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©2020 Alanna Peterson. All rights reserved.

Chapter Thirty-Five

Monday June 22

Naveed watched his feet

Clumsy now, uncoordinated,

Stumbling over the slightest obstacles.

The library sidewalk beneath them, 

Flecked with shining minerals,

Sparkled like an inverted night sky:

He walked across a field of stars

 

Disoriented, he looked up

But kept his head angled low, 

Shading his eyes under the hood of his sweatshirt

 

The library's steel angles flashed in the sun

Isaiah stood atop the hill, in the eaves

They crisscrossed around him

Like metal twigs in a giant nest

 

Blackbeard and Isaiah were speaking as Naveed approached, 

But he couldn’t listen.

First had to catch his breath again

Which now was impossible.

He sat on the sidewalk, holding his head,

Throbbing everywhere, heart fluttering, 

Breathing breathing breathing.

One of his bandages had fallen off.

His wrist was swollen and seeping.

He pulled the sleeve of his sweatshirt down to cover it.

 

Isaiah crouched next to Naveed.

Blackbeard had left.

Naveed realized No-Teeth hadn't followed,

Wondered why.

People streamed in and out the library doors, 

But no one even looked at them.

They were homeless.

They were invisible.

 

You all right, son? Isaiah asked.

What happened to you?

 

Naveed spoke as quickly as he could before he blinked out and forgot everything. 

Isaiah tell me what you saw that day 

You must have seen

We parked right across from you

 

I didn't see nothing, Isaiah said.

I was just selling papers.

What happens to other people's cars ain't none of my business.

 

Naveed persisted. No, you had to! 

Please 

I know it was her

A lady with blond hair blue eyes—

 

Isaiah shook his head. No, it wasn't—

He stopped. Like I said. I didn't see nothing.

 

Naveed pressed his forehead into his knees. 

He was losing the thread again.

He kept seeing stars.

He talked faster, more desperately:

Please. 

Please. 

I have to prove it’s a lie

Because if I don’t Cyrus is in trouble and Roya—

Roya will have to grow up alone

Without us 

Without our parents 

She's still so little, and she’s special, 

She sees how it’s all connected, 

My parents get that but not everyone does 

It would kill her to lose them 

            and our home 

            the walnut tree 

            our cat 

            the chickens 

I won’t let them take it all away—

 

Isaiah held up his hand, lowering his voice.

Easy, easy. 

Okay, so I saw your car pull up that morning.

I saw you get out.

Saw your sister, too.

Most people act like they don't see me, 

But she noticed.

Gave me the sweetest smile.

Highlight of my day.

            (a pause)

All right, you should know.

I saw him do it.

Guy in a brown uniform,

Looked like he worked there or something,

Jimmied open the trunk, 

Put a duffel bag inside,

Went back into the building.

When the SWAT team showed up, I got the hell out of there.

 

Naveed struggled to keep up. Why didn't you tell the police?

 

I got my reasons, Isaiah said.

Besides, they'd never believe me.

 

The man, what did he look like? Naveed asked.

 

Isaiah started talking again,

But Naveed was slipping.

All he heard was tattoo and neck 

He could picture the face, 

But he couldn't remember the name.

 

He doubled over as a cough shook through him again

and then there was nothing

nothing but the blinding 

blinding search

for breath

breath he couldn’t find

couldn’t find

couldn't

find

 

The city dissolved   

Everything quieted

Noise dampened as if snow had fallen 

But this silence was not peaceful

It was the sound 

of absence 

 

 

Naveed walked now across a wide grassy meadow

Where Brooke waited in a white dress

 

It made perfect sense: 

This was a performance, all a performance

            Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

No, no, wrong play

 

Tense silence 

People watched, faceless in the shadows,

Waiting for him to speak his lines

Finally he remembered, turned to Brooke and recited:

If thou lovest me then,

Steal forth thy father’s house to-morrow night;

And in the wood… there I will stay for thee.

 

The scene shifted:

Now a black lake

Loomed behind them 

Next to Naveed, balanced on a stump:

A glass platter of coconut cake

Before him: Brooke, inside the dark cave of a hollowed-out tree

In her palm a single fig, ripped in half

She offered it to him

Held it to his lips

 

Beautiful or terrible

He didn't know which

She smiled and he couldn't say

If it was more like a sunrise

Or a sunset

 

She responded,

To-morrow truly will I meet with thee

 

Tomorrow

 

Wind rushed in

Her dress blew all around his face

He couldn't see

Couldn't breathe 

Through the thick white fabric

He clawed at it

            (a gulp of breath)

Tore it away

            (and another)

It became a scrap of paper in his hand 

            (keep breathing)

And one word was written there

            

Tomorrow

 

He was back in the dark

Alone

The only light came through a square window

            (not her don't think of her)

            (his name)

            (you have to remember his name)

Someone had tied him up

The guard

The guard with the turkey tattoo

His name 

His name was...

 

Naveed opened his eyes

Isaiah above him now,

Saying in his loud voice something about a phone,

Could he use someone's phone,

But no one even turned to look

At the yelling homeless man

 

Naveed grabbed Isaiah's arm. 

His Zane is name

No, his name 

Zane it was Zane  

But the lady who took us, her name's Dr. Snyder— 

You have to tell—

            

He was out of breath, couldn't finish

Isaiah looked confused

Naveed wasn't sure he was making sense

But he was done.

Fading.

Eyes closing again.

 

Opening.

Isaiah had vanished.

Two new faces glared

Four hands frisked him

Jerked him upright

All he could see was the logo on their black uniforms:

A heart

            enclosing a stalk

                        of wheat

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