He cast a final, regretful glance in the direction of Imogen’s boarding house, then turned and made his way down the block towards the coffee shop.
“Time for lunch, monkeys,” he said.
Megan grabbed Ashley’s hand and followed him, a scowl stamped on her pretty face.
* * *
As Lainey drove around a sharp curve, she almost ran into an older woman who was standing in the middle of the road. She slammed on her brakes to avoid hitting her.
The woman didn’t bother to turn to look at her. She just stood there, looking off into the distance. She appeared to be at least in her eighties, with white hair piled in a bun on top of her head. She wore a faded floral housedress and slippers.
Lainey climbed out of the car. The woman didn’t turn to look at her until Lainey had walked right up to her, and then she turned to stare at Lainey with startling, milky white eyes. She was clearly blind; she must have heard Lainey’s approach. How had she gotten here? She was human, alone, vulnerable.
“Excuse me. I’m—Kat.” Great. Now she was lying to old ladies.
“I can see that,” the woman said, seeming to focus on her, and Lainey could swear that the woman could really see, although that was impossible. “But what about the dark cloud?”
“You’re going to the wedding. Beware of the dark cloud. The wolf in sheep’s clothing. He wants to take the lambs deep, deep into the earth, where the river runs red.”
“Okay. Well, thank you, I certainly will, er, beware.” Why did this woman think that Lainey was going to the wedding?
The woman didn’t speak; she just kept staring at Lainey with her blind, marble-white gaze.
“I’m going to Imogen’s boarding house. Would you like a ride?” Lainey prayed the woman would say yes. She couldn’t just leave the woman out here by herself. She’d wander in front of a speeding car or get lost in the woods.
“Another day, another dollar,” the woman said, and walked towards Lainey’s car. Lainey followed her. The woman pulled open the passenger door, and climbed in.
How the heck did she do that when she was blind?
“I can see perfectly well,” the woman responded in a sharp tone.
“Of course, I’m sorry,” Lainey said, climbing into the driver’s seat, but then she realized that she hadn’t asked about the woman’s sight out loud.
With a shiver, she began driving. She was so spooked that she didn’t say anything else, and the woman hummed a tune to herself for the next half mile, until they reached Imogen’s boarding house.
The boarding house was at the end of a dirt road. It was a large, turn of the century clapboard farmhouse, complete with a rooster weathervane, chickens pecking in the dirt, and cows grazing in the grass behind a barbed wire fence. Out in the fields to the left of the house, a muscular wolf shifter was chopping firewood. The farm looked like a postcard from the 1900s, come to life. Lainey was enchanted.
She glanced at the older woman, who was sitting in her seat, staring out into nothingness.
“Are you going to come in?” she asked the woman.
“A stitch in time saves nine,” the woman said.
“Okay, then. I’ll be right back.” Lainey climbed out of the car and walked up the creaking steps of the farm house. The front door gaped open, so she walked in. The entry was decorated exactly as she’d expected, with needlepoint pictures on the wall, faded rugs, and traditional furniture. There was nobody in the parlor, but she heard voices, and followed them through the house until she reached a large country kitchen with a gas-burning stove and an old basin sink large enough to wash a golden retriever in.