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Listen To My Rhythm

“Oye como va, mi ritmo…” Claudia sings softly, her contralto counterpoint to a sudden glissando of harp from a distant room. The ancient mp3 player is propped against the kitchen window, a set of tiny, tinny speakers perched atop the scratched and beaten machine. Normally, she’d rather listen to the harp. Although it sometimes sounds as disjointed as the wind chimes hanging all over the house, Marcie shows some real talent. In another place or time, she would probably be taking music lessons. But Santana is soothing, and the coming storm was making Claudia’s sinuses ache. She’s just lucky she’s still standing upright. Her lower back, right knee, and both elbows are throbbing. She tells herself that she’s uncomfortable. That usually makes her pain bearable, although it’ll catch up to her later. Some days she uses that mind trick, only to find that her “mild discomfort” is making her sweat and shake, tears running down her face. It’s dangerous to lose track of what’s going on with her body like that.

black-haired woman leaning on hands, painting by Edwin Holgate
painting by Edwin Holgate, Canadian

Absently, she pushes the ragged sleeve of a borrowed henley up higher, out of the way, and blows a strand of starkly black hair out of her face. It was unbearably hot earlier, but now it seems chilly, even in the kitchen. It’s definitely going to storm again. This is the third one this week.

Lucas comes crashing in the back door, his hair a messy wind sculpture, his eyes grave and dark. He silently hands Grace a kid-sized handful of summer savory for the stew. The storm door bangs in the wind, but he doesn’t move to latch it. Hopefully, that abrupt entrance didn’t mess up any of their benefactor’s elaborate and arcane alarms.

Lucas is much too quiet, much too serious, and Grace reaches out to smooth his hair. “It’s okay, honey, it’s just a storm. Go close the door, now, before it breaks.” Pen is one of the kindest people she has ever met, but his house is a wreck. If he even tried to fix everything that was trashed, he would have time for nothing else.

Besides, he’s far too busy trying to fix all the broken people to worry much about the broken house. The task he’s taken on is sad, and noble, and difficult. Not hopeless, though. Every step taken in the right direction is the embodiment of hope. It’s not an abstract, not to Claudia.

Lucas moves to latch the door, and she washes the herb, crushes the leaves, and throws them in with the potatoes, celery, and carrots. There are bits of chicken in the pot, too, somewhere. It smells pretty good. She doesn’t much care for cooking, but helping Pen cope with his busy life is its own reward. She owes him a lot. She had been at wit’s end when Pen found them at the bus station in town. Not too many people would have taken them in like this.

After Lucas jiggles the door handle, he comes back to stand near the stove instead of going into the parlor to join Pen’s kids. Claudia dries her hands and silences Santana in mid-wail. “Lucas. What’s up?” Her voice is sharp, worried. The approaching storm has put everyone on edge.

watercolor, blue feather
blue sheen

His eyes are still huge and dark, a tear trembling on one ginger eyelash. He hands her a single sky blue feather, lightly shaded with black and grey. It’s achingly beautiful.

Claudia’s stomach sinks. “Oh, Estelle.”

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3 thoughts on “Listen To My Rhythm”

  1. Beautiful. I want to know more about these two! Lucas strikes me as a kid who’s been through a lot already. He’s very quiet in this, almost alarmingly so. And I adore Dia.

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