New Thing, 3
Cold Valley. That didn’t sound too promising.
I had stuck the pin in with more force than I realised. It had landed in the tiny gap between ‘Cold’ and ‘Valley’ so there was no question about that—and it was in so far that I couldn’t pull it out, so I couldn’t pretend accidentally to knock it loose and forget where it had been and do it again. Next time with maybe my eyes open a slit.
Cold Valley. Well, I’d decided I was going to choose my entire future by closing my eyes and sticking a pin in a map, so I could damn well live with it. I’m sure Flowerhair would have agreed. Doomblade would have anyway. But this was the real world and I wouldn’t have to stay in Cold Valley—and I had to do something. Cold Valley would probably do as well as anywhere else for now.
Probably. I could see by the map that it was out in the middle of nowhere. Its name was in the smallest print and there wasn’t even a tiny smudge of town: just the name. The atlas was old though—maybe Cold Valley had turned into a heaving arts center in the last ten years . . . in which case I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
I googled it. Cold Valley was on Cold Lake and . . . not much else. There was a drugstore that also sold postcards, newspapers and milk. The nearest supermarket was Godzilla Food . . . which was in a mall somewhere between Amity and New Iceland, about twenty miles away. Cold Valley did have a real estate agent—well, sort of. It was a branch of Homeric Houses in New Iceland (this cold thing was starting to get me down) which was the wrong side of Amity. New Iceland at least rated a small map-smudge. I emailed Homeric Houses before I lost my nerve, and asked what there was available to rent in Cold Valley. Then I went to make myself another cup of tea. There were eggs in the refrigerator. I contemplated the eggs. Was I hungry? I didn’t think I was hungry. I looked at the cup of tea. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant. And it might have been caffeine and not nerves that made my hand shake when I stuck the pin in the atlas. And if my hand hadn’t been shaking, the pin might not have hit Cold Valley.
My email pinged. That was fast.
But it was only Gelasio, hoping I was all right and . . . I deleted it.
Maybe I’d have those eggs after all.
There was still a stool in the kitchen so I ate sitting down at the counter. Just as I had done in my old one-room apartment in the East Village twenty years ago, because there wasn’t space for anything else, like a table and chairs. In those days I had been grateful to have the counter. It was even the same stool. Perfectly good basic pine stool, you give it a fresh paint job once a decade or so. . . .
I wasn’t going to be miserable. I wasn’t going to be miserable.
My email pinged again. It was probably just Norah, reminding me of the many virtues of her guest room. My local friends were mostly in publishing, and the ones who lived in Manhattan didn’t run to guest rooms because they couldn’t afford it. Norah was the exception. She was the CEO of Megalodon Books. She’d been the acquiring editor who’d brought in Jonquil Fortesque just before she wrote PTARMIGAN APOCALYPSE and, two years later, not only bought but masterminded the marketing strategy for Dominique Zylstra’s THOU ART DAMNED LIKE AN ILL-ROASTED EGG, and since then Norah could pretty much write her own job description, including her salary. She had five bedrooms on the Upper West Side, and only four of them were occupied.
She was probably my best and oldest friend. I hoped she’d visit me in Cold Valley. Although I wasn’t sure she’d ever been farther north than the Bronx.
But I’d finished my (scrambled) eggs and it was too early to go to bed. I went back to check on my email again.
Thank you for contacting Homeric Homes. We are pleased to attach details of two rental properties immediately available in Cold Valley. However if you would give us more idea of what you are looking for we would hope to be able to pinpoint the right property for you. It is perhaps worth mentioning that purchase prices in this area are quite reasonable at present. The name at the bottom, over the Homeric Homes banner, was ‘Hayley’.
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