“She recognized that this is how friendships begin: One person reveals a moment of strangeness, and the other person decides just to listen and not exploit it.” – Meg Wolitzer
Tell a story in which a character reveals a moment of strangeness to another character.
The child sat on the marble floor, right there in the middle of the crowed lobby. Passers-by gave her a wide berth, no one wanting to get involved. Her wails echoed throughout the cavernous lobby like discordant bells. She couldn’t have been no more than four, maybe five years old, dressed in her pretty in pink pinafore and lace anklets.
Colin Wyeth watched as one, then two, and yet another Good Samaritan, all women attempt an approach. The child’s screeches reached such hysterical heights that each raised a hand in surrender and hurried away.
He had done his best to ignore her, his head bowed determinedly over his Ipad, reviewing and re-writing his notes for the upcoming presentation. He liked kids. He was good with them. They trusted him and seemed to recognize a kindred spirit in him.
At this moment, however, he needed all of his focus. Isabella Carina had a reputation for toughness, a no-nonsense negotiator. This presentation would take all of his attention and finesse. There was no time for him to play super hero today.
He’d heard the stories. Dr. Carter’s meeting had been cancelled just because he was five minutes late. Dr. Wilson was actually fired after he embarrassed his company, using too many errs and hmmms in his presentation. Okay, his dismissal may have had more to do with the whips and chains photoshoot that had been plastered all over the net, but Ms. Carina had nonetheless not been pleased. If Colin gave it more than a passing thought, he suspected the stories were more than likely urban legends but he figured to err on the side of caution.
Colin stood up, headed for the bank of elevators. The child’s cries had deteriorated to silent hiccups and sobs. A glance at his watch showed that he had less than five minutes to present to the offices of Carina and Associates. Three strides before the elevators and he stopped.
He fingered the object in his pocket and knew that he would never reach the fifty-first floor in time. Not today. And if his boss found out what he was about to do . . . not ever.
The little girl’s face was awash in tears. She glanced up at his foot fall and her bee-stung mouth opened to let out one doozy of a scream. He presented the small statuette from his pocket and held it in front like a talisman.
Her round eyes, watery pools of brown surrounded by lashes long enough to trip over, blinked up at him in surprise. She smiled.
Colin kneeled before her and proffered his offering. There seemed to be a debate waging within but after several seconds, she reached for the Wonder Woman action figure.
“That’s Wonder Woman,” she declared, her head tilted to the side as she studied him. “You’re a boy.”
“I am in her service,” Colin answered, perfectly serious.
“That’s not true,” the child answered, her voice now dry and strong. “Wonder Woman only works with other amazons. And they’re all girls.”
“Ordinarily, that would be true. But when she’s not on her island, she needs someone like me to run interference for her.”
“I check out the layout, see if any wrongs need to be righted, or evil doers to be thwarted.”
Her wide eyes bored through him, searching for deceit. Suspicion left a drying trail of salt down her cheeks, her thick forest of lashes narrowed nearly to closing. The effect was spoiled by another hiccup.
“Okay, look,” he said. “I can prove it to you.” Colin reached into his other pocket and released a two-foot length of gold chain links. “You recognize this?”
“The Lasso of Truth,” she said, her voice hushed and full of awe.
“Exactly,” he said. “So, I propose a bargain.” He glanced at her and when he had her full attention continued. “I will allow you to use The Lasso to ask me a question, anything you want to know.”
“Anything,” he said. “And in return, you will allow me to ask you a question. Deal?”
The child watched him closely, then shifted her gaze around the lobby. Her attention caught on something over his shoulder but before he could identify the culprit, she shifted back to Colin.
“Deal.” The child reached out for the gold chain. She held a link up to the light, then smiled as it twinkled. “First question,” she said, as she settled onto the floor, legs crossed in a faux yoga pose. “What’s your name?”
“Who sent you to talk to me?”
“Wonder Woman,” she said. “Where’s my mommy?”
“That’s three questions, now it’s my turn.” Colin released the chain from his shoulders and placed it around the child’s. “What’s your name?
“Hi, Sarah. When did you last see your mommy?”
Sarah lowered her head and fingered the links for several long seconds. The words that followed came out in a reedy whisper. “My mommy is lost.” Her eyes filled and she almost lost control of the tremor in her lower lip. For several long seconds, she caressed the doll’s long, black hair. She repossessed the chain and once more wrapped it around Colin’s shoulders.
“Can Wonder Woman . . . uh, can you help me find my mommy?”
The rapid click-clack of heels on marble announced a new arrival. The woman was stunning. Glossy black hair fanned out behind her as she hurried over to them. Her conservative, gray business suit fit her as if tailor-made for every curve. Her demeanor was calm however her distress was clear in the way her eyes tracked over every inch of the child.
Sarah flung herself into the woman’s arms. The woman wrapped the child close around her. She pressed her face into Sarah’s neck and breathed deeply. Sarah’s thin brown legs locked securely around her waist. Woman and child held the embrace, lost in their reunion, renewed in their pocket of relief and new hope.
Colin stood and returned the gold chain to his pocket. Sarah lifted her head and smiled broadly.
“Thank you, Colin,” she said. “Mommy, this is Colin. He works for Wonder Woman.”
“Does he?” Her voice, warm, low. She examined him closely, the mixture of suspicion and concern he’d witnessed in her daughter, was mirrored across her face. Her daughter’s safe return and well-being seemed to reassure her.
“Yes, ma’am,” Sarah said. “They helped me find you.”
“Then I owe you my gratitude, Colin.” She shifted Sarah to her hip then extended a hand towards him. “I’m Isabella Carina.”