Under the Fishbowl – No. 96

I didn’t hear his message the first time around. I heard his voice. The words he spoke, however, vanished.

He was supposed to be dead. The thought repeated in my mind like a broken record until my phone’s answering machine prompted me with options. I selected replay, and concentrated this time on what he was saying.

“Hi Bethany, this is Remy. I know this is awkward, that you probably think I’m dead. But I’m not, obviously.” He chuckled mirthlessly at his joke, setting my teeth on edge. “I do need your help though. I left something where the fishbowl used to be. I need it back, but I can’t risk coming after it myself. I’m being followed you see.” He sighed and my knees wobbled. “Please. Get it and go to where we first met, as soon as you can. I’ll be waiting. I wish I could explain more now, but I hope you’ll understand. I hope you’ll help me. I hope I’ll get to see you again.” He paused as if thinking of more heart lancing words to use upon me. He settled on “Thanks, Bets,” and hung up.

“You.” I stopped before pitching the phone through my apartment’s window. Instead, I crumpled onto the couch, watching the dimming screen.

My bedroom door creaked, and Samuel padded into the living room.

“I thought that was you.” He slowed in his venture toward a good morning kiss. “What’s wrong?”

“He’s alive,” I whispered.

“Who?”

“Remy.” I met the scowl breaking through his morning drowsiness.

“He’s….” Samuel backpedaled, as if I’d slapped him in the face.

“He needs my help.”

“You’re help? Why you?”

I cringed and stared at my toes. My sneakers, stained with splashes of booze earned after another long night collecting tips for tuition, absorbed my voice. “I know where something is, something he apparently needs.”

“You know? How?”

“I…we…before-.”

“No.”

I looked up and saw Samuel’s face paling, like he’d seen a ghost.

“I thought he was dead,” I said, as if that mistaken fact could repair the betrayal warping Samuel’s angular features.

“So did I.” He closed his flapping mouth when nothing else emerged.

I stood and rubbed at my temples, aligning my thoughts. “Fishbowl,” I whispered.

Locking on the built-in bookcase, I strode across the postage-stamp room. A ring remained on the bottom shelf from the glass bowl where Remy had housed the goldfish he’d won shooting cardboard cutouts at the state carnival. The memory brought a grin to my face and a blush to my cheeks as I remembered where the evening had led.

“What is it?” asked Samuel. He neared, but hovered out of reach behind me. His gaze, however, burned against my ponytail.

“I’m not sure.”

I ran my fingers along the crack between the shelf and the wall. Flecks of caulk came up, the putty clogging my nail and creating ivory pebbles. I kept scraping, and then wiggled the shelf. With a pop, the panel jumped free. I slid the board out of the grooves, and we both peered into the hole.

Occupying half of the crevice lay a burlap-wrapped bundle the size of my fist.

“Careful,” said Samuel.

I gave him a grin over my shoulder, but my stomach quivered as he avoided my eyes. Steeling myself, I returned to the hidden treasure, and extracted the object. The surprising weight caused me to support it with my other hand. I pulled back the burlap and gasped.

Dawn glinted off the etched and golden surface of the round ball filling my palm.

“The Eye of Midas,” whispered Samuel.

“The what?”

He frowned and plopped onto the coffee table, his gaze latched on the sphere. “Remy’s dad spent his whole life looking for it. He said it was the reason his parents separated. He used to tell me stories about it over drinks in the dorm.” He shook his head. “And there it is.”

“What does it do?”

Samuel straightened and his professorial tone slipped into his voice. “Legends say it can enable the user insight into people’s thoughts, enable access to their minds, their dreams.”

“What would Remy want with it?”

The academic demeanor vanished, and his hazel stare seized me like a vice. “Sounds like you’re going to be able to ask him yourself.”

I winced at the chill in his tone. “I guess so.” I gathered my purse from beside him. Covering up the ball, I nestled the object between my wallet and phone.

Samuel rose. “Wait up, okay?”

“Why?”

“I’m not going to let you go by yourself.” I stared up at him, his worry radiating like a mid-day sun. “And anyway, I have a few questions for him myself.”

I nodded, mute, and went about reinstalling the shelf while Samuel dressed from the drawer I’d allowed him to commandeer two weeks earlier. He returned, decked in jeans and a tee-shirt rather than his usual slacks and tie. The attire made him look more like when we’d first met, when they’d been roommates and life had been less complicated.

I shouldered my purse, adjusting the straps to accommodate the extra weight. Together we headed out the door, down the stairs and to the sidewalk.

“No car?” he asked.

“We’re going to Tillow Park.”

“Why there?”

“It’s where Remy wanted to meet.”

He nodded and stuffed his hands into his pockets. I kept myself from slipping my hand through his arm, like I usually did when we went for walks. Instead, I seized my purse straps and kept our pace brisk while half of me wanted to hurry, the other half wanting to run the other way.

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