AUG 5th, 2014
It was early morning in Rooibosch Hill and all of the critters were bundled up in their warm beds to keep the winter cold at bay. All but Damara De Wildt, who sat on the edge of her bed, staring through the window at the chilly stillness of
the mid-winters night.
Next to her, she could hear the soft snoring of her husband, Rowan and suddenly she realised just how much she would miss that sound at night once she started her travels. Damara gave a sigh, her emotions were all over the place and she could not quite decide if she was excited or scared. Perhaps a little of both? She would have happily sat there mulling over things much longer, but her thoughts were cut short when Rowan stirred beside her.
“Good morning, kitten.” Rowan mumbled as he lazily stretched out. “Why are you awake this early? The sun isn’t even up yet.”
“Oh, it’s this trip…” Damara’s voice trailed off. She didn’t know quite what to say or how to say it, but in the middle of the night she started feeling conflicted about her impending trip around the world.
“Don’t worry, my kitten, you will be just fine. It will be the adventure of a lifetime and you will come back with the most amazing stories to tell me and the children.” Rowan drew his wife into his arms and gave her a big reassuring hug.
The two lay there in the dark, chatting about the adventures that awaited Damara until the sun finally broke through the window to their room and they were forced to get up and face the day.
Damara had already said goodbye to their two children, Remus and Gia, the day before. They were staying at their grandmother’s house for a few days to give Rowan and Damara some time to get everything ready for the big tour. But Damara found that she already missed them and the thought of being away from them for so long started to scare her.
It had always been Damara’s dream to travel the world and meet critters from all over the globe, but she just never got around to it. First it was her studies that kept her from travelling, and then she met Rowan and started up her business as
a herbalist. Making and selling herbal medicines and treatments seemed to take up all of her time and she was constantly busy. Finally the babies were born and it just never seemed like the right time to do something like this. But when Damara
heard that Rooibosch Hill would soon be getting a brand new hospital, she knew that it was time to expand on her expertise in order to keep up with the growing demand for medicine in her hometown. A trip around the world would allow her to
meet other critters and learn about foreign herbs and new remedies, which would help her to keep up with the growing demand for herbal medicines in Rooibosch Hill.
Originally Rowan was planning on accompanying Damara on her travels, but when the winter months came, the flu settled into Rooibosch and he knew that with his wife gone, the critters would need him. Although Rowan was primarily tasked with growing
the herbs, he often helped Damara to mix up batches of all sorts of different treatments and knew most of Damara’s herbal recipies by heart.
“What would you like for breakfast, kitten?” Rowan asked as he put the kettle on for coffee.
“I don’t really feel like eating right now. I feel a little sick to my stomach.” Damara replied.
“Well, let’s exchange your coffee for some ginger and chamomile tea and rather get something to eat in town when we deliver that batch of chest rub that you finished making last night. That should give your constitution some time to recover.”
Rowan replied with a soothing smile. “You will need your strength; it is going to be a very long day!”
Damara was a little puzzled by her husband’s comment. She didn’t have any plans for the day, except for making her last delivery to the village market and to make sure that Harvey Maces knows to contact Rowan for orders while she was gone.
“What do you mean, dear? I don’t have any plans for the day. I need time to pack!” Damara said in utter puzzlement.
“I’ll help you pack tonight, but first there are a few things that we need to do before your trip.” Rowan replied. “The first order of business is getting you a nice warm jacket. I can’t have my wife freezing her toes off in a village
halfway around the world. Now drink your tea and we will be off.”
Damara was very surprised to hear this. With two children in the house, she usually made do with what little money was left over after her family had been taken care of. She never even realised that her wardrobe might not be exactly up
to scratch for such a lengthy trip.
“Oh darling, it really isn’t necessary. I am sure that the coat that I have from last year will be warm enough.” Damara argued as she packed the last few bottles of herbs into a basket at her feet.
“My dear, you have not thought this through! You will be gone for almost a year and most of that time will be spent in foreign countries, very likely in the winter months too. Our winters feel like summer to some of these critters! The
temperatures there drop below freezing for crying out loud!” Rowen was nearly hysterical as he tried to convince his wife to listen to him. “At least let me buy you a nice warm jacket to soothe my conscience.”
Damara couldn’t really argue with her husband. She had never been out of her own country and didn’t really know what she was letting herself in for. She didn’t like the cold much and the thought of turning into an ice cube didn’t really
appeal to her.
Damara’s delivery to the Maces' store went quickly and she and Rowen decided to have breakfast at Terri and Marion’s coffee shop before setting off on their big shopping trip. They both agreed that they would have no more fights and no more worries about this trip and that they would enjoy their last day together while they could.
As Rowan and Damara made their way to an unoccupied table, they noticed Slick Slydale and his two children, Buster and Scarlet, sitting at the table next to them. The Slydale children had a reputation for being unruly and it soon became clear that today was no exception. Scarlet was overly excited about the cakes that Marion was serving to them, but Buster barely showed interest. This resulted in a sibling quarrel about their father's cake choice and soon Slick was forced to give up his chance for a quiet breakfast out. Although the spectacle at the next table made Damara miss her own children very much, she silently felt sorry for Slick for having to deal with such difficult children every day.
Damara and Rowan had their breakfast in peace and quiet after the Slydales left and even Marion Brighteyes seemed more at ease when tranquility once again descended upon the little coffee shop. Because of the cool winters-morning air, there were not very many customers who were brave enough to face the cold so early on a Saturday morning when they could stay in their warm beds just a little longer than usual. There were, however, the occasional customers who prefered the cold and thrived on the winter months.
The first stop after a hearty breakfast was at Fieldings, the local shoe shop. Bridget had such fun showing all of her husband’s lovely creations to Damara. Although Bridget Fielding was a very shy little thing, she took great pleasure in finding the right pair of shoes for each of her customers.
After fitting on all of the different shoes that Bridget recommended, the De Wild family finally decided on both a new pair of shoes and a pair of warm slippers. Bridget looked very pleased with their decision, after all, she is the wife of a cobbler and who better to give advice to all the ladies of Rooibosch Hill on the topic of shoe shopping.
Next, Rowan took Damara to the Brambles’ tailor shop where he had already requested a very special item weeks ago to surprise his wife with. Mortimer Bramble greeted the De Wildt’s in his usual cheerful manner and Eleanor emerged with arms full of material rolls.
“Oh Damara, I am so glad that you had time to come for a fitting before your adventure!” Eleanor said in her cheerful voice. “You must be so excited to see the world like this.”
“Well, I am very excited, but I didn’t know that I had items that needed fitting.” Damara replied in puzzlement.
“Dearie, Rowan placed an order for a winter coat for you weeks ago. We just need to make the final adjustments to make sure that it fits properly and you are good to go. The winter cold won’t get to you with this lovely coat!”
Eleanor Bramble seemed very pleased with herself as she told Damara about the design that she personally drew up for her on Rowan’s request. The two ladies chatted as Eleanor worked, fitting and measuring and placing a pin here and there. Mortimer let Rowan and Damara know that their order would be ready at three and bid them farewell.
“Darling, what was that all about?” Damara asked with a slight edge to her voice as the two walked out of the Brambles' tailor shop. “We don’t have money to pay for all of this. I agreed on one coat, not all of this. How long have you been planning this outing?”
“Well, my kitten. I have been saving up ever since we started planning this trip abroad. Now that I am no longer going with you, I can spend that money on you so that you can think of me while you are gone.” Rowan looked
very much like a schoolboy who had been caught doing something naughty.
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you, my love.” Damara gave Rowan a big hug and held him to her for just a moment. She would really miss him while she was away, but the plans for this trip were already made and it was
too late to turn back now.
By the time that Rowan and Damara were finished with their shoe shopping and the trip to the tailors, it was time for lunch. They decided on some of Jane Appleblossom’s famous sandwiches and set off for the Watermill
bakery, to find Jane Appleblossom cheerfully preparing sandwitches with her husband's famous watermilled bread.
While they ate, Damara told Rowan about all of the exciting plans that she had for her trip and how much she was looking forward to meeting all of the new critters and seeing all of the villages. Rowan eagerly listened as his wife chattered on in excitement and he felt very glad that Damara seemed to be enjoying her last day in Rooibosh before setting off into the unknown.
“I feel like having some ice cream now. How about you, kitten?” Rowan announced as he stood up.
“What? It is the middle of winter; we can’t have ice cream now!” Damara replied with a laugh at her husband’s foolish idea.
“Well, I want ice cream all the same. Come on, let’s go to the village square.” Rowan replied.
When the two arrived in the square, Damara immediately noticed the beautiful new dresses on display in Madeline Merryweather’s boutique.
“Would you like to try one on?” Rowan enquired as he realised what it was that drew his wife’s gaze.
“Oh no, I couldn’t dear. You have already spent so much on me today. I am starting to feel terribly spoilt.” Damara replied with a slight blush.
Rowan pushed Damara to try the dresses on and soon Madeline was working her Merryweather magic, getting Damara to try on a few more outfits, all of them equally as beautiful as the first. Rowan and Madeline gave comments on each and every outfit as Damara twirled around and put on her own little fashion show.
Rowan, however, disappeared as soon as Damara started trying Madeline's lovely new outfits on.
Rowan had a special task that he needed to tend to without Damara's knowledge and he used the opportunity of Madline's fashion show to slip away to the Norwood-gift shop to pick up his last order.
Hector Norwood already knew what Rowan was after and produced a very large, embellished diary from behind his shop stall the moment that he saw Rowan approaching.
"Here you go, old chap." Hector announced as he handed the huge diary to Rowan. "This should keep your wifey busy for a little while."
Rowan thanked Hector for his troubles, hid the diary in the car and raced back to see the end of Damara's fashion parade. Rowan wanted to write a special message in Damara's diary, then hide it in Damara's luggage for her to find on her trip.
Damara liked the strappy sun dress very much.
But Madeline preferred the frilly party dress.
Then there was the flashy little blue dress.
And a more casual dress as well.
Lastly, Madeline showed Damara her hand knitted shawls.
“Well darling? What will it be for you today?” Madeline questioned as Damara returned from the dressing room.
“Oh, umm…” Damara stammered.
Just then, Rowan returned from his sudden obligation.
“We will take the lot. I have been watching from the other side of the square. They are all so pretty, that I really can't choose!” Rowan said, much to Damara’s amazement.
Damara made a feeble attempt at protesting, but was steamrollered by Madeline and Rowan chatting excitedly about how great Damara would look for yer trip long before she could get a real word out.
“Oh, Damara darling. Could you please make a delivery for me at your first stop over in Sycamore Springs? The postal service messed up an order for a very important client of mine.” Madeline said as
she handed a big box to Damara. “This is an order for Miss Bibbit. You know, THE Miss Bibbit. I am sure you have heard of her. She has her own blog and everything and she is very well-known all over
“Oh, yes. Of course I will Madeline.” Damara replied. “I am not sure where in Sycamore Springs I will be staying yet, but I am sure that it won’t be a problem to find such a well-known celebrity. Err.. What exactly is a blog now?”
“Damara. Darling! You need to move into this century. Perhaps this world tour of yours will do you good, you really need to get with the times.” Madeline announced as she packed all of Damara’s new dresses
into pretty patterned boxes.
Rowan and Damara silently giggled together as they walked back to the car.
“Oh how important our own little Madeline is. It must be so tough to fill her shoes.” Rowan mocked between bouts of Damara’s giggles.
“I think that one of the letters regarding my travel to Sycamore Springs came from a Hyla Bibbit. I wonder if she might be related to this famous Miss Bibbit?” Damara wonderd as they drove along the road..
Damara was chatting with Rowan so much that she never even realised that they were not heading home, but that they rather ended up at the beach. The sun was hanging low in the sky by now and the beach
was deserted. The vendors on the rocks overlooking the beach were packing up for the night and Rowan was just in time to buy ice cream.
Hand in hand Rowan and Damara walked along the beach while eating their ice cream and waiting for the sun to slowly set on the horizon, and bathe the landscape in hues of red, orange and pink.
“I hope that today will be a memory that will last you until we are together again, my kitten.” Rowan said. “Don’t be afraid, I will be waiting right here for you when you get back. Go live that adventure that we always talked about!”
Rowan pulled Damara close and kissed her before she had the chance to reply. The two stood there for a little while longer, knowing that the very next morning would mark the start of the greatest
adventure of Damara’s life.