I can’t say that it is therapeutic to read Eight Cicadas right now, but maybe it’s because the events of the first chapters are so distant to me. While it’s not unpleasant either, any cringe-worthy writing aside, it doesn’t give me release. I didn’t know any of them, save for Annette and Franco. Even death by Diazepam and whiskey is only a little depressing when you didn’t know the victim.
So let’s talk about my present life now instead.
I made the decision to lend my dad the money after all. When I looked at the numbers, giving him 30,000 wouldn’t hurt me much. Those royalty checks are a powerful thing. After that, I didn’t expect to hear from him again, until I did. He didn’t come to my doorstep (praise Allah!), but instead sent me a cardboard box.
I opened it near my mailbox and surveyed at its contents in confusion. Some people would give their kids paperweights as gifts, but I never gauged my father to be one of them. He would send me LSD through the mail,wouldn’t he? He had a way of not learning from previous mistakes, and plenty of LSD to share too.
Confusing or not, the marble griffin was of a professional grade and would look fine on my coffee table. Or maybe on my desk to judge my writing. I haven’t been paranoid about people watching me typing for a whole two months now! So I picked it up and got a look at the base. I expected the name of the artist in the bottom, which would be useful if I thought that my new griffin needed a friend.
Monaghan & Monaghan Bankers
Pay to the order of:
April 19th, 1928 (366-0087)
1.5 million dollars
I then read the note that dad tucked into the protective wrapping. I think you’ll like what’s under there. Just that, no profanity nor crude drawings of dicks to piss me off with. And he is my dad, so he knows me in some way. The guy was right on the mark.
Annette never mentioned Eileen as someone with millions to her name. Eileen was a mysterious woman of mistakes instead. No, not mistakes. She broke the hearts of good men, murdered others, and extrapolating from that, probably kicked puppies and started World War II as well. From all we knew about Eileen, Annette found her to be morally reprehensible. And for her, that was an unmatched feat. The rest? I doubted for a while that Eileen was human or even real, but she existed enough to work with a bank.
Her two names mismatched in the oddest of ways. Irish with Arabic. Nothing unusual about a mixed heritage (I shouldn’t be one to talk), but it’s a combination that’s new to me. If there is another Eileen Kaghat out there, I’ll eat my insoles.
That is what I thought going into today. I sit at the ancient computers in the town’s library because it’s easier than getting database access on my laptop. Even small, quiet Riverview has access to the nation’s newspaper archives. At the expense of my tax dollars, we now have almost complete results from 1901 to today in 2028. Between that and her unique name, Eileen can’t hide. Her bankers are domestic (I checked), so she must have left a trail here.
The search lags looking for her across all volumes, and fails to find anything in the 1920-1950 range I selected. I wait for the computer to think and locate and analyze, looking everywhere. Maybe she just exists in an obituary. Obituaries are a wealth of information. I just want to see the human behind Eileen somehow.
But once it’s done, a wealth of articles fit the keywords. The timeline does not match, however. Her legacy is in the 21st century, which makes sense in its own strange way. Yes, the bank note is now the most confusing artifact. But for the rest, there is one important fact that ties Eileen to our day and age: Annette was a millennial too.
Discrepancies or none, I have a lot to read.
First article by date: May 25th, 2005, Mountain Daily. St. Martin Boarding School: Commencement by Father Smith Warms Hearts. Forget about the priest. Valedictorian Eileen Aziza Kaghat delivered a rousing speech about the importance of a good school. She sounded like an asskisser and was bound for the University of East Hastings in the fall. Political Science on the pre-law track, and in the honors college.
November 1st, 2006, UEH Campus Paper. Kaghat Leads Debate Team to Regionals. Eileen led the debate team by her sophomore year. There were several headlines like this for her. She got them to the national level the year after, only losing by a margin to St. Margaret’s University on the topic of gender abolition.
I look back towards the arch, out of instinct. I do it every time someone opens that loud front door, fearing the worst. And every time else, it is just another tame human here for some peace and studying. I even try to guess the sort of person they are, and tend to get it right: white, middle-aged, and dungarees are the hottest fashion item in this farming town.
And today, I get them all wrong.
I get up from my seat to take a closer look, because I couldn’t believe my eyes just a few seconds ago. I got everything wrong about her, which happens on occasion. How I got it wrong, though. Her skin is pink like foxglove flowers, instead of pink like pale human flesh. And considering Mel’s vague warning about “enemies,” she might be as toxic to me as a foxglove too. That’s what they tend to be.
In spite of all the questions she raises just by browsing a bookshelf in the next room, I ignore her, and hope she does the same. The search engine still turned up more about Eileen, after all.
October 6th, 2013, Moonlight Sentinel. Our Newest Attorneys. Greta Bachmann, Carlos Reyes, and Eileen Kaghat.
November 15th, 2016, Moonlight Sentinel again. Marriage Announcements. Eileen and Trang Nguyen got married in a public ceremony. This is the only article to include a clear, close shot of Eileen. Her dark hair is up in a curly updo. The white of her dress brings out the warm olive tones of her skin, even in the faded scanned picture.
August 16th, 2019, Moonlight Sentinel for a third time. Marriage Equality Campaign Burns Opposition. A campaign by attorney Eileen Kaghat-Nguyen, and common dry cleaner Arthur Rosario, takes the nation by storm.
June 5th, 2021, various newspapers. Marriage Equality Victory for Clallam. Eileen Kaghat-Nguyen is cited as one of the lawyers who fought for it to the Clallam State Supreme Court. A noble cause, if I say so myself.
September 13th, 2023, Moonlight Sentinel. Editorial: Is Kaghat Really Missing? She disappeared not that long before that, though one columnist wondered if she made the decision to move like the adult she was.
And she walks into the computer room. Whoever she is. It gives me more of a chance to observe more beyond her skin and flowing white shirt. I take glances with caution, hoping not to lock eyes with her. I get some details. Her face is formed with fine, delicate features. Her nose is rounded off into a cute, upturned snub. She wears a diamond pendant around her neck, that sits in the scooped neck of her top. Her eyes are the color of roasted coffee beans. And I swear that they line up with mine for a moment.
I yelp in distress.
“I just wanted to know if you have to reserve these or not,” she asks me.
“Oh…uh…they haven’t nabbed me for it yet,” I say.
She seems so mundane and nice. I’ve met other colorful beings like her and I, and heard about more, but the always had it out for us. And maybe this one is just smart…
…no, to hell with it. I’m going there.
She might be worth the risk.
I stand up and try to continue the conversation. “I’m…I’m sorry if I sound flustered. I just never expected to see someone else like you.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty unusual,” she says. “But here we are. Fancy meeting some demon like you ‘round here. I thought this business trip would be boring as hell.” It’s difficult to gauge what sort of business at all is around here, but she’s cute. I’ll take it.
“Well, I should be working, but…the internet’s out at home.” I got on this morning just fine. The stocks haven’t plummeted the nation into disaster yet. “And it’s easy to get in other things. Of course.”
“I’m in…agro-business. Your thing?”
I can be truthful about that. “Just a writer on my own terms.”
“I think that sounds rad.”
I haven’t had anyone say that to my face in a while. When you write under a pseudonym, nobody praises you to your face. It’s always distant reviews that you can’t attribute yourself too, lest you render your penname pointless. Or risk being caught by “the enemy.” But today was the day to break that. Break it to someone I shouldn’t trust.
“It’s all under pennames anyways,” I tell her. “Maybe you’ve read me for all you know.”
“It could be under your real name and I wouldn’t know,” she said. “So what’s yours?”
I shy away from this fact with most people. But not her. “Joanna.”
“Clara right here. Maybe it will be useful…I don’t really like going out alone at night, and I was thinking-”
The real advice is to avoid Riverview at night, lest the boredom mug you in the night and take your enjoyment with it. Although, now that she mentions it, there is a bar in town. “Sometimes I like getting drunk too.”
“It’s better when you’re not alone.”
“So where’s the best place in town?”
“There’s only one place in town. Just go downtown and find Red’s.”
Clara leans in to give me a reassuring pat on the shoulder. It’s the warmest thing I’ve felt in a while. “Looks like it’s a date,” she says, with a cheeky smile. If she really is that sort of woman, she can imprison or behead me whenever she wants to.
I’ll admit, the thought of dating my own kind seemed like a mixture of impossible and deadly up until now. I can leave every other risky thing untouched for my own safety, but Clara? If I die tonight getting laid, so be it. Perhaps I’ll have something to brag about that the rest of the Waverlys don’t.
I get on one of my better coats and dream of the delicious cold beer that awaits. And of Clara too. Her and a good beer, what a winning combination. My drink arrives before she does, and I enjoy about a third of a pale ale by myself. I still flinch with each person who comes through the door, and a lot of them are not Clara.
It takes fifteen minutes, but she arrives in skinny pants and white go-go boots. I would appreciate anything she wore though, or nothing at all. Sorry for the thirst, but not talking to anyone results in a lonely, unstimulated life.
We exchange greetings and Clara takes a seat on the barstool, leaning in to ask me what the best local beer picks are. I recommend anything from Shortgrass, and she listens.
Now, I am scared out of my pants at the thought of flirting with her. I don’t know anything about Clara, which is a layer of terror that I prefer to ignore because she’s hot. If she is an enemy, is she an all-powerful alien? Will she use some horrific powers against me if she’s also an easily-offended straight girl? Flirting with straight girls ends in disappointment, but most of them fear me more. If they could destroy me, who says they would hold off? And who says Clara won’t?
I’m letting this get to me, aren’t I?
At least I hide it from her. Clara likes to laugh, and I like girls who can laugh. She tells me about how she was behind a tractor at a traffic light earlier today, and how she can never see that in Magic City. She hesitated when thinking of a city, though. Whatever.
As she gets a little buzzed, she reveals more about herself. Clara’s last name is Kang. Her heritage? Demonic mother, Korean father, who met while her mum was stationed there. In a rush, she clarified that we still have troops in Korea, even to this day! Okay, not gonna doubt that. She asks where the best Korean food in the area is. I don’t think we have any for miles until you arrive in Top City. Clara can’t drive stick-shift, her favorite snack is chickpeas right out of the can, and she’s always had fantasies about pegging another woman.
Well, I’m up for that any day!
We end our time inside with a game of darts, with some of the townsfolk. Well, those who didn’t recoil at two demonic ladies challenging them to a game with sharp darts being thrown. Clara misses the bullseye on all her shots, but I still cheer her on.
Something, just something, mesmerizes me about her performance.
We both sit on a bench outside later that night, to catch some fresh air and also to avoid the growing crowd. Turns out that the Riverview Darts League had a spot reserved, and there isn’t much better to watch in this town. It felt like…like how people say the subways in Empire City are. Packed in tight.
“Yeah, Magic City has more than darts,” says Clara. “They have a lot of things. But it’s nice to see the other side.”
“I wish I could live there. Hear that it’s a gay paradise,” I say, hoping to spark some conversation in that amazing subject.
“Do bigots harass you over here for that?”
“I…I’ve never had the chance to try.”
“You sound a little lonely,” she says. “Sorry for being obvious.”
“No need to be sorry for that. It’s true,” I say.
“I just don’t like hearing about lonely lesbians. I get stories about that all the time outside of…uh…Magic City. Wish I could help, but…it’s hard keeping it a secret most of the time.”
I shouldn’t get excited over what she says, but I do, clenching my fists in anticipation. “Well, there are always ways to help.”
“Yeah, but I have my own life,” Clara says. “Working with…I said agro-business, right?”
“Not right now, ‘cause you’re at a bar.”
I reach my arm out towards her, with a goofy smile on my face. “Uh, if it’s okay right now, I guess we don’t have to be alone.” I come shy of touching her shoulder or back. “But…I’ll stop if you say so.”
She gives me a bit of a grin. “Aww man, really? I didn’t think I’d get something like this over here.”
“Only for the stop in Beantown?” I ask.
Clara relaxes into cuddling, leaning on my shoulder. She looks up into my eyes, and unlike earlier today, I don’t fear them in the slightest. It’s soothing to pick out all the golden-tones flecks in them, or how dilated her pupils are under the porch light. There’s her body too, with flawless skin and a firm feel to it. She says something about doing manufacturing before she went white-collar, and lifted fifty pound sacks of sugar at a candy factory.
The night winds down, but we’re still on the bench. If someone’s called us “sinning dykes” yet, then they did it out of earshot. Clara asks me a question, as she’s been doing for a lot of the night. “So what were you looking up in the library anyways?”
It seemed like she was a public figure anyways, so I answered honestly. “One of the lawyers on the side of marriage equality over west in Clallam,” I reply. “Some Eileen Kaghat.”
With an arm around her, I feel her body tense up at hearing the name. Clara gets up from her seat.
“I’m sorry?” I say.
She stands with her back to me, her arms crossed nervously. “No, I’m sorry. I guess…I guess I thought you were different.”