From Chapter: The Odyssey of Ella Athens
The car stopped on the parking lot of a dark red building. The old edifice fronted the dry terrain behind it with a chain link fence guarding dusty broken-down cars. A sign on top landmarked it as an eccentric rundown car shop in a dastard bright pink color. The letters glowed in neon, which made Ella Athens cringe for some reason. They were in Daly City, a lonely suburb in the outskirts of San Francisco’s metropolitan area. It seemed to her, a placed devoted to a ludicrous mesh of multicultural development. An outpost of simple colors; gray, earth-ridden, and sunny. A place were deserts had propagated in between the acceptance of reduced rainfall, and the ubiquity of technology’s collective reach.
Lester Rothschild got out the car and marched to the main office. He’d been quiet all morning, deep in thought and solemn. After the social event at the Mirage, he had shown up at her door just before dawn looking desolate and withdrawn. She’d felt him numb, like a man afraid of his hands and everything they’d ever touched. The exposé of silence in the night had appeared as a distant relative, and more than once, she had wondered what sought to extract his valor. Fleeing the sudden memory, she decided to wait outside the car to get some air.
She found the sky cloudy, jaggedly obscure with rifts of wind distantly springing dust from the valley floor and into the sky. She sighed and breathed the languid air. She missed London. She missed watching the London Tower as she walked by the side of the Thames River towards Westminster Palace. Hummingbirds would flutter in a private park beyond her boundaries, the natural gallery hidden from sight with high hedges. She felt her heart pounding madly then, like when the guards found out she was trespassing. The rush of running across the forbidden grounds, the metal on her fingers when she’d jumped the green hedge back into the boulevard. She was happy and content, smiling at what she had robbed from the world; the beauty of a curious hummingbird drinking nectar from her hand, its wings emitting light grazes of air in rapid beating. She bit her lower lip. Why—pleasures were just fears, conquered.
—Alexander Helas •