The Book of Gateways (Installment 17)

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We leave the shop and turn the corner down the alley and to the back of the shop. A little emergency exit and square window adorn the back.

            “What are we doing?” I feel very confused.

            “We’re going back to the office.” Piers says matter-of-factly. I give him a strange look. “I unlocked the window after I used the restroom so we could get back in without being seen. I roll my eyes. “What? We don’t know how this thing works yet. We need to get back in there.” He says and pitches the window open. The window is smaller and I’m wondering how Piers is going to manage to shimmy his way through. I pull myself up and through the window and manage to somehow quietly “fall” into the room. Piers does the same except his hips get caught slightly and I lose the battle of stopping myself from pinching his side. He swats my hand away.

            “Get away from me you meanie.” He scrunches his nose. He shifts himself around a bit and proceeds to slip into the room. He pulls out the book and I feel a tremor violently run through me. My heart starts to pound and my hands begin to feel clammy. I swallow the lump in my throat and nod to Piers. He opens the leather book and leafs through the pictures until he finds the one labeled: “Oakland Book Store”. I start to feel light headed and make myself take a breath relieving the sensation. He looks up at me and I see the excitement and anticipation in his eyes. I feel afraid but then I realize I must be mirroring the same expression as him because he smiles and squeezes my hand. I take another deep breath. He nods to me and I nod back. Then I see his pointer finger hover over to the little oval and my reflexes cause me to grab his forearm. He looks at me questioningly. I take another breath and hug his arm and give him a nod. He smiles at me reassuringly and presses his finger to the oval and I see him grow uncomfortable as the page heats up. The same shimmering icy colored blue lighting up the page. I force myself to take in deep steady breathes to cope with the dizziness. The room starts to swirl and I start to feel the pressure like last time. It’s getting harder to breathe. Black patches start to barrage my sight and I try to blink them out. I feel like I’m about to pass out but I manage to suck in a big gulp of air. My body feels like it’s being sucked in by the energy of the book. I feel the pressure double and that’s the most I can stand. Everything goes dark.

 

            “Cesar.” I hear the steady voice from the dark. My head is spinning. “Cesar.” My eyes roll around in my head as my muscles work overtime to open my eyelids. The light is harsh and causes me to flinch. Piers is hovering over me. The color is still drained from his face. I start to laugh. His brow furrows. “Do you have a concussion?” He asks with concern as he pries my eyelids open to look for dilated pupils. I shake my head and manage to poke my eye on his finger.

            “Ow!” I huff and slap his hand away. I hear him mumble an apology. “Did we make it?” I look around and see that we’re in the backroom of our shop. No kittens with “x’d” out eyes. I smile and start to laugh. “We did it! We did it!” I can’t control my laughter and throw my arms around Piers’ neck and give him a squeeze. “Ah we did it!”.  I lay myself down on my back taking in deep satisfied breaths. Piers lays next to me, and I can tell he is just as happy. I turn my head and we both smile widely.

This adventure is just beginning.

The Book of Gateways (Installment 16)

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Chapter 5

We get back to the San Diego shop and Lannah hurries off to help one of the customers waiting by the door. Piers, Desimae, and I are all standing in the book store by the circular desk until Desimae calls Piers down the hall. I try not to be nosy but I decide to take few steps to look in the plants section of the bookstore nearest to the hallway. I pick up a nice book about orchids or something like that and tilt my ear towards the hallway.

            “I don’t know what’s going on, but you are doing the exact same thing your uncle did.” I hear Desimae’s excited voice barely carry down the hall. A faint sigh comes from Piers.

           “Desimae, I told you, once I find out for sure I’ll tell you what’s going on.” His voice is even lower than hers. I lean in closer.

            “When we promised we would figure out the secret it wasn’t to just find out, it was to be a part of it. So if you fully find out then I want in.” I hear her voice become very serious.

            “If and when Des.” I hear a clasping noise which I can only assume is them clasping hands. I start to hear movement so I put my book down and scurry to another aisle.

            “What are you doing?” Piers says poking his head in the aisle as he always does.

            “Oh, hm? I’m just browsing.” I say pretending to look over all the books.

            “You’re browsing ‘Men’s Health’?” He says as his eyebrows bunch up like they do when he’s skeptical.

            “I was hoping to find a…Women’s Health?” I say unable to keep the question out of my voice.

            “Oh… is it that time?” Piers says in an unsure voice. My face immediately bunches up into annoyance.

            “How would that?” I stop talking and rub my face rapidly. I’m too tired for this. Piers tiptoes away. Unbelievable.

 

I rejoin the group minus Piers by the round desks. It’s quiet although Desimae seems to be enjoying herself as she doodles all over her arms with a sharpie.

            “Where’s Piers?” I ask craning my neck to find him.

            “I think he had to use the restroom. He said you guys were gunna hit the road today and that you guys needed to get home.” Lannah smiles. “It must be rough flying in yesterday and then flying home late tonight.”

            “Oh, ya I’ve flown a lot so it hasn’t been as bad, I think.” I lie and feel guilty.

            “Hey guys.” Piers throws his arm around Desimae. In response she pretends to punch his sides in a rapid fire Street Fighter style. Piers doesn’t flinch. “I miss you guys.” Piers pulls her in for a hug. She doesn’t resist and awkwardly taps his back. Piers then releases her and hugs Lannah. “Good seeing you.” Lannah smiles sweetly.

            “Please be careful.” She says quietly and as she does I see Desimae nod slightly in agreement.

            “Oh I am careful.” Piers smiles as he always does. It’s amazing how unwavering he is. I would have no idea he was lying about all this if I wasn’t a part of it. I have a feeling the only reason they know something is up is because it mirrors the same activity Milo used to do. I feel my expression start to droop so I pull myself from my thoughts and put on my best smile.

The Book of Gateways (Installment 15)

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We finish breakfast and head back to the store. On the way back I hang behind Piers a little to make sure the book is still tucked into his waistline. As he walks I can see the corner of the book make a crease in his shirt with every stride. Then suddenly Piers looks behind him and gives me a weird look. I look back at him my eyebrows in a high arch. Ah, no! I’m not checking you out! I think to myself and hurry to his side.

            Listen I know that seemed weird but I was just making sure the… you know, was there. I wanted to make sure it didn’t fall out.” I say in hushed tones.

            “Sure, sure, Cesar. I know what you were really doing.” He puts on a look of scrutiny. My face must contort because he starts to laugh. “I’m just kidding calm down.” He laughs some more.

            “Hello good friend!” Desimae backs up between us and throws her arm around each of our shoulders. “New friend!” She looks to me. “I need to get out of this sun child! I do not need a tan! Although black don’t crack honey so I don’t know what I’m worried about!” She nonchalantly pushes off of us and frolics to Lannah and throws her arm around her shoulder bubbling with other weird things to say. Piers’ has such bizarre friends.

            “How long are we going to stay here?” I ask Piers as we continue to walk to the shop.

            “We can stay as long or as short as we like! Don’t you see? This is how my uncle went to England for two days or to China for just a day and came back! He used the book and was fine!” Piers grabs my bicep and squeeze a little to show his excitement.

            “Yes, but then things got out of control and someone hunted him down till they found him and killed him.” I say as fear starts to creep in.

            “No one has to know we have it. If we are careful and make it look like we actually flew everywhere we’ll be fine.” Piers says confidently “It’s all how we play this out.”

            “Piers, this is not a game. We can’t ‘play out’ being murdered. There was no trace of evidence to help Milo, and there will be no trace of us if we keep doing this.” I try to appeal to his logic.

            “Cesar… please. This is the closes we will get to being with my uncle. He left me his legacy. Almost all of it. No one else is eligible to take it. He knew I could handle it. That you could handle it.” He says stopping me for a second on the sidewalk.

            “What are you talking about Piers?” I’m now confused and frustrated.

            “Milo left you the Maryland location of the book store. It’s yours.” Piers quiets down to let that sink in. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of the other girls, but her left you that location. He also left a note saying he wanted you to help me in my future endeavors to keep Milo’s business alive…Cesar, Milo wrote his will a month before he passed.” We both sit there quietly. “He knew what was eventually going to happen and he wanted us to take care of the remaining.” What if I don’t want to ‘take care of the remaining’? I think to myself. I feel a little bit of anger flood my mind. Why would he eternally tie me to the shops? The work, Piers, the danger. Why would he do this?

            “Why?” I feel tension in my voice.

            “Don’t be angry.” Piers moves towards me but thinks better of it and backs up. “Milo was getting older, he wanted younger people he loved to do what he loved. You and I both know we love it too.” He says softly. A car with a loud engine goes by distracting my attention.

            “I don’t think I can handle this ‘adventurous’ lifestyle.” I put my fingers in quotes.

            “You don’t know that yet.” Piers smiles. “Come on.” He says and holds out his hand.

            “Come on what, Piers?” I say thoroughly exasperated.

            “Do you trust me?”

            “I waiver.” I say dryly

            “Will you trust me?” He rephrases the question. I nod ‘yes’.

            “Then let’s go on an adventure.” He holds out his hand again. For a second I feel the anxiety come back rushing through my veins and I feel the “fight or flight” response kick in, but I swallow it. I press it deep down and realize the nagging sensation in the bottom of my stomach.

The urge to go through the portal again.

 

The Book of Gateways (Installment 14)

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We sit back down at the booth again. I see Lannah’s worried expression and Desimae’s unfazed look.

“Sorry about that guys, I wasn’t feeling good. I just needed some air for a second.” I see Lannah’s shoulders ease a little and her expression fades into her good natured smile. Desimae is still unfazed. A waitress comes by and Piers flags her down.

“Sorry, we’re ready to order now.” Piers smiles.

“What can I get you?” She asks holding her pen at the ready. Piers nods to Desimae to order first. She doesn’t hesitate.

“Uh, ya let me get two pancakes, a side of bacon, fruit, and a biscuit up in this mug. Oh ya and some orange juice please.” She adds politely. Lannah goes next.

“Can I have some cinnamon oatmeal, turkey bacon, and side of fruit as well with some cranberry juice.” These people have some weird food preferences I think to myself. My stomach grumbles loudly. I clamp my arms over it to muffle the obnoxious noise.

“Can I get two pancakes with strawberry topping and whipped cream, and then a side of sausage, and then just a glass of water please.” I submit my order. Piers is up next and I can tell it’s going to be a large order.

“Yes, I’ll have the everything omelet, hold the mushroom, an order of bacon, hashbrown, and sausage links please. Oh and I’ll have an order of the pancakes and a glass of orange juice.” He folds the menu and hands it to our server. I just shake my head. He acts like he even needed the menu. We all pass the menus forward as the waitress takes them and hurries off to get our orders.

“Whoa there trash compacter.” Desimae toss her straw wrapper at Piers.

“Ha-ha, you are so funny.” He tosses his own wrapper back at her. Then they start to play a game of I-Don’t-Know-What where one person cups their hands with an opening so the other person can flick the balled up wrapper into the opening. They seem supremely entertained. I look up to see Lannah staring at me. We lock eyes.

“So you guys just came to visit?” She says, a hint of suspicion in her voice. Piers and Desimae are in their own world. This question is for me.

“Ya, you know we figured we should try and visit all of Milo’s locations and meet the people he loved so much.” I say lying through my teeth. It’s true to a degree, we wanted to we just never had enough money to make it happen. I snap my attention back to Lannah as I realize my gaze has wandered to the salt and paper shakers.

“We wanted to do it sooner, but it’s expensive to travel nowadays, you know?” I say trying to smile naturally.

“Yes, everyone is having problems nowadays. The shop makes it through though, I just don’t know what will happen to the shops now that… Well now that he’s not around.” Lannah says fiddling with her napkin.

“Ya, I’m not sure who is taking over the shops now.” I say glumly.

“Oh, I am.” Piers says as he flicks the little white wrapper into Desimae’s hands.

“Excuse me?” I say in disbelief. “When did you find this out?” I try to sound calm.

“I found out this morning. An agency in charge of my uncle’s will contacted me today. They said they had troubles reading uncle’s handwriting.” He says making the goal with his hands as Desimae flicks the paper. It goes in.

“Huzzah my good people! Not only did I get the point but Milo’s book stores will also not be absorbed by the government or the horrid public!” Desimae smiles widely. So bizarre. Then I realize this must be a normal thing because Lannah and Piers are unfazed by her odd announcement. I can’t help but smile. The server brings our food and we all say a prayer before digging into our food. I silently thank God to myself that even after all these weird experiences that I have Milo’s shops and the people he loved. It makes me feel closer to him when I know the people he knew.