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Ruby straightened up and turned toward me. At that moment, something about her yoga outfit looked very formal, almost official. My only guess was her perfected posture changed the tone of her appearance.
"I vote that we continue the mission to Cape Reinga. If Kristoph was correct about the cure, there's no better path to follow."
Viola continued doing whatever she was doing in the kitchen, back toward us. I did my best to be present, though my heart was starting to race as my mind ran through the possibilities I could imagine for such an endeavor.
"I'm in, but do you think the trunk would still be there after all these years?"
"You have to remember that it has been only twenty years in this world. It's possible that no one even knew about it. I'm not sure how he heard about it or got the idea, but I do think it's worth a trip to Cape Reinga." Ruby smiled the kind of smile that's half reassuring and half distracted. She didn't seem to know how to help me get on board with the idea.
"True, I keep forgetting that."
I leaned back in my chair and organized my banana peel into a neat pile so it would be easy to throw away later and wouldn't be quite so ugly to look at while it browned.
"Our next step is to test how far down the stairs or out of the lighthouse Viola can go."
"Speaking of Viola, ladies, here are those waffles you've been waiting for." Viola brought over a plate with two waffles for me and bottle cap with a tiny smidgen of a waffle for Ruby. She was smiling again and I felt relieved by that.
"Thank you, Viola. This looks amazing," I put a napkin in my lap.
"Ditto," Ruby sat cross-legged next to her bottle cap.
"You are so very welcome," Viola went to grab her own plate and brought it back with a bowl of fresh strawberries all cut into bite-size pieces for our waffles. "After breakfast, I'll clean up and then let's walk down the stairs. I want to run this test as soon as possible. I'm dying to know how far I might be able to go with you."
"That works for me. I'm only here until for a couple weeks. The sooner we can begin this adventure, the better. I'll help you clean up."
Our breakfast took a little less time than I expected. Waffles were something to be savored, a real treat, but they couldn't compare with the discoveries that we imagined we'd find during the hours afterward.
Viola and I cleaned the kitchen while Ruby double-checked her parachute. Then I changed into a clean shirt and pants. Within twenty minutes or so, we were all ready to go.
"Well, this is it, our next adventure," Viola raised her arms out to her sides and let them fall, landing with a bounce against her legs.
"So far, it's the easiest one I've had here - no jumping from the top of a building or throwing myself through a boat window. Walking down the stairs is a welcome change."
"Throwing yourself through a boat window?" Ruby looked up at me. "You'll have to tell us about that one later."
"Here we go," Viola started to walk toward the staircase. "I don't want to wait another minute."
"See you in a little while, Ruby." I patted the table next to her and followed Viola's lead.
We walked down at least ten steps before either of us said anything.
"It seems to be less about the distance and more about how close I get to a certain thing, like the beacon where I would be able to control when I go into the singing routine."
"Definitely all about control and who has it."
"Who? Now that's an interesting question. I assume this is a natural world where the laws of the land are out of any person's control."
"Yeah, I guess I meant 'who' in a more generic sense. Whether it's one of us flipping the switch on the beacon or a force that's keeping you here, that sort of thing."
"I prefer that. It's awful to think that there might be a person or a group keeping me here."
Twenty steps later, Viola was still with me. Thirty, forty, fifty steps later, we were starting to get closer to the ground floor. I looked up toward Viola's floor to check our progress and the view I remembered from that first day. It was still beautiful and warm, but the song I had heard was gone and that took something away from the image.
Could I hear Viola singing at this point?
I couldn't remember.
When we reached the bottom step, Viola stopped.
"If this is it, I'll see you back up there?"
"Absolutely," I stepped down to the ground floor and turned toward her.
Viola stepped down and continued to the door. I fell in line behind her. At the door, she stopped again and looked up at her home.
"It's really a beautiful place."
"Are you ready to leave it?"
"I am," she opened the door, letting the sunlight in and squinting her eyes while a breeze came into the building and blew her hair back. Then she stepped out and began to walk down the path I already knew. She stopped and waited a few steps away. "I'm outside!"
I flashed the lights and stood in the doorway to watch for Ruby's bright, striped parachute.
"Have you been outside before?" I looked back at Viola.
"I have, I really think I have."
"Welcome back, Viola."