The day after the fires journalists started pouring in Pacifica. Some people said that they’d heard the sound of tanks firing, or helicopters and planes. Other said that they’d seen men in trucks driving around at night. But in the end, the police cleared it as a forest fire. Some police men had gone to help out with the fire, their cars had been found burnt and crushed, policemen had died. From my window I could just make out the blackness of the burnt forest and the ashes in the air. The last of the smoke drifted in the wind all the way to San Francisco and the beaches were covered in light blankets of ash.
A week passed, slowly. The news was pasted on all the newspapers all over America, journalists were arriving, taking pictures then moving on. No one knew how the fire had started, how long it had burnt for, how it suddenly went out. Some people kept claiming to have heard screams and gunshots, but they were quickly laughed at. Besides the police officers, no bodies were found.
If anything, the fire only attracted more tourists. The streets, hotels and restaurants were full, the city was thriving. I noticed young police officers more often. They looked wary. I had the strange feeling they were hiding behind police uniforms, they weren’t police. It was their guns, my neighbor in Detroit had been a hunter and took me out with him and his son a few times, he taught me about guns. I knew enough to tell that they weren’t holding the usual police guns. There’s were bigger and they wore belts of bullets under their belts.
The murders had stopped. For a week now. No mysterious deaths at night, no more missing people. The murderer seemed to have disappeared, maybe he started the fire and didn’t make it out. But there seemed to be more deaths, Pam told me that there had be a very bad accident killing over twenty people in the Rocky Mountains.
I went to see the girls once a day. But they weren’t always in. I heard them, walking down the stairs late at night, or walking back up them after having disappearing for a while day. I wondered where they went.
I was surprised when I first started helping them. They literally didn’t know anything. I had them tracing letters the first day. They seemed to know their history dates and there was a wall sized map of the world on one of their worlds, so geography wasn’t a problem.
Concordia was easily the most eager to learn. She seemed more interested in literature, so I started her off reading and writing. Vigidis would sit next to her and ask me questions, but she never did much work. Eris was different. She wasn’t the one who spoke very much. Her sisters did most of the talking. She liked listening to me read to them, but she didn’t like reading aloud. She’d blush when she made mistakes and apologize when I had to correct her. One day, I brought my math book. Vigidis and Concordia didn’t make any sense of the numbers, but they came easily to Eris. Addition and subtraction came in one day. She knew numbers, I barely had to explain multiplication and division, she already knew her 5 time table.
From that day one I’d sit with her, catching her up with math. It was easy for her to understand, and I watched her smiling as she worked. Concordia was pretty independent, once she understood the sound of the words and the letters, she could read aloud to Vigidis and write shopping lists, that she’d show me beaming. Vigidis was a little slower with the letters, I taught her the ABCs and she’d hum it while she copied letters.
We usually spent all afternoon working, and by evening I’d read to them from Watership Down, which they seemed to enjoy.
In the early afternoon I went up stairs to see them. I knocked loudly. I could hear shouts inside then silence. I didn’t hear anything until Eris opened the door cautiously. She gazed up at me with wide eyes. I gaze down at her, she wasn’t shimmering like she had been that night in the water. She hadn’t shimmered like that since that night. Then again, I don’t even know if that was my imagination, if I had wanted her to shimmer.
“ Hey,” I grinned at her. “ How are you? I heard shouts,” she nodded and took a step back letting me inside.
“ Sorry. We don’t want to disturb anyone,” she replied quietly. I entered the house and she closed the door behind me. I followed her into their green living room. Her sisters sat on the couch side-by-side looking unhappy. In front of them, on the glass coffee table they’d laid out their notebooks that I’d given them.
“ Caleb, hey,” Concordia gave me a small smile. Vigidis scowled at her. Eris moved past me and sat on the couch wrapping her arms around her bare legs. Her white hair was piled neatly on top of her head. I sat down on the armchair facing them.
“ What’d going on?” I asked. Vigidis ran her fingers through her curly back hair.
“ Connie wants to move,” she explained. I glanced at Concordia curiously.
“ Move? Where?”
“ Anywhere. Away from this city,” she replied.
“ I thought you guys were just settling in,” I murmured.
“ How about we go for a walk!” Eris suggested smiling. Her sisters pecked up at the same time and regarded her with wide eyes.
“ A walk?” Vigidis asked. Eris glared at her.
“ Just down the beach. You don’t have to come if you don’t want to,” Eris snapped, Vigidis wrinkled her little nose.
“ I don’t feel like walking,” she answered.
“ Fine,” Eris turned to me, I shrugged smiling.
“ I’d love to go for a walk. I guess we can continue classes tomorrow?” Concordia nodded slowly. Eris marched towards the front door. I had the impression she was using me as an excuse to get out of the house. I didn’t mind.
When we left the penthouse Eris headed straight for the stairs. I followed behind then frowned.
“ Are you sure you want to take the stairs?” I asked. She paused and looked up at me.
“ You want to take your elevator?” she asked, I shrugged.
“ It’s faster,” I answered. She shrugged as well then followed me into the waiting elevator. I pressed the ground floor button. She peered around the elevator, looking at the buttons, in the mirror. She gasp when it started moving down.
“ Caleb it’s moving!” she cried happily.
“ I should hope so,” I murmured. She grinned. When the doors slid open she jumped back against the glass. Then like a wild animal she crept out of in onto the ground floor. She smiled at me.
“ It’s so fast,” she breathed.
“ I guess,” I shrugged. We walked down the crowded streets in silence. People bustled around us, laughing, talking about their holidays. We stayed silent. We walked down to the beach.
“ Where are you from?” she asked finally when we arrived on the beach. The sun shone warmly making her hair shine. I couldn’t move my eyes off of her, I couldn’t even look at the ocean. The noise from the tourists playing in sand with their dogs seemed to disappear.
“ Uh here,” I reminded her a bit puzzled with her question. She smiled, just slightly.
“ I mean,” she pointed at my face. “ Your origins,” I laughed freely.
“ Japan,” she dug her feet into the sand, shoes and all. “ Where are you from? I still don’t know.”
“ My great great grandmother was from Florida. Near Miami. That’s all I know.”
“ Miami. You like the beach then.”
“ I guess. I like the sound of water. I like the sea, but, I had never been in it before I moved here.”
“ Huh,” she sat down and lay in the sand. I sat next to her watching the sunlight on her face.
“ But where did you come from before you moved here? Where were you?” she hesitated.
“ Uh, near Miami, I guess,” she gave me a small smile. I gazed down at her.
“ I’m not gonna get anything more out of you aren’t I?” she laughed lightly.
“ Probably not,” I smiled. I reached my hand out and grasped hers. She looked up at me with wide eyes.
“ You know, you don’t have to be afraid. Everything will turn out well, it’ll be okay. Life seems hard now, but it won’t always be. Eris, if you ever need me, I’m here. I’ll protect you,” she kept my gaze for a few long seconds then bowed my head.
“ No one has ever wanted to protect me before,” she whispered. I watched her fingers lacing with mine. She moved a little closer.
“ You can trust me,” I replied. She nodded.
“ Thank you.”