A Place Apart

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A Place Apart

Slowly Aisha came to.  As the haze cleared,  she saw a blurry face scrutinizing her just inches away. Startled, she scampered back, stopping only when she bumped into a chair. Weaver slowly straightened, dusted his cap off on his thigh and stared directly at her.

“Soooo….I never got an answer to my question,”  he said.

Aisha continued to stare, not sure whether she was still dreaming or whether the knock to her head was causing her to hallucinate. One thing was certain, she thought as she rubbed her eyes: nobody was ever going to believe what she just saw! She tried to stand and was greeted with a lightning bolt of pain that coursed from the crown of her head all the way down to her feet. She staggered and tried to brace herself against a chair, all the while trying to place it between her and the…thing…person?…that stood before her. The silence dragged on–thick.  Both parties stood still, each observing the other.

The gossamer thread that had transported Weaver to the spot where he stood still hung from the ceiling, blowing ever so gently as the stale air was  stirred by a welcome breeze from the entrance. Weaver was first to move. With a tug, he dislodged the thread from the ceiling and proceeded to roll it into a small skein in his hands. A couple more moments passed and by now  the sharp pain in the back of Aisha’s head had settled to a dull throb. She mustered the courage to move again and reached for the offending spot, wincing as she felt the large welt forming underneath her fro. “My eyes must be deceiving me,” she mumbled under her breath.

“Humph. Who you tellin’ “, said Weaver. “One minute I’m in my private spot enjoying a nice nap, and the next thing I know, you bumble in–loudly too. Did no one teach you how to walk without each step waking the dead?”  Weaver flashed an immaculately white smile Aisha’s way. Even in the dark, she could see the sparkle of mischief in his eyes. The skein he as rolling in his hands was now the size of a tennis ball. He deftly tucked in the ends of the thread into the ball and placed it in this right pocket.

Aisha swallowed the lump that had grown in her throat with each word that came from Weaver’s mouth. If she could melt into the wall to get away from this creature, she would. However, the laws of physics were all wonky in this place, and today, they were not working in her favor. She managed to stammer “I–I–, ”

“Ah, the cat’s got your tongue, ehn?”, Weaver smirked, ” No worries”. He jumped onto the nearby chair, leapt on the adjacent rickety table, and with a floaty somersault, dismounted onto the ledge of the lone light-providing window. The light streamed around him, further adding to his ethereal appearance.

“Your untimely fainting spell interrupted me properly introducing myself. ” He took the slouchy cap that had been protruding unceremoniously from his left pocket and with a flourish, bowed low before Aisha. Her knees buckled, but her eyes remained fixed on his silhouette.  “My name is Weaver Kweku-Ananse, but most people simply call me Weaver. ” He spun on his heels on the thin ledge and with his back turned to her asked, “What is your name and what are you doing here? How did you find this place”

“My-my…”, Aisha cleared her throat , “My name is Aisha.” Weaver stopped abruptly mid-step.

Faster than she could blink, Weaver was once again inches from Aisha’s face; so close she could smell his faint woody scent. Even in the dark she could see that his ebony skin was flawlessly smooth. His eyes were honey-brown in the center with a ring of  dark brown and they sparkled as he spoke. “Aisha … who?”, he asked slowly–deliberately, his eyes narrowing.

“Ai-Aisha Bailey-Kankani”. Weaver’s eyes grew big and he whispered under his breath “Its her.”  He jumped up and down in excitement, literally bounding from wall to wall, switching forms intermittently. Aisha followed him with her eyes, all the while, looking for a way to escape. Mom was right, dark creepy spaces should be avoided. She saw an opening and ran as fast as she could for the entrance. The throbbing pain from the welt on the back of her head was blinding. She made it almost to the stairs before her vision completely blurred and she tripped. Either way, she’d been too slow. Weaver was already at the foot of the stairs. He extended his hand to her to help her up. Tears fell down Aisha’s face–some from the pain, some from the fear that she’d never make it home again.

“There, there, Kankani. Why are you crying??” Weaver took a step closer. “Come, take my hand. I promise I won’t bite. Really, I’m vegetarian. You’re safe.”   he flashed another brilliant smile.  Aisha could tell because in the dark, his eyes and teeth were all she could see. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and her nose on the back of her hand. She reached up to Weaver who helped her stand up and walked her back into the room. He flipped the nearest upended chair upright and eased her down.

“Hmm. I admit the place is a mess, but I promise, I’m not here to hurt you. In fact, I’ve been here waiting for you.” Weaver walked to the wall and flipped a switch. One by one, the overhead flourescent lights flickered on, illuminating the space. The shadows fled, and with them a large portion of Aisha’s fear. Weaver rushed back to Aisha’s side and dragged her–in the chair–to the center of the room. He pulled up another chair, placed it in front of her and sat down,  resting his elbows on his knees and folding his hands under his chin.

“How did you find this place? It is meant to be hidden. Nobody can find it unless it wants to be found. And yet, here you are!” He fidgeted in excitement. “Oh, how rude of me! You must be thirsty. I’ll grab you something to drink.” He darted off through one of the many open doors that skirted the room. Aisha took the moment alone to look more closely at the room. The muslin sheets she saw earlier covered most of the furniture in the room except for the pieces Weaver pulled up and one rickety table. The walls were lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves full of books. Large windows were uniformly distributed along the walls of the L-shaped chamber–most covered with dusty blue drapes. Round tribal print carpets separated the large room into separate little living spaces. It its heyday, this place may have been a meeting place for intellectuals; now reduced to this–whatever “this” was. Weaver returned carrying a pitcher full of a bright fuchsia drink with orange slices and mint. He pulled up a small side table, placed two short glasses on it, and proceeded to pour drinks for the both of them.

Aisha eyed the glass with suspicion. “What is it?”

“Oh, it’s just zobo — hibiscus, ginger, and pineapple juice. It’s quite delicious; I think you’ll like it. Here, if you’re scared, I’ll take a sip from mine first.” Weaver brought the glass to his lips and downed about half of the drink.

“Really, I’m not trying to get rid of you, I actually need your help.”  Aisha furrowed her brows. How could she help him? She was only 13. Weaver perceived her suspicion and continued, “I’m in a spot of trouble at home. But it is a long story and your mother will be worried if you’re gone too long. So drink up, the coolness might help soothe your headache.”

Aisha lifted the glass to her lips, all the while keeping an eye on Weaver. The drink was goooooood! And it did help her headache.

“Feel better?” Weaver asked. Aisha simply nodded. “Okay, then, let’s get you home. I’ll need you to come see me soon though. I’ll be hiding out here. The building may not be in the same place you found it today, so you’ll need this, ” he reached into his right pocket and pulled out the ball of thread he’d rolled earlier. “All you need to do to get back here is find a hill and let this roll downhill. It will lead you directly to me. Promise you’ll come soon. I’m trusting you, I need you to trust me.” Aisha, again, simply nodded. She reached out and took the ball Weaver held out in his hand and tucked it into the pocket of her shorts.

“Okay, I’ll be holding you to your word.” Weaver’s brows furrowed for a brief second. Aisha’s responses so far did not instill confidence.  He would have to trust that she would come back. His life depended on it. Aisha downed the last few drops of her drink and slowly stood up. Weaver provided his shoulder for her to lean on and led her towards the door. Outside, the landscape around the building had…changed. The bushes had moved and Aisha could not find the hole in the hedges that led her here. Weaver pointed slightly to the left, “The exit is over there.” Aisha nodded and walked in the direction Weaver had pointed. She still could see no exit. She turned around–a worried look on her face– from the distance Weaver yelled,  “Just keep walking!”  Aisha would have to trust him. She closed her eyes and walked into the hedge. The branches pulled back and let her through and soon enough she was back at the end of the cul-de-sac.  She picked up her bike, hopped on and began the short ride home. The sun was setting, the day was drawing to a close, but Aisha was certain she had just found the beginning of what would be an amazing summer. Maybe Brooksborough wasn’t so bad after all.

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