by Pia

        Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Eilish was standing at the verge of the coppice, the same one she had entered when she discovered the portal, and looked down at the valley in the middle of the small island. The sun was getting low and gilded the whole island with its calm and drowsy light. There was not a single cloud in the sky and it had been unusually warm the whole day. Eilish suddenly shivered, thinking about the cold and rain she had left just a few days before.

The whole June had been so cold in her former homeland that she had come to Dyeland at every possible moment just to get some sun and warmth or go swimming. The beautiful Dyeland summer was overshadowed only by her longing to share it all with her stepmother, her mama. Maria would have loved to sunbathe with her in the white sand and walk around the island. Or sit with her in the backyard and enjoy the sunset with a cup of tea or cocoa like they had done so many times before at home. Eilish felt tears flowing down her cheeks again. She sighed deeply and then crouched to pick up a small branch.

She had filled the wheelbarrow she had brought along with a bunch of twigs and smaller logs that she intended to add to the bonfire she was compiling on the shore. The pile was already quite impressive, enough to provide a nice fire for some hours this night. Even though celebrating midsummer and St John’s day this way seemed not to be very familiar to the Dyelanders, Eilish had still decided to continue the much loved tradition there by making bonfire at the shore and baking potatoes in the ashes.

She began to wheel the barrow back to the woodpile and while she walked, she recalled her first month in the new world.


Monday, May 25 and Tuesday, May 26

A week after Maria’s funeral, in the afternoon of May 25 Eilish had discovered the portal and came to her birthplace again. She remembered her first glance upon the valley filled with white blossoming cherry trees and a small cottage whose surroundings were brimming with viridity. Though the trees had almost ceased blossoming by then and most of the withered petals covered the ground like soft snow, there were still enough left to make the trees glow in white.

It’s exactly like Nangijala!” Eilish had thought, remembering one of her favourite authors, Astrid Lindgren, and her book “The Brother’s Lionheart”. It is a story about two brothers, who died one after another (older brother died when rescuing the younger from the fire and the younger from a pulmonary disease) and ended up in an afterworld called Nangijala. There was a Cherry Valley and a cosy cottage, just like the one Eilish was looking at. “I hope there are no vicious dragons here though,” Eilish thought, looking up in the sky and frowning at the prospect. “And I’d better not meet any tyrants either.”

To her relief she didn’t see any signs of any sinister activity, so she proceeded towards the house in the middle of an overgrown garden. The sun was unusually high for the late afternoon, but since Eilish had no watch, she could not tell what time it is. In the evening when she finally laid in her bed, she realized that it had been an incredibly long day, but she imputed it to having experienced so much in a mere day. Only later she learned about the 7 hour time difference between Estonia and Dyeland. So when she arrived, it had been around 5 pm at home and only 10 am in Dyeland.

The next day she had met Andrew and visited Willowveil. She hadn’t been to many castles in her life, just one actually (in Stockholm), but she had thought Willowveil is the most beautiful and at the same time the cosiest she had ever seen or been to. It felt so homelike, even though its size somewhat intimidated her. Andrew and JenniAnn had been so nice to her, although they had just met her. At least JenniAnn had never seen her before. She had welcomed her warmly and had in practically no time at all arranged an extra plate and food for Eilish (who was in fact starving by then). They had had a wonderful morning in the kitchen with JenniAnn managing to talk both to Andrew and Eilish and at the same time feed and take care of the adorable little Belle, who occasionally managed to fling the content of her spoon all around her, while trying to manage the complex art of self-feeding.

Eilish hadn’t spoken very much; she was busy with looking around and trying to be as polite as she could in this foreign environment. Even though both Andrew and JenniAnn sensed that she was somewhat tense, they didn’t push her to ease up and Eilish was grateful for that. She had always been very uptight around strangers and it took time for her to open up. So most of the time she had just sat there, holding on to her cup tightly with both hands, and listening to the three of them talking. While they didn’t learn very much from her that morning apart from some basics about her coming to Dyeland and her origins, she in turn learned quite a lot about Dyeland. It seemed to Eilish that the Dyelanders had a vast and growing family of friends both in Dyeland and beyond, who spent a lot of time together, supported each other when needed and loved each other more than a strictly biological family often did.

The thought of such a huge and happy family brought about her own loss and lack of any relatives and friends. She swallowed her tears, hoping that no-one noticed her “slip of behaviour” – it would certainly not be appropriate to cry in front of strangers, she thought. JenniAnn had in fact asked, “Is everything ok?” But when Eilish plainly answered, “Yes, it’s ok, I am just a little bit tired,” JenniAnn hadn’t pressured her further, even though she really would have wanted to comfort the girl who was so obviously on the brink of tears. JenniAnn had just politely changed the subject, offering her a small tour around the castle.

During the petite tour Eilish had just trailed JenniAnn with her mouth wide open most of the time. From the inside the castle was even more impressive than from the outside. It seemed to Eilish that there were just innumerable amount of rooms, halls, stairs, even though in reality Willowveil wasn’t so huge after all. But to a girl from a small town and an old house with three little rooms, this seemed simply majestic. She just gaped at the surroundings, not knowing what to think of it all. JenniAnn’s casual manners and friendly way of talking had calmed her down a bit, but she still watched her every step, trying not to make too much noise or do something inappropriate.

After the tour JenniAnn had found Eilish a pair of shoes so that she had something to wear until she could access her own footwear. Eilish had so small feet that Shelby’s shoes fit just perfectly. JenniAnn told Eilish that Shelby didn’t really use them so much, so she wouldn’t miss them. Eilish made a mental note of thanking Shelby one day when she meets her. Andrew and JenniAnn had provided Eilish with some food as well, so that she had enough for a couple of days. Andrew told that he would come by again and bring more when needed. With all this hospitality which was so normal and natural to JenniAnn and Andrew, Eilish was completely awestruck and could only think whether she had thanked them enough (at the same time being afraid she hadn’t). She had literally felt like an orphan from a sad fairy-tale, who is kindly welcomed to a real castle.

It had been sad to leave these wonderful people, but she in no means wanted to trouble them too much. They had done so much already. She had to manage on her own now, as much as she could, she thought. This is what she had done most of her adult life really, especially the last year – managed on her own to take care of Maria and the household. There were not very many people who could have helped her with that, so she wasn’t used to asking for help and tried to cope on her own instead. To JenniAnn and Andrew she had reminded a bit of Kemara or Emma, who had been somewhat reserved as well at first, but Eilish had been way more withdrawn and more unsure of everything she said or did. But JenniAnn hoped she might open up in time when given some time and love.

They were right. There was a joyful and confident girl hidden inside this shy and unconfident shell. Had she been grown up in Dyeland, she might have been like Violeta – energetic, talkative and happy. But the circumstances she had been in had made her build thick walls around her. Even though she yearned for someone to tear those walls down, she at the same time was terrified of it, because she felt that these walls were the only protection she had. But this was only partly true. She was in fact stronger than she thought and her strength in dealing with everything concerning her mama’s illness was a strong proof of that. But now that her mama was gone, she felt as if she needed to protect herself even more and was thus even more withdrawn. At the same time there was someone who gladly would have helped her to bring those walls down; he just needed to wait a little more...


Wednesday, May 27

For a couple of days Eilish had been busy setting things in order as much as she could in the house. It had been abandoned for about 20 years and it was something of a miracle that everything was so well preserved. But naturally everything needed cleaning and checking out. She began with dusting everything she hadn’t managed on the day she arrived. It was a huge amount of work so she began with the living room since she most likely would spend most of her time there and in case any guests came, she would have a more or less clean room ready to welcome them. She had found a suitable rag she could use to wipe away the thick layer of dust lying everywhere. Eilish had thought the mantelpiece would be a good place to start – it was there that she had found the photo of her family. During de-dusting the mantelpiece, she noticed another thing lying there – an envelope, addressed to her...

She sunk into the couch and opened the envelope with shaking hands. It was a letter from her parents. To her. Blinking back tears, she read:

Dear Eilish!

We hope from all our hearts that one day you will come and find this letter! We pray about that every single day. And know that wherever you are, whoever you have become, we love you very, very much and want to see you again so badly. You might not remember us, but I hope you remember that you were being loved and you had a home here on Tír na nÓg – this is how we called this island. There is a story about a mythical island of the Eternal Youth and this island reminded us of that. It was supposed to be a happy place. But the day you disappeared, everything changed. We can only hope you ended up in a happy place yourself, where you were loved and cared for. Knowing how cute and lovely you were as a child, I am quite sure you were welcomed with open arms.

We are so sorry you had to go through all this. We have no idea what happened to you, but we were told that there is a hidden portal in the coppice and you probably managed to slip through it. We are going there every day to see if the portal has opened, so that we can follow you and find you, my dear Eilish. If you find this letter and we are gone, know that we went to search for you and won’t stop until we have found you.

Until we are gone, you can always go to the villages on the mainland – the people are very friendly there and I hope some of them still remember us by the time you arrive. I don’t know how much time has passed before you read this, but you can try to find the O’Malleys. Elizabeth was your nanny when you were a baby and she is also your godmother. Thomas is your godfather and he helped us with all the building works around here. So whenever you’re in trouble, try to find them and they’ll know what to do. I pray that they are still there when you come. In the meantime they will keep an eye on the house when we’re gone and from time to time come to see whether you have arrived.

You have nothing to fear in Asteriana – this is the name of the beautiful land you were born in. The people are nice and friendly and you are safe from the ugliness of the world here. This was at least how the things were when we were here and the Asterians promised to keep it that way. We pray things haven’t changed. The only thing that troubles these lands from time to time, are the storms. But there is a storm shelter under the house, so when the weather gets bad, be sure to hide there.

You can certainly use everything you find in this house – it is your home after all. But in case you need anything more, go to the village and people will help you with everything needed. They helped us so much when we arrived; we were just two scared teenagers back then, but everyone took us in as if we were their own. The O’Malleys helped us to settle in this house and provided us with not only material things we needed, but also lots of love. They were the mother and father neither of us had for a long time. I hope they can be your mother and father until we’re home.

Dear Eilish, there is so much we would like to tell you, so much we’d like to show you, but most of all, we just long to hold you in our arms. You are in our prayers every day. I hope God will find a way to bring us together soon.

With love,

your mother Eiméar and your father James Ó Dhónaill

Tír na nÓg

March 23, 1997

By the time Eilish had finished the letter she was crying and didn’t even bother wiping her tears away. She tried to imagine her parents writing this letter: they must have cried as well, because she noticed a faint spot where a droplet of water had fallen on the letter.

I am here! I came back! Please come back here to me, wherever you are,” Eilish silently pleaded, looking up to the ceiling. The prospect of having real parents out there, real mother and father who loved her probably as much as Maria had was heart-warming. She took a look at the photo again and studied the features of the three persons in it. She noticed that her mother looked much like her, even though she had green eyes. But her father had blue, just like her. She stroked the photograph and smiled at them through her tears. The cottage had just become even more a real home for her.

She spent the rest of the day cleaning and de-dusting and the more she studied the room via tidying it up, the cosier it became. Every now and then she had flashes of memories coming back to her. Sometimes these were just still images of a sunny afternoon or rainy morning, but sometimes there were pieces of happy events like Christmas or Easter. She could almost hear the voices of the past – it was as if these voices had been trapped inside the walls and when she moved around, removing the dust and dirt they were released and gave way to happy memories.

She managed to make the living-room relatively clean even though one day was clearly not enough to wipe away 20 years of desolation. But tidying up certainly helped to bring this house to life. And it helped to keep her mind off sorrowful things.

When the sun finally set, Eilish lay in bed, exhausted but relatively happy. She felt like she had done something useful and nice to the place she had once called home and could call again now. Besides she had felt that the forlornness of this place had begun to dissipate. The soothing silence and the distant sound of the sea soon lulled her into dreamless sleep.

Thursday, May 28

The following morning greeted her yet again with bright sunshine. She had no need for a clock to tell her that it was relatively early in the morning. This time she didn’t have to begin her day by drinking tasteless tea or chewing dandelion leaves. JenniAnn and Andrew had provided for her generously. For her it was enough for at least a week. She happily made herself a couple of sandwiches and a cup of really good tea. Later on she would ask Andrew where to get this kind of tea. Eilish was a true tea-lover.

It was another sunny and warm day and Eilish decided to spend it outside, trying to make her jungle-like garden a little bit more decent. She had found a mechanical lawnmower in the shed, but obviously it was no good inside the garden. Outside the sheep had done a pretty good job. She actually thought for a while to let the animals inside the garden hoping it would do the job. But as in places the weeds had grown higher than her head and there might have been some poisonous ones among them, she dropped the idea. Finally she had found a big scythe she could use. At home she had often used one when the grass grew too high or the ground was too bumpy to use a lawnmower. There was a smaller whetstone in the shed she could use to sharpen the scythe, so she soon sat down behind the house to whet the gardening tool.

In a couple of hours she had managed to cut down a decent amount of grass and the garden began to look more civilized. But still there was a lot of work to do. She wheeled the cut down grass to the corner of the garden where she had decided to make a compost pile and then decided to go swimming. The water was so pleasantly warm that she just couldn’t resist the temptation. It had been many years since she could go swimming in May because the Estonian weather had become so much colder in the recent years. Eilish thought that she would look for a swimming suit later – her mother must have one – but at the moment she decided to take a risk and just go without since there seemed to be nobody on this island.

The water was much saltier than she had remembered from the times she had been at the seaside, but she knew the Baltic Sea was much sweeter than the ocean. So this sea must be like an ocean as well, she thought. But it was bliss nevertheless. She just hovered in the warm water – swimming had always had such a calming effect on her. For a moment it seemed to her that all the worries were simply washed away. After the refreshing swim she felt rested and ready to work again. But before that she had to eat.

She came back to the house, singing. It looked so much nicer already with a large patch of cut grass. Did I really manage to do that much? she wondered. It seemed as if the clean patch had grown since she was away, but she couldn’t be sure. These things can always be deceiving. But it made her glad to feel having done so much.

After a nice meal she had decided to continue her work. She might not be able to finish it in one day, she had to rest from time to time after all, but at the same time she was not in a hurry. Since the scythe had seemed to becoming blunt before, she decided to give it a boost. But as soon as she tried to scythe the stubborn grass before whetting the tool, it seemed to be even sharper than before. She shook her head and sat down in disbelief... May-be she was just imagining things. May-be the grass here was just easier to cut down. May-be...

She was just in the middle of hard work when she saw Andrew on the other side of the fence. He had stopped to look at the working girl and there was a hint of disbelief in his eyes when he greeted Eilish.

Good afternoon!” he said, smiling.

Good afternoon!” Eilish replied.

Then she noticed that Andrew was looking at her pointedly. She suddenly remembered JenniAnn’s remark about the angels of death depicted as grim reapers in popular culture and something about Andrew deeply disliking it. She cast a quick look at her scythe and then Andrew and then stammered, blushing:

Oh... I’m sorry... I just... er... I couldn’t use the lawn-mower here and... and this is what I’ve been using at home as well... and... now you of all people... I…I’m sorry if I upset you and...”

Oh, no-no-no!” Andrew started laughing heartily. “Don’t worry, you definitely haven’t upset me. It’s just that I haven’t seen anyone using this tool in Dyeland for a long time. We’re more into trimmers these days. It’s just that the thing is huge compared to you. I was just surprised to see you like that, that’s all.”

Eilish managed a smile. “It’s actually a pretty handy tool. I... well... I have never used a trimmer before. May-be it would work better in this garden, but my... er... parents didn’t have one here... so.”

We have a trimmer at Willowveil, I can bring it here,” he offered.

Oh, you don’t need to, the garden’s almost finished. You have done so much for me already,” Eilish answered modestly.

Andrew screened the half-mowed garden. “Almost finished” was certainly an exaggeration, but he didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, so he had to try to reach her one step at a time. “Let me at least help you now. It would be a good exercise for me,” he said amusingly.

Eilish hesitated for a moment, but it didn’t seem fair to deny someone their share of good exercise. “Okay.” Then she remembered something and asked, “Oh, I was wondering if you happened to be here earlier today? When I went swimming.”

No, I just came. I brought you some food and wanted to show you how to use the portal. It is fixed now. Why do you ask? Has anyone been here?” Andrew seemed genuinely surprised.

I don’t know. It just seemed that... that when I left, I had managed to cut down only so much and when I came back I had the feeling someone has helped me with this garden and I... I thought it was you,” Eilish said with her face turning a few shades redder again.

It was not me, even though I would have liked to help you, had I known what you were up to.” He stopped for a moment to think, then suddenly smiled and said, “Even if it was someone else, they obviously mean well, so you don’t have to worry.” He looked aside, winking, but as Eilish was looking down, it went unnoticed. To her at least...

Eilish thought of the similar nice little things that had happened before in her life. Usually she didn’t think about these much, because these could always have been just coincidences, matters of good imaginations, but now it made her wonder...

Her thoughts were interrupted by Andrew, who said, smiling, “Really, you don’t have to worry. There is definitely no-one on this island I don’t know about.” That was true, but not the way Eilish thought. On one hand it made her feel a little bit more at ease, because having an invisible, though well-wishing stranger around, wouldn’t have been the easiest thing to come to terms with at this moment. But on the other hand the idea of having someone special around who seemed to care about her sounded a little bit flattering.

Andrew stayed for about an hour to help her. Eilish brought the cut plants to the compost pile to help him in turn and their work was booming. They managed to clear most of the backyard, even though Eilish realized this was just the beginning, it obviously needed weeding and digging over. But at least it was not a jungle anymore.

Thank you so much, without you I’d be still struggling here!” Eilish told.

I am glad I could help. It was so nice to work in fresh air. If you ever need any more help, please, let me know, I’d be glad to come. But now we should take a break and go to see the portal,” Andrew replied.

They walked to the coppice. Eilish’s mind was so filled with thoughts that she didn’t even think of asking how the portals really worked or whether and how Andrew had fixed it. Andrew gave her a small round wooden coin and showed her how to use it. Even though she hesitated at first when the air shimmered and Andrew encouraged her to follow him through, she decided that she trusted the angel and followed suit. It was strange to be back in the old forest and she felt a little bit frightened at first. It was already dark on this side and it made everything even scarier. She didn’t see the light of Dyeland anymore and she subconsciously feared she was locked out of the beautiful world. May-be Dyeland had merely been her imagination? Andrew’s presence at her side told her otherwise, but she still felt like asking to be sure.

She touched the tree that served as one of the doorposts for the portal and said, “Is Dyeland really there? I’m almost afraid I have imagined it all.”

Of course it’s there. Go on, try to get it open from this side and you’ll see,” Andrew encouraged.

Eilish put the coin in the small round groove Andrew had shown her and the air began to shimmer once more, revealing the calm greenery and afternoon light of the now familiar coppice. Eilish took a cautious step forward and found herself in Dyeland again. She smiled.

Thank you so much for fixing the portal! I was so worried about leaving the matters loose back at home, at mama’s house. But now I can sort everything out and prepare to move to... er... Tír na nÓg.

"Tír na nÓg?” Andrew raised his eyebrows.

"Yes, this is how my parents called this island.” Eilish told him about finding the letter from her parents.

"Oh, I hope you don’t mind me coming to live here. There is not much left for me back there, I just...” Her voice trailed off. What if Andrew says coming to live here wouldn’t be a good idea? She hadn’t thought about it. She hadn’t even asked him in fact.

"Of course I don’t mind. I would be happy to have you there. And so would everyone else. You are very welcome, dear Eilish. It is your home after all,” Andrew told with a warm smile.

"Thank you so much”, she said, now smiling as well.

Eilish tried to go through the portal once more to be sure she could do it alone as well. Andrew reassured her that should something happen, she could always contact him via phone or e-mail and she won’t be left stranded.

There was so much to do now and as soon as Andrew left Eilish started planning. The first visit back to mama’s house had to wait though, because it was night-time there and it wouldn’t have been the best idea to wander around at night. But she could go there the next morning.

Eilish still had some time left this afternoon, so she decided to explore the island. Until then she had been a little bit reserved with this “exploring” part, because she was slightly afraid that she would accidentally end up in another portal on the island or get stuck in Estonia like 20 years before. But now that Andrew had told her that there are no more portals around there and the one she had come through has been fixed, she was more determined to get to know the island better.

Since they had parted with Andrew at the same pine coppice, she decided to look around there. It wasn’t very big or thick coppice, but it wasn’t possible to see the sea from between the trees – there were quite many bushes and thickets to block the view. Her explorations to the north and west led her to a steep sandy coast, but not dangerously steep. On these sides the island was lined by the narrow stony beach that widened towards south and east and became sandier.

Her wandering to the eastern side of the coppice proved to be far more interesting. After a couple of hundred metres from the portal the land got much lower and there a thick shrub of ivy hid an abandoned house.

Curiously Eilish came nearer. It was a simple building made of limestone. The middle part of its roof had fallen in, but the solid walls revealed no signs of destruction, only ivy and moss was growing between the stones here and there. The wooden door was still hanging to its hinges, but it seemed so rotten that Eilish was afraid it will fall into pieces as soon as she touches it. She pushed the door carefully. Fortunately it didn’t break, only made a sad creak when opened. Inside the building she found only one single room. The whole floor was covered by knee-high grass. A quick glance revealed that there probably had never been a floor as such – the ground itself had served as a floor there.

In the middle of the room there was a huge stove with a big ventilation hood above it - it looked like one you would find in a very old-fashioned kitchen. But there was a pile of coal left on the stove as if the stove was meant to heat the coal, not the other way around. Then she saw a big anvil standing close to the stove and she immediately knew what she was looking at. It was an old smithy. Much like the ones she had seen in farm museums in Estonia.

She could see different kind of tongs, pliers, hammers and other tools hanging from the metal railing at the edge of the stove. On the ventilation hood there were different sizes of rusty horseshoes. Everything was neatly put away before leaving it for good. Nobody had been here for at least a century, Eilish thought, though at the same time this smithy could have been operational even 50 years ago. Things tend to fall apart very quickly when the roof gets damaged. It was a sad sight. Eilish wished there were someone to continue this ancient work – she had always enjoyed seeing the blacksmiths at work at different fairs. There was something pristine in this kind of profession. Even if many other trades had changed throughout the history, blacksmiths still used more or less the same methods and tools as in the middle ages. That was true about some other crafts as well, but for some reason Eilish was drawn to the rusticity of the ancient craft of blacksmithing. May-be because it formed such a contrast with her own petite physique and the very delicate handicraft she loved to be engaged in – knitting, crocheting and cross-stitching.

She sighed and went out of the smithy. May-be someone still remembers the one who was once working here, she wondered.

She continued her walk towards the western coast. She saw a small herd of sheep grazing near the shore, but she didn’t want to scare them off, so she quietly went around them. Not far from the shore she saw a gray electric box. She couldn’t help but wonder why it was there when there was no electricity in the house. May-be it served some other purpose, but at the moment she couldn’t think of any reasonable purposes. Eilish shrugged her shoulders and continued her tour across the coastline.

She circled the big orchard in the southern part of the island. The trees had almost stopped blossoming and the ground was covered with white and pinkish petals. She studied the trees – there were a lot of cherry trees among them, but she thought she recognized some apple-trees and pears as well. There were some others, which were not so familiar to her, but she thought there might be plum-trees or damsons or even something suitable for warmer climate like peaches. She would find out soon enough.

She also saw a number of berry bushes – black and red currants, gooseberries, even a patch of raspberries. It’s enough to make jam and juice for a whole village, she thought. These probably belonged to the villagers – this is what Andrew had suggested as well. She has a lot of time to find out about this. May-be she will meet the O’Malleys, her godparents? Andrew had told her earlier that day that according to him they still live on the island of Baile with the other Asterians. She would certainly look them up after she has been able to settle in a little bit more. Now she had to go back to Estonia for a while to tie the loose ends.


Friday, May 29 to Saturday, June 20

The following days were rather busy for Eilish. First she had decided to move as many things as she could to her house in Dyeland. As she didn’t plan to move any furniture or other heavy things, she thought that the wheelbarrow would do the trick. She packed all her clothes and books and other necessary things and slowly moved everything to the cottage. It took her several days, but she didn’t want to overstrain her heart, so she took it as slow as needed and managed just fine. Nearly every day she made a trip through the portal and used the sojourn to clean up the house a little bit more and then go swimming and rest in the sun. In Estonia June was so cold that here was no hope to go swimming before July. At least it was not snowing like it had last year. And it certainly was not normal for this climate. So she yearned for the usual nice and sunny June weather and Dyeland had plenty of it to offer.

She had thought about selling her mama’s house, but decided to wait with that. She and Maria had some savings she could use until she found another job, so money was not such a burning issue at the moment. Giving up the house would have been too painful just now, because after all, it had been her home for the last 20 years. Every corner, every little detail reminded her of her mama. It would have been unbearable to give it all up so soon. She knew she would have to do it eventually, but this could wait a little. Besides, it would be nice to have a little stopover if she decided to come back from time to time. And as there was no electricity or running water in the cottage, she could at least make her life easier by washing her clothes at mama’s house, using the washing machine as long as she could. May-be once she is more settled in Dyeland, she would consider selling.

There were still some things in the house that had belonged to Maria. There were not many left though, because in the last year she had asked Eilish to donate her old books (the ones Eilish was not too interested in) to a local library. And Maria had donated most of her clothes to a non-profit second hand store. Eilish had protested at first, asking her what she would wear in case she gets better and still has some years ahead, but Maria had diplomatically answered, “Eilish dear, if this miracle happens and I do get better, I definitely want to renew my wardrobe. So I’d be happy to give my old stuff away.” Her answer had calmed down Eilish, who then imagined how she would go shopping with her mama, and buy her as many new clothes as she wants. So she had agreed to donate her clothes. Still there were some accessories left. Even though Maria had been a few sizes bigger than Eilish, Eilish still couldn’t part with some items that reminded her of her mama. For example there was a huge violet woolen jacket that Maria often wore and Eilish remembered sitting on mama’s lap, buttoning or unbuttoning the jacket. There were some other significant clothes Eilish decided to keep, but she realized it would be reasonable to give other clothes away. This had been Maria’s wish after all and Eilish wanted to grant it. Mama had always told Eilish not to get too attached to earthly belongings because these were just things. “Hold on to human hearts, not things,” she had told. The same thing was with the books. Eilish kept only those that were really meaningful for her. The rest of them she gave to the library.

In the end Eilish was glad they didn’t have very many of those “earthly belongings” – just the necessary stuff. So it was fairly easy to move all the essentials to her new home in Dyeland.

Eilish had also spoken to the company she was working for, inputting the data. She had explained that she had to move and at the moment there is no Internet connection and even electricity in her new place, so it would be difficult for her to continue the work on regular basis for at least some time. They were reluctant to let Eilish go since she had always been very hardworking and punctual, and it wasn’t always easy to find workers like that. So they had agreed to give her as much time off as she needed to settle in, because the summer wasn’t so tense anyway and in case needed, they could hire some extra helpers for the season. So Eilish just needed to let them know when she has settled in and can continue her work. Even though Eilish had no idea whether it would be even possible to have electricity or Internet in the cottage, she hoped that things will become clearer during the summer. And then she could always let them know in case she couldn’t continue. So that was settled for now. She had to resign the publishing company though, because it would have been difficult to arrange manuscripts to be sent to Dyeland anyway.

She took care of her three cats as well – two of them had been more or less stray, they had just appeared one day and since Maria or Eilish and their neighbouring lady had occasionally fed them, they had stayed. Years ago one of them had given birth to a couple of kittens, Tiddy among them, before she was fixed. They were both considerably old now; even Tiddy was nearing her 15th birthday. The older cats were used to visiting both Maria’s place and the neighbour’s and usually didn’t sleep in the house (unless it got very cold). So Eilish had asked her neighbour to take the two upon her since she thought it would be difficult for both the cats and her to bring them all to Dyeland. The neighbour had gladly agreed, because she knew her children would be very sad if they couldn’t see those cats again. Eilish decided to introduce Dyeland to Tiddy though, because Tiddy had been closest to her since birth and Eilish wanted to have another living soul in the house.

Luckily for Eilish the lady who lived next to her hadn’t been too inquisitive. Eilish simply told her that she will be looking for a new job in another town (which was not too far from the truth), so she will be away for most of the time and probably move away soon, but she would come back occasionally to see if everything is alright in the house. The lady just wished her well and promised to keep an eye on her house.

Dealing with all the necessary things made three weeks in Estonia go by rather quickly, even though there were some very difficult moments.


On Sunday morning, June 7th Eilish woke up feeling tired and sickly. Her head was hurting and she felt as if she had caught minor cold. She thought a nice cup of tea would banish these feelings, so she got up to put the kettle on. It was so quiet around. "Should I wake up mama?” she managed to think before she realized this is something she could never do anymore. She still felt her presence so strongly in the house though – sometimes she woke up in the middle of the night, thinking that she heard her calling. But it had just been a dream. At other times she thought she heard her steps outside, but it proved to be just wind beating branches against each other.

Eilish wiped away her tears and made herself a cup of tea. It was raining outside and everything was grey and bleak. It didn’t seem like summer at all, more like late autumn. She switched on all the lights in the kitchen and living-room to create somewhat lighter atmosphere. Something was still weighing her down. There was something in the air. But it had been there for couple of weeks now, since her mama had died. It was just stronger that particular morning.

Eilish finished her tea, switched on her computer to check her mails and read the news. She had just one new mail. From Andrew. She smiled at the name, thinking of how nice the angel had been to her, but then her eyes moved to the subject and her mood immediately dropped. She quickly clicked to read the mail. She read it once. Then once more...

JenniAnn had been shot and was fighting for her life in the hospital.

Oh, please, no!” she whispered, trembling.

She just sat still for a few minutes, letting the tears fall. The image of the nice lady who she had met just a little more than week before and who had helped her so much on her first day in Dyeland, lying still on a hospital bed, was just so hard to bear. The image of all her friends sitting around her, grieving, broke her heart. She wished she could be there now; let her know that she is thinking about her. But all she could do now was just cry.

Then she tried to pull herself together and wrote a reply, assuring that she is with JenniAnn and Andrew in all her thoughts and she wishes her a very quick recovery. She hesitated at first, but then added that she will pray for JenniAnn and all her friends. The idea of praying was not so familiar to her, but she had heard about people praying for each other, so she hoped that may-be God will listen to her feeble words as well, for JenniAnn’s sake. Even though sending just a couple of words via Internet seemed so pathetic compared to the gravity of the situation, she knew this was the best she could do for now. Hopefully she will meet JenniAnn soon and tell her in person that she was thought about and prayed for.

She sent the mail and went to sit at the window in the kitchen. She looked up into the steelgrey sky and prayed:

Dear God! I don’t know much about you, but I know JenniAnn and Andrew think the world about you. They say you love everyone. Even me. Please, if you really are there and you really love everyone, please save JenniAnn and make her better! Please give hope to all her friends around her. I don’t know how things work with you, but if I can do something to help them, please let me know!”

She felt so helpless.

The whole day and the following night didn’t bring her any relief either. She felt tired and even though she wasn’t really sick she didn’t feel like doing anything. She just curled up on her couch and watched pointless TV-shows until it was time to sleep. But dreams brought her nothing but comfort...


She couldn’t fall asleep until it was way over midnight. But she tossed and turned even after that, feeling that she is somewhere in a half-awake state, at the same time dreaming. The dream brought her to Dyeland, but it was nothing like the sun-lit cosy summery place she had seen earlier.

Eilish was standing in front of her house in Dyeland. It was dark and cloudy and the surroundings were grey and bleak – completely opposite to the real Dyeland, but she still realized she was there. The cold made her tremble and she realized she was wearing nothing but a thin summer-dress that was flapping against her shins in freezing wind. She hugged her shoulders to keep warm, but she couldn’t move otherwise. She felt as if she were glued to the ground. She tried to say something, but no words came out, just a wimpish wheeze.

Suddenly she heard a baby crying and from the grey mist she saw Andrew and JenniAnn appearing, the latter holding Belle, who was wailing loudly. It seemed strange that JenniAnn didn’t do anything to console the baby. Instead, their eyes were fixed on her as they drew nearer. There was something in their eyes that frightened Eilish.

When they were close enough, JenniAnn spoke. Her voice was calm, but cold.

Why did you come here? You are not welcome here! You are a stranger. Look at her, she is weird, she is different. She doesn’t belong here.”

Go away,” she heard Andrew echoing JenniAnn’s words. “Go back home. We have enough to deal with.”

Eilish saw to her horror that their faces were morphed into her former classmates who continued,

Did you really think that somebody can love someone like you? You stupid girl!” one of them said.

Eilish heard them laughing, which sounded more like wailing or screeching. She wanted to move, but her legs didn’t obey. When she finally could move, she ran towards the coppice. She felt as if she was running through the thick snow – it was so incredibly difficult to move her feet, every step took an eternity. Finally she reached the portal, but it wasn’t a portal at all, just a black nothingness. Crying, she jumped into the void and felt like falling... falling... falling...

Tears were trickling down her cheeks when she woke up, startled. It was dark and she still heard the horrible shrieking or wailing. Her heart was pounding fast and she was panting. She tried to breathe deeply, but it took several minutes before she stopped trembling and realized that it had just been a dream and the wailing came from a lonely crow, who was cawing somewhere nearby. This wasn’t the first nightmare she had had during the previous years. Usually she knew how to deal with them, even though they were always difficult to bear. But this time she was not so sure she just has to let it go. What if it really was a message to her?

We have enough to deal with...” She remembered what Andrew had said to her in her dream. Even if it were just a dream, she couldn’t help but think that may-be he was right. May-be she would be just the fifth wheel and they were just too nice to tell her that directly. May-be she shouldn’t go back to Dyeland after all. They do have a lot to deal with and she didn’t want to be a millstone around their necks.

Eilish found herself weeping again. “Mama, why did you go? I need you here; I need you to tell me what to do! Please, help me!” she sobbed. After several painful minutes Eilish calmed down and sleep took over once more, and she gave in to another dream which seemed to be as agonising as the previous one. Fortunately this time the dream brought her some peace and hope for the future.

This time Eilish was standing in the forest near the portal. It was dark again, even though it wasn’t night-time. She looked at the two sturdy pines that served as the doorposts and looked for the groove to put her key in. She found it and put the small wooden coin inside. Nothing happened. She tried again, but with no results. She felt panic setting in. Her hands trembled while she tried again. Nothing. She stepped between the trees and back, but found herself still in the same forest. Suddenly she realized it wasn’t the same forest, she didn’t know where she was anymore – the pines were familiar, but the rest of the surroundings seemed hostile and strange. She couldn’t do anything but collapse between the trees and cry.

Suddenly she felt someone kneeling down beside her and put their arms around her. Everything became silent and she felt golden light surrounding her. She was afraid to open her eyes and so she just sat there in the stranger’s embrace.

You are safe, Elise. Don’t be afraid, I am here with you,” a soft voice told her. She opened her eyes, but saw nothing but bright light at first. Then she realized she was looking at a small golden cross this someone had around his neck. She was too stunned to say anything, but she felt so calm and... safe.

The glowing stranger stroked her hair and held her until she fell asleep, holding her head against his shoulder.

Slowly Eilish opened her eyes. The sun was peeking in through the window. Someone had just stroked her head. It had felt so real. She looked around. Was there someone here? She blinked and moved herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming anymore. The feeling of peace was so strong this time – it really felt as if someone had come to hold her and calm her down. May-be it was an angel as well? Eilish sighed, realizing it too had just been a dream, though a beautiful one.

But still she couldn’t forget the stranger. She hadn’t seen his face, but she remembered he was wearing a small golden cross and he had a very nice voice. He had called her by the name her mama had given her. And it all had felt so incredibly real. May-be she should ask Andrew? If it really was another angel, he would surely know. The thought of it made Eilish smile.


Two days later Eilish learned about JenniAnn’s recovery. She was so happy to know that the things would be on the good track again. She imagined the joyful reunions and get-togethers and all the happiness, and rejoiced with them in her mind. These thoughts somewhat banished Eilish’s fears of not being accepted or wanted there. Now she even felt a little bit silly about her fears. It’s just that she had often felt like an outcast and in the school her dreads were very often confirmed. Her classmates constantly hinted that she was the fifth wheel and that nobody liked her. Even if it was not always true, it did rub off on her in time.

She replied Andrew with a message where she expressed her joy as well as she could.

She stopped for a moment to think about Andrew and JenniAnn. Even though she couldn’t completely understand Andrew’s relation to JenniAnn since he was an angel and JenniAnn was a mortal, but she sensed that they were much more than just friends living under the same roof. And definitely much more than mere lovers. And she understood well what it means to lose someone you love with all your heart and consider your best friend. What a joy it must have been for Andrew to be given back his soul friend!

Soul friend, anam cara, this is what Andrew had called himself and JenniAnn on the first day when they went to Willowveil together. This made Eilish realize that this is exactly how she has always imagined a perfect relationship. It didn’t matter whether it was between friends, lovers, children or parents, having ones’ souls so perfectly aligned that you can completely trust the other person was something to be yearned and strived for in every close relationship. But she realized there were only so few with whom it could be achieved. And JenniAnn and Andrew seemed to be a beautiful example, even though she had seen her just once and Andrew not many times more than that.

Would there be an anam cara there for me now that my mama is gone? Eilish wondered. This time there was a shred of hope in this question of hers.


With all this packing and going between Dyeland and mama’s house time went by very quickly. During rainy days she had packed her swimming stuff and had gone to enjoy the sunny summer in Dyeland. She smiled every time she stepped through the portal and felt slightly sorry for all those who didn’t have that chance. (She was lucky indeed, because on August 1 the proper summer still hadn’t reached Estonia and it was cold and rainy most of the days.) Sometimes she went to Dyeland when it was night-time there – then she would just lie down on the soft moss and stare at the unfamiliar but beautiful stars and listen to the ocean waves softly wash the shores. More than once she had actually fallen asleep there for an hour or two and it had always been a good rest.

In time she began to talk to God even more – she thought that if God had heard her prayer for JenniAnn then may-be he really is there and she can talk to him. But she also continued to talk to Maria – especially after Andrew had confirmed that she is in heaven and can see and hear her, so she can always talk to her, even when she is no longer around. Eilish was very thankful for that, because after Maria had died she hadn’t anyone she could really talk to. Though mostly she didn’t mind being alone she really wished she could have someone she could trust and spend time with. This yearning grew even stronger when she learned that most of the Dyelanders (whom Andrew had briefly introduced her in a mail, so that it would be easier for her to settle in and get to know them) were either married or had a special someone.

 Eilish didn’t actually think about marriage now. She knew that she couldn’t give birth to children on her own due to her heart condition, so she had come to terms with the fact that she will probably never marry. And the prom incident aside, she had never been in love as well. Her only encounters with men hadn’t been so pleasant either. So she didn’t know what to miss really. But she missed having a friend. Ever since Ruth went back to Lebanon, but even more when Maria passed away. It would have been nice to speak about whatnot, laugh together, celebrate holidays together, go shopping together, support each other and so on. Even though this yearning brought on some sad thoughts, there was a feeling of hope. And she couldn’t but think about the stranger in her dream...


Sunday, June 21, Eilish’s birthday

By Saturday, June 20 Eilish had managed to move most of her belongings to Dyeland and by then she had also managed to clean up most of the house. Little by little she had been coming and going to clean up the place so that she could come and stay there when everything was ready. The last thing she brought along was a carriage bag with Tiddy inside. The cat had let out an incredulous “Meow” when Eilish stepped from rainy Estonia into the warmth of Dyeland. She let her look around the house at first. After the initial shyness the cat had showed her appreciation to the house and had crawled to sleep on Eilish’s bed (the one she was sleeping in now – her former bed would have been a little bit too small for her). Eilish happily watched the cat, who was curled up on her blanket, purring. Now it really began to feel like home.

Sunday was another sunny day in Dyeland. She had decided to take the Sunday off, meaning she didn’t plan to do any cleaning or tidying up or garden work or such. She planned to go swimming and then make herself a nice homecoming cake. No-one was probably going to visit her that day, because she hadn’t told Andrew exactly when she will be back. It’s just that she wasn’t sure when she will manage to finish everything at mama’s house and clean up the house in Dyeland. But she thought that she would just enjoy a nice afternoon with a cake and cocoa and make herself a little welcome party. She had even bought Tiddy some special treats.

Since she wasn’t sure of the condition of the oven – someone would need to look at the chimney later –, she decided to make a simple layered biscuit cake using square vanilla biscuits as layers and put some sweet curd and jam in between. This required no cooking, but was delicious nevertheless. She had just finished when she heard someone speaking outside. It was woman’s voice, saying, “Tom, I think there is someone in here! Could it be...?” She didn’t finish her sentence. Eilish peeked out through the window and saw an elderly couple standing in the garden, the lady holding a basket full of fresh strawberries. They were in their seventies and were dressed in simple manner, like country people usually do. They both seemed very nice and kind.

Still Eilish’s heart sank and she had the same kind of feeling of being an intruder as she had had when she first met Andrew. But since Andrew had reassured her more than once that it is okay for her to live there and it is her house after all, she tried to pull herself together and step outside to greet the visitors.

She opened the door and stepped into the light.

Good afternoon!” she said shyly.

The lady nearly dropped the basket, but managed to put it down, before crying out,

Eiméar? Is that really you! No, it just can’t be! Oh, my God!” She gasped for air and studied Eilish with tears falling down her cheeks. The man she had called Tom was standing beside her and was gaping at Eilish with eyes brimming with tears as well. Eilish didn’t know what to say or do when she suddenly realized they had called out her mother’s name.

I am not Eiméar. I’m... Eilish. I... I believe Eiméar is my mother,” she managed to say half-whisperingly, because she felt a lump forming in her throat as well.

To her answer the lady just stepped to her and hugged her, weeping. Without letting her go, she said while sobbing, “You came back! You really came back! Thank you, God! Thank you!”

You look exactly like your mother!” the man said with trembling voice.

The lady let go of her and studied her some more, holding her by the shoulders. “You really are Eilish! We’ve been waiting for you so long!”

Seeing that Eilish looked somewhat puzzled, she added,

Oh, dear, you probably don’t remember us; you were just so little when you left.” The lady started weeping again.

I am Thomas O’Malley and this is my wife, Elizabeth – Liz for friends,” Thomas continued.

You.. you are my godparents?” Eilish finally asked with tears now freely falling down her cheeks as well.

Yes, dear!” Elizabeth said, smiling blissfully through her tears. “And we came to wish you a happy birthday!”

Birthday?” Eilish wondered, because her birthday was on July 6, but then she remembered that it was the date the doctors had chosen since they didn’t know her real birth date and had assumed that it must be around that time. So it might have been June 21 as well.

Yes, today is your birthday, dear!” Thomas said. “And we brought you a gift.” He had picked up the basket of strawberries and held it to Eilish.

Thank you so much! But how... how did you know I would be here?” Eilish wondered.

We didn’t. We come here every year at your birthday – we promised to continue to come even when your parents disappeared. So every year on June 21 we come here with a basket of strawberries, hoping that one day you’d return and we could celebrate all together. It has been 20 years now. Twenty years...” Elizabeth’s voice trailed off once more.

Then it’s a good thing I made some cake,” Eilish said, thinking about the strange coincidence. But may-be it wasn’t a coincidence after all, may-be it was meant to be. Who knows.

Were you expecting us?” Thomas wondered.

Oh no, I didn’t think anyone would be here today. I just thought I would celebrate my homecoming - I spent the whole month moving here and I thought today would be a good day to stay.”

You are so very, very welcome, dear girl! You can’t even imagine how happy we are to see you here! All these years... Oh, Eilish, you really remind me of your mother. She was a very kind and beautiful lady,” Elizabeth said, overjoyed.

Please, let’s go inside, sit at the table. What would you like to drink? I put the kettle on and we can have coffee or tea. Or I can warm up milk and make cocoa?” Eilish offered.

Tea would be fine, thank you so much,” Elizabeth said when they all stepped inside. “Oh my goodness, it looks exactly like the day your parents left! We have been here a couple of times later as well and this place looked so desolate. But look at it now! It is full of life again.” Then Elizabeth saw Tiddy and smiled at her. “Definitely full of life. What a nice kitty!”

Her name is Tiddy, she is very friendly,” Eilish said, stroking the cat.

Tiddy? Do I remember wrong or did you have a favourite toy with the same name?” Elizabeth asked surprisedly.

Yes.” There was a hint of sadness in her voice. “I lost Tiddy when I came to Estonia. But I remembered the name and when the kitten was born, I gave her the name. But when I came back, I found my toy as well. I guess my parents had kept it for me.”

Estonia? Is that where you’ve been all these years,” Thomas asked. “We really want to hear your story now.”

While preparing the table, Eilish told her godparents her story of stepping through the portal and finding Maria who became her mama. She also told them about her doings and her life before she found the portal again.

That’s incredible! I’m so glad Maria found you. It seems she cared a lot about you. I’m sorry to hear she has passed away.” Elizabeth stopped for a moment and lowered her head. “I knew there were portals here in Asteriana, but I never knew there is one on this island. Did you, Tom?” Thomas shook his head. “Your parents called the island Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth, you know. We usually just called it Sheep Island before your parents came, because our family has been herding sheep here for many generations,” Elizabeth explained.

I heard about Tír na nÓg. I... I found a letter from my parents,” Eilish told. “Would you like to read it?”

Yes, please, if it’s ok with you,” Elizabeth replied.

Eilish brought them the letter and let them read it. They both began to cry again when they read the words Eiméar had written to her lost daughter.

Oh, dear. The Dhónaills were such a lovely couple. I wish they were here. I wish they could see you, how beautiful you’ve become.”

Eilish blushed at her godmother’s words and then added sadly, “I wish they were here too. I hope they will come back one day. I don’t remember much of them, just bits and pieces. What were they like? Can you tell me more about my parents, please?”

While they sat at the table, sipping tea and eating cake, Elizabeth told Eilish about her parents.

They came here about 25 years ago or so... 1989 I think. They were both just teenagers back then – your mom was only 17 and your father just a year older. I believe they came through a portal as well, but all they told me was that they had... yes, “eloped” was the word, and had ended up here in Asteriana. They were so frightened and secretive when they arrived, and we didn’t want to pry either, so I actually don’t know much about their past. But it must have been something terrible to make then run away like that. From your mother’s manners and the way of speaking I actually concluded she must come from the upper classes. Your father seemed to be a suburban lad. So it was kind of a “Lady and the Tramp” story, you know this cartoon, right? But this is just my guess, dear. By all means they were a lovely couple. We helped them settle in the old cottage we are in now. They really seemed to want to be cut off from the outside world – they said they needed no electricity, no Internet, no nothing. We actually had electricity installed on the island later when they came – our children had it arranged for us to use the electric shears to shear the sheep and for your parents, should they once reconsider. In fact they said they might, once you’re older, but...”

Elizabeth stopped and sighed. Everything came to her mind again – Eilish getting lost, her parents’ grief and endless searches.

Well, I think electricity might be a good idea... Now that I am older,” Eilish smiled, trying to make Elizabeth feel better.

We can help you with arranging everything,” Thomas confirmed.

Thank you so much, we’ll see about that, I’m not in a hurry, it was just a thought! But please, can you tell me more about my mother and father?” Eilish pleaded, her eyes glistening with joy and excitement.

Eiméar and James were really nice to everyone. Even though they were very secretive about everything concerning their past we had no reason to doubt their benevolence. Later Eiméar confessed to us that there was a horrible coincidence and misunderstanding involved in their getaway, but they had nothing to do with it and she pleaded me not to ask about it. She actually seemed to be afraid for my life. They tried to protect us from something and we always respected their decision. We wanted them to have peace here. Your father was a very handy man – even though he was very young there was little he couldn’t do, so he was kind of a local “jack of all trades” here and whenever someone had a plumbing problem or needed their roof repaired or a dangerous tree cut down, James was the man. And your mother was a teacher in the local school – 20 years ago we had enough children to form a small school class and we had always schooled smaller children here in Asteriana. Later they went to school on Earth and thus flew out of their nests. When I was a child we actually had a school here with not just one, but many classes. You know, Asteriana was becoming rather empty before JenniAnn came here in 1998. I am so glad to see there are so many children around here again! May-be once they’ll open the school here again. But back to your parents. By earning their living here and spending quite little they managed to make ends meet just fine. In summer 1990 they got married in His Holy Angels Chapel here in Idlewild. Just two years later, you were born – Eilish Maria Ní Dhónaill.”

Hearing that, Eilish jumped. “Is my name really Eilish Maria?”

Yes! Your first name, Eilish, actually comes from Elizabeth and your mother wanted you to have my name. The second name, Maria, came from Mary Magdalene – she was Eiméar’s favourite saint. At first I suggested the name could be Eilish Mary, but Eiméar strongly opposed, hinting that the only Mary she knows is not a very pleasant lady, so we decided upon Maria instead.”

My goodness! So my name is actually Maria too. Like my mama, you know.” She brushed away a tear.

Oh, I didn’t realize it before. That is really something special! God works in mysterious ways,” Elizabeth told with a wink. “You were such a cute baby. Father George baptized you in the same chapel your parents were married in. Have you been there yet?”

No,” Eilish shook her head. “I haven’t been anywhere but Willowveil. It was so beautiful, a real castle.”

Then we certainly need to make a tour around Asteriana, well, Dyeland as they call it now,” Thomas added.

I would like that very much.” Eilish gleamed at the thought. Dyeland was really a dream-like place and she imagined there are many amazing sights around. After all, she had seen a real castle here already, and the local sandy beaches were like the ones usually advertised as “paradise beaches” in travel brochures.

It was somehow so easy to talk to Elizabeth and Thomas. Even though she didn’t remember her godparents, there was something so familiar about them. May-be her subconscious mind still remembered them in a way. She felt as if she was among family and could trust them. And it was so good to hear something about her parents. Where are they now? Are they still alive? Eilish wondered.

Elizabeth began to talk about the most beautiful sights in Dyeland, beginning with the Fields of Gold and ending with the Mystical Mountains that Eilish could see from the eastern coast of the island.

It’s like Middle Earth!” she suddenly exclaimed, remembering the books and movies of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.

Elizabeth and Thomas both smiled. They had seen the movie and indeed it reminded them a little bit of Dyeland. But of course the scales were very different.

You are right, it is a little bit like that. But Asteriana is much, much smaller. We might need just a couple of days to see everything around here,” Thomas said.

And now that you are here we could do so much together!” Elizabeth added happily.

That day they talked a lot about everything until evening – all of them had a lot of catching up to do.

Oh, it’s getting late, dear and it’s going to get dark soon. We have to get going now, it’s not so comfortable rowing in the dark, you know. But we will be back as soon as we can. I’d love to see you again soon,” Elizabeth said.

It has been a wonderful day! Thank you so much! You have really made me so happy by coming here. I was thinking that... may-be you could come again on Tuesday evening. It’s that I was planning to make a bonfire at Midsummer night like we usually did in Estonia. It is a beautiful holiday and I wanted to continue the tradition. Is it ok to make fire on the beach?”

Of course it is. And we’d love to come, dear. Should we bring something?” Elizabeth asked.

Oh, no! I have everything needed. I was thinking of making ash-baked potatoes and grill some meat in the fire. And I would introduce you to a drink called “kali” in Estonian. I think it’s kind of a root beer really, but may-be it’s different.” Eilish was so happy having found the new friends, or re-found the old ones actually.

Ah, then I know exactly what would be a nice addition to this bonfire night. Have you ever tried smores?” Elizabeth asked with a grin.

The name sounded familiar, but didn’t quite ring a bell at the moment. She shook her head.

Good, then we’re settled!” Elizabeth said.

And if someone else wants to join you, they’re welcome too – the more the merrier,” Eilish told. She didn’t think they would actually bring anyone along, but she just felt like saying this. Who knows, besides, it would be nice to have more new friends here. May-be Elizabeth’s and Thomas’ children will come to visit and it wouldn’t be fair to exclude them. Elizabeth had told about her two daughters who now lived in Ireland with their families and occasionally visited their parents in Dyeland.

After the O’Malley’s left that night and Eilish went to bed, she couldn’t fall asleep for a long time, because she was so excited. But this time there was a happy reason for that. Finally when she fell asleep she dreamed about being a little girl again and Elizabeth holding her and singing her a lullaby.


Back to Tuesday, June 23

So much had changed in one single month. There she had been – grieving, lost, scared, without family and friends – standing in the same coppice, not knowing what to do. And now she had moved to this very special place, had learned about her birthparents, had made some new friends and re-met some old ones. It was like a dream come true. Only the absence of her mama made her sad. She wished so much that mama could experience all that as well. It would have been so nice to live there together and enjoy the beautiful Dyeland summer.

She looked at the imposing pile of wood next to a smaller one she had set up on the white beach. This will make a nice bonfire, she reckoned. There were still a couple of hours till sunset and she had finished all the preparations. A day before she had bought some bottles of root beer and some marinated meat for grilling. This afternoon she had brought all the drinks and food, including the potatoes, to the beach. She had used the wheelbarrow to bring a long bench to the place as well. And a wooden box to be served as a table. She had a picnic blanket which she set on the ground for herself to sit on. Tiddy was curiously following her to the house and back to the shore as she walked to-and-fro between those two places to bring all the necessary things.

Look, Tiddy, it looks like we’re going to have a party!” she joyfully told the cat who had found a spot on her blanket and sat there, looking at Eilish with her green eyes. “Do you think it’s time to light the fire now?” The cat started to lick her paw and Eilish decided it can be translated as “fine by me”. So she lit the fire, thinking that it would be good to have it nicely burning when the O’Malleys arrive. They had agreed to meet around 7 pm, about an hour before the sunset, so that they could enjoy the wonderful heavenly spectacle together. It was twenty to seven, so she sat at the fire, took out her flute that she hadn’t managed to use for quite some time and began to play.

The jolly tunes of “I’ll Tell Me Ma” soon filled the evening air. This was something she hadn’t felt like playing for months now, because most of her last months had been more suitable for more contemplative melodies. But now she felt happy and elated and this was exactly the tune she wanted to hear. She was so absorbed in her thoughts and playing that she practically didn’t hear first a bodhran joining her tune, then a violin. She was awoken from her concentration only when a jolly female voice joined in. She was so stunned to hear the merry band that she stopped in the middle of the tune and turned around to gape at the jovial trio who had continued to play and sing while walking towards the beach. They were still quite far away, but she saw that Thomas was the one with the bodhran and Elizabeth was definitely singing, but the third one, a tall handsome fellow with the violin was unfamiliar to her.

They finished the song when they were just a few metres away from her. Elizabeth approached her first.

It was wonderful! I didn’t know you could play like that. This is one of my favourite songs.” Then she took a glance at her husband and the young man. “Oh, you told we could bring anyone, so I hope you don’t mind that we brought a friend with us. This is Samuel.” Elizabeth bowed her head to reach Eilish’s ear and then conspiratorially whispered, “He’s an angel, you know! He really wanted to meet you. I hope it’s ok.”

Eilish’s eyes flitted to the angel briefly. Something about him made her incredibly glad and incredibly shy at the same time. He had long raven hair, up to his waistline long, tied into a neat ponytail. He was wearing an ivory tunic with a belt around his waist and beige khakis. With a violin in his hand he looked just like a member of a folk band from an Estonian midsummer festival. But there was something majestic about him, he seemed almost prince-like despite the simple outfit.

Eilish nodded to Elizabeth, unable to utter a word.

Samuel, come and meet Eilish, my goddaughter.” Elizabeth waved the angel closer.

Samuel gave his violin to Thomas, stepped closer and giving Eilish a hearty smile he looked her straight into her eyes, took her right hand into both of his and said, “Hey, Elise! I am so glad to finally meet you!”

Usually Eilish didn’t look anyone straight into their eyes, she was just too shy for that, but Samuel had caught her off guard since she was too surprised to think straight. She opened her mouth to say something, but within a fraction of a second she was poured over by the warmth and love she saw in the angel’s eyes and without being able to react, she suddenly felt incredibly light and the next moment she realized she was lying on the ground with worried faces leaning over her.

When Eilish passed out, Samuel’s heart skipped a beat. He had wanted to meet Eilish so badly. He had wanted her to know she is loved and cared for, that she has a friend. But he was afraid he had been too eager this time. He had known Eilish for 23 years, but Eilish saw him for the first time – at least she probably didn’t remember the previous times, she was too little then. But the happiness of the meeting had made him forget that awhile. For a split second he had thought something had happened to Eilish’s heart and he felt scared for a moment. But when he saw Eilish come around, he calmed down.

He knelt down beside her, putting his hand on her shoulder, asking, “Are you ok?”

Eilish, carefully avoiding his glance this time, slightly nodded. “Uh-huh.”

I’m so sorry I frightened you!”

Eilish shook her head. She was sure everyone can notice her crimson-coloured face by now. But nobody made a remark about that. “Oh no, you didn’t,” she finally said shyly. “It happens to me all the time. I...” She spontaneously put her hand on her heart, but decided not to tell him or the O’Malleys about her heart condition. She just didn’t want to worry them now.

Samuel understood she was just trying to be polite. Fainting a couple of times a year hardly counted as “all the time”, but he decided to let it rest. Instead, he told, “I will bring you something to drink, ok?” and stood up to get to the house. There were enough drinks on the beach, but he had politely decided to give her some space.

When he was gone, Elizabeth immediately asked, “What happened, dear! You got me really worried.”

Eilish managed a smile. “I... well... I’m just very shy around... er... men. Oh, please don’t tell Samuel, I feel stupid enough.” She felt her face burning with shame.

You are definitely not stupid, my dear Eilish.” Elizabeth turned to her husband. “Remember, Thomas, when I first met you – I was staring at you and then I actually bit my paper plate I was holding instead of a sandwich in my other hand.” She giggled. Thomas smiled, remembering the energetic freckled girl in an emerald green dress, looking at him bemusedly.

Are all the angels so... “ Eilish stopped to find a suitable word, but Elizabeth beat her to it.

Charming? Yes, they are.” She started to laugh. “Samuel is very nice actually. He came to us yesterday and I was so glad to see him again. I have met him more than 20 years ago. He was at your baptism, so I recognized him. He is...” She stopped when she saw that Samuel had returned with a cup of cool water. “You can tell her!” she turned to the angel.

I will, Liz. Here, Elise, take a sip. It has been a hot day and it’s easy to get dehydrated. I hope you’re feeling better now,” he said softly, holding up the cup to Eilish.

Eilish held the cup with both hands to hide the fact that her hands were slightly shaking. “Thank you,” she muttered, blushing even more. Then she raised her eyes just enough to see the necklace Samuel was wearing. It was a small golden cross...

She gasped silently, fixing her eyes on the cross. Suddenly she felt a wave of familiar calmness wash over her. She was again in the middle of the strange forest with someone’s arms around her. Samuel had called her Elise, just like the man in her dream. Eilish realized there was a faint trace of peppermint and lime blossom fragrance in the air – she had always connected these scents with tranquility and peace and had sometimes wondered why. Eilish felt strange temptation to lean her head against the angel’s shoulder, just like in the dream. But then she shook her head slightly to get out of the enchantment. It certainly wouldn’t have been appropriate now, what was she thinking!

Are you ok?” Samuel asked, seeing her immersed deep in thoughts.

Eilish slightly jolted when Samuel’s words brought her to reality. But then she managed to answer, even though she stumbled upon her words. “I... I was just remembering something... I don’t know... I... I... had a dream.... and you have a cross just like that... just like the one I saw in my dream... and I was wondering...” She halted. It was too embarrassing to tell this to someone who she had just met. Even though he was an angel. “I’m sorry.”

But Samuel smiled.

Elise, there is something I need to tell you.” He looked at the O’Malleys, who both nodded.

Do you mind if we stretch our legs a bit and take a walk on the beach?” Elizabeth asked, sensing it would be a good idea to give Samuel and Eilish a moment alone.

Samuel nodded to them. Thomas and Elizabeth looked at Eilish and the latter said, “We will be close, dear, just take a little walk, okay?”

They saw Eilish nod, even though she barely lifted her head to see them go.

Elise... We have met before and not just in that dream. I got to hold you right after you were born and I was there at your baptism. When you couldn’t sleep as a baby, I sometimes sat at your bed and sang you a lullaby. It worked wonders, you know. We even met a couple of times when you came to Estonia, but you were probably too little to remember.”

There was another memory emerging in Eilish’s mind, something Maria had told her actually. It was just something about her having an invisible friend. Eilish had been 12 and she had had serious flu and Maria had been telling her stories about her childhood. And she had told Eilish that when she came to her she had had an invisible friend, someone called Sami. It suddenly hit Eilish and she blurted out, “You are my Sami?!” Then she realized it had sounded pretty strange and she tried to hide her blush by placing her hands on her cheeks, a gesture she often made without thinking.

Yes, I am. You do remember?”

Eilish shook her head. “Not really, but mama told me I had an invisible friend I called Sami. So it was you all the time?” She was bewildered, but pleasantly so.

Samuel smiled and Eilish could sense it without seeing Samuel’s face. “Elise, I am your guardian angel.”

Now Eilish looked up in surprise. But as soon as she met the angel’s serene ocean blue eyes, she lowered her head again. “My guardian angel...” she echoed in disbelief. “But I’m just...” She didn’t know what to say. She knew vaguely what a guardian angel was, but certainly she was not important enough to actually have one, she thought.

Samuel put his hands on her shoulders and Eilish could feel him looking at her pointedly, and with a lot of love.

Elise, you are God’s beloved child. He loves all His children so much and whenever a child is born, they get a guardian angel to watch over them. And God loves you. Very much. He wanted me to be your guardian angel. And I was very happy to have you as my protégée. I am very happy to be by your side now, Elise.”

At this point Eilish cracked and felt it was impossible to hold back tears. It was just too much to process. She was enmeshed in a mixture of very many different feelings, most of them good, but still she felt lost in all this.

Come here,” the angel gently said, pulling her into a hug. Eilish leaned her head against Samuel’s chest and wept silently. Her body was slightly shivering with confusion, but at the same time she felt so incredibly calm and embraced by the angel’s warmth. She took a deep breath, inhaling the angel’s scent – he smelled indeed like peppermint and lime blossoms. This all made so much sense now. During all the rough times Samuel had been beside her, watching over her, comforting her. Eilish remembered some events when everything had seemed completely unbearable and painful, but suddenly she had felt peace. And the memories were somehow intertwined with the comforting and soothing scent of peppermint and lime blossom. He had been there...

Thank you...” she whispered, her voice barely audible. But Samuel answered it with softly stroking her hair. “...for everything,” Eilish continued. Samuel remained silent, but neither of them felt any more words were necessary. The moment seemed like a sweet eternity. Eilish thought she had just had a glimpse of heaven and she smiled at the thought.

Samuel was smiling as well. He had decided Midsummer Night would be a good day for the reunion, because it was going to be a joyful event and the O’Malleys were going to be there as well. It was probably better for her to meet him while there was someone present she already trusted. Samuel knew how shy she could be around strangers. And this time was no exception. Still, there were so many other things that could go wrong and Samuel didn’t want to upset Eilish in any way. He had long thought whether to tell Eilish right away about him being her guardian angel, but had decided that straightforward approach would be the best solution – Eilish needed to know who he is from the very beginning. And Elizabeth and Thomas had agreed to that as well. But Samuel still had his doubts – he knew Eilish didn’t have much experience with angels. What if she doesn’t understand why he couldn’t keep her safe from all the bad things that happened to her? What if she would have expected more from a guardian angel? Samuel didn’t want Eilish to feel that she had been neglected. But now that the girl was in his arms, saying her thank-you’s, Samuel realized his fears had been in vain. Eilish was grateful for him just being there, just his presence had been enough and this was heart-warming for Samuel.

Samuel looked at the sea, saying his own silent thank-you’s to God. The Lord had been so merciful again and it was a wonderful evening. The sun was slowly nearing the horizon and soon it would set. Samuel wanted Eilish to see this, so he broke the silence, saying, “Elise, it’s almost time for sunset, should we go get Elizabeth and Thomas and sit here at the fire?”

Eilish only nodded.

Samuel stroked her head just one more time, before releasing her and going to the O’Malleys who were just a few metres away, standing together at the edge of the water. Eilish’s glance followed him. Her head was filled with million thoughts and she fruitlessly tried to put them in some kind of an order. She had a guardian angel! Who could have thought that! She had read about guardian angels in various books and sometimes she had wished she had one too. And during some turmoil and challenges in her life she had imagined that there is someone beside her to hold her. And now it had turned out it was not just her imagination. Samuel was very real! And he was cute. Eilish smiled to herself.

So, everything all right here?” Thomas asked when the three had returned to the fire. Eilish was still smiling, when she nodded to him. The O’Malleys saw from her beaming face that the talk had gone well and thought it would be best not to pry for more. She will tell them when she’s ready.

They sat down around the fire. Eilish was sitting on the blanket with Tiddy and the rest of them were sitting on the bench. They had a perfect view over the setting sun. And what a sight it was! They were all awe-struck when the sky was filled with nearly all the colours of the rainbow dominated by different shades of red. It was so incredibly silent – even the fire and the sea waves seemed to have hushed up. Eilish felt it was the most beautiful sunset she had ever seen. Even though she had seen some sunsets at sea, also here in Dyeland, this particular one seemed to be the most special of them all. So she was looking at the horizon with her mouth slightly open and her eyes shining.

Even after the sun had set it wasn’t completely dark, even though Dyeland didn’t seem to have those “white nights” she was used to in Estonia, where it never went dark during midsummer and the sun set for just about two hours. The fire was still nicely burning and cast enough light for them to feel comfortable.

You told us St John’s Eve is one of the most special times in Estonia. Please, tell us about that!” Elizabeth asked.

Well, the winters there are very long and dark, so people are yearning for some light and summer. And the nights in June are the shortest. On midsummer the sun doesn’t set for more than just a couple of hours and it is rather light even at night. And people began to celebrate light in the ancient times by lighting bonfires. There are quite many ancient traditions still very much alive today,” Eilish explained, looking at the burning fire. “For example people jump over the fire – it symbolizes purification. Of course nowadays they are just doing it for fun, but in the old times it certainly had a deeper meaning. And those who are in love go to search for the fern blossom – finding one is supposed to guarantee happiness and wealth. Though I haven’t actually heard of anyone finding such a blossom yet.” Eilish laughed at the thought. “And sometimes fireflies and glow-worms can be seen and it’s a beautiful sight. Actually, they are both named after St John, because they can be found around the time of St John’s Eve.”

Samuel smiled at the thought of celebrating Yohannan’s birthday in such an exclusive way. His old friend must be thrilled.

And the young maidens who are not yet married, have to pick nine different flowers and put them under their pillow – then they are supposed to see their future groom in their dreams.” Eilish blushed, but it was too dark for anyone to see it.

Have you ever tried that?” Elizabeth asked cunningly.

Well...” She blushed even more. “Five years ago I celebrated St John’s on an island with my best friend Ruth. We had lots of fun and we decided to try out the superstition. So we slept with a bunch of weeds under our pillows.” Eilish chuckled.

And?” Elizabeth asked.

Ruth dreamed about eating tons of ice cream and I had a dream about floating in the vast sea. So that’s where our love lies,” she laughed and the rest of them laughed with her.

Oh, I think now everyone is probably hungry, so may-be I should begin to prepare the food. It takes some time,” Eilish said. Everyone agreed and offered their help to make everything ready. Eilish had a small barbecue pan she had brought along from her mama’s house. She added some glowing coal from the fire and put the meat on the grate. The fire had got smaller and there was just a nice spot of hot ashes where everyone could hide their potatoes. Eilish had made some fresh salad to go with the meat and potatoes. While everything was cooking, Elizabeth brought out her own treats. She had brought a huge packet of marshmallows and Samuel had brought a pack of cookies. This made Eilish’s eyes shine. Now she remembered what these “smores” were that Liz had told her about.

Smores!” she exclaimed!

Yes, indeed. Have you tried it before?” Elizabeth asked.

No. But I remember I read about them and we always wanted to try them out with my friend, but she left before we could and...” Eilish sighed.

We are definitely going to make some smores,” Thomas suggested. “But first we should eat some proper food!” He felt he had to tame the two sweettooths who were eager to try the sweets at once. Everybody laughed again. “May-be we can make some music until everything’s ready?” he suggested, taking out his bodhran. “Samuel has a violin and my Liz has a wonderful voice. And you, Eilish, can accompany us on your recorder.”

Eilish looked down at her feet. “I... I don’t know. I’m not used to performing with other people. May-be... I can just listen to you now. Besides, it would be good for someone to keep an eye on the meat.” She certainly wasn’t ready to play or sing just yet. The others didn’t want to push her as well.

It’s fine, dear. We need a good audience as well. But as soon as you want to join in, we’d love to have you in our band!” Elizabeth said.

Eilish moved just enough to have a nice view of the band.

When they started to play it seemed they had chosen an array of Eilish’s favourite Irish tunes. It must be Samuel’s doing, Eilish reckoned with a smile. Who else would know what her favourites were. Or may-be they just happened to like the exact same songs. Her eyes flitted to the angel, who was absorbed in playing the violin and had closed his eyes. It was a perfect moment to take a better look at the angel. So she just let her eyes rest on Samuel until he opened his eyes and cast her a gentle look. Eilish turned away shyly. But as soon as she thought it was safe to look again, she couldn’t help but do it. Eilish’s shy curiosity was cute, Samuel thought. He smiled to himself when he realized how Eilish was trying to steal glances at him.

In the meantime meat had become ready and Eilish put it in a bowl. The band had decided to play some more. When they started “Molly Malone”, Eilish couldn’t help but join in. She shifted her nearer to the bench not to face the band directly, but rather sit next to them, and took her recorder to play. She couldn’t see everyone’s faces lighting up when they saw the timid girl finally plucking up her courage. They were just so happy to see her so joyful and relaxed.

After finishing this one they decided to do a reprise of “I’ll Tell Me Ma”, before resting to eat. By the time the song ended everyone was laughing heartily, because this time Elizabeth had stood up and acted out the lyrics while Samuel and Thomas both joined in with the chorus of “She is handsome, she is pretty.” Eilish was giggling, covering her mouth with both her hands like she often did. Elizabeth was out of breath with singing and laughing and Thomas continued on his own with “She is handsome” for a little while. Everyone felt so happy.

The meat and salad were delicious and the ash-baked potatoes proved to be a hit as well after Eilish had shown them how to “properly” eat it – she cut it in half and put salt and butter on both halves. Then she took a spoon and scooped out its delicious content. Even though soon everyone’s hands looked like they had swept a chimney with their fingers they decided this is the best meal ever.

Oh, this is just so good. We used to do that when we were kids, but that was a looooong time ago,” Thomas laughed.

But now it’s time for dessert!” Elizabeth rejoiced and gave everyone two cookies and a marshmallow on a stick. After grilling the marshmallow they squeezed the melted candy between two cookies and enjoyed the explosion of sweetness in their mouths. With the sweet root beer they had had before Eilish was soon feeling she’s going to a have a sugar rush. But she didn’t mind at all. It was the first time in years she had felt so light-hearted and happy. And what a company she was in! If the rest of the natives prove to be as wonderful as these people she certainly is among the best possible crowd she could imagine.

Eilish didn’t want this evening to end. Ever. But after a while everyone began to feel tired and sleepy. Even the fire had faded, giving out just a faint reddish glow. Everybody helped to carry the things back to the house. Eilish only left her blanket, and the grill pan which still needed to cool down. Even though it had been a long night Eilish still decided to sit some more to contemplate over everything. She didn’t feel like sleeping. When Samuel and the O’Malleys left, Eilish stood on the beach and watched them go. To her joy Samuel turned around to wave her for one last time. Eilish smiled to him, even though she still wasn’t looking into his face.

See you soon!” she whispered into the darkness. Samuel had promised to come back in a couple of days to take a look at the chimney so Eilish could use the stove and oven properly. It was going to be a long wait, Eilish thought. It was sad to see them go. All of them . But now she had much more hope for the future.

The night saw Eilish lying on the tartan blanket, staring at the stars. The fire was warming her nicely although the night had been warm enough, even without the fire. Tiddy had been coming and going that evening, but now she came to Eilish, made a few rounds around herself and curled up to sleep next to Eilish’s side. Stroking her, the girl silently sent some words of gratitude towards the sky. It was really hard to believe so many wonderful things had happened to her since she found this place. And now Samuel. She just couldn’t stop thinking about the endearing angel. Her guardian angel. A friend.

Smiling, she closed her eyes and let the sound of the waves lull her to sleep under the clear sky. She slept until the sun was high enough to stroke her face with the first rays from the other side of the island. At first she couldn’t realize where she was. She snuggled under the blanket and after a few seconds opened her eyes. Only then she noticed she was actually sleeping under her quilt which she didn’t remember bringing the previous day. She lifted her head and leaned on her elbows to look around. It was quiet and there was nobody around, only Tiddy was still softly snuffling beside her. Had she been dreaming all along? In that case it was certainly the most beautiful dream. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But she would find out the truth soon enough.

Works Cited:
Astrid Lindgren's The Brothers Lionheart
Disney's Lady and the Tramp
The Lord of the Rings
“I’ll Tell Me Ma”
"Molly Malone"

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