In last week's episode of Dallas in Wonderland II, Dallas and Campbell found themselves in Wonderland at last, although the way they arrived could have been better. Now, what to do, where to go? And how to prove to the outside world that Dallas is not crazy? Not to mention how do they get back? The adventure begins in this week's installment of Dallas in Wonderland II! Don't forget to visit the other Briefers, whose links follow my tale. Enjoy!
Dallas in Wonderland II: Chapter Fourteen
Their luck seemed to be holding. They’d found a convenient ford, one shallow enough to wade across without having to swim. Campbell suggested they remove their shoes, which seemed a sensible idea. Dallas held his in his left hand. The right was held tightly within Campbell’s secure grasp. They picked their way across the strawberry waters, emerging intact on the other side, none the worse for wear.
Despite being where they were, and despite the way they’d gotten there, Dallas found himself in high spirits. Campbell’s presence—his easy smile and unfailing good humor—were infectious. Even if, for just one dark moment, Dallas wished that Samuel were here, that Samuel was smiling at him in that way. But he pushed that thought aside and decided to enjoy the moment, and the company of his friend.
His best friend, actually. Best he’d ever had, if he were to be completely honest with himself.
Lost in thought, he hadn’t noticed Campbell had moved away from him, and for just a moment Dallas panicked, thinking he’d lost him. But then he noticed Campbell was just a few yards away, his long lean frame bent over the gently swaying flowers in the field, his face obscured by his long dark hair. Dallas wasn’t sure what he was doing, but then Campbell straightened, and he turned to Dallas with a smile, and Dallas’s heart started beating once more.
When Campbell rejoined Dallas, he held a string of flowers in his hand, woven into a circlet. He placed the pretty crown on Dallas’ head and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
“Just beautiful!” he declared. “And the flowers are nice too.” He gave Dallas a wink, and Dallas felt heat rise into his cheeks.
“You need to have your eyes checked,” he murmured. Campbell was the lovely one, truth be told. Dallas might be in love with Samuel Levi, but he wasn’t blind to the nurse’s charms. He cleared his throat to cover his confusion, unsure how to else to respond. “Let’s go see who’s at home, shall we?”
If Campbell expected anything more from Dallas, his face didn’t reflect the fact. He never stopped smiling at Dallas, and Dallas felt like a coward, but he didn’t know what else to do. And why was life so fucking complicated?
Dallas was worried that once they entered the woods, they might find it difficult to see, in the diminished light, the source of the smoke they’d seen. But luck was with them once again, as he spotted what appeared to be a well-worn path that wound between the trees.
His relieved breath exploded from his chest with a whoosh. The path was a narrow one, forcing them to walk single file. Dallas walked ahead, but close enough that they could easily converse.
“Hey Campbell,” he joked. “If we find a table with three bowls of porridge on it, I say let’s run.”
“What, you don’t want to find out which one is just right?” Campbell teased. “Maybe have a rest in a comfortable rocking chair?”
“Which could lead to a comfortable bed?” Dallas laughed. “No, I know what comes after that. I’d like to avoid becoming bear chow, thanks.”
“Then just watch out for large ovens too, and don’t put your head in just because some grandmotherly woman wants you to.”
“No problem. If the roof even looks like it’s made out of gingerbread, we are so outta there!”
The laughter flowed more easily now, at least on Dallas’ part. Things were good once more, and he was glad to know it. By the time they reached the small clearing, he’d convinced himself he was being silly. Campbell did not have anything but friendly, neighborly feelings toward him. Anything else was Dallas’ ego talking.
The cottage was made of weathered stone. It looked surprisingly sturdy, as if it had endured much in its lifetime and managed to come out on the right side.
“Maybe it’s the big bad wolf we should be looking for,” Campbell joked. “And the little pigs are inside. Or at least one of them.”
“One way to find out.” Dallas exchanged a look with Campbell, who nodded.
“Let’s do it,” Campbell encouraged him.
They approached the door together, both reaching for the brass knocker at the same time, before breaking into laughter.
“On three,” Campbell said. “One, two, three...”
Before they could knock, though, the door opened inward. “Come in,” a voice beckoned.
Make that two voices, speaking in unison.
Dallas wasn’t sure that was such a good idea, after all. Campbell took his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. “Shall we?” he asked, as they crossed the threshold together.
The small cottage was surprisingly well lit, a contrast to the dimness outside. A fire burned in the hearth, and torches set in sconces adorned the walls. On a table in the middle of the room was a blazing candelabra. Upon the table a roast pig glistened, a rosy apple held firmly between its porcine lips. For a moment, Dallas thought the curly tail twitched. But then he realized it was just a shadow from the fire. Thank goodness.
Standing beside the hearth a man stood, his back to them, his attention focused on a large cauldron that hung over the flames. He dipped a spoon into it, drew it out and tasted the contents with a loud smacking of lips, then discontentedly plunged it in again, along with a large dose of black pepper from a container in his other hand. He paid them no attention.
Standing beside the table were two young men, as alike as two people could ever hope to be without being one. Dark hair and intensely dark eyes, pale skin, and a dimpled chin. Each was dressed for the hunt: tight tan breeches that revealed everything, traditional red jacket, white shirt, black boots. Each carried a riding crop.
“Welcome to the feast!” they cried in unison. Behind them, the man standing over the cauldron sneezed.
to be continued
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