Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Mermaid House: Part Four

LEANDER WAS THINKING about the girl named after a flower when his Chevy broke down on an ocean boulevard he wasn't familiar with. As night drenched his windows, he pulled to the side just as his headlights faded. He got out, looked hopelessly around at trees and grass silvered by mist. He slumped against the car, feeling sick. He didn't know how far it was to a place with a phone--
    He saw a bright light coming towards him -- headlights -- and, disregarding any horror stories he'd heard of psychos on the road, he waved his arms. He saw the lights fade as the car pulled to the side. He waited, but didn't hear the sound of an engine.
    A boy walked from the mist. He seemed harmless, dressed in a gray T-shirt and jeans. He smiled, thumbs in his pockets. "Battery?"
    "I think so." Leander relaxed.
    The other boy nodded, walked around the car. The wind stirred his long, brown hair. "That happens sometimes, here. I'd give you a jump, but--" He shrugged, looked up. "Leander, right? I'm Owen. You moved into my old house, the one with the well in the back."
    Leander thought he recognized the other boy from school and nodded warily.
    "You like San Francisco so far?"
    "I do like it." Leander hesitated. "My dad's sick. So we came here, for the hospital."
    Owen's eyes darkened. "Be careful then."
    "Yeah. Okay, so can you give me a ride?"
    "I probably won't need to. Try starting the engine again."
    Leander doubtfully slid back into the car and turned the key in the ignition. The car roared to life. "Hell."
    "Yeah. It's weird here." Owen leaned down. "Bring it down to Thyme's Auto Shop. My dad'll check it out. He's a great mechanic, and a blacksmith on the side."
    "Thanks." Leander gripped the steeering wheel. He'd never heard of anyone being a blacksmith outside of Amish communities and Renaissance fairs.
    "Could you hold on a sec? Let me make sure my car starts?"
    Leander listed to him crunch away over the gravel. He waited. When he didn't hear anything after five minutes, he scowled and steered his Chevy around, back towards where he thought Owen Thyme had parked his car.
    He didn't see it. He drove around, twice, before returning to the road.
    He ignored the prickling at the nape of his neck that told him something out of the ordinary had just happened.

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