Welcome to your Monday Sidetrack! Start by reading the story all the way through. Then, if you need a bit more of a sidetrack from your day, go back and explore the hyperlinks I've found for this bit. That way, you'll get the most out of the whole post. Enjoy!
(This story begins with Monday Sidetrack: 6. Start there to get caught up and see the photos or go to https://www.lavendersidetrack.com/story-catchup to read all the previous posts as one long post. Then subscribe to find out what happens next!)
My grandma is asking me who I am. Can I tell her my real name? Would she recognize the "Orlovsky" part?
Does she need to know my last name?
"I'm Lana, a businessperson from Pennsylvania, just here on vacation."
"It's interesting. Like I said, I don't get many visitors. I mean, many visitors I don't already know."
"Well, this is my first time here."
"Sure, and just where do you think you are?"
"I'm not sure what you mean," I looked from Viola to the kitchen cabinets and back.
"If anyone asked where you were, what would you say?" She wrapped her hands around her teacup and leaned forward about five inches.
"I guess I'd say I’m in New Zealand. I arrived here a few days ago and I'm on a kayaking trip nearby." I ran my right index finger and my glance down the side of the suspected milk pitcher.
"Not much kayaking around here. The waves scare away most people." Her eyes searched mine and then moved to the platter.
I felt myself losing my edge.
I had heard about this side of my grandma - a shrewd businessperson, sharp as a tack, or a shard of glass depending on who you asked. Either way, it was never mixed in with the homemade chocolate chip cookies or tapioca she treated us to during weekend sleepovers.
"When I say 'nearby,' I mean relative to the Queenstown airport where I arrived or the North Island," I took a deeper breath than necessary, "I mean, for example."
"Oh, yes, of course. We are quite far from the North Island or really any airport." She seemed to get lost in the shine of the silver.
"Ooo! Oooo! Oooooooooo!" The teapot sang.
I've never been so relieved to hear any whistle as that one at that moment.
"Goodness," Viola stood up straight and spun around toward the oven. "Lost in thought."
"Don't worry about it.” My eyes wandered over a new part of the kitchen, a spinnable spice rack next to the refrigerator. Sitting right on top was that little elephant I had seen underground when I jumped through the ferry window.
“You said Earl Grey, right?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Viola dropped a teabag into each cup and filled them with water. As she walked over to the table, she looked like she was trying hard to keep the water from splashing out of the cups. She would get better with practice, if she followed in her own footsteps.
She set both cups on the table, slid one to me, and sat down.
“That’s a cute elephant you have.” I dropped two sugar cubes into my cup and stirred them with a small silver spoon that matched Viola's and the platter. “Where did you get it?”
“Thanks for noticing him. He was a gift from my grandfather when I was a little girl. He took a trip overseas and sent that back to me a few days before he was supposed to come home.”
Why don’t I know this story?
“Yes, he got some sort of fever and we never saw him again, not even for a funeral.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” I set down the spoon and watched her face for a few seconds. Her eyes fell low for a moment and then popped up to their appropriate conversation height.
“It was a long time ago.” Viola went back to the sink and brought over the elephant. She placed it next to my teacup. “Open it.”
“Open it,” she made a swirling hand gesture over the elephant like it was a casual request.
I picked up the elephant and turned it on its head, its back, and its tail. There were no seams, buttons or latches.
It's a puzzle.
"Oh, I see," I glanced up at Viola and smiled.
"Don't overthink it."
I held the elephant facing toward me. With one palm on either side, I tried to slide the left side backward and the right side forward at the same time.
It didn't work.
"Close." Viola sat back and took a sip of tea while she watched me troubleshoot.
I smiled and wondered if I was failing.
After a gentle adjustment, the elephant fell open and a little doll was revealed. She was lying on her side, facing away from me.
"How cute!" I leaned a little closer and started to reach out when the "doll" rolled onto her back.
She stretched out straight in the elephantine cavity and swung her legs over the edge of her half. As she sat up, her face came into view and I saw my own features. She wore a tiny version of my workout clothes - black pants with a lavender tank top and the orange sneakers I had left behind in my bag that morning.
"I think she's for you," Viola said.
I closed my mouth to regain some scant smidge of composure I felt I had lost.
"How did she -- where did she -- how did you --?"
"Lana, you're the only one who has ever been able to open that elephant. All I know is I am supposed to give him to the person who can open him."
"But you seemed to know how to open it too. Didn't you?"
"I wasn't sure, but you were the only one who tried to slide the figurine apart like that. You seemed to be onto something"
"What am I supposed to --"
"I suspect she has been looking for you. Haven't you seen her before?"
"Ding!" The oven chimed in and called Viola to action.
"How about that pie?" She smiled and stood. "Yes?"
"Excellent," Viola turned and went to the oven.
Truth be told, I didn't know if I could eat anything, not even my favorite raspberry custard pie made by my favorite baker.
I rested my chin on my left fist flat on the table to get even closer to Lana 2 and to assess the actual resemblance.
Her dark hair was pulled back into a French braid, just how I always wore mine to work out. She even had my turtle ring on her right ring finger.
She was stretching - toe touches, side bends, and waist twists in every direction. Then she walked over to the napkin holder and turned the middle napkin into a yoga mat. She folded herself into a child's pose and stayed still.
"Would you like a little dollop of whipped cream on your pie? I made it this morning."
"That sounds great," I kept my eyes on the yoga performance. "Does she eat?"
"I'm not sure. Why don't you ask her?"