Where Readers & Writers Connect
Bethany handed each of her children a mozzarella stick as they climbed out of the van. Joel, five, ran off to the grassy area near the parking lot. Tina, seven, waited while her mother replaced the cooler in the van.
“Where’s Daddy going?” Tina pulled the cheese into strings.
“To buy the tickets to the general’s house and gardens. He’ll be back in a minute.”
“Here comes Daddy.” Joel ran forward, then tried to match his father’s long legged stride. His gait ended up more of a swagger than the smooth roll he was trying to imitate.
“Shall we do the gardens first? That way the kids can walk off some of the energy they have from the car ride.”
“Good idea, Michael.” They headed in that direction, Bethany thinking a walk in a garden might not burn off four hours in the van.
The gardens were lovely, a nice place to begin their two week vacation, traveling around visiting the historic places her husband loved. Hanging pots on shepherd’s hooks, ponds connected by streams. Small bridges crossing the clear water filled with colorful koi. Beds of colorful flowers and topiary trees were scattered throughout.
The children ran down the paths and over the bridges, stopping to look occasionally. Bethany was relieved to see they were slowing and being careful when they approached other visitors.
Michael took Bethany’s hand as they followed the children.
“Look at this mosaic, how beautiful. Take out your phone and get a picture. Maybe I’ll do a smaller version for our patio.”
Michael did as she requested. The various blues, reds, pinks and greens created shadows and focal points of light within the design.
“Do you think you could?”
A scream both recognized as from their daughter cut the conversation short set them running. Another scream which turned into a squeal and a loud splash urged them on.
Rushing through an archway they saw a guard helping Tina out of the water of a large pool, her blond hair streaming wet around her face, arms held away from her wet garments.
“A spider. A spider this big.” Tina held her hands together forming a circle close to three inches wide. Her whole body shuddered. Bethany didn’t know if it was from being cold and wet or because of the spider.
“Michael, give me the keys. I’ll take her to the van and get her into dry clothes,” Bethany whispered. “Come, honey. I’m sorry you were scared.”
Michael flipped her the keys. “I’ll take Joel on into the mansion. We can meet there.”
“Sounds good.” Bethany put her arm around her daughter and, speaking comforting words, lead Tina out of the garden to the parking lot.
In dry clothing Tina trailed a little behind Bethany as they began touring the mansion. She knew they would find Michael and Joel before the pair finished exploring. Michael was known to read every placard and study each exhibit taking much longer to see everything than she and the children.
Right again, she thought as they entered a large room filled with display cases. Michael was bent over a glass case studying its contents. Joel, too short to see into most of the cases, wandered along the walls weaving in front of the cases lining them. Soon Tina and Bethany were absorbed in the artifacts displayed. Bethany also kept an eye on Joel.
“Son, did you touch this?” The voice of a guard caught Bethany’s attention.
“Hum, yes.” Joel’s face was turning red as Bethany and Michael approached.
“Do you know what this says?” The guard pointed to the words on the red lever on the wall set just at the boy’s eye level.
“No. I don’t read yet.”
Bethany’s stomach clenched.
“It says, ‘Pull in case of fire.’ Is there a fire here?”
“So let’s not pull it again unless there is one, okay?”
Wonderful, Bethany thought. Day one of vacation and already two incidents. I hope this doesn’t predict how the next thirteen days go.