Posts from the ‘Fiction’ Category

Adventure Awaits

“You know you want to come along.”

I rolled over in my bed and glared at the window. I saw the Tim’s lean frame through the window and was pretty sure I could make out a grin on his face. I also knew that if he was here, I was going to leave with him. The thing to know about Tim is that he always wears the most beautiful jeans from Buckle and that he is quite manipulative.

“I’m sleeping, go away,” I said in a mock-sleepy voice. I had hardly slept the last few nights. If anything besides manipulative, Tim was predictable. I could see his restless heart probably better than he could and knew he was about done with this place.

See this here is how it happened. We got recruited right out of high school. They bring in kids from all over the U.S. They train us and then send us out into the world to do quests or some crap. They didn’t really give us much detail but we are trained in most of the same stuff that the army is trained in along with professional business-speak and such. I could work in an office or be an assassin. The missions vary but this is a private company owned by some crazy old man who seems to want to control the world. It is all a little odd but we get paid really well and right out of high school, I wasn’t ready for the ramen college life and so I took up their offer.

“Don’t make me come in there,” Tim said, starting to hoist himself up through the window.

I went the two steps it took to cross my cabin and opened the door in a resigned manner. Tim often came to visit me. He was my closest friend here and we were probably the closest friends out of the group. But we didn’t really hang out with the same people when we did group activities, didn’t quite attract the same person, I guess. My friends were lamer and I knew it.

He walked in and sat down at my reading chair. I hated when people sat in my reading chair but his jeans were pretty damn nice today and I could see that even through the darkness. I decided to let the chair thing slide, like I usually did with him.

“Why don’t you want to go?” He asked me, putting his “I’m all ears” face on.

I climbed back into my bed. No sense in wasting the warmth of my comforter.

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. I always used that line when I really did want to talk about something but was being a pest about it.

“I’m waiting.” He told me, getting comfortable in his chair. I put the pillow over my head. He and a few of his friends had decided they wanted to go out and see the world and find a quest of their own because we had been here longer than any of the other training groups and we still hadn’t been assigned a place to go. We wondered why they hadn’t sent us out but all they would tell us was to be patient. It was odd that we hadn’t been sent away to a job and we were getting impatient.

He gave it about thirty seconds and then got up and I assumed started walking to the door. I heard his hand grab the knob and I peeked out from under the pillow.

“Wait.” I told him.

He came back and this time sat down on the bed next to me and looked down at me.

“So? Care to enlighten me?”

“Ugh. I’ve already close to killed my parents by going here versus being the good kid and going to college. If this falls through they’ll do that annoying parent thing where they are all disappointed.”

“That’s not the real issue though, is it?” He said, scrunching up his eyebrows.

“I mean…” I braced myself for this explanation. I was glad he wasn’t the type to laugh. “I think your friends are cool and whatnot. However, I just don’t think this will be a good fit. Like they think I’m cool ‘cause I’m friends with you but I’ll be the odd one out. I know this sounds lame but I feel like it’ll be uncomfortable.”

As usual he didn’t laugh. He pondered the room for a moment. I waited in my somewhat patient manner and tried not to move around too much. I was restless.

He looked back at me, “I see what you mean. But let me tell you, you don’t give yourself enough credit. People like you a lot more than you know.”

I couldn’t look at him. I had always been awful with compliments.

“Okay, lets go,” I said and then didn’t move. “Its just kinda warm here and out there, not so much.” I gestured to the outdoors.

Tim looked peered down at me and I felt like he was trying to decide something. I looked away for a moment and next thing I knew his face was inches from mine and he kissed me.

“I’m pretty warm, too. Grab your stuff.”

“Okay.” I smiled because I knew this would be my greatest adventure yet. He started to get up and I said, “Hold on.” I sat up and grabbed his shirt and kissed him again.

He pulled back and looked at me with a smile, “Quit distracting me and get your stuff. I’ve gotta wake the others.”

He walked out, his Buckle jeans still as nice as ever, and I started packing.

It was time to move.

 

 

 

Hair dye, who am I?

It mattered, I had tried telling myself that it didn’t and I could move on. But the the truth was, I couldn’t hide from the way I felt about my hair.

The blond dye just wasn’t working for me. I used to have a dark brown hair and I had decided to try out this new color one day. I studied myself in the mirror and then went to apply my mascara, thinking that if my makeup looked good maybe no one would notice my weird hair color.

Who was I kidding? I loved the attention I got for a new hair color. I absolutely soaked them up with cutsie little “thank you’s” and a giddy smile.

Of course, it wasn’t really the hair that I was concerned about. I was worried about who I was and who I wanted to be. I was concerned about my appearance and how I wanted to come across. Maybe I was too focused on what other people thought but I didn’t know how to evaluate myself a different way.

I supposed I did know. I knew that my self-approval needed to come from the inside. It needed to come from the fact that Jesus made me in his image and he loved me more than any person on earth could ever love me. Some days this seemed like an easy task. Jesus loved me and that was all I needed.

But other days I just wanted someone to approve of who I was. I wanted someone on earth to show me their love. I wanted to be successful and famous and yet humble and kind.

I wanted it all.

Yet all I had was a new “do” and some fresh shampoo and conditioner for dyed hair. I finished with my makeup and fluffed my hair.

I looked in the mirror and told myself “Jesus loves you” and then left the room. Maybe this dye would help out after all.

Because I Used to Like You

Today I took a hammer to the necklace you gave me. Also, the earrings, the shot glass and that dumb little mirror that I can barely see my face in.

I couldn’t yell at you. I couldn’t tell you how much I hate you right now (well, not so much after the hammering). I couldn’t tell you how I felt about everything you didn’t say.

I made my choices and you didn’t like them. You came up with the consequences for my actions. You decided to ignore me. Maybe a little part of me deserved that. Maybe since I pretty much left you without explaining why I was going. It wasn’t an actual boyfriend-girlfriend breakup where I’m like “Its over” and you’re like “Why” and I give you some cliche answer like “I must travel far far away to find my true self that has been lost.”

It was more like I just detached myself because it wasn’t right. I guess I didn’t leave you an explanation. I supposed I didn’t tell you why. But I think maybe you’re smart enough that you can figure out that we have different life paths. Maybe you should be able to JUST PUT IT TOGETHER that you created the divide between us by becoming someone who didn’t ever spend a casual Friday night in, someone who wouldn’t ever talk to me seriously like I need to be talked to, someone whose life revolved around a culture that we agreed didn’t have much to offer us in the end.

And so I ignored you and we became acquaintances again. Not angry acquaintances, or so I thought. But then your anger came out, months later, when I talked to your friends about the excessive smoking and doing nothing at all with your life. They talked to you and you pinned me as the instigator of your reform committee.

If only you knew it was only because I used to like you. I thought you were great! And then you changed on me. Or your mask fell off. It doesn’t really matter because, even though part of me was mad, most of it was because there is a part of my heart that is still soft for you. Not because I love you or am not over you, but because what we had, our relationship and those moments were more than just a little fling. More than just the average relationship. Or so I thought.

Today, I just had to let all my anger go at you. I know yelling at you won’t do anything because it isn’t the right way to approach you. See, I even know the right way to approach you. I also know that I want to be a good person and that this is my anger I need to deal with, not yours.

So I took a hammer to it all. I also broke that stupid glass your friend left at my apartment, the one with the elephant on the front, for good measure. I enjoyed breaking it and throwing it in the trash. Part of me wanted to put it in a card and send it your way but I know that I’m not that angry. That’s the hurt coming through. The pain of someone who left someone else for her own good but didn’t explain. The pain of someone who hates being hated for trying to do the right thing by talking to your friends. The pain of someone who has a history with you.

Maybe someday we will talk. But for today, I broke it all. Then I threw it away.

I feel a bit better, actually. I think I might be ready to blow on another dandelion and make a new wish because I can stop looking back at my old, bent up and squashed ones that didn’t work out.

 

 

 

Ignorance is Bliss

Sometimes I wonder why I’m here. What am I truly doing here, in this world all at once full of mystery and magic and malice? Why am I a part of it? Then I remember that I’m here because I have a gift. I have a gift that no one else does; one that will control my destiny and other’s. My gift is confusing for other people, or at least, it would be, if ever told anyone about it. But I haven’t told anyone. Not even my boyfriend. The pretend scenarios in my head with me coming out about my gift never end well. Who would believe me anyways, if I said that I can smell emotion?

I am homicide detective Ellie Hollins. I’m like the opposite of the fictional Shawn Spencer from Psych. Shawn pretends to be a psychic detective while working for the police department, but he relies not on psychic powers but on his own observational skills. At my police department, I work under the guise that I am keenly observant, but no one knows that I rely on my sense of smell. I suppose in some sense we’re both liars. Still, I always say there is a gray area when it comes to lies.

Emotion also leaves a lingering smell in the air, even after the person has left. Thus, by searching the suspect’s apartment or even finding a trace footprint will leave a strong enough whiff to hint to his or her state of mind. My co-worker’s suspect t killer struck out of jealously? His fruity smelling apartment, the odor of contentment, says otherwise. Happy people don’t kill their wives for revenge. My boss once ruled a death a suicide. But at the crime scene, I didn’t smell despair and loneliness as I would have expected. I smelled fear and pain.  I dug deeper and found that some crime scene details matched a string of murders done by a serial killer. The victim had been tortured by the killer, thus the lingering fear in the air.

So I am able to change people’s destiny, in a way. I can protect the dignity of an innocent person, and stop a murderer’s killing spree.

One thing I can’t seem to do is hold on to a steady relationship.

Tyler picked me up from work today. My boyfriend of six months, he’s the longest running relationship I’ve ever had. Usually I catch them in a lie before now. The smell of a lie is too distinct and too painful for me to ignore.

“So I was thinking,” I say as I climb into his car, “that instead of going to our usual place for dinner, we switch it up. Go to something more elaborate. We should celebrate.”

“Celebrate what?” He says, pulling out of the police department parking lot. I can smell anticipation emanating from him.

“Six months,” I say. He knows my tumultuous past about length of relationships. He should understand how big of a deal this is.

But now I smell hesitation in the car. “Six months, huh?”

I watch him squirm, but wait, knowing that there’s more he isn’t saying.

“You know, babe,” he starts, “that’s something we ought to talk about.”

“What’s that?”

“Six months. I just think it’s time to, you know…”

The words “move on” hang in the air. The car reeks of his restlessness and fear. Fear? “You’re scared of where this is going, of commitment, aren’t you?”

He stares at me. “What? How did you know that? I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t need to.” I shake my head. I knew this was coming.  “You can let me off at the corner. It reeks in here.”

“What?”

“Just let me off here.”

“I still want to be friends…”

I get out of the car and think of all the couples I see everyday.  A woman hanging on a man’s arm, giggling at something he said. Does she know that he smells of insincerity and lies? Does he know that the stench of disloyalty clings to her very clothing? I realize now that I don’t want that. I’ll never know if ignorance is truly bliss; and I want it that way.

Lonely girl

The blonde girl at the bar was pissing me off. There she went, flipping all that blonde hair everywhere like she was simply here for the fun of it. Flirting with the boys like she had nowhere else to be but here for everyone to adore her.

I looked at my measly wallet full of small change and knew that I didn’t give off that impression. I thought about my old brown flats, my old jeans and my blue sweatshirt that was getting faded in a bad way.

I wondered how I felt about who I was. I wondered if I was jealous, if part of me wanted to be her.

I turned to the blonde at the bar again. She leaned forward towards one of the guys and laughed sexily at whatever he said.

I’d had enough, I thought to myself and walked out. I knew no one was watching me leave because I didn’t dress my self up like she did.

* * *

The next week was a transformation week. I got a new coat of paint on my pickup truck that had previously been a bit spotty in the paint department.

 

I got layers on my hair and dyed it a copper red color. I got a pedicure. I went and found the heels I had in the back of my closet and set them out. Then, I went shopping with my credit card and got a few flashy clothes.

* * *

I called up one of my old friends named Angela whom I hadn’t seen in a while, “Lets hit the bars tonight. Nothing too crazy or whatever, just some showing off our young bodies.”

Angela agreed and I picked her up. I had a new shine on my pickup. I was in heels. I hadn’t died my hair blonde but my hair looked pretty dang good. I felt beautiful and confident and just a little bit like Marilyn Monroe.

“Here I go,” I told myself as I strutted into the bar with my friend, like I was just here until I found my beautiful people universe.

“Well my night just got better,” one of the old men said as I walked in. I gave him a smile as I went up to the barstool. And so that night I ran the town. I wondered if anyone was pissed at me for just being so confident and the center of attention. I wondered if no one cared.

Later on, I was talking to one of my friends named Andrew. “So what’s with the new look?”

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could be someone else. I wanted to be that girl,” I responded airily, like I did this everyday.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because now I know I can be someone different. Why do I need to explain myself to you?”

“I don’t get it, it seems kind of dumb. Just let everyone be who they are. Not everyone was born to be that girl,” he said. I knew they were wise words but didn’t want to hear anymore when he continued, “Maybe you don’t need to try being someone else. Maybe you should watch the it girls when no one is looking. See if they look happy then. Or see if you can see the loneliness in their eyes.

I rolled my eyes, “You just don’t get it.”

* * *

Years later, I was sitting in a restaurant where I was eating with my husband and longtime friend Andrew, and kids. I saw her across the room. The blonde girl who had made me so mad one day.

She was sitting there with her family, just like me. She was still the center of attention, I watched as the young guys looked at her across the bar. She threw her hair over her shoulder and so did her two young daughters. She wiped her face off with a napkin and then smiled and her son did the same, smiling back at her.

I saw her and then I turned my attention back to my family with a slight smile on my face. Andrew was looking at me with love in his eyes. “See?” he asked.

I did see. I saw that she was different than me and yet we both had families. I saw that she got so much attention and I saw her eyes when she thought no one was watching. I saw that she would always be the center of attention but she would also feel lonely inside.

I saw her and she no longer made me mad. I no longer wanted to be like her.

Dust and Spider Webs

“There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue.” — Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury in September 1929. Just one month later, the American stock market crashed into what was later called the Great Depression. The following is a fictional account of the impact of the historical events.

~     ~     ~

When I walked into the kitchen for breakfast, Mother stopped me. “You’re not going to school today.”

I blinked. Mother’s face was pinched was stressed, and I knew better than to interrupt.

“I need you to do something.” She took my hands gently in hers. “Mrs. Brathwaite knows of another house that needs cleaning.” Mrs. Brathwaite, my mother’s boss. The weight of that statement sunk in. “Now, you’d be just down the street from me, a few houses down, doing chores just like you do at home, except you’d be earning your wages, like me. She said you can start this morning. Can you do this for me, Evelyn?”

“Of course I can.” Several girls in my class had already left school to go work like their mothers and fathers. My chest puffed out in pride that I, Evelyn Stork, would be able to help my mother like the other girls help theirs.

“When you’re there, you can’t give her no back talking.”

I nodded. “But what about baby Faye?” I helped my sister in the mornings, after Mother went to work and before I left school.

“Grandpapa will look after your sister this morning, like he does during the day. Don’t worry about it.” She ran a hand over my hair, smoothing my obstinate fly-aways, and then she straightened. “I will walk with you this morning, on the way to Mrs. Brathwaite’s. Let’s go.”

My stomach growled just then, but I quickly pulled my arms over my belly, trying to muffle the noise. I knew that the ice box and the pantry were still empty, just as they were last night. I didn’t want Mother to hear my hunger and feel worse than she already did.

My first day as a cleaning lady was like most first days at school – awkward and bumbling. I was too short to reach some of the spider webs in the corners of the foyer, I didn’t polish the silver well enough, and I slipped once when I waxed the stairs. The lady of the house was kind, and when she told me she’d like me to stay on, I could have hugged the elegant, gracious old lady. I made mistakes that were perhaps worthy of being let go, but all day I thought of the grief – and hunger – I would cause my family if I didn’t have this job.

The hardest part of my day came as I walked home, in the fading light of the evening. Mother would be home already. Today was pay day for her, so we’d most likely have a feast tonight. A feast would only be a couple baked squash to share, but the thought made my stomach ache even more.

Suddenly shadowy figures appeared in front of me. I knew who they were before I saw their faces shine in the moonlight.

“Well, if it isn’t Evelyn Stork,” a voice purred.

It was Clifton and his crew of two idiotic sidekicks. I rolled my eyes at them and kept walking, but my heart picked up speed and my free hand was already clenched into a defensive fist.

“Didn’t see you at school today,” he said in a sing-song voice, following me.

“That’s because I wasn’t there.”

He glanced at the dusty apron I was wearing. “No more school for you, I see. Another school girl bites the dust.” He slapped his knee. “The dust,” he said between spurts of laughter. “How cute. Really, it is. You dropped out to help your cripple grandpop and your snot-nosed little sister.”

“Just because he used to have polio, doesn’t mean he’s a cripple,” I growled through a clenched jaw.

“Oh,” howled Clifton. “The cleaning lady can talk back!”

But he wasn’t done. He started to say some crude comment about my mother, and that was when something inside me cracked. I picked up a stick on the side of the road and held it in front of me as a weapon. I swung at him, purposefully missing – by a mere centimeter. “I’ve been cleaning cob webs all day, and I found I have pretty good aim when it comes to sticks.”

Clifton only laughed. “Hey now, you know I was just playing.” But he muttered to his two silent friends, “She’s not worth all this trouble.” The three of them scampered off in the opposite direction. I felt my fists begin to relax, and I tossed the stick back into the ditch.

I was grateful when I reached the warm halo of my home. The first thing Mother did when she saw me was pick the cob webs out of my hair. “How did you get all that on you?”

“Must have hit my head on the ceiling once,” I said, as if I didn’t remember how it happened. But I did. I was on a ladder, using a broomstick to collect the sticky web, when I was starting to get sleepy from being so hungry and started to doze off. I dreamt of Mother’s disappointed face if I got fired, and I jolted awake. I hit my head on the part of the ceiling I hadn’t cleared yet.

“Are you alright? Did you have a bump?”

“I’m fine, Ma. I have a strong head.”

“That’s true, you’ve always been headstrong,” said Grandpapa with a twinkle in his eye.

I knew I was headstrong, and even though everyone made it out to be a good thing, I longed for the day when I didn’t have to be anymore. I sighed, watching the three of them. My pinched-faced mother, limping grandfather, and gurgling baby sister. My first day of cleaning could’ve gone smoother, of course. And I already missed my friends from school. But strength is what kept my patched up family together. Looking at them, I knew I would be headstrong for as long as they needed me to me.

Stay or Go?

She did not know whether to leave or to stay. Should she go or should she stay?

Catie was torn and the decision needed to be made by morning. Should she flip a coin? She was either heading out to California to live with an Aunt and Uncle she barely knew and nanny their kids. Otherwise she could stay in her hometown and work at a local Famous Dave’s.

She was laying face up on her bed, contemplating the ugly ceiling she had put up with her entire childhood. She would like to get away from this town but she also knew that there were so many things she would miss. She was heading off to college at the end of the summer and this was her last chance to enjoy these people. Part of her knew that she might not enjoy them. Ever since Christmas break senior year, she felt like part of her had never come back to high school. That part of her was beyond these people and this drama and everyone knowing everyone.

Catie went to her backpack and pulled out her Chemistry notebook. She ripped out a page, nearly tearing it in half. “This’ll do,” she muttered to herself as she grabbed a pen that had chew marks on one end. Her thinking pen.

Before she could start her pro/con list, her phone rang. It was her friend Amy who didn’t mince with the hello process, “So I hear you’re leaving for the summer? Where are you going? Why would you leave? This is like the last chance we have to say goodbye!”

Catie sighed. She had told one person and the information traveled so fast. Catie started to reply. She meant to tell Amy that she was still thinking about it and didn’t know what she was going to do yet. She meant to say that she wanted advice. Amy kept talking and asking questions while Catie turned her iPhone on speaker and Googled flights to California. There was one the day after graduation.

“I know, it all came up so fast!” Catie said, interrupting Amy’s monologue. “But I have to leave the day after graduation. It’s the right flight and my Aunt and Uncle need me.”

“Oh no Catie! Why would you do that? I’m going to miss you soo much.” Amy trailed off. “Well we should have a party! Celebrate our high school time! We could have it this weekend since next weekend is graduation!”

Getting up and walking to the window, Catie said, “Sounds good. One big goodbye!”

The rest of the conversation, Catie completely zoned out as Amy talked about graduation and what she was wearing.

Catie was leaving. She didn’t need these people anymore. She was ready to be someone else and do something different.

She didn’t want to stay so that meant she would go.

Undercover (pt. 4, final)

This is the conclusion to the four part Dreams Come True series.

Catch up on the previous installments here:

Part 1 Dreams Come True

Part 2 Integrity International

Part 3 Express Lane to Danger

 

“It’s pay day,” Skylar announced as I strode into the office. She did a little dance around her desk. I joined in.

“Finally,” I said. The time had come. “I know what I’m going to do this weekend.”

“What? Party your paycheck away? I never pegged you as a partier…”

I chuckled and settled down at my own desk. “I’m going apartment shopping.”

“What’s wrong with your current apartment?”

“Um, my childhood bedroom just isn’t cutting it. This job requires general privacy, and I just don’t have that.”

“Ugh, you still live with your parents? What are you doing there? You’re a grown woman.” Skylar perched herself on the edge of my desk. “You need an intervention. I’m going with you to find an apartment.”

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes. There’s no question.”

Adam strode out from his office. “Gather around, gather around,” Adam called to us all. He picked a desk to sit on.  The forty-some of us circled around.

“Emergency meeting?” I mused. Skylar shrugged.  We knew something was up.

Jacob Stiller, a non-dreamer co-worker that I’d barely noticed before, took the floor.  “I’ve been working the case downtown,” he started. “There’s a drug ring we’ve been keeping an eye on – they call themselves Nexus. This case just became our priority. A few months ago, my eyes on the street told me a Nexus customer dropped dead. It happens, we know, with drugs, but this seemed different. The PD told us that toxicology showed the girl had a non-lethal dosage in her system. There was no reason for her to die. Last week, another customer turned up dead.”

Heads shook around the circle. For sounding so intelligent, I was surprised at how young Jacob really looked.

“We think they’re making bad batches for specific targets. We’ve been keeping an eye on them from a far, but the stakes are higher and we need to get closer. We’ve received information about a transfer taking place this morning. We don’t know if the customer is targeted, but either way we will bust them. We will be there, along with the PD.”

“Are the two dead customers linked?” Skylar asked.

“Both victims were children of former 14th Street Gang members. In the 90’s, Nexus rose into power and fought 14th Street for their turf. Nexus won.”

Adam added, “Jacob can’t go, since he’s already undercover acting as a Nexus costumer. If he was caught loitering, it’d be suspicious. Cammie and I will go.”

My heart stopped. Did he really say that? Did he know I had absolutely no field experience?

Regardless of my qualms, I was brought into the undercover resource room. Adam was given a shabby overcoat and facial hair, and I had a makeover to give me freckles and a birth mark on my neck. Anyone who knew me in real life would not recognize me now.

“A member of our homeless network was fortunate enough to hear vital information. The exchange between Nexus and a buyer will happen at Goldberg Pier, next to the seventh lamppost in from the Jamba Juice kiosk. We will loiter, a natural looking loiter. Jacob and the police will be standing by. Our word is magazine.”

“Word for what?”

“When we see the exchange happen.”

“And our goal is…?”

“Stop the transaction. If the drug batch is bad, we’ve saved a life. At the very least, we’ll catch another dealer.”

He made it sound so simple. “Can I ask – why would you have me go?”

He shrugged. “Everyone has their opportunity to go undercover. Yours is right now.”

I continued to stare at him.

“What? I told you you’d be part of a special operation. What I meant was you’d be the next one to go undercover.”

“College did not prepare me for this,” I mumbled.

Adam chuckled. “No college ever does.”

“But I was a criminal justice major,” I protested.

“Don’t worry. I have a camera attacked to the button on my shirt, and we’ll both be wired.” He handed me a tiny ear piece. “Jacob will be in our heads the whole time.”

 

It was windy out on the pier. I was grateful for the hat that I wore. It kept my hair down over my ears, hiding my ear piece.

Adam and I strode down the walkway, as if we’re just two old friends out for a stroll. “Nice day, huh?”

I nodded. “Windy, though. I’m glad I have this hat on. I don’t want my ears to show.”

Adam gave me a small grin, but sent me a look with his eyes, wondering if I was about announce that I was wearing an earpiece. An elderly couple walked beside us, and secretly I knew they were listening.

“I don’t like my ears showing,” I covered. “I’m very self-conscious. Did I ever tell you that my nickname in 3rd grade was Dumbo?”

Adam burst out laughing, and I could tell he wasn’t acting. “You never mentioned that.”

A voice crackled in my ear. “Your 2 o’clock – don’t look, Cammie.  That’s him. Brown hood pulled over his face. His shoes are exactly how the homeless witness described..”

“Hm, thought I told you that,” I said to Adam, trying to keep the conversation moving. “Remembering to tell people things like that aren’t my gift.”

“Adam, I’m losing visibility,” Jacob said in my ear. “Keep an eye out for the buyer.”

“How about we sit down for a bit?” Adam motioned towards a bench close to Jamba Juice.

“There’s still a crowd blocking the camera. You have visibility?” Jacob continued.

“Yes,” said Adam to the both of us, “I think this date will be a success, what do you think?”

“It already has been,” I said, grinning. “I’m so glad you took me here. The view is great.”

“Hm, getting late,” Adam said. “Want me to buy you smoothie?”

I shook my head, playing along with Adam’s clever reply to Jacob. “That’s alright. I’m not very hungry.”

“Ugh, where is the buyer?” Jacob groaned loudly in my ear. I winced. “These people usually want their fix. They’re never late.”

“Actually, I’m getting hungry now,” I said after a moment. From across the wide pier, I could see a young man approaching the brown-hooded dealer.

“Okay, I’ll go buy something for you.” Adam stood up.

I heard Jacob in my ear, telling the police to be ready.

The young man, in an oversized red t-shirt, turned to the dealer. The Nexus member pulled a brown paper bag. That was our evidence. That was our cue.

I stared at Adam. The next two seconds took a lifetime. Magazine. How to say magazine? Two girls sat on the bench beside to us, obviously people watching and picking us to watch. We had to act natural.

Adam was leaning closer to me. “Cammie, you’re a novel in a sea of magazines.”

“Baby, you’re too kind,” I said, staring into his alluring eyes. I may have reacted promptly, but my mind was spinning. Those were the exact lines that had happened in my dream weeks ago. The dream were I thought Adam had flirted with me. Now I saw it wasn’t a flirtatious line, but a line that proved we had accomplished something together.

All chaos erupted in my ear as the police officers rushed out of the unmarked van.

 

“The scans came back on the drugs,” Adam announced at the end of the afternoon. “That batch contained rat poison. Also, it has been confirmed that the buyer’s dad had been a member of 14th Street. Nexus had been targeting buyers that have ties with 14th street. Not anymore”

The room erupted in cheers and applause.

“Have a great weekend everyone, and pick up your paychecks on the way out.”

Skylar stopped me in the parking lot. “Hey, so I saw Jacob making eyes at you today. He’s a really sweet guy.”

“Oh? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Haven’t you?”

That hadn’t exactly been my priority today. “After the thrill I got today, I realized how much I love this job. I think I’ll stay married to it for a while.”

—–

“This one looks nice,” Skylar commented.

It was Saturday, and we were touring the fourth apartment.

“Location’s nice. Close to work, farther away from your family’s house.”

I chuckled, but said nothing.

“What you are thinking?”

“The bathroom’s spacious,” I commented. I truly loved this apartment – it would offer the privacy and independence I truly needed.

“But your mind isn’t here,” Skylar inferred. “What else are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking this is better than I thought it’d be.”

“I get the feeling you’re not talking about the apartment.”

I shrugged, smirking, and turned from the window. I couldn’t get my mind off going undercover at the pier. Despite my original qualms about my first undercover assignment, I now had the overwhelming desire to do it again. The shivers I got when I saw the Nexus dealer being taken away from handcuffs. That was why I was there. That was why I was a dreamer. I accomplished my duty today, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Busy busy busy

She told me she needed to do something. She said she was busy. She had “things to do.”

I never followed her. I didn’t need to. She (being my friend Rachel) went, she was busy and came back in a better mood. I didn’t really know her, either. I may have thought I knew her but, looking back, she was about as constant as the wind.

It all happened so fast. Everything changed.

I was avoiding class one day in high school, walking aimlessly down the halls, when I saw her chug a Mug root beer by her locker. It didn’t occur to me until we were talking after school on why that had been odd. She hated root beer. She was constantly telling us how she hated root beer. She also said she hated it when people bothered her when she was busy and that she was afraid of water.

How much of what she told us was true?

I was curious. The root beer incident was the day I wondered. So I followed her after school. Along the walk I silenced my mind and didn’t let myself think about what I was doing or why she went.

We came to the river that ran about a mile away from our little town. Rachel stopped in front of the river and smiled. I saw her take a deep breath and as she let it out the tension disappeared from her body.

So she did relax. Good to know.

And then she went a little ways back into the woods and started pulling a canoe closer to the river. It had been hidden in the underbrush and she pushed it out into the water and started to paddle away. I almost ran after her and asked if I could go with but I was too afraid to put myself out like that.

I never said anything to her about it but I let myself become a closer friend of hers. I let her in like I usually didn’t because I thought she was lonely. Independent with her canoeing, (and who knew what else) but lonely all the same.

One day, years later at a high school reunion, I asked her if she had really feared water and hated root beer like she always told us in high school.

She laughed, “Of course not. I just wanted to see who would figure it out.”

Rachel was lonely. She pretended she was busy but deep down she was simply lonely. I guess we all are, in some ways.

Listen for the Music

 

“Lisa. Lisa.”

My fellow co-worker’s call grated against my tired nerves. I quickened my pace as I raced towards the elevator. Maybe if I acted like I didn’t hear, then Calvin would give up.

“Lisa, it’s an emergency.”

I slowed. I turned. Calvin’s innocent boy-like face was turned innocently towards me. “Ha! I knew you could hear me.”

“What is it?” I said, eyebrows raised.

“I’m still confused about what you want me to do with my manuscript. I’m not sure that I agree with your comments about my main character.”

“Calvin, can’t this wait until Monday?”

“I just don’t get it,” he whined.

“We talked about this. I gave you suggestions.”

“But I tried to create her to be so real, so life-like, but you said she comes across as flat. She’s like a ‘talking stick.'” Calvin quoted my words.

“Yes. Yes, that’s because she is. Readers need to believe that she’s human. They need to see her emotion.”

“But how? I don’t know how to do that. Please, you’re my editor; you’re supposed to help me.”

I gave Calvin a gentle glare. The elevator beeped and the doors opened. Employees scrambled in. “Yes, and you’re a writer. You’re supposed to use my advice and write better characters, okay?” I gave him a small smile, a nod, turned on my heel. I made it into the elevator just in time.

The doors closed on the crowded silver elevator, and I blinked my eyes closed. It was Friday. My two-day vacation had started. I was going camping – hard core camping, none of that RV or pop-up camper nonsense. This weekend I would canoe around in the wilderness and think about everything other than work. That last part sounded pretty great.

It was pitch black when I fell asleep that night. Pitch black as in so dark I couldn’t see my hand if I held it in front of my face. I’d reached my destination earlier in the afternoon, and I was officially on vacation. My lips curled into a smile. I had driven up north several dozens of miles, planted my canoe in the water, and found a suitable campsite. I was too exhausted to even set up my tent fully. Instead I sprawled out, on top of my tent. I lay under the stars with the mosquitos and the wolves cooed me to sleep.

I woke with a start. I had overslept. I had missed something. I realized with great glee that indeed the only thing I’d missed was the sunrise. It must be in the late morning by now.

I dug for worms and then took my old pole into the canoe. Two hours later my stomach was rumbling, but a fish was frying over the fire pit.

I ate my fish down by the unmoving waters. I was still surprised at how silent it was up here. I always was. Compared to the boisterous downtown district that I lived and worked in, this place was a desolate void. Then I remember something my grandfather said, the first time he took me camping. I was nine. I had complained that it was too quiet, that the silence hurt my ears.

“Silent?” Grandpa had looked at me like he thought I was off in the noggin and dissolved into guttural chuckles. When he had regained his composure, he implored me with one question: “Listen.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For the music.” He grabbed my hand. “Close your eyes.”

The wind in the mile-high trees. The tiny, watery ripples lapping against the rocks. A loon calling from somewhere, its mate answering. A small splash from somewhere; a fish jumping. A rustle in the bushes. I peeked open an eye and saw a mouse scurry past my feet.

“Unlike the city’s noise, the music up here is beautiful,” Grandpa said with reverence. “Lisa, wherever you are, listen for the music.”

I inhaled quickly as a shooting pain ripped through my heart. It still hurt me to think of him. He’d died years ago. Suddenly. Heart attack. It shouldn’t have happened. I suppose that’s why I still came up here every year. Grandpa had engraved in my heart a love for the peace. I didn’t get much of that now. I needed to remind myself of the music.

I brushed those thoughts away now, looking at the serene scene before me. In a day and a half, I’d have to go back to real life. But it didn’t matter. During my meetings – arguments, really – with Calvin, while meeting with new writers,  I’d think of the music.

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