Ellen placed the slippers back on the stack of papers.
Her mother placed a bowl of soup and a plate with a sandwich on it in front of her.
When her mother finally sat down and Ellen was patting the slippers, Saundra could suddenly smell the soup and sandwich. The pungent aroma of the tomatoes shocked her and made her stomach react. For a moment she thought she was going to be sick.
“Saundra? Are you alright?” her mother asked with a concerned look on her face.
“I’m not sure… I don’t feel so good.”
“Come now, child. You’re just hungry.” Ellen countered her mother’s concern. “She’s fine, Jen. There’s nothing to be concerned about. She’ll feel better once she has some food in her. She’s been up in that dust and mildew all morning. You should consider keeping her downstairs this afternoon.”
Her mother nodded, looking at her as if she was broken and her aunt knew how to fix her.
Saundra fought the nausea back and scooped up a spoon full of soup. When she had swallowed the acidic sweet mixture and ripped off a crumbling piece of the melted cheese and bread to force it down, she smiled up at her mother.
“I’m fine, see,” she said to help her mother relax and forget her aunt’s suggestion. As she scooped more soup into her mouth and struggled to keep it down, she stared at the shimmering shoes at the end of the table. How could she get them now? Why was Aunt Ellen protecting them so?
Saundra continued to eat her sandwich quietly while she struggled with the reality that she didn’t want to believe. Her aunt was the dragon’s agent. Earlier that same day she had believed her sister had taken the slippers, but there they were and her aunt was guarding them. What was she going to do? Maybe she could cast a spell on her aunt to get them back.
She ate a few more bites while she decided just what she would need to cast the right spell. She looked down at the table and saw the wand again. That was a start, but she didn’t have anything else to work with except the bowl of soup.
She considered the possible outcome of using tomato soup and decided it was worth a try. When everyone was looking at their own food, she picked up her wand from beside her napkin. The movement caught her mother’s eye but it was too late to stop, the web of the spell was already being spun. She pointed the wand at her bowl and waved it in a circle just over the surface of the soup. With the little incantation running through her head she pointed the wand straight into the air and thought about getting the slippers from her aunt. Satisfied that she had cast the spell as well as she could, she placed the wand back on the table, picked up her spoon, and ate a few more bites. Only time would tell.
When Saundra was convinced the spell was not going to work—it was based on tomato soup, after all—Kelly spoke up from her own bowl. “Aunt Ellen, where did you find those slippers? Saundra had been playing with them for days before the funeral. She couldn’t find them this morning, and it really upset her.”
Saundra looked over her half-eaten sandwich at her aunt, who placed her spoon delicately in her bowl. She didn’t even react to the last part of Kelly’s question.
“It’s the most interesting thing,” she said. “I had forgotten all about those slippers until the other day. I went upstairs to look around, you know, to see what we needed to move and what we needed to get rid of and there they were, hanging on that old full length mirror. So I took them down. I thought I might as well take them home with me.”
Saundra's heart skipped at the thought of Ellen taking the slipper where she would never be able to get them back. She would never be a Yeoman if she couldn't finish this simple mission.
“But why are they important? Why did you even want them? Saundra really liked them. Maybe you could let her have them.”
Ellen looked unsure of her answer. She chewed on her lip a little. After she had taken a few moments, she finally answered, “Of course she can play with them. I certainly enjoyed them for years. Just be careful with them.”
Saundra nodded her acceptance of the rules as she scooped the last bite of soup out of her bowl. A few more bites and lunch would be over, but she took her time so the power of the spell and the decision could clear the air a little. She could not wait to show them to the Yeoman upstairs. This would fulfill her quest. This would make her a Queen’s Yeoman. It was all she could do to sit still until everyone had finished their lunch.
After a few minutes of silence, Kelly pushed her empty bowl aside and looked up at their mother.
“Mom, I’d like to go read a few minutes before we get back to packing.”
“Why don’t you both go play a little while? I need to talk to your aunt.”
Kelly stood up and motioned to Saundra to come with her, but Saundra had something else on her mind. She stood up, plucked up her wand, stuck it in her belt again, and walked over to her aunt’s chair.
“Thank you, for letting me play with your slippers Aunt Ellen. I know they must mean a lot to you.”