The thing was, the industrial areas of the city hadn’t been abandoned that long. 15 years since the last manufacturing business folded in the area, sure, seven since the last start-up trying to use the old spaces fizzled out. But there were hobos and drifters, skaters and hippies. There was always someone wandering through the space. Leticia walked through herself, Tuesdays and Thursdays when she didn’t have much time between work and classes.
Which is how she knew something was up when she encountered the oak grove. It was Tuesday, which meant she’d last been through this cut-through – between the old Gleason Works building and the even older Lomb plant, where the workers of both had once shared bag lunches and a brief bit of unfiltered sunlight – it had last been only 5 days ago.
Last week, the courtyard had been full of weeds, a little bit of trash, with a beaten path straight through the middle.
Today, there were five oak trees in a circle where a picnic table had once stood. They weren’t small trees, either; the smallest one was too big for Letitia to encircle with her arms.
She walked around the trees cautiously. This had to be some sort of trick, some sort of urban graffiti gone supremely weird. Trees just didn’t grow overnight. Not in a vacant lot, not anywhere.
Her foot hit something hard. Letita knelt down to look, perplexed beyond caution.
A piece of metal twisted out of the weeds, so rusted it fell apart in her hands. Another piece of metal caught her eye, white and pitted. In the flat metal, a heart was etched, dirt rubbed deep into the lines.
Letita felt chill. She knew this heart. If she pulled the rest of the metal out of the weeds, it would say QW + ZX. She’d puzzled over those initials and the heart’s wobbly arrow for months. They’d been carved into the picnic table, the table that had stood where the oak trees now grew.
Slowly, her heart in her throat, Letita turned around to look at the city skyline.
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