Fiona hoped that Jay would be standing around at the pier or outside the pier, somewhere close to the pier, waiting and watching for her. He wasn’t. It was cold and bright and she was hungry and too short on money to buy expensive Millwood Lake Pier food. She could probably manage coffee. Just barely.
She pulled her cell out of her jacket pocket and shot off a quick text.
give me about 15 low on gas
Fiona sat down on one of the benches out on the pier. The wind and water were quiet, birds focused on the fish being unloaded from one of the boats on the next pier instead of this one. She put her coffee on a table and waited for Jay.
It happened quickly. It sounded like a tree slowly crashing, heavy trunk groaning as it split, branches snapping against one another, except it came up instead of down, twisted in half pointing up over the water and deck rail and planting itself there. The chess players continued to play chess. The coffee drinkers drank coffee. No one jumped up or shouted or screamed. No one could see or hear a thing.
A little girl with silver hair and a white gown and bare feet took two steps toward her. Her eyes were a pale inorganic green. They were not human.
Because it was the only way Fiona knew how to handle an apparition like this, she said, “Hello my name is Fiona. Do you need help?”
“Hello,” she responded brightly. “I’m Alisana. Where is my…um…friend?”
A crow hopped out of the ivy. The girl swung her white gown and clasped her hands. Fiona studied the child. Whatever else she was, the little girl was not dead. “Who are you looking for?”
“I can only come through when my friend is here, and I don’t see her.”
If this child was a spirit the ‘friend’ rule would be common, but she didn’t feel like a spirit at all. “Are you sure your friend isn’t here? What’s her name?”
She glanced up toward the world behind Fiona, the smile slipping away. “Her name is a secret. If she’s not here I can’t stay. I think I had better go.”
Fiona cautiously stood up and Alisana reached out and took her hand. “I’m glad I could meet you,” she told Fiona in the same happy voice. “You’re very pretty.”
The child’s hand was human in its texture and warmth. “Thank you, so are you.”
“If I see you again, maybe I can bring one of my other birds. They’re not like this one. Some breathe smoke, and some have hands.”
Alisana turned and started walking through the ivy and the arch between the trees. Fiona heard footsteps approaching and glancing over her shoulder saw Jay walking toward her. She could tell from his expression – he could see Alisana.
The fact that he could see the child made him fundamentally different from the people behind them on the pier.
“What is this?” he asked, very calmly.
Fiona had no idea. “I don’t know. Jay, why did you agree to meet me? Did you see something like this?”
The whole structure went down, the arch, the ivy, all of it. People behind them at the tables kept chatting and laughing. Nobody saw it go up, nobody saw it come down.
“Not like this. I saw dragons.”
It was a strange moment. Fiona couldn’t think of what she should do next – go back to the house now, sit down here and chat first, try to get a better idea of what he saw and what she could do to help? Well, she decided, better to tell him what you can do that balances out seeing dragons, maybe settle some things up front, although he didn’t seem unsettled, only very down.
“Jay,” she said as they both kept looking out at the lake and the mountains. It was a quiet day on the lake. “I can speak to ghosts and they can speak to me. It doesn’t work like a medium at a table, only in person.”
He glanced back toward the people at the tables next to the shops as if checking to see if they could hear them but he still didn’t seem nervous, just frozen and tired. “I always heard that,” he replied. “My dad and yours, you know, they talked about shit, but we thought it was a joke. They encouraged us to believe it was a joke. It wasn’t, was it.”
“I’m sure they did, and no, it’s not a joke. I’m sure your dragons are real too.”
“Yes they are. You’d better tell me the rest of it, Fiona.”