Pippin Pearmain has traded her placid existence in Lemonwood Cottage for a flurry of activity. There’s a ballet to demonstrate, and a crowded visit to Sydney where she makes an agreement with a man who can turn into a dog. She facilitates a proposal and fossicks on the beach for a special gift for her oldest friend. Her newest friend is on the horizon, and a book from the past will soon be making a comeback.
The decade-long lull in Pip’s life ended when she reconnected with her cousins, only to lose Cousin Lupin all over again. Since then, Lupin’s legacy continues to bring forth wonders.
Her lack of family still troubles her, but now there is a way to leave a legacy for the future anyway. A return to Delphinium Island brings reunions all over again. Mysteries abound, and some of them will slowly unwind to reveal a story that’s been generations in the making.
Pip learns that not every question has a clear answer for now. Maybe that’s a good thing. As Pip herself says, everyone should have some magic and mystery in their lives.
Jan came to stay at Lemonwood Cottage for a few days with Pip and Clarkia midway through June. That suited Pip because her cousin agreed to take her to the airport.
“It’ll give me a chance to check out sewing shops in the city,” as Jan put it.
Pip hadn’t realised Jan was interested in sewing, but now she saw it should have been obvious. All that applique of lavender and leaping beagles on pinafore bibs and shirts must be Jan’s own work. It seemed a wee bit surprising. Little Nanna Pearmain had been an expert embroiderer, but she was no relation to Jan.
Pip hoped Jan would enjoy her festival shirt when they went to Tales in Tune in July. Maybe she’d want to do her own embroidery.
Magda Saxer, Pip’s agent, had called two days after Star’s flying visit to inform Pip that the Forever gig was going ahead on the seventeenth of June, and would she please note down the booking details for her flight.
“And while you’re in the mood, there’s been a request for you to appear in a little documentary called Amateur Acclaim. There’s a decent appearance fee, and it seems to be a classy production.”
“Where would I have to go?” Pip asked. Until recently, she’d hardly left Jellico Bay in a decade. After the excitement of the festival, film, and ballet on Delphinium Island, she’d settled back into the cottage to embark on her first adventure with decoupage.
“They come to you—the idea is filming their subjects in their home environments. The crew will be at the Forever gig, so you can meet them informally before you decide.”
Pip spun the ring of kindness, which she had taken to wearing on her left ring finger back in April. Clarkia had probably noticed it, but she hadn’t commented.
That was the upside of being a card-carrying eccentric, Pip thought. One could wear a ring made from braided hair and no one would consider it odd. Well, no odder than all the other things one did.
“Thanks,” she said into the phone. “I’ll do that.”
“I understand why you might hesitate,” Magda said.
“You mean because it could so easily be an indulgent piece showcasing a quaint little woman who is a life-long amateur dancer.”
“Exactly.” Magda sounded grimly amused. “The term quirky might well come into play, more than once, as well.”
“One quirk or even the suspicion of a cute and the answer is no. Doubly so if anyone misuses unique or calls me a reclusive star.”
“What are your feelings regarding the term ingenue?” Magda sounded genuinely curious.
“I’d have to be young and endearingly innocent to be one of those again.”
“So you were one, once? I wondered.”
“Yes. Petite wide-eyed ingenue, I was called. Then I became diminutive, offbeat character actress.”
“How odd, to be defined by newspaper reviews.”
“Tell me about it,” Pip said.
“So, Amateur Acclaim. It’s your call.”
Pip heard a faint expensive clink as Magda put down her crystal whiskey glass.
Pip rarely drank alcohol, but her first agent, Sully, who had died suddenly in 2012, had downed copious drafts of Fagus Ale without obvious ill effects.
“If you’re going to drink, drink the best you can afford,” had been one of Sully’s favoured maxims. “That way you won’t overdo it, and you won’t be drinking rotgut.”
Magda, who had been Sully’s friend and who had lately taken up the role as Pip’s agent, enjoyed a dram of Tom Cat Hill single malt, an exclusive whiskey from a boutique distillery. She generally drank it from the kiss glass her husband had given her as a token of his devotion.
Pip had her own kiss cup, decorated with marigolds. It had been a gift to her fifty years before from a young man with whom she’d worked on the film The House of Heriot. She had loved that cup for decades, but until she met Alain Barfleur again at the Dance in Tune festival, she’d had no idea what it represented. It was a kiss of kindness, Alain had explained. That made it somewhat different from the glass Magda had, which was a kiss of married love.
There were enormous numbers of things Pip had not known until recently. If she hadn’t had a horror of buzz-terms and jargon, she might have said her learning curve was steeper than the sides of Mount O’Connor.
Magda added, “I wasn’t going to come to hold your hand when you do the Forever gig, since you organised it for yourself. But then I thought I could come anyway. I can so easily use the pixie forest gate. It debouches in a copse just a few minutes’ walk from Forever.”
“Oh.” Pip knew she probably sounded noncommittal. In her mind it was more like, Oh! Oh! Oho!
Pip restrained herself from dancing a jig of joy. Magda had mentioned that gateway before, but she hadn’t put the connotations together in her mind.
If I can find a pilot, I can go to the fossmere. No jumping in the sea and clambering up a rocky path. Just step through from a greenbelt into a magical forest.
The thoughts clinked together like interlocking rings.
Jane’s coming to the gig to reprise her role as Princess Hopeful. I can go to the fossmere with her when she goes home.
She thanked Magda, said sedately that she looked forward to seeing her at the Forever Studio, and ended the call.
She resumed her cautious application of glue to the wooden jar which was her first venture into decoupage.
Clarkia, shredding red cabbage for one of her inventive soups, stilled her knife and looked up. “You seem awfully pleased with yourself, Pip. As pleased as Mum seemed when Dad finally admitted that riding a high-powered motorbike was not in his best interests and traded it for a bush-basher. Mind, she didn’t nag him. There would have been no point. Sometimes people have to realise things on their own.”