“So Gemma was your grandmother?” Esther began.
“Yeah,” Lucy replied. “I knew her health had been slipping for a while—”
Esther remembered leaning on the conveyer belt in front of Lucy’s register and staring into her face, trying to gauge her emotion. Instead she noticed Lucy’s exotic features; some mix of asian and African and plain ol’ white. There was a tiny jewel in her nose and a definite sadness around her eyes, but mainly Lucy just looked burdened.
“Um . . . She was a great greeter. Your grandma.”
Esther winced over her absurdly bad eulogy.
“Thanks.” Lucy smirked. “She talked about you a lot.”
“Oh yeah. ‘Esther’s a good kid,” she said, putting on a quavering voice. “‘Needs some direction, though.’”
“Sounds about right. She talked about you, too.”
Esther remembered how Lucy’s eyes brightened. She was embarrassed because Gemma had really not mentioned Lucy much at all. It was just over the last couple of weeks that Gemma worked at Pak-Mart that she started talking about Lucy. Nonsense mainly. Lucy’s face remained expectant though, and Esther, failing to find a lie sputtered the truth.
“It was a sort of a . . . joke, I guess,” she said, stroking her bone straight hair. “She would tap her temple and say, ‘That Lucy, she’ll take over the family business.’ I guess she was kind of . . . going.”
They were both silent.
“I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“No, thank you.”
There seemed to be genuine gratitude in Lucy’s face, which was a shock to Esther. Emboldened by the reaction, Esther told her the other thing Gemma used to say.
“There was one more thing, if you want to know it.”
“She told me, ‘Mr. Chalmers had his estate sale.’”
If the gratitude had been a shock to Esther, it was nothing compared to the waves of emotion that crossed Lucy’s face. Shock, panic, then terror hardening into determination. Lucy reached across the conveyer and grabbed Esther by her blue smocked shoulder. Her fingers dug in slightly.
“She said ‘Chalmers?’”
“Yes, Chalmers,” Esther replied, swatting Lucy’s hand from her shoulder. “I reckon you missed the big sale, though. That was a few of weeks ago. Sorry you missed your china, or whatever you buy at estate sales.”
Lucy covered her face with her hands.
“How did I not hear about Chalmers?” she said. “Dale. I’m going to kill Dale Stain.”
“Yeah, sorry ‘bout your luck,” Esther said. She had been disturbed by Lucy’s behavior.
"That's when I should have walked away," she thought.
Instead she said, “I’ll tell you what though. I’ll just give you what she gave me.”
A few aisles away, a cash register chimed a sale.
“She gave you something?” Lucy asked. Her voice shook. She was struggling to maintain control.
“Yeah, a handkerchief with a bug stitched on it. But seriously, it’s yours.”
In a split second Lucy had switched on her ‘calm.’ She waved her hand.
“No, she gave it to you. It’s yours. Just,” here the panic stirred the surface of her face again, “take care of it. For Grandma.”
A customer entered the line behind Esther.
“I’m going to go,” she said.
“Do you have any padparadscha?” the man asked.
Lucy flicked off the light illuminating the bright number ‘12’ over her head.
“I’m sorry sir, this lane just closed.”
"Yep. Totally weird."
The sound of a door scraping a warped floor pulled Esther's attention up the stairs. The upper landing was an exposed walkway, but it was just as crowded with antiques and knick knacks as the downstairs so Esther couldn't see what was going on. Sam rose to his feet as Lucy rounded the corner and began to descend the stairs.
"Got the girl and the flag. Saw a truck."
Sam nodded. Lucy hurried to Esther and hugged her.
"Glad you're safe, girl."
Esther extricated herself and eyed her friend.
"Any reason why I shouldn't be?"