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Authors: Melyssa Williams

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BOOK: Shadows Gray
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“Sonnet Gray.  But I get to be Sherlock.  I’d better get back to work.”  I stand up and wonder if I should shake his hand, hug him, something.

Gray,” he says. “Stay out of trouble. I’ll bring in those photos tomorrow night.”

I’m so tired when I get off my shift and finish sweeping and mopping and counting the money in the register.  Matthias and Harry wait patiently for me, sometimes sitting at their table, sometimes helping me by taking out the trash and wiping down tables.  They don’t seem to have noticed my antics from earlier and they don’t seem as though anything is amiss.  They didn’t travel with us until about ten years ago and they never knew Rose.  They know the story though.  All the Lost have stories.  By the time I am able to leave the shop clean and ready for opening tomorrow morning, it’s after
midnight.  I feel bad on nights like this because no one at home can fall asleep without me for fear of traveling on by themselves.  No one can sleep until we are all together.  Meli will be irritated because I know she has to watch the kids tomorrow, early.  We finish walking home in silence and enter our little brown house quietly.  I was right about Meli; she shoots me a glare and a tight-lipped goodnight before she shuts her and Will’s bedroom door a little more forcefully than necessary.  Prue gets her nightly glass of water and reminds me to run the dishwasher if I’m going to dirty a plate tonight.  Dad pecks me on the cheek with his dry lips and absentmindedly settles into the couch with the reading lamp still on.  He sleeps there more often than he does in his bed, so I pull an afghan over his legs and switch off the lamp. Matthias and Harry tell me I sang beautifully and they retire for the night to the room they share, whistling
I’ll Be Seeing You. 
Israel is eating soup from a blue pottery bowl in the kitchen and I join him.

“What’s wrong?”  He asks. 
Israel sometimes seems as though he knows me the best.  His brown eyes look concerned.

“Do I look that bad?”  I joke lightly.

“You look like something bad happened,” he responds, leaning back against the counter.

I look like I’ve seen a ghost,
I think.
Because I did. 
Instead I choose my words carefully and speak softly so that my dad, curled up on the couch, can’t overhear.

“I saw Rose today.  I know it was her. I know I’m not mistaken. Do you think I’m crazy?  Or imagining things?  Is it possible that she didn’t stay in that century, that she can travel too?  That she’s Lost?”

Israel is silent so long I fear what he will say when he finally does speak.

“I’ve seen my family in the strangest places.  Sometimes I’ll turn a corner and I’ll see someone and I’m sure it’s my mother.  Other times I stare so long and so hard at someone that their features will start to resemble more and more my father.  I see my brothers in every little boy their ages. I always hope that we’ll meet up again one day.  It’s good to hope, Sonnet.  Hope doesn’t make you crazy. The absence of hope does.”

“You don’t believe me then?”  I feel like crying, but I also feel angry.

“Will that make it better? Do you want me to believe?” (
In your delusions?
is the unspoken ending to his question.)

“Do what you want,” I shoot back.  I turn my back on him and rummage through the cupboard until I find what I’m looking for: Nightfall pills.  Sleep being so important and vital to coordinate with your group, a Lost man long ago developed Nightfall pills.  Although I am exhausted and weary to the bone, I know I will need their assistance in turning my brain off and falling asleep tonight.  I swallow two of the lavender pills and go to bed, leaving
Israel in the kitchen in silence.

Despite the pills, which usually knock me into a dreamless, comatose kind of slumber, I am fitful and restless all night.  I feel stuck in that not quite asleep, not quite awake state like you feel at the very ending of a nightmare.  Too groggy and disoriented to wake up fully, but never reaching that refreshing, rejuvenating energy you get after a good night’s sleep.  I feel as though my insides are shutting down, everything is heavy and I am being pulled under by a suffocating fog and strange dreams.  My room is so dark and my dreams are dark too.  At first, I am young again, eating bread in our stone home in the seventeen hundreds.  I can see my mother sewing something by the fire.  I am lying on a pallet next to her; I can see her bare feet.  The fire burns hot, I can feel it on my face and on my legs and arms.  I hear my dad humming but I can’t see him.  I hear a little scuttling sound and then Rose, little three-year- old Rose, lies down beside me.  I can see her light blue eyes, mirror images of my own.  She wears a white gown and holds a small wooden toy in the shape of a bear.  As I watch her, she begins to grow.  Her features grow up, her baby fat melts away.  I look down at my own legs and they are growing too.  Rose reaches out and strokes my cheek, then my hair.  I still feel the fire burning brightly beside us.  I still hear my dad’s hums, see my mother’s feet.  Rose stops touching my face and her hand reaches down to hold mine.  She holds it softly for a moment, then tighter, then tighter still until I want to say
stop, that hurts!
  Her hand squeezes and it feels larger now, not like that of a small three year-old.  It squeezes violently then and pulls out of my grasp with such force that the nails scratch me.  I cry out, both in my dream and in reality, and wake, gasping.  I throw off the blankets and fumble for the light on the stand by my bed.  I turn it on, half sobbing.  The place on the bed next to me is warm as though a body had been there only seconds before and I cradle my bleeding hand, feeling frightened and very small.


Chapter Four


I bring my blanket from my bed and wrap myself in the recliner.  I spend the rest of the night next to the couch where Dad sleeps, snoring blissfully away the way he always does.  I am freezing cold, shivering and trembling, chilled almost to the bone, teeth chattering, my fingers and toes alternating between a state of numbness and bone-chilling pain.  It’s not the temperature of the room, it’s the way my body reacts to fear. It was the same when I was a little girl scared by a dream or a thunder storm.  I’d cocoon myself in quilts and shake like a leaf until the fear subsided.

To be frank, I am not one of those girls you read about in mystery novels.  If something goes bump in the night, you can be sure I won’t be the type to head down into a dark basement to investigate.  I’m not going to traipse off into the spooky attic, looking for mysterious answers. I’m not going to calmly take a shower if I hear a serial killer is on the loose in my neighborhood.  I’m more the “yell for help and hide under the covers” type.  I’m not particularly brave, and what happened in my bedroom frightened me.  I want nothing more than to reach out to someone, anyone, but knowing Prue would probably beat me with the bat she keeps by her bed just for such purposes, I curl my legs up in the chair and try to fall back asleep.  Whatever happened had to have been a strange nightmare; a nightmare that caused such anxiety that I scratched my own palm and wrist.  The dried scrapes looked like the leftovers of a cat fight.  Dark red and jagged, they run from the first line of my palm – where a palm reader would foretell the number of my children or my happiness or the length of my days, or some such thing – all the way past my wrist, halfway to the crook of my elbow.  Four parallel lines.  They ache even now. 

I am so grateful for morning because it means a chance to do something, anything, to make me less jumpy and paranoid.  I go into the kitchen and noisily begin breakfast at the first hint of dawn.  The sun has barely risen and shines as brightly as it can through our old dirty window and faded lace curtains.  I take out pots and pans and crack eggs and dip bread into vanilla and cinnamon-scented milk.  I let the slices sizzle on the griddle with bacon and make coffee.  I am being loud in the hopes that my household will wake up.  I am being a chef in the hopes that they won’t kill me.

is the first to enter my little sanctuary and I want to throw my arms around him.  I am shaking off last night like the bad dream it must have been and am determined to dismiss it from my mind.

“Why are you cooking?”
Israel yawns, taking out plates from the cupboard.  He looks tired; worse, he looks like he was up all night.  Perhaps we all ate something a bit off, a bit wonky, perhaps we all had terrifying dreams.

“Because I’m hungry,” I say happily.  At least I am trying to sound happy; the truth is I sound squeaky which is an uncomfortable sound for a deep-voiced girl like me.  I clear my throat and turn the kettle on for tea. 
Israel has spent most of his years in Europe and he prefers his caffeine in the form of tea leaves rather than coffee beans.

We don’t speak again as I flip the toast slices and add eggs to a pan to fry.  My bacon is burnt and all my eggs end up breaking, so I scramble them hurriedly. I sip hot coffee from my favorite mug, one shaped like Elvis Presley’s head.  Elvis is my very favorite artist and silence with Israel is one of my comforts and familiarities.  “
He is my rock
,” I think to myself.  Soon Meli and Will come in, and then Matthias and Harry.  I serve them all, handing out little feasts on our best cracked dinner plates and making witless conversation about anything I can think of.  I seem to be talking now just to keep myself from thinking too much, and it sounds like chatter to my ears.  I even out-talk Meli which is remarkable in and of itself.

“Here is your English Breakfast, Is,” I hand Israel his tea in my other favorite cup, one with a fat orange colored cat pictured.  I also have the same cat on a t-shirt, though Emme once tried to burn it after she claimed she only wanted to borrow it.  I know better now than to believe her when she compliments my fashion.  I had to cut off the burnt bottom just to salvage it, and now it’s so short I have to wear it under over-alls, a sort of revenge on Emme, so it worked out well.  It’s a double whammy fashion disaster now, she says.

Israel takes the cup, but his eyes look concerned when the sleeve of my white nightgown falls back towards my elbow.  He has seen my scratches.  He reaches out and rubs them lightly with his thumb. 
“What happened?”
He mouthed.  He knows already somehow I don’t want to speak of it with the others.

I shrug as though I either don’t recall or it isn’t important enough to mention. I suddenly don’t want to talk anymore and I definitely don’t want to talk about my arm.  It begins to throb again, and burn.

I eat, but the breakfast tastes wooden in my mouth.  I wash my bites down with coffee but it tastes of nothing.  I feel as though I want to jump out of my skin, especially the skin on my arm and wrist.  I hear Meli and Will debating something, and Harry interjecting gentle admonishments to them. I see Prue come out from her bedroom and push my father’s leg off the coffee table as he snores on.  I am aware of Israel watching me, looking perplexed.  I see Dad finally pick himself up off the couch and fold his blanket neatly; fluffing the pillow he leaves behind.  I see all this and hear all this, and yet, I feel far away, distant; like I am on the outside of our kitchen window, peering in, hearing snippets of conversations and softly spoken words.  Why, if it was just a dream, is it affecting me so?  I need to get a handle on myself.  I need to get out of this house.  First however, I need a bath.

Our bathroom is old, like the rest of our house, but it has a wonderful, deep tub.  After years in other centuries, where you’d never find something like that, much less instant hot water, I avail myself baths frequently.  It is a luxury that I dread missing when we leave, and leave we will eventually.  Inevitably.  An embarrassing amount of my tip money is squandered on bubble bath and oils.  I may not have good clothes or fancy hair, but I guarantee I smell good.  This morning I pour in a ginger and pear concoction that I paid far too much for and only use for special occasions.  That’s a ridiculous limit I’ve sternly set for myself; if I wake tomorrow in dusty
Egypt four hundred years in the past, I am really going to be angry with myself for wasting what I had left in the bottle.  So I pour in a few more drops before sliding in myself, up to my nose in fragrant bubbles.  I can’t help the sigh that escapes me when I hear knocking on the door only a scant few seconds later.  Without even moving the rest of my body, I can reach the doorknob and I open it obediently.  It swings by my head and I don’t even open my eyes to see who it is because I know it’s Meli.  She probably was left at the breakfast table, still talking, as everyone wandered off and now she’ll be looking for a captive audience.  Sure enough, when I open my eyes just a slit, Meli is sitting on the counter and she begins a long narrative about Will and work and babies and marriage and cars and the house and this century and the weather and politics and religion.  I do love Meli dearly, but she is not helping the pounding in my head that began after my nightmare and is building to a rousing crescendo.  I “mmm” and “uh huh” while I shave my legs (not a requirement of womanhood I shall miss if I do wake up in Egypt centuries past).  I wash my hair and then condition it and scrub my face with a pink washcloth I bought used at a garage sale.  It has white ribbon around the edges that is silky when dry but rough when it gets wet, and the initials TS have been embroidered in one corner.  I like to wonder who TS is or was and how her handiwork ended up in someone’s garage sale and finally in my hand.  Was TS someone’s grandmother?  No one these days would do such an old fashioned thing as to hand-embroider a washcloth.  But I am an old-fashioned girl, literally, as old fashioned as one can get.  I would have been alive many years before TS and I will be alive many years after she is only a memory, only I will have nothing to leave behind for my descendents to sell, a thought that is vaguely sad to me.  I decide to embroider myself my own initials on my own set of towels.  Take that, Fate or Destiny or God or whoever pulls my marionette strings.  I may be a puppet, but I can be a rebellious one. 

BOOK: Shadows Gray
6.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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