I did a dangerous thing with this story. I start tho story with a ridiculous premise. I put Olivia in the ocean, and I had no idea how she got there. So to tie up that loose end, I wrote this third half of a two-part story. Welcome to my creative process. A flow chart of my work methods might resemble a plate of spaghetti. Anyway, this is today's offering
EXILE TO PARADISE PT.3
By Ken Green
“Where will you go now, Squire?” Darla asked.
“Don’t call me that anymore.” Oliva said gently, “No more false names, no more disguises, no more lies. I’ve done nothing but lie since I arrived at this place, and look how much trouble it’s caused me. From now on, I’ve Olivia, and only Olivia.”
“A wise policy, I have no doubt,” Darla said, putting her arm around Olivia. “But the question remains. Where would you go?”
“I know not.” Olivia said, gazing over the calm waters of the harbor. They sat on the pier. The sun was rising, the fishing boats were out, and there was no trade to be had. The quiet part of the day.
Olivia nuzzled her cheek against Darla’s warmth. Why does this feel so right? “I still have the money Deep gave me.”
Darla adjusted her shawl to wrap them both. “Deep?” she asked, “Who is this ‘Deep’, Sweetie?”
“Deep was the one who fished me out of the sea. Didn’t I tell you about him?” Olivia squirmed closer and settled, the way a cat does.
“It seems there are many things you don’t tell me.” Darla said.
“Deep was the big one, the huge Maori with the crazy tattoos on his face.”
“And you say he was a fisherman?” Darla asked.
“Yeah. And he gave me a bag of money. What’s wrong?” Olivia asked.
“Sweetie, I know every fisherman who works these waters. Intimately.” Darla said, “And none of them fit that description.”
“But…” Olivia said, “He was there. I was drowning, and he pulled me out. He saved me. He had to be real. I would have died.”
Darla pulled Oliva closer, stroked her hair, “My poor lamb, my poor crazy lamb…”
“No.” Oliva asserted. “He was real. He had to be real…”
“Explain it again.” Darla said patiently, “How did you get here?”
“I was flying from Detroit to Nashville…” Olivia started.
“Flying, Honey?” Darla asked, “How? Were you on a broom? You’ve dodged one hanging, why invite another?”
“You’re right, Darla. People can’t fly. Why do I keep thinking crazy things?” Olivia looked down at the oily water.
“You just have water on your brain, that’s all. Maybe if you tilt your head…” Darla offered.
“I’ve tried that, Darla, I’ve tried sitting in the sun to dry it out. I don’t think I’ll ever get better.” Olivia lamented, “I’ve even tried making myself cry, figured that would drain it for sure. Nothing works.”
“There, there,” Darla said, gently rocking Olivia. “You’ll be fine. One day, you’ll be all sorted out. Just start at the beginning.”
“I was fly…I was travelling to Nashville…” Olivia resumed.
“Which is in the Americas…” Darla interrupted.
“Yes… ” Olivia confirmed.
“Where the copper-skinned savages live.” Darla said.
“No, Darla, they’re not savages. And they’re not really made out of copper. They’re just regular people whose ancestors got screwed. Can I just tell the story now?” Olivia pleaded.
“Sorry,” Darla said, “Why were you going to Nashville?”
“Because I wanted to be famous. I was going to write my own songs, and sing in arenas, and I’d be rich, and everybody would love me.”
“But you wound up in the sea.” Darla prompted.
“I’m pretty sure I fell.” Olivia nodded, “I think I remember falling from a great height. Oh, Darla, I keep remembering pieces of things, things that don’t make sense.”
“Yes, flying carriages and thinking boxes, and towers as tall as the sky, made of glass,” Darla said, “Such beautiful nonsense.”
“It’s not all beautiful.” Olivia said, shaking her head.
“Come on,” Darla said, getting up, “I want you to try something.”
“Where are we going?” Olivia asked.
“Where any sane person goes for answers.” Darla said, “We’re going to a tavern.”
They walked down the street, and turned a corner. They wound up at the Cock and Bull, a smelly tavern with a stupid name. Out front, a busker lay in the street, passed out, drunk, snoring and hugging his lute as if it were his lover. Darla squatted down and wrestled the instrument from his arms. She stood up and handed it to Olivia.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” Olivia asked.
“You’re a musician,” Darla said. “Figure it out.”
Olivia slung the strap over her shoulder with a motion that felt strangely familiar. She held the lute and picked out a chord, and then another, and another.
Darla’s brow furrowed “You only know three chords?” she asked.
“The holy trinity of rock and roll,” Olivia said, with reverence. What does that mean?
“Well, play some more.” Darla urged, “Maybe it gets better.”
So Olivia played, and she started to sing. Tears ran down her face, but her voice didn’t falter. She played songs that she knew without knowing that she knew them. Songs from the cities of rust. Songs from the swamps of Georgia. Songs about war in a faraway land.
Darla began to move with the rhythm. Soon she was spinning, and her skirts were swirling in a crazy gypsy dance. Passersby threw coins at her feet. A crowd had gathered.
“Look, Sweetie,” Darla said in hushed tones, “You’re rich and famous. And somebody loves you,” she added softly.
“Thank you, Darla,” Olivia said, “But I still don’t know who I was, or how to get back.”
“Does it really matter so much?” Darla asked.
“Of course it matters,” Oliva said, “It’s who I am.”
“No,” Darla said, grabbing Olivia by the shoulders, “This is who you are, this solid flesh,” she tilted Olivia’s head up, “These eyes I look into. These lips that I…these lips that speak,” she put her hand on Olivia’s chest, “This heart that beats…Olivia, your heart is racing.”
“Is not…” Olivia lied, a tremor in her voice.
“This is who you are, here and now, in this moment, not some half-remembered ghost haunting a far-away land of fairy tale miracles. Why isn’t it good enough?”
“Darla?” Olivia asked, “Why are you yelling at me?”
“I’m not yelling!” Darla stopped herself, “Sorry, let’s talk about something else. So the vicar absolved you, then?” Darla asked.
“Yeah,” Oliva wrapped her shawl tighter, as a chill morning breeze swept the street of Hadley, “He told me to go forth and sin no more. Then he gave me this convent dress.”
“You look good in black,” Darla said.
“What I don’t get,” Olivia said, “Is why that crazy witch threw magic dust on me. What was the point of that?”
“Let’s go ask her,” Darla said, her voice suddenly colder than the breeze.
“Wait. Are you sure that’s…” Olivia rushed to catch up.
Darla was walking faster than usual, and her jaw was set. She turned down an alley, and Olivia followed.
“Where are we going?” Olivia asked.
Olivia stopped at a pile of dirty, discarded cloth, and started kicking it.
“What are you…Oh!” Olivia gasped.
The cloth moved of its own volition, growing and rising and resolving itself into the shape of a woman. A specific woman. The witch.
“Three Penny Annie,” Darla said, folding her arms.
“Daughter,” the witch said, rubbing her side.
“No,” Darla said, “You do not call me that. You gave away that right.”
“Very, well, Darla, why are you here?”
“Your mischief nearly cost this girl her life.” Darla said, her voice flat.
“Did it?” Three Penny asked, “I see your friend standing before me, alive and unhanged. I think the words that you seek are ‘thank you’. Tell me, Darla, have you ever known my mischief to fail?”
“Wait,” Olivia demanded, “Are you saying you planned all this?”
“You’re welcome…” Three Penny said.
“It doesn’t matter what she says,” Darla cut her off, “She’s full of lies and poison. Let’s get out of here,” she grabbed Olivia’s arm and pulled her away.
“Wait a minute…” Olivia said, but Darla was dragging her away. She glanced back at the witch. For one brief moment, Three Penny seemed to be just a small, sad, defeated woman. In the next, she was the witch again.
“Come visit again soon!” Three Penny called after them, “I do so enjoy these family reunions!”
“You just stay away from us!” Darla roared, not looking back.
Us? Olivia stumbled, trying to keep up, Are we an us? Do I want to be an us? There’s nobody in this world I’d rather to be with, but…
They were passing the tavern again.
“Darla, stop!” Olivia shouted.
Darla stopped. “What now?” she demanded.
“Where are we going?” Olivia asked.
“To the beach,” Darla gestured to the sky, “The sun’s over the rooftops, the boats will be in soon. I can catch the morning rush, work a bit, and we can get an early lunch afterwards.”
“No, Darla, where are we going? Where is this…relationship headed?”
Darla threw her hands up in exasperation. “I…I don’t even know what that question means.”
“Then try this one,” Oliva said, “What do you want from me?”
“That’s easy,” Darla said, “I want you to stop wanting to leave me.”
“I…I don’t want to leave you.” Olivia said. I don’t. I really don’t. What does that make me?
“Well, Sweetie, that still means at least one of us needs to make a living, so…” Darla turned toward the beach.
“Wait, Darla. Could you give up the trade?”
“Sure,” Darla said, “Right after I give up eating and sleeping under a roof.”
“I still have the money Deep gave me.” Olivia held the pouch up.
“Are you telling me there’s a lifetime worth of money in that little bag?” Darla asked.
“There might be,” Olivia said glancing at the tavern, “Follow me.”
The tavern had just opened for the day. The owner was behind the bar, wiping pint glasses for the midmorning rush.
“Can I get you anything?” the barman asked.
“Yeah,” Olivia said, “I want your tavern.”
“Well, you can’t have it,” the barman said, “It’s been in my family for eighteen generations, and I…”
Olivia upended the pouch. Gold coins fell to the bar with loud clunking noises.
“Enjoy your new purchase,” he said, spreading his wiping rag on the bar and gathering coins onto it, “Don’t let the vicar run a tab, it’s like pulling teeth to get him to pay up.”
He walked away smiling.
Darla stood, stunned. “What just happened?” she asked.
“You just got hired,” Olivia said, stepping behind the bar. She found an apron and threw it at Darla, “Put that on. You’re my new barkeeper.”
Darla tied the apron on.
“Olivia, what are you doing?” she asked, “Do you intend to make me an honest woman?”
Olivia tied her own apron on. “I think that might be a lifetime job. Will you stay with me that long?”
Darla looked around her. “Olivia, this is…do you mean it? Can I stay forever?”
“Yes, of course you can stay,” Olivia said, stepping out from the bar, “This is your home.”
“Is it you home too, Olivia?” Darla asked, “Are you going to stay?”
Olivia took Darla’s hands. “I have to stay. I just sank my last dime into this place.”
Later that evening, after the post-dinner rush, Olivia snuck out the back.
“Mrs. Three Penny!” she whispered, “Mrs. Three Penny! Are you out here?”
A shadow detached itself from the wall and became solid.
“I never married, actually, so it’s ‘miss”,” the witch said.
“I meant no offence, miss…” Olivia said.
“None taken, child. Witches are fairly informal. Besides, way I see it, we’re family now. How did you know I’d be out here?”
“That’s easy. Your daughter just moved into a new place, and you want to be sure she’s safe. Because you love her.” Olivia said.
“Well, you’re smarter than you look, thank the stars. Is there something you wanted of me?”
“Just one thing. An answer. Did you bring me here?”
Annie shook her head. “All the way from the Americas? I fear I’ve never had that much power.”
“Oh,” Olivia sagged, “I thought I’d had it all figured out. I guess I’m not so smart after all.”
“What I did have,” Annie said, “Was a Djinn who owed me a favor. He granted me a wish.”
“What did you wish for?” Olivia asked, already knowing the answer.
“I wished my daughter could be happy. Perhaps if I had been more specific…”
“No, this is good.” Olivia brushed her hands on her apron, “This could be a good life. Somehow, it feels like one. I’d better get back to work.”
“Take care of her.” Annie said, “Will you do that for me?”
Oliva laughed, “With you as a mother-in-law? Yeah, I guess I’d better. I’ll treat her like a princess.”
“Don’t do that,” Annie said, “Just love her.”
“I will, Miss Annie,” Olivia vowed, “With all my heart.”
Olivia went back into her brand new stinky old tavern, and the night wore on. Closing time arrived, and Olivia pushed the last guests out the door, wiped the tables, and swept the floors. Tired but happy, they walked up the stairs.
Olivia never made it to Nashville, never sang in an arena, never got a recording contract. Life in Hadley wasn’t anything like the things she had imagined, but it was a good life, because she was safe, she was loved, and she got to spend every day with her new best friend.