Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 2, Part 2.7

Posted by harmony0stars on October 26, 2008

“Maybe you can’t go home… yet,” Glory said in a comforting tone, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your family. I’m sure we can find a pay phone and call them… That way they’re safe, and they’ll know you’re safe… ish.”

The look on his face told her he wasn’t happy about the idea. No doubt, he wanted her to say he could go home and forget all about the people who had snatched him and others.

“At least they’ll know you’re alive, right?” She added, climbing to her feet. “Come on. There are pay phones at the museum.”

He looked like he wanted to cry, and she wouldn’t have blamed him. He was maybe fourteen and probably totally brainwashed on how a “grown man” was supposed to act. So he was trying hard not to show how freaked out he was by his whole ordeal with a nonchalant act. His mood seemed to flipflop too easily though, as he went from skittishness to exuberance to brooding silence. His misery was all in his face and posture as he followed her through the trees toward the museum. She wondered if all werewolves were like that. Animals communicated with body language; people communicated with words. Words could lie. Body language seldom did. Glory supposed that if she were a werewolf she’d be able to smell how he was feeling, but she suspected his body language was pretty accurate even without the heightened sense of smell.

There were swarms of people around the museum, as there usually were. The population of Sybar City considered themselves to be quite cultured. No museum was ever neglected, particularly one as artsy fartsy as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She loved the exhibits for their history and symbolism, but she could have done without the roving bands of art snobs who felt a need to explain to everyone around them what they were seeing. On her frequent visits before her life went to hell, she’d spent most of her time among the exhibits of long dead cultures. Even if she only occasionally agreed with the concensus of the learned men and women who had torn the artifacts from the earth, she still appreciated their efforts.

The crowds gave Toby pause, just as the Moukoulis’ diner had. Glory put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, Toby. Crowds are good. If those guys with the guns are still around, they can’t get to you in a crowd.”

With a sigh, he squared his shoulders, keeping as close to her as possible as they climbed the stairs. Even the people in casual clothes averted their eyes, giving them a wide berth as they stepped through the doors. She understood people’s desire to overlook the poor. The homeless reminded people that anyone could end up on the streets. That didn’t mean she liked it. Anyone who gave her a look of disgust received one in return, which utterly disconcerted them. What could she possibly have that allowed her to look them in the eye without shame? Up until a few months ago, she supposed she had been as guilty as anyone of ignoring the poor. Now she had nothing but the clothes on her back and the knowledge in her head. It had given her a new perspective on what it meant to be indigent. There was more to life than money. It was a lesson many of the people they passed would do well to learn as they flushed or paled with embarrassment and disgust.

She ignored the glaring receptionist who probably thought they were looking for a place to get in out of the chilling autumn air and led the way to the phones. With the invention of the cell phone, pay phones would probably be a thing of the past one day. Thank goodness that day was still many years in the future. Still, she was happy there was no one at the bank of pay phones. Glory picked up the receiver of the nearest one and handed it to Toby. To give him some privacy and to watch the crowd, she turned her back and took a few steps away. As much as she’d tried to reassure him that crowds were good, she couldn’t shake her own misgivings. If Lori wanted to, she could have everyone in the museum dead within minutes with any number of spells.

Toby cleared his throat behind her, and she turned. “Um… I don’t know how to call collect…”

He looked so pitiful, she wanted to hug him. But she didn’t really know him and didn’t want to invade his personal space with comfort that might not be wanted. “Dial a 0, and then your phone number. There should be a recording after that.”

“Okay,” he mumbled and hunched his shoulders as if trying to take shelter inside the phone.

Glory went back to staring into the crowd. The glaring receptionist was stalking towards them from her desk, her wide heels making clacking noises on the marble floors. Glory took a deep breath to prepare herself for the confrontation that would surely follow. She put on her best indifferent expression as the woman came to a stop with the precision of a soldier, bringing her feet together with a loud Clack!

“You and your friend are going to have to leave. You’re upsetting our patrons.”

“My friend is making a phone call. We won’t be long.” Glory replied reasonably, not giving the woman the satisfaction of making her angry or defensive.

The woman craned her long, thin neck around to see what Toby was doing, not that it did her much good. He was still crouched against the phone as if sheltering from a hard wind. Glory could hear him murmuring and what sounded like sobbing. She wouldn’t let this bony harridan disturb him while he talked to his family.

“I’m sorry,” the woman announced, though her tone was anything but, “If you’re going to stay, you’ll need to pay admission.”

“Really? I thought this part of the museum was a public area.” Glory patted her pockets, looking for her wallet while the woman smiled with thinly veiled glee. Well, Glory was about to ruin her fun. Pulling the wallet out, she flicked through the cards and papers inside. With a slight flourish, she handed her membership card to the scarecrow thin receptionist. “Well, I think this should cover me, and my friend is a student. I believe that means free admission.”

The woman wore a dubious expression as she scanned the card, and the look she gave Glory as she handed it back could have burnt diamonds. Without another word, she clackety-clacked back to her desk, her back rail straight and her day ruined. Glory snorted though she wasn’t really amused. It just felt good to put someone so humorless and pitiless in their place.

She heard the click of the receiver being returned to the cradle and turned. Toby rubbed at his eyes with the sleeves of his sweatshirt before turning and walking to her side. He was shaking a little, and Glory didn’t press him for the details of his phone call. They left the museum with the same calm decorum with which they had entered. Leaving, Glory chose to ignore any stares directed at her and her young charge. She was more concerned with his state of mind.

It was easier once they reached the illusory safety of the trees. There was something about trees that enveloped the senses with security, like returning to a mother’s embrace. Streets and buildings, teeming with humanity, just couldn’t offer that same sense of welcome, even if the streets and buildings wouldn’t exist without the people.

“Do you… do you know where Little Eire is?” Toby asked as they made their way back to her little haven in the woods.

to Book 2, part 2, page 8

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