Janine had trekked from one end of Pittsburgh to the other four times by noon, and while it was possible that she had simply missed Brother Nicolai on her criss-crossing walk, Janine's intuitons, both psychic and common-sensical, had told her otherwise. He had to have moved beyond the general limits of downtown, and she didn't know where or how to contact him.
Sitting on a bench at Point State Park, Janine's brown eyes watched a fuzzy sable-toned caterpillar brawl through the dying grass. Time was edging towards early afternoon so she decided Bee probably wouldn't be needing her today. Nancy hadn't called or texted either, so Janine figured her girlfriend was either busy at home or still asleep. Nancy did not favor daylight, preferring to stay up a little past dawn and likewise sleeping until late afternoon. Janine didn't mind; she loved to listen to Nancy talk all evening long while Janine rested her feet after work and she loved to watch Nancy sleep in the quiet hours of the morning. Nancy was her Sleeping Beauty, and Janine wouldn't have traded their awkward schedule for anything.
Except that at this moment, Janine had nothing in all the world that she needed to do.
The woolly caterpillar shuffled up onto the grey granite walkway and lifted its face up to Janine. It seemed to cock its head at her and Janine slanted her head in turn.
In a flash, the caterpillar flickered and blinked out of existence.
"What the..." Janine shook her head and rubbed her eyes. The caterpillar had returned, if indeed it had ever vanished at all. Janine sat up straight on the bench, her brain in a rapid state of shock. For a moment her body froze, then she tore off back toward Hot Dogma, leaving the brown woolly caterpillar to slowly inch its way toward the Mon River alone.
Nancy painted, and she knitted and, and she sewed. She could do almost anything with her hands, and she was fortunate enough to be able to make a living for herself doing those things.
Today, she say by her South Side apartment window painting a full scene which she had been commissioned to do by a small gallery that had just opened up in PPG Place, a large collection of strange glass buildings in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. She was being paid five hundred dollars to do it, and the only thing her painted had to include was path and lots of bright leaves. She was welcome to include anything else she saw fit. Nancy was thrilled to do the painted, and the sunlight pouring in the windows was exactly the right color and tone for inspiration.
Nancy had sketched out a very rough draft of a path leading through the woods, a waterfall, and many tall, elegant trees, but when she began to apply the paint to the canvas, anything was liable to change. She smiled broadly as she mixed brown, red, and yellow together on the lid of a cardboard box – a make-shift, recyclable palate – to make a pleasing, rich dark orange, which she meant to cover almost all of the top one-third of the canvas as a base for many thousands of bright leaves. Nancy was almost glad Janine had left early and that she could work in peace. Nancy loved Janine, loved to be around her, but Janine had such rich, excitable energy that it made it hard to focus too much and get things done. Not a psychic, Nancy could nevertheless fell all of the energy Janine had within her. She was a force to be reckoned with and Nancy knew it, and loved it.
She took a breath and began to gently caress the canvas with the paintbrush, making small, delicate circles, creating the illusion of branches where there were not yet any trees.
Nancy painted in something of a trance, not realizing sometimes when she had completed a certain section until she needed to mix a whole new color or completely ran out of paint. But today Nancy had a fresh batch of supplies from her favorite art store, Utrecht, and she could stay in the zone all day.
Faven had decided to take Lilla to meet Brother Nicolai. He figured the old monk might have some insight into Lilla's strange situation. They walked downtown in no real hurry. Brother Nicolai did not often leave his study.
The streets were almost devoid of the dead, as was normally the case on Mondays, and indeed, everyday but Sunday, and Faven felt slightly out of place among so many living. He didn't lke to be out in such bright daylight amongst so many unlike himself. It made him anxious, made him feel thing and vulnerable. He had to keep dodging bodies of people who could not see him and occasionally his arm or shoulder would pass through a living body, sending cold shivers up the spine of both parties. Faven would shake it off and crush closer to Lilla, trying to avoid anymore people traffic.
"So, we're going to see that dead monk?" Lilla had asked.
"You remembered?" Faven was surprised.
"Faven, I was drunk, not deaf. And I was curious, and kind of scared. I remember mostly everything," she confessed, touching his hand.
"Scared? Of what?"
Lilla shrugged as she walked down Smithfield, "I don't know. Of everything. Of you, I mean, I didn't know if you were really dead, or just crazy and out to kill me, or what. And being convinced you really were dead didn't really help much; I questioned my sanity, and then all of my thoughts on life and dead, and I mean, seriously. God. I should probably still be terrified. My world was just turned upside down. I'm pretty certain I would still be freaked out if you weren't such a fox in bed," she winked coyly and smacked Faven on the ass.
He grinned and took her hand, "I guess you have a point," and he leaned over and kissed her on the head. "We're here," he said, and motioned to Hot Dogma.
Lilla cocked an eyebrow. "Are you serious? I eat here like once a week."
Faven laughed, "Hey, me too."
They walked in together and found the cashier busy with customers, making it easy for them to slip past and allowed Faven to show Lilla the door to the cellar, and hey began to descend the spiral staircase.
Lilla looked around with wonderment, "So, this is just... right here? For all to see?"
"Not exactly," Faven explained, "Lilla once told me that if anyone non-psychic or not dead opened that door, they would only see a large store room filled with cleaning supplied and the like."
"Yeah, but I keep telling you, I'm not psychic."
"You may not be, or you might be. After all, isn't that what we're here to find out?"
Lilla assented with a sideways sort of nod.
"Faven? Is that your loud mouth I hear up there?" Brother Nicolai's accented words drifted melodiously up the last few feet of the steps.
"It is, Brother, and I've got a guest," he responded. Lilla and Faven reached the last step.
"It's not, Janine is it? She was down here once before acting very strange. Oh, hello there,"he said, his eyes alighting on Lilla.
"Brother Nicolai, this is Lilla. Lilla, Brother Nicolai," he introduced them, his hands gesturing as he spoke each name. "What's the matter with Janine?"
"She's alive," the monk muttered with a curious look on his face.
"Yes, Brother, Janine's been alive for about twenty-five years now."
"Not Janine, you fool, this lovely girl right here," he corrected Faven and reached out to take Lilla's left hand. He flipped her palm upward and scrutinized it slowly. "She's alive... and she's not psychic. Not naturally, anyway. Am I right, girl?" his powerful grey eyes looked deeply into Lilla's blue ones.
"Yes, sir," she said, unsure of whether or not to withdraw her hand from his. They were cold and tough, the hands of someone who put great effort and care into everything he created or changed.
Brother Nicolai's eyes flicked to Faven. "We have much to discuss, boy."
Kevin sat in his living room, rolling his cell phone over and over in his hands. He shouldn't call her, and he knew it. He had absolutely no reason to think that he had any chance in hell with Lilla now. He had never been the kind of guy to get hung up no a girl, but his whole life just felt so fucked now that she was really gone. And not just gone, but gone and taken. He crushed out a cigarette in an ashtray he had resting on the couch cushion beside him. His light brown hair was a mess and his hazel eyes were sad and tired. Kevin flicked the cell phone open, then closed it again.
"Fuckin' whore," he mumbled, "fucking drunk whore."
God, he wanted to call her.
[bPSA:/b Silent Sunday has temporarily been put on hold! After working a little too hard on sheer writing and not spending anytime on actually reading what I had written, the story developed a series of plot holes that will involve a major re-write to fix. That having been said, I think I need to put the story away for a while and let it simmer. In the mean time, I am starting a new story about a haunted house, so I'm sure if you enjoyed this, you'll enjoy it. It's going to be entitled "Lost House", and it's almost complete (inside my head, you know how that goes). What I need from you, however, is your input! I'm holding a sort of poll to see how people think my story should start! You can read all the details and vote here. It's on my Livejournal but you do NOT have to be a user to comment. Thanks for understanding, and Silent Sunday should be back up soon!]