Once There was Life

Chapter 8: Follow Suit

Yet, Cecile remembered. In his dream, the pursuers of him and his older brother had passed by below, unable to notice that they had climbed up the scaffolding. He barely glanced down, relaxed as he was with his feet dangling over the edge and his back against the supporting rails of the scaffold. He put a piece of the stolen bread in his mouth and chewed slowly while his gaze focused on something in the distance. His childhood self watched a sparrow duck in and out from behind a piece of grating in the wall and the corners of his mouth lifted into a smile.

“What are you smiling about?” his older brother asked.

“Huh,” he said, turning to the inquiry with a blank face.

His older brother laughed.

“You don’t smile like that unless you have a plan little bro. Wha-What are you thinking about?”

Cecile’s eyes were open. He had fallen asleep on the couch again.

“What are you thinking?” a man in the room was asking another.

Again with the dreams. Cecile breathed in, closed his eyes, and counted. The people in the room finished their conversation on the areas of town that should be avoided. When the room was left empty, Cecile sat himself up.

Yesterday. What had he been doing yesterday? The door clicked as one of the men re-entered the room and stopped when they saw Cecile sitting there.

“What?” Cecile asked him.

The man stayed silent, then reached over and turned off the light.

“Thanks for doing the shopping,” he said.

Then he left Cecile alone.

Oh ya. Cecile had been trying to finish the list Mr. Odalas gave him and…there had been that girl he had met at the grocery store. No it must have been the other way around. He remembered visiting some of the shops while the ice was melting. He lifted his hand and rubbed at his forehead in an attempt to clear the fog from his memory. If he was to continue the task, he would need to remember where he put the list. But, he lowered his hand, why say thanks for something like that?

The puzzle held him until he realized that he was spacing out again. He had promised himself he wouldn’t do that anymore. Well, he couldn’t go back to sleep. Maybe he could go visiting. He got up and wandered into the hallway. The floor had become empty, most likely because they had noticed he was back. People didn’t like strange things around them; it made life difficult. For him, the emptiness made it boring. He went downstairs.

He followed the voices to the staff room. He opened the door and received quite a few stares from the employees relaxing around the tables, but he ignored them. He went over to the fruit bowl on the counter where he proceeded to pick up and examine the selection.

“Hey, do you work here?” one of them asked, as Cecile put one apple into his pocket and picked up another.

Cecile looked to the speaker.

“As of last month. Why?”

“Well, I’ve never seen you before,” the man said simply.

“Likewise,” Cecile said.

He picked up a ripe pear and left them to figure it out. What sort of day would it be, he wondered. Of course, a normal day would be the best. He opened the door and it was stopped as it was caught. Dominic Odalas stood on the other side holding it open. They watched one another. Cecile realized that Mr. Odalas had not been paying attention.

“Do you need something?” Cecile asked him, trying to understand.

“Sorry,” Mr. Odalas said letting go of the door so that it could swing free.

Dominic Odalas sidestepped his way past. Cecile stayed at the door, feeling that something was amiss. Maybe he should have asked about the shopping list…or not. Shaking off the feeling he started off along the street. It would have been more out of the ordinary, Cecile reasoned, if Mr. Odalas never looked troubled, but as he examined the tired faces of the people passing by he realized that he had been looking at something different. That expression Mr. Odalas had given had been one of hurt.

For some reason Cecile remembered the time when he first stood in Mr. Odalas’ office as the man explained what his company did. That had been the same day Dominic tried to shoot him. Cecile had never figured out why Mr. Odalas had approached him that day, but when Cecile had failed to die he had been invited to the company. That day Cecile’s eyes had moved over the equipment on the desk; paperweight, pencil basket, printer, standing monitor, until he came to the picture of a girl that was faced in his direction.

Mr. Odalas had then said something about protecting her, and Cecile had looked up to confess that he wouldn’t be able to give her the proper attention and that he only wanted some time alone. Cecile had forgotten about the task until now. What had her name been? For that matter, what was the name of the girl who was bothering him now?

Cecile stopped by the crumbling bridge and looked across the city. The houses past the bridge curved along an invisible bank, now a flat expanse of dirt that separated more luxurious dwellings from the inner city chaos. Once there must have been an actual river for the tilted houses to rise over, for the windows to shine against, and to wash away the dirt of common troubles. Standing here now, it felt as though it had been a long time. Cecile wondered when his brother would show up. He had to show up, didn’t he? It would be boring if nobody showed up.

Someone sitting under the bridge laughed. He wondered if he himself had ever laughed like that or if he could. So often he knew that he should be feeling something, and then when he did…why did he have to be an idiot and overreact?

“Catharine,” a male voice under the bridge said.

Cecile’s thoughts dropped off. That was the name he was trying to remember.

“Dominic Odalas’ daughter. They found the body.”

Sympathetic groans and exasperated sighs came from the group. Cecile realized that he might not be going home tonight.

“Who?” Cecile asked himself.

“Did you say something?” a female voice from under the bridge asked.

“No,” a man replied.

A girl poked her head out from under the bridge to look at him.

“Oh, it’s the weird guy. Did you say something?” she asked.

Cecile looked over at her, but couldn’t figure out what he had wanted.

“I’m sorry I just…” the words trailed away.

“Don’t be shy,” she said misunderstanding, “What do you need to know?”

“Do-Do you know who it was that killed her?”

Not that he cared about Mr. Odalas or his family. It was just good gossip, yes.

“I heard the police talking,” another from under the bridge said. “Our good Mr. Odalas is supposed to be meeting someone down in the old Cope neighborhood. The house number was something like eighty-two or ninety-one.”

As this new voice listed off the numbers, Cecile realized that this man was making a sale’s pitch. He slipped the two apples from his pocket and crouched down to their level. There were three of them there.

The one who had disclosed the murder details was a heavyset man in a forest-green water-resistant coat and matching wind pants. His slimmer male companion in a grey shirt, blue track pants, and red shoes looked like he had never quite given up on an athletic life. The girl had flower scrunchy holding back her brown her hair, jeans ripped to the knees, and an orange tank top.

“Do you accept fruit?” Cecile asked, holding the apples in his hands.

“Sixty-seven,” the man said reaching forward to swipe an apple. “That’s all that I remember.”

Cecile doubted it. An apple was a cheap price and he wondered how many had heard this story. Judging by the way the girl frowned, he suspected that many had, meaning that either it was false or a trap to lure curious people. The skinny guy timidly took hold of the other apple. Cecile thought that maybe he should buy some insurance. He dug in his pocket for the pear and dropped it into the girl’s lap.

“What is this for?” she asked, unaccustomed to charity.

“If he comes by,” the stranger instructed, “tell my brother James that I am…sorry.”


Chapter 7: Underfoot 

Chapter 9: Doors of Blue