Artwork by DrawKill
Zack and Gina Dore were interrupted mid-play (or mid-fight, they could never tell which) by the most mysterious person they’d ever known, or likely ever would. The big red-headed woman’s clothing and scent, though not unpleasant, were indescribable: comfortable yet exotic, foreign yet familiar; her hair was the color of a forest fire, her skin the color of clotted cream, her mouth as wide as a mime’s–everything writ large. Most startling of all were her eyes, which were deep-set, dark as chocolate, and surprisingly beautiful. Belying her jovial demeanor, they betrayed a recess of sorrow deep within.
“Aunt Aloysia!” Zack squealed as he leaped into her arms. She squeezed him until he bulged, and then put him back down, allowing him a moment to regain his normal shape.
“Hi, Aunt Aloysia,” said Gina, no less pleased, but fourteen. Aloysia opened her arms, and Gina disappeared into them.
“Hargarererurmmph,” she mumbled into the big woman’s pillowy uni-front.
“Yes, I know, dear, I know.”
Warm greetings aside, this was not a normal visit. Which became clear when Aloysia took both of the children’s hands in hers and said in crisp Queen’s English, “No time for ceremonial shilly-shallying. We’ve business to attend to.” And then, waxing mystical, she added with a Hindi dialect, “It is most important to not be seen. Where, then, shall we go that we may not be seen by that which would keep us from attaining a most precious purpose?”
Gina and Zack took a moment to decipher, and then replied in harmony, “Ohhh,” and took her free hand. Aloysia kept the shabby carpet close to her side as they led her down the stairs and toward the basement door.
Meanwhile, Mom came home gunning to clean something. Her devotion to cleanliness was legendary; she’d have washed soap if it was possible (this would have been annoying in anyone else, but somehow Mom pulled it off). She knew at once from the exotic scent that Aunt Aloysia was here, and rushed into the house, expecting to find her favorite eccentric in the den unveiling each of the mysterious gifts she’d brought, but Aloysia wasn’t there. Neither were the children. She hurried up the stairs, calling, “Zacky? Gina-bear?”
It had taken Aloysia two full minutes to shimmy down the basement stairs. Although it added to the difficulty, she’d refused to set the carpet down or to let Gina and Zack carry it for her; she wouldn’t even let them touch it. Once they made it to the bottom, she dropped it and took both of them in her arms, her dark eyes moistening.
“My dear, dear children…it may be that I will not see you again for a very long time.”
“Because,” she said with a Scottish burr, “where I ha’ been, ye now must follow. Where now ye go, I can go na more.” This must have meant something dismal because she said it with a tone of deep remorse.
Gina and Zack observed a respectful if bewildered silence.
Mom stepped over The Hobbit on the upstairs landing and opened the door to Gina’s room. “Gee-bee?” No one. She hurried down the hall and peered into Zack’s room: “Zacky?” Nothing. Just the sound of Ginger jogging on the hamster wheel. She pulled down the attic ladder and shouted, “Hey, you guys. C’mon. You’ll melt up there!”
Meanwhile, in the basement…
To read the next episode, click here.
Thoughts: Have you ever known a walking enigma, someone who was patently odd, and yet somehow completely trustworthy?