Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 10

In the far corner of The Coffee House, at the table with the sofas, sat Echo with Sophia, Aiden, and Dan, out for coffee on a Thursday afternoon that none of them had classes on. Aiden and Echo had not yet heard from the Community, and had decided that until they did they would do their best not to think about Mick and the Xul. For one, it was not safe, as they did not know yet if Mick had the power needed to track their thoughts, but they also knew that worrying about the Xul with their every thought was not going to bring them any closer to neither answers nor solutions, until they had more information to help them. They had been trying to spend as much time with Sophia and Dan and Janie as they could, having people around so they could not talk about Apsu things in the open, and so they could not descend into their own world of telepathy quite so easily.

 

Echo took a sip of her tea, laughing at a joke Dan had made with a reference in it that she didn’t quite understand, but that Aiden and Sophia had both found hilarious. She didn’t mind so much that she did not get the joke, but she joined in laughing so that Dan didn’t get offended, had he thought that she hadn’t laughed because she hadn’t found it funny. Though she didn’t know him very well, Echo liked Dan, the jokes of his that she understood she found funny, and Aiden liked him, and she trusted his judgement.

 

“You know what, guys?” Sophia said, changing the subject, “Is there nowhere else we can hang out, another cafe, even? It’s just, you guys don’t have to work here, and I’m literally here all the time these days!”

 

“Aw, Soph, don’t be like that,” Dan said, “And anyway, do you not think that if there was somewhere else decent to hang out then we would? The only places with sofas are here, and The U, and The U doesn’t have tea, or Panini, or, my personal favourite, hazelnut cinnamon extra froth Lattes.” He continued, picking up his drink and holding it up to illustrate his point.

 

“Yeah, real manly drink that is, by the way.” Sophia jibed back.

“Oi, it’s plenty manly,” Dan replied, picking up the tall, thin, glass mug of beige, frothy liquid and sipping it, residue of froth staying on his upper lip once he had finished and lowered the glass.

 

They continued on, sipping at their drinks and laughing and talking. Not once in the couple of hours they had been here had Aiden sent any messages to Echo, not her to him. Everything they said could be said out loud, they truly were learning not to let the Xul get the best of them, at least not yet. Although, in spite of this, Echo could not get the image of Mick the Bulldog out of her mind, as it stayed stuck, lingering behind the back of all her other thoughts. But she put it behind a door of her mind and, for now, shut the door, safe in the knowledge it would be there to come back to when she needed to, but enough to get it out of her immediate thoughts at least.

 

In the days that had passed since she had spoken to her father, Echo had tried to send him thoughts every day, reminding him to get in contact with the Zagmi of the local Commune. She did not want to make him think that the situation was serious; she didn’t want to worry him, because it could indeed not be serious, but still she could not understand why things were taking so long if they did not have to do so.

 

Echo zoned back into the conversation surrounding her; plans for a party Saturday night. It was at Sophia’s friends house, to celebrate her upcoming her birthday. Since she had been inLondon, Echo had not yet been to one of these parties she had heard about, and had not seen how the Lu celebrated their birthdays. Back in Stony Oaks, birthdays were celebrated with barbeques, and camping trips for the children, and by the whole community Becoming as they grew older and gained their abilities. The first birthday after coming of age was a landmark occasion in the life of an Apsu. Echo wondered what Aiden’s had been like, having no one to celebrate with, it must have been like any other Lu birthday. Echo felt a pang of guilt. She had told Aiden she would show him the ways of the Apsu, and yet she had not been able to show him the most important part, their community.

 

“What are you dressing as, Echo?” Sophia ask, snapping her thoughts away from Aiden and Stony Oaks and abck into the room.

 

“What am I dressing as?” Echo asked, confused.

 

“Yeah, for the party, what’s your costume?” Sophia asked, again. Echo was slightly confused by the cue3stion, and looked over at Aiden.

 

“What does she mean? What am I not understanding?” Echo asked him.

 

“It’s a costume party, fancy dress, you dress up as something, like, oh I don’t know, a witch or a fairy or a character from a cartoon. You don’t have those?”He replied.

 

Echo shook her heard in response, “Oh, I, um, I don’t know yet.”She said to Sophia.

 

“I think you should be a cat, you’d suit a cat.” Aiden said, smiling.

 

Echo laughed and nodded, “Yeah, maybe.” She said. Maybe Lu traditions weren’t so different from Apsu ones after all.

 

They continued chatting and eventually finished their drinks. Aiden and Dan got up and left to go for a cigarette.

“So,” Sophia started, turning to face Echo, “You and Aiden, what’s going on there?”

 

“Um, I don’t know, really.” Replied Echo, mostly from shyness but also because she really wasn’t entirely sure, although sat least she knew exactly what Sophia meant now when she asked that.

 

“But you like him?” Sophia asked, Echo nodded, “And he likes you, and you spend almost all your time together anyway as it is, don’t you? Why won’t he just ask you out already?”

 

“Maybe he doesn’t like me like that?” Echo asked, although she knew what the real answer was. If Aiden did like her, as Sophia seemed so convinced that he did, then she was sure it had something to do with the Xul and the Apsu, something that he could not get past.

 

“Don’t be silly, of course he likes you!” Sophia said, reiterating Echo’s previous thought.

 

“I’ll talk to him, see if I can hurry him along,” Sophia said, “He’s probably just shy.”

 

Echo nodded. She didn’t mind so much Sophia talking to Aiden, she did want what Sophia thought should happen to happen, but it didn’t feel like something she wanted to talk to Aiden about herself, just in case Sophia had been wrong all along.

 

Dan and Aiden returned. Sophia looked at ehr watch.

 

“Oh, what? We’ve been her like 3 hours, my shift is about to start!” She stood up to make her way over to the back room to put her uniform on..

 

“See, you do like hanging out here, really,” Dan joked, “Not far to go when you’re late for work!”

 

Sophia smiled sarcastically and headed over to get changed.

 

“I think I’d best be off too, actually,” Dan said, getting his coat, “Got an essay due in the morning, gotta get started on that.”

 

Dan went to say goodbye to Sophia, leaving Aiden and Echo alone again. they sat there in silence for a couple of minutes, before Aiden broke it.

 

“Are you up to anything this evening?” He asked her.

 

Echo contemplated what he meant. The only friends she had in London, the only people she’d be seeing, had just respectively gone to work, gone to write and essay, and were sitting right in front of her asking the question. She shook her head, “Nope, nothing in particular.”

 

“I was wondering, then,” Aiden continued, “If you wanted to maybe come out for dinner? Like, as a date, I guess?”

 

Echo smiled, finally some sort of conformation to Sophia’s theory, “Yes, I’d like that.” She replied.

 

“Great,” Beamed Aiden, “I’ll come by yours around 7:30?”

 

“Sure, sounds like a plan, see you then.”

 

***

 

Sophia had been saying she’d known all along, and after the day in the Heath, Echo had agreed with her too, but now it was real, now it was happening the way it did in Lu films and stories, and Echo could not believe it was happening to her.

 

With Sophia at work, she’d had no one to help her decide on an outfit, something she had learned from films she had seen was an essential part of the first date in the Lu culture. She had rifled through her wardrobe for hours, but now, half an hour before Aiden was arriving, she had decided on a purple above the knee length dress she had bought while shopping with Sophia, and black ankle boots with tiny heels. She sat down in the living room, dressed and ready for her date, about to prepare her circle of stones to centre herself. She had just closed her eyes when she heard the phone ring. She dragged herself back into the world, and got up to answer it.

 

“Hello?” She said into the receiver, clicking the green button to answer.

 

“Hello? Is that Echo Sorrel?” A voice came through. From what Echo could tell it sounded female, and around middle aged.

 

“Um, yes.” Echo answered. She had no idea who could be on the end of the line and was caught of guard being asked her name, “Who is this?” She asked.

 

“Oh hello, dear, I’m Nettie Adams, from Ashby Gardens Community,” Her voice was clear and definite, the slight twinge of a Jamaican accent becoming more detectable now.

 

“Oh, hello,” Said Echo, slightly nervous about what else to say. She did not know what he father had told the Zagmi, and she did not know where to start.

 

“Your father, Alder, he, uh, he contacted me, about you needing the support of our community?” She had emphasised the word ‘contacted’, making it sound like something strange had gone on in the contacting stage.

 

“Um, yes, that’s right.” Echo replied.

 

“Yes, well, personally I think these things are best done in person. If you would like to meet up we can sort something out perhaps? How is tomorrow for you?” Nettie continued.

 

Echo was taken aback. To start with, a Zagmi willingly using a telephone, on top of the fact she had wanted to meet before knowing the problem, or seeing into Echo’s mind. But she went along with it, she liked the sound of Nettie, a Zagmi that seemed to the point, direct, that didn’t talk in riddles about minds living as one as soon as they introduced themselves.

 

“Yes, tomorrow good for me.” Echo replied.

 

“Perfect, how about we meet for a coffee and we can see where we go from there. Can you get toAshbyGardens? I’ll come meet you at the train station, you just take the Metropolitan Line to Watford Station, we’re a little drive out from there. I’ll see you there around 3pm?”

 

“Uh, yeah, sounds good, I’ll see you then, thank-you.” Echo replied, shocked at the fact a Zagmi was driving, telling her to take the train, embracing quite so much of Lu life. Perhaps the Ashby Gardens Commune was even more progressive than Stony Oaks.

 

Upon the conformation, Nettie said goodbye and hung up the phone, Echo doing the same. She sat back, thinking only of this strange Zagmi. Never before had she heard of a Zagmi who drove, or who knew their way so well around the Lu areas, or who chose to use the phone over telepathy. Her thoughts were interrupted by her buzzer going, simultaneous with a message flooding into her head.

 

“Echo, quickly, let me in.” Aiden’s message was fraught with worry, panic and anxiety. This was not the way she expected the evening to start out, and she feared the worst. She buzzed him in and ran to meet him by the front doors.

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