Something was pushing into her back, prodding her to consciousness. Penelope swore that she would never stay in this hotel again. It had the most uncomfortable mattresses. As she opened her eyes and her mind began to clear, however, she realized where she was. She was not lying in bed, but resting on top of a pile of scrap metal.
At first, she was giddy and laughed out loud. The last thing she remembered was being impaled on a spike after getting hit by a truck. After climbing down of the junk pile, she reached down and touched the spot on her abdomen where the metal had poked through. She found nothing, not even a scar. The tear in her shirt was the only evidence left that it had happened at all.
Her joy turned sour as the implications of her miraculous healing began to seep into her mind. She wondered if she would be condemned to remain invisible for the rest of her life. Or worse, she feared she might never die but be forced to live this shadow existence forever. She sank to her knees and began to weep.
How long she lay curled up in a ball on the cold, hard ground, she couldn’t tell. Eventually, she ran out of tears, so she sat up to take a look around. It was mid-morning. The sun must have been up for a few hours already. There was no one nearby except a sleeping Doberman on a leash She couldn’t hear any machinery or vehicles running, so for the moment it was safe to go exploring.
Penelope picked her way carefully to avoid stepping on anything sharp, although more out of habit than any real concern for her safety now that she knew any wound would quickly heal. She had left her shoes under Bobby’s bed – Bobby! She remembered suddenly the last thing he must have seen was her lying dead in the back of that truck. She had to get back to him and tell him she was all right.
Bobby was the only person in all the long years of her curse that had ever seen her, but he was too young to understand what was going on. He had thought she was a character who had stepped out one of his fairy-tale books to keep him company. Penelope had quickly realized that if she hung around too long, the boy would be never be able to grow up normally, so she had decided to leave and come back when he was older.
This was not how she wanted to say goodbye to him, however. Watching someone you cared about die was likely to be as traumatic as everyone thinking you were crazy because you were talking to a ghost. She would have to get back there and show him she wasn’t hurt. Besides, everything she owned was still in that house. First she would have to get out of here though, wherever that was. It was not much of a plan, but it was a start.
She was halfway to the trailer that passed for an office when a pickup drove into the yard and parked nearby. Penelope was a little surprised when a young woman got out. She had a pretty face and her long, dirty blond hair tied up in a ponytail. Despite the stained coveralls that she wore, she was not the sort of person you expected to see hanging around a junkyard. Penelope turned and started walking towards the truck. If nothing else, she could hitch a ride out of here with this woman.
A man appeared at the door of the trailer and called out, “Good morning, Sarah.”
The woman waved back at him and gave him a forced smile.
“There’s some tractor parts just came in,” he said. “Thought you might be interested, so I set them aside.”
“Thanks,” said Sarah. “I’ll take a look.”
As Sarah walked toward the trailer, Penelope slipped into the passenger seat of the pick-up and was grateful for its relative comfort. While she waited for Sarah to finish her business, she peeled off her ruined socks and ditched them out the window. She leaned back and got comfortable. There was no telling how long Sarah would be.
Penelope watched as the man followed Sarah around the yard. He seemed overly attentive and would stare at Sarah’s body when he thought she wasn’t looking. Despite all the disadvantages of being invisible, the one thing Penelope had never missed was the nearly constant ogling and harassment that came with being a woman. Under different circumstances, she might have put salt in his coffee or tied his shoelaces together, but she had too much to worry about for now.
After almost an hour of picking through the junk and loading the back of the truck, Sarah handed the junk man a small wad of bills and said goodbye. Penelope was relieved when Sarah finally got in the truck and started it up. It was getting close to midday, and the interior of the truck had quickly become unbearably hot.
They drove through an industrial park by the river and Penelope was finally able to get her bearings. She was clear across town from Bobby’s place and was glad she had not had to walk all the way there barefoot. When Sarah pulled into a small compound, however, Penelope thought for a moment that she had only traded one scrapyard for another, but then she noticed patterns in the mess which were undoubtedly sculptures. Apparently, Sarah was an artist, and from what Penelope could tell, a fairly decent one at that.
The truck stopped at the base of what looked like the bottom half of a horse, and Sarah got out to unload the metal from the back. Since that was likely to take a while, Penelope decided that this was a good time to forage for some shoes. She had just started toward the house when a cacophony of banging metal started behind her. Sarah was flinging chunks of scrap over her shoulder like the were empty beer cans, even though they must have weighed half as much as she did.
Penelope could only stand and watch in awe. After long years of searching, she had found someone with a gift like herself. Granted, it was not exactly the same, but this woman might have the answers Penelope needed to make herself whole again. She needed to talk to her. More than ever she needed to find Bobby. He was the only one who could help her now.
To be continued…