The Resident (part sixteen)
Into their silence stole cautious movements. A pair of eyes, and another, crossed the road…by the billboard’s glow becoming deer. Debra and Wissary sighed half-oh’s, cut short by the lead deer’s bark.
The animals sprang; headlights flared, and through a roar of tires flowed past.
“Did they make it? I can’t look.”
A new voice said: “They’re fine.”
Debra said, “Des!”
Wissary heard Gemma: “Wiss, are you sitting there with your hands over your eyes?”
“I’m sensitive. I’d die if something got hurt in front of me.”
“Helpful of you to be such a pitcher-in.”
He felt a sharp edge bump his shoulder. “I’ve brought sunscreen.”
He felt himself stubborn, cornered into it; ridiculous…still reluctant to give way. He raised his head.
“Come on,” Des said, poking him again with the tube’s nasty crimped bottom. “You’ll be green for a month. You won’t be able to leave the house.”
“I thought of you,” Des said on, as Wissary allowed a standoffish void to envelop the glopping of his face. “In fact, I always think of you, which is why I’ve been meeting with Gemma after I see you asleep. I don’t like having a secret. It seems wrong for us.”
“Why do you meet her?” Debra asked.
“You’re Debra, Aura’s daughter. I suppose you know me.”
“Gemma, the geologist? Whose last name sorry I don’t?”
“Geomorphologist. Quill. To the point, I’m your grandfather’s lister…in fact, I’m his third. Teconieshe is the longest-lived of Tithonians. And Desander meets me because it’s a very large thing to decide, when your train goes off track, whether you should bide where you are, or walk ahead.”
“Tell me about it! See, Wiss, if Bridge were to come to me, and say what Des said to you…”
“What, to put on sunscreen?”
“I don’t like having a secret. It seems wrong for us. I would say—”
Debra sat blank.
“Making the first approach, you would say, ‘I don’t like you having a secret, Bridge.’ Et cetera. Will you share what you haven’t, do you understand how much it matters?”
“But, Gemma. He could deny it all…no secret, no sharing.”
“Fair is fair, then. You’ll have an answer. Take it.”
Debra put her face in her hands.
“Answer me a question. Why are you not astonished? Turning green? Tithonians? Your mother’s work friend wandering the night with your neighbor?”
“Because… I think somehow I know. Even though I don’t. The billboard.” Holding a Diet Coke and Snickers from the duffle, Debra waved at the ambience.
“You’re a quarter Tithonian yourself, yes. Have you ever greened up, after a session?”
“I figured too many kiwi smoothies. Weight loss thing,” she added, to Wissary.
“Oh, does it work? I feel like the stresses are tubbing me up.”
(2022, Stephanie Foster)