There went that theory of him caring for people — animals came first! Then again, maybe that wasn’t true judging from the concerned look in his eye when he took me in.
I was just about to tell him that he should go home, when Jenna opened the front door.
“Louise, I thought I heard you out here. Whatever on Earth happened to your leg? You fell off the bike? And you’ve brought a visitor. Come inside, I’ll make some hot chocolate. I am dying for a cup anyway. I’ll find Wilda to take care of that knee too. Enter, enter the house stranger, I make excellent chocolate, you won’t regret it.” Jenna was beaming at Jason, who looked shellshocked. Maybe because Jenna had an air of a performing Hollywood actress, sounded like British royalty (with the odd East London slip) and was wearing a bright red dress and matching red lipstick.
I decided it was time to intervene.
“Jason, this is my great aunt, Jenna. Jenna, this is Jason who is in my class. He helped me home after I fell off the bike. I, I uh…” I caught myself just before telling her I’d seen a ghost. Or a ghost stick-it note in the middle of my path.
But of course, I shouldn’t have bothered.
“You saw a ghost? Perfectly natural to fall off a bike if you do, honey. I couldn’t handle such a sighting myself. Not at this age when on a bike. Come to think of it, I haven’t biked for a while. I must take Jenny out for a ride one of these days when the sun is out. Today was dreadfully dreary. Nice to meet you Jason.”
Jenna reached her hand out to greet Jason, who now had his eyebrows firmly raised to the high heavens, and I realized I hadn’t finished what I intended to say.
“Jason, you don’t have to come in, if you want to get back?” He needed at least one chance of escaping Jenna, but instead his face broke into the biggest smile I’ve ever seen adorning his face. Even wider than when he was petting Regina, or beaming at Harry.
“Nice to meet you, Jenna. I’d love a cup of hot chocolate.” At this he half turned to me and I could have sworn he winked. As if he knew his presence was turning me into a bunch of jello. A very swaying bunch of jello. I needed to sit down. And come up with an explanation for what Jenna had said about ghosts.
“Great. Jenna’s chocolate is good. Really good.” I was trying to think of something to say that didn’t sound like I wished him a mile away. Because I didn’t. But still, I did. I was tired, my head hurt, I had blood caked to my hair and…
“Goodness child, is that blood in your hair?” Jenna suddenly exclaimed when her gaze shifted from Jason to me. “Let me get Wilda pronto.” And on that note she turned on her heel and dashed into the house.
“Wilda? Where are you? Lulu has fallen off her bike. I think she saw a ghost. We need you down here. And there will be hot chocolate.” No one could resist Jenna’s hot chocolate. I think she bribed all her daughters with hot chocolate when they were growing up. I knew Harry would find an excuse to come to the kitchen too. And Regina knew that when it was chocolate time for the adults, she got a treat to her own liking.
My only question? Would Jason survive entering the dragon’s lair?