Thanks for writing so quickly! We must have been writing at the exact same time… think of it: our letters crossing each other in mail planes flying opposite directions! They could’ve waved at each other. “Hi, Riley’s letter!” “Why hello, letter to Marigold!” And zip! They’re gone!
I’m glad to hear that Zoey and Roxy are both eating well, and I’m sorry to hear that Zoey misses me. I miss him, too. Will you give him extra play time? You know how he loves tug-of-war.
Tell Patches that I’m glad she’s spending so much time playing chess, but do homework, too! And tell Bo that yes, flower-kisses are awesome, but strangers might not think so! Ha! Sounds like the kids are keeping you busy.
And how are you? How’s Argus? Your letter was so full of everyone else that I hardly even got a sense of what’s new with you. But then, that’s like you, always thinking of everyone else first, so I’m guessing that you’re happy and well, doing what you love best, which is caring for everybody.
OK, so you remember in my last letter that I ended it really quickly so I could make it to a party thrown by one of Mom’s old friends?
Well, I went to the party.
It was one of those time-warpy things. Like if it were a movie, the soundtrack would do something weird, either stop or go slo-mo, or switch to some kind of electronic ostinato. Time-warpy.
Shannon Arkers stood in the entryway lit up from behind by this glowing light from an antique lamp. Her head was shaved, and she was wearing this old-timey dress, like from the 1920’s, that she must have picked up at a second-hand store. And the short sleeves revealed the tats on her arms. She’s like angel and devil and old-fashioned and neo all in one.
I’ve never met anyone like her.
I was tongue-tied.
But then she rescued me.
“You’re Cathy Tea’s daughter! We went to university together!”
“It’s so amazing to meet somebody who knew my mom,” I told her.
Then she said that she wasn’t the only one who knew her, and she pointed to that Mahmoud guy who’d invited me to the party I declined on my first night here.
I didn’t get a chance to meet him because a cop came shortly after to arrest him for disorderly conduct and indecent exposure.
Shannon just laughed it off. “It’s a matter of course, these days. Back in the day, no one thought twice about this type of thing. But now, times are tame and slightest divergence from convention and everyone’s in an uproar.”
I did meet some other students my age. One of them was really cute with big brown eyes and floppy hair.
I stayed pretty late. When I got back to the dorm, I went straight to bed. It must have been talking to someone who knew Mom, but my dreams were full of home.
Wednesday rushed by, full of classes! Like I said before, on Monday and Wednesday, I barely have time to think–it’s just one class and then the next. Then with studying and painting, I seem to only have time to work, eat, and sleep.
But Thursday offers a bit of a breather. We sketched plein air during our art lab time. I’m still finding drawing challenging. I can see the subject with my eyes. And when I close my eyes, I can see it in my mind. But when I open my eyes and try to draw what I see, everything gets a little skewed, especially perspective.
But I find that all that concentration helps my thoughts and feelings come into sync.
When I finished art lab, I thought of Shannon. Not because of what she could tell me about Mom, though it would be interesting to hear stories of her college days from someone who knew her when, but because she’s so fascinating in herself.
Do you know that she’s some kind of geo-political-ecological radical?
She told me that she used to blow up the gardening sheds where they stored pesticides, especially snail pellets.
“What did the snails ever do to deserve poison? They need to eat, too!” she said.
“So you were like some sort of eco-terrorist?” I asked her.
“Not so much terrorist,” she said. “More like an eco-warrior.”
Anyway, when I finished sketching, my mind went immediately to Shannon.
I called her up.
“Um. Wanna get together?” I asked her.
She said sure, so I’m heading over there just as soon as I wrap up this letter!
Riley, I haven’t felt this excited to see somebody in… ever! The stories she tells! Plus, her eyes. I really think you’d like them.
Anyway, I’ve really got to go. All the usual: love everybody, care for everybody, and, especially, take good care of yourself, Riley. I miss you,
and I still wish you were here with me. Sorry. Forget I wrote that.
Lots of love! Write soon! OK, bye.
p.s. You’ll never guess what Shannon has tattooed on the back of her neck!