2. A Baked Casserole

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A clang sounded in the air and Elle looked up at the emerald canopies countless feet above her head. They shook in unison to the clanging. She ignored the intrusion and continued down a dirt path carved through the rainforest by several pairs of feet before her. Another clang rumbled louder and the forest shook violently around her once more.

"Mummy!" Maya's voice broke through the canopy. "Someone's at the door." The shaking became stronger and Elle woke with a sudden fright to find Maya hovering above her. Her unruly curls casting a halo around her small head. "Somebody's at the door," she said again.

The doorbell dinged again, sending Elle scrambling out of bed. "Coming. Hold on!" she yelled, fluttering around the room in search of something, anything, to put on under Blake's shirt. "Go see who that is, honey. Mummy needs to find pants." Maya nodded, bouncing off the bed. "Pants, pants..."Elle chanted to self, dropping on all four over a suitcase.

"Oh, hello!" she could hear a woman's voice greeting Maya with surprise. "Is your mummy or daddy home?"

"Mummy's finding pants," Maya informed, and Elle could feel colour flush her cheeks like a teenager.

"Oh, my. Will you go tell her the neighbour is here, dear?"

Embarrassed, Elle pulled on a pair of well-worn track pants and walked to the front door. "Sorry about that, I was just..." Elle cleared her throat, trying to look gracious and failing. The woman at the door was in her late thirties and eyed Elle's clothes with a polite smile.

"Morning," she said, "I live next door down to you. Saw you moving in yesterday. Thought I should come by and welcome you to the neighbourhood." She handed over a wicker basket full of oranges. "It's something from my garden."

Elle took the basket and smiled. "Thank you. They are one of Maya's favourite fruits."

"I'm Anna Tait."

Elle dropped the basket beside the door and shook Anna's hand. "Ellenor Grace and this is Maya."

"How do you do, Maya?" Maya extended her hand and shook Anna's, then turned shy and dug her big toe into the carpet. "She's a charmer!"

"Yes, she is," Elle opened the door wider. "Would you like to come in for a cup of tea and breakfast?"

Anna chuckled. "My dear, it's almost midday," and walked in.

Embarrassed once more, Elle closed the door. "Excuse the mess. I was up late unpacking."

"Moving is such a big task," Anna followed Elle into the kitchen, where the sight of cardboard boxes and scrunched newspaper greeted her. "You do have your work cut out, huh?"

Elle laughed. "I guess. Tea?"

Anna nodded, rolling up her sleeves. "Yes, please," and began gathering newspapers off the floor, collecting them into a cardboard box.

"Oh, no please, you shouldn't," Elle hesitated.

"Ellenor, when one needs help, one should always ask," Anna laughed. "And when one gets help without asking, then one should just smile and go about making tea."

Elle laughed and put on a pot of water to boil. "Is that a bit of British in your accent?"

"Yes, I've never fully lost it in all these years." She smiled and threw another load of newspaper in a box.

Elle crouched next to Anna and started clearing the floor alongside. "It's really nice of you to help."

"I think I came to the right place at the right time. I can do with the company and you can do with help." Anna rose to tie her long, auburn hair. "Now, come on, Maya, honey. Help Aunty Anna while mummy makes lunch."

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