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Green Grove, Chapter 2

By: Mary A
Beta: Malinornë
Disclaimer: I dare anyone to sue me over this one.
Timeline: Now
Summary: A young woman wakes up in a strange place after a car accident.

"I don't understand," Krystle said as she hung up the phone with a little more force than necessary. "No one even had an answering machine on for me to leave a message, it doesn't make any sense."

"It's the phones here, I bet," offered Stacey. "They look really old fashioned."

It was true, they were the clunky kind that had a rotary dial and a detached handset, with a spiral cord that instantly tangled itself into a knot. Krystle had to ask for help with dialing because she only had one hand to hold the handset with; the soft collar she wore prevented her from cradling it at her neck, and each time she tried to spin the dial, the phone would scoot away from her.

"That doesn't make sense either, the phone lines should all work the same."

"You never know, it could be that these antique phones can't reach all the way to the coast." Stacey had never used a phone with a rotary dial instead of buttons to push. And no redial feature.

Although Krystle had tried to stay cheerful; now she was starting to get worried. According to what the ambulance crew told the admitting clerk, her car had been badly damaged, and was not drivable. Totaled. And that was not the worst of it.

Her purse was still inside it, with her insurance company information, not to mention her cell phone and credit cards. What was left of her car was probably towed somewhere by now and she did not look forward to coping with that, too, by herself. At least Chips was safe, somewhere, and that was a relief.

"That is so cool about your dog, Chips," sighed Stacey, as if she was a mind-reader. "What if she got left in your car? That paramedic who brought her along in the ambulance must be a real great guy, huh?"

Together, she and Krystle speculated over the gallantry and therefore assumed handsomeness of Chips' rescuer. They decided that he just had to be nice looking to perform such a heroically good deed. A regular knight in shining armor type. It felt good to talk about something else besides the accident.

"If I ever get a chance to meet him in person," announced Krystle, already infatuated, "I am going to kiss him, I swear!"

"Then I hope he's cute!" Stacey giggled. "Because I want to kiss him, too!"

A nurse came around at regular intervals to check pulses, temperatures, and blood pressures all around the observation ward. At these times, Krystle and Stacey pretended to be resting, as ordered, but as soon as the rounds were through, they continued to chat through the night.

"I have never been in a hospital before," said Stacey. "Are they always like this? Sheesh, if I was trying to sleep then she would have woken me up like twice so far. They call this rest?"

For probably the first time since she was brought to her observation bed, Krystle took a good look around her. There was nothing unusual about the place, it seemed quite clinical, if spare. There were not a lot of high tech gadgets or monitors, but the beds were comfortable and the floors were clean.

"This isn't a hospital, its some sort of clinic," she said. "Urgent care. Have you ever been here before, to Green Grove?"

"No, and neither have my parents, they were both complaining that they couldn't see much of the area when they got here because of the fog. They were following the bus I was in, but they never got in a wreck, so they followed the ambulance here. When I finally got to talk to them, Dad said he never drove in fog so thick before and that he wouldn't have been able to find his way here again without a map and a compass."

"You know what that means, don't you?" Krystle paused for suspense and then stage-whispered, "Maybe we really are in Middle-earth?

"Ooh, don't say that!" Stacey covered her mouth, as if the information was so shocking that she might shriek. Then, after glancing around the room, she whispered back, "Wouldn't it be so cool if that paramedic who rescued your dog was really an elf?"

"Only if he looks just like Legolas, but then I would never stop kissing him."

"Think about it. Elves love animals, and that's why your dog never bit him!"

"You two are Tolkien fans?" It was the nurse again, but she was carrying a tray with some glasses of water, ice gently tinkled inside of them, which she held out for to them to take one each.

"Sort of," answered Stacey. "I love the movies, but I never read the books. I tried, honest."

"Well, you will probably get a kick out of this, then. Green Grove is famous for three things," said the nurse, proudly. "The first being that we are in the middle of the last stand of old growth fir in Northern California, the second is our hot springs, and the last is that Professor Tolkien had a vacation home here during his last years of life."

"Awesome," breathed Stacey. "He had a house here?"

"No, not a house, it's just a small log cabin out in the woods. Cute, too. It's a museum now, of sorts. And I guess you could say its famous with people who know people who know about it."

"Why did Tolkien come here to visit?" asked Krystle, a bit star-struck. "Because of the trees or was it for the hot springs?"

"I'm not really sure, but I think the story goes that he came to visit one year and fell in love with the place. A lot of people do that. Come here to visit and never leave."

"Wow," Stacey shifted her eyes to Krystle and nodded knowingly as she spoke. "Just like Lothlorien."

"Green Grove is famous?" For herself, Krystle was skeptical. "I've never heard of this place and I lived in California my whole life."

"They say that true Tolkien fans, the real fanatical ones, eventually hear about this place, but it is the rare individual who actually tries to find us. Green Grove isn't on any maps. Other people hear about the trees or the hot springs by word of mouth."

It turned out, according to the nurse, that there was nothing mystical about not being easy to locate. In order to be listed on a standard map, a town or village as small as Green Grove had to have a post office. They had none.

"We share a post office with the next town over," she explained. "So we don't miss having one."

Most of the people the nurse had ever known to visit there were not necessarily considered world renowned celebrities. Writers, linguists, scholars, and the like. They made a pilgrimage, she told them, to visit the little cabin because Tolkien had left a lot of interesting notes and drawings in a desk there that were on display to the public.

"The Professor died right before the college-age kids went nuts over The Hobbit, in the early nineteen-seventies that would have been, and we were flooded with visitors from all over the world for a while who had hunted us down."

"I would love to see that cabin," said Stacey to Krystle, after the informative nurse had left their bedsides, her tray load of water glasses making a sound like wind chimes as she distributed them around to other sleepless patients. "I bet elves live near it."

"My achy body would love to be in that hot spring pool," groaned Krystle; her whole left side hurt. She was one big bruise from her ribs down to her hip, which she saw when they put her in a gown, and she could feel every single inch of it.

They gave her a wrap-around type of gown, made of the same fabric as her sheets and pillowcase, that tied at her side instead of in the back. It was much more modest than the usual hospital garb, although not much more stylish. She had to get rid of her underwear in the restroom, after struggling to pull them back up, without success, with only one arm that worked and a collar around her neck that tried to strangle her while she was at it.

"Too bad I have a cast on my arm, or I would check out of here right now and go jump in the nearest one, have you ever been in a hot springs pool? They are like a spa, only stinky." Now, although she did not say it out loud, Krystle wished she had asked for more pain medication when the nurse was there, but she did not want to sound like a big baby at the time. Especially in front of Stacey, who was enough her junior to make her feel responsible to be a good role model.

"You could just hold your arm up out of the water," said Stacey. "You're lucky you don't have a full body cast." She proceeded to tell Krystle all about a friend of hers who had to wear a body cast, in the middle of summer, and another who had to wear casts on both legs and both arms, just think of that.

Instead of thinking of that, however, Krystle thought of how she was going to cope for the next few weeks with only one arm, and someone else's misery did not help her feel better at the moment.

The next time the nurse made her rounds, Stacey asked if any of the actors from the movies ever came to Green Grove.

"Actors? Actors. Hmm, let me think about that." The nurse was quiet for a long time while she checked their pulses, blood pressures, temperatures, but when she was finished, she said, "You remember the actor who played Saruman, the wizard, the bad guy? Christopher... something?" Krystle and Stacey nodded, of course they knew. "He came here during the summers until just a few years ago, as a matter of fact, but only for a few days at a time, and he brought Peter Jackson here for a visit, once."

"Peter Jackson!" Both of them shouted aloud, in unison.

"He was here?" asked Stacey. "Did you meet him?"

"Aw, now don't get so excited, he wasn't a patient or I wouldn't be able to even tell you that much. Really, this was all back when the movies were first running in theaters. We haven't seen many movie people around here since then, we aren't that glamorous."

"Movie people? Like who?"

Mostly, she told them, it was the movie's creative artists who wanted to draw some inspiration from a place where Tolkien visited that would come for a weekend or more. Green Grove was not a jet-setter's hot spot, just a quiet little town for those rare people who knew of its existence to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

"Her reaction was very interesting," said Stacey, her eyes narrow with suspicion, after the nurse moved on with her duties. "Did you see the way she kept looking over at that other nurse," she nodded at the well-lit desk in the center of the large room, "like she was afraid of being overheard?"

"No, I didn't see her do that." Krystle was feeling too tired and sore, and even a little too sorry for herself, to play this game anymore.

"She acted like maybe she wasn't supposed to tell us anything. Like this place is supposed to be a secret."

"There's lots of 'secret places' in California that only certain people know about, or are allowed into," said Krystle, a bit grumpily. "My dad used to go fishing near an abandoned gold mine in the Sierra's. He swore that there was a town there that time forgot and only he knew about. He took me there once, it was so boring, but it was really pretty."

"What was it like, the town? Did people wear old-fashioned clothes and stuff?"

"All I remember is we had to drive up into the mountains on a skinny dirt road and the store had bottles of orange and grape soda-pop in a big barrel full of ice, instead of a machine, right out front."

"Okay then, maybe she was hiding something else from us."

"Like what?"

Stacey did not answer, however, for at that moment the same nurse came back, although not equipped with her blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, or carrying water glasses. She did have a big smile on her face, like she had something to say that she knew would make them happy.

To Krystle's chagrin, Stacey asked, flat out, if Orlando Bloom had ever been there.

The nurse sighed, shook her head, and then shifted her eyes back and forth between the two of them, as if trying to decide what to say. Krystle, as grumpy and weary as she was, realized with a odd tingle down her spine that Stacey was on to something.

"Honestly, you two," whispered the nurse. "Listen, I'll be right back. I have something of a surprise for you." She said this last to Krystle before turning to leave.

"I told you," said the triumphant Stacey, bouncing on her bed. "I told you, I told you, I told you." She was not to be restrained now.

Before the nurse returned, Stacey had concluded, after weighing all the evidence, that Orlando was probably a patient here. He had been in the big pile-up and was in one of the beds at the other part of the clinic that the nurse kept running off to visit. To protect his privacy, his presence had to be kept a secret. It all made perfect sense.

"I think you're nuts," said Krystle. "But that nurse was hiding something." They both leaned out of their beds as far as they could to see through the door the nurse had gone through, but to no avail.

Finally, Stacey got out of her bed to investigate. She had been given crutches to keep her from stepping on her bandaged foot, and she 'crutched' a bit awkwardly over to the doorway and peeked around. Quickly, she turned back around and hopped back to her bed on one foot, while dragging her crutches along. The nurse followed almost directly behind her, pushing an empty wheelchair, and came to their beds again.

"You have a visitor," she told Krystle as she moved to assist her out of bed.

"I can walk!"

"No, better not, we have to go all the way outside."

"Oh my Gawd!" Stacey nearly shouted and was promptly shushed by the nurse. In a quieter but no less excited tone, she asked, "It's that ambulance guy, isn't it?"

Although the nurse would not say. Krystle was hopeful that her visitor was a family member. Except, why would they need to go outside?

Stacey had to come along, at least to the front door, and to convince the nurse she pointed out how badly she needed to practice using her crutches, since she almost broke her neck a minute ago. After getting Krystle into the wheelchair, the nurse left for a few minutes to fetch a blanket to cover her with; it was chilly outside.

"I gotta see this guy," Stacey whispered to Krystle. "Aren't you excited? Are you still going to kiss him?"

"How do you know its him?"

"If he is an elf..."

"Stacey," Krystle, a bit exasperated, held her hand up, palm forward, to stop her. "Give it up."

"No, for real, listen. Why else would you have to meet him outdoors, where its dark? Maybe so you can't tell he's an elf, duh." The nurse returned and they all went forward to see the mysterious visitor. Disappointment took some of the edge off of Stacey's excitement after they went through the door, and then down a hall which led only to a lobby.

There was no Orlando Bloom lying about recovering from his injuries, just a few dozen chairs, a couple of tables, and a set of double doors, in front of which Krystle's wheelchair was parked.

"Or maybe he is just really ugly," remarked Stacey, as the nurse left them to open the doors. "And doesn't want you to see what he looks like. You still have to kiss him."

As it turned out, the surprise visitor was not an elf, or a 'he', or even a human.

"Chips!" shrieked Krystle as the wiggling, joyful boxer attempted to leap up on her lap. Attached to her collar was a makeshift leash that looked suitable for a toy poodle, it was so flimsy. Holding the leash was the knight in shining armor hero, only she was not an elf, either. Her name was Sarah, and she was the one who drove the ambulance that brought Krystle there.

"You're the one who rescued Chips?"

"One and the same, ma'am," replied the paramedic as she knelt by the wheelchair. Chips could not seem to decide who she wanted to jump on and lick more. "She's a sweet doggy, isn't she?"

"You have to kiss her anyway!" hollered Stacey, hanging half-way out the door. "You said you would!" Krystle explained the comment and actually felt willing to kiss the woman, on the cheek at least.

"Oh that's okay," said Sarah. "I got plenty of kisses from this doggy."

The visit was over too soon, Chips had to return to the jail until morning and the nurse swore that Netty would have her neck if she caught them all outside at this hour. Stacey, not to be discouraged, waited until she was back in bed before she reminded the nurse that her question had never been answered.

"Well?" Stacey almost saucily confronted the nurse. "Has Orlando ever been here in Green Grove, or not?"

If Krystle had been the nurse, she told herself, she would have smacked Stacey. The nurse, however, looked over her shoulder and then back at both of them, again, like she had before, before replying.

"Do you both promise not to tell anyone?" She whispered.

They both swore 'not to tell'. For good measure, Stacey crossed her heart and hoped to die if she ever told anyone anything ever again for the rest of her life.

"The only reason I am going to tell you this is you're both leaving here in the morning."

To be continued in Chapter 3

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Posted: August 12, 2006

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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"