Be sure to check out Parts 1 and 2... Tristessa's story begins there. -m
In the days after I threw the egg at the boy, Ravigie refused to speak to me. She was so angry with me for throwing our last egg that she didn't even make me toast for breakfast. She set a cup in front of me, which I had to fill with milk myself. The well was dry; we were lucky that the goat was still alive.
The yard in front of the coop smelled strange, close to something like rotten eggs. Every time I walked past it I held my breath, and soon it became a sort of game to me. In a week I became very good at holding my breath for no reason in particular.
It was at the end of that week that the package arrived. The courier was dirty, sweaty, and smelled worse than I did. But his clothes had once been very fine, and even though he looked ready to collapse, he held his head as high as a prized stallion did during a parade. Ravigie met him at the corner of the property, a little ways away from where the garden of eggs had popped up. I stayed out of sight, watching and listening.
"I have a package for Ravigie," he said. "There's no last name."
"I don't have a last name," Ravigie said, holding her hand out for the brown paper-wrapped thing.
The man held on to it just a second longer. "You are Ravigie?" Disbelief was bright in his voice. He obviously had been led to believe that Ravigie would be housekeeper to some grand woman.
"The only one," she said. "Give it to me, boy." She glared at him so strongly that immediately he handed it over. Ravigie took it and tucked in under her arm, clamped beneath her armpit. "Well?"
The man looked like he was about to say something about being called "boy", but he wisely thought better of it and took a couple of steps backwards instead.
I don't know why, but I chose that moment to come out of hiding. The man jumped when he saw me. I started to smile, to try to clear his mind of worry, but it was too late. His mouth gaped and he staggered backwards, fingers splayed open as though searching for a handhold.
"You..." But he wasn't looking at me anymore, he was looking somewhere behind me. I turned around, curious. Just on my peripheral vision, I saw the flicker of something dark. Trying to follow it, the shadow stayed on the edge of everything, but it took on the form of what could have been a man, or the reflection of a man.
"Me?" I asked once I had faced him again.
He shook his head, turned on his heel, and ran away.
Ravigie came to stand near me, putting her hand on my shoulder and shifting the package under her arm. "Come inside, Tessa."
"Why?" I was looking after the running package-carrier, watching his heels kick up dry dirt clods as he ran back to town.
"Just come," she said, pulling me towards the door. She, too, was looking at something behind me. Looking again, the shadow became only more distorted, seeming to be obscured by smoke. It was certainly the form of a man, but I couldn't see his face.
I shook my head, trying to clear my eyes for another look. "There's someone there, Ravigie," I said, pointing. She didn't respond, but she did pull me swiftly into the house.
The old woman put the package on the table in the kitchen, then sat down on a chair and put her face in her hands. I waited silently for a minute before she lifted her head again.
"I don't want you to go outside for the rest of the week, Tristessa." When I didn't respond, she went on: "And don't touch this package."
I opened my mouth to protest, but Ravigie pushed herself up and walked through the back door to the garden, leaving me in the kitchen. I stared at the crinkled brown paper wrapped around the courier's delivery. It was the first time I had a chance to really inspect it.
The wrapping job was haphazard and sloppily tied with several loops of dirt-caked brown twine. All in all, I believe it was about the size and shape of a dinner plate, and floppy, not like a wrapped box. And I wasn't allowed to open it. After sighing once, I poked it. The paper crinkled and stayed pressed in where my finger had been, a clean smudge on the brown surface. I looked at my finger; it was covered with dust. Wiping in on my skirt, I sat in the chair and stared at the package, thinking about the garden of eggs and the shadows that were flickering at the edge of my vision.