|[Original Fiction]:YAVNC, chapter 4
||[May. 30th, 2008|10:17 pm]
Well, this brings us up to 4500 words. If only I'd been like the cool people and got it this far on Monday. ;-)
"What a splendid car," Ashley said, circling about the Gryphon where it stood proudly in the parking lot, looming above the Mercedeses and the Hondas and the Gremlins and the Mini Robins. "Stanislava, she's beautiful. A Garmlander Gryphon? I've only ever seen pictures before. I did see a Garmlander Triton in the Musée des Chars in Lafayette, but it wasn't road-worthy, let alone sea-worthy."
"My father says his grandmother regretted building the Triton, in later years. She thought the company might have prospered if they'd concentrated on the Gryphon and the Lindorm. But she was so very convinced at the time that amphibious vehicles were the wave of the future; she saw the expansion of the suburbs, but thought water would take the place that highways did. I suppose growing up in a fishing village on the Great Lakes gives one a funny perspective on these things."
"So, Sigrune Laksgaard was your great grandmother? How perfectly brilliant! It must be wonderful to have such a fascinating family."
"She died twenty years before I was born," Stanislava said. "But I do think she built fantastic cars. I'm just glad that Mam lets me drive the Gryphon, every now and again."
"Oh, indeed. It's a tragedy that Garmlander Motorworks didn't prosper. My sire says she was the foremost designer of the age. And kind and beautiful, and the best bowler since Erasmus Darwin. Which is a great compliment, because he says that if Erasmus Darwin were alive today every professional cricket team on the planet would be building biology labs in hopes of luring him to sign on." She blushed. "I'm sorry, I talk too much."
"No, you're fine," Stanislava said. "Now me, I talk too much. Dermot will testify, I'm sure."
"No, you don't talk too much, either."
"I think Dermot's quite right, me," Ashley said. "No one with a voice as lovely as yours could ever talk too much."
Stanislava blushed. "Well, shall we mount up?" She unclipped her key ring from her belt; the door key for the Gryphon was a massive chunk of bronze that looked as if it had been made to unlock the main gate of a seventeenth century Swedish fortress or the powder magazine of Gustav II Adolph's ill-fated flagship, the Vasa.
"There's no cute little clicky-box," she said, "but the Gryphon was the first car to have central locking." The door switch was made of steel, engraved with floral patterns and set in a mahogany panel just above the inside door handle, which was cast in the shape of a bronze mermaid. "Will you do the honours on Miss Ashley's door, Dermot? Or perhaps I should fill the gentleman's role, as driving I am?"
"I will," Dermot said, and opened the passenger door. "You'll sit in front, I trust, Ashley?"
Ashley giggled. "Such gallantry from both of you? I fear I shall be spoilt altogether rotten. And I'll sit wheresoever you might have me sit." She swung herself gracefully up into the cabin. "My, there's plenty of room. Perhaps there's space for all three of us in front?"
"There are fittings for three seatbelts," Stanislava said, "but we've only got two rigged up the now, I'm afraid."
Dermot handed her up her bag, slid his own knapsack and banjo into the back seat, and climbed in after. "Is the seatbelt all right there, Ashley?"
"I think so," she said, "although I've never quite used belts like this before."
"I'll check her," Stanislava said. "Aye, that's the way of it. Well done! Most don't get them right on their first try."
"Are you sure I've got this strap quite tight enough?" Ashley said. "Perhaps you'd like to check it... yourself?"
"That's all right," Stanislava said, "I can see from here that it's fine." Dermot couldn't see the straps in question, but Stanislava was blushing.
They chatted about the landscape the entire way. Ashley seemed to expect every hillock and clump of trees to have a story associated with it, and wanted to know all of them. It was fortunate, Dermot reflected, that she'd fallen in with them; most of their other classmates would have been completely lost, but Stanislava had a trove of local placelore from her uncle, and had likely inherited his ability to instantly create–or discern, if one preferred to see it that way–a legend that should have been handed down about every spot for which she didn't know one already.
"Well, if you'll turn left here," Ashley said, "you'll reach my house." She sighed. "Not that I'm not tempted to lead you in circles for another three hours so we could keep talking."
"Well, we'll see each other tommorrow," Dermot said, "good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise."
"Amen," Ashley said softly. "Here's the house up ahead on the right." It was a sprawling mock-Jacobean of brick and stone, roofed in slate and patinated copper. A llama glared suspiciously at them from its paddock; the camelid went back to grazing when Ashley rolled down the window and waved.
"So, you're in the old Barnett house," Stanislava said. "I'm so glad that it's being lived in again. Ever since old Lucretia Barnett-Burton moved to St. Expédite, Uncle Osis has been worrying the place would get left to fall apart or knocked down and replaced with a ghastly subdivision or something."
"Oh, Cousin Lucretia would never allow that to happen," Ashley said. "She can't take the winters anymore here, but she made sure the place was kept up, and when my parents got their jobs at the college she invited us to move in. Tell me, are there any ghost stories?"
"None that I know of," Stanislava said. "Is there something you've seen or heard?"
"No, but one likes to be sure. The college certainly seems to be full of ghosts."
"Stupid fraternity initiations will do that, I'm told," Stanislava said.
"Some of them are very nice, actually, but that does seem to be part of the problem. And speaking of problems... I'm afraid I should let you go. Much as I'd like to lure you both into my lair. Perhaps sometime soon I could do that?"
Parting apparently required multiple handclasps, and thanks, and promises to invite them in soon, and at last a kiss on Stanislava's cheek. Ashley stepped down from the car at last, and stood with her hand on the door. "Oh," Stanislava said, "would you like a ride tommorrow, Ashley? Since you're on the way, and the bus driver seems to have forgotten about the lot of us in this direction."
"I'd be absolutely delighted," Ashley said. "If you're sure it's no trouble?"
"Of course not."
Dermot got down from the back seat. "Good bye, Ashley. It's lovely to meet you."
"Twice as lovely to meet the two of you." Quite suddenly, she hugged him, hard. "Don't be jealous, Stanislava, I'll hug you twice tommorrow," she said, giggling, and ran for the front door. She waved as they pulled out of sight.
"Funny girl," he said at last.
"No worse than us," Stanislava said. "I like her. And I think she's been lonely for a long time."