Two hours later Delilah found herself at Madge’s kitchen table, surrounded by her large, overwhelming family, and definitely in over her head. She hadn’t been sure before if she believed any of it or if she even wanted to but there was something more important that she wanted – that letter from her mother. What would it say? Would it explain any of this? It had been hidden in the back of an unreadable book so hopefully it wasn’t just your run of the mill tearful goodbye that she could have copied from any tragic Lifetime movie showing on the television every weekend. Though even that would be good enough for her, so much left unsaid when her mother died, they never did have even your most saccharine, run of the mill sappy goodbye. She didn’t have even one cliché to hold onto at night.
But she’d sat studiously and taken in everything that Madge had to say about her suddenly heightened sense of smell, about how her hair was going to grow impossibly long, about the necklace she couldn’t take off and the meaningful scars that were going to crop up all over her skin. She wasn’t very excited about the fact that she’d have to carry some of that wasabi in her purse since a neophyte like her could become besieged by sensations any moment but being able to tell what others were feeling and thinking might come in handy, if she could ever get a handle on it that is.
Hearing about her gifts hadn’t been a straightforward endeavor with Chad, Jordan, and Jam running and yelling down the stairs every few minutes with interruptions and questions and requests for ponies cropping up. They finally retired upstairs, closing the shop and leaving all pretense of work or weighty things down with it.
“Sorry about this,” Madge had said as she led her up into her apartment which wasn’t exactly what Delilah had expected after the rich warmth of the shop below. Her house was all clean lines and straight edges, mostly white and steel with pops of color here and there, a mirror to the space below where white was hiding behind bookshelves and under tables as best it could.
“I really should have taken you to The Gilded Hill but you caught me by such surprise and I feel like if I abandon Colin I might not have a husband to come back to. The children are more than capable of locking him in a back room and succeeding at mutiny.” To show their agreement, the lot of them scampered through the hallway, pitching themselves at their mother for hugs before they started chasing each other around the room.
“Taken me where?” Delilah asked, stepping over cars and dolls scattered about the otherwise spotless entryway.
“Gilded Hill. Where we were for a second this morning when our eyes met and you caught me off guard.”
“So I wasn’t hallucinating about the grass and the hill?” Delilah asked, not sure what to make of this information. She knew that weird things had been happening to her but had written off before as, well, before: before she understood what was going on, before she had learned about things she hadn’t even guessed at, before she had been cured of all of her hard won delusions. Before.
“No silly, of course not. We can go there anytime we want. And it would be nice to get some Peace And Quiet,” she said loudly towards her rambunctious brood causing them to quiet down for just a moment before giggling started up and mingled with the pitter patter of their feet running farther into the apartment, “but when you have so much stuff on your plate like I do it’s hard to find time to jump over there whenever the mood moves you.”
“How do you get there?” Delilah asked.
“Well it’s a little complicated to get there by yourself but it can be done, with practice. But usually, like this morning, it happens when Intuit eyes meet. Our senses are heightened and we can see things that others can’t and when our eyes meet, unguarded, we can see inside each other, inside our gifts and our purpose and that place is Gilded Hill.
“We’ll go there soon and you’ll see what I mean about it being special. It really is a wonderful place to relax. Ah, how I do need a vacation,” Madge murmured, slipping down into a chair at the kitchen table. Colin was behind her stirring the spaghetti in a pot. He turned at her comment and placed his hands against her shoulders, massaging lightly. She leaned her head back to look up at him and he smiled down at her.
“What’s that I hear? Vacation for a Super Mom like you? The world couldn’t get by without you,” he said, placing a quick kiss on the tip of her nose. “I couldn’t get by without you,” he added, placing a longer kiss against her lips. “The children would kill me.”
Madge swatted him away and laughed. “We have company you know,” she said, waving a hand at Delilah.
Colin just wiggled his eyebrows and his smile grew as he returned to the stove. “She’s horribly mean to me the rest of the time. I need witnesses around to keep her honest.”
“Well I never,” Madge murmured, grabbing a towel off of the table and swatting him with it. He hopped out of the way at the last minute and just laughed.
Delilah was happy to see this, a happy family. After everything Madge had told her about wild places and fantastic abilities and sensational origins, stories that sounded like they were only told in hushed sentences over smoldering campfires or other such places with legendary notions, she worried that her life would never be anything resembling normal again. Madge and Colin gave her hope that this didn’t mean her life was over but instead that it was just beginning.
“Do the kids know?” Delilah asked, interrupting the teasing looks and words Madge and Colin were exchanging.
“About being an Intuit and everything.”
“Of course,” Colin answered with a surprised look, “You think any of you women can keep an adequate secret? And with the crazy things that go on around here and the fortune-telling. Remember when those crystal balls came in the mail and starting whirling around like tops because they weren’t unpacked quick enough? There aren’t any secrets around here.”
“He’s right,” said Madge as she assembled a salad in the kitchen, Delilah being slightly disappointed that she did it with her hands and not her mind. Not that such things were intuit gifts but for someone who was just told that she was somewhat magical, the fact that she had a super sense of smell really wasn’t living up to the super part of the equation.
“Are you kidding? How could I explain about not only the weird things always going on but the weird things happening to them? Jam has been able to smell trouble since the age of two. Of course she likes the smell of trouble which is why she’s always getting into it.” They laughed.
“And the boys?” Delilah prompted.
“Well, being an intuit is generally a thing that’s passed between mother and daughter but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them have a few surprises up their sleeves. Chad’s eyes are made for this and Jordan is definitely taking after me with the fortune-telling.”
“But that could be more gypsy than intuit,” Colin reminded her.
“I know, I know,” Madge sighed, circling the table and setting it for dinner.
“You sound disappointed,” Delilah said with a laugh.
“I am,” she replied, setting her hands on her hips. “I want them all to know they’re special and it wouldn’t hurt if I could show up Samson Matthews at the same time, would it?”
“Who’s Samson Matthews?”
“Her old boyfriend,” Colin said, leaning over towards her conspiratorially. “He dumped her well before we got together. Told her she wasn’t gifted enough to produce special males so he couldn’t be having her around anymore. She’s still peeved about it. She’s constantly trying to get Brody to coax some kind of fantastical thing or another out of the boys so she can prove him wrong.”
“Well,” she said with a harrumph as she dropped down into a chair. “Just look what happened when he set up shop here. Everyone’s crediting him for revitalizing the neighborhood and it just sticks in my craw.”
“Wait, are you talking about the owner of Samson’s Department Store? You know him?” Delilah was awed for a moment. He was said to be an infinitely charming man that had broken as many hearts as piggy banks when his stock skyrocketed and made a lot of people very, very rich.
“So did your mom actually. They were hot and heavy for awhile. Oh, he made his rounds with all of us, taking it in his head that he could breed a superior intuit or something of the sort. We smell danger, we’re not bloodhounds for goodness sakes.”
“Don’t get so fired up about it dear. You know you won, right?” Colin asked, taking a seat next to her. “Kids, dinner,” he yelled. A stampede of little feet started towards them. “Don’t forget to wash your hands first.” They groaned in unison as their steps retreated towards the bathroom.
“I know that,” Madge said, smiling sweetly at her husband and taking his hand in hers to give it a reassuring squeeze, “but it doesn’t mean I still don’t want to see that pompous, arrogant man eat his words.”
“Yes dear,” Colin replied, yanking his hand back and massaging it, mouthing a silent ‘ouch’ to Delilah that had her trying to stifle a giggle.
“Well how did you two meet?” Delilah asked. And out of nowhere, Jensen’s face swam across her mind as she remembered when he had entered the exam room earlier that day and she could barely breathe. Was it like that for them?
“I bumped into him on the street – literally,” Madge said, rising from her seat to help the kids, who had just breezed into the kitchen in their pack, get situated and served.
“And she is always telling me I have my head in the clouds,” Colin said, dropping small mounds of spaghetti and salad onto his assembly line of plates.
“Mom can I have fried chicken for dinner?” Jordan interrupted, his big owlish eyes looking up at her.
“Only if it’s practicing to be spaghetti,” Madge answered, bopping him quickly on the nose with her finger. “I had just gotten out of rehearsal – I was in the chorus line of a very small production of The Wizard of Oz, really it wasn’t much of a chorus line but what are you going to do – and I was rushing home with this new set of Gemini cards that one of the stagehands had given me and I bumped right into him after illegally crossing the street.”
“The cards went everywhere,” Colin continued, picking up the thread as Madge filled cups with milk, water, and juice, “and she was looking so pretty like a little drowned rat in that puddle that I took mercy on her and told her I’d help her up and wouldn’t turn her into the police if she told me my future.”
“And I told him that there would be dire consequences if he didn’t treat the frazzled, wet lady in front of him to warm meal in the form of . . . ?” Madge looked at Colin for help.
“Locusts,” he answered, “locusts and male pattern baldness if I remember correctly. And well, ever though I could pull off the no hair thing I really didn’t want to chance it so there you go.”
“When did you tell him about the intuit thing?” Delilah asked, wondering if there really ever was a good time to reveal such a thing.
“He met me flinging knock-off tarot cards around the street – I’m not sure he ever believed I was really all that normal.”
“Nope, never,” he reassured with a smile.
“I don’t think you’re normal at all Mommy,” Chad piped up as he tried to fit his whole plate full of spaghetti into his mouth all at once.
“Thanks Tiger.” She smiled at him. “Remember we’re supposed to chew our food, right, not inhale it.”
“Oh yeah, right,” Jam said with a wide-eyed smile like she’d forgotten and was so happy that she’d been reminded even though she had yet to touch her plate. “Thanks Mommy.”
“So one night,” Madge continued with an affectionate look at her daughter, “we were on our way home from somewhere and we walking down the street and we were talking about the weather and I said it was going to rain tomorrow and when he asked me how I knew that because the forecast was for sunshine for the rest of the week I just blurted it out.” Delilah looked at her startled. “I told you that honesty just kind of bursts forth from me like a fountain? Well that wasn’t an exaggeration.”
“No, it wasn’t” Colin laughed. “In the beginning I kind of found it endearing that she thought she could smell danger. Though I didn’t believe it I liked that she thought she could, that she was eccentric since everyone I knew was exactly the opposite. And when I realized it was true, well, I figured it might come in handy so I kept her around.”
“Kept me around, eh?” Madge asked, a little bit of attitude poking through.
“Like I can get her to leave,” Colin told Delilah. “Oh honey,” he cooed back at his wife at the stormy look she was getting, “you know I’m just kidding.”
“Hmm,” she replied, “he won’t have any problem with me bothering him tonight, that’s for sure.”
Delilah just tried not to laugh.