|Prompts – Drama, Grave, Symphony, Fear, Tickle
Short Story between 1,000 and 3,000 words
Word Count – 2,987
If there was one thing Sarayne definitely had enough of in her life, it was drama. She was a twenty three year old college dropout working the graveyard shift as a bartender in the seediest bar in Chicago. Why? The only thing she could come up with was that she was a sucker for perfectly crystal-blue eyes and deep dimples that never ceased to make her squirm. That, and the fact that her best friend, Dan, had been in severe financial failure and rather than let him dig his own shallow grave, she had agreed to move in with him and help him with rent, utilities, groceries, and basically anything else he ever asked her for. She was a complete and total fool, and had allowed herself to be used for one thing or another most of her life. The question she found herself facing now was: how long was she planning to put up with it?
Trace was the owner of the sexy eyes that trapped her each time she looked at him, and though they had a completely contradictive relationship, she always found herself in his arms at the end of the day. On the whole he was a good guy, he always made her feel good about herself physically, never hit her or yelled at her, but he couldn’t hold a job, never cooked, the word ‘cleaning’ was a completely foreign language to him, and of course, he just loved to party. With her money.
Sarayne turned over in her double sized bed and covered her head with a pillow to stifle a groan of frustration. It was almost seven in the morning and though her shift had ended just after two, she couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t sleep because she knew he was still out there somewhere, drinking with whomever he could find, doing whatever the hell he wanted to, and not once even thinking about her.
She was getting to a point where she was starting to think that there had to be more to life, and the fact that he hadn’t come back yet just seemed to drive the thought deeper. Her resolve to stay weakened steadily, and yet she battled an irrational fear of leaving. She felt as though she shouldn’t be willing to give up everything for a chance, for a mere possibility of happiness.
Questions for which she had no answer tumbled around inside her head. Where would she go? What would she do? Did she really want to be completely alone? And then the side of her that was a people pleaser had to add: What would Dan do with no one to help him pay the bills? Would Trace be left heart broken? She grimaced at that last thought. His absence in their bed told her the answer to that one, whether she really wanted to admit it, or not.
She threw the pillow at the door to her bedroom and managed to catch it at just the right angle, and surprisingly, with just enough force, to close it. She looked around her tiny room in the miniscule light of the early morning sun that shone through the window and found that over the past four years, she had failed to accumulate anything that she cared about besides maybe her laptop. That, at least, was something she had where she could find solace when she needed it most. Her writing was sometimes the only thing that kept her sane.
The more she thought about her life, the angrier and more disgusted she became. She had dedicated years to helping two men to whom she had been invisible, if somewhat useful. It was so completely far off from what she had imagined for herself that it made her sick to her stomach.
Sarayne heaved a sigh of irritation and pushed her covers away. It was Monday, which meant that she had the night off, and she was suddenly annoyed with sitting around waiting for blue eyes to show up. This time she would be gone before he came home, nullifying the chance that he would entice her into their bed and erase her desire to think.
She didn’t have enough money to leave forever, but a small vacation was definitely within her price range. She gathered some random clothes quickly; comfy jeans and t-shirts, a bathing suit just in case, her toothbrush and a few necessities that no woman should be without, and of course, her laptop and notebook. She decided against packing any make-up or hair accessories; it wasn’t her intention to look good, just to relax and think without giving her life a chance to intrude.
She snuck out of their sparsely decorated apartment, though why she was sneaking she wasn’t too sure, it would be hours before Dan ventured outside his room, and Trace was probably already passed out somewhere for the day. Regardless, she closed the door slowly and softly and all but ran down the dimly lit hallway and two flights of stairs in order to reach her car in the underground parkade. She dove into the driver’s seat of her Volkswagen bug, threw her things into the backseat, and started the ignition. Her heart was racing and she felt a surge of adrenaline as she gathered her resolve and hit the gas. It was the most liberating, fulfilling sensation she had experienced in far too long.
She smirked to herself at what Trace and Dan would look like that night when they realized she was gone (as in not there to tend to them). They would stand in the middle of the kitchen, exchanging confused looks, both of them too proud to be the one to admit that they had no clue where she was. It would be priceless.
She sighed with relief as she passed the City Limit sign and her heart finally started to relax into a regular rhythm. She was finally free of the mess of tangles her life had become, and she fiercely hoped that forty eight hours would be enough for her to decide what to do with it.
* * * *
Sarayne was forced to stop for gas every few hours - her bug wasn’t exactly in good condition and burned gas far too efficiently – but she didn’t mind. It gave her a chance to look at the local area maps and try to figure out where she was going to end up. She wanted a bed and breakfast, or perhaps a country hotel, set somewhere out in the boonies where she could lay down and hear a complete absence of the city. No honking, or engines revving, no sirens and definitely no loud heavy metal that hadn’t been popular for over twenty years.
She stopped at a side of the highway rest stop and smiled distractedly at the gas jockey as she gathered her purse and took a quick look around. It was a small, independent gas station with a small garage built onto the side with a sign that read Tanner’s Pit Stop. The building had the look of being very old, almost antique, but had been spruced up with new paint and a few repairs. It had a soft ambiance to it, a peaceful feeling that seemed to seep into her just by looking at it.
“Did you want a fill, miss?”
Sarayne turned around, broken from her inspection by the sound of a deep male voice. “Pardon?” she queried, slightly embarrassed that she had no clue what he had asked her.
A small smile flirted with the edges of his lips as he replied and she found her eyes drawn to them as he spoke. “Did you want a fill?" He asked again, and when he realized she was looking at him blankly, he added, "On your gas?”
“Oh,” she replied a touch nervously. “Yes, a fill.”
He nodded and turned to hit the correct buttons to start the gas pumping and she found her traitorous eyes raking the length of his body. At first glance he had been good looking, but with her mind so full of her own thoughts, she had failed to notice that his physique was quite literally perfect. He was about five foot eleven, his dark brown hair was short and messy, and he was built in a way that told her he was a hard worker. His muscles were tight and well defined, but not so bulky as to be readily noticeable. She turned away from watching him as she noticed that she was spending far too much time admiring his backside. She was on a road trip to figure things out, not to find distraction, she told herself sternly.
She caught sight of a map posted on a board beside the door to the store. It showed the area she was in, along with little red stars that had been added by hand. She wondered idly at what they represented.
“The little red stars are marked to show where there are accommodations in the area,” a deeply masculine voice rumbled from directly behind her as though reading her mind. “We get quite a few people from the cities that come out here during hunting season.”
Sarayne nodded blankly without turning around. She could tell by the soft tickle of air that brushed across her neck when he spoke that they were very close to touching. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath while she gathered her scattered wits.
“Is there a bed and breakfast around here?” she asked.
“You bet, just down the road a few miles to the south east.” He reached around her to point at the map, his arm brushing along her shoulder softly and sending a small quiver of sensation along her skin. She had to get herself under control! “It’s a nice little place, quiet, clean, and good food.”
He withdrew his arm and headed for the door to the store which he held open for her with one hand while the other swept an imitation of a bow. “After you,” he said quietly. His dark brown eyes twinkled slightly and Sarayne found a blush creeping up her neck all over again.
She ducked her head and walked into the store briskly, trying vainly to dispel the strange sensations she was experiencing. It had just been too long since a guy had flirted with her in such an innocent way, she told herself. The men at the bar hit on her for sure, grabbed her ass and asked for her number, but none of them acted gentlemanly, and none of them had been nearly so ruggedly handsome, either. He made her feel like she was an innocent, shy, sixteen year old, and strangely enough, she liked it.
Sarayne wandered around the small store, vaguely looking at the merchandise, trying to get her thoughts under enough control that she could look at the man standing behind the counter, waiting for her to pay, without blushing like a school girl. You are a strong, independent woman, she told herself logically. You’re not a stranger to dealing with good looking men, now get your head out of the clouds and do something!
She grabbed a bottle of iced tea and headed for the counter. She managed to pay for the gas and drink, take the receipt from him without touching at all, and had almost made it out the door when his voice stopped her short.
“Perhaps I’ll see you later, if you stay at the bed and breakfast, that is,” he offered from behind her, his voice low and a touch husky.
Sarayne bit her bottom lip with irritation at the fact that her heart picked up pace at the sound of his voice. “Um, yeah, if I stop there,” she replied lamely, without even so much as turning around. “Thanks.”
She damn near flew out the door and into her car, her heart beating rapidly, but for a whole other reason that it had this morning when she had preformed the same action. For a change she had been incredibly nervous, and she found that she liked the feeling. A lot.
* * * *
Despite the logical side of her brain that told her to hit the gas and keep driving, she found herself pulling into the long winding driveway of a cottage style house that sported a sign that read, A Corner of Solitude. The sign was catchy and the name of the place fit perfectly with what she had intended for her little vacation. She gathered her bag, purse and laptop and knocked on the large double doors that graced the front of the building.
It was a two story building, just slightly larger than an average three bedroom house, and in the light of the afternoon sun it looked like a small piece of heaven. A woman answered the door; she looked to be in her early thirties with long blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and a ready smile.
“Hello!” The woman beamed and motioned for her to enter the house. “Welcome to A Corner of Solitude.”
Sarayne smiled pleasantly. “Thank you. I would like to rent a room for the night, if you have any available.”
“Oh, of course. It’s not hunting season yet, so you can have your pick of the rooms.”
“Thanks, but that’s not necessary. Just something quiet would do perfectly.” Sarayne replied.
“You’ve definitely come to the right place for that. My name is Misty. I’m the hostess, so if you need anything while you’re here, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m normally in the kitchen, as you can probably tell.” Misty told her with a guilty smile as she glanced down at her apron, which was covered with flour and numerous other, and very colorful, substances.
Sarayne accepted the key to her room gratefully and made her way upstairs. The room was small and sparsely furnished, but it was clean and a small fireplace set into the wall gave it a homey feeling. She spread herself out of the double bed with a sigh of relief. The fact that she hadn’t slept since the previous day before work caught up with her with a sudden ferocity and she found herself falling into a peaceful sleep. Thoughts of a certain man with dark eyes and a gentle smile followed her into the void, and she didn’t even consider fighting it.
* * * *
Sarayne woke to an incessant knocking on her door. Her instant reaction was to yell at Shane and tell him to leave her alone. Then she remembered that she wasn’t anywhere near Dan, or Trace, and she frowned. Who would be knocking on her door?
She glanced out the window as she crossed blindly to the door; it was well past dark, which told her she had slept for a couple of hours at least.
She opened the door - her long dark hair disheveled and more than likely sticking up at odd angles, her eyes full of sticky sleep and old make-up, her breath very much reminiscent of a dumpster - to find the man from the gas station standing in the hallway holding a tray heavily laden with food.
“You didn’t come down for supper, so Misty sent me up with a tray for you.” He told her simply, his dark eyes dancing with amusement as he scanned her sleepy appearance.
Her hands flew to her hair, smoothing it nervously. “Oh! Well, thank you. Tell her thank you,” she told him earnestly.
He stood there looking at her, his expression slightly confused, when she realized that she hadn’t moved to take the tray. Her cheeks suddenly turned bright red as embarrassment flooded her senses. “Sorry,” she stammered. “I just woke up.”
“So I see,” he replied with a slight smile.
She grabbed the tray from him awkwardly and turned to set it on something. Lacking light and the ability to find a table, she set it down on the bed. Not until after she had fumbled around like a dolt did he flick the light switch which sat very conveniently right beside the door frame.
“Tomorrow morning Misty is hosting a trail ride. I was wondering if you might be interested in coming along.”
Sarayne looked up to find that he had walked into the room a little ways and was watching her expectantly.
“Uh, well, I don’t really know how to ride a horse,” she replied. “And I can’t stay long; I have to work tomorrow night.”
“I see,” he said quietly. “Well, have a good night then.” He turned to leave and then turned back. “There’s a phone in the kitchen if you need one, you can call long distance.”
Sarayne stood watching the door for a few long minutes after it had closed behind him, her mind spinning with possibilities. Her vacation hadn’t even started yet, and she was only twelve hours or so away from having to head back to reality. Did she want to go back?
She had to, if she didn’t she could lose her job.
Did she really care? Was she content to go back to Chicago, back to Trace with his blue eyes and Dan with his needy attitude? Or, perhaps, she was ready to push her life into a different direction. Maybe, just maybe, she should just say to hell with it and do something impulsive for once in her life.
Sarayne smiled as the last thought sang through her mind. It mingled with visions of a dark eyed man whose name she didn’t even know and created there a symphony of possibilities. Even if she never found out his name, or saw him again, he had taught her a valuable lesson. She wasn’t truly in love with Trace.
For the first time in her life, she did something that she wanted to do. She called Dan and Trace, and when no one answered, left a message on the machine.
“Hi guys. I’m not coming back; I just thought you should know.”