No sooner had his Aunt vanished into thin air, than who should be walking across the green but Margaret. She was waving a hand high in the air, a gesture made even more obvious by the long sleeve of a vivid scarlet, skinny rib top she was wearing tucked into blue jeans. Mac waved back. Oddly his message went unnoticed, unrecognised. Margaret, a stranger in this time, having presumably never visited this Place of the Willow before was not acknowledging him with her gesture, instead she seemed to be attempting to catch some others attention, someone the other side of the green. Mac turned quickly about the wooden seat to investigate.

Coming across from the church side was Sal, as pregnant as ever under a black pinafore smock and slacks. She looked radiant, her fair complexion and freckles more emphasised than usual, her fiery ginger hair ablaze with the sun’s illumination from its rising position just above the church steeple. Oddly she appeared to be mirroring the greeting of Margaret, and again ignoring him. She was, there could be no doubt. How did they know one another? Seconds later Margaret walked straight passed him without a word or gesture and the two girls came together in an embrace under cover of the branches,

Margaret spoke the first. “Hello Sis, long time no see. It’s so good to be back, I’ve so missed you.”

“And me you,” Sal replied,” hugging her sibling as tight as the intervening condition would allow.

“I can see the bumps coming along a pace though, not too long now?”

Margaret planted a huge kiss on Sal’s cheek as the two of them sat down just the other side of the tree trunk. They were hardly five feet away yet neither had owned him. Trying not to appear inquisitive Mac checked a long gaze not seen by the two girls and sat back facing the opposite direction.

“I’ve missed you twin,” Sal admitted with some feeling, and after gave a long sigh which knocked Mac for a six, “and since Mac went away I’ve had a difficult time of it,” she added. ” I just want him home where he belongs.”

“His Mum and Dad been around though haven’t they?”

“Oh yeh! They’ve been great, but Mac not being here as made such a difference. I miss him so much,” Sal poured out a sorrowful betrayal of the true feelings built up inside, and the obvious pain being endured.

Mac was troubled for what to do, forlorn and grieving for all their losses. Should he call their bluff? Was he invisible? Why had neither of them spoken to him? Now all three of them seemed to be with a loss of some making or another.

The conversation continued, the two sisters…. Sisters! What was happening? How could these two woman in any way be related, never mind be sisters, and twins at that. Why had they not recognised him?

Anxiety came to the fore in the guise of that malformed stimulation within the very fabric of his brain, an electrical aura of mind activity racing from fibre to fibre, that aggravated, teased, cat with mouse, a no where to turn fright with no end in sight. What if? What would stop it, bring it down. What could be done to escape the terrifying grip on him.

Mac took a deep intake of cool fresh morning air, quietly, slowly, imagining its effect on both body and mind, a calming effect, all of his senses swimming in the moist fragrant breath, battling the assault upon them. Would it reach a crescendo or dissipate? Breath out, then in once more, hold it in, just a moment, a moment to savour, relax further, there it goes, receding away, relief.

Rising from the bench seemed to be an option to find out the answer to the question of the girls Walking slowly about the circular bench seat and pretending to search for something dropped on the grass took his mind off the panic, and led in a direction straight in front of their position, still sat, catching up with their apparent weeks apart.

Margaret was the first to break off conversation. “Mornin, what you lost, would you like some help in finding it?”

Mac looked her straight in the eyes. “No thank you, it’s only my silver bracelet, it keeps losing of its clasp. I’m sure someone will hand it in at the meeting barn if I don’t find it.”

No recognition whatsoever showed in Margaret’s face, a concern about the loss of jewellery at the least, but no recognition. Worry or not, he could not make up his mind. What was going on?

Sal simply smiled, an obvious, sympathetic smile, wary of his plight while at the same time explaining she was in no fit condition to be bending down and searching for lost items in grass, no matter how soft the turf was.

Were the two of them simply teasing, pretending not to know him, was it a game they were playing, was Sal annoyed for leaving her the past few weeks and this was a way of telling of the disappointment? Surely the ruse would be broken momentarily. He searched around the green a little longer, kicking the grass here and there, bending down every now and then, waiting patiently. No, not in the slightest, still no acceptance. Walking away, left them to their banter, laughter telling of the joy and happiness found in their reunion. Would they shout. Neither of them did.

The warm season was fast approaching, Holly given up her winters ownership to Oak within the woodland, Bells of Blue spread like a blanket in every direction, could they provide more than beauty alone.

Mac knew his folklore, but had never imagined he would ever have to put it to the test. Here was an opportunity. Whatever the reason for the girls behaviour at the Willow remained a mystery, perhaps they were as much of an apparition as Aunt Bessie, so maybe by walking through the Bells of Blue worlds would meet, Sal’s and his own, allowing them some time together.

The myth that this flower ‘thins’ the walls between worlds and realities made him smile as he walked, especially with what had happened to him, perhaps worlds had been colliding since the beginning of time. But yet other stories warned of danger, of becoming lost in strange states within hosts of the Blue, and needing to be led out by another, if another came along, what if one did not, then what. He thought of the shepherd boy, a sleep spell cast upon him so his youthful company could always be kept to a nymph of the forest, and he worried of being lost forever himself. A belly laugh resonated from out of nowhere, Lost forever, that truly was a humorous idea, as if at this moment that scenario was not his plight.

Finding the familiar trail further into the wood he also remembered the fable of the two boys, family tied but living centuries apart, falling asleep within their ancestral castle, itself situated amongst crops of the Blue, two boys able to dream their way into each others century and be at close friendship with the other. All these ideas and more fascinated and reverberated around an enquiring mind, one that hungered for a solution but marvelled at the fact.

The trees were in their element, new seasons growth still not quite fully furnished, leaves with an immature colour of green to them, almost translucent, backlit by the sunshine finding its way through the canopy in places here and there to mottle the lower levels with speckled light. To one side of the track the fox had had its way with a pheasant and took fill in the early morning hours, maybe feeding the family as well judging by the cleanliness of the blood red carcass, picked clean of any reliable food.

“Mac! Mac!” The calls were coming from deep in the wood, not one call, but two, female, and sounding like Margaret and Sal. They could not see him, nor he them, so they called out again.

“Over here, through the rose brier,” he shouted back, “follow the path, we’ll meet in the middle.”

Giggles of anticipation drifted on the air, subterfuge on the wing, it resonated from one tree trunk to another. “I can see you,” one of them sang out.

“I can’t see you,” Mac replied.

Then they came into view, through the split trunk of an ancient Ash, cleaved asunder many centuries ago, the resulting growth forming a passageway through the body of the very tree itself. It stood straight upright, a huge girth to its trunk, strong branches reaching out in all directions, not straight branches either but branches which turned one way then the other in a manner that a contortionist would be proud of.

The Ash was rooted in the middle of the brier, directly in the line of the path within the clearing, Oak and more Ash all around, Bells of Blue upon the floor.

Margaret jumped through the Ash first while Sal took a little more care, they both then ran carefully, hand in hand, to meet the man they had been calling after. Sal planted a first kiss on his cheek, Margaret a second. They were both dressed as before at the Willow. How had they overtook him?

“Where have you been?” Sal began, just starting the sentence before Margaret, who only managed the first word before conceding to her sister’s enquiry.

“I’ve just been walking from the Willow to here, why did,,,?”

“We’ve been to see Aunt Bessie, we stayed overnight, and now we have all the answers,” Margaret informed him, smiling knowingly at Sal as she spoke, “don’t we Sis?”

The sister thing was still going on then. “What answers?” he asked, not sure who to address.

Margaret spoke excitedly. “Aunt Bessie gave us all of them.”

Sal joined in. “Your disappearance, the bridge, Margaret and me being sisters in time, where Aunty keeps going off to for weeks on end.”

“And now you and me meeting.” Margaret went on, adding more pace to the explanation, tripping over a few words as she spoke, “in my time, you coming through the bridge, finding your way to the farm was no accident, it was fate.”

“Did you know Aunt Bessie had a husband in another time?” Sal asked.

“So it’s ok to love me in my time Mac,” Margaret added, “me and Sal are one.”

Sal smiled approvingly, nodding her head in excited confirmation.

Confusion reigned supreme once more. “I thought I saw you both over by the Willow, not half an hour ago”

“Not us,” Sal interrupted, “we’ve been with Aunt Bessie.”

Speaking of who, there she was, just the other side of the Ash, floral primrose attire, hat in hand, her grey hair cascading over both shoulders, caught in a single sunbeam of light making her appearance even more intriguing than usual. Having caught Mac’s attention, and him alone, with a subtle wave of her hand she turned slowly but assuringly about and walked the opposite direction, her arrangements complete for the time being.

“So now we know,” Margaret went on.

“And I feel more at ease,” Sal added, “knowing you are safe. You really are a fortunate one Mac, do you realise it yet, to be able to do what you can do, move between times.”

A baleful crowing called out from somewhere else, was it coming from within the wood, perhaps, not just the wood though, outside the window as well, Mac stirred and turned over, dawns light brought him to. The crow called once more.