Vivienne held the phone away from her ear, she was tiring of her daughter’s pontifications.
‘Yes Julia, I am staying alert, but the Prime Minister’s waffle was totally confusing, not just to me.’
‘All you have to do Mother is carry on the same, all over seventies still have to stay at home. You can go for a walk, there is no other reason for you to go out; James is organising your shopping and all your little clubs are closed.’
Vivienne gritted her teeth, Julia’s mother-in-law was a magistrate and chairwoman of something important, she didn’t go to ‘little clubs’. She tried to veer the conversation in another direction, though it was hard to talk about anything except The Virus these days.
‘So what do you think about the school business?’
‘Ridiculous, we’re keeping Jason and Jacintha at home, they are doing really well with the home schooling.’
‘Have they learnt to write letters? I haven’t had a thank you for their birthday presents yet.’
‘They have been busy with creative writing, such imaginations; they claim to have found a family of elves in the garden… got to go, I’ve got a conference call coming in.’
Vivienne’s hand was shaking as she put down her phone. She imagined Julia’s reaction if she told her she had seen a tiny elf in her garden. Of course it must have been her imagination; too much isolation, too much time spent in the garden, though one could never spend too much time outside, especially with James clumping around indoors. But she did credit her son with putting her on Instagram, it was amazing that her new smart phone took such good photographs. Her pictures of flowers were getting quite a few Likes and she was appreciating the finer details of the blooms that she had not noticed before. That’s how she had seen him first, in a photo; pansies have faces, but this was no flower face smiling at her. She scrolled through the pictures she would certainly not put on Instagram. A little green arm, a pointy shoe poking out from the leaves. A six inch elf dressed in green was obviously not real, a trick of the light in the verdant foliage. Vivienne chuckled to herself; if he had been dressed in red and white stripes, like those strange little people the twins were obsessed with putting on shelves at Christmas, then she would have known she was not dreaming.
Without thinking she tiptoed to the wild corner of the garden, her haven created for butterflies and bees, not mythical creatures. A noise startled her and the dreadful cat from next door shot out from under a bush, across the lawn and up onto the fence. She felt a stab of fear, birds were not the only creatures in danger from the cat, she tried to dismiss the image of thin green legs dangling out of the cat’s mouth.
For goodness sake Viv, pull yourself together, if James and Julia knew what was going on in your mind they would have you in a care home full of Covid cases.
If she knelt down in the soft grass James would assume she was taking photographs, not looking for an elf. She must keep perfectly still. How quiet it was, no planes or traffic in the distance. The sun was on her back, her face in the shade, that’s how she knew it was not the sun in her eyes. There he was, standing boldly smiling up at her, perhaps knowing he was safe from the cat while she was there. Dressed in green, his face a chalky white in contrast to his rosebud lips and pink cheeks. She didn’t dare move, nor would it be right to let her mobile phone come between them, scaring him or intruding on this special moment. Now he was laughing, was there a tiny sound or was it mirth in his expression? No wonder, she must look like an ugly ogre to him with his tiny perfect features…
‘Mother, Motherrr, where are you, someone on the house phone for you…’
The tiny creature’s face flashed with fear and with a sad wave he slipped back into the undergrowth.