Monday Sidetrack: 14

(This story begins with Monday Sidetrack: 6. Start there to get caught up and see the photos or go to https://www.lavendersidetrack.com/story-catchup to read all the previous posts as one long post. Then subscribe to find out what happens next!)

 

My heart beat a new rhythm against everything it could reach, not holding anything back for the sake of reason or self-preservation.

Relax, relax, relax. Losing your cool won’t help.

Walk up and pretend that you’re lost.

I shifted my weight on the stairs and tried to find the position that looked the most natural in case I would be discovered.

What am I saying? I AM lost.

She was almost to my side of the building. I scooted down a few more steps, away from the opening.

Grandma was always polite and friendly. She’ll help me. At the very least, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

I held my breath as she made her final approach. This time, I saw a thin slice of yellow dress spin along the floor’s edge and disappear.

Now!

I stood up like the adult woman I was and walked up the stairs. When I felt the top of my head break that visual plane, I resisted the urge to duck.

She’s a nice person.

“Hello?”

She continued on her path.

Maybe she can’t hear me yet.

“Hello, I’m lost. Can you help me?”

“Never saw the sun shinin’ so bright..” The song continued.

I knocked on the floor, as if it was a door. I stepped out of the staircase toward her.

“Excuse me, can you help me?”

Still nothing.

She spun around at the far edge and started back toward me. We were eye to eye and she didn’t seem to notice.

She was younger than I had ever known her, but her eyes were the ones I knew from birth – striking and gray like no others I had ever known. That voice filled the room with the power of professional training she never had and the confidence she always had.

I smiled and waved. Can she really not see me? I walked toward her.

“Hello?”

Nothing. Instead, I had to move out of the way to let her pass. Otherwise, those beautiful shoes would have done a real number on my sandals.

I stood silent and watched her spin at the stairs and walk back the other way.

The room was set up like a house. One side had a complete kitchen with clean dishes drying next to the sink and a dining table set for six on a blue, braided rug. I walked over and sat down on a familiar chair, the tan vinyl cushion deflating a bit under my weight. The dishes were the same white with silver trim that I had eaten many meals from.

This is Grandma’s kitchen.

I turned back toward the live music box performance. She couldn’t be my actual grandma, but that wasn’t as comforting as it might seem.

Grandma sang and paced, and I looked for clues.

The refrigerator was full of fresh food. A carton of eggs was half empty and the butter was short a tablespoon or two. I filled a glass with cold, clear water, smelled it, and took a tiny sip. It tasted like the water from the well on my grandparents’ farm.

Window cleaner, sponges, dish detergent, and all their usual comrades filled the cabinet under the sink. Cans of cream of mushroom soup, canisters of sugar and flour, and boxes of cereal took up prime real estate in the pantry cabinet. Even Grandma’s glass ring holder was in its spot to the right of the sink. It was empty, but I knew that her wedding ring would slide onto the center post every time she did dishes, if she did dishes in that place.

Across the room, under the staircase that led round and round to the beacon, a cream-colored couch with brown and orange flowers wore a color-coordinated blanket Grandma had crocheted the winter before my sister was born across its broad and sturdy shoulders. I sat down and stirred up a quick breath of Grandma’s perfume.

I watched and listened to her routine while I worked on a plan, without much success.

I need more information.

The opening in the stairs was about five yards to my left and upward seemed like the only way to figure out what was going on.

“See you later, Grandma.” I walked to the staircase and continued the climb, looking back toward the singer every few steps until I reached the next floor and she was far below me.

That floor wasn’t so easy. It was blocked by a red door with a black, metal latch like the front door. I slid the cross-bar away from its mate and pushed up the heavy wood as I finished climbing the staircase.

The beacon was still stuck in one direction, away from the water. That reminded me about the other lights I had seen when I first left the tent, what they were and where they might have led me.

I walked toward the windows facing the water to try to figure out where we were. Like many beaches, there weren’t many clues off the shore or in the dark, especially without the moon. The beach stretched out as far as I could see in either direction and the white caps disappeared from sight a few yards out. I continued around the room to the other side where I found a five-rung ladder and climbed up to the base of the light. There, I had to shield my eyes and keep my head below a certain point to see anything at all, but I was determined.

Most of what I saw was the smooth metal base of the light, but then I noticed something that looked like a small cage attached to the side. I reached out and felt a lever inside the cage. Not knowing what it was or what it might do, I acted on impulse and flipped it down.

The beacon went dark.

 

(This story begins with Monday Sidetrack: 6. Start there to get caught up and see the photos or go to https://www.lavendersidetrack.com/story-catchup to read all the previous posts as one long post. Then subscribe to find out what happens next!)