Friday, September 18, 2015

The Hidden Park, Part IV

The moment the school bell released her, Annabelle hurried. Her dads were both very aware of the clock and if she arrived home too late after school, they both started imagining all the worst things. So, Annabelle had learned not to dawdle, and she knew exactly how much extra time she had if she ran instead of walked, and how quickly she could cover a single extra neighborhood block.

Annabelle tightened the straps on her backpack and she scurried down the sidewalk, not quite running, but faster than her usual walk. Her books banged against her back as she hopped a curb and scooted between two parked cars. There were three additional blocks to get to the grey stone building next to the hidden park and then three additional blocks on her return path. Less than ten minutes for that distance, but she wanted time to actually look at the building.

She’d tried to look at it on the internet, pulling up sophisticated maps and first person views, and something wonky had happened. Either the information wasn’t there, or someone had done a bad job, because everything was blurry. Sometimes, she thought the entire search was jinxed, because their wifi went down, or her laptop forced installations. Her dads were considering allowing her a smartphone, but so far none had materialized. She was hopeful for the upcoming holidays, though. They rarely let her borrow theirs, because they contained confidential work information. But it meant she didn’t have access to an app for maps.

Annabelle braced herself against a tree and stood there panting. The front of the grey building rose in front of her.

People streamed out the door of the gray stone building, shaking hands and talking. Everyone was dressed well, with shined up shoes or strappy sandals, and even a few had on real hats, not just baseball caps. Women fluttered by in gauzy floral print dresses and men seemed like they had stepped out of the past, with charcoal grey or brown suits in broad cuts.

Annabelle noticed the man from before and he caught her eye. It took him a moment to cross the street, as he waited for a car to zip past, and then he walked over. He, too, was dressed in an older-styled suit, with his hands in his pocket. She could see he wore suspenders from the gap created as he stepped up onto the curb.

“No Duchess?” he asked.

“I’m on my way home from school,” Annabelle said. There were people everywhere around them, so she wasn’t worried. “What is that place?”

He looked across the street at the building and smiled. “It used to be a church,” he said,” but the congregation grew older and dwindled. Now it’s in the process of being a theater. We’re all working on putting on our first production. Want a tour of the inside?”

Annabelle grasped at the straps of her backpack. What she wanted was to run home. “Sorry. Maybe later. I need to get home.” She moved away from him and headed directly into the throng of people, then raced home, with minutes to spare.

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