Part II: Darkness Falls
“Don’t mention anything about the rose at my mom’s house.” Rachel was firm. There was going to be enough tension with a guest and the Adam/Yvonne thing looming. “It couldn’t be the stalker so there is no reason to bring it up.”
“But that stalker is leaving roses for the women when he kills them.” Shannon no longer sounded scared. This voice was bossy. Rachel could give it right back to her.
“Yes, and the fact that you know that means other people know it. It may be nothing more than a prank.”
“But if it’s from him…”
“If it were from him I’d be dead.” Rachel yelled just as loud as Shannon had. “He leaves them with the dead bodies of women. When we get to the house I’m going to put it under my seat so Mom doesn’t see it.”
“Then you aren’t going to mention it at all?”
“No.” She slowed the car as they reached her parents’ street. “Listen, I don’t want my mom all worked up over nothing. The stalker goes after college girls. Every single one has been in her late teens or early twenties and they were college students. I don’t go to the U, I’m not anything like the other girls and unfortunately I passed twenty about a decade ago.”
“I won’t mention anything to your mom but you should consider telling the cops.”
“I’ll think about it. Do you really believe I would put my life in danger?”
Rachel parked the car and hid the rose under the seat.
“It doesn’t look like they’re here yet.” Rachel said as they walked up to the front porch. She unlocked the door and went in the house. “Adam called.”
“How do you know?”
Rachel dialed Adam and waited for him to pick up.
“Adam, it’s Rachel. GA.”
“Sorry forgot Church. Did you go?! GA.”
“Yes. When are you coming.? GA.”
“Is there anything I can do for you? GA.”
Rachel stood in front of the machine waiting for him to answer. She thought Yvonne was nice enough. Never really saw the reason her mom didn’t like her. Adam was a great-.”
“Of course. GA.”
“Thank you. Tell mom my flight info.” Rachel wrote down the airline, times and flight number.
“Is Adam on the phone?” Rachel’s mom came in the door and straight to the TDD. Rachel stepped away from the machine and left the paper with the flight on the table next to her mom. Her mom typed quickly.
“Lisa, don’t forget Curtis will be here soon.”
Dad had tried but Adam was on the phone. Until mom had finished nothing would get done unless they did it. Rachel padded up the steps to her room.
“Why do you let her do that?” Shannon was smoothing her clothes down in her suitcase. A quirk she had when she was very angry. What could have happened since they arrived-. “She comes in and you step aside.”
“Adam wanted to talk to mom.”
“But you were talking to Adam.”
“I’ll see him when he gets here.” She lifted her suitcase on the bed and started laying her things in it. “It makes mom feel good to mother him.”
“You become invisible.”
“No I don’t.” She put her toiletries in a small cloth bag and zipped it shut. “I know how my mom feels about me.”
“Everyone does. It’s obvious.”
“Stop.” Rachel spun around and threw her cosmetics in her suitcase. “I will not have you insult my parents in their house.”
Shannon held Rachel’s stare for a moment then broke it without a word. They finished packing the suitcase in silence.
“Ladies.” Her dad yelled up. “Could you help me get things finished up in the kitchen? Curtis will be here in twenty minutes.”
“Remember. Happy.” Rachel said to Shannon then painted on a smile. Shannon sneered back and yanked the door open.
They placed delicate china plates with pink flowers and gold foil edges around the table followed by two pieces of stemware, salad bowl, bread plate, silver and cloth napkins.
“Dad, what is mom up to?” Rachel said filling a small gravy bowl.
“She told me she wanted to thank him for helping on our mortgage.”
“Good, then it has nothing to do with me.”
“Of course not.” His words were thick with sarcasm.
“Adam’ll be here Tuesday.” Rachel’s mom announced. She lifted the gravy bowl out of Rachel’s hands and put it on the table in the dining room.
“Oh, you put out those glasses?”
“You said the-.”
“Yes, it’s fine. We’ll make due.” She patted Rachel and went in the kitchen. Rachel turned and saw Curtis walking slowly up the side walk. She pulled open the door and stepped out on the porch.
“Hello again, Curtis.”
“Rachel. It’s nice to see you.” She stepped out on the porch next to him and closed the storm door. The clanging of last minute preparations muffled by the thump when the door closed.
“It’s warm in there.” She stepped over to the bench in the yard. “I hope you don’t mind sitting out here for a moment.”
“No, I us-.”
“I’m sorry.” She laughed. “Mom was on the phone with Adam and is getting everything perfect in there. If she saw you before she was ready she’d freak.”
“This is fine.” He sat on the bench and crossed his leg away from her. “Your mom and dad are nice people.”
“Thank you.” Across the sidewalk a sparrow landed and hopped around picking periodically. In a couple more months no one would spend pleasant afternoons on benches watching birds. The cold sting of winter would invade and blanket everyone in to an icy prison. “I love Sparrows.”
“Oh really.” He turned toward her. “Why is that?”
“Because I only notice them in the summer. And I like summer.”
“Guess that’s as good a reason as any.” He spun his body so he faced her front on. “Lisa tells me you own a business. What do you do?”
“It’s a marketing and sales business. What I personally do is keep on top of the books and make sure Shannon gets everywhere on time.”
“That woman I met at church?”
“Yep, that’s her. We’ve been chums since college. She’s my balance and I’m hers.”
“That’s a great thing to have.” He nodded and quietly looked away. The two of them sat still but the silence was comfortable. Neither seemed to feel the need to fill the air with worthless words or idle banter. Well, Rachel didn’t. Curtis closed his eyes and leaned back a bit on the bench with a gentle grin penciled across his face.
Rachel leaned back and imitated Curtis. The warm sun beat down on her face and was balanced by the cool breeze that seemed to know exactly when to blow so as to keep them at the perfect temperature. Someone walking by would surely wonder what they were doing. Rachel hadn’t felt it wise before to lay with her eyes closed in the front yard on a city block. But then she was uptight.
The front door opened and Rachel turned to face the porch.
“Your mom’s lookin’ for-.”
“Curtis right?” Shannon walked out and shot Rachel a dirty look before turning to Curtis with a smile. “Lisa’s been in there all a flutter wonderin’ when you’d be comin’ along.”
“That was an awful imitation of my mom’s accent.”
“I know. Too much North in me to pull it off. Your mom’s looking for you though.”
“Curtis,” Rachel turned to him. “You remember Shannon?”
“Of course.” He shook her hand. “Rachel and I were out here enjoying the weather.”
“I could see that.” Rachel registered the disdain in Shannon’s voice. Curtis either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
“Well Curtis, why you sittin’ out here?” Rachel’s mom came on to the porch and hugged Curtis as if greeting family.
“Hi Lisa, quite the welcome you had for me.” He motioned to Rachel and Shannon. “You send out all these nice young ladies.”
“You act like you’re some old man.” Her mom led Curtis in the house leaving Rachel and Shannon standing alone in the yard.
“I’m sure he was just being polite.” Shannon said looking directly at Rachel. Her lips were pressed in a straight line across her face.
“What?” Rachel felt like a puppy that’d piddled on the new rug. “I needed to get out of there.”
“I’m sure that’s what it was.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong.” For all Shannon’s open-mindedness she had a bear trap tight mind when it came to dating relationships. And a broad definition of one. Once any man expressed any sort of interest in Rachel it was a requirement that the relationship continue until Shannon saw it as unhealthy or no longer worthwhile. Rachel had only defied Shannon’s judgment one time.
“What about Drew?”
“I’m not interested in this guy. He’s mom’s friend. I have to be polite.”
Shannon’s face softened. “I know Rachel. I don’t want to see you hurt again is all. You tend to think life is going to work out like one of your romance novels.”
“Yes, and you remind me frequently that it won’t.” The edge of bite in her voice had been intentional.
“We keep each other in balance. You remind me why I can’t buy everything with plastic and I remind you of what happened when you didn’t trust me.”
This was as close to winning as Rachel was going to get in this argument. Shannon was right. She was always as right on relational issues as Rachel was on financial ones and there was no reason to-.”
“Rachel, you goin’ to keep our guest waiting all day ta eat? Poor things gonna blow away in here.” Her mom called out and closed the door, not waiting for the answer.
“Better get inside.” Rachel followed Shannon in the door. Her mom had seated Curtis with an empty chair to his right. Shannon walked straight to the chair and sat down.
“I want Rachel to be able to face our guest.” She said by way of explanation.
Rachel made eye contact with no one and only walked to the other side of the rectangular table and sat in the lone chair on that side. Her dad said the blessing and they began passing food around the table. Periodically her mom would interrupt the eating sounds with a question or observation that was quickly answered and then dropped.
“I’m going to get the dessert.” Her mom said a moment before moving swiftly to the kitchen to retrieve her signature chocolate cake. That was followed by her dad clearing his throat. Rachel quickly obeyed.
“So Curtis, tell me…er…us about yourself.”
“What would you like to know?”
Her dad jumped in. “Tell Rachel about your idea for a business.”
Curtis’ face lit up. “Your parents have shared with me some of the concerns they had raising a deaf son. Well, I’d love to start-.”
Shannon stood. “Excuse me please.” She whispered then went up the steps. Curtis paused and watched her go up the steps. When the door closed he continued.
“I’d like to start a business designed specifically to cater to the deaf community and run by deaf individuals.”
“That’s a rather broad business plan. What specifically do you plan to do?” Rachel wasn’t interested in someone talking about ‘businesses’ that will help her family unless they were really profitable. Too many people these days were big on ideas, small on execution and planning.
He pushed his plate back a bit and started rearranging imaginary blocks on the table as he outlined his general proposal.
“Here, let me gather up…well now, where’s Shannon off to?” Her mom said while she stacked the plates in a messy pile. Rachel picked up the gravy bowl. “I got it. You stay out here and listen to Curtis’ idea. I’d like to know your take on it.”
Shannon returned dragging a suitcase. “What will you do about telecommunication issues?” she asked in the first break. Her tone was gentler than when she went up the steps.
“That is one issue I’m still trying to resolve. Initially I thought a TDD would suffice but when I really started mapping out the business plan I saw that wasn’t practical.”
Rachel’s mom returned with a tray full of white plates and thick black slices of chocolate cake. “Pretty clever don’t cha think?” She said as she set a plate in front of Rachel.
“I think it sounds great. Shannon?” Shannon paused, fork in her mouth. She chewed quickly and looked back at Rachel.
“Why didn’t you think of it?”
“I’d love for the two of you to help me with marketing when the time comes.” Curtis asked then cut in to his cake.
“Of course. You know Adam is going to be here in a couple of days. You should get his input.”
“He’s been talking to him a bit, in the beginning stages.”
Rachel paused. How long had this deal been in the works and why was this the first she heard of it. She quietly chewed on the cake that was no longer a treat but merely a dessert to her. Okay, that was a bit harsh but she was hurt. She was the only person in the family who’d had both business training and had worked with the deaf for literally her entire life. They hadn’t even considered her as a consultant on the project.
The other four continued to banter about and brainstorm. Shannon was suddenly in on the excitement too. Now that she realized Curtis really wasn’t a dating prospect but was really a business opportunity Shannon’s sour attitude had sweetened considerably.
Rachel excused herself and went up to her room to zip up her suitcase and steal a few moments alone. Still the walls of the ‘guest’ room showed memories of her childhood. A few stuffed dollies and a sun bleached unicorn sat in a corner shelf. The ribbons were no longer on her wall nor were any trophies. The room had remained, and likely would continue to be, an ode to Rachel’s childhood.
As if eternally nine years old, twenty year old photographs adorned the walls and pink ribbons on old ballet shoes served as decorations on a child’s dresser. Her dresser.
Graduation with honors wasn’t enough, nor was striking out on her own and starting a business. She would always be their little girl, but not in a good way.
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at www.WritingCareerCoach.com
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This story is copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. It may not be copied, distributed, sold or included in any larger work without the expressed written permission of Tiffany Colter.
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