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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.”
Bette cursed herself when she looked at her watch. They had been in The Room of Discovery for longer than she thought, and she guessed Tina had not had much to eat that day. A small breakfast earlier but now it was almost 2:00. She led Tina to her office and dimmed the lights while Tina sank into the couch gratefully.