Snow angels

I find myself alone on the streets all at once, it seems. I run from home, from my mother, and a threat which i fear. My only companions are my dog and a scar.

Desmond, of course he's here again- the beautiful stranger. His face like a knife and his words that stick in my mind. I know, he's special. He knows things that nobody should know.

This is my story. A story of love, loss and temporary insanity. Read if you please.

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5. A beautiful stranger

It's a weird thing, walking with my backpack banging against my back. It's strange because inside I have the possibility to kill another human being.

 

Would i shoot someone? It's a terrible question to ask, because either way I would forever judge myself.

 

I keep on repeating in my head that these people who are going to hurt my mother are horrible people. But I don't know who they are. I would never be able to feel the gun jerk in my hands, hear the crack of the bullet. I would never be able to stand the image of someone's knees crumpling, them falling to the ground. The sight of blood makes me light headed. I cant imagine what it would feel at the sight of a wound that I inflicted myself.

 

I did take shooting lessons once. Though, it was a few years ago and I was terrible. Plus, we were shooting at oversize targets that didn't move.

 

It's still early, and the sun hasn't risen yet. Streetlights form shadows that follow me as I walk. It's much warmer than the previous night, and much has already melted. The weather is on and off - unusual. But I doubt the weather will be what I remember these days for.

 

Feeling a bit sick to my stomach, I find a bench and sit. It's not far from where I sat the day before, looking over the channel. Again, all of the boats rock back and forth in place. The only boat which moves is the one that belongs to the old man. It is close enough now that I can read the red lettering on it's side. "Rose"

 

I shiver hard, and wrap my coat tighter around my shoulders. Angel tires of his restless pacing around my feet, and curls up on the ground. I can see his little pink belly tense on the cold dirt.

 

"Angel, buddy." I coo in baby-talk. I have perfected my baby-talking skills. "What am I doing here." I laugh. The single-ended conversation continues for embarrasingly long. 

 

Desmond isn't anywhere. I start to question if my tired mind made up seeing him. I yawn into my coat sleeve.

 

"Desmoooond!" I yell mid yawn. The boat named "Rose" parks at one of the piers, but nobody gets out.

 

"Desmond!" I yell again. It's 6 am and the sky is starting to lighten.

 

"Desmond!" I sing into the dead park. Angel barks.

 

Eventually I lay my head against my arm and fall into a strange dream-state. I never exactly fall asleep, but when I wake up I feel cold and strange. Most of all, I don't know why I just woke up.

 

"Rylee." A familiar voice says, and I recognize a hand on my shoulder. I shy away, feeling a bit uncomfortable seeing Desmond in person after the strange dream I had. The thing is, the dream itself felt as natural as anything. I just have to convince myself how horrible it was. 

He's old. He's old. I repeat in my mind. Maybe he is, or maybe not. He seems as if he lives in suspended animation, and it's hard to figure out his actual age.

 

"Yeah." I reply after a while. I figure he has something to tell me- He isn't one for casual conversation. 

"Come with me." He grabs my hand like I'm a little kid. He's prone to this, dragging me about by my hand. I don't bother ask where he's taking me as I'm certain he wont answer. 

 

"I like your shirt." He says to me.

 

"Dr. Suess." I reply.

 

We run down the hill towards the water. It's strange seeing Desmond run, as he is never in a particular hurry. I hold back a laugh- running down this hill with my dog is such a familiar memory.

 

When we reach the longest pier, he releases his grip on my hand. 

 

"Are you going to try and drown me?" I laugh uncomfortably.

 

He laughs back- he has a tired sounding laugh. "You know I wouldn't hurt you."

 

The following silence is long and exceptionally uncomfortable. I don't understand how Desmond, cool and calm, can be so awkward at times.

 

We stop at the end of the pier. I kick some of the splintered wood with my boot. In front of us is a boat with a rather small cabin and some lettering on the side that says "Rose."

 

"Remind me why we are about to bother this old man?" I ask Desmond. I have never been the best with old people, let alone strangers.

 

"It's my uncle." He says, striding ahead of me. I blink- it seems as if everybody in this town knows each other.

 

Desmond kicks the side of the boat a few times to alert the person inside. I thin nobody in coming, as the boat remains still, but after a few second I hear a gravelly voice coming from inside.

 

"I'm coming! Calm down." The man that staggers out has a pleasant face that is twisted into a grimace. His face is clean shaven, though his eyebrows are like fat caterpillars. He must be over eighty years old.

 

"He's your uncle?" I ask Desmond. "Great-uncle?"

 

"Uncle." Desmond replies. I squint my eyes, and look at the old man. He staggers around the deck of his boat.

 

"He looks sort of old to be your uncle, Desmond." I say.

 

He looks at his black shoes. "Time is relative, Rylee." 

 

 

                        

                ................................................................

 

 

"Des!" The old man says at last. He puts on some this glasses. "Desmond, is that you?" With his vast stomach stuck out in front of him, he waddles down. He adjusted his eyeglasses as if he can't believe what he sees. He sort of falls, melts like candle wax against Desmond in a massive hug. I'm not sure if the old man is crying or just shaking. 

 

The hug goes on for an uncomfortable period of time. I'm surprised how sad that Desmond looks as well. Sad, or nostalgic. I have never been able to read his face very well.

 

"You two have to come in." The old man gestures to his boat. "Young lady!" He shakes my hand. While smiling, he look ten years younger.

 

"My name is Curtis." He says. He reminds me a bit of my grandfather, but all old people remind me of my grandfather. He passed away when I was pretty young, so I can't quite recall what he looked like other than "Old."

 

"Nice to meet you Curtis." I say back. "I'm Rylee." I am curious where his insane reputation comes from, but I follow him.

 

"Rose will love to meet you!" He calls, vanishing into the cabin of the boat. Desmond gives me an alarmed glance.

 

Before I enter the boat, I carefully tie Angel to a wooden post. He gives me his droopy puppy eyes, but i know he will be fine.

 

At the entrance of the boat's cabin, there is a massive plant. A carnation in a pot that Curtis seemed to have maintained through the winter. Every flower reeks of perfume- the stench of femininity. 

 

"That's Rose's." Curtis points out the bush. "She loves those flowers!" He chuckles, and Desmond glances at me again. He has to hunch over to fit under the low ceiling.

 

The cabin of the boat is much larger than it looked from the outside. Curtis steers us to a sitting room.

 

"This is lovely." I say politely, although I still don't know why I'm there. I sit down on a quicksand-couch as far as I can get away from Desmond. 

 

"Rose will make you some tea!" Curtis exclaims as he shuffles into the other room. "Rose!" He yells. "We have visitors!" I don't hear an old woman's voice call back. She must be exceptionally quiet.

 

"What are we doing here." I ask Desmond, twisting my hair.

 

"Visiting my uncle." He says, not taking his eyes off the kitchen. The stench of the flower twists around everything in the room. I rub my eyes, which are watering. 

 

"Here you go." Clarence gives us our tea. Mine tastes hot and sugarless, so I just politely nod and set it down.

 

"Where is Rose?" I ask him. Desmond gives me a warning look. When Clarence smiles, his face crumples like paper bags. 

"Oh, she's in the kitchen, Miley." Clarence messes up my name, but I don't correct him. Old people often have trouble with my name. I scoot so i can see the entire kitchen, and I don't see anyone.

 

"Oh." I say. The terrible smell of carnation wafts around the room.

 

"So Desmond," Clarence says. "How long has it been, a few months? A year."

 

"Thirty years." Desmond coughs. I am surprised by this. He can't be much older than twenty. I have never understood him any less than I do right now.

 

Clarence leans over with a hand cupped to his ear. "What did you say, Dezzie?" 

 

"Oh nothing." Desmond says pleasantly. He scratches his nose and looks down dolefully. He is acting like he has lost someone.

 

"Well it's good to see you." Clarence says. "Now where is that lovely girlfriend of yours?"

 

"Girlfriend?" I twist my head to one side. "Is she a freak like you?" 

 

I instantly regret saying that. Desmond looks more hurt than I have ever seen him. But he smiles, and passes it off as some of my constant verbal abuse towards him.

 

"She isn't around." Desmond finally says to the old man. I pretend my tea is finished, and I put it down. I am left wondering if Desmond killed her or something horrible. I wouldn't put it past him.

 

"We should head out." Desmond says at last.

 

"Yes!" I stand up quickly, my head nearly hitting the ceiling. Desmond and I share an unknown look. He gestures for me to follow him, but instead of leaving the flowery scented boat, he leads me into the boat's kitchen. As I enter the kitchen, the smell gets stronger. It's pushy and gets inside my head, but no, It's not a flower that i am smelling. It's sour and terrible.

 

The small refrigerator is cracked open, and I can see the spoiled, forgotten food. The kitchen used to be beautiful, i'm sure, with a small skylight lending sunshine. One counter surface is covered entirely with used tea-bags. Desmond looks absolutely stricken.

 

"Oh my god." I say in a low voice. I grab Desmond's elbow. I usually try to avoid saying 'oh my god' to avoid insulting people in some way. But I can't think strait.

 

Because, curled in the corner, in a fetal position, is a corpse.

 

I have seen dead people before, but they are always only a few days dead and carefully arranged in their coffin, with layers of makeup covering their pale faces. 

 

She has been dead for a long time, i can tell. At least a year, perhaps. She is practically a skeleton. The only way i can tell it's a woman is from her long cottony hair. Shaking, i realize the purpose of the carnation- to mask the smell of her dead flesh.

 

"Oh... oh no. No no no...." Now i am just saying words so there isn't silence. Desmond kneels next to the body and whispers something.

 

"Goodbye Aunt Rose." Desmond says, keeping his composure. I have never seen him come close to crying or any other sign of strong emotion. He just looks sick.

 

As we walk to leave the boat, both of us quick and uncomfortable, Curtis smiles to us. He is sitting on a wide wooden chair, swinging his legs back and forth like a child.

 

"You know," The old man says thoughtfully. "Rose is right. You are are a very pretty girl."

 

I don't smile, or wave to him, or say any form of goodbye. Desmond and I trip over each other in desperate attempts to leave the horrible, perfumed boat.

 

                             

                ..............................................................

 

We both run until we are no longer on the pier. Angel thinks it's a game and he prances along behind us gleefully. A dog in never happier than it is when it's running, no matter what the circumstances.

 

I only lower my speed when Desmond does. I half-way expect Curtis to waddle out after us, but thankfully he doesn't.

 

"He killed her." I state, though it sounds like more of a question.

 

Desmond shakes his head, looking worn out. "No. She died of natural causes. But in his mind, she never died at all."

 

"Desmond." I say quietly. "Why did we go there. That was horrible."

 

"I needed to see if the rumors were true."

 

"Were you close to your Aunt and uncle?" Curious small talk. 

 

"I'll tell you the whole story." Desmond murmurs. I'm curious enough not to interupt him.

 

"My Aunt Rose met Curtis when they were both pretty young. They didn't have any kids really, so i grew up around them a lot. I wasn't particularly close with Uncle Curtis really, he was a good man, but not overly friendly."

 

He smiles sadly. "But Rose and I, we were a team. My parents... they weren't around much, so i spent a lot of time with her. She was like my second mother."

 

He laughs roughly, looking at the pavement. "My better mother."

 

The question nagging in my head doesn't go away, so i have to ask it. "How old are you really?" 

 

Its the simplest question that I could have asked, but he somehow avoids the answer. "Time works differently for me, Rylee." He speaks slowly and quietly, so i can't miss what he's saying.

 

I snort. "So are you secretly 50 years old?" I hide behind my sarcasm. 

 

He puts his arm around my waist.

 

"Stop it!" My voice goes really high for a second. In that one panicked moment i am reminded of that night's dream. It's a friendly gesture, but it scares me when Desmond touches me.

 

"No, I'm not secretly 50 years old. I will explain it to you sometime." Desmond says. I realize that he hasn't look me strait in the eye since we got off the boat. 

 

"You are annoyingly cryptic, you know." I mutter in his direction, slamming my shoulder against his. He plasters on a smile, but still doesn't look at me. 

 

It has never occured to me that he could actually be hurt, or sad, or anything but strait faced. But he keeps on pressing his lips together tightly, like that one person saying that they're okay when they clearly aren't.

 

"Are you alright." I ask him.

 

"Yup." He says. His voice cracks a bit, but that's the last sign of weakness i hear from.

 

"So why did we go that boat?" I ask. "Why really."

 

Desmond looks at the grey-blue sky, thinking of ways to explain it to me. We walk past a large health care building- one of the largest buildings in all of Juneau. I was born there.

 

"I'm different." Desmond says plainly. "And so is Curtis."

 

"But in different ways." I ask hopefully. "Curtis is insane, and you are..." I realize that I'm about to let down my prickly guard, so i add; "Well, you are also insane, but... in a different way." 

 

I know. Smooth.

 

"Curtis really sees Aunt Rose, you know." Desmond says, still walking. I realize that I don't know where we are going. "He isn't making up the conversations he has with her." 

 

"How is that possible?" I ask.

 

"They are just misplaced memories. His mind is wracked with dementia, so he doesn't know when it is anymore. But all of the conversations he has with his wife happened, although years ago."

 

"How are you different." Well, obviously he isn't going to answer it. But i feel if I bombard him with enough questions, he may actually answer now and then.

 

"Curtis," Desmond continues, pretending not to hear me. "He knows things that haven't happened yet too."

"Like you?" I yip, alarmed.

 

He nods.

 

"Care to elaborate?"

 

He shakes his head.

 

We walk close enough to be together, but far enough apart to be complete strangers. I could reach out and grab his hand, and i am tempted to. But if he attempted to take mine I would run.

 

I begin to recognize the street that we are on. It heads over to some of the smaller shops, away from the eyes of the tourists. 

 

"Do you know what you are going to do?" Desmond says. His voice sounds like drippy maple syrup. "To save your mother."

 

"Can I call her." I say, swallowing pride. "Can't i just call her and tell her not to go grocery shopping."

 

Desmond laughs. "Fate's a bitch. You can try to change by tweaking things like location, but i must tell you. You are going to need that gun in your backpack."

 

I shiver, shifting uncomfortably under the death in my backpack.

 

"Why should I trust you?" I don't ask aggresively, but it sounds so. I am shaking a little bit. "How do I know that you are telling the truth about my mother's impending death...."

 

Desmond starts to walk off, obviously not expecting me to follow him. "Rylee. This has all happened before!" He says the words casually, but they glue my feet in place because i know it's true.

 

As he disappears, I am left with a small white dog at my feet, but otherwise alone where he has left me. Right out front of Basil's curiosity shop.

 

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