So, when I posted some of this the other day, there were a couple of comments asking for more. Rather than add on much to what happens next (although there is a little bit more at the end), I decided to add in more from the start of the scene. It’s a pretty big chunk, all told.
Disclaimer, my Irish is very rusty. Corrections welcome. As ever, comments and crits appreciated.
Cam stood before the door and looked down at me like she was fixin’ to say somethin’. Seemed like she changed her mind and awkwardly patted me on the head instead.
“I thought we was comin’ to see a friend of yours? Joy?” I asked her.
“Yeah, well…I’m not sure how friendly she’ll be when she find out I’ve brought a bunch of strangers to her doorstep. Just follow my lead, ok?”
I nodded, and watched as she pressed a buzzer and waved at the security camera over the doorway.
The buzzer crackled and a man’s voice came out of it; “Why is blue?”
Cam smiled, “Because the sky.”
“Why is green?” the same voice asked.
Cam rolled her eyes, “Because the grass. That you, Ruairí?”
The voice didn’t say nothin’ to that, but the door didn’t buzz neither. Cam looked up at the camera again and did a big ole shrug at it. She pressed the buzzer again.
“Why is red?” the voice asked.
“What the…?” Cam slapped the intercom, “Because I’m getting pissed. Now open the damn door, you asshole.”
The voice on the other end chuckled and the door buzz-clicked open. Cam took my hand and led me inside, “Looks like they ain’t gonna make this easy, kiddo.”
We were standin’ in a long hallway with doors off either side all the way along it. All of the doors were open. Cam just stood there a second, like she were gettin’ her bearings. Then she just hollered down the hall, “No time for games today, people! I need your help. I’m not kidding.”
A man walked out of one of the doors on the right. He leaned against the hallway wall, lit a cigarette and squinted through the smoke at us.
“Bhfuil fadhb agat?” he asked.
I hoped Cam knowed what he was sayin’ because I ain’t never heard words like those ones before.
She scowled at him, “Béarla le d’thoil, Ruairí.”
“Cén fáth?” he shot back at her.
“Mar tá cuarteóirí liom.”
“Daoine mhaith. Ceann amháin a bhfuil ag lorg duine tinn. Níl aon t’ám agam do bheith ag imirt cluichí amadach leatsa.”
He looked at her, and then at me, “Ceart go leor, ach tá fhois agat go mbéadh uirithí,” pointing at me, “Leabhair lei. In a aonar.”
Cam nodded, “Tá go maith.”
She looked down at me then, “He says you’ll have to talk to her alone. Apparently my word isn’t good enough that you’re good people. At least,” she looked down the hall at the man, “It’s not good enough for Ruairí today.”
I gawped at her, “But Cam, I ain’t got no clue what y’all are sayin’. How’m I gonna talk to someone if they don’t talk english to me? What if I say somethin’ wrong without knowin’ it? Will they hurt me?”
Cam just smiled at me, “They won’t hurt you, but if they think you’re lying or hiding anything they will refuse to help you. And we do need their help. You’ll figure it out. If she’s difficult keep saying ‘Ní thuigim’ ”
“Just repeat it every time she says something you don’t understand. Say it for me now.”
“Um, knee higgum?”
The man she called Ruairí walked up the hall and took my arm, “Come with me please.”
I let myself be led along by Ruairí, but I did steal a look back over my shoulder at Cam who gave me a thumbs-up even though she did look worried. Ruairí stopped in front of an open door at the end of the hallway and pointed inside with his thumb. “Off you go.”
I walked into the room and couldn’t stop myself from jumping as Ruairí pulled the door closed behind him. The room was long and narrow and mostly bare ‘cept for a cheap office table in the middle of the room. Sitting at the table, legs dangling inches above the ground, was a little girl.She was humming to herself and looking down at the table. Kid was wearing one of them snorkel jackets, zipped up all the way and with the hood up too, so the humming was all muffled and I couldn’t see her face.
I was confused. This had to be the wrong room. Cam wouldn’t have brought me all the way here to get help from a kid even younger than me.
“Excuse me miss, is your name Joy?”, I asked.
The kid looked up and I saw that it wasn’t a kid. It was an old lady. A very old lady. She unzipped the hood of her parka and pushed it down to revel stringy grey hair held up in ponytails tied with pink ribbons. She sized me up and very slowly and deliberately said, “Nu inteleg.”
I tried to remember the phrase Cam taught me, “Knee higgum”.
She came back at me real quick, “Bhfuil Gaelige agat?”
The old woman tilted her head to one side, “Espanol?”
I understood that one but I didn’t feel like saying knee higgum again since I didn’t even know what it meant, so my answer was a headshake and “Una poca.”
The woman smiled, “Deutsch?”
She could have been asking about Dutch or German, but since I don’t speak neither one I guessed it didn’t much matter. I just stood there and waited for the next question.
The old woman stared me down for a minute and finally said, “So, it’ll have to be the English then.” She sounded disappointed.
I shrugged, “If that’s okay by you, ma’am. I don’t reckon I could hold much of a conversation any other way.”
“Ah. Well, I’m not after a conversation, but I’ll ask in English, if it’ll get me answers.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
“Who are you, girleen?”
“My name’s Cu-”
“Not your name, couldn’t care less about that. Who are you?”
“Um… I guess I’m just some kid.”
“You guess, or you know?”
“I know. I am.”
“And what type of kid are you?”
I had to think about that one before answering. I could’ve been a smartass about it, but I didn’t think she’d appreciate that one bit. She was sitting there all judgy-like, them small eyes never moving from my face.
“Is that a hard question?” she asked when I didn’t answer quick enough.
“It’s just hard to answer when I ain’t never really thought on it,” I told her, “I am who I am. I’m me. But I know that ain’t what you’re asking. You want to know what makes me me….”
The woman nodded, eyes boring into me like momma’s used to. Made my skin prickle and my palms itch.
I took a minute to figure out what she might’ve wanted to hear, “My daddy left before I was born. My momma’s dead. My brother took sick so they put him in a hospital. He has somethin’ wrong with how he thinks. That was in the back-before, then everything went to heck. I came through it all okay because I had money from my momma’s will, and a guardian looking out for me and the folks we’ve met along the way. I met Cam when she tried to, uh, liberate some of our books. She told me you might be able to help me find my brother…the hospital’s gone now and I don’t know what happened to him.”
The woman nodded. “So you’re a sister in search of your brother. How old are you?”
I didn’t know what my age had to do with anything, but I figured it’d be best to keep playing nice, “I’m thirteen, ma’am.”
“Did you never think of using that money of yours to find your brother?”
“I did. We hired people. Elias even went looking his own self. We found a friend of his from the hospital, but that’s all we could do. She lives with us now.”
“Who is this Elias person?”
“He’s my guardian, ma’am. Court appointed, from when they still had courts.”
She thought on that for a moment. Then, “Do you think I can magically produce your brother? Do you think I have him held captive?” all accusing-like.
I blinked at her. “No. Like I said, Cam told me you might be able to help”
“And how long have you known Cam?”
“Less than a day.”
“And you take her word that I’m someone who would be likely to help?”
“Ain’t got no reason not to trust her.”
The old woman nodded, “Not many people think that way these days. What about the people you’ve helped, tell me about them?”
“Ain’t much to tell. I had money and land, didn’t make no sense not to open it up to folks who needed somewhere to stay. It’s no big thing.”
“I doubt Cam would agree with you on that. I certainly don’t. What is it you need from me?”
“Caleb, my brother, can’t be out there on his own. He was in that hospital from he was twelve. He don’t know the world and this world won’t be kind to him. I need to find him. I need to make sure he’s okay.” I didn’t know what else to say. My voice had gone all shaky-sad and I could feel tears coming so I stopped talking. Last thing I wanted was some weird old lady watching me cry.
She stood up and walked over to me, ponytails swinging as she moved.
Up close she was less wizened than I’d thought, and her eyes were full of mischief: “What would you say if I told you I’m not the one you came to see?”
I could feel myself getting riled, so I spoke slow and careful-like, “I dunno ma’am. Might be I’d think you were foolin’ and if you weren’t then I’d wonder if I might maybe get to meet the one I came to see?”
She threw her head back and laughed, one of them laughs that gets called a hearty guffaw in books. I smiled back at her cause she might’ve been hard on me but I’d been missing a head-picture for them words a long time. Folks don’t laugh so much or so free anymore, and weren’t much laughter to be had in our home in the back-before.
She took my hand and walked me on out to the corridor, where Cam stood waiting with Ruairí. The old woman dropped my hand, walked up beside Cam and rested a hand on her arm. “How many of you are there today?” she asked.
Cam thought for a second, “Four – me, Cuss there, her guardian Elias, and her friend Bee.”
She nodded, “Go get them and bring them in. I’m not sure how much we can do here, but we’ll do our best.”
Cam came over to me as the old woman walked down the hall with Ruairí. They were talking in that strange lingo again so I had no clue what was going on. I wished hard I knew what they were saying.
Cam saw me watching them and smiled at me, “It’s gonna be ok. You did good.”
I looked at her, “I don’t know if I did. She says she don’t know how much they can do.”
Cam shrugged, “They’ll do enough.”