Changing the Future, a Story
Part Seven: Yellow Fairy, 2.
Nola produced a key from beneath a rock somewhere in the grass, and then led the way into the big, musty building whose only light came from some broken windows and the missing slats along the walls. Whatever machinery had been inside the mill was gone. It was easy going while Nola led me across a long wooden floor to a flight of shaky looking wooden steps leading to a loft.
I paused at the foot of the stairs. “You really come here?” I asked.
“It’s not as creepy upstairs,” she said. “We’ll be able to see better up there.”
She bounded up the stairs.
The stairs creaked but stayed in place. I followed at a casual, careful pace until rodents squealed and scurried behind me. I took two steps at a time after her.
The loft covered the entire length and width of the mill. a dark hallway took us past three closed doors on the left and two closed doors on the right. Someone had sectioned the loft into rooms. The only light came from a few holes in the roof.
Nola opened the last door on the left and went inside. I followed and entered a boxy room where daylight from two dusty windows filled the room and revealed cobwebs festooned from ceiling corners. Dust covered the wood floor, and Nola’s bare feet stirred it into the light as she retrieved an acoustic guitar from the left corner of the room where a rolled up sleeping bag also sat. She kicked aside the sleeping bag, picked up a spiral-bound notebook, and unfastened a ballpoint pen from inside the top coils.
“In case I think of any new song lyrics,” she said.
I went to the nearest window and looked out over treetops and Myers Lake on the other side. I remembered I still carried my binoculars, so I trained them on the trees. A red squirrel scampered across a branch.
Nola strummed a chord. Then her fingers plucked an unfamiliar tune from the strings while I gazed through my binoculars.
She stopped playing and said, “You can sit, if you want.”
She had rolled out the sleeping bag and sat cross-legged on it.
The words were barely out of her mouth when heavy footsteps downstairs startled us. “Someone’s here,” she said, wrapping her arms around her guitar.
The heavy footsteps stopped. Then the stairs creaked as the person below began their ascent.
“Maybe it’s Alan,” I whispered.
The footsteps come up the hall and stopped outside our room.
The boy who entered was not Nola’s brother, but a short and stocky teenager with black hair cut close to his head. He had on a gray-blue T-shirt, black jeans and black leather boots. He surveyed Nola and me with big burning ebony eyes and a deep scowl between his eyebrows.
“Get out,” he demanded. “You’re trespassing.”
“No we’re not,” Nola said. “You’re the one who’s trespassing.”
Quick as a flash the boy was over her. Startled, she sat back, but not far enough away as his right hand shot out in a fist and whacked her forehead.
“Hey,” I said and hurried to him. Pain shot through my abdomen. I doubled over and gasped for air.
“You punched me,” Nola yelled. She jumped to her feet, charged at the boy, and swung her guitar at him. The instrument struck a raised forearm with a musical thud and sent him staggering backwards against the wall.
I sucked at the room’s stale air, breathing hard, in and out, almost panting while I tried to catch my breath.
The boy pushed from the wall and glared at Nola. “You need to leave. Now!” He stepped closer. “Or do I have to get mean all over again?”
Nola held her guitar like a baseball bat. “I have every right to be here. This is my grandmother’s property.”
“She doesn’t own the place.”
“Hey,” I said, still breathing hard, “what’s your problem?”
“Shut up!” The boy pointed a finger at me. “You two have one minute to leave this place.”
“Fine,” Nola said, lowering her guitar. She went to the sleeping bag and picked up her terrycloth skirt.
“Take the sleeping bag and that book of crappy poems with you,” the boy said.
“It’s not crap,” Nola grumbled. She put down her guitar and rolled the bag with her notebook zipped inside it. As she tied the strings of her bag, I went and picked up her guitar and thought about whacking the jerk over the head with it.
“You have less than a minute,” he called out. “I wouldn’t piss around if I were you.”
“You shouldn’t swear,” Nola said.
The boy pointed at her again. “You’re almost out of time.”
Nola’s posture slumped as she left the room without saying a word. I followed her out. She cursed and hurried down the hall. I hurried after her, almost missing a step on the stairs. Outside, she said, “He has no right to be here or to bully us.” She threw her sleeping bag on the ground. “I should have punched him. You should have punched him. We both should have punched him in his big ugly mouth. Just who does that jerk think he is?”
I rubbed my sore stomach and tried to think of something to say. Nola was on the verge of tears.
“He’s just a punk,” I said before the ground trembled beneath our feet. A white flash came from the front of the old mill. I jumped, startled. A hot wind from the mill pushed at us and knocked me on my backside. Nola fell with me. She reached out against the wind and found me. We embraced as debris of grass and leaves flew over us. For several seconds, I thought the world had ended in an atomic blast.
When the wind stopped, I sat up. The old cider mill gone.