Saturday, December 31, 2016

Déjà vu

Amanda saw a glowing light mass. It had no shape, and it throbbed and pulsed as it appeared to be trying to escape some invisible box.

Then she remembered some of what happened.

"What key?" she asked out loud, referring to what the man shouted at her.

"You have it," a voice said from behind her.

Amanda turned around to see the Blue Lady. She couldn't make out any details because the entity was glowing more than usual.

"You will understand it soon enough."

The Blue Lady gestured towards the light that was now behind her. Amanda turned again to see the light morphing into a field of debris in space. For a moment she floated there, along with the chunks of metal. Then she felt as if she was being pulled back, gently at first. The force almost felt like falling.

Then she saw the strange flame again, but instead of waking up, she continued to fall, until she saw water come up to her quickly. When she hit the water, everything went dark, and she felt like she was still falling. Soon she started to hear voices. One she recognizes as Todd, the other sounded like Trisha. Both seem to be talking in a foreign language. At this point, she realized that she was waking up, but what are they doing in her room?

Amanda opened her eyes. The voices stopped. It was then she realized that she wasn't in her room but a hospital. After looking around for a moment, she realized it was the same hospital she ended up in the beginning.

She tried sitting up, but had that same falling feeling and immediately nixed the idea.

"Whoa, easy," Todd said, and he was by her side holding her hand.

"I'm still really, really dizzy," Amanda said.

"Well," Todd responded. "You took quite the spill. The doctor said that you might not be able to balance for a while."

"Yeah," Trisha said, "It was a good thing I had a taser. Otherwise, you may have had more problems than a severe migraine."

Amanda saw Todd glare at Trisha. Trisha gave a 'What? What did I do?' look.

Todd sighed and looked at Amanda. "Listen, Detective Snyder is here. Are you up for some questions?"

"I suppose," Amanda responded.

Todd went to get the detective, and Amanda couldn't help but think that she was doing this all over again.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Key

Trisha hurried behind Amanda and was surprised on how difficult it was to keep up. When they got to the road, Amanda was already kicking herself for forgetting her painkillers.

She stopped to take a breath.

Trisha realized Amanda was having another migraine, dug in her bag and took out her first aid kit.

"The water is in the car. I didn't expect to be here long," Amanda said. She had to force herself to concentrate to speak. This migraine was different from the rest. It wasn't just painful but hundreds of images and scenes kept flashing through her mind.

Trisha took her by the hand and led her to the car. When they got to the car, they both noticed the black sedan behind theirs, but didn't think anything of it, until the two occupants got out.

Amanda recognized the driver as Mr. Businessman. The passenger came out armed.

Trisha had placed herself between Amanda and the two men. "Bad idea, boys," Trisha said with a demeanor that Amanda never seen in her.

The passenger started shouting expletives. "Where is the key!"

"Wait, what?" Amanda asked, barely holding herself up against the car. "What key?"

Mr. Businessman was yelling about not signing up for this and they were only supposed to frighten the girls. He apparently didn't think it would involve a gun.  The passenger was yelling in an accent that Amanda did not recognize. Trisha was yelling back, but Amanda couldn't make sense of it anymore. Her head felt like it was about to burst.  She was hearing too many voices at once. They were too loud. The activity and the noise was causing her more pain.

"Stop it!" Amanda thought she said, "Stop it now!" but she wasn't sure. She blacked out.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Lake

Amanda stopped. Trisha heard her stop and turned around.

“Wait, is this the spot?” Trisha asked.

Amanda didn't answer right away. Instead, she walked to the middle of the road and turned towards their previous location. The road was curvy. Amanda could no longer see the car.

Amanda remembered the lights bearing down on her, but it was light now. She really couldn't tell by sight.

She then turned towards Trisha. “Yeah, I think so.” Then Amanda gave Trisha a sly smile. "It's hard to tell without the high beams of the car.

Trisha laughed apprehensively.

Amanda heard a car coming and walked back to the side of the road. A few moments later, she and Trisha watched it pass them. Amanda pointed towards the woods.

"I must have walked out of there," Amanda said a little disappointed. She was hoping to remember something of significance, but other than the memory of the lights and the blanket on her shoulders; she couldn't think of anything else.

"Isn't there a spot over there where we can see the lake?" Trisha asked. "Several cars had passed without seeing you moments before you were nearly run over by the car that found you. So it's not likely you walked down the road."

"Yeah," Amanda responded, "You might be right." She was disappointed. Still no triggers.

She then checked her phone GPS. She marked the spot and then put her phone back into small shoulder bag.

Amanda started walking towards the woods. "Let's go."

They both headed towards the woods.

Halfway there, Trisha started to complain a little. The trail was much steeper than they thought it was so it was taking longer, and both were getting tired.

"'Let me go with you,' I said, 'It'll be inspirational,' I said, 'How hard would it be?' I said," Trisha moaned and stopped walking.
"The lake view isn't that far," Amanda stopped and turned to face Trisha who was leaning up against the tree. "It's not even a half-mile. It's just really steep."

After Trisha had caught her breath, they continued. It wasn't long before they reached a cliff overlooking the lake. While Amanda walked around the area, Trisha grabbed her phone and started to take pictures. "Well, I'm not going to sit here and paint," Trisha explained after Amanda shot her a questioning look.

The area was familiar. However, it seemed that Amanda was somewhere else before. Happy that she may be getting somewhere. Finally, she looked back over the lake and wondered if she somehow crossed it first.

She turned back towards Trisha, and for a brief moment, she thought she could remember a rock flying towards her head. She put her hand on the spot over her right temple. It was where the doctor said that something hit her.

At that moment, she felt the “twinge” again, but this time it was different. Amanda suddenly had a sense of fear and dread. Images randomly appeared in her mind. A lot of images were like memories, but none of them made any sense.

She took one last glance at the lake again, then told Trisha, “We need to get back.”

Trisha noticed Amanda's unease. “Wait, what is it?”

Amanda didn't respond. She recognized the place, but she didn't want to say anything about it yet. It wasn't that Amanda didn't trust Trisha. She simply could not shake the feeling that danger was nearby or that someone was watching them.

"I'll have to tell you when we are home," Amanda said. Then she started walking towards the road. "Let's go."  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Short Journey

"Next stop," Trisha said as she put the car into gear, "Lake Champlain, right?"

"Burlington," Amanda said as she checked her phone maps and texted the link to the location to Trisha.

Trisha used the link in her texts to set her Phone's GPS. Then they were off.

Trisha, to Amanda's surprise, had a license. Amanda kept a non-drivers ID on her since she never really needed to drive. She never had a job to work for someone else, and the only places she would go while living in Vermont was to school or church.

They drove to what seemed like forever. Amanda watched the trees rush by as she felt her apprehension growing. She didn’t know what to expect when they got there. 

She was hoping that some memory would come to her. Instead, she felt the dreaded “twinge” that announced an oncoming migraine. Rummaging through her bag to find painkillers, she realized that she might not have remembered to put them back into her bag after cleaning it out. It had been a long while since she had a migraine, so she never thought to check.

“We're here,” Trisha said, and she pulled the car to the side of the road.

Amanda looked up. Most roads in Vermont, the shoulders were narrow. On scenic highways, however, there was the occasional dirt pull-off, put there by the state so people can pull over and enjoy the view.

“It's further up the road,” Amanda said.

“Yeah, I know, but I bet there's not one of these dirt areas for a few miles past the location. We'll have to walk.” Trisha got out, opened the passenger door, and grabbed Amanda's hand. “C'mon! It's not far. It'll be fun!”

Amanda stepped out of the car, grabbed her phone, and closed the door. Trisha turned to lock the vehicle doors.

“Yeah,” Amanda said facetiously, “We don't want the mosquitoes flying away with our stuff.”

Trisha's mood suddenly turned dark. “Well,” she mumbled, “You never know.” A moment passed then Trisha chirped, “Let's go!”

“Um, okay,” Amanda said and followed Trisha up the road. She always thought Trisha to be a bit eccentric, but even this was a little out of character even for her.

As they were walking, Amanda noticed that the twinge was gone and she has no migraine. It happens once in a while, and she was glad she was lucky enough this time. She forgot to repack the painkillers after all.

The two girls started to walk up the road. Neither of them noticed the electric black sedan pulling up behind their rental.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Interesting Transformation

The house was just as different. Amanda's foster parents had painted the place. While there were still religious symbols and sayings, they didn't have the ominous feel.
They all sat around the kitchen table and talked about the last two years. The church that her foster parents went to finally shut its doors due to lack of attendance. Amanda wasn't at all surprised. Who would want to stay at a church who condemned everyone that walked in?
“It's like a second family, now." Amanda's foster mother said.
Amanda found their transformation fascinating. However, in spite of her foster mother's explanations, she couldn't understand any of it. Amanda made a mental note to research some of these concepts online later.
The conversation went from personal stories to local gossip. The neighbors with the little dog moved out. That dog would viciously attack anyone – that is until you turned to face him and stomped your foot on the ground. Then he would turn and run away yipping as if you actually had stomped on him.
Then there was the boy across the street. In spite of his home problems, he turned out okay. Rumor has it that he had started his own business in the next town over and was doing very well for himself.
Yet another neighbor converted their house to a duplex. Apparently, the house will be going into foreclosure because the tenants haven't been paying rent. Her foster parents were somewhat relieved. The cops were there on a few occasions.
Amanda told them about how she was doing and about the new book she was working on. She kept problems like Joey's murder out of it. Her foster parents had their problems, but she knew that they cared for her. She didn't want to worry them.
Finally, Amanda and Trisha finally said their goodbyes and got into the rental.
“Well,” Trisha said, “That was interesting. You have interesting foster parents.”
Amanda chuckled. “Well, they weren't always that interesting,” Amanda said as she made a note in her phone on all of the things she heard with the intention of looking all of it up.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Not so old Acquaintances

The moment her foster parents stepped out Amanda almost didn't recognize them. Their clothing alone took Amanda by surprise.

She was sent to their home as an emergency placement at first.  She social worker told her that they were conservative Christians and she didn't have to stay there. The social worker never said anything outright, but Amanda had a sense of disdain and contempt.

Her foster mother dressed in long neutral-colored dresses and a head-covering which usually consists of a doily or handkerchief. She would insist on Bible study several times a day. It was always on verses of future destruction, punishment, and revenge in the old Testament.

Her foster father was always downcast, seemingly burdened with the weight of the world. He always wore slacks and a button up shirt, even when he was splitting firewood for the winter. They refused to have any other form of heat since, according to both of them, it may allow them to become lazy.

They were friendly enough, though their smiles seemed forced. As time passed, Amanda had come to realize that her foster parents didn't deserve criticism. They did that enough themselves. Her foster mother was always criticizing herself and her husband, but never to his face. He was passive aggressive and would occasionally insert a cutting remark under his breath. However, Amanda had heard him cut himself down even worse when he thought no one was listening.

They hated themselves, and they hated their lives. 

Now, she seemed lighter on her feet as she embraced Amanda. He stood aside beaming.

“Wow,” Amanda said finally after introducing Trisha, “You seem well, mom and dad.”

“Well, there has been a few changes here,” her mother said, “Why don't you two come inside. Dad and I had just finished making an apple cobbler.”

“Oh,” Trisha said, “I'm Gluten free.”

“Since when?” Amanda scoffed.

“Since last week!” Trisha sounded indignant.

Amanda was about to respond, but mom stopped her. “Oh, it's okay,” She said, “We are too. It's oatmeal and almond flour.”

“Oh good,” Trisha who sounded a little too happy to be still able to have her sweets.

Amanda sighed and followed her foster parents in, Trisha followed behind.

“You should be gluten free, too,” she hissed at Amanda's back. Amanda chose to ignore it, for now, thinking that the sugar in the cobbler probably isn't any better. She heard Trisha hesitate behind her, causing Amanda glance back to see Trisha looking thoughtfully at her.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Arriving in Albany, tired and a little disheveled, Amanda and Trisha found their shuttle to the hotel waiting for them.

“I can use a shower, like, yesterday,” Trisha groaned.

Amanda muttered an agreement and hurried to help Trisha and the driver to load the van. Their carry-on bags were a mess after having to go through them multiple times for one thing or another. The coach seats on the train were comfortable enough unless you were sleeping in them. The two travelers tossed and turned in them all night.

“Remind me to get the sleeper car if we ever do this again,” Amanda grumbled as she slid in next to Trisha. "It would have been worth the extra, especially if we split the cost."

“I know, right?” Trisha responded, shifting in her seat. "Definitely not worth the savings."

They decided it was best to spend most of the day in town first. Amanda made sure to find a hotel that was within walking distance to some shopping and places to eat. They'll turn in early and then pick up their rental car and head immediately towards Vermont.

Amanda decided that she would call her foster parents at the hotel to let them know that they'll be in the area. After visiting, they'll go a little farther north, by Lake Champlain, in the area where she was found. Whether or not it all goes well, Amanda promised Trisha to visit both sides of the lake after some begging from Trisha.

The driver got into the car and turned the key.


Trisha groaned.

He tried again. Still nothing.

The driver cursed under his breath and turned towards the women. “I'm sorry, ladies, but it appears this one is acting up again.”

“Again?” Amanda responded wearily. She was too tired to be annoyed.

“Yeah, it's happened to this car before, and they did something to fix it, and it only took a few seconds, but I'm not sure what they did to get it to work, except there was a lot of banging and scraping. We'll have to wait for the company mechanic to come out to fix it.”

Amanda thought for a moment. “Check the terminals on the battery,” she suggested.

The driver shrugged, pulled the lever for the hood, and got out of the van. Amanda got out as well, and they both met up in front.

The driver opened the hood and saw that one of the terminals on the battery had lead oxide covering it.

“See if you can get most of that white stuff off,” Amanda said, pointing to the corrosion.

While the driver worked on the terminal, using his multi-tool that he had in his pocket, Amanda explained, “My foster father had the same problem. I guess there's something wrong with your electrical system for it to corrode like that.”

The driver finished, and then the three of them got back in. He turned the key, and the van started right up.

“You just saved us 20 minutes for the mechanic to come out,” the driver said. "Don't tell anyone, though. You aren't certified, and neither am I. I can get into some trouble for that."

"Okay, but, you still have to take the vehicle in," Amanda responded. The driver didn't seem to hear, but she didn't care. She was looking forward to that hot shower.

No one noticed the black sedan that followed them to the hotel.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Trippy Trip

Amanda and Trisha checked in their luggage and boarded the train. Then they went to look for their seats in the coach car. When Amanda was purchasing tickets, they both agreed that they needed to cut costs and go by coach.

As Amanda put her bag onto the overhead, she noticed someone that looked like the business suit guy from the coffee shop in the corner of her eye. When she looked over, whoever it was, moved out of her line of sight.

She brushed it off as her brain playing tricks. There were plenty of people on the train in business suits. It's possible that that person only looked like Mr. Businessman from her peripheral vision.

She slid her laptop out and settled in the window seat while Trisha sat beside her. There was also an aisle seat, and Trisha plopped her large purse on it. Amanda gave her a look.

“What?” Trisha said, somewhat indignant. She glanced at the seat and shrugged. “You know that these trains are never full.”
Amanda sighed.

“I'll move it if someone wants to sit here,” Trisha said finally. She fumbled through her purse and pulled out a notepad. Then fumbled again for a few minutes, and pulled out a couple of pencils.

Amanda just set her laptop on her lap and stared out of the window, debating if she should also have taken out her power supply.

The train started to move. Just at the corner of the station, Amanda thought she saw Todd and Mr. Carter. She sat up and looked over in that direction, but they were not there.

Amanda sat back in her chair and rubbed her temples. Maybe she was overtired. She got up, put her laptop on her seat, and climbed over Trisha and her bag to head towards the Bathroom in the back of the car.

“Keep an eye out for my stuff, okay?” Amanda asked Trisha.
“M'kay,” Trisha responded without looking up. She was engrossed in her drawing.

Amanda sighed and took off her hoodie and tossed it onto her laptop to cover its left. When she made it to the “lavatory,” she looked into the next car. There he was, Mr. Businessman, reading a Magazine. So she wasn't going crazy. It wasn't uncommon for professionals to travel cross-country like this. It's likely he was headed towards Albany, then New York City.

Amanda chuckled to herself as she steps inside the tiny closet of a restroom. “Who reads physical magazines these days?” She thought.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Packing to Go

Amanda set her two bags down and sighed. She adjusted her computer bag to accommodate the sudden lack of weight.

“Really?” she asked after Trisha brought out three bags and went into her apartment for more.

“I'm bringing some art supplies,” Trisha said.

“Don't you have anything more...” Amanda paused as she watched Trisha bring an oversized portfolio, her easel, and two more bags and set them down. “...portable?”

“That's what I have,” Trisha said as she swept her arm over her bags. Then she paused as if to think. “Oh, my purse!” she exclaimed as she dashed back into her apartment.

Amanda scoffed a little at the bags. She was glad that when the cab company gave her the option, she asked for the van. There's no way they could fit all that in the trunk of a sedan.

Trisha walked out with her purse, which was almost the size of her travel bags.

Amanda looked at Trisha's open apartment door. Trisha, taking Amanda's cue, immediately turned and locked her door.

At that moment, the burly neighbor stepped out of his apartment. It's Boris, she thought to herself. Boris the big Burly guy. She had overheard his name in one of the couple's fights recently.

“Need help?” Boris asked. Without waiting for a response, he started to pick up Trisha's bags.

Trisha giggled.

“Well,” Amanda said, “I don't think both of us can take this all down without making multiple trips.” She then pushed her laptop bag higher onto her shoulder and took her two travel bags. She thought that Boris was showing off a little as he picked up ALL of Trisha's bags, easel, and portfolio bag. Trisha nodded with approval and clutched her purse.

Amanda followed both of them to the elevator.
Outside, the cabbie chuckled as he said, “Looks like you forgot the kitchen sink. Better go back and get it.”

Amanda laughed at the joke and put her bags in the back along with Trisha's stuff. The cabbie closed the hatch. Amanda turned around to get into the car and Todd was right behind her.

She was a bit startled. Todd snuck up on her again. She thought that maybe he was just a silent walker.

“So, how much time to do I have to say goodbye?” Todd asked.

“I have a few minutes,” Amanda said, “but then we'll be back in a couple of weeks. I don't plan on hanging around that long.”

Amanda barely got the last few words out when Todd reached out, pulled her in close, and hugged her tightly. She could have sworn that his lips brushed her cheek.

“Please,” Todd whispered in her ear, “be careful.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Coffee Break

Amanda anxiously grasps her ceramic mug as she stares at the entrance. Since Todd started working as the apartment manager, she hasn't seen him much lately.

Trisha had a few art showings in a town a few hours before their trip, so Amanda was able to bury herself in her book.
The dreams were coming at a faster rate and with more detail, and she finally finished the first draft. She was going to show her work to Todd today.

Her previous book's sales started to slow down, and she knew she had to show it to Todd soon.

She leaned a little to her right and shifted her bag. It had fallen onto her foot as if to menacingly remind her that she brought the first draft with her. Her anxiety rose a little.

It's because I haven't seen Todd in a while, Amanda thought to herself.

Finally, Todd walks in, spots Amanda and waves. Amanda smiles and waves back. He points towards the counter, and she gives a half nod of understanding. He was getting himself a coffee before joining her.

Amanda was apprehensive, and she knew why. She had reread the draft and thought that it might be over the top. Writing something about PHP is one thing. It is based on fact. Writing on one's imagination and dreams, well, could reveal how crazy and weird someone is.

Todd sits down, and they start talking about her upcoming trip. Amanda pushes the bag with her feet to the front of her, under the table, hidden.

Maybe next time, she thought.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Demon of the Complex

Amanda studied her pendant for a little while. It did seem to look a little bit like her, but because of its size, there wasn't enough room for details. Perhaps the dream was just her brain trying to figure out her past through her pendant.

This thought brought back a memory of when she spoke to Janice after she had thought she heard a whisper in her apartment.

Maybe it's the "demon of the complex" Amanda thought wistfully. Her former neighbors were religious. While very friendly and incredibly generous, they believed in demons, angels and  "spiritual warfare," which Amanda found interesting but confusing.

"Strange things started happening since they hired Joey," Janice said.

"Or maybe, it's Mr. Carter," Steve countered, or maybe it was that wild girl… what's her name? They did all seem to show up almost at the same time." Steve didn't seem to be as convinced that they had anything to do with it.

"Doesn't matter, but there is something there," Janice said, picking up on Steve's skepticism.

"Yeah," Steve said, "there have been some strange things going on."

"Like sudden breezes," Janice continued, "Even though no door is open, the feeling of being watched, or the strange whispers in the air."

Steve mutter in agreement.

"Maybe it's a ghost?" Amanda suggested helpfully.

"Ghost?" She seemed a little taken aback. Janice sometimes couldn't fathom that some people just may not understand her core beliefs. "Any spirit being is to be avoided. You shouldn't talk to any of them. We are not meant to interact the 'other side'"

Janice was the closest thing that Amanda had to a friend at the moment, so she decided not to question them any further. Even though it doesn't seem like they would offend easily, she wasn't sure if she wanted to take that risk.

It turns out that the "whisper" was a radiant heater vent. Amanda's foster home had wood heat, and since she had no memory of any other form of heat, she didn't know that some other heat sources made different sounds.

"It was just a dream," she muttered to herself. Like all the vivid dreams that I've been having, she thought.

She let her pendant drop, and she was very aware of the weight of it on her neck. She hesitated for a moment, then got up and ready for the day.

"A dream," Amanda repeated quietly trying to convince herself, "Just a dream."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Blue Lady

Amanda laid in bed staring at the ceiling. She wasn't sure how long she had been lying there, but something caught her attention.

Amanda rolled to her side, facing her bedroom door and listened. She didn't hear anything, but she couldn't help shake the feeling that there was something out there.

Just then, a breeze came through the door. Amanda sat up on the edge of the bed, looking out the door.

There was definitely something or someone there. Amanda stood up and waited to see if she could hear anything.

Soon, she heard what sounded like her name in a whisper, and she felt drawn outside of her room. She tried to look beyond the door and around to where the sound was coming from, but all she could see was a blueish light. As creepy as it was, curiosity got the better of her, and she decided to check it out.

She rounded the corner and then stopped. There in front of her was a woman, who seemed to be the source of the light, floating a few inches off the floor. She was gesturing as if she was beckoning for Amanda to come closer. She inched closer and realized that the woman looked just like her.

Amanda could feel the pull from this entity.  If she wanted to resist, it should have been sooner. She was almost within reach of this woman, who then reached out to touch Amanda's head.

Just then, Amanda's alarm went off. She opened her eyes and found herself back in her bed. She hit the snooze button on her phone but didn't get up right away. She rolled over and stared at the ceiling. The woman reminded her of something, and it wasn't because she looked like Amanda. It was something else.

Suddenly, Amanda sat up in bed and grabbed her pendant.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Working Stove

Amanda answered a knock on her door. She was expecting this. Todd was supposed to bring a new stove over today. Her stove was down to one burner, and she didn't trust that one. She loved to cook and didn't want to spend any more money on microwave meals.

She opened the door to find Todd standing behind the delivery man with a glass top stove.

“Glass top?” Amanda looked at Todd quizzically.

“Yeah, Mr. Carter said to spare no expense,” Todd said.

“Hmm,” Amanda said a little dishearteningly, “Looks like rent is going up.” So much for all of the savings in cooking from scratch, she thought.

“Oh, not likely. Joey was squandering a lot of the cash," Todd said, "These glass-top stoves appear to be a deal compared to what Joey supposedly spent last year."

Todd helped the delivery guy inch the stove through the door. Then they both left it at the edge of the kitchen while they worked the old stove out of its place. When the delivery man moved the stove towards the door, both Amanda and Todd looked at the space where it once stood.

Amanda covered her mouth and giggled, and Todd groaned and made a face.

The delivery guy peered over as he was moving the old stove. Spider webs and debris dangled from the back and swayed as he moved the stove out of its place.

“Meh,” he said as he peers over and looks at the debris, “I've seen worse.”

Todd and Amanda looked at each other in disbelief, then back at the delivery man. He kept doing his job as if nothing happened.
Amanda glanced back at the crud and grime must have been building there since the completion of the apartments.

Todd elbowed her jokingly, “Perhaps you should have cooked a little less.”

"Sure, if I could cook on that stove," Amanda said. "I've been surviving on cold foods," then she points towards the microwave. "and microwave meals,"

“Ah, yes. Of course, the microwave” Todd said with some disdain. He then took a more serious tone. “It's probably just as grimy behind it," he sighed.

“No, I did clean that when I moved in,” Amanda said then gestured towards the stove, “As a matter of fact, I do have some cleaners that will get that crud off.”

“Oh, I don't need those. I have plenty of industrial strength cleaner to take care of that.” Todd started out the door, “I already had taken care of a few of other apartments, and I had to order more last week.” Todd paused and said dramatically lowered voice, “A lot more.”

Amanda chuckled and nodded as Todd headed out the door.

She then opened one of the lower cabinets and grabbed a couple of cleaning gloves. It's true that Todd gets paid to do all this work, but Amanda hates to sit around and watch someone work. She was on her laptop all morning and needed a change of pace.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Todd walked back in with a cart full of cleaning supplies. He stopped and gave Amanda a concerned look.

“Did you already buy those tickets for your trip?” Todd asks.
Amanda, confused, hesitated. “Yeah, a couple of days ago, why?”
“And Trisha is going with you, right? You're not going alone?”
Still confused about the sudden change in Todd's demeanor, she responded, “Yes, I mean, Trisha is coming with me, and I'm not going alone.”

“Good,” Todd said and then was quiet for a moment. “I wish I could go with you," he whispered.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Crazy Ex

“They caught the murderer!” Trisha said excitedly. She was a little too excited and tried to push through Amanda's door.

Amanda wasn't expecting Trisha back so soon – or so early. Typically, Trisha would come over, and they would spend some time together. Then Trisha would go back to her apartment and disappear for a couple of days, presumably to work on her paintings.

Too tired to tired argue with Trisha on what time it was and curious on what she was talking about, Amanda unhooked the slide lock and let Trisha in.

“Who and for what?” Amanda asked groggily. She started a pot of coffee.

“The person who killed Joey!” Trisha said as if she was surprised that Amanda didn't know. “I know you don't have a TV, but do you at least read the news online?”

“I haven't been lately,” Amanda said, now fully awake, “I've been focusing on my book.”

“Well, you know that cop that was here?” Trisha said, seeing that she now had Amanda's full attention, “He didn't buy it that Joey offed himself, so he tried investigating it and got into trouble… I guess he was supposed to close this case and focus on parking tickets or something.” Trisha rolled her eyes as if to emphasize the absurdity of it all.

“Anyway, he still pursued the case, but then they suspended him until some crazy woman was caught shooting her boyfriend. When she was arrested, she started screaming how he should have learned from the last time – or something like that. It turns out that she was also Joey's ex-girlfriend.” Trisha talked so fast that it almost she said everything in one sentence.

Fortunately, Amanda was used to Trisha's all-one-word ramblings by now. She leaned forward to focus on what Trisha was saying.

“She was high as a kite in a tornado!” Trisha Exclaimed. “The woman was yelling on how if she wasn't caught, she could have made it look like a suicide, like the last one. They got her to confess to Joey's murder as well. The cop was vindicated and reinstated." Trisha paused and then added as an afterthought, "And promoted.”

“Good for the cop,” Amanda said.

Trisha sat back into her chair, and Amanda got up to make herself a cup of coffee. She gestured with the pot to Trisha who then waved it off.

“You know, you would think that it wouldn't have affected me as I didn't exactly like the guy,” Trisha said thoughtfully, “But I'm relieved that they caught the person. I mean, they probably deserve each other, but she was crazy. She could have decided that we all shouldn't have interacted with Joey and then systematically killed each of us off.”

“Well, that's a bit cold,” Amanda paused realizing what else Trisha said, “and disturbing.”

“C'mon,” Trisha said a little indignant. “I bet even you have been a little happier since he was gone. I mean we all saw how he treated you.”

“I suppose.” Amanda shrugged. She didn't want to admit to it, but she wasn't happier.

Since Joey died, Amanda wrestled with the guilt that she had for mentally wishing that he would kill himself. She had to remind herself that it wasn't her fault. After all, it's not as if she could control someone like that.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Amanda checked the bus and train fares online. Trisha brought over some snacks and set a bowl of tortilla chips and nacho cheese dip next to her. She then sat down on a beat-up recliner that Amanda picked up at a thrift shop and threw her legs over one of the armrests

“A train it is then?” Trisha said as she grabbed the bowl of chips and set them on her stomach.

Amanda glanced at her and laughed. “Make yourself at home, why don't you? Of course, a train. I'm not in that much in a hurry to get there and back, and I don't care for airport security. Unlike Buses, we can at least walk around on our trip.”

Trisha didn't respond. She seemed to be studying the painting that was hanging across the room from them. She finally set the chip bowl back down onto the coffee table and walked over to it.

“So, this is the painting that you bought,” Trisha said wistfully. She looked at it and seemed to trail off as if to reminisce.

“Actually, Todd bought it for me,” Amanda said, “It was a gift.” She was somewhat distracted by the computer. She continued slowly, “I found it fascinating.”

“It happens to be my favorite,” Trisha said, finally breaking her gaze off of the painting to look at Amanda. “It reminds me of when I was a kid.”

Trisha sat back on the recliner, swinging her legs over the arm again. She realized that she had put the chip bowl out of her reach and decided that she didn't want them bad enough to get up to get them. So instead she started to focus on her nails.
“Done!” Amanda said with a sigh then turned to Trisha. “We leave in a few days.”

“Great!” Trisha responded, then swung her legs to the front of the chair and leaned in. “Are you and Todd, like, together now?”

Amanda gave her a sideways glance. She didn't like talking about her personal life that much, especially since she can't even figure it out herself.

“No,” Amanda said. “He hasn't said anything about it, and I don't want to ask.” Amanda turned her computer off. “I'm not exactly interested in a relationship now.”

“But he would be your first choice, right?”

Amanda signed. “Well, yeah, I guess.”

It wasn't the answer Trisha was looking for, but before she could pry further, her phone rang. She answered it.

“Hi!” Trisha said, “What's up? Oh yeah, we just got the tickets." Then there was a pause. "We'll be there for a month, providing everything goes well." Another, shorter pause. "Okay, I'll see you then.

Amanda gave Trisha a quizzical look.

“That was uh, my agent,” Trisha said. “He wants to make sure that I'll be at the next art show. The last one was a success.”

“You are still coming with me, right?” Amanda asked, not sure what to make of the phone conversation."

“Well, yeah!” Trisha said sounding a little indignant. “I so want to see the east coast. I've never been there, so I definitely don't want to give that up.”

“Actually, I still do have to go,” Trisha gestures towards the door. “My agent is somewhat old-school and wants to meet in person to discuss the details. Someone has got to show him the joys of email.”

Amanda laughed. “Nothing is more wondrous than deleting hundreds of spam emails.”

“I know, right?” Trisha said as she headed out the door.

Amanda closed the door, not sure if Trisha was forthcoming about her phone call. She sighed and figured that it probably was too personal to ask.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Report

"It's been a couple of months, now.” Todd took a sip of coffee.
Amanda nodded. “I know. I'm more than halfway through. I wasn't expecting the book to be that long. I may have to break it down into parts. Maybe do a trilogy.”

Todd leaned back into his chair. “Yeah, that seems to be the going thing these days. Or maybe you can make an ongoing series.”

“Well, I don't know if I have that much material,” Amanda said then sighed. “Who knows.”

Todd noticed Amanda fiddling with her necklace. She seemed a bit distracted.

“Well, I have been thinking...” Amanda paused. She seemed hesitant to say anything. She wasn't sure how Todd would react to this idea.

“Go on,” Todd said.

Amanda sighed. “I want to go to where I was found.”

Todd leaned forward and opened his mouth as to speak, but Amanda quickly continued before he could say anything. “I know it seems out of the blue, but recently I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and it may help jog my memory a bit.”

Todd leaned forward and held up his hand as if to stop her then said, “Of course it's a good idea.” Then as if he read her mind about what the question is about, “I wish I could go with you, but I just started this job, and...”

“No, that's okay,” Amanda said, “I figured that you wouldn't be able to go, so I invited Trisha.”

Todd seemed a little surprised. He settled back into his seat and took another sip of his coffee. “So you two are getting along, eh?"

“Yeah, I know,” Amanda chuckled, “We are like night and day, but we've been getting along pretty well.”

“Oh, good,” Todd said, “I mean, it's good to see that you are coming out of your shell a little.”

There was a moment of silence. Amanda fiddled with her necklace, as she had been during every pause in the conversation. Todd took notice.

“Is there something on your mind?” Todd asked finally. “Your attention seems divided.”

Amanda stopped fiddling with her necklace. She figured that Todd probably wouldn't understand. She didn't understand it herself.

“Well,” Amanda said, deciding on giving it a shot, “I had another dream with the necklace in it.”

Todd leaned forward in his chair. “Oh, really?”

“I don't remember much of it, though. It was a guy who was familiar, saying something about, protecting something.”

Amanda sighed. “I let myself get distracted before I could write it down. It sounded noble and probably would have been great fodder for my book.”

Todd nodded, seemingly disappointed. Then it was as if he realized something.

“So you have been using your dreams as 'book fodder'?”
Amanda nodded.

“Well, that's a shame,” Todd said, “Perhaps you might dream of it again?” He asked that last question as if he knew the answer.

“Um, yeah,” Amanda said a bit perplexed. “It's odd. I sometimes will dream the same dream again with more detail. It's why it's taking so long to finish. I have to go back and rewrite some sections.”

“You know what?” Todd said as he put his hand on hers. “You take your time. I look forward to when you are done writing it.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fiery Idea

It's 5:30 am. Amanda usually slept until 8, a benefit of making one's own hours, but she this time, her mind was too busy to sleep.

She kept thinking about her most recent dream.  It ended like most of her dreams did. She would be staring out a window, mesmerized by the fire outside. She wasn't afraid, nor was this unexpected in the dream.

She decided to get up and take a walk. If she stayed in bed and fell back to sleep, she knew that she would be very groggy when she woke up. She can always take a 20-minute caffeine nap if she got tired later.

Amanda headed towards the kitchen and checked in her pantry. There were three protein bars left. She decided it would be a good excuse to go and see Todd later. Perhaps she could convince him to give her the recipe. Ever since she replaced her morning protein shake, she had been feeling better.
As if to just think of it, she walked back to her bedroom and checked her full-length mirror. It does seem that she lost some weight.

When the women found her, she was slim but in the few years since she put on some weight. After her doctor had mentioned something about it, she started to go to a gym, but just like everything else she tried, it never seemed to be working. That was until Todd gave her those protein bars. She decided, at that moment, to weigh herself.

Trying to find the scale turned out to be a much bigger project than she anticipated. She had forgotten how angry she was the last time she weighed herself. She remembered being very annoyed of only seeing her weight go up. She also remembered that she decided to bury her scale - somewhere.

Where did she put it?

It turns out that it was in the back of the cabinet under the sink - way back. Amanda must have been pretty angry, but for some reason, she didn't remember putting it there.

After emptying the entire bathroom sink cabinet to reach the scale, she put it on the floor and stepped on it. Not believing what she was seeing, she stepped off. Then she took a deep breath stepped back on it again. She lost a total of ten pounds since the last time she stepped on the scale. She hadn't been on the scale for six months, but she suspected that it was in the last three months that she lost most of the weight, about the time when she started eating these bars.

What on earth was in them? She put the scale by the sink. Perhaps she should tell Todd to sell them. Something like this would sell for a lot of money.

By the time she got around to thinking about the dream, it had faded. Angry at herself for not writing it down first and letting herself get distracted, she grabbed a bar and headed out for a walk. What was it, besides the strange fire that she had seen so many times?

She can vaguely remember a man talking to her. In her dream, of course, she knew him. In real life, she thought that maybe she had seen him somewhere before. She saw a lot of people in the last few years. It could have been anyone.

What was he saying? Something about protecting something important. That lives are at stake, something, something, and something that cannot fall into the wrong hands. The dream was reminded her of the clichés she saw in just about every movie she's watched.

Amanda sighed. If only she had written it down before anything else. She calmed herself and tried to focus.

He had put his hand on something that was on her chest. What was he reaching for?

Amanda stopped in mid-stride and grabbed her necklace.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Job Taken

It was a matter of seconds from when Amanda knocked, and the door opened.

“Were you waiting for me?” Amanda asked.

“Uh, no,” Todd said intentionally in a disingenuous tone. "No, of course not." His eyes comically widened as if he was trying to hide something.

Amanda gave him a look. Todd laughed and said, “No, I was about to take out the trash.” He lifted a bag of trash to make his point. “You are a bit earlier than I thought you would be.”

Amanda nodded, “I like being early.” Then she added with a devious smile, “It drives people crazy sometimes.”

“You can't make me crazy,” Todd said seemingly indignant, “I'm already crazy.” as he passed her out the door. “Make yourself at home, will be right back.”

Amanda walked in and smelled his cooking. Instead of the pleasant aroma that usually floated down the hallway at dinner time, she was greeted by a sharp burnt smell.

Amanda walks towards the kitchen. She saw that the meal was half undercooked and half burnt.

She opened the oven and peered inside.  The element must be going, She thought.

“Yeah,” he said, as he walked in behind her, gesturing towards what's left of dinner. “The oven doesn't seem to work right anymore. We need new stoves.”

Amanda nodded understandingly. “Three of my burners are out, and I've been trying to get them replaced."

"No worries,” Todd said. "I ordered new stoves for every apartment." When he saw Amanda's confusion, he continued, “I applied for the building manager job and got it. I guess you snooze, you lose.”

Amanda laughed. “Nah, I really didn't want it, and I'm glad you got it. It'll save me the trouble of telling Mr. Carter 'no'”

“Sure, you say that now,” Todd teased, "sour grapes."

Amanda just rolled her eyes. “What about your editorial job?”
Todd shrugged. “I can still do that. I mean, how hard could it be?” He poked at the roasting pan as if to check to see if it was hot. “Meh.. looks like takeout today, although I do have a salad prepared.”

Amanda shrugged, “That's okay, I rarely get takeout, so this will be a treat."

Then Amanda saw something familiar on the table, "What about your inventions?”

“My what?” Amanda caught Todd off guard. He had his phone out mid-dial, and the question seemed to have come out of nowhere.

Amanda pointed towards the silver-colored items.

“Oh,” Todd said seemingly confused. After thinking about it for a moment, he realized what she was talking about it. “Oh, my inventions! Yeah, they were rejected. They claimed to love the idea, but they weren't interested in buying. I have other companies to try though.”

Todd brushed it off as it if it were nothing and went back to dialing for take-out.

“You told me one was a prototype material. What was the other or is it still a surprise.”

“That,” Todd said pausing before hitting the send button. “Was a translator.” He said it as if it should be common knowledge. Then he put the phone to his ear.

Of course, it is, Amanda thought, I knew that.