Roland had fallen asleep in the field while watching over the sheep and cows. When rain woke him in the dark of early morning, he smiled and retreated through the wet grass to the lean-to he had built at the edge of the field. It was a low, three sided structure made of long sticks he had found in the woods along the Disappearing Brook. It was covered by enough layers of pine boughs to keep it dry inside.
“Now the newly planted seeds will sprout and get off to a good start,” he thought, as he bent to step through the open side that faced the field.
At that moment, a flash of lightning lit the grassy interior of his dry shelter. The bright light lasted just long enough for him to see a toad leap out into the wet field.
This flash of lightening also brightened Ronduin’s room in the castle, but he didn’t come fully awake until the roar of thunder startled him. His first thought was, “Oh no! The low fields will flood again and the water will be too deep and we won’t be able to walk to the forest on the boards.”
Mirabel was woken by the same rumble of thunder. “Thunder means rain,” she thought, listening carefully. She heard a pitter patter on the barn roof and she also heard Rowan snoring. “Wake up,” she said. “It’s raining. perhaps we can’t rescue the royal family after all.”
Rowan responded groggily, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it. Go back to sleep.”
The thunder also woke the villagers bedded down in the straw in the hillside stable. Their voices, mixed with the sound of rain on the roof, rose in the darkness.
“Now our seeds will sprout well.”
“This is a blessing from heaven.”
“No hurry to get to the fields today. Let’s go back to sleep.”
Soon sounds of snoring could be heard throughout the the stable, but Ricard lay awake, listening to the rain on the roof and the distant thunder. “I hope this rain doesn’t put off my journey down the river and the lake. I was looking forward to using mud skis to bring my wife and the little ones to the boat then up to the foothills. If the water rises too much, the mud skis will no longer work. And it may be a long time before I see my family.”
Ronduin dressed early and, just after dawn, he walked to his bedroom window and looked out at the rain splashing onto the muddy fields. Standing there, staring at the steady rain, he remembered the many days of storms, the water rising, the leaking roof and the hallways full of people building scaffolding. He thought back to sewing linen bags, to the green boat headed for town, to the signal fires. He remembered the weeks and weeks of singing to himself in the quiet castle.
He remembered too the surprise of chickens, learning to count by twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes, learning to jump rope and learning to juggle. He smiled when he remembered hearing his mom tell about Uncle Cedric and his father tell of the floods of the old days and how the animals were moved to the barn on the hill.
Then he thought about the joy of seeing Mirabel and Rowan on barn hill. He felt happy when he thought about waving to them every evening. He remembered figuring out how to use boards to cross the mud. And then he began to worry again. Perhaps their plan to leave the castle to join his friends and the all the people of the village would be postponed for days or weeks.
He reached into his pockets and found the friends who had kept him company in the quiet castle. Apple and Pear, his two throwing sacks, seemed happy to emerge from his dark pockets and sit on the window sill.
“Everything changed since the flood,” he told them. “Nothing that happened is what I expected. I thought I’d be at school. I thought I would run along the lake with Mirabel after school and, as the weather grew warmer, I would see the trees growing buds and then leaves. I thought I would run to the Spring Festival.”
“And then none of that happened. But after we made the boards for walking across the mud, I thought everything would start going back to normal. I thought that I would cross the mud and then run to the foothills. I was looking forward to the a Festival in the foothills. But, now that the rain is back, I don’t know when normal life will happen again.”
Ronduin looked at Apple and Pear. They leaned against each other. They did not look upset by the change of plans. They looked comfortable and cozy.
“So you’re telling me you’re not unhappy about the rain?”
The more he looked at them leaning against each other, the happier they looked.
“OK,” he said. “Then I’ll be happy too.”