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Authors: Melyssa Williams

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BOOK: Shadows Gray
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“Well,” I say, in what I hope is a reasonable tone of voice; steady and casual, “If Rose was Lost, and I’m only saying if, what would pull her towards this same century, this same town?  Would a bond do that?  Have you ever heard of that, the Lost following each other?  Remember when Uncle Zed met up with us that time?  Kind of like that?”

“Well, I ain’t never met up with anyone from my past.  I reckon I’d remember that, even if my memory is a little foggy sometimes. I never did meet my Da again, and we had a bond.”

“A strong one?”

Prue wrinkles her nose.  “Well, not that strong…he always drove me a little batty.  And I think he was secretly happy to marry me off even if he put up a fight. I ‘spect we was ready to say goodbye,” she sighed. “It was just me and him, you know, but we’d had enough time together for one lifetime. Then I ended up in
Belgium.  After that I ‘spect you know the rest, girly.”

This whole conversation was interesting, but hardly enlightening.  I don’t know what I expected, a pattern, I suppose.  Something to go on, some way of reaching out to Rose or to know it’s possible for her to be reaching out to me. Something. Resigned, I reach out and help Prue to her feet.

“Tell me about your marriages, then?” I ask, not letting go of her hand.

Her eyes light up at the thought.  “Ahhh, marriage!  That was sumpin’ I never could get right, although they were entertaining enough.  Well, there was Roger – I met him while I was a maid for that hateful woman.  I cain’t recall her name now.  Anyhow, he was a real nice bloke.  Those were his words: ‘Prue, I’m a real nice bloke, you oughtta marry me!’  And it wasn’t a half bad marriage either.  He was my one of my husbands who was Lost, so we got a few years together in Chile before he died of the cholera.  Bad luck to travel anywhere that bloody disease was,” (Was it my imagination, or did Prue actually look a little teary?) “But no matter; that was a long time ago.  Also married your grandpa’s brother, Jonah, in Belgium.  ‘Course he turned out to be shiftless and we parted ways purty early on.  He was Lost too, but no matter, cuz we’d said all we needed to say to each other, including goodbye.  So when I traveled on with your daddy and Zed and some others in their family, I didn’t mind too much he didn’t tag along.  And after that, well, it was just Abe.  You remember Abe?”

I do remember Abe because he’s the closest thing to a grandfather I ever had.  He had a handlebar mustache and always had candy in his pockets.  I was between ten and twelve when he was around.  He knew we were Lost and he even believed us but he said he married Prue for whatever he could get out of her, and if what he could get was a couple years of good cooking, he’d take it. 

“Abe was a rock star,” I say.

“If that means he could eat like a horse and never pick up after himself, than I reckon he was.  Come on, girl, I’m tuckered and I’m missing Jeopardy!”

That may be the longest conversation I’ve ever had with Prue, and I enter our home feeling a little better about the whole world in general.

                                        ********************

I am staring at her bony white knuckles, mesmerized.  Her fingers are so long and pale and knobby, I can’t look away.  I must know I am being rude because I will myself to stop staring, but I cannot.  My mother raps my knees under the table as a warning and when I pry my eyes off the knuckles to obediently look at her, she glares at me.

“Sonnet, eat your stew and stop that daydreaming,” she says, firmly.  She sets down another plate of stew in front of Old Babba and her white, white knuckles.  Old Babba will suck it down like she did the first plate: noisily, lips smacking, making more noise than Dolly, her pet goat, when she eats.  Old Babba is skinny, rail thin, with milky white skin, and sunken black eyes.  She doesn’t have much hair and what she does have is baby fine, thin, thinner than my little sister Rose, whose own hair is very fine and so light in color it is practically clear.  Old Babba finishes her stew and the moment she swallows the last bite, she turns her small black eyes on me with such ferocity and with such speed, that I yelp and fall out of my chair.

“For goodness sake, Sonnet,” my exasperated mother says, righting my chair. “Go lie down and rest your eyes. This fidgety nature of yours is impossible to enjoy a meal with.  Go on!”  She shoos me towards the big fireplace and clears away my plate.  I am sorry to see my half eaten stew being carted away when I am still hungry, but I am not sorry to leave Old Babba and her scary eyes and bony knuckles that grasp her spoon so greedily.

“She’s not the one to watch, Carolina,” Old Babba says to my mother. “She’s nothing. But the little one…the little one is different.”

“Rose is no different than the rest of us,” snaps my mother, and I am surprised to see her treat the old woman so.  She is always reprimanding me on my lack of respect and manners with our elderly neighbor and yet she is barking at her now.  “I don’t want to talk about this.  You’ve said your peace and I’ll thank you to say no more.”

Old Babba cackles.  She is just like the witch in my Hansel and Gretel story, I think.  She will cage me in a giant bird cage and feed me chickens and plump me up and then eat me and then her knuckles and fingers won’t be so bony anymore.  She will fatten up and smooth out, her back will straighten and become strong, all her wrinkles will turn to smoothness, her hair will fill in and turn glossy and spill over her shoulders like a younger lady’s, and all because she will make me into stew.  A stew that she will smack her lips over and ask for seconds with.

I awake in a panic in my own bed, eighteen years old, and terrified of a witch in a gingerbread cottage. I am afraid it is more memory than dream.

 

Chapter Seven

 

The next morning, I work the a.m. shift at the coffee shop.  I have a love/hate relationship with the morning shift: on the one hand I earn better tips for some reason, on the other there’s no singing or guitar picking.  In fact, Micki gets to pick the music selection that runs on our compact disc player and it is, in a word, boring.  I want to add extra shots of espresso to everyone’s drinks as an apology and in the hopes that they won’t fall asleep and drool on my counter. 

Today Penny works with me because mornings are always busy and sure enough there is a lovely selection of elevator music playing softly.  Our customers approach the counter like zombies. 

“May I recommend the triple shot Irish Cream mocha with whip and sprinkles?” I chirp to the man next in line, who appears as though he may slip into a coma at any time.

He takes a deep breath and to my great disappointment, orders a non-fat, decaf, sugar-free vanilla latte, not too hot. 

“One cup of ‘why-bother,’” I tell Penny, who is making the drinks that I place orders for.

The next lady wants a skinny mocha, the next a half dozen muffins and cappuccinos for her co-workers.  Three hours go by like that, with nary an interesting customer, until finally someone familiar darkens my cash register.

“Coffee.  Black,” says Luke.  He looks as usual, like he just rolled out of bed, forgetting to shave.  On him, it seems to work.

“Can’t interest you in a toffee cream breve? My specialty?” I cajole.

“Are you kidding?  This some sort of entrapment?  You know darn well a troop of well organized macho men would jump me and demand my Man Card if I ordered something like that.  Coffee . Black.”

“Well, you don’t have to order it like you’re 007,” I retort, feeling proud of myself for knowing a pop culture reference from his own time. “Tall coffee,” I tell Penny.  She smiles at Luke and suddenly I wish I’d done something prettier with my hair, or worn something other than my tie-dye long sleeve t-shirt.  Penny is so pretty and so … perky.  I should be perky, but frankly the energy it would take to keep up that kind of perkiness would take more than a toffee cream breve. 

“Take a break?” Luke asks in a whisper as Penny hands him his coffee.  He is whispering to me though and I feel a delicious sense of importance.  (Could it even be perkiness?)

I take off my apron and leave it behind the counter as Luke fixes his mug of coffee beside me.

“Umm, pretty sure the macho men you fear so will take just as much offense to you pouring on the white chocolate sprinkles and the twelve packs of raw sugar,” I point out.

“No way.  Even 007 drinks his black coffee with white chocolate sprinkles and nutmeg and a little sugar.  You’re out of 2% by the way.”

“I wasn’t before you dumped out half your coffee and used it all.”

“I was topping it off,” he feigned hurt. “Your customer service needs work.”

“Fill out a comment card.  Now what do you want? Or did you just come in to annoy me?”

“I mostly came in to annoy you.  But also I wanted to talk to you.”

“There’s no way on God’s green earth I can get Prue to pose for a picture.”

“Pose?” he looks truly horrified.  “I don’t
pose.
Geez, it’s not like I work for some kiddy photo shop, you know. I’m a professional. Candid shots.  Un-posed shots. Those are my specialty.  Just like your frou-frou espresso drinks, I have specialties too, only mine cost slightly more. Slightly.” He frowns at his cup.

I remember his hole-in-the-wall studio.  ‘Slightly’ was an overstatement. “Alright.  Shall we sit?”

He chuckles and it takes me a moment to realize he’s chuckling at me.  “Yes, we
shall,
madam. Did you major in old English or British Literature or just been watching too many Jane Austen movies lately?”

Major?  Oh, college.  Maybe I am closer to twenty years of age if he places me as a college graduate.  I probably shouldn’t tell him the last school I attended was in a
Portugal commune, founded by a Baptist missionary.  My graduating class was myself, the missionary’s daughter, Molly, and a Portuguese boy named Henrique. 

“Umm, too many Austens.  You got me.  What do you want to talk about?” I purposely steer us away from the leather chair that I had seen my sister sitting in the other night, and instead lead us toward the same table that Luke and I had sat at the last time we spoke here.

Luke settles in his chair – he is too large for these tiny bistro style chairs– and leans his elbows on the table, cupping his face in his big hands.  He holds my eyes with his for a moment before he speaks.

“How long have you been here?” It’s the way he says it, not the question that throws me.  Instinctively I know what he really means.  There is no unspoken law against telling a normal person about living as a Lost, but it’s hardly ever to anyone’s benefit.  The odds of anyone believing you are slim to none, and if they did believe it, they are probably some sort of wacky conspiracy theorist - someone who spends their free time spotting aliens and building traps for Bigfoot, or wants help for the time machine he’s building in his mom’s basement.  Those types.  Luke doesn’t look like one of those types, but isn’t that what everyone says about their serial killer neighbor? 
He was so quiet, kept to himself mostly…I just can’t believe he builds time machines in his mom’s basement…

“What do you mean?” I ask anyway, treading carefully.

“Here,” he gestures widely. “But mostly, now.  Where did you come from?”

I don’t reply.  I’ll let him dig himself in a little deeper.

“I know what you are, Sonnet.  At least I think I do.  It won’t hurt to tell me the truth. I know why your speech is old fashioned and why you try to adopt an American accent and why your family put the fun in dysfunctional.  You came here from another era, didn’t you?”

“What are you, some kind of intrepid rogue reporter?” I respond, lightly.  “Following up on leads and finding clues in dark alleys?  A private eye, maybe? Is this your life’s work; undercover for  the Lost?  This is what we’re called by the way, if you want the technical Latin term.”

“No dark alleys; I’m terrified of rats.  And I don’t work as a gumshoe or a reporter.  I have been putting together clues for a few years now though.  Also, I knew a guy who was Lost and he pretty much told me everything.”  Luke winks at me, breaking some of the tension I’m feeling. “He rented a room from me before I moved into the palatial palace you saw in my office.  His name was Armando and when I met him he was wearing a ruffled shirt and awfully tight pants.  I knew he was strange, I didn’t realize just how strange until later when he started talking to me.  He was extremely good natured and polite and it turns out he was so afraid of what I’d think of him if he accidently skipped out without paying his rent that he actually convinced me of what he was: a time traveler.”

I roll my eyes. “I really hate that term.”

“Sorry.  Armando traveled alone but he found a few others at the shelter and they kind of collaborated his story.  Together with their testimonies I started realizing maybe my own mother wasn’t as colorful a storyteller as I had always thought.”  My stare must be blank because he continues on, explaining.  “My dad was a no-show by the time I was two.  Mom used to try to make excuses for him, at least I thought they were excuses, about how he
had
to go, how it wasn’t his fault, that he was special, and that he had to move on even if he didn’t want to.  I pretty much ignored her excuses, and anyway she married my stepdad when I was just a kid and then we kind of quit talking about my biological dad.  My mom has always been a free spirit and believes in all sorts of things that others don’t, unicorns and fairies and peace on earth and things, so I didn’t pay much attention to the things she said. But after meeting Armando and his buddies, I wasn’t so sure.  Course, with my luck, it could be my father really is a deadbeat dad, living with a second family somewhere in this century.  Who knows?  But when I started eating at Prue’s cart and talking a little to your father - plus I met Matthias and Harry there one afternoon and they’re pretty chatty – and then meeting you, well, I put two and two together.  Especially after the Rose episode.”

BOOK: Shadows Gray
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