Riddles on the Wind (4)

Oxford, 1972.

“Libby! Answer me!” Gabby pounded on the door again.

“Maybe we should get the bursar,” Betsy was torn between trying to force the door and fleeing downstairs.

Gabby stopped pounding on the door. “Fine. Go get him. Make sure he brings a key. I know something’s wrong. Libby wouldn’t miss class.”

Betsy ran down the stairs to the domestic Bursar’s office. She was back in a few minutes, with Miles Stour, the bursar. He was a bit out of breath, but he had the keys in his hand.

“Better not be one of your pranks,” he said as he opened up the door. He was about to give them more of his thoughts when the door swung open. The room was a mess. The two girls screamed at the same time as they launched themselves into the room towards a crumpled form on the floor. He was half way down the stairs when one girl screamed at him to call an ambulance.

“Sir? Will she be alright?” Gabby tried to ask the doctor as he moved down the hall and away from the room that they’d taken Libby.

He stopped and turned. “Are you one of the girls that found her?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know where her parents are? Any guardian?”

“No. I don’t. Her parents were in Canada. Up doing some sort of research in the Yukon.”

He sighed. “Would the college know of anyone?”

Gabby thought for a moment. “No, but my parents might stand as guardian until someone was found.”

He nodded and gestured for her to follow him.

Three hours later, Gabby’s parents came out of the conference room to where Gabby waited with Joan and Betsy.

“Girls, Libby will be alright. She was terribly dehydrated and seems to have suffered some sort of seizure.” Gabby’s father paused to let this sink it. The doctors had feared drugs, which were beginning to be seen more and more in the Oxbridge circles, but there had been no trace in Libby’s blood. They finally wrote it down as ‘unknown seizure’.

“When can we visit her?” Betsy was still teary eyed.

“Tomorrow. The doctors want a few hours to bring her back. She’d been very near death. If you three hadn’t been worried, they might not have found her until it was too late.”

We’re very proud of you girls,” Gabby’s mum mentioned. “Now we need to find a way to contact her parents.”

The next day, with the bursar’s permission, the girls went through Libby’s room. They found her address book. After returning to Gabby’s rooms, they began calling people. They started with those of the same last name, Paquet. No one answered the first number. They moved on, and finally someone named Tilly answered the phone. It was some aunt, and she said she’d come as fast as she could. When they’d tried to describe where Libby was, the woman said she was English, and knew Oxford.

The three girls walked down the hall of the hospital, and waited to be admitted into Libby’s room. When they went in, Libby was curled up with a book, looking pale but better than when they’d found her. She looked up and smiled. Thank you.”

All three spoke at once.

“Anything for a friend.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“Just so glad you’re alright. We called an aunt of yours, and she’s coming over,” Betsy explained.

Libby blinked. “Who?” Her voice was still a bit gruff.

“Tilly Paquet. She was the first person who actually answered a phone.” Betsy suddenly felt unsure. “We… we didn’t know how to find your parents.”

Libby nodded. “She’s alright. At least you found someone.”

“What happened Libby?” asked Joan.

Libby looked at the three, as they set down flowers, grapes, chocolate and their coats. She took a deep breath. “This will sound strange, but I was sitting in a the library when I had this horrid pain in my side. I thought I was going to be ill, right there in the Bodleian. I ran, and headed home, thinking I was going to be terribly ill, but all I could think about was my mum.”

“Your mum?” asked Gabby.

“Yes. I… I had this feeling that something dreadful had happened. That she is dead. Then I just curled up in a ball and cried. Next thing I know, I’m in hospital.”

“Did you tell the doctor that?” asked Joan.

Libby nodded. “Mum and Dad are up in the Yukon somewhere, and they have been terribly hard to contact. I hadn’t heard from them in a bit, and they should have contacted my aunts or my cousins by now. I…” She began to cry.

The girls moved forward to hug her.

Tilly moved through the airport and out to the nearest taxi. He loaded her luggage and headed for Paddington Station. From there she caught the next train to Oxford. The Churchhill Hospital was familiar to Tilly. She was dropped there by the cabbie at tea time. She was exhausted, but hoped that Libellule would be waiting for her. The nursing sister at the desk was brisk, but responded when Tilly informed her of the relationship to one of their patients.

“Come with me.” The sister walked briskly down the hall and then into a room.

Tilly followed and found that Libellule was asleep. “I’ll just wait for her to wake.”

The sister nodded and left.

Tilly made herself comfortable and waited. It didn’t take long before Libellule stirred, stretched and woke. She looked over to see a thin grey haired woman sitting quietly in the chair by the door.

“Aunty Tilly.”

“Libellule, how are you?” Tilly moved forward to embrace her niece.

“Tired, but better. Has… has anyone heard from Maman?”

“No. We can’t find them.”

Libellule nodded. “I think… that Maman is dead. I hurt so bad, yet no injury. An when I call for her, I can’t here her anymore.”

Tilly took this all in. Everyone knew that Libellule had been able to hear all of the shifters from the time she was very little. Only Celia had had that talent, and even she had limitations. “Are you certain?”

Libellule nodded. “I try and try. I hear all my cousins, I even here Granpere Buster. He crazy lonely.”

Tilly nodded. The whole family shattered in slow motion when Natalie died, and her husband Brian had never recovered. Those left in the valley did there best, but there were just too many people.

“Do you want to come home with me?” Tilly wasn’t certain what the right course of action was, but she had to offer.

Libellule thought for a moment. “I… I don’t know. Part of me wants to run to where I last knew they were, and the other part of me wants to run and hide. I have never felt so alone. I always here Maman.”

“Can you hear your papa?”

“Non. Sometimes I hear him, like the day he came to get Maman and I. Or when he is very happy. Now, I hear nothing. I worry. Papa, he will live so long and now…” Her voice drifted off.

Tilly stood up and wrapped her arms around her niece. “If you’d like, I’ll talk to the doctors and see if you can at least leave the hospital.”

Libellule nodded.

Two hours later, Tilly and Libellule left hospital and headed for the Royal Oxford Hotel. Room service brought tea and a light supper. The two women talked while they ate. Tilly made a few calls while Libellule took a bath.

“Yes, let me know the moment you discover anything. Thank you Rose.”

2 thoughts on “Riddles on the Wind (4)

  1. Honourscot says:

    this is shaping up well and stretching our memories as we scrabble around our brains trying to identify people . well done.

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