"Would you mind telling me where we're going? And why?" I said, struggling to keep up with her without falling over. She was little, but she was quick; and although my headache was slowly receding, I still felt more than a bit shaky on my feet.
"Not now. Well, some of it I'll tell you; I can hear someone dangerous. Someone wants to... to..." She shook her head, in a mind-clearing gesture I had never seen on someone so young.
"Yes you have, you've seen me do it a million..." her voice trailed off as she exclaimed, "There! That couple. They have a boat," and I noticed, in spite of my headache and vaguely cross-eyed attempt at focusing on her and general unwellness that we were, in fact, in a marina, and heading down to the docks. Near the end of one, stood a pair of adults a little older than myself--maybe my sister's age--arguing quietly, but with loudly expansive gestures.
So. My little niece--if she really was my niece, of course--wanted us to get as far away from the 'dangerous' person as possible... even to the point of sailing off into the ocean. It was the ocean, I knew it... the Atlantic Ocean... and I'd been here on a vacation with... with...
"For godsake will you stop that!" Maura shrilled at me. "You slow down every time you start trying to remember, and we have to move fast! I can see someone's thoughts, they're scaring me!" and, like the 6-year-old she was, she began to cry. Instinctively, I took her hand; it occurred to me that maybe she wanted to be picked up.
Before I got as far as lifting her, the man and the woman who had been Maura's target heard her, and in one accord they came over. Both tanned and blonde and athletic-seeming, wearing crisp logo'd clothing and in possession of what looked to be a bottle of unreasonably-priced champagne, they had the look of people who would, naturally, have their own yacht; they also had the look of people who are kind. As they approached, it was clear they'd been squabbling and were out of patience with each other, but the closer they got to Maura, the less the irritation showed on their faces, and the more their compassion showed through.
"What's the matter, hon?" asked the woman, in clipped, but friendly, New England tones. She wasn't from around here, then (where was here, exactly? I couldn't remember, but I didn't dwell, I just tried to explain as best I could, on Maura's behalf).
"I'm sorry," I said, "My niece is upset. We've just... we were in an accident, I don't know..." and as they got a good look at me, and saw the bloody mess of my hair (and the black eye I'd later discover I had) they began to exclaim, but I cut them off as rudely as I dared.
"Look, I don't mean to be a pain, but we don't have any time to waste. We need transportation. We're being... are we being followed, Maura?"
"I don't know," she said, crying but steadily winding down. “But there’s a bad, bad person nearby, and we need to get away.”
Blonde Male and Female looked at each other, but before they had time to pose any questions, we heard a car start up. In less than a minute, a clean-shaven, friendly-looking guy in a station wagon pulled up alongside the dock. Winding his window down, he said helpfully, "Y'all look like you might need a ride. Can I help?"
I am not that gullible. I looked at Maura questioningly, and she looked at him for a minute, and sort of nodded her head.
"Is it alright if we come along?" Blonde Male asked, making a sheepish face. "We were in the... accident... too, and we seem to have lost every pair of keys we own." The way his voice tightened as he said that, and the way he shot a look at his companion, made me think she was taking the blame for that one. Probably what they'd been arguing about, not that it mattered... shaking myself into action, I gratefully accepted Station Wagon Man's offer of help, loaded Maura into one of the rear-facing back seats of the car, and climbed in the front--just to keep an eye on our mysterious rescuer--leaving the middle seats for the Bionic Blondes.
We'd been driving less than 5 minutes when Maura's voice piped up from the back, in what was already becoming a familiar refrain: