3. Heather [3]

“How are you, girl?” Jake said as he walked over to Heather’s usual booth. It was a small booth that only sat two. Sometimes Heather’s mother, Bella, would meet her at Lila’s and then the two would share the booth and a meal or sometimes just a dessert. Tonight, though, Heather was alone as she slid gratefully into her regular spot.

“I’m great, Jake, just exhausted,” Heather smiled at him. “Yourself?”

“Fine, fine, all fine,” Jake’s eyes twinkled. “Love is in the air, and all that. You know.”

Heather knew. Vicariously, at least. She’d watched the romance, or dalliance or whatever it was, flourish between Jake and Bo over the last three weeks of beautiful summer evenings. She’d been friendly with Jake even before, but he had seemed so droopy, so sad and sort of lost. But then Bo joined Lila’s staff, and Heather couldn’t be happier for the change that had come over Jake.

“My sister’s going to come over some evening this week,” Jake went on. “Well, I haven’t exactly asked her to yet, but I’m going to. I think she’ll like this place – and you’ll like her, too. I’ll ask her to come in the evening so you can maybe meet her.”

“Sounds great, Jake! I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“Yeah, a twin. Her name’s Amanda. She goes to Valley U. So, the usual?”

Heather nodded, and Jake bustled towards the diner’s kitchen to get her hot-chocolate for her. She stretched back and looked around the small space. At this hour, it was usually still empty, but Heather knew that if she stayed for another half hour, the place would fill up. Downtown Hartscreek was a hopping scene, and there wasn’t a night of the week when an eclectic crowd wouldn’t appear, as if by magic, at Lila’s: there were young professionals, coming for a dessert after a dinner somewhere else, or maybe just meeting up for a meal after putting their children to bed; there were club-goers, dressed in bright colors and skin-tight materials, catching some protein before a long night of dancing and drinking; there were the punkers, stocking up on fries and milkshakes before heading to the latest underground show. Heather loved to take them all in as she sat there, savoring the taste of her hot drink as she sipped it down almost agonizingly slowly.

Tonight would be no different, she hoped, as she lay her chin in her hands and stared across the room to where she knew Jake would be coming out in a moment with that delicious hot chocolate in his hands.

3. Heather [2]

At around eleven, Heather finally switched off the lights and locked the door of Miranda’s shop. Miranda herself lived above the store, and ever since hiring Heather she’d taken to going up to her room a bit early and letting Heather close up for her. Not that Heather minded in the least. She enjoyed having a few moments of peace and quiet in the shop, all by herself. She felt then that maybe someday she’d be able to own a place like this – or maybe a place a bit nicer than this – and be independent. She hadn’t been independent yet in her life, not really. Not since… but no, that wasn’t something she wanted to think about.

Heather finished locking up the door and turned into the cool summer night. It always got to be so much cooler at this hour, and she breathed the air in thankfully as she began to make her way back home. Home for her was a small and cozy apartment that she shared with her mother in downtown Hartscreek, just about fifteen minutes away from Miranda’s shop. On the way home, Heather usually stopped in at Lila’s for her final treat of the day – Lila’s Warm-and-Fillin’ Hot Chocolate. There was no better drink in town, as far as Heather was concerned. She thought back to the days when she’d only looked at the option on the menu, never quite daring to order it. She stopped herself from following that line of thought again, and pushed open the door to Lila’s, hearing the usual tinkle of the bell and seeing her favorite new waiter, Jake, smile at her from across the room and yell out a greeting.

Heather smiled back. It was so very good to finish work each evening.

2. Amanda

On this same late August evening, Amanda left the office of admissions at Valley University and made her way to Oakwood, the only dormitory left open during the summer break. She cursed herself for the umpteenth time for taking the summer job of shuffling paper and answering phones in the office. She had to admit, though, that it had been better at the beginning of the summer when the office was busy with the applications of transfer students. The phones had been ringing off the hook, there’d been lots of envelopes to open and sort through and her days, although tedious, had been full. The flurry of activity had ended by midsummer, though, and there weren’t any deadlines during August, so the only phone calls Amanda was getting in the office were the occasional prospective student or parent and some pranksters trying to make their own lazy summer days more interesting.

The campus was absolutely deserted, and as always the quiet and solitude depressed Amanda. It wasn’t that she was an overly social person – she wasn’t. In fact, she enjoyed being alone more often than not. But she liked being alone in the midst of life, and the quiet and emptiness around her made her feel like she was the only person living and breathing within a mile radius. There were the squirrels, of course, but at this evening hour they all seemed to be chasing each other around the trees, making the leaves rustle. Amanda couldn’t see them at it, so she always felt a sort of creepy feeling, as if there were ghosts whispering among the leaves.

She wasn’t, of course, the only person left on campus. There were others who worked at the various offices, as well as the ever-present cleaning staff and some eternal graduate students that haunted the library and the computer labs. It didn’t matter, though, that Amanda knew of the others’ presence. The walk across campus was still always unnerving after having spent freshmen year making the same walk while being surrounded by chattering multitudes.

Luckily, Oakwood wasn’t too far from the office of admissions, and Amanda pushed the door open into the front hall gratefully. The only dining hall still open during the summer was the one here, and at five o’clock, when Amanda got off from work every day, people were arriving from their various jobs and activities to make use of it for dinner. Entering Oakwood’s spacious front hall always made Amanda feel better, and she walked towards the not-so-alluring smell of cafeteria food, ears happily drinking up the chatter echoing around her.

1. Mr. and Mrs. Adams

One evening in late August, Daniel and Caroline, known to most of their neighbors as Mr. and Mrs. Adams, sat in their rocking chairs on the porch. The sun had just disappeared over the hills and the sky was a wonderful canvas of pastel colors, ranging from soft orange to a deep purplish-blue.

Mr. Adams, glasses perched precariously on the edge of his nose, was doing the big Sunday crossword-puzzle. He was chewing on the end of an unlit pipe, but sometimes he laid it down and chewed on the end of his pencil instead as he thought about the clues. Mrs. Adams was holding a large square of needlepoint and stitching away at it. Every few moments, she put it down in her lap, rested her chin in her hand and gazed at the sporadic lights of the fireflies winking in and out in the front garden.

A stranger, happening to walk past this picturesque scene, would think that the grey-haired pair sitting on their front porch in wooden rocking chairs were a regular Granny and Gramps. The stranger would probably imagine that, inside the house, there would be something baking in the oven and an afghan thrown over the sofa. Easy to imagine, too, were the long weeks of bingo and naps, phone calls to the kids and an anticipation for the weekends during which the grandchildren would come over for milk and cookies. Strangers didn’t often walk past on this suburban street, though, so Mr. and Mrs. Adams weren’t subject to many such misconceptions about their lives.

In fact, both of them were professors at the rather prestigious liberal-arts university that sat in the valley twenty-five miles away. Mr. Adams was in the literature department and Mrs. Adams was in the psychology department, and although both were in their mid-sixties, neither had ever yet played bingo. Their weeks were normally busy with drives to and from the university, quiet evenings of grading papers interspersed with outings to lectures, staff-events or dinners with friends. They were even seen at the community center every Saturday night for salsa-lessons, along with a variety of young and old folk from the neighborhood. Mr. and Mrs. Adams were definitely not an idle pair.

Still, in late summer, they were on vacation. The summer term, which was an easy time for both anyway since they each taught only one or two courses for it, was now over and both husband and wife had finished grading all the final papers a few days earlier. In two weeks, they would both be beginning the fall semester and their lives would become hectic and busy again, but they were now enjoying some rest and relaxation, and sitting on the porch in the evening was one of their greatest pleasures.

Silas (3)

Footsteps sounded from around the corner. Silas became even more still than he’d been before. His breathing made no sound and his limbs were poised for movement. He hoped the footsteps indicated that the job was almost over. He was tired and hungry and extremely annoyed at Mr. Smith for giving him faulty information.
The sound of footsteps grew louder, and the man who was walking began to whistle cheerily. Silas, hidden in the shadows, waited patiently until the man walked passed the alleyway where he was crouched. He caught a glimpse of a rather short, stocky man, suit coat flung casually over his shoulder, expensive watch gleaming in the lamplight. This was him, indeed.
Silas rose from his crouch and began walking behind the man, matching his footsteps to his so as to mask the sound. His boots were, of course, almost completely silent anyway, but there was no point in taking chances. The streets he and the man walked through were deserted, it being very late at night – late enough to be considered very early in the morning. They walked down one street and then another. The man never looked back and kept up his merry whistle and his brisk stride. After about ten minutes, the man walked up to a fancy skyscraper, obviously housing luxury apartments, and began to push the buttons on the coded lock to the front door.
Silas stood now to his side, about twenty steps away. He was hidden in the shadows once more. Everything was in readiness. He put the small tube he was holding in his hand to his lips and blew.
The man stood stock still for a moment, and then crumpled to the ground. Silas was already at the end of the street.

Spam [Part III]

Part I

Part II

A few hours later, Ladonna was bending down and sticking her head in the oven. The cake wasn’t ready yet, so she pulled her head out of the hot space and breathed deeply. She loved the smell of food being made – especially when she was the one who was preparing it and it was coming out so well. She also knew that most days she hated to cook, but she was conveniently suppressing that fact because today it was fun and because she had to do it for her friends and because it was distracting her from the strange events of the day.

She wiped the perspiration from her face and turned to the stove to stir one of the many pots that were bubbling away. The radio perched above the sink was tuned to one of the many random stations that she was still discovering. It was a good station, and the music was a nice mix of silly 80s pop songs and silly but enjoyable modern rock music. Ladonna registered the song that was just starting, and smiled to herself. She’d always loved “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell and she sang along as the opening lyrics blared fuzzily out of the not-so-good speakers. She needed a new radio.

A strange buzzing sounded somewhere around the kitchen, followed by piercing electronic noises that were supposed to form some sort of tune. Ladonna searched frantically for her cell phone, the thing that was making that obnoxious racket, and found it lying under “Baking Miracle Cakes! A Guide for Amateurs.” She looked at the screen, saw the name “KATE” flashing on it, and flipped the phone open.

“Katie!” she squealed.

“Hey, Babes, why aren’t you answering us?” Kate’s voice was drowned out by others yelling behind her. “Shut up, guys! I can’t here her. Ladonna?”

“Wait, you’re downstairs already? I didn’t hear the buzzer!” Ladonna dashed to the front door to her apartment, lifted the intercom phone and pushed the button marked with a little key symbol. “I’m on the second floor!”

“Thanks, Babes!” Kate hung up.

Ladonna ran to her bathroom to check that her hair wasn’t too disorganized and that she didn’t have anything stuck in her teeth. Having ascertained that she looked passable, she marched back to the door and flung it open just as Kate had lifted her fist to knock. Ladonna was bombarded with shouts of “Happy birthday!”, hugs, kisses, bags that crinkled pleasantly with the hint of gifts and all-around love and friendship.

There, she thought to herself as she smiled at everyone and motioned to the rack beside the doorway so they could throw their coats over it. Everything’s normal, my friends are here, and nothing weird whatsoever will happen tonight.

Ladonna relaxed then, and prepared herself for an evening of fun, laughter, food and drink, not suspecting at all that her strange day wasn’t quite over yet.

Teenager Sarah – Chapter 1

“This old man… he played 8… he played knickknack on my gate… with a knick… knack… patty-whack, give the dog a bone, this old man came rolling home…” I drone on wearily, getting up to ten and then I’m forced to start all over by the fascinated three year-old I’m baby-sitting for.

I can’t believe I took this job. I have to baby-sit for Max 4 hours a day for the next two weeks until the toddler-daycare starts. I’ve already been at this for a week.

I like kids, don’t get me wrong, but Max is so tiresome! Little kids are supposed to like to sleep a lot, right? Well, not Maxi here. No, no, no, Max likes to PLAY: “I play on pony! I wanna play with puzzle! Make up a game, Sarah!” I’ve made up so many silly games, I’ve rocked him on his wooden-pony thing, I’ve helped him with his puzzles, and he STILL WANTS MORE.

At least I’m getting paid pretty well. I’m saving up for a new amp. I’ve got a really small, pathetic one- only 10V. My parents are ok with me getting a bigger, newer and better one, but they refuse to pay for it. They say that they paid for the guitar and the amp I have and that I should be satisfied. So I’m working my butt off in a baby-sitting job because I started looking for decent summer jobs too late and there was nothing left in my area.

“Sarah! Sing that song about the bucket! I wanna hear the funny-bucket song!” Max calls out after the fifth round of patty-whack. I try to understand what the hell the funny-bucket song is, and then I realize and start singing to him.

“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole!” I continue on, singing the Henry parts in a deep voice and the Liza parts in a high-pitched voice, and Max loves every minute of it. He claps along and giggles and repeats “dear Liza” and “dear Henry” in the appropriate parts. When I’m done I open a puzzle for him and tell him that I’m going to make a phone call and that he can start the puzzle without me. He pouts, but starts fiddling with the puzzle-pieces anyway.

I walk to the kitchen and slump myself down at the table. I take the phone and dial Hannah’s number.

“Hello?” Hannah’s mom answers.

“Hi, it’s Sarah. Can I speak to Hannah?” I ask. Hannah’s mom sniffs disapprovingly at the sound of my voice, but calls Hannah to the phone nonetheless.

“Sarah? I knew it must be you; my mom had such a look on her face. She’s never going to get over what you – quote unquote- did to me.”

“Geez, all I did was take you to a punk-rock show. Everyone gets bruised and beaten at punk shows! I mean, we were in the pit for gods-sake!”

“I know – it’s her who doesn’t understand. Honestly, you’d think that at 17 she’d be a bit less protective and give me some independence. I had a blast at that show, but she only cares about the bruise on my collarbone and the split lip. Anyways, what’re you calling about? Aren’t you at work now?”

“Yeah, I am, but I needed some respite from the three-year-old’s excitement. Listen, you up for going out tonight? I mean, I don’t have work tomorrow, since it’s Saturday and Max’s mom will be home to take care of him.”

“Sure! Out where? And with who?”

“I dunno… I didn’t really think it through, I just want to get out tonight for a bit. Are there any good shows around tonight?”

“Wait a sec, let me check the paper. Ok, um, there’s a jazz show at the Pallet club, there’s some lecture at the Secret Theater and there’s some band I don’t know at The Slob. I say the first two are a no-no. But the name of this band at The Slob sounds promising- Dragon Blood. It’s only 5 bucks, and it starts at 8, so I can even be home by my stupid 11:30 curfew. You want to check that out?”

“Sure, I’ll meet you outside The Slob at like ten to 8? Ok, great. Oh, and invite Mathew and Steve, they might be up for a good show.”

I hang up the phone feeling a little more cheerful, and waltz back into the living room, ready to take on the incredibly energetic infant.

Back home, I get ready to go out. There’s not much to do: I don’t wear make-up beyond eyeliner, and I dress pretty much the same for every outing: my black jeans, a black t-shirt [generally sporting the name and/or image of a band on it] and my black Converse. That’s pretty much how I dress daily, only with the bonus of the eyeliner.

I head out at seven-thirty and walk towards my meeting place with Hannah. The Slob is this very cool music club. Apart from their folk-night evening, they normally have pretty good bands that play there. I hope my band will be able to perform there sometime in the not-too-distant future as well. It’s the smallest venue around, but it’s a great place to get noticed.

I arrive at the doors of The Slob and Hannah’s not there yet. I lean against a lamp post and look around hoping to catch a glimpse of her or the boys. It’s pretty crowded, which means that this band we’re seeing has some sort of following. There’re actually a couple of girls in obviously home-made t-shirts bearing the words “Dragon Blood” on them in bright red glitter.

“Sarah!” a masculine voice calls from somewhere behind me. I turn around and see Steve. I hug him, and we begin chatting about the last band practice we had. Steve is the drummer, I’m the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Hannah is the lead guitarist and Mathew is the bassist. They always say, form a band with your friends. That’s exactly what I did 4 months ago when I decided that I wanted music to be my career.