Friday, August 28, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 3 Chapter 17

Seventeen

“Here let me help you carry those.” Curtis took the books out of Rachel’s arms and followed her up the walk to her parents’ house. She unlocked the door, which was always locked since she came to live with them, and stepped in the house.

The room smelled like onions, garlic and meat. A pot roast was cooking and Rachel’s stomach growled.

“Do you mind taking those on up to my room?” She asked Curtis.

“No, lead the way.”

They walked up the steps and put her books down then walked down through the living room to the kitchen. The crock pot was on the counter but her parents weren’t there.

“They must have gone to do some running before I got home.” She looked back at Curtis.

“It’s fine. I’m not in a rush to get home.” He said.

“You’re staying for dinner right?” She slid her arm around his waist and leaned in to him.

“Of course.”

Curtis’ phone vibrated on his hip.

“You need to get that?”

He looked down. “Yes, it’s business.” He stepped out of the kitchen into the living room. “Hello Drew.”

Rachel took a few steps toward the doorway to listen to the conversation. She didn’t realize Drew and Curtis even knew each other.

“No it’s not a problem at all. I’m at my girlfriend’s parent’s house.” Curtis said.

There was a short pause.

“No, I didn’t get that paperwork. When did you fax it over?”

Another short pause.

“When did they want to close?” Pause. “That soon? I’m not sure if I can get that done in time or not. Let me see what I can get worked out from here and I’ll call you.” Curtis stopped for a moment. “Wait, let me ask Rachel something.”

He walked in kitchen. Rachel jumped away from the door where she was listening and opened the cupboard closest to her.

“Do you have a fax here?” He asked with his finger over the phone mouthpiece.

“No but I have a fax to email. You fax it to the number and it sends to my email. I can print it in .pdf.”

“Great thanks.” Curtis walked back to the living room then called back. “What’s the number?”

She grabbed a business card out and gave it to him. “It’s right there on my card.”

He nodded his head and she walked back in the other room. What a horrible time to have Drew call. She walked to the cupboard and pulled down four plates. She had no ideas they worked together on anything but her house. Curtis never mentioned Drew. Why would he? He hadn’t mentioned other co-workers before either. That meant she had to tell Curtis what happened with Drew.

She snuck back to the doorway.

“You remember the lady we first worked together with? Rachel. That’s my girlfriend.”

A short pause.“

A couple of months off and on.”

Drew don’t you dare say anything.

“Yes she is great. She has a fax I can use. Here is the number.”

A short pause.

“Oh you do?”

A longer pause.

“When?” Curtis’ footsteps in the other room stopped. Rachel tried not to breathe. “No, I didn’t know that.”

A long pause.

“Oh good you’re getting everything around.” Rachel spun around. Her mom was standing inside the kitchen. “I was going through some boxes in the basement and heard you two come in but you know what it’s like when you’re almost done with a project.”

Rachel heard footsteps behind her and she turned. Curtis was red-faced. “I won’t be staying for dinner tonight.” He focused on Rachel.

“Why not?” Her mom asked.

He continued to look at Rachel. “I just had a call from one of the real estate agents I work with. They have a last minute deal they need worked up for a closing.”

“Curtis.” Rachel stepped to him.

“Don’t.” He held up his hand. “Don’t, all right? I need some time to process all this.”

“But it’s-”

“I’ll call you in a couple of days.” He turned and walked out of the kitchen, through the living room and out the front door. She heard the door close hard and her feet unstuck from the floor. She scurried through the house and out the front door after him.

“Curtis please.”

“What Rachel? What do you want?” He spun around and faced her.

“I was going to tell you?”

He shook his head and looked away.

“I was but we just got serious and I didn’t want to mess anything up.”

“Rachel, I’ve been serious with you all along.”

“I’m sorry.” She pleaded with him.

“Maybe we are too different to make this work.”

“No, we really aren’t.” She reached out and took his hand. “I love you Curtis.”

“I love you too but I can’t have a relationship based on lies.”

“I never lied.”

He pulled his hand away. “I can’t have one based on half-truths either. I have to be able to trust you, Rachel.”

“You can trust me.”

He walked to his car and before climbing in he called back. “I’ll get in touch with you in a few days. Don’t call me until then. I need to think.”

She looked back at her parents’ house. His engine roared as he backed up and sped down the road. Through the corner of her left eye she saw his tail lights move away from her. Slowly she made her way back up into the house then straight to her bedroom. She didn’t much feel like eating.

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 3 Chapter 18

Eighteen

Someone tapped gently on Rachel’s office door. She looked up from the papers she was packing up as Curtis stuck his head in the door. He stepped in and closed the door behind him. “How are you holding up?” He reached for her hand.

“I hate feeling like a burden to everyone.”

“You’re not a burden. Why would you say something like that?” He touched her cheek with his fingers.

“Because I am. You have to follow me, I live with my parents and everyone in this office-.”

“We’ve talked about this.”

“I know.” She looked away from him. “I understand your point. I didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

“And it is not you putting people out. It is this man.”

She looked back at him. Even something as vague as this man made her stomach do flip-flops. “But it is still my life that is causing this mess.”

“What can I do to make you feel better?” He scooted his chair closer to her.

“I don’t know. There are so many things on my mind right now.”

“Besides the flowers?”

She hesitated. This wasn’t the time to discuss their relationship. Curtis had changed his life and schedule to be her daily escort. There was no telling how many appointments he’d not scheduled or canceled to be able to help her. Whenever she asked he told her he’d handled it and not to worry.

“Rachel?”

She looked up at him.

“You faded out there for a second. What’s wrong?”

She took a deep breath. “Where do you see us going?”

“In our relationship?”

She nodded her head.“I don’t know yet. What about you?”

“I’m not sure. It feels like things are turning serious but.” She stopped. “I know you love me.”

“But?” He looked her in the eye and squeezed her hand.

“But there is the religion thing.” She’d said it. As much as she worried about having this conversation she couldn’t bear to be any more in love with him and then lose him.

“The religion thing.” He said as if finding the piece to a puzzle.

“Yes. I know it’s a big deal.”

“Yes, it is.” He nodded.

“So, what about it? I don’t know that I am willing to jump on board with your beliefs, although with all that’s been happening I wish there was a God who would protect me.” Since the retreat she had more than once prayed prayers that started with if you are real God…

“And what could make you take the leap from wishing he were real to believing he were real?” He let go of her hand and sat down in the chair next to him.

“I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it.”

“You know the Bible says faith is the proof of things we don’t see.”

Rachel looked up at the ceiling to gather her thoughts before she answered. “Yes, so if only I had faith then I would have faith.”

“It’s the best I have for you right now.”

“Wait a minute.” She stopped packing for a moment and looked square at Curtis. “If you believe the Bible then why are you so freaked out about this guy hurting me?” It was easy to tell people how much they should believe stuff but then walk away and not apply it to your own life.

The room was silent for a long moment. “The best answer I have for you is we live in a fallen world. Evil things happen to wonderful people.” His voice cracked as he spoke. “What I can tell you is that the Bible tells me no matter what happens God will make things work out for good for people who love and obey God.”

He cleared his throat again before continuing. “That is why I continue to pray that you will allow Him in your heart. It is the best protection I can give you. That is using the power of God to protect you.” He smiled. “And until that happens then I will do the next best thing and I will love and protect you in my strength.”

That answer made sense. Curtis was doing the best thing he could do in his own estimation. “But can you see this relationship becoming permanent if I don’t become a Christian?”

“I try not to think about it.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you and I want us to have a future.” He cleared his throat. “Or as you put it ‘become permanent’.”

“And we won’t have one if I don’t accept your belief system.” It was a statement, not a question.

“All I can tell you is I love you and today I’m going to follow you to your parents house. Then after we have dinner together I am going to go home. I will pray for you before I go to bed. In the morning I’ll pray for you again.” He smiled and took both of her hands in his. “That’s enough for me to think about. Focus on today’s problems because tomorrow will have enough of its own.”

While Rachel was mulling over his answer someone knocked on her office door.

“Come in.” She said loud enough for them to hear.

The receptionist stepped in the office. “You have a delivery.” Then she quickly walked out. Word must have spread pretty fast that Rachel knew all about the office’s little meeting. A young man stepped around the corner and handed Rachel a clip board with an X on it. Rachel signed her name and he handed her the long cardboard box.

“Thank you.” She said. He nodded and walked out.

“Who is it from?” Curtis asked looking at the address label.

“I’m not sure. There is a typed P.O. box then my work address.” She cut through the tape. “It’s light. Probably a poster for one of the marketing campaigns.” She turned the tube sideways and a rose slid out with a piece of paper. She dropped the box to the floor and Curtis snatched it up.

“What does it say?” He reached for the slip of paper hooked to the rose.

“Don’t touch it.” She put her hands up to block him. With her ink pen and letter opener she pulled the folded paper open.

“See you later beautiful.” Rachel whispered.

Without a word Curtis bolted out her office door. Rachel followed him as far as the front desk but he was chasing down the delivery boy in the parking lot.

“Call the police. Tell them the Fratboy killer just contacted me again.” Rachel said to the woman at the receptionist desk. Outside Curtis was yelling at the man who had delivered the box.

“I’ve called the police.” She said when they walked back in the office.

“He says some guy approached him on campus and gave him $30 and asked him to surprise his girl friend.”

“Lady, I had nothing to do with the guy. I was trying to be nice-.”

Rachel looked at him shocked. “Do you make it a habit to deliver packages from strangers on campus? Don’t you know there could have been a bomb in there?”

The young man couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty. He kept his eyes down and glanced up as he spoke. “He wasn’t a total stranger. I pass him a few times a week on my way to English. We smile and nod at each other.”

“Do you know his name?”

“No.”

“The police will be here soon.”

“The police.” He shot his eyes open wide and looked between Curtis and Rachel.

“They’re going to want you to give them a description.” Curtis said, taking over the conversation.

“I’m not in trouble am I?”

“I don’t think so.”

Shannon came out and looked at the group of them. “What happened?”

One of the people leaned over and whispered “The stalker sent a rose to Rachel. This guy delivered it.”

Rachel walked over to Shannon to finish. “The note said he’d see me soon.”

Shannon threw her arms around Rachel. “If he thinks he’s coming then we’ll be waiting. None of us are going to let him hurt you.”

Rachel nodded but didn’t say a word.

“I mean it Rachel. We’re going to beat this guy.”

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 3 Chapter 19

Nineteen

“Are you asleep?” Rachel sat up quickly and looked around. Shannon stood in the doorway to her office with a stack of folders and a well-dressed older man. She turned to the man. “Would you excuse me for a moment please?”

He looked at Rachel. “Certainly.” Then stepped back for Shannon to close the door.

Rachel pushed a few papers around her desk. “I’m sorry. I was going over the number for-.”

“Do you know who that man is?” Shannon said in a low growl

“Uh…Yes, I do…She lifted a folder to find her calendar. She remembered the two of them talking about an appointment today. Where was her calendar? She always kept it next to her keyboard. Her wrist his something hard which was followed by a clank on the desk.

“Rachel!”

The word registered at nearly the same moment Hot coffee began to pour over the edge of the desk and on to her lap. She jumped up when the hot liquid hit her. Shannon grabbed papers off of the desk and started spreading them across the floor.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t even see it there.”

Shannon didn’t say a word. She went out the door and appeared a few moments later with a towel.

“Here.”

“Thanks.” Rachel said in a near whisper. She sopped up coffee from the papers that remained on the desk. “Found my calendar.”

“That’s nice.” Shannon laid down the few papers left in her hand. “Let’s go meet in my office.”

Rachel followed without a word.“

Clean yourself up first.”

She looked down at the brown splatter that covered the thighs of her khaki pants and the edge of her salmon colored silk blouse. Paper towels in the bathroom were not going to fix this. She pushed the bathroom door open and grabbed a handful of papers towels. The coffee went across her thighs and around to the back of her legs. She spun to look in the full length mirror then walked out. These were beyond salvageable, even for her dry cleaner.

“I’m sorry.” Rachel walked in the meeting and sat in a chair next to Shannon. The older man she’d seen before spilling coffee everywhere was seated in a chair across from Shannon. He turned when she entered and offered a nod in greeting.

“It’s fine. Shannon here was outlining your plans for the mentorship program with our school.” The older man, whose name Rachel still didn’t know, said.

“I was telling Mr. Fischer about our mentorship programs with the high school.”

“We have one of the best business mentorship programs in the area.” Rachel had a passion for working with the high school juniors and seniors. They came ready to learn about the business and having an opportunity to put something positive in their life, even with the additional work, was a highlight of Rachel’s year.

“Shannon showed me a bit. It is very impressive.”

“Here are some testimonials from other principals and teachers.” She handed across a three ring binder. “And these are some letters from student who have gone through our program.”

He took the folders and flipped through the pages without reading any of them.

“I have to be honest ladies.” He placed the binder in front of him on Shannon’s desk. “You don’t have to convince me your program is among the best. I have spoken to a number of my colleagues leading up to this meeting. What concerns me is the reports we’ve heard that the office may not be fully safe.”

“The students here are never in jeopardy-.” Rachel said.

Mr. Fischer looked at Rachel and the stain on her pants. “The news reports are giving another story and to be quite honest many of the parents have shared with me their reluctance to allow their students to participate in an internship program affiliated with your company until a few of those issues are resolved.”

Shannon stepped in and tried to convince him everything was safe but one look at Rachel would tell anyone that there were problems. Coffee stained, puffy-eyed, scatter-brained Rachel was not a vote of confidence.

They shook hands and he left.

“Well, that went very well.” Rachel said being sarcastic after Shannon had closed the door.

“I’m really glad you can find humor in this.”

“So what else am I going to do>”

“I don’t know Rachel but something’s gotta happen. We don’t have the budget to hire the staff we need to replace the mentorship program.”

“It’ll get along fine.”

“The work of six part-time students? We can’t spread that around to everyone else. We’re already running on fumes around here trying to make up for the work you can’t do and losing the half-day when the cops were fingerprinting.”

“So this is my fault?” Rachel broke in.

“It may not be your fault but you’re the cause of all this.”

“All of this?”

Shannon scooped a spreadsheet off of her desk. “Have you even looked at the numbers this month?”

“I was working on them when you came-.”

“Don’t bother. I ran the books.”

Shannon shoved the sheet of paper in Rachel’s hands. She didn’t need to look at what it said. She saw the four columns that flashed red.

“We’re running this business out of our reserves and there isn’t much there.” Shannon yelled.

“What do you want me to do about it?” Rachel tossed the paper back to Shannon’s desk. It floated, skitted the top and fell to the floor.

“We think-.”

“We? Who is we?”

“The accountant, some of the staff and I think it might be a good idea if you became a silent partner for a little while. Only until this blows over.”

“Am I being fired from my own company?”

“No, you can work from home. We need you to not come to the office until these things blow over and this guy gets caught.” Shannon reached for Rachel’s arm. She jerked back. The whole office wanted her out.

“Fine. I’m out.” She jerked the door open, stomped in to her office and slammed the door. Something crunched under her and she looked down. She was standing on some of the wet papers Shannon had spread out when Rachel spilled her coffee. She lifted her foot and the paper clung to her shoe. Enough was enough, she ripped the paper off the bottom of her shoe, jumped over the rest and called Curtis.

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 2 Chapter 44

Forty-four

At around nine p.m. Rachel walked back to the room with her mom.

“Mom, I’m going home.”

“Why?” She spun and looked at Rachel. Her eyes held more concern than disappointment. Mom was convinced that Rachel had been touched by God. She had told Rachel as much once she finished her conversation with Carol Adnaw.

“This has been a lot for me to process. I think I need to be alone for a little bit.” She needed to go home and face her fears. The constant fear she lived under now seemed ridiculous from the outside. A twinge of fear rattled around but she pushed it down with every logical explanation against what she was feeling.

“I’ll try to be back in the morning but there is something I have to do tonight.” She wanted to reassure her mom that she wasn’t trying to skip out on their women’s retreat. Her mom raised a skeptical eyebrow at Rachel.

“How ‘bout this. I’ll grab my toothbrush and deodorant and leave everything else here. I’ll get it when I come back in the morning for the rest of the conference.

Her mom’s face softened, “All right. I’ll see you in the morning then. They’re starting breakfast at eight.”

“I’ll be here.” Rachel hugged her mom, grabbed the cosmetic bag from her suitcase and headed straight for her car.

The door thudded behind her and threw her into darkness. Only the few security lights in the parking lot and dim solar lights casting circles of yellow along the sidewalk invaded its domain. The evening air clung to Rachel’s arms. Behind her something scraped and she let out a small squeal until she saw the leaf skitter past her on the sidewalk.

She paused for a moment and looked back at the door to the lodge. What was she really trying to prove by going home? She took a step toward the lodge trying to come up with a reason for her change of heart.

“No.” Her voice echoed from the door and briefly stopped the chatter of crickets. She jammed her hand in her purse to retrieve her keys and walked along, her boots clanking out hard on the sidewalk.

He could have followed her.

She started walking faster to her car. It would take longer to get back to the lodge then to get in her drivers seat. She pushed the button to unlock the doors. The dome light flooded the interior. She opened the door, got inside and locked it behind her in one fluid motion. She turned her dome light off and let her eyes adjust again to the darkness.

There were no moving forms, no shadows approaching. She didn’t feel any less vulnerable alone in this locked car than she had alone on the dark sidewalk. But now she was committed to going home. She stuck her key in the ignition and let the car idle for a few minutes playing the slide show in her head again. Each rose and where she had found it didn’t paralyze her with fear but neither did she feel as invincible as she had inside the lodge.

She drove down the winding tree-lined road that would take her back out to triangle park. Overhead the trees sliced lines across the moon. Carol had assured her that everything was going to be fine. She had said she’d be protected. However, what she said was contingent upon God existing the way they believed. If they were wrong there was no protection.

A tear slid down her cheek. The only way she had a promise that she was going to be safe was if her mom was right about God and Jesus. If Rachel was right she could be driving home to her death. The Fratboy would get her.

She had tried denial, anger and tears and nothing had worked. She wanted Carol to be right. At least this time.

“God if you’re out there give me the faith to believe what I’ve heard is true.”

She came to the end of the wooded area and made the jog to Triangle park. Her breathing slowed a bit. The streets were empty most of the way home. Nine o’ clock on a Friday night it seemed people were at their destinations.

She turned down her road and drove slowly along. The street was deserted except for a man petting the brown dog a few doors down from her house. Her house was dimly lit with the few lamps she’d left on with the timer. She pulled up her driveway and around to the back of the house.

“I’m going to be fine.” She said as she took deliberate strides to her back door. She denied the terror digging its icy fingers in her body.

“I’m going to be fine.” She repeated with emphasis. The deadbolt clicked as she turned the key and pushed the door open. The clock ticked out the second and she pushed the door shut behind her.

The blinking red light on her answering machine caught her attention. She pushed the play button and removed her shoes.

“Rachel this is Curtis. Welcome home. I wanted to let you know I’ve been praying for you tonight. I miss you. Call me when you get home.” The machine beeped at the end of his message.

“I thought I left more lights on.” Her voice boomed in the silence of the house. She stepped in the living room and turned on the television eager to hear a voice to silence the one in her head. It boomed on and made her jump. She fumbled with the volume down on the remote. Maybe it had been a mistake to come back here. The women at the retreat were wonderful, not judgmental at all. What did she have to prove by coming back to the house? That she wasn’t scared.

By coming home she had proven that the Frat boy had complete control over her. She was happy at the retreat and she wanted to leave that to prove that he didn’t control her. She plopped down on the couch.

She was home and it was now almost nine thirty she decided to order a movie on pay-per-viewher cable, throw on her pajamas and enjoy the rest of her evening. She flipped on the dining room light on her way to the steps. The candlesticks in the middle of the table were gone and in its place was her mail and a single white rose.

The icy fingers of terror grabbed her and squeezed. She stood planted with her eyes fixed on the flower. She had been gone for only three hours.

He could be here now.

Her feet gave way and she ran for the kitchen. She dialed Curtis and grabbed a knife out of the kitchen drawer.

“Hi, I hadn’t expected to hear from you tonight.”

“He’s been here.” She blurted out. “Please come.”

“Who?” Curtis’ voice was firm. “Rachel, who was there.”

“Him. He’s been here.” She paced in a five-foot section of her kitchen and adjusted her grip on the knife.

“I’m getting in my car now. Rachel, hang up and call the police.”

“Curtis, don’t hang up please.”

“Rachel, if someone is there you need to hang up and call the police now.”

“Please. I can’t be alone.”

“Honey, I’m coming but I won’t be there for ten or fifteen minutes. Please hang up and call the police.”

She grabbed her home phone and balanced the cell on her shoulder. “Curtis, don’t hang up. I’m calling the police with the land line. She tried to dial but couldn’t balance and the knife fell from her hand. She jumped and dropped the cell. The knife skittered across the floor and hit the wall blade first.

“Are you still there?” She yelled then grabbed the phone tight against her ear.

“Yes, are you okay?”

“I dropped the phone.”

“Call the police Rachel. Set the cell on the counter. I won’t hang up but call 9-1-1 now.”

She bent down for the knife and took it to the corner of her kitchen then set the phone and the knife beside her and dialed. She told the dispatcher what had happened.

“We have a patrol in your area, hold the line.”

Rachel picked up the cell, “They have someone close by.”

“Good, don’t talk to me. Talk to them.” Curtis said, sounding much calmer.

Rachel’s breathing slowed.

“Ma’am?” The dispatcher said.

“Yes. I’m here.”

“We have a car less than a mile from your home. I need you to stay on the line until he arrives.”

“Okay.”

Red and blue flashed in her living room when the car pulled in the driveway. “Curtis, the police are here. I’m going to hang up.”

“I’ll be there soon. I love you.”

“I love you too.” Rachel said and flipped the phone shut.

“Ma’am, I’ve had radio contact. That is our patrol car. It is safe for you to hang up with me. They will take care of everything.”

“Thank you.” Rachel pushed the phone off and let the officer in the front door.

She gave him the name of the detective who had been working her case and told him about the evening.

“Rachel.” Curtis burst in the front door.

“Sir.” The officer took a step toward Curtis.

“It’s okay. He’s my boyfriend.”

The officer relaxed. “And you did not come to her house today and do this?” He asked and scratched something on a notepad.

“No I didn’t.” Curtis said pulling Rachel against him. “She was supposed to be gone until tomorrow.”

The officer turned to Rachel, “Who else knew you were going to be out of town?”

“A few people in the office. But I have an alarm.” She pointed to the alarm panel on the wall.

“Who has your code?”“My mom and I but I was with my mom.”

He turned to Curtis. “Does he have it?”

“No.” Curtis answered.

“Just a moment.” The officer took a couple of steps away from the two of them and spoke into the radio clipped to his shoulder.

Curtis walked Rachel into the kitchen away from the officer. “It’s going to fine. We’ll find out who broke in.” He pushed her hair behind her ear as he spoke. “I want you to stay at your parent’s house until this blows over. I don’t want you to be alone.”

“Can’t I stay with you?” She didn’t want to be alone either but running to mommy and daddy’s house meant the Frat Boy was winning.

Curtis hesitated for a moment. “I would love to have you there but I don’t think that’s best right now. I’ll come by the office and follow you to your parent’s house every evening. You don’t have to be afraid.”

“But I don’t want my mom to worry.”

“Rachel” He tilted her chin up so she was looking straight in his eyes. “I’m not worried about that. I want you safe.” His voice was firm. “I love you, Rachel. I can’t have anything happen to you.”

The words ignited a fire in her chest and made her completely unable to respond. She reached over and wrapped her arms around him. Going to Mom and Dad’s house would put her closer to him and would work fine for the time being.“

Curtis, I can’t keep running away.” She stepped back to face him. “If I do, this will never stop.”

“Rachel, this man is crazy, not a genius.”

“But he. . .”

“But he never comes when other people are around. He only wants to scare you.”

“He came when you were over the other night.”

Curtis’ mouth dropped open and he took a step back. “Did you see him here?”

“No, when you left I went out to the porch to put a letter in the mailbox and there was a rose.”

“How do you know he hadn’t left it earlier?”

“Because I got the mail before you came.”

His face went ashen and he stared past Rachel.

“Ma’am?” The officer stepped into the kitchen.

“Yes?”

“The detectives will be here shortly. Did you touch anything on the table when you got home?”

“No way.” She shook her head for emphasis.

He nodded and stepped back in the other room and she looked over at Curtis.

“Rachel, I still want you with your parents unless you can think of some place else safer. I need to know you’re safe.”

She looked down.

Curtis touched her arm and she looked back up at him. “How long has this been going on?”

“Since around the time you and I met.”

He crinkled his eyebrows and raised his voice slightly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“At first I thought maybe it was you.”

“Breaking in your house?” His voice rose slightly higher.

“No, the first couple of roses were sitting by my car or at the office.”

“How many have you gotten?”

“Ten.”

“Ten?” He lowered his voice a bit. “You’ve had this happen ten times and this is the first you’ve told anyone?”

“No, Shannon knew.”

“You’ve had this happen ten times and this is the first you’ve told me.” It sounded like hurt.

“I didn’t want to.”

“It’s…I understand. So then?”

“When I found the one at the office in my desk we let the police know.” She looked out at the officer in the other room. He didn’t seem to be doing anything but waiting. “They increased patrols in my neighborhood a few weeks ago.”

“Lot of good that did.” Curtis shook his head. He ran his fingers through his short blond hair and turned his face up to the ceiling. “Okay God, now what.” He sounded as if her were talking to someone in the room with him.

“He hasn’t tried to contact me or get near me. I think if I stay with my parents like you said and always have someone with me for a while it will give the police time to try to find him.”

Curtis nodded his head and pulled her to his chest. “I am so sorry I didn’t protect you.” He squeezed her tight.

“Ma’am? The detectives are here.” The officer said.

“You ready to go talk to him?” Curtis pushed a bit of hair back from her face.

She nodded and they walked in to the other room.

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 2 Chapter 43

Forty-three

Rachel nibbled at a cheese Danish from the snack table and waited for Carol. Over and over she had played the scenes of the roses and each time marveled that there was no longer any fear there.

“Thank you for waiting.” Carol said and sat down.

“No problem.” Rachel pushed her Danish to the side and faced Carol.

“What did you think of tonight.”

“It wasn’t what I expected.” Rachel reached into her bag to retrieve her notes. “But it was fine.”

Carol tore off a piece of a donut and popped it in her mouth. She chewed slowly for a moment then smiled and faced Rachel head-on. “I think you got exactly what you were looking for tonight.”

Rachel paused for a long moment then, realized she was staring and looked away. In a way she had. She felt completely safe for the first time in a long time. But that’s not what Carol meant. Carol was just like every other religious person. She was looking for Rachel to get saved.

“I can tell by the look on your face you didn’t like my response.” Carol pushed aside the donut she’d been munching on and looked right at Rachel. “It’s not my place to pry but what did bring you here tonight Rachel?”

Rachel considered the question for a moment. She’d come here to escape the fear and to impress a guy. “I came because I’ve followed your career and was eager to meet you.”

“That could be why you came here but that is not why you’re here tonight.”

“Then why am I here?” Rachel recoiled, shocked at her own tone.

“I don’t believe in coincidence. If I’m wrong and you haven’t yet found what you’re looking for, you’ll find it soon.”

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 2 Chapter 42

Forty-two

Rachel set aside the coffee and opted to chew on the small red straw she’d used to stir with. Women of various ages were walking back and forth down rows of folding chairs. Coats, books, and purses were strewn about to hold a person’s seat. She wondered how many of them realized the importance of tonight.

It seemed tonight Rachel was in the right place at the right time. Not only would she get to hear an icon of women’s business speak, but that same woman wanted to sit down and chat with her after the program. Carol had no way of knowing that Rachel was a business woman and that she had come only to hear Carol speak.

The room held nearly fifteen tables, given Rachel’s best guess. Then each table had two to six women. Most of the women looked like they were Rachel’s age possibly a bit younger. The people her mom’s age were the minority this weekend. More than likely those younger women were all there for the same reason Rachel was.

A woman in crisp black slacks and lavender top stepped up to the microphone on the small platform in one corner of the room.

“Could I have everyone’s attention please?” The buzzing chatter lessened but it took the woman saying it a second time before the room got totally quiet.

She went through the regular greetings and welcomes then introduced the speakers. According to what the woman said there was one woman before Carol then a few announcements after Carol.

“But first ladies let’s stand up and praise the Lord for bringing us here tonight.” The women stood up and began applauding. Rachel looked around and she clapped.

Someone grabbed her shoulders from behind and Rachel spun around.

“Mind if I sit with you?” Rachel’s mom smiled and pointed to the chair Carol had been in.

“Go ahead. You scared the living daylights out of me.”

“Sorry.” She smiled as she passed then turned to face the stage and clapped with everyone else until the room got quiet again.

The announcer continued. “We’re going to open with a word of prayer then move right into praise and worship. If you look in our conference folders you’ll see the words to the songs and we’ll also have them up here on the overhead projector. Let’s prepare to enter worship.”

She stepped away and a woman with brown hair, blue jeans and a black sequin top stepped forward. In a booming voice she said, “You ready to praise Jesus?”

The room erupted in applause, whistles and women screaming yes. It was more like being at a college football game than a church conference. Rachel moved her lips to the first song and cut out for a bathroom break during the second. The third song was slowly playing and women were swaying to the rhythm when she got back. The lead vocalist was humming and periodically saying “Thank you Jesus” while the three men who made up the musical accompaniment and back-up singers continued softly.

Rachel wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. Her mom had her hands folded with a Mona Lisa smile on her upturned face. She gently swayed from side to side oblivious to anyone around her.

Rachel fidgeted with her hands and finally crossed her arms and closed her eyes so no one would notice how bored she was. She opened her eyes up after a few moments and glanced down at the lyrics in her folder. This was the last song and it seemed to be that they were going to hold the last note until every woman in the room was in a hypnotic trance. Shouldn’t be too long, only Rachel and two other women didn’t appear to feel the compulsion to sway.

The music ended and the first speaker stood. The woman talked about church and life as a mother of three preschoolers. Rachel drew pictures of trees and a dog that ended up looking more like a pumpkin while the woman spoke.

“And now ladies join with me in introducing Mrs. Carol Adnaw.” The MC stepped back and clapped. Carol approached the lectern and smiled, nodding her head in recognition of the applause. Rachel slapped her hands over and over in the first genuine enthusiasm since the program began.

“Everyone please sit down.” Carol paused and women sat down and scooted chairs on the hard floor. “Thank you so much for having me here.” She smiled and opened a portfolio pad. “My topic for tonight is minding our business.”

Rachel wrote the title on the first page of the tablet she had brought for notes.

Carol continued, “First Thessalonians four verse eleven and twelve in the Amplified Bible says ‘Make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you, so that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing.’ Ladies how many of you are commanding the respect from the outside world?”

Rachel commanded respect in her field. There were many who sought her for advice. She scanned the room and didn’t see a single hand go up so she left hers down as well.

Carol leaned forward, “Then ladies, you are disobeying God.”

Rachel noted a few nervous laughs and the shuffling of a few bottoms in their seats.

“Paul wrote this letter to the people of Thessalonica and told them that the way the world would respect us would be honorable, live quietly and peacefully and living without lack.”

Carol scanned the room. Rachel often tried not to be overly ambitious. To Rachel lack of ambition was laziness, not some great virtue.

Carol smiled and flipped the pages in her Bible. She stepped away and walked from one side of the stage to the other, a distance of a little over eight feet Rachel was guessing, with her floppy Bible laying open. “God’s word also tells us that God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].”

Rachel noted Carol’s emphasis on the word abundance. This time about half the room clapped.

“I’m not here tonight to debate whether poverty is a virtue or a curse. I am also not here to debate rich men going through needles and poor people being more spiritual. I am here to talk to you tonight about minding our business. That business is being a representation of Christ to a dying world that needs desperately to feel his love.”

The room erupted in applause and cheers with about twelve women standing by Rachel’s count. Maybe one or two more. She shuffled a little in her chair. She hoped Carol wasn’t upset to have so few respond to her.

Carol walked back to the lectern and set her Bible down. “Ladies, for a long time I was caught between two worlds. I grew up in church with a mom and dad who were good people that took me to Sunday morning service most Sunday mornings. My parents were comfortable, but not rich, when I was a child. My first memories of church were good ones. We learned about Jesus and his miracles, the parables and the Beatitudes. Then later we learned about Daniel and the three boys in the fiery furnace. It was like bedtime stories every week. They were beautiful tales of wonderful characters but they had very little to do with my everyday life.”

Rachel’s childhood flashed through her mind. Her life had been so much like Carol’s. The hair on her arms stood up as if they too understood what a great woman Carol was.

Carol continued. “I do remember the church I grew up in told me that if I aspired for worldly success I was sinning. ‘Pride commeth before the fall.’ I was told whenever I revealed my desire to be a famous person. So I learned to keep my dreams out of church and to give the right answers to my teachers’ questions.”

“As I moved into high school my dreams were firmly in place. I knew that Business was the best route to live the affluent lifestyle I craved. I had been taught by society that if I believed in God I was na├»ve and brainwashed. Since the world was going to give me the future I wanted, rather than the life of lack championed by my Sunday school teacher, I decided that maybe I had outgrown going to church.” Rachel leaned back and folded her arms. Hopefully her mom was paying attention. Maybe now she’d understand why Rachel didn’t need the church and its rules.

“My parents accepted my decision and ended up joining me at home on Sunday mornings. We decided the time together was more important than going to a church building. After all, God has a piece of himself in each one of us so a group of three was just as much church as a group of three hundred.”

“When I moved on to college I pursued my interests and sought to prove to everyone that I had it in me to be famous. I sought to please no one but myself and did what it took to graduate summa cum laude from the business school at my university. When I graduated I stepped immediately in to a job with a six figure salary and every material thing I had thought I wanted. Money was not an issue.” She stopped and focused on a woman on the front row. “But it was an empty and lonely life. After eight years of it I was more depressed and surrounded by more stuff then I ever thought I wanted. Worse still, no one was interested in my pain. What does a rich young woman have to be sad about?”

Plenty. The roses, each one, surged in to Rachel’s mind. Typical church stuff, bashing people who tried to be and do something bigger. Carol droned on about some of her problems but Rachel saw only the roses and the heartbreak of Nate’s betrayal. She looked around at this group of women all pretending their life was in order. She knew none of them were as together as they put on. All of them hid secrets. Rachel wasn’t a hypocrite. She lived her life in the open and celebrated the beauty of life without judgment.

Carol lifted the floppy red Bible up over her head and waved it from side to side. “And I read it.” She lowered the Bible on to the lectern. “It said God made me with passions and desires to be used to serve him. He gifted me in marketing. I didn’t need to feel guilt over my success, but neither should I have self-centered pride.”

Carol leaned on her elbows and put her fingers to her lips as if deep in thought. “When I began to work my business as if God owned it, God honored my hard work and rewarded me financially but the difference is now I also honor him in the way I do my work. I pursue honesty, integrity and I always give back.”

“This weekend is my tithe. I go out five to seven weekends a year and speak at women’s conferences, large and small, at no charge. I honor God with my time and he has rewarded me with joy, peace and even productivity.”

“I want to be remembered for more than a woman who had lots of stuff. It is more than being remembered by man. For me life is about being known by God.” People started standing and clapping. Some even screamed in agreement. Rachel sat there and scribbled doodles on the page. She’d find out the real information when Carol was done with her joy-fest.

“Many people think Christianity is only about what happens after you die but I think the world is more focused on death and the after-life than most believers. God is about the here and now. He talks about money more than prayer. God instructs us to love and to forgive. Those are contemporary messages. There is no need of forgiveness in heaven because there will be no sin. God is interested in the here and now. By contrast many people who don’t follow God worry about their legacy or what will be in their obituary. What will people say about them when they are gone.”

Carol pointed to her chest. “I’m not worried about what people will think of me when I’m gone. I’m worried about how well I am reflecting Christ here on this earth.”

The entire room stood in thunderous applause. Rachel stood and looked around. She had written down a few questions to ask Carol when the two of them got together this evening.

Carol put one hand up and the room quieted down. “I feel impressed to pray over business women right now. Any of you who own, plan on owning, or would like to own a business please come forward. A few women filed to the front.

Rachel’s mom nudged her, “Go on up.”

“No.”

“Why not.”

“It’s for Christians and I’m not one.”

“It’s for business women.” Her mom pointed. She had a smile on her lips but her eyes were stern. Rachel relented and walked to the front with the other women. The lights were hot around her and she focused on the podium. Everyone had to know who she was, Lisa’s daughter, and those who didn’t would know before she left. Carol looked down the row at Rachel and smiled. Rachel broke her gaze quickly and focused on the spot where the podium hit the stage.

One by one Carol put her hands on the women’s shoulders and prayed with them. Beads of sweat formed under Rachel’s top and slid down her shirt. Carol moved down and then stopped in front of Rachel, looking straight into her eyes.

“Hello my new friend.” Carol had tenderness, not hard-nosed business sense, in her eyes.

“Hi.” Was all Rachel could muster.

“God is going to deliver you. He is always by your side and if you will trust him he will make a way where there seems to be no way.”

Rachel’s breath caught in her throat. Her body was filled with tingly sensations that defied description. Carol turned her face upward and prayed out loud but Rachel didn’t hear any of the words. She was overwhelmed with images. The men she’d slept with, the day she opened the office with Shannon, the day Nate left. Then the roses. She stifled a whimper but in the next instant she felt as if her body were draining of tension and stress. An empty calm started at the top of her head and spread to her toes.

The rose was without thorns. She wasn’t afraid of them any longer. She closed her eye and remembered each flower she had found and where she found it. The image was still there but the fear, anger and panic was gone. She turned her face upward. Her body felt as if the sun had peeked out from behind a cloud and was warming them. The searing heat of stage lights was gone and now a gentle warmth enveloped her.

Someone came and touched her shoulders. Rachel opened her eyes and looked to find the whole front empty except for her. Heat burned her cheeks but so did the sense that she wasn’t going to die. She turned and looked directly at her mom. Another hole pierced the armor around her heart.

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 2 Chapter 41

Forty-one

At twenty minutes to five Friday afternoon Rachel’s mom pulled up to the house for the retreat. She climbed out of her car and adjusted the winter white pantsuit she was wearing. Rachel looked down at her nice jeans, camisole and jacket. Maybe she should change before she went.

“Ready to go?” Her mom scanned Rachel’s outfit quickly as soon as she came in the house.

“Yes, but, well I’ve been thinking that…”

“You’re still going aren’t you Rachel?”

“Of course, I have my suitcase. I thought I’d come back tomorrow morning. I don’t know if I want to be there for that whole thing.”

“Saturday’s so much fun. We have a nice breakfast and there are quite a few speakers. You should stay.”

“Mom, I’m really only going to hear Carol Adnaw speak.”

“She’s giving a talk just before lunch on Saturday too.”

“I thought she was talking tonight.”

“She is. She’s speakin’ both days. She couldn’t fit everything in she wanted to share on Friday so we rearranged things to give her about forty-five minutes on Saturday morning too.”

She’d have to sit through two hours of church talk to hear Carol Adnaw Saturday morning “Let’s take two cars and I’ll decide when I get there if I want to come back Saturday morning or if I’ll stay to the end.”“

That’ll work out just fine.” Her mom reached for the suitcase. Rachel grabbed her other bag. “What’s going on with Adam?”

Her mom’s face soured. “I’m not sure. I know he’s spent a good deal of time with Yvonne on the TDD but he ain’t tellin’ me bout what they’re sayin’.”

“So is he going back to California?”

“Now I just told you, don’t know. What you gonna go asking me for again.” Her mom walked out the back door with Rachel’s suitcase. She’d have to talk to Adam directly, when mom wasn’t there to watch what they were talking about.

“I can’t wait to hear Carol Adnaw speak. Do you think she’ll take time after to talk to people. I’d really love to spend some time learning from her.” How her mom’s church had managed to snag such a well-known speaker still surprised Rachel.

“Oh I hear she is wonderful.” Her mom left the suitcase next to Rachel’s car.

“Mom, I’m going back in to check the house.”

Mom waved her away. Rachel rechecked the front door and windows. “I’ve got the lights down here on a timer.” She scanned the room. “Feels like I’m forgetting something.” She stood a few moments. Then since she couldn’t think of anything she locked the back door and then stopped by her mother’s car, peering in the window. “So, how do I get to this place?”

“Let me look.” Her mom reached in the passenger door. She scanned a light blue piece of paper with a photocopied map and scribbled handwriting on it. It should be okay.

Rachel got into her car, and watched as her mother backed out. She started her motor and eased into the street. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect at a women’s retreat. She had images of either older women with casserole dishes eating or swapping recipes. Or she could see a roomful of women who got as wound up as her mom sometimes hanging from the chandeliers.

Despite some jitters, given her past experience with religion, she was really starting to look forward to the weekend with the ladies. The Fratboy wasn’t going to find her this weekend. That was one incentive to be at the retreat. There she was going to be surrounded by other women nestled back in a woods down a hard to find street at the back of a park.

It was a place you only knew how to find if you were there. Even though Carol Adnaw was the invited speaker and even though she was a very famous business woman her mom’s church had only done word of mouth advertising. Her mom said it was to keep it focused on God and finding him rather than personalities.

Traffic wasn’t bad at all for a Friday afternoon. Most of it was cleared up or heading out of town rather than toward it. There was a bit more traffic as they approached Triangle park. Must have been little league that night. Rachel always thought it was called Triangle park because of the many baseball fields. Her dad had laughed when she told him.

“They’re ball diamonds, not triangles.” He’d said as he laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes. When he had finally been able to stop laughing he’d told her the park got its name from the two rivers on either side of the park making it look like a triangle.

Most of the downtown area of Woodhaven was run down. People were moving to the edge of town or to the homes near the university. The park had been the exception. It was a remarkably well-kept park being so close to the downtown. The park drew both city-dwellers and suburbanites for the walking trails and ball games.

She turned to follow the jog in the road that led the last stretch to the lodge they were staying in. Her stomach tightened when she saw a sign that pointed to the lodge. It would be fine. There’s no reason to be nervous. She was here to learn from a top executive woman. Church really couldn’t get much easier than that.

Nate had started with a retreat in college. A men’s retreat as she recalled. In fact, he went there a few weeks after their engagement. They had just moved in together and Rachel was living the dream.

“I hate staying alone in our new house. Can’t you go to the retreat next year after our wedding.” She spun the half-carat solitaire back and forth on her finger. “I’ll be lonely without you.”

Nate folded a shirt and placed it in his overnight bag. “I’ll be home tomorrow night, Rachel.” He pulled her close to him. “You deserve the best husband.” He paused to kiss her. “These men, they are going to show me how to do that.”

“But when did you start going to those meetings?” They had attended her parents’ church from time to time but neither of them considered themselves religious. Then he was approached in the student union by a classmate and three other men. They promised him they could show him fulfillment the world couldn’t offer. She never stayed the living room when they came over, which had now become nearly every night.

Now they were taking Nate with them.

“Rachel, don’t worry. It is one night. We have our whole lives to live together.” He zipped his suitcase and kissed her. “I’ll make it up to you tomorrow night.”

“You’d better.”

He lifted his keys off the hook and put his bag down. Rachel followed him to the front door. “I love you, Rachel.”

“I love you too Nate.”

He kissed her and walked out the door. She walked to the window and watched him get in the car with the other three men. She waved down at Nate. He smiled, waved back then climbed in the back seat. A man climbed in on either side of him in the backseat.

She sat down to look at her bridal magazines. They were only twenty and the wedding couldn’t be extravagant but she’d love Nate since they met in high school. For three years they were best friends and the first time she…well it was with Nate.

She fell asleep that night on the couch. The next morning she woke to pounding on her front door. The clock said it was six-thirty. She stumbled to the door. The men were standing there.

“Nate has joined the community.”

“What?” She said, still groggy.

“We have come to pick up a few of Nate’s things.”

“He’ll be back tonight.”

“No.” The larger of the three said, the one she disliked the most. “He has joined the community. He is no longer connected to this world or the lusts of the flesh.”

“We’re getting married.” She looked between the three of them. Their faces like stone.

“No, Nate is married to the church now. He is a part of the community and he’s committed his life and worldly possessions to the creator.”

Bad memories. Rachel snapped back and followed her mom in to the parking lot adjacent to the lodge. She pulled her car in next to her mom and climbed out.

“Should I bring everything in now or come back for it.”

“Go ahead and bring it. I’m getting mine.” She hoisted her bag on her shoulder. Rachel nodded and pulled her suitcase out of the trunk of her car and followed her mom up the walk. A woman, likely in her mid-fifties, met them on the sidewalk. Her hair was shoulder length blond and she was dressed more like Rachel in jeans and a nice top. It made Rachel feel a bit less self-conscious about her outfit choices. “Lisa, so good to see you.” They hugged. “You are awful dressed up for this aren’t you?” The woman leaned to Rachel. “Wouldn’t you say so.”

“Yep. I think jeans are the way to go.” Rachel nodded as she answered.

“No matter. Your mom’s always overdressing for these events.”

“Well, what else I got to dress up for?”

The two of them began chatting about what Lisa needed to do to help set up. Rachel followed her mom up the sidewalk to the lodge. Inside the front door a young woman who looked to be around Rachel’s age sat at a rectangular folding table. There was a white plastic tablecloth on top with sheets of names taped to it. Voices echoed from every direction with people smiling and nodding in various conversations.

Her mom walked around the woman to the table while Rachel tried to figure out where to sign up. “Janice, this is my daughter Rachel.”

“So this is your daughter Rachel.” The woman turned to face her. “I’ve heard so much about you. You run a business don’t you?”

“Yes, a marketing company.” Rachel smiled and shifted her bags to her left hand and shook the woman’s hand.

“You coming to see our guest speaker?”

“Carol Adnaw? Absolutely. She’s top of her game. There’s a lot of women who could learn from her example.”

The woman smiled warmly. “I’m sure there is. I hope you get a lot out of her talk.” Rachel returned the smile. Rachel looked back at her name tag to remind herself of the woman’s name. She had been distracted by everything but should have paid better attention.

Next a woman with a clipboard appeared from behind them. “Oh good Lisa. You’re here. We’ve go the two of you in the room down this hall.” The woman took Rachel’s mom by the arm and led her past a couple of plain doors and in to an equally plain room.

The woman with the clipboard crinkled her nose. “Sorry they’re pretty bland. Everything in here is beige but the place offered us a great deal, and everything is clean, so we took it.” She smiled and lowered her voice a touch. “I think next year we’ll do it at the hotel we talked about. I was so embarrassed when we came in to set up this morning.” Then raising her voice again “The common areas are quite nice.”

Rachel and her mom set their things down on the beds. “I’m going to go look around.” Rachel called back.

“Fine honey. We’ll run into each other I’m sure.”

Rachel walked back out to the table with the long list of names.

“Hi my name is Rachel.” She scanned down the page and pointed herself out.

“Wonderful. You’re in group one.” The woman traced over Rachel’s name with a yellow highlighting pen. “Here is your nametag and folder. We’re starting at seven-thirty in that room right over there.” The woman pointed to the large living room a few feet away.

“Thank you.”

Rachel watched the women. Nearly all of them knew the other. She smiled and nodded at the few who managed to make eye contact.

“I see you’re in group one too.” Rachel spun around again and was face to face with Carol Adnaw.

“Yes, I am.” This time she had a genuine smile. “My name’s Rachel.”

“Carol.”

They shook hands.

“I’m so happy to finally meet you.” Rachel resisted the urge to gush about everything she’d ever read by or about her.

“Well thank you. God has blessed me.”

God. For a moment Rachel had forgotten she was at a church thing. Carol Adnaw was there but this was about church and God stuff too.

Carol continued. “You’re the only person I’ve seen from group one so far besides me. Would you like to sit down with a cup of coffee?”

“Of course. That would be really nice. Wait here and I’ll be right back.”

Rachel wove back and forth between people and finally found her mom.

“Mom, I’ve found Carol Adnaw and she wants to have coffee. We’ll be right over there.” She pointed to the back of the common area.

“Great. I’ll find you in just a bit.” She turned back to the woman she was talking to then stopped. “Rachel, you’re going to need your bag.” She slid a canvas bag off of her arm and handed it to Rachel. Inside there was a folder, pen and what looked to be a few cosmetic samples.

A large group of women were milling around the registration table when Rachel got back.

“Was I gone that long?” She motioned to the group.

“No, there were two vans that unloaded and they all walked in together. Do you want to go over to the other room?” Carol motioned. There’s a fireplace in there.

Rachel nodded and led the way through a sea of round white tables full of women catching up and swapping stories. Her mom should be able to find her back here. They sat at an empty table.

“Carol, would you like some coffee?”

“Yes, please. Two sugars.”

She got the coffees and sat down across form Carol. “How is it you came to be the featured speaker at a church event?”

“My passion is helping women. There are some women who have no financial sense. For those women I love to share financial strategies that will help them be self-sufficient if they ever need to be. Some women need to remember that there is more to this life. That is what women retreats are for. It’s when women can reconnect.”

“Do you do many of them?”

“I try to do one about every month or every other month.”

“Do they pay well?” Rachel looked around at the room of a couple hundred women. What would cause a woman who filled conference halls to speak to such a small group?

“I think they do.” She smiled and blew on her coffee.

Obviously she wasn’t going to tell how well they paid. Rachel looked around and quickly added the number of women then multiplied it by the twenty dollar conference fee. At the most they’d collected about two thousand dollars. Hardly enough to pay a nationally recognized speaker.

Carol scooted forward in her chair then leaned her arms on the table. “How long have you gone to this church?”

“Oh, I’ve gone off and on for a few years now. My mom is pretty active and she told me about it.” It wasn’t a complete lie. She’d been to the church about three or four times a year since her mom and dad started there.

“You’re lucky to have the pastor you do. I’ve followed his ministry for a while.” Carol paused to blow on her coffee and sip slowly at it. “He’s a strong man in the Lord.”

“Yes he is.” It was all Rachel could think to say back. He was an okay preacher when she’d attended recently and had told Shannon as much.

“Excuse me, Carol?” A frail older woman broke into their conversation.

“Yes?” Carol smiled at the woman as if thrilled to see her.

“They wanted to have you come back to the green room with the other speakers for tonight.”

“Thank you. I’ll be right there.” The old woman walked away and Carol turned to Rachel.“Guess I’m on. If you’d be willing after the presentation tonight I’d love to continue our conversation.”“I’d like that. Thank you.”

“We’ll meet back here.” Carol picked up her Styrofoam cup of coffee and walked briskly to join up with the older woman. The two chattered away until they turned a corner and Rachel could no longer see them.

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Face in the Shadow Part 2 Chapter 40

Forty

She hung up with the police department. What would she do now?

Was he out there when Curtis left?

She began to sob pulling doors closed as she walked down the hall. Did he follow Curtis home and what would he do to him? She wrapped her arms around her body and stood at the top of the steps. She had to move where he wouldn’t find her. Telecommuting from a home somewhere far from here wouldn’t be too bad with today’s technology. She was an owner. What could they say? No?

But Curtis.

She shook with sobs.

She stopped outside her bedroom door. “Leave me alone.” She screamed down her steps before she plopped down on the top step to cry. Nothing more could be done. The police had done what they could but they were never here when he left these flowers.

And what if he stopped?

Right now they came every week. Each week they came on a different day. This time they were only forty-eight hours apart. Did that mean he was coming? Did more roses mean she was safer.

Or closer to death.

“I don’t want to die.” She cried. Visions of her time with Curtis, family, friends and events in her life slid through her memory. Rather than flashing before her eyes her life was giving a goodbye tribute.

And there wasn’t much to see.

She had no kids, no husband and nothing other than a business and a few things to be sold.

“Here lies Rachel, she had a business and stuff.” She mumbled. It was a pathetic inscription for a tombstone but it was what she had. “Survived by a marketing firm and two parents. Estate auction Friday.” She choked out between sniffles. She didn’t have a cat, or a plant; she had no living thing to prove she had made a difference in this world at all.

She wiped her nose on the back of her hand but it was no longer sufficient to catch the flow of tears. She lumbered down the steps planting each foot hard. She pulled four or five tissues from the box and wiped her face off.

There was the rose.

It was on the floor by the front door where she had thrown it. Still waiting for her.

She hated that rose. It stole the joy of this evening. She marched over to it. Fear was replaced by rage. She snatched it up from the floor and headed in to the kitchen. The lid to the trashcan popped open when she stomped on the small pedal. She threw it in as hard as she could and spun. The lid plopped closed but it didn’t relieve her.

“I hate you.” She said and stomped on the trashcan pedal again. She stuck her arm inside. Something slimy and warm covered her fingers. She lifted the rose out its petals and her fingers covered with gravy.

“I…hate…you.” She spat as she tore the bloom off and ripped it into as many pieces as possible. Pain shot through her fingers when she tried to break the stem. She looked at the blood and scratches in her palm. A thorn was still lodged in her finger.

The pain felt good. It was a battle scar. Proof she was fighting and not laying down to die.

She wiped the thorns out with a swipe across her jean. The ribbon was undone so she tore it the rest of the way and slammed the stem then the ribbon in the trash.

She was a charging bull.

If she was going to die she would do it fighting.

She’d make her mark. Even if it was by taking her assassin with her.

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/

Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.

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.

Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.