Thursday, August 11, 2005

Chapter 7: October 15, 2030

The album arrived the next day, while Lily was in the back room sharpening her tools. It was in a white box, wrapped in pink and black tissue paper. The opening picture was a blown up news photo of a car bombing near shops and government offices in Johannesburg, South Africa. The next few photos showed a teenaged Chloe and her father, in mourning clothes at a funeral for Chloe’s mother. The obituary explained that it was a contaminated blood transfusion, rather than the blast itself, that had killed her. This, Lily had expected, having heard the whole story from Mark after her meeting with Chloe. But, after these first few pages, were “before” pictures, obituaries, and “after” family pictures, not posed but at homes and shops and schools, for each of the other fourteen victims of the blast, some dead, others, horribly wounded. Black and white; brown and Asian. Muslim, Christian and neither.

Chloe had commissioned the biggest ice sculpture Lily had ever attempted. That afternoon she prepared a sketch, with the bombing in center stage, surrounded by a scene related to each of the fifteen victims circling the blast, each scene obviously related to a particular person, despite the absence of lines or circles to directly connect them. Lily even, as the picture album had, included a picture of the family of the bomber himself, a human, caring picture that showed why he might have done it. The finished scene had several projections on two foot by three foot bond paper in gray watercolor. She gave Chloe only one option, to give a thumbs up or down. Mark reviewed the sketches before they went out, as he always did. He’d given her considerable input when she started at first, often sending her back to the drawing board. He still did. Lily had been working for Mark less than a year. This time, however, Mark simply intoned, “Yes.”, and Lily called the bike messenger and gave him the address of Chloe’s advertising agency.

Lily was surprised to find the bike messenger return an hour later. Chloe had told him to stay for her reply. A sweet smelling piece of folded hand made paper in an envelope made of the same paper and sealed in wax came back. Lily broke the seal. In flowing deep black fountain pen ink, was a single word in Chloe’s hand. “Yes.”

Lily cried, and after a decent interval, the bike messenger gave her his receipt pad for her to put her thumbprint on. Lily did. A soft ding rang from the plastic slate, and the man was on his bicycle and off to his next job.

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