Harwood fell a sleep with a book in his hand, slipping into a dreamless, uninterrupted state that lasted till morning when he was woken by rays of sunshine coming in trough the windows. He stretched and yawned getting up to greet the upcoming day.
He was feeling better then he did for a long time. He had his morning coffee standing at the foot of his bed watching the sun reflected on the still waters of the bay, the town of Twinbrook on the mainland and the far away houses of the next island. It was there that the richest of the residents lived. That was one of the things that remained unchanged from his childhood till now. Still he wondered were those the same families from that time… He supposed they were… It was the same all over the world, the rich were getting richer while the poor stayed poor…
But dwelling on the injustices of the world was not a good way to start the day so after finishing his coffee Harwood retreated to his studio and started with some woodcarving. He had no clear vision of what he was going for but he let the hand holding the carving knife lead him on…
He got so lost in the work that it took him a few rings to realize it was his phone that was ringing. Luckily he remembered to bring the receiver with him to the studio even when he wasn’t expecting a call.
“Harwood Clay speaking.” He said as he picked up.
“So it is you.” The familiar voice on the other end spoke in a heavy Twinbrook accent. “I thought to myself maybe I was hallucinating… Not that I do that mind you… Don’t listen to a word those peasants tell you… Sometimes I see my Lace that is the truth… But she just comes to check up me as a wife should… Nothing wrong with that…”
Harwood felt a chill go through him brought on by Juan’s strange ramblings. He remembered laying in bed the other night, so sure he could feel Macy there with him… She was so young and lovely in his memories, as she last was in life and Juan’s Lacy was her twin… Like peas in the pod… He shuddered barely noticing Juan was still speaking on the other end.
“…and then I said to myself am I damned… Harwood Clay… Haven’t seen the man in decades and he just shows up on my junkyard one morning speaking like a damned city boy… I guess it is true. You are back in Twinbrook for real?”
“Yes I am.” Harwood replied. “I have a new house, it is on that smaller island in the bay. Right at the far end, hard to miss… Close to the junkyard as well… I think you would like it… Come over some time…”
“I just might.” Juan said with a laugh. They talked for a while longer and Harwood smiled as he hung up, aside from the occasional rambling Juan was pretty much as he remembered him. It made him both happy and sad, happy that he had a friend here after all and sad that he had abandoned his friend all those years ago…
Harwood didn’t go back to work after that. Now that he had someone who he might actually want to talk to he figured it was about time to get a cell phone so he could be available at all times. So he got ready and called a cab to take him to town. The drive had not been a long one and for a moment Harwood really hated himself for taking a cab in the first place. Living in a city for so long he lost the habit of walking, there were always cabs and subways but here he was now a spoiled “city-boy”, or what was it that Juan called him, wasting natural resources and polluting the planet just because he was too lazy for a short stroll… He would have to change that he figured as he got out of the car, walk more, or even better, buy a bike, it had been so long since he last rode a bike…. It would be good for him…
As he got over the first annoyance of the day Harwood was dealt with another. He had completely forgotten it was a Sunday and all stores in Twinbrook were closed… He sighed deeply… He wouldn’t be getting a phone today but since he had already wasted all that gas just coming here he couldn’t just turn back and go home so he walked over to the Courios Memorial Museum.
The giant, three story structure was located just left of the City Hall and was the only place one could see some art in Twinbrook, at least to Harwood’s knowledge. To reach the entrance he had to climb too many stairs for a man his age and he was left breathless as he went in trough the large, ancient looking dark-blue doors.
As he walked in the poorly-lit hallway he had to step aside immediately to avoid being knocked over by a strong-looking brown haired man in a leather jacked. The man was stomping angrily and had not payed Harwood a single glance as he passed out the door. Harwood sighed at the rudeness, hoping this didn’t pass as normal behaviour here in Twinbrook, before taking a look around.
There were too rooms on either side of the hallway. The one on Harwood’s left was filled with people and voices, some being quite loud. Harwood avoided it turning to the right instead. He wasn’t yet ready to face large masses of people, especially if they were anything like the man that had just passed him.
The room on his right was almost empty. It’s only inhabitant was a small girl with brownish hair in a pastel color dress staring at a cartoonish painting of some kind of a mythical creature playing a flute in a meadow. Harwood smiled and walked next to her saying: “That is a lovely piece. Lots of colors.”
“Sure is.” The little girl spoke. “It looks like something from a really pretty video game.” Harwood nodded. He didn’t have much knowledge of video games. “I want to design video games one day.” The little girl explained.
“Well if you want it really bad it might just come true.” Harwood said giving her a warm smile. The girl’s face lit up at him.
“You really think so sir?” She asked her light green eyes filled with wonder.
“Of course I do. Hard work makes dream come true. Don’t ever forget that.” He said. “Once, many, many years ago I had dreams just like you, dreams nobody supported or believed in. But I worked and worked and never lost sight of my dreams and then I woke up one day only to realize that they have all came true…” Harwood ended with a smile which the girl returned. “I am Harwood. Harwood Clay.” He said extending his hand. The girl shook hands with him gladly and added.
“My name is Emerald Greenwood. But you can call me Emi, Mr. Clay.”
“Only if you’ll call me Harwood.” He said with a wink and Emerald chuckled.
“Okay Harwood.” She said still smiling and for a moment Harwood was amazed with Twinbrook. Here he was, living in a town where it wasn’t weird for an old man come and have a friendly chat with a child inside a public gallery., where kids weren’t thought from the moment they could think about the dangers of the world, and evil that lurks out there… It was strange, yet refreshing…
“So why are you here all alone Emi?” He asked. Emerald sighed her smile vanishing.
“I was supposed to be at the park with my big sister Jade but she ditched me and went to hang out with some friends… I got bored at the park so I came here, I couldn’t go home because my parents would realize Jade left me and would probably get angry. I didn’t want that…” Harwood nodded emphatically.
“Well we could stay here and watch the paintings together for a while if you don’t have anything better to do?”
“I would love that.” Emerald said her face brightening. And so they did just that. Harwood told her about the different painting styles, about the artists he heard about, or even knew personally… She listened with awe to every word he said and for a moment Harwood couldn’t help a wave of sadness overwhelming him. He had always wanted kids of his own. He and Macy had talked about it but then they decided it was better to wait… Until they had more money, until they were closer to completing their lifetime wishes… Why wouldn’t they wait? They had all the time in the world… Or so they thought back then…
“Is everything okay Mr. Clay?” Emerald asked looking at him with concern. He smiled.
“We agreed you’ll call me Harwood remember?” Emerald smiled and Harwood put his regrets away. It was too late now anyway…
They spent hours in the gallery. Almost no one joined them there. At one point a muscular girl with orange hair and a tattoo on her shoulder walked in but left rather quickly and after her another thin, Asian girl with purple hair and brightly coloured clothes joined Harwood and Emerald. This one caught Harwood’s attention, and not because of the short skirt she was wearing. There was something off about the way she scanned the room and Harwood suspicions were confirmed when he saw a camera peaking out of her purse. A paparazzi… He thought looking over Emerald’s shoulder at the woman. Their eyes met for a moment but she didn’t linger and just went on. She didn’t recognize me….
Harwood felt a weird sense of joy… This might actually work, he just might hide here and live out his days and peace and anonymity…
He walked Emerald out on the street at to the park. “Say… You know computers and stuff… Do you know anything about cell phones?” He asked her as they walked.
“What do you want to know?” Emerald asked.
“I don’t own one at the moment… My old one had an accident and I’m beginning to see I might need it after all…”
“So what kind do you want?” Harwood thought about it for a while. Usually it was Marla to whom he delegated such menial tasks.
“I don’t know… A smart one?” Emerald laughed.
“Okay, I’ll look online for something good and affordable. I’ll email you a list.”
“The things is I don’t own a computer and without a phone I could hardly check my email…” Emerald looked shocked so he added. “I could give you my phone number and you can call me.” Emerald nodded and they had an agreement.
Harwood watched her run to her sister, a grumpy looking teenage girl who said something to her and then they both got on their bikes, discarded just like that at the edge of a public park and they drove away, presumably to their home.
Still not ready to go back to his little island Harwood searched for a place when he could have a drink, and preferably a nice meal, his stomach was rumbling for hours now. Luckily he didn’t have to go far. “The Red Rendezvous” was a local hangout, within walking distance of the town centre.
There was no food there that night which was a minor disappointment but Harwood still decided to have a quick drink at the bar where he stood eagerly observing the crowd. The place was only moderately filled, a couple of adults drinking their worries away and a small group of teenagers playing foosball.
Harwood was left undisturbed in his corner so he had another drink. It was then that the doors opened and an elderly woman walked in. She was a little hunched back and had a large hat on, one that covered half her face. She had a laptop tucked in under her arm and she was walking straight to the bar. However when she noticed Harwood she lifted her face and for a monument their eyes met. Hers were a nice lilac colour, hidden behind large glasses but it was a deep curiosity behind them that made Harwood suddenly uncomfortable. He quickly turned away to the TV behind him. A gardening show was on and a woman was showing how to make flower bouquets. Harwood watched it as it was the most interesting show on earth. All the while feeling the woman’s eyes on his back.
He finished his drink in a hurry and hailed a taxi to take him home. His head was buzzed from all those drinks on an empty stomach and he was afraid he would be polluting the earth once more today…. But tomorrow he would get that bike for sure….