Continued from “Lost” …
“Welcome! Welcome!” an elderly woman approaching them called. She was wearing wool socks, no shoes, and a pink floral dress—or it could’ve even been a nightgown, for her massive bosom hiked it up high enough that it became indecent for someone her age to wear a dress that short in public.
She looked older than death itself; her face covered in wrinkles, her eyelids sagging low over her eyes—it was a wonder she could even see—her gray hair frayed and stringy, thinning at the temples and behind her ears. She was barely taller than five feet and morbidly obese, at least three hundred pounds or more. Her skin was a dark, leathery brown, as if she had spent too many years tanning in the sun, and it folded in ripples down her arms and legs. As round as she was, she reminded him more of an English bulldog than anything remotely human.
And yet, even on swollen feet that clumped against the hardwood floor like cinder blocks—shoes probably didn’t fit her anyway—she still moved at an unbelievably fast pace and had her thick arms wrapped around his neck in a tight bear hug before he could get out of dodge.
He hugged her back, not to be rude, though he wasn’t sure of the occasion. Did he know this woman? Grandmother? Great-grandmother, perhaps? Or was it common practice to embrace a total stranger upon greeting in this mysterious town called Oceanview? He strained to catch a clarifying glace at the girl next to him, who had been so captivated by the painting and the story of the lost fishing vessel.
“Oh, I see you’ve already met Bess,” the old woman said after she released him. Bess was a stark contrast to the old woman. She towered over her, and almost met him at eye level. Her ivory skin pulled tightly over her bones. She wore a white tank top, and her broad shoulders poked so far out they looked as if they would pierce right through the skin. Despite looking thin and frail, there was still a ray of light behind her eyes, and her sunshine gold hair cascaded down her back in waves.
“I hope your trip wasn’t too painful?” The woman was saying.
He raised an eyebrow. “Painful, ma’am?”
“Birdy, I don’t think he remembers,” Bess whispered.
“No matter.” The woman clasped her hands together, and a low echo reverberated off the walls. The room had amazing acoustics; he suspected it once was a gymnasium before being converted into what he could only assume was a visitors center. “Sometimes it’s easier to forget. Like my husband used to say: The ‘how’ is not always important, it’s the ‘what you do with it’ that takes the cake.”
“That’s an interesting phrase,” he said.
“Thank you. I’ve really come to cherish it in my old age, especially when dealing with some of the more distressing realities of life that I can’t control.” She was silent for a moment, and she and Bess exchanged tight-lipped looks in front of him. They seemed to be having a conversation solely with their eyes. Bess’s eyes widened, her brows arched, as if pleading to say something, to share some secret information that would help get his head out of this fog that only seemed to get worse with the women’s vague revelations. However, “Birdy” stood firm. She squinted her eyes and furrowed her brows as if scolding Bess for being so naive. Then she turned to him with a wide grin he would have mistaken for genuine if he hadn’t just witnessed the tense staring contest.
“By the way, my name is Lady Byrd, but you can call me Birdy.” She stretched out her hand to shake his, and he willingly took it, but when he opened his mouth to introduce himself, he froze.
He hadn’t the slightest clue who he was.
© 2017 Nortina Simmons
It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt was kind of . . . meh . . . Anyone else feeling a little uninspired by these last few prompts? I decided to deviate today, to regain that energy and enthusiasm I had at the beginning of the challenge. I hope you enjoyed part two of Oceanview!