A Time Apart

Frieda found it difficult to put the matter with the Thurmans completely out of her mind.  Until they’d started attacking people at the picnic, they’d seemed like a nice elderly couple.  They fed the squirrels and the birds.  Opa said they’d always been good people to have as neighbors.

So, if they’d always served the Dark One, had all of that been an act?  The part of her that had trouble trusting people said that evil was good at pretending to be nice.  That was what made it so dangerous.  People could do evil things and think that they were still good people.

However, thinking that way also scared her.  It made her wonder: what if she was evil without even realizing it?  Maybe the crosses weren’t the good ones after all.  Maybe it was the ones that served the other god who were good.  It made her uneasy.  She had trouble sleeping.

Opa decided that they needed to get out of the house for a while – away from the garden where so much unpleasantness had happened.  So, after Tevas had gone back to West Virginia, he packed up the kids and brought them to the park for the day.

Frieda had never seen a park like the one they visited.  Not only was there a lake with a beach, but there was a playground and something that Opa called a splash pad.  The moment that she saw it, she understood why they were wearing swimsuits.  Frieda and Liesel lingers with Opa long enough to get their first coating of sunblock.  Then, they went over to the splash pad, where a few other children were already playing.

As they arrived, the water suddenly cut off.  Frieda frowned and looked at a girl about her age with her dark hair tied in braids.  “Is it done already?” she asked.

“It’s on a timer,” the girl replied.  Turning to a woman with the same kind of dark hair, she said, “Mom!  Hit the button, please?”

“Sure,” her mother replied.  She pressed a button on a red megaphone-like thing and the water began to spray around them once again.

“Thank you,” Frieda and Liesel said, along with the little girl.  She turned to the girl and smile.  “I’m Frieda Engel.  This is my sister, Liesel.”

“I’m Olivia Gilbert,” she said, grinning.  “I’ve never seen you here before.  Are you new in town?”

“We’re visiting our Opa for the summer,” Liesel said, pointing over towards the edge of the beach, where Opa had laid out the blanket.  “He decided to come here for the day, but he lives in Eden Lake.”

“That’s really close by,” Olivia said, nodding.  “Mom takes me to a cookie shop there sometimes.  Do you go there too?”

“Miss Hannah makes the best chocolate cake cookies in the whole world,” Frieda proclaimed, nodding.  Then, she pointed over at Johannes, who was playing on a spinning rope climber with another boy.  “That’s our little brother, Hansel.”

“He’s playing with my little brother,” Olivia said, chuckling.  Then, she beckoned to them and dashed under a plastic palm tree that was showering water downward.  From there, she went under an arcing pipe with water spraying from it.  Finally, she circled around to climb onto the spinning rope climber.

“Hey, Josh,” she called, as she climbed through the ropes to join the boys.

Frieda grinned.  “It’s like a merry-go-round,” she said.  She waved at Liesel, who ran around to the other side.  Then, they began spinning it until it was the speed they wanted.  They jumped up together and rode it, along with the two boys and their new friend, Olivia.

They played with Olivia and Josh until their mother called them for lunch.  As they were waving to their new friends, Opa called to them.  They ran over to the blanket he had set up in the shade and settled down for their own lunch.

“You kids found some playmates, I see,” Opa said, smiling.  “Did you happen to catch their names?”

“Josh,” Johannes said, grinning.  “His real name is Joshua, but everyone called his Josh.  I told him that we both have names that begin with the same letter, but… it sounds different.”

“It’s got a different sound in Allemani,” Konrad said, his voice soft.

Liesel smiled at Opa.  “We were playing with Josh’s sister,” she said.  “Her name is Olivia Gilbert.”

“Gilbert was the maiden name of Tevas’s wife,” Konrad said, his voice soft.  His brows furrowed and he shook his head.  “They couldn’t be related.  Right?  I mean, she was from West Virginia.”

“She was a local girl,” Opa said, shaking his head.  “Small town like Eden Lake?  They might be kin.”

“It would be neat if they were related,” Liesel said, grinning.  “That would make Olivia… kind of a cousin.  Wouldn’t it?”

“After a fashion,” Konrad said, ruffling his hand in her bangs.  Then, they focused on eating the picnic lunch that Opa had brought for them.  There were all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as slices of chicken that they made into sandwiches.

“Oliva said that her mom takes her to the Cookie Jar, sometimes,” Liesel said, as they began eating their cookies.  She could only have one cookie a day, so she tended to eat it very slowly – savoring every bite.  She looked over at Opa and asked, “Have you seen her mom there?”

“I might have done, Liesel,” Opa said, nodding.  Then, he shrugged and added, “I gotta confess, though… Ann never introduced any of us to her folks.  She told Henry that they didn’t want her dating him, but she didn’t care about that.”

Frieda noticed that Konrad’s brows twitched and he frowned.  “What?” she asked, leaning forward to look into his face.

He heaved a sigh.  Shaking his head, he said, “It’s probably nothing, Frieda.  Try not to fret it.  We’re here to have fun, right?”

“Right,” Johannes said.  He looked at Opa.  “I’m full of lunch.  May I go back to the playground?”

“Go on,” Opa said, nodding.

As he ran off, Frieda and Liesel excused themselves and hurried after him.  Soon, all three of them were climbing over and through the climber on the playground.  Frieda kept hoping that Olivia and Josh would join them, but their mom must have taken them home for lunch, because she didn’t see them for the rest of the day.

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