Authors: Melyssa Williams
“Who knows? Most of Prue’s recipes are top secret. Keep your cat locked up.”
“I don’t have a cat. Hey, pets! Can pets be Lost?” Luke looks more interested in the answer to this question than he did about the answers to his missing father.
I laugh. “Sorry, no. At least, not as far as I know.”
He looks almost crestfallen. “I was hoping my dog that ran away when I was twelve didn’t really run away.”
“Who are you?” Meli suddenly bursts out. I’m so impolite I forgot to introduce Luke to the rest of my strange little family.
“Sorry, Meli! Luke, this is Amelia and her husband, Will. This is Luke Dawes.” Will does the same fork bow to Luke that he did to me as a greeting, but Meli shakes his hand warmly.
“You know who we are? What we are?” she marvels.
“I know,” I smile, grimly. “He doesn’t look like someone who builds time machines in his mother’s basement, does he?”
“Is she always this strange?” Luke mock whispers to Meli, who giggles. “Half the time I don’t know what she’s talking about. So, are you saying you’ve never had a pet?”
I don’t know when I ever said any such thing, but Luke is right, of course. I don’t know any Lost who has a pet.
“Well, I don’t really have what it takes to commit to an animal,” I respond, drily. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not very reliable.”
“That’s terrible. Every kid should have a dog, or a kitten, or a tarantula or something. I had a fish.”
“And a dog,” I remind him.
“Maybe he ran away because he was embarrassed of his name,” I suggest, stifling a laugh. Luke glares at me, but his eyes are twinkling with good nature.
“I should go. I told my mother I would stop by and see her newest painting.” Luke stands up and collects my empty plate with his. I follow him into the kitchen.
“Your mother is a painter?” I ask with interest.
“At the moment. Last month she was a sculptor. Luckily, my stepdad makes a lot of money so he can afford her artistic pursuits. We’re all just happy she’s off her violin phase; that was incredibly painful.”
“I imagine. When I started teaching myself the guitar it was a little painful as well. It belongs to Micki, so I can only practice at the shop.”
“Will you miss it?” He asks. He has already jumped to the correct conclusion that the guitar, just like a pet, won’t travel with me.
I shrug, trying not to think about it. “It’s only wood and strings. I’ve left more.”
“That sounds cryptic. Boyfriends, lovers, husbands?”
I roll my eyes. “Yes, several husbands.”
Luke winks at me. “I knew it. I’m watching you, Gray. See you around.”
And with those parting words, he is gone, leaving me alone in the kitchen with nothing but a sweet potato pie to keep me company.
In spite of feeling tired and taking a Nightfall pill, I am unable to fall asleep. After putting on my white nightgown, I sit on the window seat in my bedroom, staring out the window. Penny gave me a portable compact disk player and several compact disks when she upgraded to an Ipod; I find the whole thing amazing and mind boggling and modern although Penny laughingly assured me it is nothing but a dinosaur. Besides the music selection Penny gave me, I have checked out a whole stack of disks at the library and right now I am listening to a band called Air Supply. I cross my legs under my nightgown and turn up the volume as I watch the Blue Beast finally pull up to the curb below my window. I see
Israel get out of his car and walk slowly, as if he is tired, up our crooked steps to the front door. I glance at the glowing time on my alarm clock: 11:47. Someday we will lose Israel. Of all of us here in our house, he is the most disconnected at times. He stays out late and sometimes I don’t think he comes home at all. I’m scared that it’s only a matter of time before we lose him. I wish he would only be as attached to us as we all are to him, but I think that a solitary life has hardened him sometimes. It’s as though he has already said his goodbyes ahead of time. But me, I can’t. He keeps me grounded and secure and safe. He is a huge part of my home, the home that is a part of my soul and not just a town or a house or a period in time. When he is gone, it will be forever and I will never get that part of my soul back. I pull the little ear buds out of my ears and run out of my room, my bare feet barely skimming down the stairs. I round the corner at the bottom of the stairs and throw myself headlong into Israel. Anyone else would pull me off of them, maybe laugh at my impetuousness, ask me what is the matter, but Israel just holds me as tightly as I hold him, as if he knows exactly my reasons. He holds me firmly, his chin resting on the top of my head (I remember dimly I forgot to wash out the caramel syrup), and he doesn’t belittle me by pulling away first. I leave a wet spot on his button down shirt from my leaking eyes. He cups my face in his hands and looks at me for a moment.
“Go to sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Someday, that innocent expression will be a lie, I think, as I trudge back up the stairs. Someday I will wake up and he won’t be there, just like my guitar won’t be there, like Penny won’t be there, or Micki or Air Supply or toffee cream breves or Luke Dawes. What will I have when I don’t have the ones I have now? Prue will pass away eventually, even Dad will – sooner rather than later if he doesn’t stop drinking so much. Matthias and Harry are old. Meli and Will will eventually have children and possibly go a separate way than I. Will I be middle aged and traveling alone? I wish, not for the first time, that I had Rose. It is selfish, this obsessive need to be near her, and I can’t lie to myself. Of course I am worried for her, scared of what she may have been through without us by her side, not wanting her to travel alone anymore, but ultimately, I am terrified of being completely and utterly alone. I push open my cracked window to let in more of the night air; I feel stifling hot all of a sudden, and my nightgown feels more like a heavy velvet cape that traps me beneath its folds. The breeze through the window lifts the ends of my hair and I close my eyes. I can still hear the wind moving quickly through the trees below.
it tells me,
When I wake the next morning, I have an idea, as if sleeping has brought me clarity of mind. I will not go on the assumption that Rose is traveling alone, but rather look for other Lost who may know her. She herself may be hard to locate, but perhaps her traveling partners – if they exist – will be easier. Also, I have laundry to do and the Laundromat that I frequent isn’t far from the shelter and the soup kitchen: a good place to start if I hope to find people like me. I skip a shower and instead wash out the sticky strands of hair in the sink, throw on my cleanest clothes, and grab Israel’s car keys on my way out the door. I have only driven once and it was a bit of a disaster (Israel tried giving me a driving lesson once but I nearly hit Gladys’ cat and Is wasn’t the most patient teacher), but I am not going to walk clear across town with three basketfuls of laundry. Typically, Emme and I go together with her mother, Bea, driving because Bea spent quite a few years in her twenties in the 1960s and knows cars. But it doesn’t look that difficult really and since I’m the one who helped Israel study the driver’s manual, I know most of the rules and laws. I see the same cat now as I slide all my laundry in the backseat.
“Shoo!” I clap my hands at it and slam the door extra hard, hoping to frighten it away. It sits on the curb, washing its paws and eyeing me with its green eyes.
I have to figure out how to adjust the driver’s seat which takes a minute. Finally, I slide it up quite a ways so that my feet can reach the pedals.
Gas on right, brake on left,
I take a deep breath. I can’t seem to move the gear shift and then I locate the small button where my thumb should be and press. Still nothing. I press the brake lightly and the button simultaneously and the gear shift jumps several positions. I try it again, putting it back in Park so that I can do it more slowly and make sure I will end up in Drive and not in Reverse or whatever else those other positions perform. What is 1 and 2, I wonder, and Neutral? I don’t remember these from the driver’s manual and I hope with fervor they aren’t necessary to get me to the Laundromat. I edge incredibly slowly away from the curb and even remember to signal, although there is no one behind me or in front of me to see it.
“Stop watching me, cat,” I mutter, as I pull the Beast into the street. “You’re making me nervous.”
The whole city seems deserted and whenever I do pass someone I try to look as casual and confident as possible, though I am sweating with nerves and driving at such a crawl I know I probably could have walked it quicker. With each turn or stop I make, I grow a little more confident and by the time I am halfway to my destination, I am calm enough to turn on the compact disk I brought with me. Since I am usually in charge of the music as a passenger in the Blue Beast, I can find the controls without even looking at them, and I turn up Fleetwood Mac good and loud. I also feel confident enough now to pry my let my left hand off the steering wheel and dangle my arm out the window as I drive, and I am doing quite well at this driving thing, I think. I am even feeling a bit smug, maybe even perky, until I get to the street my destinations are on and then I begin to panic a bit; the parking situation is less than ideal. The Laundromat is recessed in the middle of an old brick and mortar building that still has a huge wrap-around sign advertising Woolworths even though there is no Woolworths to be found. The Laundromat itself is being hugged, nearly squeezed to death by the look of it, by a sub sandwich shop on one side and a beauty parlor on the other. Upstairs, two stories high, are what appear to be office buildings or maybe cheap apartments. I cruise by very slowly, trying to determine by craning my neck, if there is an alley or something behind the building that can be used as an alternative to parking besides the blasted street. No such luck for me, and I sigh, as I turn the Blue Beast around the block and try to prepare myself for parallel parking.
I bite my lip and crawl to a stop in front of the spot that looks the most available: a space between a pickup truck and a van that looks large enough for a tank, yet still too small to wriggle the Beast into properly. I wipe my sweaty palms on my skirt and check the rear view mirror the way I’ve seen
Israel do. Parallel parking
in the driver’s manual and I
recall reading it, but the head knowledge doesn’t seem to be helping. I put the Beast into Reverse and crank the wheel, but it takes me a full minute to get up enough courage to release the brake and press the gas. Instantly I know I have turned the wheel in the wrong direction as I am edging away from the sidewalk and the parking space instead of into it. I creep back up to my original starting point and try again, this time turning the wheel the other direction and saying a little prayer. It feels like it takes a week, back and forth, back and forth, inches at a time, but I finally get the car where it needs to go. I am feeling quite pleased with myself as I pull two of my laundry baskets out of the car and slam the door shut with my foot.
The bells above the doorway to the Laundromat give a rusty jingle as I enter and my eyes adjust to the dimly lit space. I am the only one here at the moment, although a dryer spins noisily nearby with a pink plastic bin bouncing on top. I pick my washers and deposit my coins which had come from my tip jar at the coffee shop. Although the driving and the money and the less than convenient local for my wash day seems like a hassle to some – say, Penny for example – it is worlds better than ways I have previously laundered my clothing. I have spent the largest chunk of my teenage years in the eighteen hundreds; first in
Europe as a 13 year old, and then in Portugal later, which was where I went to the little missionary school. Wash day was every Monday and without Prue’s capable hands and knowledge, Dad and I would have worn dirty clothes every day, for it was such a difficult and time consuming chore. Just fetching the water took the whole morning and I remember trying to keep up with Prue and her thick, strong legs as we went back and forth from the river to the copper, the big cauldron that was the laundry’s ultimate destination. By noon time, my shoulders and back were aching and my fingers were cramping from grasping the buckets so tightly. Dad would chop wood almost all day long, stoking the fire between his chopping and taking swigs from an always present bottle of homemade whiskey. Why we gave him an ax I will never know, but desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose. Then came the scrubbing part, with lye soap, that hurt the calluses on my hands that had formed from carrying the buckets, the wringing, the hanging out to dry along all the trees, and my least favorite part of all: the sewing on of all the buttons we had removed so they wouldn’t be lost or broken during the scrubbing. I can’t say why I hated that part the most; I think it was because we were almost done, almost finished, the hard part over, the water tipped over and spilled out, the fire dying down, supper in sight, and still we had these blasted buttons. Prue, in spite of her large overworked hands, has nimble fingers with a needle and she is a taskmaster when it comes to needlework. I always and forever wanted to rush though it, sewing on buttons willy-nilly, not caring what it looked like or if they lined up properly on the clothing. After all, we’d rip them all off next Monday anyway, so what was the point? But Prue liked things done properly and neatly and if I slacked off, if my stitches were too large and not pulled tightly enough or the button too wobbly, she’d pull it out and make me start anew. I would sit there, daydreaming of being brave enough to not obey Prue’s commands, and make my fingers pull that needle in and out, in and out, spurred on by the smell of biscuits and last night’s ham and fresh tea brewing. The sun would be gone by the time we finished, and supper never tasted as good any other day of the week as it did on Mondays. I finger my blouse’s buttons now, remembering, as I watch my pile of clothes toss merrily in the washing machine in front of me, turning and spinning in the suds. If only someone had invented washing machines earlier, I think; but no, as much as I hated Mondays back then, I love the memories of them just as fiercely now. I can still feel those calluses on my palms and fingers, phantom leftovers from memories past.