"Hello?" Heavy boots pound on the deck, and the yacht sways on the waves. I hurry up the stairs. "Is anyone here?"
"Coming," I yell as I throw open the door that lead to my living quarters. A tall, thin boy turns when he sees me. He glances down at the clipboard in his hands.
"Is this your boat?" I nod, wondering what he's getting at. "Then you're Lydia Thatcher?" I nod again. "W-well, Miss Thatcher, a letter for Gemini Glass got to the post office about three days ago, and we sent it up to her aunt, but she sent it back here, saying Miss Glass asked her to forward all her mail here, and--"
"Not that your story isn't fascinating, kid, but could you get to the point? I have a lot to do tonight." The boy blushes furiously.
"R-right. Well, Mrs. Smith said this was normal, and Miss Glass's friend Lydia usually got her mail for her, and Lydia lived out on this boat, and Mrs. Smith asked me to bring it out here. Here you go." He holds out an envelope.
"Thank you." I take it from him, looking down at it. Leslie's neat handwriting reads my name, Aunt Chastity's address, and his name and address. The boy nods to me and hurries down the ladder, boots thumping loudly on the wood of the pier.
I take my letter down to my room. I sit down on my bed and stare at the envelope. I had better read it. No matter how much I hate Leslie, if he's contacting me, it's probably important. Why else would he break his silence now, after I wasted five long years hoping he'd write back?
Listen, I know I haven't been around lately, and you're probably angry with me, but I hope that you'll read this letter and know that I'm sorry. I know it was wrong of me to run out like that without so much as a word. I didn't want to leave you, Gemmy, but I couldn't stay in that house with Dr. Glass, especially after he killed Millicent. I know there is no excuse for what I did, but I hope you can move past it and agree to meet me for coffee sometime. It would be great to see you again. I've missed you so much, Gemmy. I can't believe you're sixteen already, and I can't wait to see how much you've grown. I hope you're still that funny, energetic, sweet and strange little girl you were when we were kids.
All the love in my heart,
P.S.: I got all your letters. I'm sorry I couldn't answer, I just couldn't risk Dr. Glass finding me. It broke my heart when you stopped writing, though. The letters were the highlights of my week.
I exhaled slowly when I finished reading. I grabbed a stack of paper and a pen and started writing.
Dear Hey Hi Leslie, you idiot I can't believe you're contacting me after First of all, saying you haven't been around lately is an understatement. You've been gone for ten years. Do you know Why did you leave me like that? I miss you too. I wish
Meet me at Lottie's on the Scranton pier. I'll be there every day in the booth in the very back for a week. If you don't show, you'll have to track me down some other way.
I sigh and seal the fairly short note in an envelope and print Leslie's name and address on the letter, then write the address of the post office in Scranton in the corner. I set it on my dresser and curl up in bed. I need to sleep.
The next morning, I take the letter to the post office, then go to Lottie's. I duck into the back, lace myself into the tight corset, short dress, and apron that is my uniform, then I wait. I serve old, bitter drunks, sailors, and prostitutes until six o'clock. Then I change back into comfortable clothes, grab the booth in the back, and sit there until Lottie's closes.
And thus begins my daily ritual. I silently count the days, waiting. At ten o'clock on the fifth day, a stranger walks in. He's tall, broad shoulders, skin the color of pancakes cooked to perfection, and hair as black as the night. There is a stubble on his chin. He stops at the counter and talks to Lottie. She smiles, flirts with him a little, but ultimately gives him what he's after, and he starts walking in my direction. He stops at my booth. I stare at the table.
He sucks in a deep breath. "Gemmy?"
"Sit," I answer. He does so. "And, it's Lydia here, and Gemini the rest of the time."
"Oh. Okay." I stare at the table, my lap, the wall, then the table again. "You...look so different from when we were kids." I feel my hands curl into fists.
"That's what happens when you disappear for ten years."
"Don't. You abandoned me, Leslie."
"I didn't mean--"
"You left me alone with him!" I finally risk looking Leslie in the eye. His grey orbs are watery and worried. I barely register tears sliding down my cheek.
"I had to get out of there, Gemini. He was insane."
"I know he was insane, Leslie. I stayed with him for ten years! Do you know what he did to me?"
"Gemini--" I shove my bangs off the right side of my face. Leslie's mouth is an o. The tears start to stream down his face and guilt takes over his face. "Gemmy, I'm so sorry. I had no idea he'd do this to you."
"You were supposed to be there for me. You're my brother, and you left me. I trusted you." Then I'm sobbing. I can barely see out of my one good eye.
"I know, Gemmy. I'm sorry. I know it's not enough, but I love you and I'm sorry I let this happen to you."
Leslie slides into my side of the booth. He smooths my hair over the useless hunk of metal, gears, and wire that my father replaced my right eye with. I lean into him as he holds me close to him. He's warm.
We sit together like that until Lottie's closes.