At 10:00, my shift over, I ran to the restroom, changed back into my jeans and lavender sweater and headed out to Ralph’s to meet Sam. The place is a campus dive and aptly named, considering how many college kids have tossed their cookies there, but it has sentimental value as the first place we officially “partied” as college freshmen, using terrible fake IDs. Mine stated that my name was Marcella Brown and that I was twenty-three years old, five-foot-six, blonde with blue eyes, and from New Jersey. We drank cheap beer for several ill-advised hours, and I was violently sick the next day and vowed never to “party” again. Ralph’s was officially our favorite spot after that.
I walked in and was immediately greeted by the mingled smells of spilled beer, bad cologne, and fried onion rings. Our favorite spot is not for the weak of stomach. Sam was sitting at the bar, chatting with one of the bartenders. When she saw me, she waved me over, and patted the stool next to her. Apparently, she had been saving it for me, no easy feat on a Saturday night. But then, lots of things seemed to come easily to Sam that stymied just about anyone else. Like Calculus. And Molecular Biology. And perfect hair. Sam graduated from high school two years early, and had two years’ worth of college credit under her belt when she did. She sailed through college with a 4.0 GPA and got through medical school with minimal effort. Now, as a first-year resident, she was this close to becoming a full-fledged neuro-psychiatrist. If I ever develop PTSD or have traumatic brain injury, I’ll be in good hands with Sam.
Sam is also beautiful. I don’t mean just pretty. The girl is flat-out gorgeous. Tall, leggy, blued eyed, with honey skin and strawberry blond hair, she is frequently mistaken for a Victoria’s Secret model. If she had been anyone else, I would probably never be friends with her. But she’s Sam, and we’ve been friends and roommates since college.
I walked over and slid onto the bar stool next to her. The bartender was right over with a ready smile and a “What can I get you?” I ordered my usual vodka with cranberry juice and turned to Sam. “Hey, roomie. How was the rest of your day at Mercy-me Land? Did you manage to stay away from the asshats?” Sam huffed into her Guiness. “I wish. Pretty hard to do that. The place is crawling with them.” She now sported a foam moustache, which she wiped away with the back of her hand. “Let’s not talk about that,” she suggested. “Hey, did George have his date with Cheryl?” Sam has called my dad by his first name ever since they met that first day of college, when dad dropped me off at the dorm. I frowned into my cocktail. “Yeah, but it didn’t go so well. I guess they bored each other.” “Bummer,” Sam sympathized. “All that shopping and grooming for nothing.” “It’s not for nothing,” I disagreed, throwing her a mild glare over my drink. “I’m sure he’ll meet someone else, and he needed a new look anyway. Those cords and blazers were fugly and they had to go. Matter of fact, maybe I’ll take him shopping again next weekend, so he has a couple of decent outfits to choose from when he meets Miss Right.” “You’re a model daughter, you know that?” Sam laughed and turned to mock pat me on the head. “Hey, what do you think is going on?” She pointed to the door.
People were gathered there, apparently watching something happening on the sidewalk in front of the bar. The door was propped open, and I could hear voices. “Let’s go see what’s going on,” Sam suggested, as she was already sliding off her stool. I followed her without much enthusiasm. I’m not into public spectacles. I peeked cautiously around a group of girls, to see what was going on. And froze.
The lady in the white gown was standing on the sidewalk in front of Ralph’s, surrounded by a group of frat boys. They formed a loose circle around her, and their “leader” was making a “kissy face” and leering at her. She stood perfectly still, as the frat rat called out, “Hey, lady! Where’s the toga party?” His buddies burst out laughing. The kid, feeling the love from his posse, continued, “You’re pretty hot for an old lady. Let’s see what you got under that sheet!”
The woman’s calm expression didn’t change, but she tilted her head to one side and looked at the kid as if trying to puzzle out what species of bug he belonged to and how he had learned to speak. Before he could utter another beer-fueled witticism, she turned and faced me. My heart was racing again, another anxiety attach coming on. “You,” the lady said to me. “You are the one my Mother sent me to find. You are the Guide, are you not?” Her voice was commanding, I noticed through the buzzing and haze filling my head. The air smelled of apples, intense and delicate at the same time. I felt the most bizarre need to run away and do anything she asked at the same time.
Sam came to my rescue. She pushed past the rest of the people standing around the door and came to stand by me. Giving the frat boys her best “Does your mom know you’re doing this?” stare, she waved her fingers at them. “OK, boys,” she said. “Like the song goes, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. I’m sure there’s a beer pong game somewhere with your name on it.” Grumbling to each other about this place sucking, they began to wander away. The rest of Ralph’s clientele, now that the show was over, went back inside. Sam and I were alone on the sidewalk with the lady in white. I hadn’t moved or spoken.
Sam stuck out her hand to our new friend. “Hi, my name is Samantha,” she said with a smile. “It’s nice to meet you. How do you know Ellie?” The woman looked at Sam for a long moment, then turned her back on my best friend and faced me again. “I am Hera,” she said to me so quietly I almost didn’t hear her. I blinked. “Ellie,” I mumbled, “Elena. Harris. Welcome.” What the hell was that? Welcome? Where did that come from? Why was I welcoming this strange lady? I looked at Sam helplessly. She was frowning. “Umm, Ellie, are you ok?” Now that I had found my ability to speak again, I felt the need to get away stronger than ever. “Yeah. I think so. I think I better go home, though. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. I’ll see you there.” I turned to the woman. “I’m going home now,” I informed her in a wobbly voice. “It was, uh, very nice to meet you. I hope you have a nice evening.” I practically sprinted down the sidewalk before Sam could stop me.
Hera watched the young woman run down the street. Why did she leave? She was the one Mother sent her to meet. Hera was certain of it. The one who was supposed to help her start her life as a human woman. She was at a loss for what to do next. “Sorry my friend freaked out like that,” said the other woman standing behind her. Hera turned around and looked at the woman. She did not approve. The woman was much too brazen, offering her hand and name, without so much as a bow. These women were odd. Now, the Guide’s friend was speaking to her again without permission and without having been acknowledged. Moreover, she was saying things Hera did not comprehend.
Maybe this young woman was weak of mind. That might explain her complete lack of propriety and her strange speech. Hera wondered for a moment whether the Guide might not be entirely sane, either. That would explain her earlier behavior. Come to think of it, the young lout had shouted something incomprehensible to her earlier, as well, something about costumes, and ladies, and warm temperatures. She shook her head. Could it be that all these people were simple in the head? Was it part of the punishment the Mother had chosen to mete out, to live among lunatics, debasing herself in their service? Impossible! It would not be. She was queen of the Olympians. Certainly, she would master this situation; she would succeed in her task. It’s only a few short years. Surely, it would be a simple thing to accomplish some noble feat for these people to fulfill the Mother’s requirement. Then she would return to Gaia and be restored.
But to do this, she must find the Guide. Hera arranged her features into a pleasant smile and turned to the young woman, inclining her head graciously. “It is well that we meet,” she offered. “Your companion is of value to me. I will thank you for bringing me to her. I assure you that I mean her no harm.” The young woman frowned and squinted her eyes as if she did not understand. “Huh?” she grunted. “You want me to bring you to Ellie? Why? Who are you? What do you want with her?” Ignoring the desire to slap the woman for her insolence, Hera breathed deeply but replied calmly. “I must speak with her. She is to aid me in my work. Without her help, I fear I am lost.” Sympathy and uncertainty warred on the young woman’s face. She watched, as the young woman produced a small, shining device from her satchel and began to tap it rapidly, using only her thumbs. After a few moments, the tapping ended, and the woman looked at the device expectantly. “OK, I’ve texted Ellie,” she informed Hera. Hera looked dubiously at the shiny object in the woman’s hands. Nothing happened. Hera looked at the young woman. “Take me to Elena,” she said. “Please.”
Title – Ralph’s – Chapter 6
Excerpt – At 10:00, my shift over, I ran to the restroom, changed back into my jeans and lavender sweater and headed out to Ralph’s to meet Sam. The place is a campus
Tags – Marcella, Brown, Ralph’s, Sam, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, TBI, Cheryl, Hera, Olympians, Mother, Gaia, Ellie, Alla Reese, Alla, Reese, Olympian, The Olympians