Armed with my newfound, albeit Googled, knowledge, I marched out of my apartment. I needed to talk to Edna.
Edna was the first person I met upon moving to this Washington town. I chose Washington because of its near-constant cloud cover and reputation for standoffish people. Somehow, I felt more myself when not in direct sunlight and when being ignored by passersby. Edna was the exception. I had just moved into my quaint home at the end of the street and was confused by the complete lack of a mailbox outside my house. How was I supposed to get mail? Did this town completely rid itself of the snail mail system? My next door neighbor saw my confusion and walked over to help. Her kindly smile in her aged face was just the thing to make me smile in return.
“Having trouble, dear?” Her voice was precisely what one would imagine a grandmother would sound like, especially if that grandmother had a particular proclivity for baked goods.
I smiled sheepishly. “That obvious?”
“Everyone is confused at first, no need to be embarrassed. We used to have a community mail box system at the front of the street, but it didn’t catch on. Now, we have a tradition of buying our own mailboxes and setting them up. You’ll have to call the Post Office to arrange to have your mail delivered here, but it’ll work out.”
I cocked my head to the side slightly. What an odd system. “I’m Emma,” I said, holding out my hand.
“Edna,” the old woman smiled, grasping my hand tightly in both of her own. When our skin touched, Edna’s eyes glazed over and her mouth formed around the word, “oh.”
I pulled my hand from hers with perhaps more force than was absolutely necessary, feeling the fear build up in my chest. Had she discovered me so easily?
“I’m so sorry that happened to you, Emma,” she whispered, stepping closer to me. I could count each white eyelash shading her grey eyes.
“What?” I breathed, so softly I was surprised she could hear me.
“No one should have a gift like yours and be persecuted in that manner.” Edna’s face softened and my chest ached. She wasn’t afraid of me; she pitied me. And, it seemed, she harbored a secret of her own.
“Would you like to come in?” I asked, suddenly bold. I was breaking my own rule of not associating with people, not trusting people, but in that moment all I cared about was inviting this sweet soul in for tea.
Edna smiled and took my arm, letting me lead the way past the blooming garden into my home. Since that day, Edna and I held a kind of unspoken pact to stand by the other in times of need. I never fully trusted her, but us freaks needed to stick together. This was definitely one of those times.
I hurried through the November drizzle, feeling a warmth in spite of the weather at the thought of seeing my friend. I came to her door and rapped sharply on the deep green-painted wood. I heard a shuffle behind the door as the woman came to answer my call. The door opened with a creak, displaying a much more tired Edna than I was accustomed to.
Immediately, I stepped forward, touching the woman’s shoulder. “Edna, is everything all right? You don’t seem quite yourself.”
Edna pulled her white cardigan closer about her body and glanced out the door to the street beyond. “Yes, yes. Everything is okay.” I was skeptical, but allowed her to usher me inside without a word.
Once the door was securely latched, Edna turned to me and pulled me into an unexpected tight hug. After a shocked beat, I returned the gesture. “Edna…”
“Emma, I’m so glad you’ve come.” Edna took me by the hand and led me to her cozy living room. We sat before the fire, the leather of the couch beneath me warming my bones. I smelled cookies in the oven, or maybe that’s just how her house always smells.
“Emma,” Edna began, her voice cracking with fatigue. She paused, taking my hand in her warm ones and daring not to meet my gaze. Her eyes glowed with the reflection of the fire, standing out starkly against her pale face. “Emma, I’m seeing him, too.”