A Very Minou Mystery Part 2
Maya grew up with many pieces of the story in her head. It wasn’t until later, maybe one day walking alone along the Doubs in France where she had moved for school, or scaling her eyes over cracked spines of books at a used book store, that she realized they were many pieces of many stories. That may have been an overwhelming realization for any normal person, but for Maya, she finally understood that she no longer needed to fit every little bit into one complete picture.
Maya’s parents disappeared on her tenth birthday. Instead of the drama of police lights and sirens, there was silence. She remembered the growing dark of night in the wide Midwestern summer sky, the brightening stars matching the candles on her birthday cake her Aunt Pam made, her dress as pink and puffy as the cake.
Crickets. Disappointment is normally very quiet. Maya didn’t understand until she saw her Aunt Pam crying, permed out and holding her new baby as she gripped the telephone, and then she cried too. On her tenth birthday, Maya became Aunt Pam’s oldest child.
Maya scrubbed, peeled, primed, and painted the place for months. Before that they ripped up the carpet and refinished wooden floors, they fixed pipes and moldy ceilings, cleared out mice nests and put in new sinks. The cracked shop window was replaced and there was not a dead fly in sight. Everything that wasn’t timeless had to go. And according to Johnny her contractor, that was most of it.
Johnny didn’t mind the intensity of the work, but he didn’t really understand it.
“Maya with the money you have you could get a better spot for your chocolate shop,” he mused one day as they gutted another wall and found another mouse holiday spot, or maybe a winter home, and then he laughed because he felt pure glee imagining pretty people choosing their fancy chocolates in this shit hole. If only they knew. But they would never know how amazing his work was, they would never even suspect one little leaky faucet. That’s how good his work was. Not that he was bragging.
Maya waited him out as he wiped joyful tears from his eyes with a red hanky. It took awhile, Johnny had been holding this in the whole past month. He finally got a grip when he saw Maya wasn’t sharing his sense of irony. Usually she did.
“Are you OK?” and he gave her shoulder a pat, “how about we take a break? I’ll have my guys in tomorrow to work on the pipes.”
Maya had been very hands-on through this whole project. It’s true she had a lot of money. Suddenly, a lot of money. She never had any money until a few months ago, just before she moved back to Omaha from her last ten years in France, where she had switched from studying literature to pastry and worked as a chocolatier in a small factory where they still made their own chocolate from cocoa beans. Maya had been back in these past ten years, visiting Aunt Pam and her ever-growing family, bringing special wines and candies and stories. But when Maya returned in the spring on a one-way ticket, bought a house down the street from the one she grew up in, and had enough money to shore up Aunt Pam’s debts and also start a new chocolate factory of her own, well something was just a bit off.
Aunt Pam would not accept Maya’s story, which was minimalist at best. According to Maya, she just “came into some money.” Aunt Pam pushed as far as she could to get more information, surveyed Maya’s body the best she could to sense any changes, rattled in her bags when she was in the bathroom. Finally she gave up and accepted that Maya had simply come into some money.
“Just tell me that you’re safe,” Aunt Pam, hair less permed but still big and frizzy, clutched Maya’s roughed kitchen hands one night at the table, the same one Maya had blown her ten candles out on twenty years ago.
“I’m safe,” Maya said. And she thought she was.
So there she was, standing next to stout Johnny in her new chocolate shop crumbling around her. And yes she could pay for a “better” shop, but she had known for some time that this one would have to be hers. The Jacinta building had haunted her even in France, surrounded by drifts of classical architecture that seemed to just come up and exist like the mountains around that small town. There was something for her here. She put on some gloves and started to pull out the muck.
“It’s OK Johnny, I’ll just clean this up, maybe we can get a drink after.”
“I’m OK with that,” Johnny smiled at her, and turned to gather up his tools. “You know why this place is like this, don’t you?”
“What do you mean, kept in such tip top condition?”
Johnny chuckled, “Yeah. You know what I mean. People say it’s haunted. And they believe it. They won’t come near it.”
Maya continued pulling out trash and tiny excrement from the wall. “Do you believe it Johnny?” And she squinted. There was something off to the side, an envelope…
“Maybe, hey watcha got there,” and they both looked at the old paper in Maya’s hands, a sketch of a young woman with deep, wide eyes.