Charlie had books. Shelves of them… surprisingly, the boy was a reader. Lorelei spent the night paging through his collection, reading little bits here and there, trying to refresh her memory with the language that eluded her. She was bone-tired and desperately wanted to sleep, but she needed to be able to communicate with the two men who had found her. At first the words swam before her on the page, meaningless strings of frustrating symbols she could not unlock. But she kept at it though the night, and by morning, English was beginning to make sense again. By the time Charlie’s grandpa walked past her door on his way downstairs, she was ready for him.
“Good morning,” Lorelei smiled, triumphant.
“Well,” he paused, “good morning. Did you sleep?”
“Not at all.”
“Come down and get some breakfast, then. I imagine you’re still hungry.”
Lorelei followed him downstairs to find Charlie dishing out eggs onto three chipped plates. A pitcher of cold orange juice dripped condensation onto the rickety table, puddling moisture around its base. Next to the pitcher rested a small glass canning jar, hastily filled with a slosh of water and a few fern leaves. It was Charlie’s attempt at flower-arranging in December, in the Pacific Northwest. The sight of the ball jar made Lorelei smile, and his grandpa sigh.
“Good morning, Charlie,” Lorelei offered, tentatively.
The smile that lit Charlie’s face could have rivaled the sun in its sheer wattage. He rushed to pull a chair out for her, tucking her neatly into the table. The threesome dug into their eggs, the eating of which only lasted about ten minutes, and then sat together in silence for the next five. No one really seemed to know where or how to begin. Finally, it was Lorelei who broke the silence.
“My name is Lorelei Strange,” she began.
“We know,” interrupted Charlie’s grandpa. “What else have you got?”
Lorelei bit her lip. She began again: “I’ve been traveling the ocean. I don’t know where I am.”
“You’re in Depot Bay, Oregon,” Charlie laughed, “the furthest possible spot from the center of the Universe. And in December, you’re lucky anyone was even out on the beach to find you!”
“Dee-poh Bay,” Lorelei rolled the words slowly off her tongue. “Thank you, Charlie. And could you also tell me please, in what country is this bay located?”
“Oh for God’s sake!” the older man interjected, “we’re in the United States of America. Can’t you tell? When’s the last time you made shore?”
“A very long time ago,” Lorelei replied, softly.
“Grandpa! Give her a break – she’s had a trauma!” Charlie defended Lorelei, whom he thought he grandpa was treating a bit rudely for someone who obviously was suffering from more than her fair share of confusion. What if she had amnesia? He’d never met anyone with amnesia before, but he’d read plenty about it. He rather liked this game of trying to figure out who Lorelei Strange was – it was the most interesting thing that had happened to him in a long time, maybe ever – and he wished his grandpa would settle down a bit.
Charlie’s grandpa cleared his throat, motioning at Lorelei to continue.
“You have been very kind to feed and clothe me. Tell me please, how might I get in touch with my bank? I have documents and funds that will assist me in my journey home. I would also like very much to repay you for the kindness you have shown in my rescue,” Lorelei looked questioningly at the pair.
“Your bank, is it?” Charlie’s grandpa asked, skeptical. “Where is your bank?”
“La Nouvelle-Orléans,” she responded automatically. Seeing the twins looks of confusion on the two mens’ faces, she panicked, realizing that she had made a mistake. She quickly scrambled to translate French to English in her head and made her next best guess: “New Orleans.”
“Grandpa, she’s French!” Charlie exclaimed, as if this explained everything.
“I doubt she’s French. Or even Creole. But we can try to get in touch with this bank. What’s the name of the place, missy?”
“Hibernia Bank,” Lorelei replied.
The above post is a beta excerpt from an ongoing novel-in-progress tentatively titled “The Curious Tale of Lorelei Strange”. To read all related posts, click on the associated category. All post titles in this series contain numeric labels so that you may read the story in consecutive order (i.e., LS1 is the first installment, LS2 the second, etc.). ©Awen Blackbird/Jamie Waggoner, all rights reserved. Featured photo credit: Issara Willenskomer via Unsplash.