Are You Alienated: part two

Are You Alienated: part two
Are You Alienated
(two)

“One,” said Emmett, “ought never speculate as to another person’s education. However, I have come to St. Petersburg in the hope of learning…” He turned fully to Minta, not caring that half his audience had left him.

“…you will be interested to know what.”

She sat close enough to scrutinize Emmett’s pallid, preternaturally smooth skin. His eyes, though, were brown, rather than the watery blue she would have expected. It was the one thing, she thought, that made him attractive.

“Well…what?”

“Are you permitted autonomy, or must you remain tethered to Dr. Slater and his minion?” Emmett asked.

This startled her. “Are you with the tour? I never saw you.” Neither could she believe it. Emmett seemed incapable of keeping quiet…and had a man of his alien appearance done so while lurking in the background, the effect would have been conspicuous…if not disturbing.

“Do you use Android?” He contrived an expression combining condescension with distaste, a simultaneous half-smile and pursing of the lips.

“I…don’t think so.

“I expect you do. But give me your phone. Have you ever paired it?”

Minta snagged her purse and rooted. This, she thought, is how stupid people get themselves in trouble. Emmett, chuckling at her wide-eyed shake of the head, had answered with an offensive “gimme” gesture.

He tapped and scrolled, scrolled and tapped. Once, he snorted, and twice chuckled. He drew Minta’s purse towards himself, taking hold, with thumb and forefinger, of its decorative tassel. He dropped her phone inside. He did these things with a conscious implication that the squishy Italian leather, with all its hardware and trimmings, made for a silly object.

“You’re staying at the Baltic. Actually, it’s a decent hotel. Did you want to have dinner with me?”

Minta shrugged, about to say, “You mean both of us?” But Emmett appeared dismay-proof.

“Expect me to show up, then.” He stood, and walked away.

 

In the hotel bathroom, she saw her face brightly illuminated. The hollows of her eyes were erased. I look good, Minta thought.

Her house had one bathroom. The window had been covered by the previous owner in sticky, frosted plastic. Quentin had told her she could buy solvent to remove this. He was right. She could learn what she needed to know, and do the work herself.

The plastic remained, peeling at the edges, dirt and hair caught in the glue. The window faced the door. The sink was tucked away in a little alcove, opposite the linen closet. An overhead globe was the only light by which Minta ordinarily saw herself, while making up her face.

“Why don’t we,” she said to Mrs. Castelberry, “try one of the restaurants in town?”

“We’re leaving tomorrow. It’s a bad time to get lost.”

“Look.” Minta herself looked, putting a knee on the heater, and craning to view the street below. She heard her mother-in-law gasp, rolled her eyes, then wondered too late if the glass had shown this like a mirror. The whole trip, she’d given way to Valerie’s fear of heights—the reason they could never open curtains. All their meals were taken within the safety zone of their hotels. Minta now and then prodded her mother-in-law’s boundaries…but she knew better.

“Mom. Just standing here, I see two or three places. It’s not possible for us to get lost.”

“If we stay at the hotel, we know where we are.”

“People speak English everywhere,” Minta told her.

“You think.”

 

3

 


 

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(copyright 2015, 2017 Stephanie Foster)

 

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