New Beginnings

White cat sitting in a sunlit field with spring flowers behind it. Photo by Holger Schuu00e9 on

Spring had come in all its glory, filling every inch of the Wildwood with light and life. Between the greening trees what ground that wasn’t a dusky haze of bluebells, or shining white with wild garlic, was lush with grass dotted through with celandines and anemones, archangels and orchids, vetch and violets. 

The banks of the streamlets that criss-crossed their way down to the river glowed golden with king cups and the paths that wound their way through the woods were carpeted with the pink and white blossom petals caught and distributed by the breeze. Each morning the first tendrils of dawn had the woods ringing with a dawn chorus so vibrant any composer in hearing would have wept with envy at nature’s superior skill. 

Not even the April showers could dampen the energy crackling through the woods inhabitants as each nest, den and home welcomed new mouths to feed. Not that new life was confined to the wood, the Village had its fair share of birthing, with the fields filled with gambolling lambs, calves finding their feet and, out behind the Smithy, Wayland’s mare was about ready to foal. 

The sand martins had arrived on the banks of the river between the woods edge and village proper, the swallows had been seen swooping around the old farm buildings and the swifts had just arrived to complete the trifecta, nesting in the eaves of some of the village houses and their favourite spots in the roof of both church and vicarage. 

Father Langben had performed the first christening of the year back in January, humans not really keeping to any seasonal cycle in that regard, but he was still expecting the font to get good use this spring, what with Mrs Leto having had her twins not two days previous and there being four other women in the village expecting to be delivered in the next few weeks. Must have been something in your harvest punch, he’d suggested with a wink, when Alan had remarked on the largess during the committee meeting in The Green Man to finalise the upcoming May Day celebrations.

And this spring there was another newcomer, not one born into the Village but instead called by the Wildwood, although not to be a part of a retelling of one of the stories that keep the land alive. No, the Wildwood had chosen Isobel for a different, more permanent, purpose; albeit one that was also as vital to, and old as, humanity itself.

Not that Isobel was aware of the Wildwood’s involvement in her relocation. She was merely marvelling at such a stroke of good luck coming after several years of bad. A new start in a new area with a stipend and a house could not have come at a more needed moment. And if she couldn’t actually remember applying for the post … well, she’d got to the point where she’d just filled in anything that she knew she could do and there had been so many she’d been a bit lax in recording what she’d sent where. Besides, she’d found her covering email when she’d searched her inbox in her initial disbelief and confusion after the acceptance and travel details had arrived, so she’d put it straight out of her mind. 

It’s a good thing I hadn’t started to apply for just anything, she’d thought to herself on her first look around the cottage that was to be hers for at least the next two years. If I wasn’t genuinely capable of basic house and garden maintenance I’d be right up the proverbial creek.

In all honestly the place wasn’t bad. All it really needed was a fair amount of elbow grease, a good deal of spit and polish, and nearly a tin of WD40 on all the door and cupboard hinges. Thus she’d only needed to spend five nights with Eleanor and Sarah at Doves Tea Shop with Rooms before Wudufæsten, or woods edge cottage as the villagers called it despite the fact the name was painted on both the gate and front door, was habitable enough for her to move in. 

The move didn’t take long, since by the time she’d been offered this she’d had to sell all but her essential possessions and everything she owned fitted into two medium sized suitcases and her handbag. Still it was a boon in some ways as the cottage was small, and came with all its own furniture. Clothes and books were really all she needed.

Opening the window in tiny living room she set her notebook down on what would have to double as desk and dinner table and was about to sit when she heard the most peculiar noise. A squeaky creaking that immediately caused her to think she’d forgotten to shut the gate and the wind had caught it. Except the gate was the only thing in the entire place with hinges that hadn’t loudly protested being used for their intended purpose. Until now, obviously, she thought ruefully as she grabbed the almost empty WD40 from the understairs cupboard and headed outside to fix it. Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today was a mantra that had served her well over the years and she wasn’t about to ignore it now, no matter how much she was dying to set pen to paper and get some words down. 

Only the gate was shut and even when she opened it and gave it several very vigorous swings it made no noise at all. Then the sound came again, and she spun, then kept turning trying to pin point the location of the repetative noise.

‘It’s a magpie chick,’ said an imperious voice from somewhere in the region of her ankles, ’in the hawthorn over by the outhouse.’

Isobel didn’t fall over in shock but it was a near thing. There was no other human in sight, just a small white cat sitting primly on the path between her and the cottage. 

‘Did you just speak to me?’

‘No, it was the grass.’ The cat gave her a look, one that reminded Isobel vividly of her old maths tutor and made her feel about an inch tall, then added scathingly, ‘Of course it was me, who else is there?’

‘Well in that case I’m very please to meet you.’ Isobel managed, wondering if this was how Lucy had felt meeting Mr Tumnus for the first time. ‘My name is Isobel. Who might I have the pleasure of addressing?’

‘At least you have manners. So much better than the last one. My name is not your concern but since we will be living together you may address me as Holt.’

‘That’s-’ Isobel didn’t get any further as the cat was already on its feet, heading into the cottage. 

‘Do hurry up,’ he called over his shoulder. ‘I know Sarah sent a hamper up with you and I’m very partial to her fish paste as a light tea.’

Isobel didn’t move. 

Was she hallucinating? Had she inadvertently eaten a funny mushroom? Maybe she’d fallen asleep and this was all a dream she’d wake up and laugh about in a minute.

Holt reappeared in the doorway, ears erect and the tip of his tail twitching.

‘You’re not dreaming,’ he said, with only a hint of impatience, ‘nor are you hallucinating. I am a talking cat, you are a mildly confused human, and we are going to get along splendidly once you stop fussing and make us both some tea.’ 

‘Was this what Eleanor meant when she said sometimes things here can seem a little strange and I’d get on best if I just took it all my stride?’

‘Yes. Very much so. Besides, if this wasn’t the right place for you, all you’d have heard when I spoke to you was “meow”.’ Holt took a few steps back down the path and looked up into Isobel’s face. ‘So now that’s clarified will you please come inside now, I am extremely hungry and lack the opposable thumbs to open the jar myself.’ 

Isobel knew instinctively that laughing at Holt would not be a good move but she couldn’t help the grin that lit her face at his words. 

‘That’s the ticket.’ Holt could not smile but his eyes narrowed in clear approval before once again trotting through the cottage door. 

She couldn’t have explained why had her life depended on it, but Isobel was suddenly filled with a sensation of such rightness, such certainty that everything about her situation was exactly as it was meant to be, that this time she didn’t hesitate. Instead she eagerly followed her new cat into her new cottage to begin the process of finding out what her new life would entail.  

This is the fourth in a series of twelve stories I’m grouping under the title Flashes of Feathers, all set in the same Wildwood as the Twelve Tales of Flashmas.

The prompt for this story was Four for a Birth

For more information about the whys and wherefores of this series please click on the master post link below:

3 thoughts on “New Beginnings

  1. Love it. I absolutely love these stories. There is a village in the Yorkshire dales I picture when I read them. I stayed in the tearoom there when I walked the Dales way and although it’s not the same it somehow comes into my thoughts when I read these stories. I really think you should publish these .

    Liked by 1 person

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