Magic City, or if you want to be technical about it, Magic City Beach. They’re separate governing bodies, but making distinctions isn’t always necessary. For one, they both stuck hard to that art deco style.
This is where Clara stopped. This is where I, as an unlawful stowaway, had to stop too. Magic City is at the very tip of the Myakka Peninsula, so where else would a train go after that? La Habana is the closest, at 235 miles of ocean away.
Regardless I’m glad to be here. Leaving Terrebonne was hard enough before, and even when I left, I never trekked to Magic City. Plus, I spent that whole train ride hiding in uncomfortable places, lest I pay two-hundred for a cross-country ticket. It isn’t the money that bothers rich author-and-Waverly me. I just don’t like travel prices. Nor do I want Clara to see that I won’t take “I’m leaving for work” for an answer.
How I can get her back is another issue, but I acted on impulse and now I’m paying for it.
I have become that annoying one-night stand who won’t leave her alone. But it’s not my first go at that either. And it’s not just the orgasms (even if it kind of is), but when will another third-party space demon waltz into my life? I can’t get answers from Annette, but I still hold out hope for Clara doing that instead.
I arrived here in days-old clothes and underwear. Clara had better foresight, and packed a large suitcase. It meant one good thing, as she had a fresh outfit and even an elastic to tie her hair up with. But it also resulted in Clara lugging a suitcase around Magic City, until her boat to San Severo boarded. That could take days, for all I know.
Unless, of course, she has a place here to keep it until later.
I follow her from a distance, hiding behind buildings and brush and palm trees. It’s easy to track a young pink lady, dressed in an oversized kimono jacket and bellbottoms. Nothing against Clara, even though she either stepped out of either 2014 or 1970 with those choices. Or maybe out of Annette’s closet. I know she had a fondness for both.
Clara avoids the city proper. There are plenty of streets that veer off into green, grassy flats and palm groves and she takes them. Of course people still live in the quieter areas near Magic City. Maybe she has a secluded beach house, or a timeshare and this is her week to live there.
I follow her to a warehouse instead.
The property is gated, but there is nothing that Clara can’t unlock there.
While I squat far away, behind a prickly bush, I can still hear Clara. Nothing else makes a sound around here. The warehouse must have fell out of use years ago too.
“Hey ladies, just keep this here ‘til I come back.”
“Yes Clara.” It’s answered in monotone. By everyone. Without so much unwarranted echoing and her use of plural, I would have guessed that Clara is speaking with only one other person.
“Do you know why Maeve wants me back? I got a sudden call from Tank.”
“So…why don’t you just tell me?”
“It’s work as usual, Clara.”
“God, why can’t you guys just do her grunt work?”
“We do, Clara. And we love to serve, Clara.”
I cower behind a nearby tree. I don’t want to face some empty-faced clone army today. That is where my mind is leading me. But the only person out of the gate is Clara, who strolls towards the crosswalk.
I roll down the hill to avoid her. It seems to work. She would be louder if she saw me…wouldn’t she? I’m making assumptions about my one-night stand again.
It takes only a few minutes of following Clara back to the center of Magic City, to remember that I’m wearing dirty old clothes. I’m also out of luck for washing them, unless I can find a laundromat with a liberal policy on nudity. I’ll admit it: I’m a victim of my own poor planning. And being four inches taller than Clara (let’s not even talk about weight), stealing from her suitcase wouldn’t be an option. Even without her clone guards, I have the courtesy to leave her luggage alone.
I take a detour and buy a sweater dress. It has enough room to stuff my Eight Cicadas volumes in, with only some of a bulge. New underwear is a given. Sunglasses too, because everyone in Twinbrook could recognize me by my eyes. Surely someone like Clara would remember as well. Maybe she’d even remember for better reasons than “oh, they’re just so beady.” But hoping that she would remember my eyes is something better left for another day. I’m the terrible stalking ex now.
The houndstooth scarf just looked too good to pass by.
I’d hate it if I lost Clara, and lost my last line to whatever lost history she could know. But I followed her to the park and left her there. As luck would have it, she found a chess game and one excited spectator. I watch from afar too, finding another building to hide behind. She plays until the sun starts to set.
I wouldn’t call it sunset. The sky still has some specks of blue, that gives way to purple and gold. Clara continues to be a moving target, walking down towards the boardwalk and Magic City Beach’s Atlantic Strip. It’s full of cafes and restaurants, art deco architecture, and a theatre too. Hiding in a theatre would be easy. I could sit right behind Clara and she’d be none the wiser. I could have one long, mediocre movie to veg out to, and let my mind wander for solutions.
She passes it, though, and stands at the curb further down the road. I’m behind a solid stone guard fence that separates sidewalk from beach. Clara keeps a cool expression, but only for a moment.
“Hey, Bridget! Bridget Chou!”
There are a few men outside the cafe. But there is only one possible Bridget: a young girl reading a book. Even from a distance, I can see her silvery-lavender arms. Paired with her dark hair, she even reminds me of my darling Olive, when she was a kid. And I thought my Olive was one-of-a-kind. I thought we kind of were too, but that changed.
Could she be Clara’s kid? Who knows. I’m not the only lesbian who stayed in the closet and got knocked up. Granted, Clara is young. Early or mid-20’s? It puts some disturbing implications into that theory, if she has a school-aged daughter.
But all I can do is listen.
“Hey! Auntie Clara thought you wouldn’t even be in the city.” Well, that answers something. Literal aunt, then, or just filling in the role?
“Mum’s having a bad day today, so we couldn’t leave.”
“Was she able to do lessons with you?” Bridget shook her head no. “Oh…where’s your dad?”
“So she’s all alone at the house-”
“Dad says that he doesn’t want you there.”
“Honey, he always says that. And you know that nothing can make me leave you guys.”
“He said that he doesn’t want that Clara bitch there anymore.”
“You shouldn’t repeat everything he says just ‘cause he’s your dad.” Clara wags a maternal finger at her. “I think we still need to do something nice for her…are you guys out of fruit?”
Bridget nods her head yes. “I didn’t have any pears for breakfast! And dad said that he couldn’t get to the store today.”
“Why don’t we go to the Beach Market and get some fruit for her? And you can have as many pears as you want.”
Clara holds Bridget hand as they walk away, and offers to carry Bridget’s book for her. It’s a thick volume. Quite a bit for a second-grader or thereabouts, but maybe her implied homeschooling worked wonders. Now I’m curious. And I almost want to be Bridget. I too love books and holding Clara’s hand.
I shrink behind the wall as they pass by me.
“Mum said that she misses you.”
“Well…I really miss her too.”
The Beach Market, as I learned its official name is, sets up at the end of the road at an unused part of the beach. While an empty sandlot when idle, the market has two rows of tents and sellers under them, seating, and a food truck that can drive on sand. Because this is a part of Magic City, it’s a Cuban truck. If I wasn’t hiding, I could go for some rice or sweet plantains.
Clara hands Bridget some money, and the girl runs off to buy what she wants. There’s fruit and homemade fudge, and a woman who sells artisan nut butter. Something else I’d also spring for if I wasn’t hiding.
She looks like she’s angling for a lot of free fudge samples.
Meanwhile, Clara comes across something amazing: a cart full of fruit. And there are at least three of those, but this one has Mandarin oranges. Strawberries. The last of the seasonal mango crop. Packaged jackfruit sections behind the counter. Pears.
“Holy balls…she’s gonna love this.”
She points at the pears on the counter, and there have to be more crates of them too. “How many of those can I get with a twenty?”
“Today? More than what I have.” The man at the till raises an eyebrow at her. “Are you guys hiding Farida from me? She always bought out all my pears.”
“The kiddo tells me that she hasn’t been doing well. It’s getting cold out. It…it just happens to her.”
“Take as many as you want. I’ll throw some jackfruit in there too.”
“Yeah, I’ll eat it if she won’t.”
Clara gets a paper bag full of her wares, and Bridget throws the white chocolate fudge she couldn’t finish into there too. I watched her devour two squares of it, and she bought a big box. And the Valencia oranges that Clara promised too. They walk off, towards home? Or has the night not even begun for Clara?
“You’re such a brat with sweets.”
“You’d have done that too.”
I moved to the base of a billboard when they were at the market, and I continue to watch the two from there. They chatter on about…Farida. No clue who she is. But Clara has to get to San Severo, and Bridget says that all Farida can do is lie in bed. Clara bugs the young girl with questions. Is Farida in a lot of pain? Can she speak? Yeah, and kind of. Can she use her hands? Minimally.
In a way, I’m glad that they can care about someone like I never could. Because I got called cold and apathetic a lot. I tried to embrace it, but the reputation lost its rugged appeal once I had a kid. No one wants a mother like that.
“Has she eaten today? I think we oughta get these pears to her.”
“She had some of daddy’s penis snot!”
Even from a pretty far distance away, I can feel the awkward silence.
“You need to stop saying those things in public! And what did I tell you about watching your parents?”
“Sor-ry. Dad left the door open.”
“Why does that bas–why does your dad do that anyways?”
“Ugh, you know where he is? Maybe I’ll actually get a word with him.”
“Probably downtown. That’s where he always works when he’s here.”
Time to hit the road again for me too.
I wish I got to see yet another new neighborhood of Magic City, but I’m back downtown. The Financial District and the Garment District are separated by only one road, and I already shopped in the latter. They border the same park, but I guess I can be the one there this time. Too bad there aren’t any chess games. I have to settle with hiding behind a fountain instead.
I assume that the man in black is Bridget’s not-so-mysterious dad. They look at him so intently, anyways, as he leans against the Williams Building on Tovar Street.
“Daaaaddy! Clara’s really mad at you!”
Bridget runs into her father’s open arms for a hug.
“Oh pumpkin, what’s going on with her now?”
“She doesn’t like me saying penis.”
I can’t say I’m much of a fighter, but this guy makes me regret my mission to hide.
A/N: And you thought I’d be continuing with where Franco left off. 😉
“Roaring Heights” is a pretty stupid name for a city, though I guess you could argue that Magic City is something that works only as a nickname. But yes, welcome to the Roaring Heights world edited for the present-ish. Though most of what I did was dress everyone who was in a shot as 21st century civilians. Fashion is fleeting, architecture is more work to tear down. 😛
“Myakka” is the real-life official state soil of Florida.
La Habana is the proper Spanish/Cuban name for Havana.
Sweet plantains are the worst. Starchy ones are a lot different. 😉