Home > What the Wind Knows(10)

What the Wind Knows(10)
Author: Amy Harmon

I’d been shot. I’d been pulled from the water by a man who knew my name. And now I was here in a room that looked a little like my room at the Great Southern Hotel, though instead of carpet, the floors were wood and covered with flowered rugs, the paper on the walls was less purple, and the windows were adorned with long lace curtains instead of the heavy drapes that allowed the guests to sleep in darkness at midday. Two lamps with pleated fabric shades trimmed with drops of glass sat on end tables at each side of the bed. I breathed deeply, trying to determine how badly I was injured. I fingered my abdomen carefully, tiptoeing around the thickest section of bandaging along my right side. It burned and pulled when I moved even slightly, but if the placement of the bandage was any indication, the bullet hadn’t done any serious damage. I’d been cared for, I was clean and dry—though completely naked beneath the blankets—and I had no idea where I was.

“Are you leaving again?” The child’s voice came from the base of my bed, disembodied and startling. Beyond the bars of the brass footboard, someone stood, peering at me.

I raised my head slowly for a better look and immediately abandoned the effort, the muscles of my abdomen contracting painfully.

“Will you come closer, please?” I asked, breathless.

There was a weighty silence. Then I felt the brush of a little hand at my feet, and the bed shook faintly as if the child hugged the edge and used it as cover. The approach took several long seconds, but curiosity clearly won out over trepidation, and a moment later I found myself eye to eye with a small boy. He wore a white shirt tucked haphazardly into dark pants held up by a pair of suspenders, making him look like a little old man. His hair was a red so deep and warm, it was crimson. He had a fine, pert nose and a missing front tooth, the hole visible behind his parted lips. Even in the flickering light, his eyes were blue. They searched mine frankly, wide and measuring, and I was sure I knew him.

I knew those eyes.

“Are you leaving again?” he repeated.

It took me a moment to separate his accent from his words. “Air ya leavin’ agin?” he’d said.

Was I leaving? How could I? I didn’t know how I’d even arrived.

“I don’t know where I am,” I whispered, my words strangely slurred even as I copied his accent. Morphine. “So I don’t know where I’ll go,” I finished.

“You’re in Garvagh Glebe,” he said simply. “No one ever sleeps in this room. It can be your room now.”

“That’s very nice of you. My name’s Anne. Can you tell me your name?”

“Doncha know?” he asked, his nose wrinkling.

“No,” I whispered, though, oddly, the confession seemed like a betrayal.

“Eoin Declan Gallagher,” he answered proudly, giving me his full name, the way children sometimes do.

Eoin Declan Gallagher. My grandfather’s name.

“Eoin?” My voice rose in wonder, and I reached out to touch him, suddenly certain he wasn’t really there at all. He stepped back, his eyes swinging to the door.

I was sleeping. I was sleeping and having an odd, wonderful dream.

“How old are you, Eoin?” my dream-self asked.

“You don’t remember?” he responded.

“No. I’m . . . confused. I don’t remember very much. Can you tell me? Please?”

“I’m almost six.”

“Six?” I marveled. Six. My grandfather was born in 1915, less than a year before the uprising that took his parents’ lives. If he was almost six, it was . . . 1921. I was dreaming about 1921. I was hallucinating. I’d been shot, and I’d almost drowned. Maybe I’d died. I didn’t feel dead. I hurt—despite the pain medication, I hurt. My head. My stomach. But my tongue was working. In dreams, my tongue never worked.

“Your birthday is July the eleventh, isn’t it? I remember that,” I said.

Eoin nodded enthusiastically, his skinny shoulders crowding his too-big ears, and he smiled as if I’d redeemed myself a little bit. “Yes.”

“And . . . what month is it now?”

“It’s June!” he squealed. “That’s why I am almost six.”

“Do you live here, Eoin?”

“Yes. With Doc and Nana,” he said impatiently, as if he’d already explained as much.

“With the doctor?” The good doctor, Thomas Smith. Eoin had said he was like a father to him. “What’s the doctor’s name, Eoin?”

“Thomas. But Nana calls him Dr. Smith.”

I laughed softly, delighted that my dream was so detailed. No wonder he’d been familiar. He was the man from the pictures, the man with the pale stare and the unsmiling mouth, the one who Eoin said loved Anne. Poor Thomas Smith. He’d been in love with his best friend’s wife.

“And who is your nana?” I asked the boy, enjoying the dizzy dream conundrum I found myself in.

“Brigid Gallagher.”

“Brigid Gallagher,” I breathed. “That’s right.” Brigid Gallagher. Eoin’s grandmother. Declan Gallagher’s mother. Anne Gallagher’s mother-in-law. Anne Gallagher.

Thomas Smith had called me Anne.

“Thomas says you’re my mother. I heard him tell Nana,” Eoin said in a rush, and I gasped, the hand I’d raised to touch him falling back to the bed. “Is my da comin’ back too?” he pressed, not waiting for my reply.

His father? Oh God. This was Eoin. This was my Eoin. Just a child. And his mother and father were dead. I was not his mother, and neither of them were coming back. I put my hands over my eyes and willed myself to wake up.

“Eoin!” The woman’s call came from somewhere else in the house, seeking, searching, and the little boy was gone in a flash, racing to the door and slipping out of the room. The door shut carefully, quietly, and I let myself fall away into another dream, a safe darkness, where grandfathers didn’t become little boys with crimson hair and winsome smiles.

When I awoke again, there were hands on my skin, and the bedcovers were pushed aside, baring my abdomen while my bandages were changed.

“It will heal quickly. It made a furrow in your side, but it could have been far worse.” It was the man from the pictures again. Thomas Smith. He thought I was someone else. I closed my eyes to keep him away, but he didn’t leave. His fingers danced around my denial, steady and sure. I started to panic, my breaths coming in short gasps.

“Are you hurting?”

I whimpered, more afraid than in pain. I was terrified of giving myself away. I was not the woman he thought I was, and more than anything, I was suddenly, desperately afraid to tell him he’d made a terrible mistake.

“You’ve been asleep so long. You’ll have to talk to me sometime, Anne.”

If I talked to him, what would I say?

He gave me a spoonful of something clear and syrupy, and I wondered if laudanum was responsible for my hallucinations.

“You saw Eoin?” he asked.

I nodded and swallowed, recalling the image of the little boy with his vivid hair and familiar eyes peeking at me through the brass footboard. My mind had created such a beautiful child.

“I told him not to come in here,” he sighed. “But I can’t really blame the lad.”

“He’s exactly the way I pictured him.” I said this softly, slowly, concentrating on saying the words the way my grandfather would have said them, the soft burr something I could imitate, something I had imitated, all my life. But it felt false, and I winced even as I tried to deceive Thomas Smith with the accent. The words were true. Eoin was just as I’d pictured. But I was not his mother, and none of this was real.

When I awoke again, my head was much clearer, and the colors that had swum in deep burgundy and orange in the firelight now remained still, within concrete lines and solid shapes. Light was gathering—or going?—beyond the glass of the two tall windows. The night had faded, but the dream continued.

The fire in the grate and the little boy with my grandfather’s name were both gone, but the pain was sharper, and the man with the gentle hands remained. Thomas Smith slumped in a chair, as if he’d fallen asleep watching me. Once, I had studied him in black and white as he stared up at me from an old photograph, and I did so again, telling myself there was no danger in my delusions. The shadows of the room added little color to the man. The hue of his hair—dark—was unchanged from the photograph, but the slicked-back waves from yesteryear had fallen over deep-set eyes I knew to be blue, the only color separate from the fog. His lips were softly parted, and their forgiving shape and gentle slope tempered a chin that was too square, a face that was too thin, and cheekbones that were too sharp.

He wore the clothes of a much older man—high-waisted trousers topped with a fitted vest secured over a flat torso. A pale, collarless dress shirt was buttoned to his throat. His sleeves were rolled to his elbows, and his feet in black wingtips were firmly planted, as though he’d drifted off expecting to be immediately reawakened. He looked long and angular in the high-backed chair, limbs loose and dangling, wrists and fingers pointed toward the floor, an exhausted warrior king asleep on his throne.

I was thirsty, and my bladder was full. I eased to my left and attempted to push myself up, gasping at the fire in my side.

“Careful. You’ll reopen your wound,” Thomas protested, his voice rough with sleep and soft with Ireland. The chair squeaked as I heard him rise, but I ignored him, feeling the covers fall from my shoulders even as I braced myself and held the sheet to my breasts. Where were my clothes? I was turned away from him, my back was bare to his view, and I heard him approach and stop beside the bed.

He held a glass of water to my lips, and I drank gratefully, shakily. His hand was at my back, warm and solid.

“Where have you been, Anne?”

Where am I now?

“I don’t know.” It was a whisper. I didn’t look at him to gauge his reaction. “I don’t know. I just know that I’m . . . here.”

“And how long will you be here?” His voice was so cold that my fear grew, filling my chest and making my limbs numb and my fingertips pulse.

“I don’t know that either,” I said.

“Did they do this to you?” he asked.

“Who?” The word was a wail in my head but a sigh on my lips.

“The gunrunners, Anne.” It was his turn to whisper. “Were you with them?”

“No.” I shook my head adamantly, the room swimming with the movement. “I need to use the restroom.”

“The restroom?” His voice rose, puzzled.

“The toilet? The loo?” I searched my memory for the Irish terminology.

“Hold on to me,” he instructed, leaning over me and sliding his arms beneath me. I grappled with the sheet and didn’t hold on to him at all, struggling to remain covered as he straightened, hoisting me as he did.

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