Crack the Shutters
|Word count: 1119|
Stella Ambrose stared out the window, watching the snow pile against the wooden fence that surrounded the three bedroom ranch house. She had arrived in Post Hole, Arizona at the beginning of November to visit her great aunt Ledia Fightingbull. It was now the beginning of December, she wanted to go back to Las Vegas where there was a nightlife and twenty-four hour restaurants. She picked up her cell phone, attempted to call Las Vegas, but the phone was dead. Then she opened her laptop, which was sitting on the coffee table, and tried to access the Internet. After five minutes without a response, she turned the computer off and closed it.
Stella walked into the entrance hall and stared at her reflection in the oval mirror sitting next to the coat tree. Maybe, she thought, if my hair was blond instead of mousy brown, I wouldn't have to cultivate the friendship of rich relatives to survive. She then rubbed her petite nose with the fingers of her left hand, before letting her hand move across her too wide mouth. Perhaps, I can convince Aunt Ledia to pay for a face lift or she looked down at her sagging breast and chubby waist. Better yet, a body lift.
"Stella," her aunt said as she came through the front door. "Did you light a fire in the fireplace?"
"I checked the thermostat thirty minutes ago and it read..."
"Ignore the thermostat," Ledia went into the living room and closed the shutter. "The electricity will probably go off about midnight tonight."
"How do you know, Aunt Ledia," Stella followed her aunt into the living room and watched as she began making a fire.
"Because this is the first heavy snow of the year, the snow will knock out the power lines between Post Hole and Phoenix between 11:00 PM and 12:00 AM."
"How long will the power be out?"
"Probably until March or April of next year."
"Aunt Ledia, that..."
"That's Post Hole, Arizona, Stella." Ledia raised her gray eyebrows and then smiled. "Didn't your mother tell you about that before she sent you here."
"The only thing Mom told me," Stella glared at her aunt and then went to the woodpile beside the fireplace. "Was to watch out for Handy Rufus. She said I should stand twenty feet from the old bastard when we talked."
"I suggest standing thirty or forty feet away from the dirty old fart," she motion to Stella to hand her a log. "I swear his arms get longer every year."
She handed her aunt the log, then watched how Ledia placed it on the fire. "Anyone else I should watch out for?"
"Yes," Lidia watched as the fire blazed. "Frederick Norris, he's the foxiest old dude I've ever seen, but he doesn't cast a refection in a mirror. If he comes to the door, Stella, don't let him in."
"Am I supposed to let him freeze?"
"I doubt that he'll freeze, Stella" she started to leave the room and then pause. "The weird thing about him is that he always shows up after sunset. I've never once seen him during daylight hours." Lydia went into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a tea kettle and some cups. She put the kettle on the fire, lit a couple of candles, took a book out of the bookcase, and then set down on the couch. "Stella, why don't you get yourself something to read. It's going to be a long and crowded night."
"Crowded," Stella opened her briefcase, removed her pen and paper journal, and set down next to her aunt. "Aunt Ledia, what do you mean crowded?"
"As soon as the electricity goes off the neighbors will begin arriving with all sorts food and supplies. I don't know what it is about this town, but every one in Post Hole seems to think the first week of the big snow requires a party in this house."
"Of course, Aunt Ledia," Stella smiled sweetly. No wonder Mama wanted me to come here. Aunt Ledia is getting too old to be left alone. There's no telling what other fantasies she is having. After a few minutes of staring at the fireplace Stella fell asleep on the couch
Two hours later, Stella was awaken by a knock at the door. Looking around she noticed that her aunt was no longer on the couch and that the electricity was indeed off. She started to get up, but then heard the front door open.
"Sarah," said Ledia, "I see you're the first to arrive."
"Not the first Ledia," Sarah Reinhart replied. "I found poor Frederick shivering on your door step. He said you wouldn't let him in. "Ledia, can poor cold Frederick come in?"
"Of course, bring the vam.... Uh, yes, Frederick can come in. Please come in, Frederick."
"Folks why don't you come into the living room and meet my niece." Followed by a blond woman carrying a crock pot and a pale good looking older man carrying a bottle of wine, Ledia came back into the living room. "Frederick, why don't you place the wine on the coffee table, while I go get something to put it in." She left the room.
"Hi," said Sarah placing the crock pot close to the fireplace. "You must be Ledia's niece Stella, I'm..."
"You're Sara Reinhart my Aunt's closes neighbor," she got up and shook Sarah's hand. "Aunt Ledia speaks highly of you."
"And you," Stella turned to Frederick, "must be the handsome and mysterious Frederick Norris."
"That I am," he smiled revealing two sharp white teeth."
"Please, have a seat," Ledia said returning to the living room with a wine bucket. "Here, Stella," Ledia handed her niece a silver cross. "Please, put this on, it belonged to your great great grandmother Marge." Stella put the cross on and then noticed that her aunt was wearing a similar necklace.
"Lovely necklace, Aunt Ledia."
"Thank you, Stella, it belonged to your Grandmother Nancy."
Frederick pulled a wooden chair as far from Stella and Ledia as he could get. Then he went to the windows and cracked the shutters slightly. "A bit hot in here don't you think."
"You may be right," said Ledia. She waited until he sat down and then opened the shutter completely. She smiled as she watched the stars in the eastern sky twinkle brightly. Then she turned back to the couch, removed a wooden stake and mallet from the wine bucket and placed it on the coffee table. Next she put the wine in the bucket before sitting down on the couch.
"Are we going to play some type of game," ask Sarah.
"Perhaps," replied Lydia.