Home > Between Here and the Horizon(8)

Between Here and the Horizon(8)
Callie Hart

I could hear her swearing under her breath as she retrieved the UPS sticker from the door, scanning the note quickly, all the while threatening physical violence if he’d even dared to fritter away money they didn’t have on fishing paraphernalia.

“It’s not for you, George. It’s for Ophelia,” Mom said, holding it up. “Says legal documents in the description.”

I’d received a fair number of those in the mail over the past year. My divorce settlement with Will had taken a while to clear—the bastard had tried to wheedle way more money out of me than he was entitled to—and so the paperwork had only recently come through for me to sign and file. I’d thought everything was finished and over with, though. Strange that there would be anything outstanding now that I didn’t know about.

“You want me to go and get it?” Mom asked. The guy at the UPS store down the road had been there for years and knew us all by name; it was common for us to pick up mail and packages for each other if we were in the area.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll walk over there. I think I need to stretch my legs.” I’d been on my feet all day, but I didn’t feel like going inside just yet. Besides, walking always helped me clear my head.

At the UPS store, Jacob was sitting behind his desk, eating what looked like a pastrami sandwich. He looked up, guilt written all over his face. “Don’t tell Bett,” he said, grinning sheepishly. “She’ll be down here monitoring my calorie intake every afternoon if she knows I’m not eating salad for lunch. My cholesterol’s through the roof.”

I pretended to zip my lips and throw away the key. “She’ll never hear it from me,” I told him. “You should probably alternate between the pastrami and the salad, though, Jacob. That uniform’s looking a little tight around the midriff these days.”

Used to a gentle teasing every once in a while, Jacob just rolled his eyes. “Take it you’re here for that envelope I couldn’t deliver earlier?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mind my sandwich for a moment while I go get it for you, then. And don’t be sneaking a bite.” Jacob heaved himself out of his seat and disappeared out back, returning only a few seconds later with the envelope in his hands. It was at least an inch thick, way heftier than I would have imagined any stray divorce documentation to be. “Could kill a man with this if you done drop it on his head,” Jacob advised me. “What on earth you got in here, girl?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t got a clue. I thought it was lawyer stuff from Will, but…” I took the envelope from him, frowning. “I get the feeling it’s something else entirely.” I signed for the mail and left Jacob in peace, despite the fact that I knew how eager he was to find out what was inside the envelope.

When I got home, both Mom and Dad were in the yard, talking in hushed tones. Dread cycled through me whenever they did that—it meant something bad had happened. Something probably to do with money. Another letter in the mail, maybe. A phone call from a debt collector. Those were the worst. They put everyone in a spin for days, while we all rejigged what little assets we had and tried to find money to pay them off. I left them to it. No sense in making them feel even more awkward than they already did. Instead, I crept up the stairs and closed myself away in my room. I had no idea what was inside the envelope I held tightly in my hands, but I got the feeling that it was nothing good. Tearing back the seal a little at a time, I had to fight to force myself to open it all the way.

Inside: two photographs, a boy and a girl.

Two files in plastic wallets: Connor Fletcher, Age 7. Amie Fletcher, Age 5.

A blue, white and red business envelope, American Airlines. Inside, a business class flight to Knox County Airport, dated for two day’s time.

At the bottom, underneath all of this baffling information, one handwritten note.

Ophelia,

I’m sure you’ve had plenty of time to consider my proposition by now. My children aren’t like me. They’re young and fragile, and they miss their mother. They need proper mentorship, as well as someone to call their friend. Neither Connor nor Amie have ever been to The Causeway. They know nothing of the world outside of New York and the home they shared here with their mother and me. If you would assist them (and me) during this huge transition stage, I would be eternally grateful.

Yours,

Ronan Fletcher

CHAPTER FIVE

The Causeway

Another plane. Another journey. Two days hadn’t been nearly close enough to get my affairs in order. I hadn’t even had time to rethink my decision to accept the job. Perhaps that had been Ronan’s plan all along, to stump me by requesting that I jump on a flight forty-eight hours after offering me the position, so I wouldn’t have time to weigh up my options or chicken out. That’s what would have happened, I’m sure. Given enough breathing room, I would have talked myself out of it. The Causeway was too far away. What if something happened to Mom or Dad, or with the restaurant?

Mom had burst into tears when I’d told her about the plane ticket and files on the children. She’d been so guilty, didn’t want me to leave, didn’t want me to feel like I had to. Dad had told me over and over again that we’d figure it out if I didn’t want to go, but I could see on his face that he was relieved. If I did this, stuck out six months on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, I’d come back with enough cash to solve all of the financial problems with the restaurant, and there would probably be enough left over to do a few renovations here and there, spruce the place up a little. If I didn’t, the place was going under and that was a fact. Two, maybe three months—that was how long we might have been able to limp along, scraping money together to keep the place open another day.

In the end, the decision had been obvious, though sad.

And so here I was, on another plane. Wheels up. Thirty thousand feet. Another gin and tonic, and another bad airplane meal.

I’d had plenty of time during the seven-hour journey over the country to review the children’s files. Connor and Amie. Through the yo-yoing and the indecision of the past few days, I hadn’t really considered the small people I was being charged to care for. Normally the children were all I ever considered. From reading the files, both Connor and Amie seemed like your average five and seven-year-olds. Connor loved soccer and apparently wanted to be a zookeeper when he grew up. The first part of his file held records of his favorite food (pasta), his favorite color (orange), his favorite animal (Zebra), and many other small facts that would undoubtedly make it easier to build a bridge with the boy. The later part of his file, however, was way more comprehensive. It contained what turned out to be notes from numerous sessions with a Brooklyn child psychologist by the name of Dr. Hans Fielding.

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