I’m probably the only teacher you’ll ever run into that isn’t fond of snow days. Part of it is because my classes are only twelve weeks long, and whatever my students miss has to be fit into the next couple of days-meaning more work for both them and me. Not fun 😦
So, I’ve been able to sneak up to work during the second snow day and get some things done in preparation for when class resumes. In the meantime, I wanted to leave you with an excerpt from my story “Due” which is nearly finished, and will be part of a collection I intend to publish in the near future. Read it, down below my signature, and enjoy!
See you in the Vein!
Less than an hour later, Barry had disappeared around the back. Ray accommodated the weary man with a ground level room, a convenient half dozen steps away from the parking lot. Paula watched the weary man take the room key, thanking her brother with a grateful grin. He expressed gratitude toward Paula on the way out as well; but the grin had dropped from his face by then, replaced by that same troubling expression she had seen earlier while on the phone with Ray. Once again, Paula kept the appearance of cheerful friendliness toward Barry, but the strange stare he had given her sent a dozen spiderlike tingles scampering down her spine. That look–Focused? Empty?
That was the word she would have used to describe him. Not angry, or worried, or even tired. More akin to the look of a cat preparing to pounce upon an unsuspecting bird.
Tweet—Tweet, Paula, she thought.
“I need to do the maintenance thing, Paula.” Ray said after the sedan disappeared around the back corner. He hung up the desk phone; Paula hadn’t realized that he’d been on it. “A customer had a problem with the shower in his room the other night.”
“No going out tonight for you?” Paula asked.
“Not tonight. But at least I’ve got Carla with me. She’s going to run the front desk.”
“Was that who you just called?”
He answered with a nod, setting a red tool box upon the desk. “You have plans?”
“Tonight? Nah—just going home. Long day.”
“Maybe you need a boyfriend, little sister.” Ray commented with a wink. Paula rolled her eyes and let out an annoyed sigh. Ray was one to talk; if the hotel didn’t occupy his time, bowling, hunting, and fishing did. He considered six hours’ worth of sleep a luxury, and ran on a diet of instant caffeine and fast food. The hotel consumed far too much of his attention and effort; a harsh and jealous mistress that satisfied her brother’s lust for manual labor and problem—solving.
He needed a girl—he really did.
“I’ll get a date when you do, big brother.” Paula murmured, glancing over his shoulder as Carla’s petite form walked through the door. The redhead flashed a smile at the siblings as she walked past them. Paula smiled back, then looked toward Ray with a frisky bounce of her eyebrows.
“Get outta here.” He snorted with a playful grin, waving his hand toward the door.
Outside, the parking lot lights cast pale halos on the sidewalk and asphalt. Paula pushed aching feet toward her car, making as deliberate an effort as possible to not give in to her curious and nervous wonderings about shadows and movement that caught the corners of her eyes. The haunted talk about one mysterious man in pursuit of another was enough for her. No staying up with a bowl of popcorn and a scary flick tonight.
Her hand reached into the purse, catching the key ring with a curled index finger. The battery in the remote lock had died on her two weeks ago; she wished she hadn’t put off replacing it. Especially here, now, like this. The keys came out, the tip of the one held in Paula’s hand bumping into the door’s metal exterior before realigning itself with the lock. She let out a disgusted spat of air at her own carelessness.
What’s the matter, Paula? Scared?
“I’m fine.” She murmured to herself, turning the key. “Just fine.”
The door didn’t open.
“Come on…” she groaned, trying it again. Her mind adjusted to another thought while she corrected her efforts: What did she need from the store tomorrow?
“Shampoo… chicken… and-butter!!” She said to herself, the last letter puffed out in angry effort.
The door didn’t open.
Hurry up, Paula! Her mind teased, The Boogeyman’s on his way!
Another ratchet of the key yielded no results.
Paula squeezed her eyes shut, pushing a whispered curse from between her lips, relaxing her fingers. “Slow down, girl.” She told herself in an exasperated tone. Another controlled breath came in, then out. Another one.
So far, so good.
She opened her eyes, looking down at the stubborn lock, and the stubborn key that turned and pushed in vain against the door mechanism.
Wrong one, Fraidy-cat.
Paula frowned, then let out an audible groan of relief. She had been jamming her house key into the car door. A stutter of low laughs tripped up her throat as relaxing relief lifted away the burden of tension that had settled on her shoulders. She shook her head, pushing trembling fingers-Trembling?-against the ring of keys until the right one showed its jagged strip of metal.
“Home for me.” Paula said to herself.
“Home for you.”
Paula’s eyes caught the grinning, elongated reflection in the driver side window, aware of the presence of something pale and black filling the corner of her left eye.
“Hello, Paula.” The face in the window began.
Paula screamed, whirling around, her back colliding against the locked door, eyes flung wide open in terrified shock. “Ray!!” she screamed.