So today’s journal prompt was an interview with my body. For real? My body had nothing to say. Or at least was shy about talking if it were to an unspecified number of people (as in other than me) so I am doing something else here today.
Fiona and Arthur wanted to talk today, even though I tried to persuade them to wait until November when the word count would be legal. Whether or not these passages even make it into the story remains to be seen, as it is still evolving. But it never hurts to get to know them.
To “get” the opening, it will help to read the previous posts.
Arthur meticulously cleaned the gravy off of his plate with the last piece of dinner roll. It made Fiona want to scream. She had exercised just about every bit of patience she possessed. Yet if she rushed him, she would likely get nothing.
After he carefully arranged his utensils on the clean plate, he began without preamble:
“Pearl loved plums and red and the violin. She laughed a lot. But she never reminded me of her mother, though I longed for her to do so. She simply existed on the earth as one-of-a-kind, a unique Pearl.” He paused.
For a long time.
He wanted to stop. Fiona knew before he said, “Are you sure you just want to sit there and listen to me ramble. I mean, it seems hardly fair for me to go on and on about my family and know nothing about yours.”
“What do you want to know?” she asked, leaning back in her chair. It seemed wise to lull him into comfort. At least this felt like progress. It wasn’t mind-numbing waiting.
“Where are you from? What do your parents do?” Arthur asked.
“I was born in Connecticut. But I have lived in Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Maine and now here in Checotah, Oklahoma.”
“For goodness sake! What are your parents? Gypsies? Oh, that’s not politically correct these days. I’m sorry. Have you ever lived in one place for more than a couple years? How old are you anyway?”
“I am fourteen. And barely, to answer the other question. My parents are chemical engineers specializing in water quality and water quality protection. They go where there are issues to consult with locals and come up with solutions. Or prevention strategies.”
“Having trouble with Grand Lake, are we?”
“I wouldn’t know. They don’t discuss their work with me. Or much else, for that matter.”
“Ah, now you sound more like a teenager. There’s the anger.”
“Anger? I guess if facts are the same as anger, you are spot on. I know and accept the facts. I think it makes me a realistic, not necessarily angry.”
“I suppose that’s a good point. You seem to have a level head and an older soul. Older than fourteen.”
“Interesting. What kind of soul do you have?”
“Oh. Well. Turn-about is fair play, is it?” Arthur paused to think, slowly stirring sugar into the coffee that Bea had just refilled. “Pie? I recommend the lemon.”
He motioned Bea back and ordered an additional piece of pie. They waited in silence–again!–for the two-minute forever it took Bea to deliver two plates. He dug in immediately. Probably because the lemon was pungent, and the meringue a mile high and so very light, perfectly browned.
Fiona expected that he would “forget” her question. She picked at her pie and waited. Again.
“Tired,” he said, finally. “I have a tired soul.”
“Is that from age? Or events?”
“Both. And I think my soul is feeling a little bit of panic as well.”
“Because of me?”
“Because of you. Because of exhuming old bones. I may need to ease into this Pearl thing, Fiona. I haven’t talked about her with anyone remotely compassionate since she died.”
Shock silenced her for a few moments.
“She died? When? How?”
Fiona watched him swallow hard, and his hands trembled as they balled up one edge of his napkin.
“Give me time. Please. I would rather you hear it from me than from the gossip you will surely hear sooner or later. Make it later.”
The urgency in his voice stirred her heart and her curiosity.
“I promise I will hear your story first.” She wanted to reach out and put her hand on his by way of reassurance, but thought better of it.
They finished their pie in silence.
She had blocked them out earlier, but now Fiona’s attention was drawn to the table of her classmates behind Arthur. They would look up until she met someone’s gaze, then lean in together and whisper, pretending to be occupied with their business until it was safe to stare again. Someone would make some comment. No doubt snide. Everyone would laugh. The football captain caught her eye once and gave her a bold stare until she decided to concentrate on her oh-so-flaky pie crust. All of a sudden she felt self-conscious and a little bit scared.
“Do we have to meet here?” she finally asked Arthur.
“I can feel their stares with my back turned,” he replied. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No. No, I said I wanted to hear you out and I do. I just think it would be easier for us both if we didn’t have an audience.”
“I always have an audience,” he said. He wiped his mouth and folded his napkin and placed it beside his empty pie plate. “I could eat, then meet you at the library, I suppose.”
“Not at your house?”
“Are you insane, Fiona? Don’t you know what kind of world you live in? You barely know me. How could that possibly be a safe thing to do? Don’t your parents–” He pulled himself up short, and pressed his lips together to block the flow of words.
“Would you would hurt me?”
“Of course I wouldn’t, but the fact is that I could say that and still be a serial killer. No. We will meet at the library after I have my meal.”
“Fine.” She felt oddly hurt that he would take such a tone with her. If barely knowing him prohibited her from going to his home, then surely barely knowing her should prohibit him from chastising her like a parent. Or a grandparent.
Fiona gathered her notebook and stuffed it in her backpack. She pulled a five from the side pocket and tossed it on the table. “See you tomorrow,” she said, as she stood, feeling uneasy about being rude to him and at the same time feeling he’d earned it.
“Tomorrow,” he said.
He sounded tired.