The Ups and Downs have become mostly Downs where Jae is concerned...until now
| CHAPTER ONE
She SO hadn't needed to be fired from the first job she'd gotten since moving here all because of someone trying to cause trouble for her.
Instead of blowing up at the younger woman she had had to answer to up until ten minutes ago Jae Welsh used her fists to erase the traces of tears glistening below her shadowed eyes as she stood up with as much dignity as she could from the stool she'd been perched on and she squared her slight shoulders.
" You're not being barred from shopping here unless Melissa says you've done something to fuel the fire." Her ex boss informed her , holding her hand out for Jae's name tag and keys.
"I'd rather go shopping at Fairvilla than spend one dime on this cheaply made merchandise." She returned with a sweet smile, wishing that she'd had the courage to leave her name tags pin open when she pressed it into the woman's hand.
With that Jae strolled casually from the store, her head held high and her gaze daring any comments from the peanut gallery watching her march of shame, avoiding the curious glances being sent her way by the regular customers she knew either by name or by face all the same as she tugged to keep her backpack straps and her purse straps from tangling on her shoulder.
Yet as soon as she hit the main hall of the mall she slowly turned to face the store front, her gaze seeking out the one individual responsible for her walking out today of all days..Friday the 13th..like that wasn't Karma giving her a big " How -Do-You-Do "..and she raised both hands in the universal one fingered salute which swiftly changed to waving hands and a cheeky grin when the brunette lifted her camera phone to video tape her...No reason to give her anything more to send in to HR..or a lawyer.
Turning again Jae made her way toward the main entrance for the mall, nodding to people she'd started to get to know..and stopping for two large Auntie Ems pretzels with honey mustard sauce on the side for both just before she left the mall itself, squinting in the bright morning sunlight..something she'd not really been seeing much of lately while she adjusted to life alone.
She barely made it to the bus area in time to catch the one she needed and she had just a few minutes to spare when she hit the downtown terminal when she knew she had to hurry to get to her bus she paused when a gnarled hand clutched at her sleeve.
" My dear, I have something that will change your life if you let it." The sweet old grandmotherly type woman at her elbow stated, tugging at her again." Please..It..It has called to you, I can tell."
" Lady, You're crazy..now let go of me before I yell for that cop." Jae retorted, her head drawing back as far as it would go as she struggled to free herself of the woman's grip..one that seemed too strong for such a frail looking woman.
" Please, You must take it from me..quickly, what would make you a believer that this..item..can give you your fondest wishes?" The woman croaked, looking around them wildly and half dragging Jae into the nearest women's room.
" Money..If it can grant wishes make it produce money." She drawled sarcastically, rolling her almost rusty colored eyes dramatically.
" How much? " The old woman asked shrewdly, her wrinkled face screwing up in concentration.
" Five grand. " Jae responded with what she considered a sizable chunk of change, waving one hand around airily as if the amount was no big deal.
" I wish this young lady had five thousand dollars in real US currency in her backpack, denominations that have not been counterfeited or stolen." The woman ordered in a voice that meant business and Jae could have sworn she felt the second the sleight weight was added to her bags. " Go ahead and look."
Half way afraid to do so Jae swung the backpack up onto the sinks mock granite counter space and unzipped the main compartment of it, her eyes widening when she spotted all the cash now stuffed into her backpacks depths.
" How much am I asking for this item you ask.." The woman prompted and Jae arched a brow over one eye.
" Why would I need to when I can live off of this for a long time?" She countered, reaching into the backpack to touch the cool green of the cash it held.
" I wish this young lady only the monies she had of her own before we met." The woman cried and Jae yelped when the money around her hand faded away to nothing again.
" Oh come ON..That's so not fair!!" Jae wailed, her gaze raising to the sparkling blue ones of the old woman . " So how much are you asking for this..thing..?"
" I must ask for an amount smaller than what I purchased it for, which was ten dollars." She admitted with a smile that was missing a few teeth now that Jae got a good look at her." When you sell it it must be for less than you paid and so on..you can not will it away nor give it away."
" Great..Okay, I have like nine fifty-seven right here." She informed the woman, holding out the change she'd gotten from the pretzels.
" Think about this my dear..because each selfish wish you use someone you may know has some-" The woman stopped mid-sentence and cocked her head as if listening to someone." Yes, Perhaps he needs to explain it to you in his own time and manner."
"He...He who?" She demanded, drawing her money closer to her chest as she looked around only to see that they were alone in the bathroom still.
" Bus in Bay E will be departing in five minutes!" A disembodied voice called over the speakers, following it with three more impending departures.
" Oh I don't care,..are you going to sell it or not? It's not a drug is it?" Maybe when she'd grabbed her wrist she'd rubbed some sort of mind altering drug onto her skin.
" Very well..Here he is..well, his home anyway." The woman produced a glass-like bottle from beneath her cloak and snatched the money before she darted back out of the bathroom..calling out a "Good luck" on her way out.
" Well I'm going to have to find out how you work when I get home." Jae murmured to the bottle,whose dark iridescent black finish made it impossible to see inside of it.
She tossed it down into her backpack as she dashed out into the lobby then her pace turned into a jog and full out run once she'd hit the outside of the terminal, she dodged and weaved around pedestrians with the ease of one born to it.
She slid between the doors of the bus as the driver was shutting them and her startled squeak made the doors pop back open.
" Jesus Christ Jae, Scared me to death." The man everyone called Uncle Marty stated, scowling at her as she bounded up the trio of steps and slid her pass through the machine before she sought out a seat at the rear of the bus, hoping that no one else would want to be back there, but it was the middle of the day and the bus was crowded.
It took the bus another half hour before she finally got off at her stop, absently stretching her back as she walked toward her street.
During the day the privacy fence along the front of the homeless shelter had a row of people in front of it, leaning against the weathered boards while they talked and drank beer out of brown paper bags and more than one man offered her low whistles of interest, trying to get her attention..one even stood beneath a ,low lying branch of a tree, his arms raised so he could hold onto the smooth branch casually as he watched her walk out into the street to avoid them.
This one gave her the creeps, with his pale eyes and pock marked face.
" Hey baby,Need a boyfriend..or just a quick roll in the sheets maybe? " The man taunted, half swinging on the tree branch like some giant albino monkey, and his buddies laughed and urged him on. " Come on, I have something really special for you." He added, allowing one of his hands to slip down to the front of his baggy jeans suggestively.
His words were the proverbial straw that broke the camels back and her entire body tensed as she whipped back around to face him, her hoops earrings swinging wildly with the action and slapping against her neck.
" I wouldn't sleep with you if you were the last man on Earth and I hadn't been laid in decades." She snarled, pointing one long mauve tipped finger in his direction as she advanced on him." You're an obnoxious pig and I'd be surprised if any woman ever slipped into your bed at night, and from the looks of it you're working with a micro penis anyway..I wish you were just honest about things."
' Done ' The lone word was a soft raspy whisper and her head snapped up as her gaze sought out the owner of that sinful voice..but there was no one close enough to her for it to have been them.
" Okay, So maybe I'm not hung like the brotha's around here but I have enough to satisfy women..." The blond man stated sharply..like the words had been ripped from his throat and she watched his face grow redder and redder with each word he spoke." Oh hell, Who am I trying to kid? I don't even have enough to satisfy myself---" His teeth snapped together and he glared at her as his friends laughed." What did you do bitch? "
Jae had stopped moving toward him and was now trying to control her own amusement at his expense but when he balled up both hands into large fists and lunged at her she released a squeak of alarm and took a step backwards, twisting her ankle in the process thanks to the high heeled pumps she was wearing, but hands kept her from falling and a trio of men stepped in front of her to protect her.
" Yo bro..what you thinking going at a woman like you wanna beat her ass?" A tall Latino demanded, looking like he was ready to rip the smaller man to shreds.
Jae was eagerly disengaging the hands from her person and began moving toward her home again..this time putting more pep in her step despite her throbbing ankle..she just wanted to get into the safety of her home and the air conditioning..she already missed the breezes when they'd come off the river side of her old childhood home.
She made a stop at the corner store on her way home to buy snacks and drinks before going home and it still only took her fifteen minutes to reach the smallish house she'd purchased in the not so nice area of Orlando..maybe her mother was right..maybe she'd done that to make sure that she never came to visit.
" Hey girl..how you feeling?" She greeted the dog that stood in the living room, just the very end of her twisted half tail was wagging but the fear in her amber eyes shone brightly." You need to go out? Come on."
The dog had been an added bonus to the house..she'd found her hiding on a filthy blanket in the mud room off the kitchen the day she'd moved in and she'd trapped her by shutting the gate to the back yards tall privacy fence and it had taken until the night before to coax her to come into the house..it was progress.
Once she'd turned the dog loose in the back yard she returned to sink down onto the sectional so she could reach under the heavy coffee table for the tray hidden there, if there was any time she needed this it was now.
That was what she told herself as she rolled a neat blunt and lit it, finally taking the bottle from her backpack and examining it from every imaginable angle.
" That was you,wasn't it? " She murmured at last, placing the bottle on the coffee table with far more care than she'd been using with it." What are you..Like a genie? Do I only get three wishes? Oh my God,,I..I already used one didn't I? " She took a deep pull from the blunt and she held the smoke in her lungs until she thought they would pop from the pressure before releasing a stream of thick silvery smoke.
" Why aren't you saying anything? I heard you earlier you know..you have a nice voice."
Yet no matter how much she begged she didn't hear any reply from that voice so after a few minutes of silence she turned on the TV, finding a day time Law and Order marathon and leaving it on.
She knew she was dreaming because she was standing in the surf of the ocean, feeling the little bubbles of foam bursting on her lower legs and feet while the sand beneath her bare feet shifted and was sucked out to sea when the waves receded...even the moon was too perfect in it's fullness..shimmering brightly above the oceans choppy surface.
Raising one hand she shoved her hair out of her eyes and looked around the illuminated beachfront,recognizing landmarks that told her she was on Melbourne Beach proper.
Once in a while the sleepy call of a sea gull could be heard or the cry of a hunting osprey but other than the birds no other sound was on the night air...it was like she was alone in the universe and she was okay with that,until she felt strong arms circle her from behind and yank her against a water slick chest, making her struggle to free herself so she could face her attacker.
"Oh my God...Brett..." The words were released on a rushed breath as she let her gaze slowly take in the image of the man she'd had cremated by his wishes four months ago and tears rushed to sting her eyes, trembling on her long lashes yet refusing to fall." I know you're not Brett, I don't dream about him..not anymore.."
Her dream companions strawberry blond hair was clinging to his skull wetly and ocean water clung to his lashes, making him look the part he was playing but somehow she knew that he'd not come clean.
She wasn't about to admit..even to herself..that she and Brett had been over with long before the day a drunk driver hit his car, killing him instantly according to the police report.
" What do you really look like? " Jae questioned, arching a brow over one denim blue eye.
" I look however you wish me to look, I drew this image from your mind." Not-Bretts voice was the same one from earlier..a rough rumble of a rasp that made shivers race up her backbone and a moist rush of heat centered between her firm thighs." I can smell your attraction to this man..can we not pretend that I am this Brett person? "
" No.." She shot back, shaking her head.
They couldn't..could they?
"No..No we can't, I'm sorry.." She added right before her breath caught in her throat and she gasped sharply as she sat up, her eyes popping open and she looked for the bottle, which sat right where she'd left it on the coffee table and the big slate grey dog lay next to the sectional where she'd decided to nap." Don't you ever do that again, Brett is no puppet for you to play with! Leave his memory alone."
She smoothed the now sleep wrinkled silk shirt down , frowning a bit when she noticed that it was unbuttoned and removed from the waistband of her pants so that the lilac lace bra she wore drew the gaze to her chest and a quick thought about being curious to know if she wore the matching panties raced across her mind.
' Do you really wish to know what I look like ? ' The seductive voice questioned suddenly in her ear and she yelped, yanking her shirt shut .
" Oh no, You're not tricking me into using another wish..I'd LIKE to know what you look like, isn't that enough? " She retorted with a snort, as if to say that she were smarter than that and she'd have sworn she heard masculine laughter in the breeze from the air conditioner vents. " I mean unless you're hideously ugly of course.." She added with a chortle of laughter.
' See for yourself when next you fall asleep pet.' He invited silkily, his words making her blush hotly.
" It's a date." She returned softly..wondering if she'd lost her mind.
She was playing a game with what could be a very powerful demon..or genie..or whatever but this was the most alive she'd felt in over three years and she smiled faintly.
She had a lot to do before she went to bed and the easiest way to get damned near everything she needed was to go to the nearest Walmart.