“Where have you been all day?”
“What?” Delilah tried to deflect unsuccessfully.
“Where have you been all day?” Amelia repeated, pushing into the apartment like a bloodhound trying to uncover some hidden fox. “Or rather should I say all week? You have become impossible to get a hold of. What did you wake up cured and decide that you had to immediately go out and do all that living you’d been missing out on since you’ve been cooped up in the house. Well if that’s the case you could have at least waited for me to tag along.”
“How’s Bubblegum doing?” Delilah asked, trying to steer them off course again.
“Nice try at changing the subject but no go. Where have you been?”
Where had she been? She’d been . . . confused. It had been a week since Madge had sat down and had the talk with her over family dinner on the ins and outs of her “gifts” but she was still having a hard time believing that it was true. The whole atmosphere just seemed wrong to her the least of which was the fantastical abilities; what was throwing her off more was seeing a happy family, having Madge check up on her and wonder how she was managing. It was been a long time since someone besides Amelia and the Conrads had worried or wondered over her and it was a hard thing to get used to. Belonging somewhere did not come naturally to her.
Neither, it turned out, did being an Intuit it seemed. Madge called them growing pains. Delilah just called them accidents. Every day she started out with a hazy plan of walking around the city directionless and letting her nose take the lead and tell her where to go. By early afternoon she kept ending up at the same place, Papa Taco. The only smell she could make out with any distinction was the Triple Chile Verde Burrito. Nothing nefarious or heartwarming about that, though tasty to be sure.
What she really wanted was some kind of Oxford Olfactory Dictionary that could translate what she was supposed to smell into what it all was supposed to mean. Trying to reason out her sense of smell was starting to give her not only headaches but complexes as well. When she sniffed burnt toast did that mean that she had burnt toast, that a neighbor had burnt toast, that burnt toast was a figment of her oppressed need to complicate simple things or did hunger smell like burnt toast. These were the kinds of things that were constantly tripping her up. Delilah feared it was about to get to the point where there could be a fire in her building and she’d burn to death, thinking that the smoke was really all just a figment of her intuit imagination and she was already dangerously close to reaching it after only a week.
Madge assured her that it would get better, easier, and that after they made their pilgrimage to the mecca that was Gilded Hill everything would make more sense (though when that would be nobody knew since it seemed like Delilah had the busiest mentor known to man and she might have to take a job in her shop just to see her). She’d said it was like her brain, or senses, or feelers, or whatever just needed a little reboot. Like a software update for a computer and Gilded Hill was the computer store. Delilah had dealt with tech support at big box stores enough to know to be wary of that analogy.
And then there was the letter from her mother, hidden unopened inside her pillowcase. When Delilah had been distracted by the play the children were putting on in her honor, Madge had tucked the letter between the pages of her mother’s book for her to find. And she did, as soon as she got home that night. But there were so many things that she wanted and needed for it to say that she couldn’t bring herself to open it and see what was inside. The anticipation might have been killing her but the eventual letdown would destroy her even more. She’d wanted to talk to her mother again for ten years; now that she was getting that chance, no matter how staid, she didn’t want to have to face all the things she needed to hear, needed answers to, and wasn’t about to get. So she set it aside to ruminate over what it may or may not say before she found the courage to pry back the lip and peek inside. It was so bad that even she could smell the vinegar in the air and, novice that she was, had little trouble figuring out what it must mean – nerves.
“I’ve been . . . around,” Delilah finally answered Amelia with that evasiveness she only ever barely got away with.
“Don’t tell me, you’ve been out on the town with Dr. Hard Body haven’t you?” Amelia asked with a supposedly knowing twinkle in her eye.
Delilah had been out with Jensen all right but only in the naughtiest corners of her mind and the shadowy recesses of her dreams. When she woke up she’d always reach for the phone, stare at it sitting in her hands for a moment, and then replace it in the cradle, phone calls left unmade. She wanted to see him but there was so much upheaval in her life already that she couldn’t imagine what adding him into the mix might mean, no matter how much Madge and Colin’s story had made her yearn for a fairytale of her own.
Delilah pretended to laugh. “I wish. He hasn’t returned my phone calls,” she answered, turning from Amelia so she couldn’t see her add silently to herself ‘because I haven’t made them.’ There it was again – vinegar.
“Hmmm, well he does not know what he’s missing. I’ll go down and rile him up a bit if you want me to,” Amelia offered with her trademark cock-eyed grin.
“NO!” she protested a little too vehemently, a little too loudly. “No, it’s perfectly fine if he wants to see if absence makes the heart grow fonder. We’ll just see if it does. No guarantees my heart will still be here to grow while he’s gone,” Delilah continued, still in something of a panic but at least a little less hysterical. All she needed was Amelia to start chatting up Jensen and find out she hadn’t called. Cornered with that information she would have no choice but to come clean with all of it – the hair and the nose and the eyes and the necklace. She’d be forced to lay bare the intuit truth and Delilah wasn’t ready for that yet. She still barely believed it herself, how could she expect anyone else to? Wasn’t sure when she’d be ready for that considering she couldn’t stage a demonstration or boast highly magical skills for her trouble. She hadn’t even managed to convincingly see the future . . .
Suddenly, as if the universe knew what she was brooding about and strove to prove her wrong, Delilah banged her knee into the table in her entryway as she was following Amelia past it. As she leaned over to see if her clumsiness had bruised anything other than her sense of balance, she spied a particularly ugly gash blooming across the side of her knee in spectacular colors of blue, black, and purple. As she peered down to get a better look, it happened.
Without knowing how she did it or what it meant, she found herself somewhere else. It seemed like the world had gone dark, like she’d closed her eyes but knew she hadn’t. It felt cold and dark but safe, the smell of grass at dusk with the biting chill in the air adding to that strange sensation of security descending over her. But she didn’t have a chance to grasp at her surroundings, or lack thereof, because feelings were assaulting her in grandiose fashion, like images trying to be downloaded into her brain, no waiting necessary.
A kite. A yellow string. The letter X. Angst. The buzzing of a bee. The sun smiling. Knitting needles. Jubilation. A star is born. Surrender.
And then she was back. She hadn’t moved, was still leaning down to get a better look at the bruise she no longer had any interest in examining. She had seen the future though she was disappointed to find out it made as little sense as her other Intuit senses did. She’d hoped that she’d have been able to see people or actual moments from the future. Even snapshots of latent images, a picture to take back with her would have been better, something more akin to a box of photos spilled across the floor than the words or impressions that stamped themselves against her consciousness, evidently no explanation necessary.
All she got were the words, the feelings, pressed into her. Nothing as magical as what she had seen on movies and TV shows and at carnival stands with fortune-telling superstars. Madge could do it, with all the flashiness of Gemini cards and crystal balls, but she was a gypsy. All Delilah had was the intuit ideal of telling the future, just another thing not living up to its expectations.
“De, what are you doing?” Amelia asked, looking back from the couch at her tragically clumsy friend in such a comical position that she didn’t know whether to laugh or fear for her safety.
“I just bumped into this damn table and I’m hopping up and down in pain. You could join me you know.” Delilah smiled on the inside at managing to cover in an adequate fashion.
“In what – the hopping or the pain?” Amelia was laughing at her but that wasn’t anything new really. Amelia was always laughing at her; she did predictably ill-advised things that always ended hilariously.
“The hopping of course, it’s good for the soul.”
“So is kale but you don’t see me indulging in that, do you?”
“Well anytime you want to I’m sure you could just pull apart a few layers of Bubblegum’s clothes and you’ll be all set.”
“Ooh, snap,” Amelia laughed, resting her chin in her hands, elbows propped to support her, and staring at Delilah over the back of the couch. “Are you sure you’re okay De? I haven’t seen you since I took you to see Stephen and you weren’t doing so hot then.”
“Did I thank you for taking me there? I really appreciate it,” Delilah said, looking at her best friend tenderly across the room. “And no, I wasn’t doing well but I’m doing just peachy now.” She hated lying to her, even a lie of omission, but this was definitely not the best time to tell her. She’d be supportive and kind but she’d also be researching shrinks and mental hospitals the minute she left. Just as likely to go pour over research at the library to prove her right as to go enlist the aid of Stephen and the scientific community to prove her wrong. She was like that, always wanting to help, always wanting to be prepared, consistently a mass of contradiction.
“Okay well I just stopped by to make sure that you are still joining us here in the land of the living,” Amelia sighed, obviously satisfied with Delilah’s answer or she never would have gotten up off of the couch and thrown her purse over her arm, all ready to leave. “I was coming past here to scout locations for the photo shoot at a dog grooming salon – don’t ask – and figured popping in would have to get your attention.”
“You know you always got my attention Amelia girl.”
“Try returning some phone calls every once and awhile then.” She took her by the shoulders and gave her three quick shakes, a smiled alighting upon her face. It was something that she’d been doing since childhood, always trying to shake some sense into that girl. They hugged quickly at the door, Delilah holding on a moment longer than was necessary, having a clear look at the concerned look on her friend’s face when they pulled apart. “Remember, anytime, you know that.”
“I know that,” Delilah answered with a smile and a nod of her head. When the door closed it soundly loudly throughout her apartment, sealing them on different sides of the door with shades of foreshadowing and finality that made her want to open the door and scream the truth at the top of her lungs to make sure that it never got between them. There were a lot of things that Delilah had lived through and a lot more that she could take but separated by a divide thicker than a piece of paper from Amelia was not one of them.
With Amelia gone and the lovely distractions along with her, Delilah sat down at her desk and tried to work. Kiki had emailed her, asking her to be a reference at a new job she was applying for and her heart started racing. This could be the break she was waiting for. If Kiki found another job, Delilah could slide right into her first assignment as a reporter. If Bianca was to be believed of course. It was something that she had been striving for, for so long it made her giddy to consider it.
“I’ll try again,” she vowed anew, determined to figure out how this intuit thing worked. Determination, it seemed, paid off. She ran to her bedroom to put on more layers and caught a glimpse of her hair in the mirror. It was already noticeably longer even after just a week, reaching farther down her back than it had since the third grade. She combed her hands through it and was surprised at how soft and supple it felt, like silk and straw. Maybe having five feet of hair wouldn’t be so bad after all.