They skirted around the ramp, still in place but beginning to show signs of wear. As always, with observers present, the trucks had paused in their mindless self-destruction. The newcomers gawked at the sight while Tim explained it to Patterson. “Glory to God,” Patterson said, “they can be destroyed. Though it be the work of generations, the land may yet be clear of this pestilence.”
Nearly everyone in Laurel turned out to catch a glimpse of the newcomers. A few even cheered, making some of them nervous. As Patterson explained later, “They’re not used to people watching them — in a friendly manner, anyway. Give them a little space, a little time, and they may yet adjust.”
At supper in the Laurel Room, the newcomers mostly kept to themselves, sitting together in one corner and watching the others. They exceptions were Patterson, working the room and introducing himself to everyone; and one of the woman, tall, pale, and thin, dressed in a worn grey cloak and baseball cap. She quietly walked around the room with an unexpected grace, stopping at each table and looking over the people, sometimes speaking a few words.
“You must be the original inhabitants,” Jeremiah said, sitting and offering his hand to Cody, Tina, Sara, Kelly, and Sondra. “Jeremiah Fortune Patterson is my name. That’s a mouthful, so you can call me anything you like.” Cody grinned.
The woman in the cloak approached the table. She gave Cody a long look, then glanced at the others before returning her scrutiny to Cody. He began to fidget; Sondra glared at her and slipped her left hand under the table. Kelly wasn’t sure if Sondra really had her gun with her, but despite the possibility of gunplay at close range, she found herself suppressing a laugh — Sondra was so dramatic —
“You got a problem?” Cody asked finally, crossing his arms and glaring at the woman. The preacher began to say something, but she spoke first.
“Thus says the Oracle,” she said, slipping back her hood and removing her cap. A cascade of striking blonde hair poured down and flowed over her shoulders. None of them had noticed just how blue her eyes were before. Kelly suddenly remembered a woman at a Celtic festival she and her mom had attended last year; she looked like this woman, and had danced while playing the fiddle… it seemed so incredible, and they both moved with a certain kind of grace. “Though you be brought low, be true to what is right. You will be raised up, and become the Abraham of the new age, a father of nations.” She fell quiet and continued to watch him.
Cody continued to stare a moment, then relaxed. “Father of nations?” He grinned and put an arm around Sondra. “That makes her the mother, right?”
The woman glanced at Sondra, then squeezed her eyes shut. Her face became a mask. “The Oracle saith not,” she said, and walked away.
Cody turned to Patterson. “What in the — the heck was that all about?”
“I don’t know. She’s always been a bit strange, even by the measure of homeless folk. She gives her name as Delphinia — just Delphinia, no last name. She’ll say things from time to time — I’ll tell you about it later — but I’ve never heard her say anything like that.”
“Spooky sh– stuff,” Cody said. “Hey. I’d like to talk to you after you get settled in.” He rubbed Sondra’s back, it felt wooden and he looked at her. She continued to watch Delphinia, the protective anger now mixed with worry. “Sondra? You okay?”
She slowly let herself relax under Cody’s gentle backrub. “Yeah,” she said. “Blondie just spooked the hell out of me is all. Don’t know why — she’s just a crazy woman, right?”
“Perhaps,” Patterson said, “but it’s impolite to refer to people that way.”
“She might agree with you, though. Or more likely she would ignore you. But I think your friend here wanted to talk to me? Now is as good a time as any.”
“This concerns her too,” Cody said. “Let’s step outside.”
“Very well.” They rose and left.
Tina watched them go, and sniffed. “I smell… a wedding.” She smiled.
“Yeah,” Kelly said, her face a mask like Delphinia’s.
Tim and Sara looked at each other. “Wanna make it a double?” Tim grinned.
“Now you call that a proposal?” Sara laughed.
“Why not? It all comes to the same thing — you and me, forever.”
“Now you’re talkin’.” They rose and followed the others outside.