Zera and the Green Man: Chapter 21
“We were cut off,” Nonny told Zera.
“Did you see him?” Zera was getting clean water for the dogs’ bowl in the kitchen. She glanced at Nonny, sitting at the kitchen table, v-phone in her hand.
“For a second,” Nonny said. “It was dark when he picked up the phone. He turned on the light, put on his glasses . . .”
Nonny dialed Theodore’s v-phone number.
Zera set the bowl on the floor, thinking about the train ride back down the mountain. No one explained much to Dan, and he’d seemed fine with that. Then, on the ride down, traveling through the storm with its booming thunder and blazing lightning, talking became impossible. Zera knew they were all working on the puzzle of what had happened. She wondered what the future held for her uncle, for herself, for them all.
When they arrived in Ute Springs, the world had calmed again; everything was wet and shining under a bright moon. Hope seemed to fill the rain-cleaned air, and Zera, too, at least for a while. Maybe everything would work out. Ben was waiting for them at the station, soaked from having ridden his skateboard there in the rain, and Zera’s heart had leapt at the sight of him. They’d all gone to Nonny’s and had a cup of cocoa on the porch before Hattie said they had to leave. Like Cosmic Dan, Ben hadn’t asked many questions, and they hadn’t offered information. They’d all agreed to get together again first thing the next morning.
Zera sat beside Nonny at the table, watching the blank screen of the phone and the words: “Ringing. . . . Ringing. . . .”
An attractive woman’s face appeared. “I’m sorry,” she said. “The number you have just reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”
“Now that was his cell phone. I don’t know what’s going on! I’m going to check directory assistance.” Shaking her head, Nonny pressed a button to redial the hotel. Zera saw that her expression had gone from confusion to worry. “What’s wrong?”
“I finally got through by calling the hotel. He looked happy to see me,” Nonny said. “He told me he had made a terrible mistake. He said that he understood. Then . . . we were cut off.”
“He said he’d made a terrible mistake?” repeated Zera.
An Indian woman wearing a yellow sari showed up on the monitor. “What city, please?” she asked with a British accent.
“I would like to find out the address for the number 310-555-1293.” Nonny watched as the woman typed into a computer. “It’s The Grand Hotel in Los Angeles? May I have the lobby number? Thank you.”
Anger flared in Zera. This is weird. Could he be playing some kind of a game? Why would he say he made a terrible mistake, and then not try to call back? It didn’t add up.
Nonny spoke to the hotel operator. “My name is Guinevere Green. My son, Theodore Green, is staying at your hotel.” Nonny frowned at the woman on the screen. “Our phone conversation was cut off a little while ago and the operator says the line is disconnected. You can check? Yes, I’ll hold. Thank you.”
She drummed her fingers on the table.
“The line seems fine, Mrs. Green. We could find no problem.”
“Is my son there?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Green, he seems to be out for the evening. I’ll tell him you called.”
“I see . . . I’ll try again later.” The screen went blue again, then black. Nonny sighed deeply, rose from her chair, and repeated what Zera had overheard. “‘Ted’s left for the evening.’ This is so odd.”
Zera stood and pushed her chair under the table. “What are you going to do?”
“The room’s registered to Void Chemical Corporation. Well, at least we know that — it’s something to go on.” Nonny ran her fingers through her white hair. “It’s been a long day. Oh, I wish I weren’t so old.”
“Nonny, you’re not old,” Zera said. “I know people younger than you who seem ages older.”
“Thanks, darling,” Nonny tried to smile. “Well, that’s just like him, to give me a glimmer of hope.” The half-hearted attempt at a smile disappeared and Zera couldn’t help thinking that Nonny did look old then. “I doubt I’m even thinking rationally. I’ll call Hattie in the morning. But right now we need to get some sleep. What do you think?”
Zera’s irritation toward her uncle melted into tenderness for her grandmother, but one thing, something that she still hadn’t addressed, was bothering her. “I think you’re right, Nonny,” said Zera. “A good night’s sleep will do wonders. I have to ask you something, though.”
“What’s that, sweetie?”
“Are you still going to South America in two weeks?”
Nonny turned away from Zera, to grab her cane next to the chair. “I haven’t given it any thought, with all this happening all at once. I don’t see how I could, but, well, I’ve had this date set for ages.” When Nonny turned toward her again, Zera thought she looked pale. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow, okay?”
“Sure.” Zera hoped the disappointment didn’t show. She gave Nonny a hug and went upstairs.
* * * * *
Zera kicked off her shoes and had just sat down on her bed when she heard a tap-tap-tap at the windowpane.
“It’s me, Ben.”
She went to the open window and pushed aside the curtain, to find Ben on a ladder. “What are you doing?”
“I had to talk to you.”
The window was at her knee level, so Zera knelt down. They were face-to-face.
“I just wanted to say, I’m glad you’re home.” He looked down at the floor. “I don’t understand what’s going on but I hope everything works out and you’ll be here all summer.” He brought his eyes up to look into hers. “At least.”
At least. In spite of it all, all the freaky stuff that had been going on all day long — he wanted her to stay! Zera’s heart leapt.
“I like you, Zera. A lot.”
A rush of happiness made her forget everything. She couldn’t help herself, she leaned over, touched his dark hair. He leaned towards her. She pressed her lips into his. The kiss was everything she always knew it would be. It was warm and sweet and made her light-headed. Everything seemed intensified, the colors in the room, the cool air, the smell of his hair.
Ben looked into her eyes. “Let’s go out for awhile.”
This brought Zera back to reality. “Ben, I can’t sneak out. We’re trying to get in touch with Uncle Theodore. We need to find out what all of this is about.”
Ben looked shocked. “Okay, I get it. It’s fine.”
“It’s just that this is more . . .”
Ben didn’t wait for a response. He disappeared down the ladder.
Anger coursed through Zera. He’s not getting by with leaving like that. She crawled out the window after him.
* * * * *
A half hour later, sitting on the grass near the barn, Zera had told Ben about everything that happened on the mountain.
“I know this sounds crazy . . . but I’m not crazy,” said Zera. “It really happened.”
“Zera, I saw those snakes too. Yeah, it sounds crazy, but I believe you. Heck, I’ve known you all my life. But you don’t have to go through with it — with whatever’s happening.”
“That’s just it. I’m getting the feeling that I do. That there’s no choice. Like I’m going down this path I have no control over.”
“Zera, Grandma Wren’s the one who’s crazy. You’ve seen her house. My mom’s a little off too. I know that. I love her and all, but . . . but sometimes I wish she was more like everyone else’s parents. I know you’ve had those feelings too; remember how we used to talk about it when we were kids? How we wanted to move out of Ute Springs one day, see the world?”
Those memories came back to Zera. How she’d been a little embarrassed a few times by her parents, their artist ways, which always focused on feelings and imagination instead of the solid ground of reality, and how she’d found Ben a good person to complain to. She’d forgotten that she’d said she wanted to move away from Ute Springs. She’d probably been about twelve years old. For the last three years all I’ve thought about is coming back. “Things change, Ben. I’m older. I’ve been away. And when you . . . when you lose your parents you realize you loved every single thing that was different about them. Especially all those things that drove you nuts. It leaves a great big hole in your heart.”
Ben took her hand.
Ben’s hand was warm and a little rough. It felt good. She met his eyes and a thrill went through her. The moment didn’t last; she had to tell him something, something that she did not want to say. “Ben, I have to find out what’s going on with my uncle.”
Ben dropped her hand. “Come on. It was hard on me when you left; things changed a lot. Maybe you just thought you saw something. Who knows, maybe Grandma Wren’s smoke-thing that she took for chanting and waved around the air was filled with some drug or something.”
Zera jumped up. “You just said you believed me. Ben, things changed a hell of a lot more for me when I left! You have no idea. And you really think your grandma drugged me?”
She took off into the darkness, and Ben didn’t follow her.
* * * * *
Zera had a hard time falling asleep. Thoughts about Ben, how they’d kissed a few more times outside, how he’d held her, and then, how he’d made her so angry, traded places with worry about Uncle Theodore. After tossing and turning and getting up three times, she took out her v-phone, did her own search for the number of The Grand Hotel in Los Angeles.
The woman on the phone said that Theodore Green had checked out.
To purchase your own copy of Zera and the Green Man, visit the official website now. Paperback and Kindle versions are now available.
Zera and the Green Man is a novel by Sandra Knauf, a local author and sustainability advocate living in Colorado Springs.
Published via US Represented by consent of the publisher:
Published by Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
P. O. Box 6587, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80934-6587, U.S.A.
First published in the United States of America
Copyright © Sandra Knauf, 2013
All rights reserved
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-0-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-1-5 (ebook)
Cover drawing by Paul Spielman.
Cover photography by CanStockPhoto 11569383
Cover and interior design by Zora Knauf.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or living-dead, is entirely coincidental.