Essie arrived at Maddie’s around 9:00 and knocked no answer. So she went back to the motel and paid for another night, and went out to a little coffee shop on the highway for breakfast. She ate slowly and thought about her dream. She would try today to find the farm, but then she would go back to Random and they would work things out, or was that right for him,” she argued like this in her head as she chewed her toast and eggs and sipped the bitter coffee.
At about 10:30 she went back to Maddie’s and knocked again and a ragged looking Maddie opened the door.
“Come on in, but be quiet or Debbie’ll wake up and give us hell,” she whispered.
“Has anyone called?” Essia whispered a little impatiently.
“Oh, that would not be good until about noon. Lets get outta here. We really don’t want those two up now. Anyway if someone calls they’ll leave a message, right?” Maddie headed for the stairs. “I’ll jus’ go up and change and be back kick ass fast, and I’ll show you the sights, such as they are here abouts.”
“OK, I weel wait outside,” Essie whispered as she opened the door.
“Okey doke,” Maddie said as she bounded lightly up the stairs.
Maddie came down dressed in black hoody with a flaming skull on the back, long camo shorts with pockets everywhere, bright green socks and big knobby black boots. Her medium length died black hair was done up in two pig tails that stood up on either side of the back of her head.
“Dat ees quite an outfit you have on,” Essie said smiling broadly.
”Well you know one must make an impression in the world,” replied Maddie in a snooty English accent.
Essie laughed and they moved together down the street toward the highway, Maddie talking a mile a minute about what she was going to show her. She walked backwards so that she could face Essie. Essie smiled and never took her eyes off of Maddie’s bobbing face.
Another Plan and Message for Miss Bianca
When Random got back to the house, Lucille was bustling in the kitchen and he could here Steve and Lin moving around upstairs.
“Well, you were right about the fishes. I caught one and it told me to be home by tonight,” Random said standing by the table looking out the window at the cars and the little log house. “Can I use your phone? I need to call my work.”
“Sure its in the living room,” Lucille said without looking away from her cooking.
As he went through the doorway to the living room, he nearly ran into Karen who was tottering in from the stairs bundled in a blanket.
“Oh, sorry,” Random said steadying her with his hands, “How are you doing this morning, better I hope.”
“Better and worse, I feel better physically, but its all hitting me about my dad,” she said hoarsly and Random noticed the red rims of her eyes.
“Lucille’s making something in there,” he pointed to the kitchen.
“I don’t know if I can eat much yet,” she said wincing a little and holding her stomach. Then she touched his arm and said, “I still can’t believe you brought me here after the way I behaved.”
“You and I can thank Steve for that. He talked me into it.”
She leaned her head into his chest and put one arm around him.
“Thanks anyway. You saved my life.”
Random shrugged and moved into the living as she went in to the kitchen.
He found the phone and punched in his work number and had to dial again with a one and area code and finally got the answering machine.
“You’ve reached the Research Associates division of applied psychology at the University of California Medical Center. We are not available to take your call right now but if you leave your name and number we will call you back when we are able.” It was Bianca’s most professional and slightly sarcastic voice.
“Hey, Miss Bianca this is your lovely assistant telling you that I am in Mendocino and won’t be back at work until Wednesday. Have fun with your data and if you have a message for me leave it at my house I will be home tonight to get it. “
“Always a plan. The man with the plan,” Steve said softly with a grin on his face as came down the stairs. Lin followed silently behind looking very calm, but wary.
The Buger Spot and Voices of Angels
Maddie led Essie up to The Burger Spot which was across the highway from the Stop and Shop Market. They sat out in gray but day that was neither warm nor chill. Essie had a milk shake and Maddie had a bacon double slathered with sauce and ketchup.
“I wake up hungry as a horse sometimes,” Maddie burbled around a mouthful of burger and sauce dripping down the edges of her mouth. She wiped her face and plunged in again full force.
“You don’ do nothin’ by halfway do you?” Essie said with a look mixed between awe and horror. “Ojala! Child you are una diablita. I can tell.”
“That means little devil girl. You can’t fool me I’m taking Spanish this year.” Maddie said again through a monstrous hunk of meat, bread and sauce. “My mom would agree whole heartedly.”
As they sat there came a point where neither of them were talking and no cars passed. Into the silence crept the faroff sound of voices high and low intermingling like airy spirits.
“What ees that singing I hear?”
“Oh that’s probly comin’ from the church down the street. Sometimes I go there kinda as a way to spend time on Sundays. But I ain’t been in a while. you wanna go? They’re real nice and friendly. More’n Debbie and Matt on a Sunday.”
“Shouldn’ we go an check the messages?”
“Oh nobody’ll get back to us before noon, I bet.”
“OK. Let’s go and see thees church. They have a wonderful singing at least.”
They walked up the street to the little white church like some kind of icon for pioneer life. It was a white building with high peaked triangular roof and 2 stained glass windows on each side. One of Christ on the cross and one of the virgin Mary seated among a flock of sheep.
Church of the Living Christ
A sign out front read. And under the name was:
This Sunday: What is Your Commitment to Love?
Essie thought it was a very fitting question. She knew Random would not understand all the reasons for disappearing, but she also thought if he loves me maybe he doesn’t have to understand everything.
They entered the church as the choir of about ten men and woman in silver blue robes sat down in the front pews. The church was dim with deep colored light coming in from the windows on the side. About 50 people sat scattered in groups of twos and threes with some lone people here and there. The usher handed Essie a program and looked sideways at Maddie’s ensemble but obviously recognized her.
The preacher was a short thin pasty looking white man with short hair and great black glasses that filled the upper half of his face.
”Good Morning! And welcome!” He shouted with sincere joy.
“Good Morning!” the congregation shouted back.
“What brings you here today?” He shouted the question loud and challenging.
”Love!” The congregation shot back strong and sure.
“Are you sure in your heart about that?” the preacher who’s voice was powerful far beyond his thin weedy frame and mild mannered looks. He spoke with fire and conviction.
“Then welcome all, even those who cannot say they come in love for this is a step toward love if you have not reached it yet. If you come in peace, or weary sadness of spirit, if you come in joy and rapturous longing for the spirit of Christ, if you come in boredom or curiosity welcome for you fill his house with your human spirit, Amen.”
Essie suddenly broke into silent tears at thought that she had not even thought to call Random and let him know she was alright. Suddenly she was filled with grief for his feelings of abandonment. She also wept out of fear that she might lose him because of that.
“You alright?” Maddie asked in a concerned whisper.
Essie nodded because she knew it had to be that way.
The service was long and meandering, but filled with hymns and Maddie sang like a banshee next her loud and high and off key, swaying to the music in ecstasy. Essie marveled at her ability to get lost in the moment, and instantly find another moment to be lost in.
When they got back to the house, Debbie and Matt were parked on the couch amid potato chips, dip and beer.
“Zat you, little one,” Debbie hollered when she heard the door open never taking her eyes off the game.
“Ya, hey Matt, Deb this is Essie. I met her at church. Did we get any calls?”
“I dunno, I think the phone was ringin’ when we got up, but we din’t get it.”
“Cause we was getting’ sumptin else,” Matt said pinching Debbie’s thigh.
She slapped feebly at him and looked cross.
“Now none o’ that talk around the niblet, she don’t need to hear non of your dirty mind.”
Maddie turned to face Essie so they could not see her make a gesture of a finger down her throat.
Essie shrieked with laughter involuntarily. Debbie looked up suspiciously finally getting a good look at her.
“Spider,” Essie made jumping motions and pointed at the floor. It was Maddie’s turn to laugh.