Jay Lombardo sat on the top rail of a fence that ran in no particular direction across a narrow slice of ground on the western shore of Cloud Lake. The fence had no gate and seemed to guard nothing. He scratched at the worn blue paint and ants scattered and ran down the post to the dirt below where the posts hid and protected them. Maybe the fence did guard something and he just couldn’t see it.
They’d been sitting here for hours while Fiona brooded on a bench waiting for his Uncle Don to show up. She thought that was possible because reasons. He didn’t question them.
Uncle Don was a Lombardo, but he was a dead Lombardo and being dead eliminated him from the magic list. As far as Jay could understand, all Uncle Don had to contribute was the whereabouts of the Legendary Gabe. If Gabe were dead, which was likely, whatever value he might have was nullified too. He could sit here with her for the afternoon and let her work through all that, including the reality that her parents were gone forever. Maybe one of these dead people knew something about the dragons, and he had nothing else to do today.
Fiona looked out at the cold water and kept her silence. She was miserable and failing and both of them knew it.
Fiona finally gave up and left her bench. “This doesn’t seem to be working.”
And there was no Plan B, of course. He’d had time to wonder what he was going to do if the ghost didn’t show up or didn’t perform as Fiona hoped it would. Trying to be helpful, he offered, “Uncle Don’s buried in the Crossing. You want to try the cemetery instead of this place?”
Before she could respond he heard a voice calling his name and there was Hugs Stanfield in a pink coat riding a bicycle followed by some random guy on another bike. The lake drew tourists so it wasn’t unusual to see people cycling around the place, and she had family living on the shore, so he assumed that’s what she was doing too, still, it was a shock. Here he was looking for ghosts and there was the pinnacle of normality, Harmony Stanfield, coming right at him.
Hugs stopped, got off her bike, walked up and looked at the two of them. “Hi Jay, hi Fiona.”
Fiona said something general. Pretty obviously they weren’t close friends.
“Hi,” he said back. He had a sudden powerful memory of her mouth, of kissing her on his dark front porch, something he didn’t know why he did and didn’t know what to do with the memory. He tried to keep talking which normally he would never do. “What’re you doing here?”
“Visiting my grandparents. What are you doing here?”
Was she asking to hang out with him? “School project,” he told her. That generally worked when he didn’t want to answer a question.
Before either of them could get out another word Fiona whirled around, grabbed him around the neck and pulled him down into an enormous face-grinding all teeth out giant kiss fish mouth kiss.
Stunned, Jay gasped, literally staggered, and tried to push her away. Fiona dug her fingers into his back and twisted them in his hair and lifted her mouth sideways far enough to hiss, “Don’t let go!”
He jerked his head far enough aside to see Hugs’ reaction, and it was what he expected it to be. She put her hand over her mouth as if to stop herself from gasping.
Fiona wrapped her arm around his shoulder and aimed a relentless smile at Hugs. “Jay and I have plans so it was it was nice running into you, see you later.”
Hugs said, “Bye then”, got on her bike and rode off without another word.
Jay watched the girl in the pink coat disappearing around the curve in the road, and overwhelmed with anger snarled at Fiona, “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m sorry. I needed to get her to leave fast. I couldn’t think of any other way to do it. Jay, turn around.”
Bewildered, furious and confused, he did.
A room had appeared just beyond the tree trunk columns and beams. It had an elevator, two doors, a gate, a modern tiled ceiling, a table with flowers, some upholstered chairs, sparkly green lights, a floating glowing red ball and two people.
He knew them.
Dr. Kenley Dirac and old Uncle Don Lombardo. He’d been to that man’s funeral. If someone could be definitely undeniably dead it was Uncle Don, but here he was, the dead Lombardo.
The horrible part was that he wasn’t alone.
“It worked,” said Fiona in a tired voice, “but I think they may be here to see you, not me. My mother is not dead.”