Artemis sat across from Laina behind a table at a all night diner that had only recently banned smoking. She had draped Laina with her winter coat. Laina would not look at the menu, she sat back and looked around the busy restaurant. She watched other nearby restaurant guests eating and drinking.
“You can have anything on the menu,” Artemis said. “I’ve got this, don’t worry.”
Laina looked down at the menu, but she appeared lost. She squinted her eyes. Artemis realized Laina could not read the menu. She thought silence usually told her the truth.
“Momma said I was dead weight, we don’t go to restaurants.”
“Well, I don’t think your dead weight, you need to eat a good meal,” Artemis said.
“I don’t know,” Laina said. She shivered on the bench seat like an abused dog.
“Okay, if I order for you?”
“Sure, I guess,” Laina said. She pushed the menu forward, pulled her legs up and hugged them. She meekly stared over at Artemis. “Thank you.”
“What do you like?” Artemis asked. She gripped the laminated menu. She quickly scanned it. “Hamburger, french fries… want a strawberry milk shake?”
“Sure,” Laina said, blankly.
“Cool,” Artemis said. “Let’s get some comfort food.”
A plump waitress with tired eyes walked over next to their table. Her ink pen was speared into her kabuki actor styled hair bun.
Artemis made the orders, she chose foods she thought a little girl might like. She picked more deep fried food than she thought wise, but it was about Laina, it was about Benjamin’s child. The waitress left the table and moved toward the busy fry cook station.
“Do you go to school?” Artemis asked Laina.
Laina shook her head. She crinkled her face.
“All right,” Artemis said. “It’s okay, I was talking, just curious. I knew your father, Benjamin.”
Laina looked out the restaurant window into the dark parking lot. At the street corner a single street lamp offered minimal light across a drab environment.
“He’s dead,” Laina said. She touched the window and examined her hand print. “Momma said he was never coming to see me. I held her back.”
Artemis reached forward, she smacked her fingers on the formica topped table near Laina.
“He would have,” Artemis said. “He was a brave man, I think you would have loved him, I know he loved you.”
“He left me,” Laina said.
Artemis thought Laina was hard inside her frail body. The pretty little girl had seen and experienced countless disappointment, heartbreak over and over for the first decade of her life. Her eyes no longer had happy expectations for a trip to Disney World.
“What if I told you I was there?” Artemis asked.
Laina slowly looked over at Artemis. She inspected Artemis’ face, she scanned every centimeter of Artemis.
“He sent me to find you, no kidding,” Artemis said.
“How?” Laina said. She crossed her arms. “I don’t believe you-”
“I know, I’ll prove it,” Artemis said. She thought through her words, and wondered how best to talk with a child. “I’m not sure if it will make sense, but, I am telling you the truth. I don’t lie, my mother always taught me to be truthful.”
“Why did he die?” Laina asked.
“He was a solider,” Artemis said. “He was fighting bad people, sometimes soldiers die for others, like you, and me.”
Laina stared blankly over at Artemis. She enraptured herself deeper within Artemis’ winter coat. The waitress brought over two strawberry shakes, with bendy straws. She set one in front of Laina, her eyes told Artemis she happily examined the sugary drink. But she did not make any movement toward it.
“It’s for you,” Artemis said. She gripped her shake, and sucked through the straw. “Laina, try it, it’s tasty.”
Laina hesitantly touched the straw with her forefinger, and then she slowly moved forward, and she sucked at the straw opening until she tasted a bit of shake. She smiled. She looked glassy eyed as she released the straw and sat back.
“There you go,” Artemis said. “You like it? I like mine.”
“I like it,” Laina said. She backed farther away from the shake. She never took her gaze off the shake. “Can I have it?”
“Yes,” Artemis said. “It’s all for you, but you don’t have to drink it all, it’s up to you.”
Artemis thought Laina acted like a released prisoner of war. She wondered how Laina had endured what she suspected was the years of abuse, both physical and mental. Artemis tried to hide her feelings, she relayed on her training to focus on facts, and not emotions. She was determined to stoke the flicker of the spiritual flame that Laina barely remained inside her.
The waitress returned with plates covered with cheeseburgers, french fries and onion rings. She set a plate in front of Laina who leaned her fingers against the side of the table and she spied at the deep fried delights.
“What you hiding from, sweetie?” the waitress said. She slid the paper guest check over toward Artemis. “Clear your plate for your momma.”
“Thank you,” Artemis said. She placed more than enough cash on the ticket to cover the bill plus a healthy tip. “Here you go, keep it all, I don’t need a receipt, but, I’m just her father’s friend, I’m no mother.”
The waitress looked down and realized it was a nice tip.
“Well, thank you,” the waitress said. She winked at Artemis as she walked away from the table and slipped the bill and cash into the front pocket for her apron.
At first, like the shake, Laina was hesitant. But with Artemis’ encouragement, and example her hunger gave in and she devoured the food. She ate as if she’d been fasting for three weeks.
“I need to do some work later,” Artemis said. “It’s a full moon tonight, but, you can stay with me, my hotel room’s warm, you’ll be safe there.”
“What about my momma?” Laina said. She talked with her mouth stuffed with french fries.
“She’s not going anywhere,” Artemis said. “I’m sorry, she’s in really bad shape.”
“I know,” Laina said.
They finished eating, and Artemis navigated Laina back to her hotel. She stopped at the front counter, and got Laina a room key, and advised the house staff to keep an eye out for any wondering young girl. She got Laina to her room, she turned on the television and found Laina a good show to watch. She snuggled Laina into the double bed, and turned down the lights.
Artemis was confident Laina would be safe for an hour or so, and then she made a trip back to Most High cemetery.
“Oh how you have complicated your life,” Satan said. It was in the form of a dark particle orb. “Couldn’t resist the little girl, mom’s not quite into my world, yet.”
Artemis stood near the second row of the cold cemetery. She was confident Satan wanted to keep something hidden within the circular park like setting. She understood why those in limbo had gone into hiding, again. She was also certain if Satan wanted her dead, she would already be dead.
“You know what I think-“
“Ah, you’re learning,” Satan said. “You cannot hide from me, or your God the father – we are beyond you.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“Are you being obtuse?” Satan said. “It’s the other way around, I’ll reveal in my own good time.”
“The dead always tell the truth,” Artemis said.
“Ah, your thoughts,” Satan said. “Yes, I am the great deceiver, but the dead don’t fear the truth, so, you’ll have to wait for it, one clue at a time.”
“My enjoyment, to watch human greed,” Satan said. The orb glided down and near Artemis. “You should go up into the mountains, find your new friend , he’ll show you the place, there’s a great tree, where foolish humans worship me, it might be good for you.”
“And what,” Artemis said. “Get murdered?”
“No harm will come of you,” Satan said. “You’re correct, if I wanted you dead, you’d already be dead searching for God.”
“Why are you so interested in me?” Artemis said. “I’m only a insignificant human.”
“In due time,” Satan said. “Go up into the forest, I think you’ll enjoy the show.”
End. Chapter 8.
Did you enjoy the blog post? If so, feel free to comment, share my posts with friends and other readers. Sign up below to automatically receive my blog posts in your email. (Absolutely free)
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.