Saturday morning Rachel woke up and looked at the clock. It was 10:30? She hadn’t slept that late since college. She picked up the romance novel from her nightstand and went down to the kitchen. The coffee pot had automatically shut off at some point and now the coffee starting to cool off. The timer was set for 8:30 which was when she was usually up on the weekends. Her head was throbbing. Most likely the headache was from all the crying she’d done the night before. Hopefully coffee would help but if not she’d need medicine for this one.
She stretched out on her chaise lounge and opened her book. After reading the same page for the third time she set it aside. The book was no more help this morning in getting her mind off Curtis than it had been the night before. He was foremost in her mind. What Shannon had said made a lot of sense. He was only asking her to go to church once. She wouldn’t be this upset if he’d asked her to a hockey game. Though she had no desire to do that either. Really it was the principle of it. He knew her feelings about church but yet he still tried to get her there. If she could cut that part out of him things would be great between the two of them.
She lifted her mug and sipped at her coffee. It was only warm so she took a gulp and set the mug down on the table beside her. When had her life gone so out of control? She closed her eyes and laid her head back against the large pillows of the Chaise. Relationships were so complicated now. None of her friends wanted to go out and have fun. They suddenly worried about where everything was going. Except for her and Shannon, everyone’s clocks started ticking at once and now there was a mad dash to find “the one”. There was no sense of enjoying the moment.
Now even Shannon was starting to turn on her. Since when did she become a Bible thumper? Maybe the roses had given Shannon a Jesus experience? Rachel wasn’t sure what to think now. To be honest she would love to go back in time before she ever met Drew or Curtis or any of this mess.
“There were no roses before all this.”
She couldn’t listen to the questions pounding in her mind over and over. There were no answers to them. People were confusing and relationships were messy. She wanted to scream in frustration but that was reality. All this was not going to fit in a neat package.
She stood up and went to her kitchen for a dust rag. A sense of order would make her feel better. There was something soothing in the scent of pine and lemon in a sparkling clean house. At 2:15 the phone rang. She picked it up and pushed the talk button as she walked up to her bedroom.
“Hi Rachel, it’s Drew.”
“Hi.” She forced her voice to be calm.
“I was wondering if you had plans for the afternoon.”
“Right now I’m dusting.” She walked in to her bedroom and moved things off her dresser and on to her bed. She swiped the surface and tops of the drawers with a disposable dusting cloth.
“Is that a brush-off like washing your hair?”
“No it’s what I’m doing.”
“I should have known you were a neat freak. I like that. You’re welcome to come to my place any time and clean up.”
“I’ve seen your place. It is cleaner than mine.” She had no plans to ever step foot in his house again.
“If you say so.” He cleared his throat. “I was calling to see if maybe we couldn’t get together this afternoon and talk a little.”
“I don’t know if…”
“Before you say no hear me out. I don’t like the way things ended the other night. I feel really bad about my response. I should have respected your feelings more.” He paused. When she didn’t fill the dead air he continued. “I was a real jerk and I want to make it up to you. I’m really a nice guy. I don’t know why I acted like that.”
“I shouldn’t have led you on like that.”
“You didn’t lead me on. I thought we had a great time together and that we clicked.”
“We did. I don’t know why I acted so weird.”
“So will you meet me then?”
He was calling to apologize. That had to count for something. It was more than Curtis had done. Typical. She didn’t want to ruin any salvageable part of her relationship with Curtis but didn’t look like much of a priority to him at the moment. It was better to have a man who desired your than one who wanted to baptize you.
How would he feel if she went out with Drew? He probably wouldn’t like it. But she didn’t like what he was doing to her either. He was supposed to call today and it was mid-afternoon and she hadn’t heard boo from him. If he wanted to act like this he wasn’t worth worrying about.
“I’m thinking.” What if Curtis called when she was with Drew? Guilt grab hold of her. “Today isn’t good. Can we get together on Monday after work?”
“Are you sure? Dinner sounds a lot more serious than coffee.”
“I’m sure. Today doesn’t work well for me. I need a down day to be grubby. Work’s been really hectic and I was looking forward to living in sweat pants this weekend.”
His voice brightened. “I can understand that. I’ll meet you Monday after work at Sofo’s is that okay?”
“Sofo’s at 6? Will that work for you?”
She hung up the phone and started pulling pillows off her bed. She picked up the knife under her pillow and set it on the nightstand. Was she making a huge mistake by seeing Drew? It didn’t matter. She was living in the moment. Sticking to her princliples. Enough worrying about every little decisionthese guys entered her life. She shook her pillow out of its case.
Her mistake was over-analyzing every aspect of her relationships. Just roll with it and stop trying to figure everything out. She turned on the radio in her room to drown out her own thoughts.
Rachel walked around the bed pulling the sheet loose and rolling it in to a ball to take to the washing machine.
Pain shot up through her toe. “Ouch.” She yelled then plopped down on the bed and looked at the bottom of her foot. She’d stepped on something sharp.
“What did I step on?” She looked down on the floor. There was nothing there. Moving carefully, she checked the floor. Nothing. She knelt and lifted the dust ruffle. With her heart pounding in her chest she pulled. Time to be carefree like she’d been before out a rose stem with the bloom cut off. The ends were dry and the thorn that had poked in her foot was snapped off.
She took the rose and threw it in her trash can. Was there any other way a rose could have ended up under her bed. No. There was only one way and it meant somehow he’d gotten in her house.
Without another thought to the pain in her foot Rachel jumped off her bed and ran from room to room. Somewhere a window had been left open. He would not get in again. On the second floor everything was locked. She ran down to the first floor and checked the windows and doors. Every window was latched and the doors were locked.
The door to the basement stood open an inch. She was certain she had closed that door before she went to bed. Did he come in while she slept? The hair on her arms rose as she thought of the image of a silhouetted man standing by her bed watching her sleep. She grabbed a knife and flipped on the light to the basement. It was still except for the hum of the heater. She stepped on to the first step. No rustling or foot steps.
Second step, still no sounds.
Her ears were tuned to any sound that may be in the basement. Slowly she moved down the steps pausing to listen for movement of any kind. The naked light bulb showed a stack of boxes she hadn’t yet unpacked. The curtain was drawn across the sliding glass door. Her socks allowed the cold in the cement floor to soak in to her foot. The hair stood up on the back of her neck. She scanned left and right as she crossed the basement to the door. Nothing to give her an indication that he’d been there.
She reached the door and pulled the curtain back. Overhead something clacked and rolled across the kitchen floor.
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 http://www.writingcareercoach.com/
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