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!)
I looked at Lana 2 and tried to think of a reason not to talk to a live doll. In my regular life, that would be easy. In this enchanted lighthouse with a parallel version of my grandmother, things weren’t that simple.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to make that decision.
“I’d love a little piece of pie with extra whipped cream, especially if it’s homemade.” Lana 2 lifted her head long enough to say this and then went back to her child’s pose.
“Uh,” I stalled and sat up straight.
What have I gotten myself into?
“Lana, isn’t raspberry custard our favorite?” She unfolded her tiny body, stood up and walked over to me. “I know it’s mine.” She sat down on the edge of my plate and swung one foot up next to her to rest her folded arms on that knee.
“Mine too.” I searched for reasonable reactions that would make me seem comfortable. “I could cut off the end of my piece.” I turned my fork on its side and raised it above the very point of my pie.
“Oh, no, no, no.” Lana 2 closed her eyes and waved her hand in front of her. “That’s your favorite part.”
“I’ll get you a sliver, Little Bit.” Viola went back to the kitchen and began looking for anything that might be small enough to serve as a plate and fork for someone who was only three inches tall.
“How did you know the point of the slice was my favorite part?”
“Lucky guess?” Lana 2 squinted out the side of her glance.
“Nope, not buying it.” I leaned forward far enough to be noticeable, but not so close that I would really threaten her.
“I know you.” She stood up and walked around on the outside edge of my plate, like she had done this before.
“How is that possible? No one even knew about you until now and that elephant is, well, I don’t know how old it is, but I do know that I hadn’t seen it until I came to New Zealand.”
“All I know is that I know you. Your birthday is February 6th and you’re afraid of snakes.”
“Everyone is afraid of snakes.”
“Alright, you two. That’s enough for now. Eat your pie.” Viola set a pie-covered bottle cap in front of Lana 2. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to give you for a fork.”
“Don’t worry,” Lana 2 went back to the elephant, lifted a little door in the other half and pulled out a backpack. Of course, it was a tiny version of mine. She unbuckled the top, expanded the drawstring, and began rummaging around inside. In less than a minute, she pulled out a metal pot and set it next to her on the table. Then she put her backpack back into the elephant and brought the pot over to the bottle cap. She sat cross-legged in front of her pie and took off the pot’s lid. That revealed a collection of kitchen supplies, including a multipurpose utensil with a collapsible fork. She removed that one thing, put the lid back on the pot and began to devise the best way to eat pie that had been made for people who were twenty times bigger than she was.
“That’s quite clever,” Viola spoke first and then took her first bite of pie.
“Quite,” I said. “What’s your name?”
“What have you been calling me in your mind?” She leaned back on her left hand.
“I imagine your name is also Lana, so I’ve been thinking of you as ‘Lana 2.’” I cut a bite of pie with the perfect proportions of pie and whipped cream while I waited to hear her response.
“Hmmm…that’s not terrible.”
“I think you need your own name, whatever you want it to be.” Viola said.
“That’s a great idea. It would also make it easier for people who meet us.”
“Already thinking of taking me with you?” Lana 2 took a forkful of whipped cream from the top of her pie.
“Uh,” I took a bite. “Viola, this pie is delicious. Thank you so much.”
“You really need a new word for when you’re not sure of what to say." Lana 2 pulled out a piece of a raspberry. "How about Ruby?”
"I should say 'Ruby' when I don't know what else to say?"
"No, my name could be Ruby, like the gem."
“O.k., Ruby. If you’re not coming with me, then what are you going to do?”
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m going with you. You'll need me.”
“Why will I need you?”
“Like I said, don’t worry.”
“To be fair, Lana 2, or Ruby, or whatever you’ll be called, that did sound a bit ominous. Like you know something we don’t.” Viola took a sip of tea.
“The truth is, I don’t actually know why she’ll need me, only that she will.”
“Then, Lana, where are you going?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I might go back to my kayaking trip. It was beautiful and it's good for me. Why not finish it?”
“Oh come on. We all know you won’t do that.” Ruby laughed. “There’s much more to this place than you know and even more to it than outdoor adventure. I expect you're more curious about that than the second half of your kayaking trip.”
I looked at Viola and she shrugged like she wasn’t sure what Ruby was talking about.
“And just where is 'this place?'” I stole a page from Viola’s book.
“I think that’s better to show you than to tell you. Ya know?” Lana was digging out a piece of crust. “All I’ll tell you is that you’ll need a swimming suit. Speaking of that, where is your gear?”
“It’s back at the campsite, where I’m supposed to be. I didn’t expect to slip through the tent zipper and find this lighthouse.”
“Hmm, I supposed not. Let me think for a minute.” Ruby rested her elbow on her knee and stared at the couch.
I went back to my pie, that wonderful pie with the flaky crust that I was hoping for. If anything was going to distract me from my situation, it would be memories of that pie when I was a little kid. We’d play outside all day, running through the tall grass and finding new flowers and bugs. My favorite bugs were the fat June bugs. They were the biggest ones I knew of, but their size didn’t bother me.
Once, I tried to convince my younger sister that the number of June bugs we found that day would tell us whether or not it would rain that night. I reasoned that if we found a lot of them, that meant it wasn’t going to rain, because they were out doing their usual things. If we didn’t find any, there would be a terrible storm, because the June bugs were already hiding from it.
My sister believed me or went along with it. Either way, we ended up building a rain shelter out of branches and grass. At lunch, we went back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and there was not only the usual spread of sandwiches, vegetables and fruit, but the addition of our first raspberry custard pie. I told my grandma I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. She made a deal with me. If I tried it and didn’t like it, I could trade it for two cookies. I never found out what kind of cookies she had made that weekend, because I devoured the pie. From then on, my favorite dessert was raspberry custard pie. Period.
“There may be a way for you to get back to the camp without losing your spot here.” Ruby interrupted my memories.
“You mean I could go back to the campsite at the right time and then come back here to this minute?”
“I think so.”
“Ruby, what are you talking about?” Viola pushed her pie to the side and leaned toward Ruby.