Excerpt from Prodigies

Here’s a section of the WIP I’m editing:

I peered in at the window of the restaurant and breathed a sigh of relief. The restaurant appeared both large and informal, two pluses when it came to secluding ourselves, I hoped. Golden hearth tiles accented the white walls, and pale, warm wood covered the floor, giving the place a rustic look. A small uproar greeted us at the door, its source the lively customers who took up two-thirds of the tables. Did Poles ever sleep? I wondered, realizing there would be no need for 24-hour pierogi places if they did.

Ichirou murmured anxiously, “Do you think they could find us here?” With those few words, Ichirou reminded me of the gunshots, the escape, the danger we were in.

Just then, we heard the sirens, playing a distinctly different tune than American sirens, heading in the direction of Palac Pugetow.

The hostess, middle-aged and plump with that pale Polish skin, seated us in the dining room — a large one with probably forty-some tables — toward the back as we requested. She looked at us with a brittle smile. “Do your parents know you’re out, young man?” she piped. If only she knew the reason of our outing.

“No, ma’am,” Ichirou piped up. “But it’s okay. She’s my babysitter.”

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

I felt my face go red, because now the waitress was scrutinizing the both of us. “That’s good,” she said brightly.

As she exited, I scowled at the menu. “This menu is all in Polish, and I think it would take forever to translate it all.”

“Just translate the names,” Ichirou shrugged. “I translate English to Japanese and back all the time.” And with that, he had shifted from a child to the wise for his years twelve-year-old.

I picked a random item and pulled out my cell phone. “Krakow Misalliance,” I sighed. “Wasn’t that the turning point in World War I?”

“Did you just make a joke?” Ichirou scrutinized me with widened eyes.

“I think so. It’s the stress.” And the fact that, facing the front of the restaurant, I found myself watching every moment for Second World muscle.

Some fifteen minutes later, a waiter, older with reddish hair pulled in a ponytail and the grace of a ballet dancer, stepped up to our table to take our order. Ichirou muttered at me, “Wait. We don’t have any money.”

“Yes we do. Don’t worry about it,” I hissed back. “I’d like the venison pierogi,” I addressed the waiter.

“I highly recommend the Krakow Misalliance,” the waiter nodded, his English charmingly accented. Unlike the people on the street, he seemed unfazed by the Asian boy in the presence of a black woman at an impossible time in the morning.

“If you know English, why didn’t you bring English menus?” I groused.
The man shot me an angelic grin. “Because you didn’t ask.”

I almost laughed despite my banked terror. “I’ll have venison pierogi. And water to drink,” I told the obliging server.

“Still or sparkling?” the waiter smiled.

“I get a choice? I’ll have sparkling,” I replied.

“I’d like cabbage pierogi with tea,” Ichirou decided.

The waiter strolled away, and I hoped he wouldn’t chat about the obvious foreigners at the back table.

Ichirou interrogated me after the waiter had left. “How did you come up with money?” He studied me through his steel-framed glasses.

“I’m 17. I’ve been handling my own finances since last year. I have a credit card.”

“As a high school student?” Ichirou peered over his nerd glasses at me.

“As a trust fund baby.” I peered back at the youngster.

Ichirou pulled out his phone and tapped on the screen. “Trust fund baby?” He scrutinized the screen, then nodded.

“My parents died and left me money. I’m an emancipated minor. By all definitions an adult. I sued to get control of my money and won.” I could taste the bitterness of that fact on my tongue.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ichirou murmured.

“It’s complicated. I spent most of my life at residential schools. Music schools. I never really knew my parents as Mom and Dad.” I caught myself remembering Ichirou’s animation that made me cry, that feeling of being loved.

“That’s strange,” Ichirou replied. He paused for a moment, then spoke slowly, as if trying to piece things together. “I spent time in a boarding school, too. I knew almost nobody but Ayana. That’s why I made that animation; I needed unconditional love in my life.”

Before I could reply, the waiter came back with our drinks. Ichirou scrutinized his cup of hot water with a teabag beside it, frowning. My water came in a bottle with bubbles.

“Are you sure you don’t want the Krakow Misalliance?” the waiter smiled, reaching toward an invisible lock of hair and then stopping. “It takes a while to cook, though. Your pierogis will be out in a minute.” He wandered off, and I noted that he glanced over his shoulder at the door.

I glanced at the door again, and thankfully I didn’t see any beefy men striding through. “Do you think they’re going to find us here?”

“Hard to tell.” Ichirou took a sip of the tea brewing in his cup. “This is tea?”
“The rest of the world drinks tea just like this, Ichirou,” I smirked, then sobered.

Ichirou took a deep breath. “What happened back there? At the Palace?”
“I think they want people with talents. Not talents like mine, but talents like yours. Like what you knew would happen when I watched your video.” I remembered the feeling of peace, of unconditional love, and thought about how it could manipulate people in the wrong hands, like hypnotists could do by inducing relaxation. Only much more so. I felt angry again.

“I didn’t know for sure my program could do that,” Ichirou responded. “I thought it might. But I had to know, because it was important.”

“You tested that on me without knowing what it would do?” I hissed just as the waiter came by with our plates. Ichirou gave me a warning look.

“Venison pierogis for you,” the waiter handed me my plate with a dancer’s grace, “and cabbage pierogis for the vegetarian. Let me know if you need anything.” The waiter walked off, glancing over his shoulder again.

“So you think they’re after me because of my animation skills,” Ichirou conjectured between bites.

“Not your skills,” I whispered to him. “Whatever it is you do that makes people want to smile. Or whatever you want them to do.”

“Oh. What do they want with the others, then? With you?”

Good question, and not one I’d been able to answer. “Nastka — Anastasja — I overheard her talking to Matusiak about practicing something. Did you notice that Dominika did not mention her talent in the introductions? And the twins acted like they had contact with this bunch before, and they looked terrified.” I remembered the white faces of the children and their mother, and I remembered the gunshots as we fled the building, and wondered what their resistance had cost them. “As for me, my only talent is music; I don’t have a talent like they’re looking for.”

“We’ll see,” Ichirou responded, rubbing his chin. “You’re here.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s