Have you ever woke up one day and realized that while you were busy trying to catch your breath, life was passing you by?
I woke up and autumn was here. Just like like that it’s been three months since momma and daddy died. Sometimes it feels more like three minutes and other days I’m afraid that time’s passing too quickly and I’m going to forget them. I know it’s not like that, but nothing about this is logical and I’ve given up on expecting myself to be.
Suddenly the long, hot days of summer are over- they’ve given way to cool, rainy weather and the leaves changed, spots of bright orange everywhere. It gave me the impetus to set a goal: I need a home by winter.
Winters here can apparently be unpredictable, so I’ve been doing some reading, but it was actually Dirk who helped set things in motion a few weeks before.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
Dirk had the annoying habit of being playful one moment and utterly serious the next. Case in point, the fact that one minute we were laughing about something Consuela’s goofy little brother did and the next he was asking life questions. I’d been having a rare good day, too.
“I dunno D, do you have to be all serious right now? It’s summer.”
He rolled his eyes but the serious expression never left.
“Summer doesn’t last forever Ella. You gotta figure it out- winters can be rough here, or they can be great, but…”
With a sigh, the remainder of my good mood evaporated.
“I know.” Blinking rapidly didn’t really help the fact that one minute I’d been happy and the next I was close to tears, but it gave me something to do.
“Hey.” He at least had the good sense not to call attention to it, instead pulling something from a stack of papers on the kitchen counter. “Check this out. Maybe it’ll help.”
It was a newspaper clipping about a group of students in Bridgeport who were working to combat homelessness by fabricating container homes out of reusable materials.
“It’s a project my cousin’s worked on- they finally managed it. And look here, there’s a charitable endowment from the Landgraab family for grants-”
I’m sure I startled Dirk with my reaction, but it was important. I thought about the storage unit I’d been scraping to pay for each month. Maybe it was time to go through my parents’ things, but first…
“No! I can’t, Dirk. They can’t know who- I-” I’d grabbed his arm without thinking and he gently eased free only to reach out and take my forearm, far more gently than I probably had.
“El, breathe. Start from the beginning.”
“I…” Panic seemed to be the order of the day, but I took a breath, and then another, and once the tight feeling left my chest I nodded. He let go and took a step back, well aware that I didn’t like feeling out of control.
“I can’t. I know that’s not a good explanation, but I can’t say anything other than I don’t want anything to do with those people. I’m sorry. Is… that okay?”
Dirk had more questions, I could tell, but he gulped them down and nodded, and I felt ridiculously relieved.
“Thank you. I promise… I’ll look into this, I’ll just have to do it on my own.”
He grinned after a moment. “Actually I have an idea about that too. Lemme check with my cousin.”
I was sitting at the campground yesterday afternoon cooking some salmon I caught and thinking about a news article from that morning about the seasonal closure of the campgrounds at the end of autumn- apparently they’ll reopen sometime in early spring.
Once I decided, Dirk texted me his cousin’s number almost immediately. Retta Watts sounded upbeat and happy when she told me they had everything figured out already, and with a minimum of paperwork that left me completely anonymous, but assured me that her pesky cousin hadn’t explained why, and I wouldn’t happen to feel like sharing, would I?
Somehow, I’ve agreed to tell her the story the next time she’s on the island.
But I am officially the first subject in a ‘Long-Term Compatibility and Sustainability Trial to Determine the Environmental Impact of Modular Homes in Urban and Suburban Settings.’ Which is a fancy way Dirk and Retta came up with for saying that I will pay for the materials and get the house for next to nothing in turn for sending off regular reports on maintenance and use.
That’s one worry off my mind, but there were other concerns, like winter clothing. Which I actually shouldn’t have been so worried about. I’ve been brushing up on my skills lately at the winery- I’m learning to make wine, nothing more- and one of the junior vintners, Gemmy, has been giving me pointers.
I guess she’s seen me wear the same clothes a few too many times, because after giving me a bit of advice on sealing the oak barrels for my latest creation, she murmured off-hand that there were some leftover clothes in the basement from the last live-in vintner and they’d probably be about my size given how scrawny I was.
“Gemmy, it’s not-”
“It’s probably exactly what I think it is. Namely that some scrawny kid with a knack for wine-making should be taking this old junk off my hands as payment for using the equipment.” She was a little gruff as always, but smirking all the same. “Now get outta here and don’t freeze your butt off. Your latest creation smells almost drinkable and it’d kinda suck if you died before you were old enough to try it.”
I’ve tried fighting her on things precisely once, and it didn’t end well. Discretion being the better part of valor, I gave up.
“I… yeah, thanks Gemmy. I’ll go clear that stuff out right now.”
There were enough clothes in the trunk to last me through spring and probably into next summer too. Apparently I’m to ignore the fact that roughly half of them are things I’ve seen Gemmy wear, and decidedly not the property of old Mrs. Flaherty, who is nearly 80 and has never worn anything but cardigans and high-collared dresses.
Today was Spooky Day, so there was no school, and I even had time for trick or treating. My mermaid costume was probably a little silly, but I like it, and it felt good to not worry about things for once.
Well this got long, but suffice to say I’m still here, alive and kicking (with a little help from my friends!)
Until next time, guys.
OOC: None of this has been planned and it’s starting to feel more and more like Nanowrimo with every post, lol. Something very familiar about grasping for connections from previous chapters and writing it off as ‘foreshadowing’. Hah. Okay.