Tooting the Princess horn, I waited for Wood to meet me in his drive. Restless, I pulled my phone out of its holder on the dash and dialed Big Ben’s number. Listening to the first note of the overly familiar out-of-service message start to play, I hung up, wishing I didn’t feel a little disappointed every time he didn’t answer.
Tossing the phone in the cupholder, I closed my eyes, leaned back, and rested my palms against the steering wheel.
Visualizing Ira’s enigmatic envelope, I counted my breaths and tried to calm the fork down. Unfortunately, my brain took this as a cue to replayed the memory of the Woman In White’s hand plunging into my chest, trying to strip my Vita. Then, and more disturbingly, my mind morphed the memory into a nightmare – by showing me the Woman In White killing Wood instead.
My brain wasn’t being remotely helpful presently – in case you’re wondering.
Tossing aside the advice of gently noting the negative thought, then letting it go, since my little grey cells decided to play the vision of Wood dying on a loop (quickly converting my insides into a mass of quivering jelly). I dove directly into the heart of the maelstrom instead. Reminding my troubled brain that an encounter with an Errant did not automatically lead to them trying to strip one’s Vita. A Woman In White of the caliber I encountered earlier this year is extraordinarily rare. And the majority of Errants aren’t mad as hatters.
Even more promising, the Errant in Remembrance Park warned Orin off.
Plus, I packed fifteen pounds of the purest salt in my pack….and stashed another fifteen pounds in the Princess’s trunk….
The rationalizing helped, the sheer quantity of salt on hand helped more – but neither completely dispel my wibble wobbles or made the memory of the Woman In White retreat entirely.
Drat my brain.
Taking one last lung-busting breath, I held it until the count of six then slowly exhaled to the count of twelve. Whilst not precisely calm, I did manage to unlock my elbows, stop pressing my back against the seat, and unclenched my death grip on the steering wheel.
Reopening my eyes, I caught a bit of movement in my peripheral vision, cracking my neck as I turned it, I found Wood waving at me. Leaning over, I unlocked the Princess’s door and let him in.
Me: “Why didn’t you knock?”
Wood: “You looked like you were having a moment.”
Nodding, because it was true, I started backing the Princess out of Wood’s drive. Wood scenting the air like a bloodhound, pivoting in place, then stared at the provisions I’d packed in the backseat.
Wood: “We’re going on a picnic?”
Me: “Sort of, I thought I’d take you Moon Bathing.”
Wood (flatly): “Moon Bathing.”
Me (stepping on the gas): “It’s like sunbathing but safer?”
Feeling his eyes on me, I continued to concentrate on my driving. This morning on Uncle and Aunt Pearl’s back porch, we’d managed to nail down the time and place I’d pick him up from for our nocturnal adventure. But before I told him the whys, my bleary-eyed cousins meandered into the kitchen and started bellowing for their children. The Niblings wisely evaporated into the wilderness I’d successfully hidden in the evening before. Leaving Wood and I to explain that yes, indeed, we made three kinds of pancakes, bacon, eggs, fruit, and coffee for breakfast. Bequeathing them, as is our family tradition, an unholy mess to mop up in exchange for our early morning culinary efforts.
(They’d needed a stepladder to wipe up all the spatter.)
They were in a more forgiving state of mind after they’d sampled The Stack. Hopefully, so would Wood after he saw what I’d packed.
Wood (staring at me steadily): “Morticia, why are we Moon Bathing?”
Taking a deep breath, I gave Wood the exact level of truth I thought we’d both be comfortable with. (It’s also one of the reasons why I’d stuff the picnic basket with his most portable favorite foods).
Me (turning onto a side street): “I need to talk to a guy at Remembrance Park. The thing is I don’t know when he’ll turn up, and I didn’t want to wait alone. So I thought we could give Moon Bathing a try.”
Wood digested my explanation. He finally broke the thoughtful silence when I pulled the Princess next to the curb a half a block down from the park.
Wood (releasing his seatbelt): “This guy, does he have anything to do with our Agreement?”
Me (busying my hands): “Tangentially.”
Wood: “So, Moon Bathing is a smokescreen?”
Me (sighing): “Yes.”
Wood (bouncing out of the Princess): “Fantastic!”