Chapter 1 : Alo
The rain was pouring down like crazy outside.
A cold night.
An old brown car.
A baby crying in the back seat.
A woman trying to see the road between the multitude of raindrops.
“Where are we? Why is there no light on the road?” Bianca was mumbling to herself. Her eyes seemed to search for something to appeal in the darkness. But there was nothing. They had only the screaming wind and the crying rain for only company.
“Shhh baby…shhh, I’ll find a good place for you and me tonight… don’t worry, we will be fine… everything is gonna be alright…” The child’s cries stopped almost immediately, soothed by Bianca’s voice.
“I don’t understand. A little café must be somewhere not too far from here…” She stopped her car and grabbed her phone. She could have continued to drive while checking her screen. But there was no way in hell for her to put the baby in any sort of danger.
The GPS seemed to refuse to work. She was getting impatient as the little search arrow turned non-stop on her screen.
“We will be fine… everything is gonna be alright…” she kept chanting these words to try to convince herself. She put her head on the car’s headrest, keeping her eyes on the screen of her phone.
A knock on her side window made her jump, making her phone fall on the car’s floor. An older man’s face appeared, revealed by the artificial glow of her screen, giving him an eery appearance. She didn’t notice his car’s lights while waiting for her GPS to work. Now, she was blaming herself for that.
She had put her hand against her heart, shocked by the sudden apparition of the man. She took a moment to realize that the man wanted to talk to her. She was trying to choose the best option for her and the child sleeping in the back seat in that situation.
As if knowing what she was thinking, the old man gave her a little nod and what seemed like an encouraging smile. He had an old cowboy hat, and one long braid was hanging on his shoulder. He wore old faded jeans with a blue dress shirt with intricate embroidery. She could see his tanned skin from his long years exposed to the sun. And more than anything, she saw the silent kindness in his eyes.
Bianca released the breath she didn’t realize she was holding and let her window down.
“Good night, sir…” she tried to start.
The old man put his elbow on the top of the car. “What are you doing here?” His eyes were going to her face, to the car’s back seat where the sweet child was sleeping. “That’s no place for a woman and a baby to stay alone…”
“Euh… I’m searching for a place for the baby, and I…”
The old man frowned and got closer to her face. “You’re not from here, ain’t you?”
Bianca seemed perplexed for a second. She wouldn’t be lost if she was from here in the first place. The man’s words made no sense to her. “No sir… I’m lost….”
“Nah… that’s not what I meant… you have an accent. No one talks like that here.”
Bianca had to blink a few times. « I am French, Sir… »
The old man seemed pleased with her answer and fixed his eyes on the back of the car. “Your baby?”
Bianca turned her head to the back seat and had a warm smile.” Not mine, but I’d fight with all I have for her.”
“Mmmm, a lone woman not from here and a baby that is not hers… all by themselves… in this crazy night… come, follow me, I’ll bring you to a safe place.” He started to open the door, but Bianca almost jumped and grabbed the handle with her two hands to hold it closed.
“Euh sir, it’s OK… I can follow you in my car, you know?” She was starting to get alarmed by the actions of the man.
He watched her and gave her an eerie smile. He hit the top of the car twice with the hand resting there since the start of their conversation. Thunder detonated in the distance every time his hand touched the cold metal.
Bianca was now petrified and tried to start her engine…. And failed. She jumped by surprise when she heard the central locking system of her car releasing all the doors.
“Crazy night, huh ?” said the old man, and he opened the door at the back. He took the child carefully and wrapped her tightly in her blanket so the raindrops wouldn’t touch her.
He opened Bianca’s door and extended his hand to her.” My name is Alo… but people just call me Old Al’, and I hope you’ll call me that too.”
Bianca blinked a few times, then took Alo’s hand in hers. Every fiber in her body told her to trust that man. Except the long years watching horror movies ruined every sympathy she could feel for him at the moment.
“Nice to meet you, Alo… I mean, Old Al’. My name is Bianca, and the baby you are holding is Rosy…” She was interrupted by the baby’s giggling. She could not keep a small smile at the sweet sounds.
Rosy raised her hand, and Old Al’ let the baby touch his nose. The man smiled warmly at the child. He said almost silently,” It’s OK… I’ll know your real name later, little one… I welcome you to the tribe. You came with a good soul, child.” For a second, the old man’s eyes seemed to wear a golden glow in the dark.
Old Al’ raised his head, and the rain stopped immediately. He held Bianca’s hand tighter in his and took them to his car. Slowly, he started to drive on some dirt road, far from the ones indicated on the GPS.
As if a veil of magic was lifted, Bianca could see lights appearing little by little. When they reached a crossroads, she could see an old café with its name painted in yellow letters.
Old’ Al’ stopped his car and smiled at Bianca, who kept Rosy in her arms. “Welcome to Crossroads café!”