Yes I'm cheating...again!
BUT I have GOOD NEWS: As of today, I am officially a senior in college. Woohoo!! One more year! One more year! Do forgive my absence from this challenge. I have loved every second I have been able to spend with all of you, your amazing posts, and I'm looking forward to visiting people even after the challenge is over. There are still many, many papers to write (and I'm sure I'll fall short of any posting goals I may set for myself thanks to them).
However, here's the final installment of the crazy story I started back at "A". No, it won't be finished with this one post. Yes, I plan to take this and turn it into something "more". And YES I am forever thankful to each and everyone of you who have continued reading these sporadic posts and your comments have been encouraging. So THANKS! And -BEHOLD- The Final Post of the A-Z Challenge!!!
Ima had been sitting in the parlor for hours. Staring. The clock on the wall tick-tocked against the silence that everyone left behind them as they left her alone. Alone. That was familiar. Comforting in a strange, empty way. Her father -and he was her father- was downstairs in this labyrinthine house working on some supposed "weapon of mass instruction" as he called it. What the hell was "mass instruction" anyway, she'd asked? Her father had mumbled something about teaching society a lesson, one that would require them to take notice of the violence and corruption inherent in the system or something like that. All she saw in that junkyard of a workshop was a pile of has-been child's toys and rusted ray guns. Useless. All of them.
She had a lot to think about. Val told her just this morning that she'd been with them for two weeks. Two weeks? Really? It seemed more like a black hole that sucked her very identity from her. She didn't know who she was anymore. She was trapped in a body that no longer fit. People floated in and out of the parlor; she scarcely paid them any attention. Except for Declan. He'd catch her attention regardless of any self-inflicted pity party or Greek tragedy she may feel she was currently living. And she hated him for it. Why did he have to be so nice all the time? Why couldn't they all just leave her alone and send her back home.
Greyson said home was here, now, wherever and whenever that was. He wouldn't say. He just looked at her over his spectacles, pursed his lips, and said "Soon". Yeah. Right. Soon as in never? Tomorrow? Next Boxing Day? Val was the only person who seemed real in this antique museum. Her incessant eating and tea drinking could somehow bring a slight smile to Ima's face; slight was about all she could manage without feeling her face would break. And speaking of Val, she was there, licking something off her fingers, sitting across from Ima, dressed in a pair of trousers, tweed vest and white, ruffled shirt.
"You're not here." She leaned back, propped her booted feet on the coffee table. "I understand, you know. I sat right where you are now, contemplating throwing myself off the top of the west tower."
"There's a west tower?"
Val didn't hear her. "But then I realized it wouldn't do any good. I'd just come back. That how it is with you. With me. With Greyson. At least for a little while."
"I don't understand."
"I don't either." Val put her feet down, leaned forward. "All I know is that we've been given a gift. A chance to redo things if they go wrong...terribly wrong. Though, that gift comes with a price: it won't last forever. We have to use our chances wisely. Think of each chance as the last. Live each one like that and you'll be ok."
"I wish I could believe that. That I'd be ok."
Val stood up. She grabbed Ima by both hands and pulled her to standing. "You will always be ok. Why? Because you're strong. Because you're here. If you weren't strong you wouldn't be here."
Ima walked across the room and tapped a rusted xylophone. The sound scraped against the ticking clock and made her shiver. "Yes, but where IS here?"
Val smiled. "That my dear is why I'm here." Val walked to one of the floor to ceiling windows and pulled the curtains back.
Ima squinted. She'd been strictly forbidden to look out any windows and even when she tried, the curtains refused to budge.
"Take a gander at that."
Ima blinked in the sunlight and walked slowly towards it. What she saw made her jaw drop open. The sky was a faded sort of brown, like a perpetual cloud of dust had settled in front of the sun. Where the sun was she couldn't say. It was shining and bathed the world in a strange, sepia light. It was like watching an old, silent film that someone tried to restore to color but failed in the most clashing way. Trees were tall and spindly; the grass looked crunchy and insubstantial. There was a fountain in the courtyard but it was cracked, bleeding vines, and sprouting weeds from each tier.
But what really caught her attention was what was parked on the crunchy lawn. Almost as big as the house and twice as tall was a blimp. Or what might be a blimp. She wasn't sure. It was a ghastly mustard yellow and shaped like a rocket ship from a 1950's space opera with fins and pointed nose. Resting on the ground was what she guessed to be the cabin. It was the same mustard yellow and looked more like a submarine than an air craft.
"It's a Zephyr," Val said as if that explained everything. "Rides the wind, or what passes as wind these days."
"Why is everything brown?"
"It's not. Some things are yellow and just the other day I saw a flower -a real flower!- and it was a sort of dusky orange."
Ima smiled and Val laughed. "Come on," She took the younger woman by the hand. "Let's go for a ride. We'll sort all this out. And don't worry." She looked down at Ima and Ima saw something she'd not seen before -ever- in all her life. A mother's compassion. "You will be ok."