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Where we came out of that Fire Escape was someplace I had never been but it was part of Nowhere House. Specifically, it was a hangar bay that apparently the house had all along but Jim never bothered to tell anyone about it, and Jill never came across it. As I climbed out of the space car, I looked around and stretched my legs and back as it felt I’d been stuck in that car with KJ and who ever that old lady was for much longer than the tens of minutes it had actually been. Maybe it was just the stress of passing through Fire Escape portals? I’d been through a bunch in a row before and had felt worse for wear. So, maybe that was it?
“So, this is our hangar bay?”
“No, son–it’s MY hangar bay. It’s MINE,” Jim said standing by a doorway that I’d soon learn led back into the library. Jill, Kate, Dr. Green passed through Jim and approached us. All of them smiling.
“Well, that was just uncool,” Jim said of the passing-through.
Jill approached me with a soft but hesitant smile on her face. We both awkwardly looked at each other but then I just gasped and said: “You can hug me if you want.”
Her smile went full-power, she nodded and we put our arms around each other. Being in my big sister’s arms again was so nice. Not just because of what I’d been through, but to have that old relationship we had as kids back. All those years ago, when we were just normal. Before all of this happened to us. I remembered her being a normal girl and I, being a normal boy. Well, as normal as being a not-yet-out gay teenager could be in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
But now more than ever I missed those days. Then again, I wasn’t entirely sure that I remembered everything from back then. I had a sneaking suspicion that the happy memories were almost too vivid.
“So, hey, that was fun, huh?” the old lady said to no one in particular. I decided that was a good a time as any to finally find out who she was.
“Hey, uh, can I ask who you are?”
“Sure, that’s fair, I mean I know who you are Jacob Rivera, office assistant in a life insurance office.”
“Soooo… you are?”
“Well, it’s a little complicated. I’m friends with Wise. I’m told he’s a friend of yours.”
“Oh.” I was startled by the mention of Wise. I hadn’t thought about him after he died. Wait–he was a time traveler–does this woman know he’s dead? How was I going to even react to this admission? I had no idea.
“Yeah, he and I go way back, in a way. We’re so close you could say everything he knows, I know, pretty much.”
“But do you know everything about him? Like where is he? Right now?”
“Well kid, this is Nowhere House–it’s a place out-of-time. So, I’m gonna need you to clarify yourself.”
“Well, he, uh, well, I’m not sure how to say this, but…
“He died?” She spoke with a tone of flatness I really wasn’t expecting.
“In my arms, actually.”
“Oh, I’m sure that was a very touching thing to experience, but dying is kind of Wise’s thing.”
“What the heck do you mean?” KJ asked.
“Word–who has ‘death’ as a hobby?” Kate asked.
“That’d be Wise,” the old lady said.
“So, you’re saying he didn’t die in my arms?”
“No, he did. He just… it’s complicated. You can call me Dot, in the meantime. Short for Dorothy.
I’m old. And I’m named after my grandma because she was a school teacher and was the greatest.”
My heart and mind was a mess of emotions but I felt weirdly warm, after hearing Wise was alive, maybe?