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Tina smiled, looking at James. “That’s because you’re a ‘Come Here’” she said shrugging, “they won’t talk to you about river stories, you don’t belong.”
“A what?” Bette asked, walking over with three water bottles for everyone.
“Thank you, Love” Tina said, accepting the offered drink and sipping it gratefully.
“A ‘Come Here’. There’s two types of folks in the river region you see. The ones who aren’t born there and the ones who are. The ‘Come Heres’ arrive for one reason or another, some are tourists and some just passing through. Others stay. You could live there your whole life, raise kids and still be considered a ‘Come Here’ if you weren’t born there…”
Bette loved that Tina’s southern accent was coming out the more she talked, it was very sexy, and had a way of pulling her into the story. “What about the people who were born there?”
“Well, Sugar… “ and in Tina’s accent, this came out Sugah… ”those are the ‘From Heres’ and those are the ones who are the most difficult to talk to. They take great pride in their lineage, especially if they are River Rats. You will never get the story from them assuming they know anything. They like to speculate though… biggest gossips on the planet if you ask the right questions… and they tell some of the tallest tales you will ever hear…”
James and Bette looked at each other, noticing the far away look in Tina’s eyes, the nostalgia in her voice. “There’s one person who may talk to us, though. If he’s not still mad at me…”
Tina walked over to the wall of news clippings and pointed to a small story about a young high schooler who won the school Geography Challenge, earning him a hundred dollars. The story had been crossed out by a black pen, deemed irrelevant since there was no obvious connection to Boo.
Bette leaned down to read the caption under the picture of a scrawny, big eared ninth grader who looked like he weighed fifty pounds, soaking wet. “Peter Thompson…” she said doubtfully, looking up at James, who shrugged.
“Turnup” Tina said quietly, fondly. “Everyone called him Turnup…”
“Turnip? I’m sorry Tee but that is a ghastly name for a child. Very unfortunate….”
Tina smiled, drinking more of her water, her eyes meeting Bette’s over the top of the bottle.
“Not Turnip, Baby. Turn. Up. Turnup. Boo called him that and everyone else followed suit. She had a nickname for some of the real river rats, the ones whose family lived there for generations…”
“The From Here River Rats…” Bette said quietly, earning a fond chuckle from Tina, who nodded at her.
“Of sorts, yes. She said he was always underfoot, that he always turned up when there was food on the table or river drama going down. And she wasn’t wrong. Turnup had an alcoholic father and sometimes didn’t have a meal to eat at suppertime and he was a tiny little thing… so most of the time, people didn’t notice he was there. And he was always around… he saw everything… heard what he didn’t see… turned up at the most curious of times.”
“Where he is now?” James asked, looking through a list of residents he obtained from the City Registry.
“He won’t be on that list, James. Most river folk don’t pay taxes and distrust the city. He’s still there last I heard. He was at Boo’s the day we all met Honey. It was a terrible day, I will never forget it…” Tina’s voice trailed off and she walked away from them to stop in front of the family tree. Bette took a couple steps towards her.
Tina looked back at them, a sad smile on her face, her accent thicker as her emotions surfaced. “It was also one of the best days of my life… right up until I met you, that is…” her eyes locked on Bette’s and Bette’s heart surged in her chest. Tina’s expression was unreadable, but she looked lost, bereft.
Without breaking eye contact, Bette spoke. “James, pick up some lunch from the Planet. Tell Kit who it is for, she will know what to send. Something for you too. And get us more coffee and some crumb cake if it’s available, not the lemon one. Tina and I need a minute to ourselves, please.”