Blackbird Fly (Umbrella Man Trilogy Book 2), Page 2Willow Rose
She leaned forward like she was especially interested in what he had just said. "Different, huh? How so?"
He sighed and rubbed his forehead, forgetting how his skin was blistered, then recoiled his hand in pain.
"It's better, but the burns will probably never go away," she said. "Smart thing with the umbrella. You should stay out of the sun with that skin of yours. So, tell me, how are things different, huh?"
"It's just…well…" he looked up and their eyes met. She looked like she was about to explode with excitement.
"I don't know…like, for example, the names on the tombstones. They’ve changed. And even though one of them was the same, the date was different. And then the shop downtown, the supply store where I got the umbrella. It was Ronnie's, not Donna's Farmer's Supply. And…and my house…where I grew up…" He stopped and bit his lip. She saw his glance towards the window.
"The abandoned house," she said. "The one with the big oak. You lived there, right? Where you come from, you live in that house, am I right?"
He looked at her again and nodded. "I don't understand."
The woman clapped her hands eagerly. "But I do. But I DO!"
TAKE THESE BROKEN WINGS
HOLLYWOOD RESERVATION, FLORIDA, SEPTEMBER 2002
A ndrew looked out the window. There were still a few nicely kept homes at the rez, but they were soon to be outnumbered by cinder block buildings with fading paint, some even with boarded-up windows and abandoned cars in the yards.
Andrew remembered how it had been when he was growing up on the reservation when it had been all Chickees, the traditional open-sided, thatch-roofed structures of the Seminoles. Now most of them were gone.
Andrew felt a shiver run down his spine. The rez was bathed in the Florida sun, but he saw nothing but gloomy darkness in this place. He turned away from the window and looked at Julia. His beautiful wife, holding their newborn daughter, Anna, in her arms. She was the one who insisted they come there. To show the baby to his mother.
"Why can't she come here instead?" he had argued, back at their townhouse in Ft. Lauderdale. He was exhausted enough as it was, between the baby waking up at night and his new job at Florida's Atlantic University, in the Department of Anthropology. Julia knew he didn't like to go to the rez unless he was absolutely forced to. Apparently, having a baby qualified as one of the moments she could force him.
"We should show her to the elders," she had argued. "Just because my parents are no longer with us, and you only have your mom left, doesn’t mean we have no ties to the rez anymore. We're still Seminoles, no matter if you want to be or not. And we have a lot of other family there as well. Cousins and uncles and such."
"Of course we do. Everyone is related in there," he had said with a sigh. "It's hard to even find a girlfriend who isn’t your cousin."
"We met there," Julia said and touched his face gently, the way she knew he loved. It made him calm usually, but not now.
Andrew grunted. Meeting her had been the only thing he ever liked about the place. She belonged to the Snake Clan, he to the Bird Clan. No one could marry within their clan.
“Come on, it's just for a few hours, then we'll leave and your mother can come here whenever she wants to see Anna from thereon, okay?"
Andrew had tried to find more arguments, but couldn't really come up with any good enough to convince her not to go, so there they were. Inside the rez again, back at his mother's house that they had moved into when he was fourteen, the house he hated more than any place on this planet.
"She eating well, hm?" his mother, Igoshi, asked and looked up at Julia.
Julia smiled, exhausted. "Yes, yes. She is very good."
Andrew smiled when his eyes met Julia's across the small room. Having a child was not like he expected it to be. It was so intense, but, oh, the love. Julia had been strong through the sleepless nights the past two weeks since the birth, but she was still pale and hadn’t yet regained all her strength. The birth had been tough and she had lost a lot of blood. The doctors wanted to do a C-section, but Julia had refused. She wanted to do a natural birth more than anything. No drugs, no knives. Andrew had cried and feared losing her, but she had been firm in her faith.
"You want me to take her for a little bit?" Igoshi asked and held out her hands. "Give you a little break."
Julia sighed. She looked at the baby's face, then back at Andrew's mother, the small round woman who was standing in front of her, her arms stretched out. "Sure," Julia said and handed her Anna.
Igoshi looked at the small child, then smiled. Igoshi walked to her rocking chair and sat down, while Julia sat on the couch. Igoshi rocked herself and the baby while singing. Andrew recognized the song from his own childhood. It woke some soft memories, along with some really tough ones and he sat down too, next to Julia.
Anna soon dozed off in her grandmother's arms, when she started to flicker. Like a light bulb or candlelight would flicker before it went out. Julia grabbed Andrew's arm, hard.
"She's doing it again," she said, deep anxiety in her voice. "What is it? I’m scared, Andrew; what is going on with her?"
Igoshi saw it too and then smiled widely in her weathered face. She looked at them both, her eyes narrowed.
"I wouldn't worry too much about it," she said. "She's just fine. Don't you worry."
HOLLYWOOD RESERVATION, FLORIDA, SEPTEMBER 2002
T hey had eaten and showed Anna off to all their cousins and the elders and whoever else wanted to stop by and congratulate them. Luckily, the flickering had stopped as soon as she was done with her nap.
Julia had never been this tired in her entire life. She looked happily at their daughter as the guests left and they were once again alone with Andrew's mother.
She was happy they had decided to come, even though it was exhausting. It was the right thing to do. Anna was, after all, Seminole Indian, and Julia wanted her to know that, even if Andrew didn't. If it were up to him, the girl would be brought up in some suburb thinking she was just like the white kids she was going to be among. She was already born outside of the rez, and that was going to make the other kids at the reservation look at her like a foreigner. Julia knew it was going to be hard for her to make sure her daughter knew her background and honored it.
Igoshi took one more glance at her granddaughter, while Andrew helped one of the elders out the door.
As soon as Andrew's back was turned, Igoshi grabbed Julia by the arm. "You should move back. You really should. For the baby's sake."
Julia sighed. Andrew had warned her that his mother would try and get them to come back. It was one thing when the young people left to go to college or even just try the outside world, but once the children came along, most people came back. Most people who grew up on the rez themselves had a longing inside of them that usually made them come back after a few years on the outside. Julia had started to feel that longing; it had been pulling at her forcefully ever since Anna came into the world. It was getting harder and harder to ignore.
"I don't think I can get Andrew to…"
"But you have to," Igoshi said. "The outside is no place for Anna. She belongs here. She needs her people…"
"No, she doesn't. "
It was Andrew. He had come back. He gave his mother an angry look. "You might as well come to terms with it. We are never moving back here. Never."
Igoshi looked at her son. "But you must. Anna is special. She belongs to…"
Andrew put his hand defensively in the air. "Don't start with all that nonsense, Mother. I don't want to hear it. It's nothing but old superstition and I don't want any part of it; we don't want any part of it. Believe in what you want, but keep us, and especially Anna, out of it."
Igoshi looked into her son's eyes. There was a fight going on between them that Julia had no part in. "Mark my words, son. The girl will need our guidance. She is gifted. And with gifts, she will face many obstacles. Not only i
n order to control this gift. There is evil…trying to…I can teach her, Andy. I can teach her how to use her gift and be aware of…"
"Stop. Just stop it," Andrew said angrily and pulled away from her. He grabbed Julia around her shoulders and pulled her towards the door. Anna was fussing in her arms, probably sensing her mother's tension. "We're leaving. Come on."
"But, Andrew, you must be sensible, son. I saw it. You see it too. The flickering. You know what it means, Andrew."
Andrew shook his head. "No. It's all superstition. I said we don't want any part of it. We're done with this place."
Andrew opened the front door and helped Julia out. She felt like crying, screaming at him to tell her what the heck was going on, but a look from her husband made her hold it back.
"Don't punish the girl for what happened to you," his mother yelled after them, but Andrew slammed the door before she could finish and the last words became muffled.
FORT LAUDERDALE, SEPTEMBER 2002
I t took Julia three days to build up the courage. Ever since they had returned from the rez, Andrew hadn't been quite himself. He had been grumbling and growling and moping around the house, mumbling angry words at his mother and—wise as Julia was—she knew she had to let him rant for a little while first.
But now she couldn't hold it in anymore. They were sitting at the breakfast table. Anna had finally fallen asleep again after waking up at four o'clock, crying her little heart out till Julia fed her. It had been almost seven before she had fallen back asleep and, by then, Julia had to get up anyway and get breakfast ready for Andrew. He seemed in a better mood, so she decided it was time.
He didn't look up from his cereal. He had cut his hair completely short all over now. She didn't like it that way. When she met him, he had long beautiful black hair. She didn't mind it when he cut it a little shorter, till it reached like beneath his ears, but now he had cut it short all over.
"I need to know, Andrew. I need to know."
He finally looked up at her. "Know what?"
She exhaled. "What your mother was talking about."
He dropped his spoon. "What do you mean, what she was talking about? She was just rambling, as usual."
"It scares me, Andrew. Doesn't it scare you?"
Julia glanced at the baby monitor. Andrew had bought one of the ones with a camera in it. A little too expensive for their budget, but nothing was too much when it came to his little Anna.
Julia spoke, almost whispering. "The flickering."
Andrew huffed. "Come on. Don't let that old woman get to you like that. There is nothing wrong with Anna. We had the doctor check her. He said she was just fine."
"Yeah, but he didn't see her…flickering."
"It's nothing, Julia. I’m telling you. She'll grow out of it; don't worry."
"But what does it mean? Your mom said she was special, gifted even. Did it have something to do with that?"
Andrew closed his eyes for a few seconds. "I told you not to listen to her. She's just an old superstitious woman thinking she sees signs and wonders everywhere. Yes, our daughter is gifted. To us, she will always be. She is sweet and beautiful and smart and she'll do wonderful things in this world, but so will a lot of other children. She is just a normal child, just like everyone else."
Julia scoffed, but not so loud that Andrew could hear her. She didn't like her husband talking about their daughter as a normal child. He was so keen on making them all live and be like everyone else, like all the normal white people, she hardly knew who she was anymore.
"But what…is it? The flickering? What is it?" she asked. "Your mother said you knew what it meant."
Andrew shrugged. "My mother hasn't been well for years, Julia. She says stuff like that. You don't have to believe it."
It was true. Igoshi was known on the rez as the crazy lady, ever since she killed her own husband. It was ruled an accident by the Tribal Police, but everyone knew she did it on purpose and Andrew witnessed it. Andrew had never wanted to talk about what had happened that day, not even with her.
BUSHLAKE, DECEMBER 2002
E.T. parked the truck in the parking lot. Gubba looked at the building in front of him. It didn't look much like the preschool he had gone to, but it was the same one. Same address and everything, but the building looked different. It had a flat roof instead of the pointy one his old preschool had had.
"I don't know about this," he said. "It doesn’t really feel the same."
E.T. grabbed his chin and turned his head to look at her. "You listen to me, Gubba. You're angry, am I right? This town did this to you. Look at yourself in the mirror. Look at your darn face, boy."
Gubba looked in the mirror and saw the scars. It had been five years since his mother left him in the sun for his albino skin to burn. He was still in this strange place where nothing was the way he remembered it.
E.T. had tried to explain to him what had happened and he guessed it made sense. "You're a traveler," she kept telling him. "You have the gift. You just didn't know it, not till you were burnt."
"What are you waiting for?” she asked. "An invitation? You're mad, Gubba. You have wanted this for your entire life. Now is the time."
She was right. He was angry. No, it was more than that. Gubba touched his forehead. The voices were screaming inside of him.
DO IT. DO IT. DO IT.
He looked at the building. The parking lot in front of it was packed. Inside, they were all listening to their kids singing at the yearly Christmas concert. Gubba had sung at this event himself when he was that age. He remembered with anger how the other kids used to tease him already back then, calling him names like White Nigga, The Ghost, Casper, or even Dracula. To this day, he could still hear their laughter. He had never felt like he belonged. Not with the black kids because his skin was so white, nor with the whites because his mother was black. He had spent most of his life playing alone in his backyard, talking to the men in the trees, the same men who had told him to avenge their deaths. All his life, he had wanted to hurt this town.
"That's it, that's the anger I want to see in your eyes," E.T. cheered. "You know what they did to you. They deserve this."
He had planned to do this for a very long time. His mother had stopped him. She had found out. That was why she chained him to the tree in their backyard and let him burn up in the sun. She had thought she could stop him, but she had been wrong.
Gubba opened the truck's door and walked outside. He slammed it shut behind him, then opened the umbrella. E.T. watched him from behind the windshield. He could tell she was cheering him on, even though he couldn't hear her. She had been good to him. Ever since that day, five years ago, when he had arrived in this strange place, she had taken care of him. She had let him live with her while he tried to figure everything out and while he healed from the terrible burn.
She had told him things he didn't know and found hard to believe while nurturing him and helping him get stronger. He had told her of his plans and what had happened to him because of them.
"You need to fulfill them," she had said. "As soon as you are well enough. It's the only way to please the voices and make them stop bothering you."
"You think so?"
"I know so. I also know that where you come from, hearing voices like that is considered a bad thing, but that's not true. These voices you hear are your helpers. If you help them, they can help you. You stick with me and I'll help you to become so powerful no one can ever stop you."
Gubba liked that thought. He wanted desperately to have his revenge against the town, and especially against his mother, and E.T. had promised him she would help him get back at them if only he did as she told him to. So, he did.
Gubba put his hand on the door handle leading to the preschool, then pulled the double doors open and pulled out his gun. Someone sitting in the back yelled his name, half in dis
belief, half in fear.
And he replied, right before he started shooting, repeated the exact same words his mother had said to him before chaining him to the tree:
"You ain't gonna like where this is going. You ain't gonna like it."
BUSHLAKE, DECEMBER 2002
E.T. was drumming her long nails on the dashboard while smoking her cigarette with the other hand. Screams of pain and terror emerged from inside the building. She could hear them, even though she had the doors and windows closed. Still, it didn't move her. She couldn't care less about them or what was going on. As a matter of fact, she didn't care much about this entire event. She only pushed Gubba into it because she wanted him to reach into that deep anger of his and use it. She wanted to push him far enough to become who he was meant to be, who she believed he could be. He was a very powerful soul and she could use someone like him.
But, shooting randomly at a Christmas concert? That wasn't exactly her style. It was only because it had been his plan. He was the one who wanted the revenge. She wanted to use it to shape and create him. Her plans for him went so much further than this.
Soon, people came running out from the building, faces tormented in terror. She could hear sirens in the distance. She spotted Gubba as he came out the door; it was easy to see him since he was the only one walking and not running, still holding that umbrella of his.
He walked up to the car, opened the door, and got in, closing the umbrella and placing it folded up between his legs. E.T. threw her cigarette out the window, and then floored the accelerator, and they disappeared out onto Main Street and soon out of town. Gubba's eyes stared lifelessly out at the street in front of them.