[NaNo 2010] Excerpt 1

The sunlight streamed in through the small window, lighting up the floating specks of dust within it. The wooden bench was perfectly content to distance itself from the sunbeam, pressing itself against the cream wall. Fischer sat with his head buried in his hands, bent over so that his fair knuckles were made paler under the sun. Across the narrow corridor, an older man leaned next to the door, arms folded. With his eyes tightly shut it was hard to tell whether he was deep in thought or having a fitful sleep – not that Fischer noticed it.

The doorknob clicked, jolting the two men; They turned to the woman at the door. She exhaled and shook her head, her tightly-bunned hair not an inch out of place.

“No luck, none of the guests saw her,” she said.

“Not even the makeup artist?” Fischer asked.

“Especially not the makeup artist.”

“Wasn’t she in the room with Edith the whole time?” The older man asked.

“She said she stepped out to grab something and when she came back she saw the open window and…that was it.” The woman looked at the older man. “Did you find anything in her room, Otogi?”

“No sign of forced entry,” Otogi explained. “Edith opened that window-“

“So she climbed out the window?” Fischer cut in.

“I didn’t say she did, but that’s a possibility-“

“In a wedding dress with a train two meters long?” Fischer glared at Otogi.

“See that’s the part I can’t figure out yet-“

“A sixty-year-old woman opens a window and climbs out into the backyard of a church in full wedding dress and runs without taking anything with her and you, you think she did this on her own?” Fisher’s voice grew more accusatory with each word.

“There were no signs of a struggle,” Otogi explained. “And if nobody saw her, that makes it more likely.”

“And why would she do that?”

“That’s why we’re standing around Fischer, we’re trying to figure this out. I know this is hard on you but you need to calm down-”

“She’s MY MOTHER, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!”

“Our mother ,” the woman corrected.

“-OUR MOTHER!”

Otogi saw the guests look at them through the opening. He quickly motioned to the woman to close the door behind her. She held on to the doorknob, her eyes alternating between her brother clearly in distress and Otogi looking equally as flustered.

“Oh, and the vicar told me he’s got another appointment at 2, so he’d appreciate it a lot if we sped it up,” she said.

Otogi pinched the bridge of his nose. Fischer sighed.

The three of them stool still, unsure of their next move. The muffled murmurs of the guests grew louder, punctuated by a sharp rap on the door. She gripped the doorknob tighter.

“Flora, is everything okay in there? I thought I heard shouting,” A matronly voice asked. Flora turned around and put her face as close to the frame as possible.

“Everything’s fine, that was just Fischer having another episode. You know him.”

“Oh, is that all?” The matronly voice faded back into the noise.

Fischer looked at his sister. “An episode? Flora, what the hell have you been telling them?”

Flora hissed, “Look it’s not my fault you’ve been letting the world know you don’t like mum marrying Otogi Perlman in every way possible. Deal with it.”

“I didn’t even know people cared,” he defended.

“Of course they care, they’re old people! How else are they going to stop thinking about death?”

“Um, an old man’s still here,” Otogi raised his hand.

After a quick apology from Flora, the trio stood at yet another uncomfortable silence; Their mother was due to marry in fifteen minutes and she had suddenly found her second wind to jump out a window in full wedding regalia without having the consideration to tell either of her children of her destination. Either Edith was having the worst case of cold feet or she experienced an epiphany and went out to fulfil her bigger purpose in life, whatever that was.

Perhaps even worse was the lack of idea of how to proceed.

Otogi straightened his back and undid his necktie. “Well, time’s running out – not achieving anything sitting around moping and supposing.”

“Wait, what’re you doing?” Fischer asked.

“I’m going to find Edith and bring her back. That’s the romantic thing to do!” Otogi proclaimed.

Fischer snorted.

“That’s noble and all, but what if she comes back while you’re out searching?” Flora asked.

“I’m not going out without my handphone, Flora. You can just call me if she comes back.”

“I think you should have someone follow you,” Flora said, and pointed at her brother.

Fischer shrunk away from a finely manicured pearl-white fingernail. “What, me?”

“I’m not leaving you here to stall the guests, Fischer.”

“You think I can’t distract eighty people and a vicar from realising the bride is missing? Let them start on lunch first, make up some excuse, and all that?”

“More like I’m not letting you bitch about the marriage while Otogi’s going out doing the right thing.” Flora patted her brother’s shoulder, urging him off the bench. “Besides, it’ll do you good to bond with your future stepfather.”

“As long as the ceremony’s not on, he’s not my stepfather yet.”

“But if we find your mum, I will be,” Otogi said, giving a sideways glance and  a knowing smile at a frowning Fischer.

How Fischer hated getting stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“Keep me updated, I’ll tell them she’s having a crisis and you’re both comforting her or something,” Flora had already opened the door and slipped out before Fischer had a chance to suggest another method, and then the door clicked shut.

He stared at Otogi; Otogi turned and walked briskly down the corridor. Fischer got up, catching up behind him.

“Otogi, Otogi! Wait up! How’re we sneaking out?”

“Oh hell no – you want to look for a missing person, you walk the same trail they do.” Otogi unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.

Fischer dreaded his next thought, and a lump caught itself in his throat. His next sentence felt like like it took forever to say.

“Y-Y…You mean…you-“

“If Edith can climb outta a window in a floofy white dress, then two men in suits shouldn’t have any problems, right?”

Fischer pulled back his left cuff to reveal his black watch; The minute hand rested  on the seven and the hour hand in between  eleven and ten.

He had a sinking feeling the day was going to be long and terribly, terribly, troublesome.

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