Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 13


Things look peaceful now … but for how long?

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 13

The next morning, Mrs. Bullfinch arrived with my mail. There wasn’t much exciting, just a couple of advertising flyers and a telephone bill. I knew it was past due by a month or so, but at least from now on it looked like I wouldn’t have to worry about having money to pay bills any more. She also brought in a box of books and papers from my apartment that she thought looked important. I invited her in for coffee.

“Why, thank you, Sarah,” she said. “I always liked your coffee even if you didn’t have one of those fancy coffee makers. I’m glad I thought to send yours here.”

Pierre came in. “Should we tell Mrs. B the good news?” he asked.

“Do you really want to do that?” I asked. “I mean, we don’t even know for sure.”

“Oh, no,” Mrs. Bullfinch gasped. “She’s not – you’re not – Good Heavens, you move fast!”

“No, nothing like that,” Pierre said. “And there’s a good reason – we haven’t been together in that way.”

“Ah, I was wondering about that when I saw that couch had been cleaned up for someone to sleep on. But I thought you young people weren’t too big on abstinence – if you love someone, you go for the action.”

Pierre smiled at being considered a “young person.” “Well … we do love each other. But not in that way. Do you remember I once told you I used to have a daughter?”

“Oh, yes. So sad that you lost her. Even sadder when you quit looking.” Suddenly, Mrs. B’s eyebrows rose. “You found her! Pierre! Sarah! I’m so glad for the both of you!” She jumped up and grabbed us both in a big bear hug.

“Thanks, Mrs. B,” I said. “But can you do us a really big favor? Can you keep this all a secret for now?”

“You have my word. But it’s going to be awfully hard to keep it under wraps for long.”

“For now, it’s safest to keep the world thinking we’re lovers,” Pierre said. “I have a reputation to keep. And there are dangers we need to watch out for.”

“That reminds me, I’ve been keeping an eye on Sarah’s place, and there’s always at least two odd fellows in the neighborhood who also seem to be keeping an eye on it. They’re always in the shadows, so I can’t see their faces, but they really give me the willies. They just seem to give off these evil vibrations, and they make the whole neighborhood feel dangerous. That’s why I decided to bring these papers over here, things you had in your filing cabinet in the drawer labeled ‘Important Stuff.’ I didn’t want those types to get it. Pierre, I hope there isn’t something shady in your past that’s putting Sarah in danger – although come to think of it, I did suddenly feel safer when I came in the door here.”

“I know it sounds clichéd, but I’d give my life if I had to, to keep Sarah safe.”

“Oh, I know you would. And by the way, I apologize for all of those nasty things I said about you and your, um, activities.”

“No need. I really have been a cad, tomcat, gigolo, whatever you want to call me.”

“But you’re a family man now. And you have a lot of time to make up for, don’t you?”

After Mrs. Bullfinch left, Pierre opened up the box and started to look through its contents. “Let’s see … photo albums … all of your report cards from kindergarten on up – I thought your mother didn’t care?”

“She didn’t, but I did.”

“School papers, high-school diploma, birth certificate – bet that’s not genuine, but it will do for now – passport … it’s about to expire, better renew it soon.”

“You think I’m likely to be leaving the country?”

“You never know. Fighting against the Others could take us anywhere.”

Pierre took the box into the bedroom closet, where he put the most important documents into a small safe. “We really need to tell Runyon and the rest about our good news,” he said. “Let’s go to the tavern for lunch.”

“Isn’t it dangerous for me to be out and about?”

“It’s a risk we’ll have to take. Besides, part of why you were in danger was specifically that you didn’t have parents to protect you. You have one now.”

So we set out for the tavern. As we stepped out the door, I could feel the vibrations Mrs. B had been talking about. The air just seemed to hum, and I could feel goose-bumps rising on my arms. By the time we reached the tavern, I was hanging onto Pierre’s arm to keep from shaking, and I could feel cold sweat down my spine. Getting to the tavern and taking places at the big table in back was an immense relief. I realized I had been holding my breath. Runyon and Sylvia were already there, and shortly after Pierre and I arrived, several of the other sailing wizards came in. As our table slowly receded into the protection of the cave, I could feel waves of relief from all around me.

“I have good news,” Pierre said. “Sarah now has a parent to sponsor her at the school entrance ceremony.”

“I had always planned for you to step in,” Runyon said. “That’s part of why I put her into your care. We’ll need to plan the rite to set you up as surrogate as soon as possible.”

“No, I don’t mean as surrogate, the way you and Sylvia were when I was inducted – which seemed a bit silly, since she’s younger than me and not exactly a mother figure. …”

“Well, you are a more appropriate age, that’s true.”

“But I don’t need to stand in as a surrogate. She’s really my daughter.”

Runyon looked closely into my face. “I see. In particular, I see Dora.”

“How can you see Dora?” Pierre asked. “You never met her, and I lost her long before I arrived at this bay.”

“I see the image of her that you have in your head, not just the physical image, but the spiritual one, too. I’ve seen it since the day we went through that ritual. It was a side effect of becoming your parent. There’s so much of Dora in this girl that it’s no wonder you were attracted to her.”

“You’ve been inside my head all this time?”

“Not really. But I get flashes of your thoughts every so often, especially if you’re having strong emotions.”

“By the way,” I asked, “when am I supposed to start attending this school?”

“We have entrance ceremonies about once a month,” Runyon said, “although the really big one is in the fall. You’re an unusual case, since most of us enter school as children. But there are always a few like you – and like Pierre – whose talents weren’t discovered until adulthood. The next ceremony is in about two weeks, and we’ll need to prepare for it, as well as keeping you safe until then.”

“You know I’ll always protect her,” Pierre said.

“Yes, I know that. And being her father gives you more power to protect her than the rest of us have.”

“Does this mean I can get out of the apartment if I have him with me?” I asked.

“To play it safe, I’d say only for a short time. You can certainly go between protected places. But no sailing, unless you’re on a protected boat.”

Conversation shifted to plans for the school entrance ceremony, and then to more mundane matters as lunch wound down. Pierre and I returned to the condo, and I wrote out a detailed shopping list. Since I was essentially stocking the kitchen from scratch, the list was a long one, and since Pierre’s experiences with food were solely on the consuming end, I had to give a lot of details about the items on the list. I didn’t want him bringing home salted butter or artificial vanilla, for instance.

Pierre was gone for more than two hours, both because of the length of the list and also, I guessed, because he probably wasn’t familiar with the layout of a supermarket – other than the beverage aisles. Eventually, he returned, and it took him several trips down to the parking garage to bring everything up from the car. We spent the rest of the afternoon organizing the kitchen and putting the groceries away.

“I haven’t had a kitchen this full since Dora …” Pierre’s voice trailed off.

“I never had a kitchen stocked like this before – couldn’t afford it. I hope you don’t mind my taking advantage of your money.”

“Oh, please do. It doesn’t do me any good to just sit on it. It was Dora’s money anyway, which makes it more yours than mine.”

For dinner, I prepared a prime roast, garlic mashed potatoes, a mix of sautéed vegetables, and crème brulée for dessert. I had to finish that in the broiler, but I figured if I was moving into this apartment, I could have Pierre get me a blowtorch so I could scorch the sugar on top of the custard properly next time. After dinner, we cleaned up the kitchen, loaded up the dishwasher – at least Pierre knew how to operate that appliance – and went into the living room. Pierre brought out a chessboard and challenged me to a match.

I’d always been good at chess; I seemed to have a gift for anticipating my opponent’s next move, or even many moves ahead. I tended to win matches so quickly, I often found the game boring. But not this time. Unlike any opponent I had faced before, Pierre, too, was good at seeing ahead. By the time we had played to a draw, it was well past midnight.


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