Welcome to October
CHAPTER
17
A Quiet Queer
Hard as it was, Nyx did not look back. Not even as the bus zoomed zealously toward the the edge of October. She couldn’t look ahead either. She had nothing to look forward to. So instead she looked down, hanging her head in silence shamed.
The bus to and from Elsewhere was irregular. It was bright blue and miniature. It smelled like salt from what Nyx heard was the sea. She vaguely remembered stories her mother had sang about beaches. A place where sand bled out of an ocean ornery.
From what Nyx remembered, the sea was vast, and harsh, and wild. It was a force unforgiving. It crashed callously against the cliffs surrounding October’s hills.
It was perfect. That was where she would go. To the edge of the world. To a place where she could pay her penance. She would face the savage sea.
As the evening grew darker and the driver took Nyx and Nyx alone far from October, the now youngest Mortimer felt resolution fill her heart. She wasn’t sure where this bus would take her, but she knew where she was going. She was going to scream at the ocean.
She would swallow or be swallowed by that savage, salty sea.
It seemed like the world had only room enough for two people. Evie and Vienna Vale sat outside of The Fountain, staring into the ground below.
“I’m sure Constance was goin’ ta tell you.”
But Evie wasn’t. And her eyes became narrow, concealing the whites like they’d done wrong.
Mrs. Down had not run out after Evie. And Mr. Mrs. Down had fallen into a stupor like a real Mr. Mrs. Downer. Evie had stopped running, wishing, hoping they’d come after her. But it was Vienna Vale who sat next to her in the park, smelling like alcohol and onions with a hint of a million roses underneath.
“It’s a shame,” the lady said. “That you had to find out this way.”
Vienna sighed and Evie wondered why she was sighing. What could possibly have been on her heart? What had she possibly lost and needed to breathe to the world?
“You know—“
“Sorry,” Evie interrupted, clutching the underside of the bench with both hands. She inhaled so deeply that her next word was just a puff of air, “Don’t. Don’t say a word. Don’t say anything. I... I don’t want to know.”
Vienna turned to look at Evie. Then she grabbed Evie’s face with her spidery fingers and made the girl return her gaze. She was smiling, perhaps sweetly to some, but to Evie she looked like a poser pained waiting for the painter to be done with her.
“Oh but Honey,” Vienna said giving Evie’s cheeks a sharp-nailed squeeze. The air around them had gone still. The world was silent. Evie closed her eyes, hoping her ears and mind would follow. But Vienna was still talking. Still smiling. She told the girl the most terrible truth. She couldn’t stop it. “You already do.”
Ichabod had eaten a lonely dinner with Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Down’s lonely friend. He’d enjoyed the beef stew, gobbled the tasty tarts, and made his way up the hill to the Home with several containers piled atop both his arms. When at last, the Down Funeral Home rose up off the hillside, he sighed in relief. A feeling of warmth burned against the chill of the night.
It felt good to be Home.
He entered smiling sweetly, stomach settling, and feet unfortunately worn. But the house was unusually quiet and that smile faltered. Jinx growled, running past him out of the front door. Stein barked, killing the silence with a series of harsh, frantic yelps.
For the first time Ichabod was not bored. He was scared. He looked all around dramatically. Why were the animals angry? Where were those Mortimer Girls?
“Hello?” Ichabod called out uncertain. A dog far away responded to Stein by howling. His call echoed off the silence.
“Hello?” Ichabod called again, “Where is everybody?”
He dropped the leftovers in the foyer, and he tried to run up the stairs.
But at the top of the staircase there was a card addressed to The One Who Finds Me Gone.
Ichabod’s heart thumped quickly as he reached for the note.
He could not believe what he was reading.
This time he ran for the phone.
The fraudulent sea was not what Nyx had expected. It was all wrong.
It was calm.
Green.
Much too serene.
Much too quiet. Where was the scary and mean?
Nyx felt her eyes water as she stared at the peaceful waters. “No,” she whispered. It was wrong. All wrong.
How could she find answers to her questions?
“No...”
How could she beg for forgiveness?
“No...”
How would she know if she’d been forgiven?
“No, no, NO!!!”
She tore at her hair, screaming at the ocean. Her heart was completely broken. And so was Nyx. Broke, broke, broken with no one to answer to. And the sea was a dead end.
There was nowhere to go.
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