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Authors: Melyssa Williams

Shadows Gray (7 page)

BOOK: Shadows Gray
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What exactly don’t I know?

Prue is packing up her cart when I return, hot and sweaty from my little river walk.  It’s a humid day and my feet are hot and sticky in my shoes.  I plop down dramatically on the stone wall behind the food cart and sigh loudly. It gets no response.  This childishness of mine needs to stop; I am eighteen years old.  I think.

Prue gives me no reaction other than to demand I move and count her tips - a large mason jar with a few meager handfuls of change.  As cranky and ornery as I am feeling, I am certainly not in the mood to take my life in my hands, so I obey.

“Nearly eight dollars,” I tell her, handing her the money.  “Not bad for a couple hours work.”  It isn’t good either – I make more than that in a busy morning shift at the coffee shop in less than half an hour - but I certainly won’t tell Prue that.

Prue shoves it in her apron pocket and scowls.  “Lazy rich people,” she snorts. “Can’t leave more than a measly quarter each.  Ought a smack some sense into ‘em, since the good Lord knows their mamas never did.  Where you been, girly?  Where’s Noah?”

Noah Gray.  My father.  My dear, sweet, unbearable father who I was cruel enough to leave sitting beneath a tree, half inebriated and full of sorrow.  I feel like such a heel. It’s as though I have two emotions when it comes to him: impatience or guilt. Neither is something to be proud of.

“He’s back on the river path.  I’ll see he gets home.  Prue, can I ask you something?” I begin to pick at my nails in my effort to look casual and to give my hands something to do besides shake.  Prying into Prunella o Broin Boulander’s business is like feeding sharks: best left to professionals and those with excellent life insurance policies.

“If you ask it while you’re pushing my cart, go ahead,” she agrees.

Obediently I begin to push, my hands clenched tight on the handle of the worn food cart while I form the words that will leave my dysfunctional brain and travel out of my mouth where I will, most likely, instantly regret them. I can still see the original owner’s slogan ‘Vic’s Organic Hotdogs!’ printed but faded on the cart’s handle. 

“I was wondering how many times exactly you’ve traveled?  And have you ever heard of a Lost who traveled only occasionally?  Like, say a couple times their whole life?  And what do you remember of when we left behind Rose?  Do you think my mother could have had an affair?  And if we meet up with other Lost at least once in a while, do you think there is a reason for it?  I mean, what if we are all thrown together for some purpose and we’re missing it?  We’re missing the whole point, Prue!  Because there has just got to be some reason for why we exist!  Some reason why we are chosen. Special. Some reason for the places we go, the times we visit-,” I stop, realize I am babbling, and simultaneously realize I have left Prue behind as I have kept walking and she is several paces behind me, frowning mightily.  Hastily I retreat, with the cart.

She stares at me as though I have three heads.  Her arms are crossed against her substantial chest and her feet are planted firmly and widely in the pavement of the sidewalk.  Her dark brown eyes are narrowed, almost in suspicion.

“What you about, girly? Where’s all these fool questions comin’ from?  Your daddy been putting ideas in your purty head?”

Since I’ve never heard Prue call me pretty – or purty – I almost get distracted in a petty way from my diatribe.  “No, Dad’s been doing the opposite of talking to me.  I just… I don’t know.  I want to know why we are the way we are.  Don’t you ever wonder?”

“No, not particularly,” Prue snorts again, but the way she says it, it sounds like ‘purticoolerly.’ Her accent is completely untraceable: unique, bizarre and a melting pot of languages and dialects.  All of the Lost speak like that to a certain extent, but the difference is that Prue doesn’t mask hers. “What’s the point of wonderin’, child? We ain’t ever gonna know why we are the way we are.  Just accept it. Our kind’s been travelin’ ‘cross time for centuries, we always will.  Might as well enjoy the ride, my da’ said. Enjoy it or let it kill you.”

“How do we even know it’s centuries?” I argue. “No one bothers to keep records, no one passes down their stories to the next generation beyond the good old ‘when I was a boy…blah blah blah,’ no one finds out anything, no one questions anything, Prue!  Doesn’t that make you crazy?”

“Honey child, you have done lost your mind.  What do you want us to do, keep diaries? Save the world? Learn how to navigate or somethin’?” She chortles and begins walking again, her short legs making short work of the sidewalk as only Prue can, leaving me behind now.  “Hey! Maybe we could go back and invent microwaves the next time we move! Or plastic wrap!  That’s stuff’d make us a fortune!”  She slaps her knee in mirth in mid-stride.

“Well, why not?” I ask reasonably. “Why haven’t we done that?  Why haven’t we bet on the World Series or killed Hitler as a kid or warned everyone on the Titanic?”

“Don’t be a fool, Sonnet Gray,” she is stern now, the laughing is over and she is irritated with me.  Irritated and hot by the looks of it; she uses her apron to mop her forehead.  “No one can change their fate.  If those people were meant to drown on the Titanic I guess they went to their holy reward, sure ‘nough.  And I don’t reckon I ever heard of a Lost meetin’ Hitler, otherwise I ‘spect they woulda stabbed him through his dark heart.  You can be sure I will if we meet sometime.  Right through the heart with my best bread knife.  That’ll teach the little bugger. Or maybe the apple corin’ one…it’s duller.”  She sniffs and picking up stride, fairly sails by me, her head held high and visions of murder on her mind.  Once again, I hurry to catch up.

“Okay then.  We can’t change history; you’ve been through a lot more of it than me so I’ll let you be the judge of that one.  Fine. But tell me what you remember from all the places you’ve been?  Is there a pattern?”

“What you mean, like knowing where we’re endin’ up next?  Don’t you think if I’da figured that out by now I’da warned ya?” She has gone from irritated to incredulous.

“But what do you remember from all the places, Prue?” I press.

Sighing, she stops walking once again and looks me right in the eye.  “If you’re gonna do this to an old lady, Sonnet, at least buy her a Coca Cola and get her outta the sun.” She nods her head towards a diner on our right.  It’s the “Up All Night Diner” and the only place that stays open the same hours – and longer – than the coffee shop.  They are in direct competition with us; they even have a sign advertising the City’s Best Coffee – the cheekiness! But I will buy Prue ten Coca Colas if she will only sit down and talk to me.

Prue insists on parking the food cart right in front of the picture window so we can keep an eye on it in case a mad, serial cart thief is on the loose and in the neighborhood, and then of course, we have to make sure we bully the waitress to get the table that is directly in front of the same window.  I order her the largest Coca Cola with a slice of lemon, just the way Prue likes it, and we settle into the red, vinyl booth. 

“Now why you wantin’ to know all this history that don’t concern you?” Prue begins the conversation, once she drunk half her soda through the straw and burped.  “You got sumpin’ you need to be telling me?”

My mind races frantically.  I don’t know whether to tell her of Rose and I don’t know if I’m hesitating because I don’t want her to know or I just don’t want one more person disbelieving me.  Finally, after I have torn a napkin to shreds with my fingers, I take the plunge.  “I think Rose is here.  I saw her.  And I don’t know whether it’s by accident or design.  I’m afraid this is our only chance to meet up with her if she’s really Lost, and if it is, I’m afraid to travel on until we find her.”  There.  I’ve said it.

Prue looks as though she has swallowed her lemon slice whole.  Her eyes are narrowed and her forehead has more creases than a pleated skirt.  I am even more surprised to see her large, brown hands trembling.

“You saw Rose?  She’s here?”  I have never heard Prue whisper in my whole life, yet she is whispering now. 

I nod.  “I’m positive it was her, Prue.  Do you believe me?”

Prue doesn’t speak for a minute.  She twirls the straw around in her glass absentmindedly. When she speaks again, it is no longer in a hushed whisper, but in the regular voice I know: firm and not to be trifled with.

“I don’t see how it could be, Sonnet.  That doesn’t make a lick of sense.  If she had the same powers we do, she woulda never been left behind in the first place.  Lots of girls have blonde hair and blue eyes.  It’s just wishful thinkin.’ That’s all.”  She stands and motions for me to do the same.  “Come along home, girly.  I gotta go shopping today and I gotta get my cart home first.”

Not as vague as my father’s, but a dismissal just the same.  I pay for her drink, since she marches right past the waitress with the cash register without even pausing, and goes back outside.

“Do you want me to go back and get Dad?” I ask.

“Nah.  He’ll make his way eventually.  Now if you do the pushin’, I’ll tell you ‘bout some of those other things you was asking about, alright?”

Obviously throwing me a bone, I think.  It’s not what I want to find out most, but it’s better than nothing.  “Alright.  Tell me about your first travel, and when you get to here and now, stop.”

She chortles.  “Land sakes, Sonnet, I can’t remember my first travel!  My da’ said I was just a babe.  I was born in
Quebec in 1920, but I don’t remember nothin’ about that.  I was only a year old when we traveled from there, I think it was to some God forsakin’ part of Russia.  We were there for ‘bout three years.  I don’t think the time frame was too much different from 1920 though…my da used to say something ‘bout being stuck at the turn of the century.  Next we went to Ireland, 1845.  I remember that all right; I was about five or so and we stayed for four years. Never did get outta that dang potato famine.”  She scowls.  “Wonder I cook Irish food a’tall nowadays.  Anyway, where was I?”

“After Ireland, 1849.  You would have been nine years old your next travel.”

“Right.  Yup, I remember being nine and bein’ right here.  First time in America, it was, least for me.  Da said he’d been before.  Anyways, we came here in 1755, over in New York.  Couldn’t make up our minds which was worse, the Indians or the colonials or the British.  They was all bossy if you ask me.  But I came back later when I was twenty and that’s where I met my first husband, he was a Heron.  His mama was the one who taught me to cook that puddin’ you like.”

I nod.  “But what happened between your first two visits to
America?  Where were you?”

“Oh criminy, child, I can’t remember everything!  We was in
London for a while, that was in that Victorian time frame.  Whole time and place was annoying.  I hated it there!”

I can’t picture Prue, her ample waist and bosom tucked into a corset.  And a bustle!  The thought almost makes me laugh out loud.  I’m surprised she lasted in that era for any length of time at all.

“Had to work as a maid for this uppity, whiney British gal who claimed to be a lady.  It was enough to make me want to sleep all day, tryin’ to travel on again.  Hmm, from there, thank God, we ended up in Chile, I think.  I don’t know.”

“Well, after your husband here in
America, where did you go?  Were you sad to leave him?”

“Well, honey, bein’ married ain’t never sat too right with me.  ‘Course that didn’t stop me from trying again three more times!” she guffawed.  “But by the time I’d been with him a couple years, I wasn’t too sad to move on.  Bet he was as mad as a hornet when he woke up and I was gone though!  I was always tellin’ him I was gonna run off with a proper English gentleman so I imagine he was runnin’ through the countryside looking for some dandy with his wife! Ha!” she slaps her knee in mirth. 

“Then what?” I press.  Is anything going to give me a clue to our crazy mixed-up existence?

“Well, where was I?”  We have reached our little brown house now and Prue sits down heavily on the front stoop.  She motions for me to sit as well. “If you want to hear all this we’ll sit here.  If I go in, I’ll just start get myself pulled into one of them game shows that the boys will have on.”  The boys, of course, are Matthias and Harry, who are in their seventies if they’re a day, but to someone nearly twenty years their senior, they’ll always just be boys.  “So’s anyway, after that I spent some time in
Central America.  Stayed there a right long time, too.  My longest stop.  Probably the closest to feeling like home now I think about it.  Stayed so long and got so comfortable, I got fat!”  She chuckles, slapping her thighs.

“Was it hard to leave if it felt like home?”  I’ve never had that feeling before, no place has felt like home yet.  I hope no place ever does.  Leaving is hard enough when you don’t particularly like where you are anyway.

“Oh shore, I guess so,” Prue shrugs. “The next stop was Belgium and that’s where I met up with your daddy’s parents.  Been with Noah ever since.  Closest thing to family I ever had, and that’s probably counting my Da.  Never saw him again after I married my Heron boy.  Didn’t approve.”

I have trouble imagining Prue as a beautiful rebellious daughter who chose love with a Native American warrior over her stern father, but I like the imagery.  Separating yourself from family though when you’re Lost is for forever; they’ll be no reaching out after a few years to your estranged parent, asking forgiveness or showing up on their doorstep with a suitcase, ready to apologize.  She must have been very angry, or very in love.  Knowing Prue, I’d put money on angry with a side of vindictive.

BOOK: Shadows Gray
10.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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