Dragon Soul(2)

By: Katie MacAlister

“It’s not my name,” Mrs. P said, letting me assist her to her feet. “It never was my name. He gave me the name. He thought it was amusing.”

“I’m sure Mr. Papadopolous had an excellent sense of humor,” I said soothingly, giving Adrienne a little knowing look. She’d been on my side ever since I explained how Mrs. P had used my visit to the toilet to blithely rifle through the bags of fellow sleeping passengers. I herded my charge toward the last row of seats, saying softly, “Now, would you like to watch another movie, or do you want to have a little rest? I think a nap is an excellent idea. We still have another five hours before we land in Germany, and you don’t want to be tired when we get there, do you?”

Mrs. P turned her pale blue eyes to me. “I like gold. You must like gold, too. Isn’t it pretty when it glistens in the sunlight?”

“Uh… pardon?”

She gave me a beatific smile. “I knew your husband when he was a youngling dragon, still learning to control his fire.”

“Dragon?” I gawked at her, not sure I heard the word correctly.

“Yes. He has much better manners than you. He would never treat me as if I have no wits left to call my own.”

I stared at her for a few seconds, unsure of how to take that. “I didn’t… I apologize if I seemed rude, Mrs. P, but my husband was most definitely not a dragon. And for the record, I’m a widow.”

She said nothing, just pursed her lips a little, then slid me a gently disappointed look.

“As in, my husband died almost three years ago. And yes, he had lovely manners, but he’s not around anymore, and in fact, when I met him, it was the first time he’d been to the U.S. He spent most of his time in Asia running a family business. Let’s get you back into your seat. Hello again, Claudia.”

The last sentence was spoken when we approached the woman across the aisle from our seats, a pleasant woman in her mid-forties who was on her way to visit family in Germany. She had been very chatty during the earlier part of the trip, taking an interest in my plight when I hurriedly explained to her that Mrs. P was an elderly lady in need of watching. When we stopped at our row, she was holding a book on her lap.

“Ah, you have found the owner of the pink sex toy?” she asked in a voice that was very slightly German. She tipped her head in question while I got Mrs. P settled in her chair.

“Yes, thankfully. It was owned by a lady on the other side.” Wise to the ways of Mrs. P, I made sure to buckle her in before relaxing my guard.

“I will watch a movie,” Mrs. P graciously allowed. I got her headphones plugged in, and flipped through her movie choices, stopping when she said, “That one. No, the one with the male dancer. Did I tell you that I was a president’s hoochie-coo girl?”

“Yes, you mentioned that when I picked you up at your hotel.”

“I was quite the dancer in those days, you know. I received many shinies for my dancing, many pretties that I kept hidden. Men used to ogle me when I danced, and afterward, they gave me things.” She cackled quietly to herself. “It was a long time ago, a very long time ago, but I remember it well. I remember each of the shinies given to me, although I don’t remember all of the men. A few I do remember, but they were the ones who gave me the best pretty things. I won’t tell you the president’s name, because I never was one to kiss and tell, but one time, he wanted me to pretend that he was a walrus—he had a very big mustache—and that I was a little native girl, and so we got naked while he took a tub of lard—”

“I’m sure you were an awesome dancer,” I interrupted, trying to expunge the sudden mental image she had generated, “but as I think I mentioned in L.A., for you to have been that particular president’s… uh… companion would mean that you were a very old lady indeed.”

Still chortling at her reminiscences, she patted my knee with a gnarled hand. “Appearances can be deceiving. You remember that, and you’ll survive just fine.”

Survive? I didn’t realize that was in question. I gave her another suspicious glance, but she was settled back happily watching her movie. Mrs. P had a way of inserting an unexpected word into a sentence that made me feel uncomfortable. And then there was her mention of knowing my late husband…