Beauty or Beast? Chapter 24 – News

1 Conversation

Before making the preparations for their dinner, they settled down together on the sofa and wrapped their arms around each other again. They watched a programme all about ballroom dancing, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the dancers and the music. After the programme finished, the news was next. Devine was contemplating whether to change the channel when it was announced that a discovery had been made. A portal to another world had been found at the base of a waterfall in Wales, and an expeditionary team had been to the world and had returned safely back to Wales again. Rowan watched the television intently, trying to glean some information from the report about whether the portal was a link to Arcadia. There was not much to go on, apart from some images of the men and women of the expeditionary team in Wales wearing waterproof clothing and emerging from a river at the base of an unspecified mountain.

Devine noticed Rowan was not exactly comfortable on hearing the news, and asked if zhe was alright. Rowan pondered how much to say, and how to say it, then just moved hir arm in such a way as to reveal some of hir blue streaked skin from underneath hir sleeve. Devine touched the streaks gently with hir fingers while Rowan admitted to Devine that zhe was an Arcadian, and was probably from the world that had been found under the waterfall. To Rowan’s relief, Devine was not disturbed by this news – she admitted she had heard of the work of the expeditionary team and the portal they had found into a world that they had visited, as they had reported back on their findings in a paper that had been written at the university, and Devine had read the paper before the information was released into the public domain. However, Devine had never met an Arcadian from another world in person, so she admitted she was pleased to make Rowan’s acquaintance, and blew Rowan a kiss.

Rowan and Devine cuddled some more while they watched the rest of the news, then they disentangled themselves from one another and Rowan climbed back into the wheelchair, as they were beginning to get hungry so it was time for them to start making dinner. Rowan and Devine sat at the dining table and Devine showed Rowan how to peel potatoes and carrots with a peeler. Rowan didn’t find it the easiest of tasks, but zhe was pleased to help Devine and managed to peel a third of the vegetables. Devine’s technique was much faster, plus she had had more practice, so she peeled twice as many vegetables in the same amount of time. When they had finished with the peeling, Devine fetched a small knife and showed Rowan how to chop the carrots into small cylinders, and how to chop the potatoes into rough chunks. While Rowan was working on the vegetables, Devine filled two pans with some water and put them on the hob to boil. She then began preparing a sauce in the kitchen, and explained each step to Rowan. When Rowan brought the peeled and chopped vegetables over, Devine dropped the potatoes into one pan, and the carrots into the other.

While they were waiting for the vegetables to boil, Devine fetched a pie dish and explained how she was going to build a potato-topped pie for their dinner. She then added more vegetables in with the carrots, and drained the potatoes so that she could mash them to make the topping. Rowan had a go at the mashing, but although hir arms were strong from pushing the wheelchair, zhe struggled to get the right angle to apply maximum downward force, so Devine finished the task. By then, the vegetables were ready, so Devine drained the pan and mixed the creamy sauce in with them. She then poured the mixture into the dish and finally added the potato topping. She put the dish into the oven to finish, and they sat at the dining table talking about what they had enjoyed most about that day’s excursions until the pie was ready to be served. The pie was large, so they only ate half of it between them. It wasn’t as good as pasta with tomato sauce, in Rowan’s opinion, but zhe was very impressed with the crispy yet soft texture of the fluffy potato and the creamy vegetable mix, When they had finished eating, Devine covered the rest of the pie and put it in the fridge. They sat down on the sofa again for a while, and watched another episode of the ballroom dancing programme, then got ready for bed.

The weather the following morning was very wet, so Rowan and Devine did not rush their morning preparations. After they had eaten their croissants, they sat down on the sofa to rest for a while and listen to the rain. While they were comfortable in each other’s arms, Devine admitted that she was glad to have found Rowan and to get on so well with hir – finding out that zhe was an Arcadian was in some ways not unexpected, as Devine had few non-Arcadian friends because many were put off by her appearance because of her disability, which made her feel like some sort of beast, so she could tell there were many reasons why Rowan was the person who she got on best with. Rowan agreed and also talked about how zhe felt like a beast because of the strange thing that had happened to hir several years ago. Devine clasped Rowan’s hand on hearing those words, and as her fingers moved across Rowan’s palm, Rowan was filled with visions of rainbows and unicorns. Instead of trying to repress the sensation, as zhe had done last time all those years ago in school, Rowan basked in the warmth of the colourful glow, and looked at Devine with love. Rowan stroked Devine’s palm with hir hand after that, and could see that Devine was also filled with love.

They stayed there, entwined together, for quite some time, but then Rowan had to admit one of hir arms had got pins and needles, and Devine had to admit one of her arms had got pins and needles, too, so they got up and decided to make some lunch together. They just prepared some sandwiches, and sat at the dining table to eat them and talk about what else they might do that day, after such a lovely morning getting to know each other better. They decided a walk to the meadow would be refreshing, as the rain had stopped by then, so they got ready and went out.

While they were sitting in their favourite spot, Rowan heard the sound of a train whistle. Zhe rushed over to the other side of the meadow, along the smooth path, and saw that there was a steam train chugging round in the distance. Zhe rushed back to Devine to tell her. As the afternoon was not yet over, they decided to explore the grounds of the estate some more and see if they could find how they could have a go at riding around on the train. Instead of heading towards the stately home as they had done the day before, they took a right hand turn and walked through an orchard filled with fruit trees in neat rows. On the other side of the orchard, they discovered the train tracks and decided to head left to look for a station.

Luckily, it wasn’t long before they could see the station up ahead. Devine began to struggle, as she had already walked quite far that day, but Rowan allowed her to lean on hir shoulder and together they made it along the path and up the ramp to the little platform. Devine sat on a bench while Rowan went to the little ticket office and bought two tickets to ride the full circuit of the steam train route, as well as requesting assistance with the ramp to board the train. Rowan went back to where Devine was sitting, and they didn’t have long to wait before the train arrived at the station. Devine climbed in to one of the wooden carriages first, then the station master helped Rowan in to the same carriage, facing Devine and with hir back towards the engine. A few other passengers boarded then the train set off. Rowan enjoyed the clickety-clack sound of the wheels on the tracks, and the chug of the engine, and was fascinated by the plumes of smoke floating by their carriage. Zhe turned round in hir chair to look at the engine for a while, and Devine warned hir to mind hir eyes, in case a smut got into them. Rowan then turned back to smile at Devine and watch the scenery passing by alongside them. It was a good way to explore the estate, as the grounds stretched further than either of them could have seen by themselves. The train passed through the deer park, and Rowan spotted some deer standing relatively close to the train tracks, so zhe took some good photos as they passed. The train circled the stately home, so they could appreciate the architecture from all sides. The train only passed the meadow in the distance, but then it passed through a landscaped tree park and a woodland area that Rowan and Devine hadn’t seen before. The train stopped at two stations en route, where some passengers got off and others climbed on. At the station furthest from the house, there were views of the sea in the distance through the trees. The train then headed back towards the house through another landscaped tree park and Rowan and Devine felt very relaxed looking at the scenery as the train chugged along. All too soon they arrived at the station again, and the station master helped Rowan and Devine down from the carriage. They both thanked her, and then left the station and headed towards the house for a drink in the café.

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