To Feel, A Modern Tale (02.09.11)

CHAPTER ONE <Click here for all of CHAPTER ONE.>

CHAPTER TWO <Click here for all of CHAPTER TWO.>

 CHAPTER THREE

Chloe walked slowly up the dusty road, stretching out each step to take as long as possible. Her mind raced at how she would explain this stranger who trailed behind her to her mother. She could hear him breathing more heavily the further along they walked. Sometimes the steep hill was too much for visitors. To her, it meant infrequent company and a sometimes lonely life but she had gotten used to her home, dull as the village may be, when a friendly older couple, whom she had since grown to consider her mother and father had taken her in those many years ago. Her father had recently passed away and she missed him for his good humor, for his compassion but especially for his trust. Just three years ago, he had come to Chloe and approached her about the truth behind her sudden appearance in CarthMoore. He was the only one who knew everything – besides Ecker, whose breaths could be heard now even more loudly than before. She spun around to confront Ecker.

“Are you going to be okay? Do you need us to stop for a moment so you can catch your breath,” she asked him, resting her hands on her waist and looking at him with what appeared to be a thin layer of disgust or so Ecker thought. Okay, so I’m a little out of shape, he admitted to himself. But she doesn’t have to look at me so judgmentally, he thought. “I’ll be alright,” he said. “Let’s just stop here so I can fix my shoe. I think I have a stone trapped in it.” She rolled her eyes and walked back to join him at a grouping of large, sandy white rocks.

Ecker squatted on the ground, hunched over his dirty boots. “So what are you going to tell your mom about me?” he said trailing off after the mom reference which still puzzled him so.

“I’m going to tell her that you and I used to know each other when I lived in that other place and that you just accidentally ended up here while on vacation,” she said sitting on the large rock anchoring the mound of white, snowy rocks that lined the road. She wiped away the dust from her sneakers as she waited for him to finish checking his shoe for a pebble. “What did you think I was going to tell her? Everything?”

“So she doesn’t know?” Ecker said and rested his back gently against the same large rock as Chloe sat. “About you or me or where we come from?” Chloe stopped rubbing her shoe and glanced over at him. There was total silence between them now. It was understood, and with that, they began their journey up the hill again and spoke no further for the rest of the way.

As the two approached the top of the hill, they were greeted by the yips and licks of two very affectionate yellow labs and Chloe’s mom, who came walking swiftly to them while wiping her damp hands with a dish towel. This was Lu, a tall, full-figured woman with a natural penchant to speculate and doubt, and someone who usually greeted everything with skepticism in her voice and a scowl on her face. This had only intensified since her husband Hal had died. She rushed to tell Chloe news she had just heard.

“Maura just called me and said there’s some man in town who’s got everybody talking. She said something about making things disappear and reappear, and that he seemed to come into town out of thin air. I think Maura might be talking a little crazy again, but no one seems to know who he is—“ Lu abruptly stopped talking as she saw a stranger, a young man who looked perhaps no more than 22 or 23, trailing far behind her daughter. He was approaching her now with a weak smile and an extended hand. “Who are you?” she questioned Ecker.

“Ecker, ma’am,” he said sheepishly and dropped his hand as the skeptical woman turned away from him and darted into the house. The pair followed her inside. As she stepped into the living room, she spun around quickly, staring at Chloe with increased intensity. “Chloe?” she asked firmly. “We need to talk. Come here and help me in the kitchen. Ecker, living room!” And with that Lu briskly walked out of the room with Chloe right behind her, gesturing to her friend to sit quietly.

As the two women headed toward the kitchen, Chloe became more aware than ever of her history in this small but quaint house with its homemade curtains, slip covers and pillows, with its delectable pie smells that would rise out through the windows and chimney, especially during the winter time, and with the framed family photos and mementos she passed in the hallway which traced a history she had shared with this couple.

Though this friendly, chatty man and this curt, suspicious woman seemed like total opposites, they had loved each other and opened their house to a frightened, wandering girl. They didn’t ask a lot of questions but instead welcomed her in, made her feel safe and provided a loving home, the best that they could, for over time, she became like the daughter they had never had. As for others, they greeted rumors and whispers with a simple story and one that their fellow CarthMoore villagers accepted as truth: they had adopted Chloe as their own daughter, simple as that.

I’ve led a good life here, Chloe thought to herself as she followed the woman who had served as her mother for the past eight, almost nine years, albeit a humdrum one at times, and though Chloe may have sometimes moped and whined, she never stopped being grateful. She couldn’t think of a better place to have been all of these years, especially as a stranger of just nine years old, left behind on a journey where she knew no one at all. “Mom, I was going to tell you about Ecker before he just showed up here, I swear,” Chloe quickly sputtered in anticipation of the scolding she was about to get about bringing strangers home without asking first.

Lu stepped behind her daughter to peer into the hallway and ensure the stranger was not lurking there. She stepped back into the kitchen and turned to her daughter in a flurry. “Chloe, does this young man know about you? Does he know where you came from?” she said in a panic.

Chloe was stunned. Her mother knew? Had her father told her after all? “Mom, what are you talking about?” she did her best to feign confusion about her mother’s comments. Lu would have none of that. “Oh come on, Chloe, you think I don’t know after all of these years? I was the one who urged your father to confront you about it in the first place.” She began pacing the floor now, putting her hand up to her head and looking off into the distance as she thought. “Will he tell others about you?” she asked her daughter.

Just at that moment, as Chloe prepared to respond to her mother, Ecker appeared at the kitchen entrance. “I assure you, ma’am, I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize your daughter’s life,” Ecker said softly. “I care about her. That’s why I came back. For her.”

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