A car pulls up next to me and I look in the window. Esmé. Nodding to her, I keep walking. She pulls abreast of me again and sticks her head out the window.
“Where are you going?”
“Not far enough to need a ride.”
“Come on.” She laughs. “Don’t be scared. I don’t bite.”
“I’m not scared,” I mutter. Coming around to the passenger side, I let myself in and slide down in the seat. It’s a decent enough car, but small. What is it with these women driving these tiny cars? “You’re going to have to be careful on these roads,” I say. “The potholes have been known to swallow buffalo whole.”
“I didn’t realize there were buffalo on the island,” she grins.
“There aren’t. They were eaten by the potholes.”
I direct her to The Sands and fall silent, staring out the window. I can feel her glancing at me from time to time, but I pretend not to notice. Finally, she breaks the silence.
“So, do you want to talk about your dreams?”
“Not a chance.”
“The price of tea in China?”
“I know nothing of economics.”
“What made you become a novelist?”
“I sat down and wrote.”
“Wow, you would make a fascinating subject for a talk show.”
“I’m a fascinating woman,” I say, dryly.
She chuckles a bit and stares out the windshield for a couple of minutes. “You know, I loved Fran, too.”
“I don’t know you.” This woman is presuming a lot. “I don’t know anything about you. How do I know you even know Fran?”
“I know she used to laugh in her sleep. I know she had a tattoo of a butterfly on her left breast. I know that she thought orange cats were the best animal in the world.”
“You could have gotten that from my book,” I grumble.
“I know she used to stare at the stars and talk about whether or not her family was ever going to come back for her.”
Pausing, I stare out the window. That part wasn’t in the book, and as far as I know, no one except me knew that Fran thought she was from another planet. I can feel my ears start to buzz and I’m sure an attack is imminent. Blinking hard, I try to talk myself out of it.
“So, Esmé,” I say loudly to combat the buzz. “What made you move to the Caribbean from Chicago?”
“There wasn’t anything left for me there. My lover left me for another woman. We’d been together for seven years. I think she was my rebound from Fran.”
“How long were you and Fran together?” I ask, though I’m not sure I want the answer.
I look at her, not sure I can believe that she’s old enough to have had at least seventeen years worth of relationships. “How old are you?”
“So you and Fran were pretty young.”
“We were pretty young.”
She pulls up in front of The Sands and stops the car. “Are you going in for lunch?”
“No, I’m just going to get a ride home from Sam.”
“I can take you home.”
“Not in this car, you can’t.”
Standing outside of the front door of the hotel, I watch her drive away. She glances back once and I slowly raise my hand. My ears are still buzzing, so I sit down in the lobby and ask the front desk clerk to page Sam. The tunnel comes down over my sight and I can see Esmé and Fran, young and troubled, clinging to each other, both of them with tears in their eyes. I don’t know whether it’s a vision or my imagination, but I’m drawn to Fran’s young face, her light brown eyes and her pale skin. The shock of red hair, curly and full, was just as beautiful in this vision as it was years later when she came into my life. The vision darkens and for a second, all I can see is Esmé. I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, looking back at her. Her face is deathly white and there is a trickle of blood coming out of her mouth. As I slowly become aware that Sam is holding my shoulders and shaking me gently, the tunnel lifts from my sight. Sam’s face, full of love and concern is inches from mine.