With my book being out I’m trying to promote it and let me tell you, for an independent writer, this is the hardest part! 🙂 So, I wanted to give you guys a sample of my book in hopes that you will find it interesting and help me spread the word. Please, reblog if you feel lead to. I would appreciate it!
Doomed. Cursed. Perhaps even condemned to a life of constant strife, it was what I was destined for. I was desperate. Sweat dripped from my brow as I felt my way around the dark abyss. This place always seemed to swallow whatever was left there. It was like there really were monsters and the one that lived here, had a taste for things that belonged to me. Fate was breathing down my neck, laughing.
“For Pete’s sake!” I nearly screamed.
I was upset, clearly, but my aggravation was nothing compared to my nerves. Scared stupid would be an accurate description of my current state of mind. I was so beside myself that I couldn’t compose my thoughts and that was usually no problem for me. I was an expert at pretending to be calm, but inside I raged like a storm.
“Rayna? Hurry up! What on earth are you doing in there?” my mother called from outside my bedroom door.
“I can’t find my shoes!” I screamed to her, still feeling around under the bed.
“Goodness, Rayna!” she opened my door. “You left them by the coat closet. Get a grip, Girl.”
I sighed loudly and stomped past her into the open hall. Of course I would do something as mindless as searching for a pair of shoes that weren’t lost. Still, that wasn’t my sole reason for feeling angry. I was about to go on a very “important” interview. Yes, I was angry about the interview. Not because I’m lazy and didn’t want a job, actually, I had wanted a job since I was fourteen but my mother simply refused. She said that my only concern should be school.
Finally, I put my foot down. I was about to be a senior in high school, perfectly capable of getting a job. My plan was to save every penny I earned to cover costs that my student loans wouldn’t when I started college, if I could ever decide on one. It would also help if I figured out what I was going to school for, but as my dad always said, “We’ll figure it out when we get there.”
So, Mom and I made a deal. If I kept my grades up all year she would let me work this summer. My grades were in tip top shape, for me anyway, so that meant I could work, if I could find a job.
My application submittal started in February. There wasn’t a business in my small Alabama town that I didn’t apply to. The bookstore, Wal-Mart, and burger joints all knew my name a little too well and no one would hire me. Their excuse was either because I was too inexperienced or they had no availabilities. Times were hard and jobs were few, but how was I going to get “experience” if no one would give me a chance?
I know I shouldn’t be angry about this job interview, but this wasn’t my idea. In actuality, I would have never applied to this place, but here I was. There were so many students who would kill for this interview and I was complaining. Never in a million years would I have applied if not for my mother. If I had any other options I would have refused to go to this interview, but like I said, no one would hire me.
“Rayna, look what I found,” my mother had said, coming into my room with her laptop. “The Landing has an internship program. It’s starting this summer, for high school and college students. There are a lot of positions available.”
“Are you serious, Mom?” I asked after scanning over the web page. “This says for students who intend to go into business as a major in college. I have no idea what I want to do. Oh my gosh, Mom it’s expensive too! I won’t even get paid; you have to pay them, $2,000 for the whole summer?”
“There is a scholarship available. It would be a great opportunity for you, Rayna,” she said.
“I need a job with money coming in, Mom,” I argued.
“They are also offering a college scholarship to one of the interns,” Mom said, narrowing her eyes at me. “This is something worth trying. At least fill out the application. Look, you can do it online.”
So, I filled out the application, which the website claimed would take ten minutes, it took me thirty. One would think with my limited work history, the process would’ve gone smoothly. I had no such luck. The questions weren’t like other applications. The Landing wanted to know you personally. Not just your social security number, but your inner most thoughts or so it seemed.
Out of all the applications I had filled out, the one for The Landing was the most complex. I had to tell them where I was born, raised, and my whole life story. It irritated me to divulge this information about myself. It actually pained me to write about my dad. It opened up so many wounds that were never really healed. After the application, they felt fresh. What was I to do, lie and say my dad was still with us? I hated the application and I was mad at my mother for suggesting it.
My black dress shoes waited for me by the coat closet. I shoved my feet into the cool fabric all the while grumbling under my breath. Mom followed me into the living room; her expression was a mixture of being happy for me and anxiety. I instantly felt guilty for being such a jerk. The past six years had been so hard on us. After my dad’s death, his sister, my Aunt Ivy, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died three months later. My grandmother, aka Mimi, lost both of her children. My mother had lost her two best friends. My Uncle David was left with twin girls, Amelia and Amy, and a five year old boy named Trevor.
Everyone had suffered and everyone had lost. Still, my mom put on a brave face. She held us all together through the worst of it. Never once did she act the victim, that she was the only one experiencing pain. Instead, she was there for everyone. I was her daughter though, I could see the pain and hurt that no one else noticed. To others she seems strong and they admire her. Believe me they should. Mom picked up the broken pieces of our family and put us all back together. It just took so much out of her to do it.
At night, when she thinks I’m sleeping, I hear her cry. Even years later, Dad’s death is as new to her as the day the state trooper knocked on our door. She visits my dad’s grave every week. Mom still refuses to give away his clothes, shoes, or anything else. The worst part, Dad’s study remains the same way he left it. Mom keeps it locked and no one, including me and my brother is allowed in. She cleans it with the rest of the house and locks it back up when she’s done. I guess a part of her thinks, hopes, that he’ll come home one day. I know it isn’t healthy, but I can’t bring myself to say anything. That hope, however useless, is the only thing that keeps her sane.
“Look Mom,” I said, standing up and taking her by the shoulders. “I’m sorry for being a butthead. I’m just nervous.”
“I know, Honey.” She kissed my forehead. “Are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” I put on a fake smile; I was getting good at those.
The ride to The Landing took twenty minutes from our small Alabama town of New Hope. The resort was on a peninsula nestled in the corner of Guntersville Lake. My dad used to take us fishing and camping there. Of course not on the resort, it was far too expensive for a membership, just the lake. Actually, I had never stepped foot on the resort. Honestly, I never had any interest in going. It was hot spot for people to vacation if they didn’t want to leave the state.
I stared out the car window as my mother drove. There was a whole lot of nothing between New Hope and the city of Guntersville, unless you counted pastures, farms, a gas station, and a few houses. It was usually a calming ride; right now I was anything but relaxed. My nerves were frayed. I didn’t want to blow this interview. My mom was actually praying that I got the internship! That alone was enough to make me anxious.
Sooner than I wanted we were at The Landing. We climbed out of the car into the cool March air. Winter was holding on by the skin of its teeth. I could see a few flowers trying their best to survive the chilled air, the buds in their infant stages. I shivered, wishing I had worn my black boots in place of the dress shoes. Mom and I nervously came up the walk, passed the lush, manicured landscape and up to the guest house.
Despite the harsh winter, the lawn looked really nice. We had to climb a broad stair case with rod iron banisters and a silver TL fashioned to every third post, to reach the entrance. The porch was massive; it was held by four thick columns. Elegant white, wicker furniture sat perfectly beneath bone white ceiling fans. It was still too cold in the mornings for anyone to occupy the tables that were lined along the large porch. I could image what it must look like during the summer; patrons sitting on the clean chairs, playing chess or cards and drinking sweet tea.
Mom pushed open the heavy wooden doors and we were met by a smiling face with perfect white teeth. She sat behind a dark wooden desk. Her features were beautiful and her smile was sweet. She had a head full of thick brown hair. The young woman could have done very well if she chose modeling as a career.
“Hello. Welcome to The Landing.” She smiled. “How can I help you?”
“I’m Eleanor Stone, this is my daughter Rayna. We have an appointment with Mr. James Wu,” Mom told her.
“Of course.” She smiled sweetly. “You’re here for the scholarship interview, right?”
“Yes, ma’am.” My mother smiled back.
“Have a seat here and I’ll let Mr. Wu know you’ve arrived.” She smiled again.
We took the seat she offered as she picked up the phone. The entrance was fairly large. A frosted glass door was next to the receptionist’s desk. A few feet away sat another desk with a pretty brunette on the phone. The room’s décor was warm, but very professional. The carpet was deep shades of green, red and gold.
Dark green and black vases held lively plants and flowers. Paintings of Guntersville and the lake were numerous as was the beautification awards. A wooden cabinet with glass doors held the awards won on behalf of Guntersville’s local celebrity golf tournaments and it was obvious they were very talented. I was utterly surprised that the thin glass shelves of the wardrobe could hold the awards.
“Ms. Stone,” the receptionist said to us. “Mr. Wu is on his way down to greet you. Just walk through this door and wait in the lobby.”
“Thank you, Sweetie.” Mom smiled.
“Of course, good luck, Rayna.” She smiled at me, but I could see right through it.
“Thanks,” I said.
My high school had plenty of girls like her, a pretty face and ugly personality. Their smile held no value; it was like a smile on a dolls face, it was painted on. Seeing through the façade was easy enough for me, but my mom never noticed. She was under this illusion that everyone was instinctively good. Her reasoning for bad behavior was that those people were never taught anything else. They just needed a little help to find that natural love for their neighbor.
This is one of the major differences between us. I’m more guarded when I meet someone new. My mother had never really had anyone reject her so she didn’t understand. She was lucky. There is a part of me that just expects someone to be judgmental and snub me; that either makes me cynical or realistic. I honestly don’t know which is worse.
We walked out past the frosted glass door; I could hear the receptionists share a giggle. Paranoia had nothing to do with it; they were laughing at us. This reaction didn’t surprise me. We were clearly outsiders in our beat up Honda and Wal-Mart shoes. For some reason they thought they were on a pedestal and loved looking down on us. They had money and we didn’t. They thought they were better in every way, money, status, and looks. They had no right to think that about my mother. Mom was drop dead gorgeous.
She was tall and was lucky enough to have regained her pre-baby figure. Her straight hair was cut just above her shoulders and was a pretty shade of blonde. The green of her eyes would have made her Irish ancestors proud. Her skin was fair and brushed with freckles here and there.
I looked like the exact opposite of her. My jet black hair was curly and stopped in the middle of my back. My skin stayed a light brown during the winter, but I could get really dark during the summer, I got that from the Native American side, my dad’s family. Another feature I had gotten from my dad was my eyes. They were almond shaped and a very light brown, almost golden. My thick lashes were annoyingly long, but I rarely had to use mascara so I tried not to complain. I remember clearly that my dad’s eye color was exactly that same shade. He would always say that my eyes reminded him of honey; he would kiss each of my eyes and tell me how sweet I was.
“Hello! I’m James Wu; it’s nice to finally meet you.”
Mr. Wu came over to us in long, quick strides and shook our hands vigorously, thankfully it was pain free. I hated when people tried to make dust out of my fingers. His hand shake had just the right amount of pressure.
“It’s very nice to meet you both.” Mr. Wu smiled.
He was very handsome with Asian features. Mr. Wu wore a well-tailored suit and his shoes were buffed and polished. Everything about him was perfect. He was taller than my mother, but they would be the same height if she were wearing heels. From his stylish jet black hair to his name brand shoes; he was appealing to the eyes.
“It’s very nice to meet you as well,” Mom said, blushing.
Well, it looked like she was blushing. Her cheeks stayed a healthy pink so it was hard to be entirely sure. I watched her for a moment, surprised. My mother had never shown any sign of being interested in another man since my dad’s passing. Plenty of men had asked her out and flirted, but she let them know, quickly, she was not available. So the way she was acting now was…shocking. She was looking at Mr. Wu like a girl with a crush. Sure, he was good looking and charming, but enough to cause my mother to behave like she’d just met Casanova?
The man had barely said two full sentences and she looked swept off her feet. I wondered what he thought of her. She was beautiful and pleasant, any man would be lucky to have her.
“Please follow me,” Mr. Wu said to us, gesturing with his hand.
He led us through the lobby, chatting like we were long lost friends. Booths offering information about the resort and its membership were strategically dispersed on either side of us. Clean cut, good looking people were stationed in each section. They were busily talking on the phone or typing away on the computers. Mr. Wu waved or nodded to each one of them. He seemed to have a good rapport with his employees and their returning smiles looked genuine.
This could have been all a charade for our benefit. He could be a ruthless employer that treated his workers like slaves and refused to let them have a day off, even if they were sick. These people could only be smiling at him because they were afraid of what would happen if they didn’t. I looked at Mr. Wu intensely and threw that theory out the window. He really did seem like a nice person.
“These are our information desks,” Mr. Wu explained. “Our employees are thoroughly trained and equipped to answer every question our clients have.”
I noticed it right away; Mr. Wu was in his tour guide/salesman mode. Surprisingly, he wasn’t boring me to death with The Landing history. I enjoyed a little history now and then and his speech didn’t sound rehearsed or dry; he was energetic. He maneuvered us past the booths and up a wide staircase. We stopped on the first landing.
The hall was tastefully decorated in deep reds and warm greens. It nearly had an old country home feel, which went right along with the outside of the building. The hard wood floors and dark wood walls gave the impression of a log cabin nestled deeply in the woods. It seemed like the builders had plucked the building right out of the 1800s and set it down here. Mr. Wu’s presence was warm and welcoming. This seemed to complete the homey feel.
He was utterly happy telling us about The Landing. His giddiness was very obvious and he reminded me of a cheerleader. Perhaps he had been one in a past life. I nearly laughed at the thought. Of course I didn’t believe in such nonsense, my Mimi did. She was a huge spiritualist; it was the Creek Indian in her.
Just the thought of Mr. Wu in a cheerleading outfit and pom-poms was oddly relaxing. He was quite intimidating in his Armani Suit. So, if picturing him as a cheerleader helped, then that’s what I was going to do.
“Here is our current President, Dr. Jackson Cole,” Mr. Wu said, pointing to a portrait of a good looking man.
Dr. Cole was roughly 50 with light brown hair, graying at the sides, and crisp blue eyes. Those eyes were completely mesmerizing. He was very handsome in an older man kind of way.
“Jack has been our President of the Board of Directors for the past three years. His family, a wife and son, moved here from Australia around eight years ago. Jack is a talented heart surgeon at Huntsville Hospital. We are very lucky to have him,” Mr. Wu said.
“How long have you been the director?” my mother asked.
“Nearly fifteen years. I absolutely love it. The Landing is my home.” He smiled widely. “Ah, here we are.”
We had reached the end of the hall. He pushed open a set of frosted glass doors. The room was large, bigger than our living room. A few plush chairs were scattered throughout the room with two love seats. A bar was at the far corner of the room. If Mr. Wu didn’t intimidate me, this room sure did.
“Can I interest you in a cup of coffee or a cappuccino while you wait, Ms. Stone? You do like coffee don’t you?” he asked.
“Yes, thank you. Please, call me Ellie, everyone does.” My mom smiled back.
I looked at her in surprise for what felt like the millionth time. Mom was always so formal. It truly was a shock to see her flirt, but it was also refreshing. She needed to move on and Mr. Wu wasn’t a bad place to start. I looked at his left hand, no ring. He wasn’t married; he was good looking and rich. I hope he didn’t have a girlfriend.
“Ellie, excuse me for being so business like. It’s hard to transition sometimes. Come, I’ll have Vince make you the best cup of coffee in the world or in The Landing anyway.” He smiled, leading her to the bar.
I had never seen such a place. Everything was beautiful and expensive. It made our little house look like a shack. I was afraid to move or touch anything in case I broke it. I couldn’t imagine how much these items cost. I’m sure even the vases that held the flowers cost more than our car.
With that thought, I remained where I was in the middle of the lobby, looking at the paintings and lovely furniture. If Mr. Wu had decorated the room himself, his tastes were expensive, but not flashy. He seemed to be one of those rich people who didn’t care anything about flaunting their wealth. I liked that about him and I guess my mother did too.
“Are you ready, Rayna?” Mr. Wu asked from behind me. I nearly jumped.
“Yes.” I smiled weakly.
“Might I offer you something to drink before we begin?”
“No, thank you.”
“This way then.”
I glanced back at my mom and she gave me an encouraging smile. The knot in my stomach didn’t seem so tight anymore.
Mr. Wu’s office was professionally decorated with only a few personal effects. I saw a picture of him in a graduation gown, flanked by a man and woman who I assumed were his parents. A beautiful desk and credenza sat center in the room. The massive bookshelf, behind the desk, was full of strongly bound business literature and classic novels. There were a few that I recognized.
“Do you like to read?” he asked as he took his seat.
“Yes. I’m a big fan of fiction,” I answered. “I’ve read a few nonfiction books, but when I read I’d rather escape from reality than go deeper into it.”
“I completely agree! As a child I wanted to be writer, but things change and here I am.” He smiled. “So, Rayna, I assume you have looked over our openings?”
“Yes sir,” I answered, my mouth felt suddenly dry. I wished I had accepted that drink now.
I had stressed over the openings actually. My two best friends had their entire lives mapped out and I couldn’t even choose which program I wanted to attend. Their certainty made me envious. I would give anything to have that. How nice would it be to know where your life was going?
Sara was as country as you could get. Her parents owned a cattle farm; she knew where her life was headed. “The Plan”, as she referred to it, was to get a Veterinarian degree from Auburn University and take over the family business.
Leslie, my other best friend, had moved to our small town from the far away land of New York. She said her friendship with Sara and I was the only thing that gave her solace. That wasn’t enough to keep her in Alabama though. She had a passion for fashion and as soon as she could raise the money, she was going back to New York. Her outfits really made her stand out and the fact that she had been the only black girl in our entire school.
Sara was the sweetheart, Leslie was the pretty one, and I was the outsider. I was the “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life” kind of girl. I had been in drama and loved it, but that seemed like a life time ago. I had dropped out a few years after my dad died.
“Rayna?” Mr. Wu asked.
“I’m sorry. Mr. Wu, honestly, I …” I started.
“It’s OK, Rayna,” Mr. Wu said, smiling. “This is what the program is designed for. We are here to help our young adults with career decisions.”
“Thank you,” I said, my nervousness was tremendously lessened. “I’m most interested in working with Ms. Natalie Williams, the Events Coordinator.”
“That’s great.” He smiled. “Can you explain to me why that position is interesting to you?”
“My mother is the main reason,” I told him. “She loves a party and I’ve helped her put together some amazing…shin-digs!”
Mr. Wu laughed at my choice of words. The interview went smoothly from that point on. He went on to ask me about my grades and hobbies. After my interview, Mr. Wu thanked us for coming and walked us to the exit where the two smiling receptionists sat. He explained that if I were to be accepted to the program then I would know before the summer began. I saw him give my mother a backwards glance and when he turned around she did the same thing to him. I couldn’t help but laugh.
The ride back seemed to take forever. I was more than ready to get out of this skirt. Blue jeans and t-shirts were my ideal outfit like most teens. I only suffered through dresses when I had to go to church because my mother simply refused to let me wear dress pants. As soon as we got home the phone rang.
“It’s for you,” Mom said, smiling.
“So, how did it go?” Sara blurted. “Was Mr. Wu nice? I heard he was a looker.”
“I guess it went alright,” I told her. “I won’t know anything…hang on Sara, someone is beeping in.”
“Just call me back, I gotta help Papa with the horses,” she said.
“OK, bye.” I hit the send button. “Hello?”
“Hey, Girl!” it was Leslie. “Will you be living it up at the resort this summer?”
“I don’t know anything yet.” I sighed.
“So, is Mr. Wu as hot as his picture?” she asked.
“You’re insane! Is that all you ever think about you perv?” I laughed again. “You’re worse than a guy. You…ah, crap. Someone else is beeping in.”
“Probably, Say-ra,” Leslie said, imitating Sara’s country accent.
“Nah, I just talked to her,” I informed her.
“That little brat beat me to the punch?” Leslie exclaimed. “Darn. Well, call me back if you can.”
“OK, bye!” I said hitting the send button yet again. “Hello?”
“Hey Raynie Baby.” It was my Uncle David. “Where’s your mama?”
“Hey Davy,” I said. “Hang on. Mom! She’s coming.”
“How did your interview go?” he asked.
“Nerve-racking,” I confessed.
“I’m sure you did just fine, Baby,” he encouraged.
“Thanks, Davy. Mom! It’s Uncle David!” I screamed down the hall.
“OK! OK!” Mom came up, pulling on her tennis shoes.
She was ready for her afternoon walk. This was another one of those things that hadn’t changed after Dad’s death. She and Dad would hike a mile up our property and back every Saturday afternoon. I only remember them missing this once, when Austin, my brother, broke his wrist. We spent that whole day at the emergency room.
“Hey, David,” she said, taking the phone from me.
I escaped into my room, knowing I wouldn’t see her again for about an hour.
The months waned on and I hadn’t heard anything from The Landing. I assumed that I was either forgotten about or they didn’t care to tell me I didn’t get in. One of the snotty girls at school, Taylor Burgess, said if I got in she would officially give up hope on humanity. This wasn’t a rumor; she said it to my face. Taylor had hated me since Kindergarten because my hair was “weird”. Mom said she was jealous.
Well I guess Taylor’s faith would be forever shattered because a week after her declaration I received a letter from The Landing stating that I had been accepted to the internship program. I was really excited. I had been so angry with my mother for suggesting the place and now here I was thrilled. Maybe I was so resentful because I assumed that I wouldn’t be accepted, I don’t know, but I called Leslie and Sara right away to share the good news. I made sure to tell Taylor myself the next day at school.
I’m an early riser, but I had slept in the next day or at least pretended to. Today we were supposed to visit my dad’s grave. It wasn’t the anniversary of his death, but my mother insisted that we visit dad at least once a month together. She didn’t realize how much I hated doing this, it was so painful.
My dad was gone; his spirit was where it needed to be. Only his body remained on this Earth. Well, in the earth. Going to his grave didn’t make me feel any closer to my dad; it didn’t make me feel more connected in any way. She didn’t seem to grasp this idea because she kept dragging me out once a month, rain or shine to sit by his grave and pretend to talk to him.
We picked up a wreath from the local florist and drove out to Maple Hill Cemetery where my dad was buried. The Stones had a large area of the cemetery. Our family had been in the area for nearly 100 years. My grandfather was buried here and there was a plot for my mother right beside my dad. Looking at that empty space gave me the creeps.
Maple Hill was huge; it sat on 100 acres of land and was built way before I was born. It had that old time feel and would be the perfect setting for the opening of a scary movie. I mean what graveyard doesn’t make you think that? Still, it’s the playground next the graveyard that gets most of the hype. There have been stories for years about how you can hear children laughing in the playground late at night. The locals call it The Dead Children’s Playground. I think it’s a load of bull, but that’s just me.
My entire family is very spiritual and believes the stories, at least some of them, are true. Mimi swears that she’s heard the laughter before when her and my grandfather came here one night. He was just trying to show her how tough he was and hoped that she would be scared enough to let him wrap his arms around her. She said they both heard the laughter and took off running for the car. Apparently my grandfather’s plan worked, because they were married shortly after that.
We passed a crypt on our way to my father’s grave and I shivered. It was a warm day, but this vault always gave me the chills. I didn’t think it was haunted because I don’t believe in such things, but it’s the thought of what’s inside that disturbs me. This entire area was filled with dead, decaying or decayed bodies, not the spirits of loved ones who had passed. They were gone. I wished my mother would get that through her head.
As we reached the grave site I felt that pang in my chest. It was a constant ache that always intensified in moments like this. It felt like something was beginning to hatch inside me, something alien. I hated talking to Dad as if he were still here. I didn’t want to be here. However, that was a luxury that was unobtainable because of my mother. In these moments, I allowed myself to be angry with her.
As she took the flowers from me and sat them in front of his headstone, fixing them to the ground, that thumping in my chest cracked. I could feel it flowing out of its cocoon and seep into the bones surrounding my heart. Mom placed her hand on the cool earth that covered my dad’s coffin and began to talk to him. I made my way to the bench that she had put in a few years ago. I never participated in these little chats.
She began to cry and I could sense, no feel, that substance trickle through my marrow and make its way into my chest cavity. It engulfed my heart in its icy fingers and squeezed. I felt like someone had taken dry ice and placed it directly on my heart, over and over again. My breathing was becoming unsteady; I was working hard at controlling it.
There was a part of me that wanted to clutch my chest and give into the pain. It was possible that allowing the hurt to take over might help me. I might get the lasting relief I had waited for, if only I would open up my heart and let myself cry. That just couldn’t happen. As soon as I thought I was strong enough and I could feel my eyes brim with tears, a sudden numbness washed over me. The hurt was replaced by anger; I could deal with anger, not this feeling of sorrow.
Mom dried up as best she could and we left. The whole ride home was silent. I dealt with things better on my own and Mom knew that so she didn’t press me to talk. She knew that I was escaping into my solitude and I wasn’t going to discuss anything with her. That’s how I coped; I just cut everyone and everything out of my mind for just a little while. I don’t care if someone has been gone for two years or ten; you still miss them just the same.
Saturday, I received a package from The Landing. Inside were five pairs of khaki shorts, three khaki pants, and six different color polo shirts with The Landing logo over the right breast pocket.
I dug a little deeper and found a large envelope. They had sent me brochures detailing the summer program, maps, and other information for my mom to read. Then I found the program’s handbook. The handbook listed some of the same information as the pamphlets along with the program’s rules and the Mentors. It reminded me of my school’s handbook.
I skimmed through the table of contents, curious as to what they had put in there when my eyes fell on the words “Intern Biographies, page 48.” My heart sank. That’s why I was supposed to turn in a biography? So they could put it in this handbook for everyone to read?
I flipped the pages until I found mine near the back. There it was. My boring biography right beside my goofy picture! It was my yearbook photo so it wasn’t that bad, but I could clearly see the zit on my forehead. I rolled my eyes and sighed. It never failed, if it was time for school photos, my face broke out. It wasn’t a small “all over my face” break out; it was the “one huge zit on my forehead” or “tip of my nose” break out.
I thought the photo was for record keeping. That shows how much I know. Of course my mother was thrilled.
Leslie and Sara came over for a movie and we spent most of our time going through the handbook. We were huddled together on my living room couch. I was munching on some popcorn, while they looked at the pictures I had already seen a few times before they came over.
“He’s cute. He’s not. Oh, he’s hot!” Leslie was saying. “If you are going to have a summer romance, make sure it’s with him.”
She pointed at a handsome blonde boy named Logan Miles.
“And look, he likes, no loves his dog Chance,” Sara cooed. “How sweet!”
“I’m not planning on having a summer romance, Ladies,” I said to them.
“You’re no fun!” Leslie teased.
The Sunday before I was to leave, my pastor, Brother David, congratulated me in front of the entire congregation. It was a surprise for me they said. How thoughtful of them to embarrass me to death. I was given a travel Bible with daily passages and my picture was taken so they could put it in the church newsletter.
It was the worst Sunday of my life! I love going to church, but that was uncalled for. Center of Attention has never been a title I’ve worn. Mom apologized a million times. She knew how I was in front of an audience. Let’s just say that I nearly have panic attacks. I know weak, right? I assured her I would live. It was odd that I could act on stage with hundreds of people watching, but didn’t like being pointed out in a crowd.
That night Mom cooked my favorite southern food, fried chicken breast with buttery mashed potatoes and okra. She even made homemade buttermilk biscuits. I knew she did it because it was my last night with her for a while. I ate so much I thought I was going to pop. I’m sure The Landing would feed us, but you know what they say, nothing compares to your mom’s cooking.
We stayed up way too late that night just talking. I can’t really remember what we were talking about, but it was just a nice moment to have with my mom. She kept reminding me to keep my cell phone charged and to familiarize myself with their safety rules.
“Mom, I’ll be fine,” I said earnestly.
“I know but a mother has the right to fuss,” she told me. “OK, enough of that, let’s go to bed.”
I told her goodnight, performed my nightly hygiene ritual, and said my prayers. As I climbed into bed I tossed the catalog toward my night stand, but missed and it hit the floor.
For a moment I considered leaving it there. I could have always picked it up in the morning. Instead, I sighed and grunted as I hung over the side of the bead, reaching for that stupid booklet. Knowing me, I would forget it was there in the morning and slip on it. Just as I was about to toss it on the night stand, this time determined not to miss, a picture caught my eye.
It was of a pretty Hispanic girl named Abigail Rosado. Her beauty and interests weren’t the reasons I couldn’t look away from her face. I was absolutely positive that to everyone else, including me earlier, she looked like an average happy young woman. Still, for some reason she looked sad to me now. It was something in her eyes.
The look on her face, in her eyes, and everything about her screamed despair, hurt, and fear. My heart was pounding and sweat broke out over my brow. I felt this sudden need to pray for her, so that’s what I did. I had felt these types of things before. For reasons unknown to me, I would get these feelings to pray for someone, but never this strong. My mother said this was God’s way of speaking to us.
After I prayed, I was exhausted. I couldn’t remember the last time I had prayed that hard for someone. My heart was still racing, I was anxious. Still, once my head found my pillow, I was asleep.
My dreams did nothing to sooth me. My dad was there and he kept asking me why I looked so sad. All I could do was cry. He wiped my tears away and kissed my forehead.
“You know I’ll never leave you, Rayna,” he said to me, holding me tight against his chest.
Suddenly my dream shifted. Someone else was holding me and my heart was breaking for an entirely different reason. The feelings I had for this stranger were so strong. I didn’t want them to let me go. I held to them with furious passion.
“I’ll always be here,” they whispered in my ear.
Their voice was like silk, like a poem. This stranger was so familiar to me. They hugged me tighter and tighter, but it never seemed tight enough. I could feel myself slipping from their embrace and I fought with everything to stay where I was, but the force that was pulling me was much stronger.
Again my dreamed changed. I could see Abigail, the girl from the handbook, huddled in the corner of a dark room, crying. I wanted to go to her and comfort her. Someone needed to tell her that everything was going to be OK, but it wouldn’t be me because I couldn’t move. There was some unseen force that held me in place.
“Abby,” I called to her, my breath fogged in the cold.
When she looked at me, I screamed. Her once beautiful face was twisted with gashes and bruises. Her features were mangled and one of her eyes was swollen shut. Blood poured from her wounds, freezing to her skin in the frigid air. I tried to close my eyes, not wanting to see her like this, but I just kept staring at her.
Then, I felt someone grab my shoulder. Their touch was like fire on my cold skin. It gave me a sense of fear and I knew whoever this was could possibly be the person who had hurt Abby. Whoever they were, they held onto my shoulder with a vice tight grip. I wasn’t going anywhere.
I fought and kicked until my eyes shot open and I sat up in bed. Fear shook my body. I wrapped my arms around my chest, trying to calm myself. I was scared half to death and it took me a minute to gather my thoughts. I nearly punched my alarm clock when it sounded.
“Rayna,” my mom said, coming through the door.
“Ah! What?” I yelled.
“Sorry! I just wanted to make sure you heard your alarm.” She jumped. “Are you alright? Have you been crying?”
“I just had a really bad dream.” I breathed deeply, wiping my eyes. “It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing,” she said, concern in her eyes.
She must be remembering all the horrible nightmares I had when my dad died. I would keep her up for hours just crying in my sleep.
“You must have scratched yourself,” she continued. “There’s a red mark under your eye, I think you’ve cut yourself.”
“Wonderful,” I said, touching my eye then I had a flashback of my dream and jerked my hand away.
Abby’s eye had been so swollen. It turned my stomach just thinking about it.
“Are you sure you’re going to be alright?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, trying to smile. “Nothing that a hot shower can’t fix.”
Little did I know how wrong I was. Shampoo ended up burning my eye, the same eye that had a scratch under it. That scratch burned under the running water and I cut my knee shaving. I was more than ready to get on the road.
It was a warm morning so mom put down the car windows. I didn’t complain, my hair was in a ponytail anyway, no way was I going to try plugging anything in after the morning I had! Besides, I loved the way the air felt on my skin. I also didn’t chance putting on any makeup. The cut under my eye wasn’t that bad, but I didn’t want to put foundation over it, plus I didn’t want to bring the mascara brush near my face.
I tried to push my feelings of bad luck to the back of my mind and enjoy the warmth the air was circulating in the car. It was as if the air was magic, erasing my worries, carrying away my tiredness in the warm breeze. I smiled, closing my eyes, letting the wind work out the tension in my mind. The outdoors, nature had always been good to me. I could always be found somewhere outside. My parents owned several acres of land and when the weather was warm I liked to go hiking on the trails my dad and I had made.
My brother, Austin, and I would stay outside for as long as our mother would allow. She had to threaten us with going to bed without dinner if we didn’t come in when she called.
I could smell the lake water before the lake actually came into view. Guntersville was beautiful in the summer sun. The rays made crystals and diamonds across the surface of the lake. Ducks rested in the slow moving water, dipping their heads in and out, bathing in the cool water before they started their day. I simply loved this town.
“I guess we aren’t the first ones here,” Mom said breaking my train of thought.
Around ten cars were stopped ahead of us. The guards were checking IDs and directing traffic. Finally we were processed through and found a parking place beside a nice Audi with tinted windows. A tall slender man and his son were getting out. I recognized the boy. His name was Logan Miles, the boy Leslie said I should have a summer romance with. He was even cuter in person. I felt myself shake a little when he turned and smiled at me. His father nodded to us and approached my mother.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Harold Miles,” he said, firmly shaking my mother’s hand. “Are we to meet in the Club House or the Guest House?”
“Good morning, Ellie Stone.” She smiled at him. “I believe the welcome package indicated the Guest House, in the banquet hall.”
“The Welcome Package?” he looked puzzled. “Oh yes, that! Stone, did you say? Are you any relation to…?”
They continued walking toward the Guest House, discussing relations and ancestors. My mom looked back at me and shrugged her shoulders. Dr. Miles seemed like a very nice man, just a little odd.
“I told him four times it was the Guest House,” Logan said to me, shaking his head. “I’m Logan Miles by the way.”
“Rayna Stone,” I said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I recognize you from the catalog.” he said to me with a smile.
“Same here,” I responded.
We talked all the way into the Guest House, this time using a different entrance than I had when I first visited. I rubbed my eye and Logan noticed the red mark on my skin.
“Are you OK? What happened?” he asked me.
“Oh, I guess I scratched it in my sleep,” I told him, not wanting to remember my dream.
The banquet hall was large enough to seat 500 people. The room was tastefully decorated in mauves and golds. We found a seat at one of the round tables that were laid out all over the hardwood floors. Slowly the hall began to fill. A tech guy was working on the sound system at the stage. He had his back to the crowd, connecting wires or something on the lectern. Logan was pointing out people he knew and recognized from the handbook.
“That’s Lana Hardy.” He pointed to a dark haired girl. “I went to school with her.”
“Well, that’s good,” I remarked. “At least you know someone. Maybe you want her to come over?”
“That would be a big no,” he laughed. “She’s a complete b…she’s a horrible person.”
“Oh,” was all I could say.
I looked at Lana as she sat at one of the tables with who I assumed was her mother. She was very pretty. Even at this distance I could see her perfectly straight nose stuck up in the air. Great, she was one of those. Didn’t the world have enough?
He seemed to know everyone. This person’s father played golf with his father. That person’s mother was in his mother’s Bunco group. They came from the same class, money. I was starting to feel out of place.
“You look scared to death,” he observed. “Don’t let them fool you, Rayna. They are people just like you and I. Besides, stick with me Little Miss and you’ll be just fine.”
I laughed. My laugh isn’t soft and feminine. I have a loud and hearty laugh that can fill up an entire room. Logan looked taken aback by my outburst and so did the others around us. A dark haired girl turned to look at me and I nearly screamed. My nightmare played across my memory in vivid form and I gasped. Staring back at me was Abigail. I choked on air.
“I didn’t know I was that funny,” Logan smiled.
“Neither did I,” his father remarked patting me on the back.
“Rayna? Are you alright?” my mother asked, helping the doctor try to unblock my airway.
“I’ll be…alright,” I coughed.
More people were beginning to look our way. As my face darkened red with embarrassment, I pushed their hands away.
“I’m OK, really,” I said, still coughing a little.
Abigail was no longer looking at me. She was busy chatting away with a blonde haired girl named Emma. They were probably talking about the weird girl who got choked on air. There was no way that Abigail didn’t notice my reaction to her. I’m sure she thought I was some kind of freak. What a way to start off the summer. Oh well, I’ve been called a lot worse than a freak.
I looked up to see the tech guy staring at me. He was tall and broad, with fair skin. His baby blue eyes seemed to cut right through me. He wore a baseball cap, but I could see black strands of hair peeking out from underneath. His features were smooth and abnormally symmetrical. He was, in a lack of a better word, perfect. He grinned at me and turned back around to the task he was working on.
I didn’t even notice I was still staring until Logan broke my train of thought.
“That’s Liam Cole,” he said. “His dad owns nearly half of the Landing and is the President of the Board of Directors. Have you heard of him?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of Dr. Cole,” I answered, still staring after Liam. “If he’s the President’s son, then why is he working on the sound equipment?”
“He’s an intern,” he informed me. “His Mentor is Collin Rowland, the IT Director.”
“How old is he?” I asked.
“18, he just graduated from Huntsville High,” Logan answered.
“How do you know all of this?” I asked him, tearing my eyes away from Liam to look at him.
“I’m in the loop, Rayna. Do you want to join?” he asked, smiling. He was really cute.
“OK, Mr. In the Loop, what else do you know?” I smiled back.
“Liam already knows about sound equipment because he plays in a band with his high school friends. He and I actually went to the same school. They’re pretty good rockers, if you’re into that kind of music,” he informed me. “Everybody loves him, though he doesn’t let it go to his head and pretty much sticks to himself. From what I hear, he’s a pretty cool guy. I haven’t really talked to him. He’s the boys’ Lead Intern. Basically he’s like our supervisor and he’s supposed to keep us in line.”
I smiled at him and continued to watch Liam work. It really did seem like he knew what he was doing. He looked a lot like his father, but his features were more welcoming then Dr. Cole’s.
It was hard not to watch and even harder to pay attention to Logan point out more people that he knew. I had never been more mesmerized by someone in all my life. I also had never had a serious boyfriend unless I counted that boy from summer camp, but we didn’t even kiss.
“Hello, Rayna, Ellie!” Mr. Wu greeted us; he came up out of nowhere.
“Good morning, James,” my mother beamed.
“Nice to you see again.” He smiled brightly. “Harold, Logan, how are you gentlemen this morning?”
“Wonderful. How are you, James?” Dr. Miles said, shaking Mr. Wu’s hand.
“I’m great, old friend!” he laughed again. “We have an amazing spread the chefs have whipped up for us this morning. I hope you brought your appetites! I must go now; I’ll see you all later. Enjoy the breakfast. Ladies.”
He nodded to my mother and me as he walked away. It was almost like a bow as if he were a gentlemen from centuries back. You just didn’t see men like that anymore. My dad was a very respectful man, but I don’t think even he would have done that. For a moment I wondered why he had only come up to our table, then I looked at my mother’s flushed face and suspected she had something to do with it.
I turned back to the stage and found that Liam was gone. Disappointment settled in my stomach, which utterly surprised me. Immediately, I felt so silly. I didn’t consider myself the type of girl that could be swept off her feet, especially from across the room.
My reaction was out of the norm, for me at least. Again, I had never felt like this before. Surely what I was feeling wasn’t exactly emotions. It had to be just pure attraction to Liam. He was insanely gorgeous so that had to be it. I was only physically attracted to him, not emotionally.
“Yes!” Logan pumped his arm. “Here comes the food!”
“Good,” I said, glad I had something to distract me.
Servers, dressed in white chef smocks, began pulling the lids off of the dishes on a buffet table. A line formed fast and we decided to join everyone to get our fair share of food. I knew I was hungry, but I didn’t realize how much. Somehow I managed to inhale three pancakes, four strips of bacon and a healthy serving of scrambled egg. Then I finished it off with a large glass of milk. Logan watched in disbelief as I cleared my plate.
“Good morning, everyone!” Mr. Wu smiled as he stood behind the lectern. “I hope breakfast was enjoyable? Great! Welcome to the first internship program offered by The Landing!”
A round of applause erupted around the room. There was a smile on everyone’s face, despite the early hour. Mr. Wu’s energy was contagious. He definitely knew how to work a crowd.
“Congratulations to all of our students,” he announced to more cheers.
He went into how great he expected this program to be and ensured our parents of all the valuable knowledge we would learn. I tried my best to listen to him, but I was busy searching the crowd for Liam. I know it was ridiculous, but I just couldn’t help myself.
“Thank you parents for coming,” he was saying as he finished up. “I ask now for all females to line up behind Ms. Hunter and all males right here with Mr. Cole.”
My head shot up as Liam walked to the front of the room. He was as breathtaking as the first time I had seen him. His baseball cap was now gone. For a moment our eyes locked. I felt my face grow hot and my knees shake, but I couldn’t look away. Finally, my mom tugged on my arm, breaking my concentration.
“See you later, Rayna,” Logan said, smiling at me.
Did he notice my staring at Liam? I certainly hope not.
“See you. Thanks for keeping me company.” I smiled innocently. “It was nice to meet you, Dr. Miles.”
“Likewise, Rayna,” the doctor remarked.
“Well, how do you like it so far?” Mom asked.
“Logan is nice,” I replied. “I hope everyone else is too.”
“I’m sure they will be, Sweetie.” she assured me. “I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you too!” I said as she hugged me. I didn’t want to let her go. “I’ll call you tonight.”
I hated the fact that she was going to be alone.
“It’s your first night,” she reminded me, letting me go. “Have fun, don’t worry about me tonight, but call me in the morning.”
“I’ll call you, Mom,” I said sternly. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Honey,” she told me.
She gave me another hug and a kiss on the cheek. I watched her walk away, worrying, and then made my way to where Ms. Hunter was standing.
Ms. Hunter was actually a young girl, not much older than me. She was plain looking, but not ugly by any means. Her pin straight hair was strawberry blonde and her green eyes were wide set. She had numerous freckles and a cluster on the bridge of her nose. Many boys would find her unattractive, but there would be those who would realize how cute she was. To me, she had that sweet, wholesome look, but I’ve been wrong before.
“Hi, girls,” she smiled sweetly. “My name is Martha Hunter, but everyone calls me Marti. I’ll be your Leader this summer. That means you can come to me with any questions and concerns. We are in this learning process together, so please see me as your peer. Follow me and I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.”
Everyone began following Marti out of the Guest House and down the sidewalk. We were headed away from the main part of the resort’s entrance. Liam had already led the boys out. I felt let down that I didn’t get to see him again. Silently, I scolded myself for being instantly attracted to him.
He was super rich, unrealistically handsome, and could have any girl he wanted. Liam Cole would never notice me. I looked at my competition. That settled it. All of these girls came from money, he wouldn’t settle on a poor girl from New Hope. I knew that I was good enough, I didn’t have crappy self-esteem, it’s just someone like Liam wouldn’t notice my worth. I sighed with defeat, but my mind wouldn’t let me stop thinking about him.
Our living quarters weren’t very far. As we approached, I could see another building across a large pond. It was more like a lagoon. This canal was connected to the lake and stretched over to the boys’ apartments.
There were twenty girls, twenty boys, and twenty intern positions. That meant two interns for each one. I had no clue who I was going to be working with, but I hoped they were nice and I hoped it wasn’t Lana! Soon, Marti began calling names, assigning roommates, and distributing keys. It took a while to get to my name.
“Rayna Stone,” she said, coming over to where she stood.
“Thank you,” I said taking the key from her.
“Let’s see, you’ll be in condo 5A, a good a view of the lake by the way. Here’s your key. OK, who is your roommate?” she wondered.
Marti looked at her clipboard. It took her a moment to find her place again. I thought at first, they had made a mistake, that they had given me a room all to myself. That would have been nice and once Marti had said the name, I wish they would have.
“Oh, here we are, Lana Hardy.” I recoiled at the sound of her name.
Lana came stomping forward. She practically snatched the key from Marti’s hand and stood as far from me as possible. Marti still smiled at her and didn’t seem to care about her negative attitude. Wonderful, I thought.
“Cattie Smith,” she called again.
“Call me C.J., Marti,” a voice announced.
C.J. was extremely tall; she towered over all of us. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed her before. Then again, it wasn’t that shocking, my thoughts were consumed by Liam.
C.J.’s hair was pulled back by a few bobby pins; the rest of it cascaded down like a golden waterfall to the center of her back. Her eyes were dazzling and the color of the sea. Her presence was bright; there was almost a glow about her that had nothing to do with her perfectly tanned skin. She was hard not to stare at.
“Hi, I’m C.J.,” she said to me and Lana as she glided over.
When I say glided, that’s what it looked like. She was amazingly graceful to be so tall and long limbed.
“Hi, I’m Rayna,” I said to her. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Lana nodded her head and crossed her arms over her chest. C.J. just kind of looked her over once, smiled and then turned away. She kind of gave Lana a silent warning to check her attitude. For just an instant, Lana Hardy looked intimidated.
“Abigail Rosado you will room with C.J.,” Marti called.
My heart sank as Abigail came forward. I couldn’t get over last night’s vivid dream, it was too fresh. Every time I saw her, my dream replayed in my mind. Just being around her was uncomfortable. It was as if her very presence put pressure on my chest. My breathing became deep and labored.
Abigail looked at her friend with a forlorn expression. Clearly, they had hoped to be rooming together. I felt sorry for them. After she accepted her key from Marti, Abigail stood timidly next to C.J. My heart was pounding like Creek Indian war drums in my chest. It actually hurt. Being this close to her terrified me. I was afraid for her.
That’s crazy! I scolded myself. Nothing is going to happen to her. It was a horrible nightmare. It was just a product of too much fatty foods and lack of sleep. Dear God, please! I prayed silently. Please just make this feeling go away.
Slowly, with a desperate prayer, I started to calm down. My heart rate was working its way back to normal and the nervous lump in my throat was less noticeable. Anymore moments such as these and I was likely to have a break down.
“Hi, I’m C.J.,” I heard C.J. say to Abigail, smiling.
“Hi, it’s Abby.” Her voice was laced with a Western accent.
Wait, how did I know that she preferred to be called Abby? In my dream I had called her Abby. No one had called her anything but Abigail and this was the first time I had heard her speak so how did I know that?
I shook my head. Any girl named Abigail was surely to go by Abby. They didn’t want to be called Abigail, it was too old fashioned.
“I like your hair, Rayna. Is that your natural hair color? Do you curl your hair or is it natural?” C.J. blurted out of nowhere.
“Uh…” I started. “It’s all natural.”
“It’s so pretty!” she beamed, touching a lock of my hair and my face turned red.
“Alright girls follow me,” Marti called and we started moving again.
Everyone was excited, anticipation on each face. I rolled my luggage behind me like a weight. I wish I could share in everyone’s glee, but it was hard to do so with Lana’s glaring and the nightmare nagging at my mind.
Envious, I watched C.J. as she practically skipped with joy. Her smile was blinding. I tried to mimic her and slowly started to feel a little better. She seemed like one of those people who were perpetually happy. Now I could be wrong, but I was betting she greeted herself in the mirror every morning with a “Good morning, Sunshine”. As we approached the dormitory, my smile did become a little more genuine.
Our building was two stories with a large front porch. It was creamy white and the shutters were a soft blue. The structure was like a mini version of the guest house. It was identical except for size, even down to the bone white wicker furniture. We inched closer to the building, the summer sun beating on my bare shoulders. I was ready for some air conditioned rooms. It was well on its way to being a very hot day. There was this temptation to take a plunge off the dock that was just to the side of the apartments. It would make a perfect diving platform.
Finally we made it to the porch and I filed in behind C.J. into the foyer. A blast of cold air greeted us and I could hear sighs of relief all around me. Each girl’s expression changed from a frown to a smile in a matter of seconds. I wanted to kiss whoever had been smart enough to turn the air on this morning. OK, maybe not really kiss them, unless that person was Liam. I scolded myself again, but thought what damage can a little day dreaming do?
“Over here is the living room,” Marti said to us. “There’s a TV and a DVD player. We have cable and a pretty good collection of movies, but you’re more than welcome to play your own.”
“Oh, I love movies,” C.J. exclaimed from beside me. “Have you seen the new James Bond movie? It’s awesome!”
C.J. went into a drawn out description of the movie and I tried to follow along. The living room was expansive and welcoming. There were plush chairs, large couches, and a very expensive looking rug in the middle. A 60 inch HD TV sat snuggly inside a dark oak entertainment center. Shelves with books, CDs, and DVDs lined the walls as did a few lake paintings.
Marti showed us the fully stocked kitchen, a major plus, the laundry room, the media library, and where her room was located. Since she was the Lead Intern, she had her own room. I was jealous. Thankfully the kitchen at least had a microwave, they wouldn’t allow us to try and cook so there was no stove. That was probably a good thing if the other girls cooked like I did.
“Good morning, girls.” A pretty blonde lady with an Australian accent came into the house as we stood in the common room.
“Good morning,” a few girls replied back.
“That’s Dr. Cole’s wife,” C.J. whispered to me.
“I’m Cynthia Cole.” She smiled down on us. “I’ll be supervising you girls this summer. Ms. Hunter will be the Leader, but I’ll be your Advisor. If you need anything my office is in the Guest House. Do you have any questions? Well, carry on Ms. Hunter. I’ll see you ladies at today’s luncheon.”
“Bye, Mrs. Cole.” Marti seemed just as taken with her as everyone else.
Marti cleared her throat, gave us our itinerary for the day, and sent us off in search of our rooms. There were only five rooms down stairs and five on the second floor, so my room wasn’t very hard to find. Lana led the way, never turning to look at me as we went down the hall to 5A.
She put the gold key in the lock and turned the knob. I was a little surprised by what I found. Instead of being greeted by two twin sized beds with cheap sheets, there was a small sitting area. Two chairs, a coffee table, a plush rug, a TV, and a few other decorations were nicely placed in the room. A window was directly a head of us with a nice view of the lake.
Lana stomped over to the room on the left and yanked open the door. She peered around and then slammed it shut. Then she marched over to the one on the right. She scanned this one too and then spun around to face me.
“I don’t care for the sunlight beaming in on me at all times of the day. Do you mind to take the room with the window?” She sounded like she was trying to be civilized, but it wasn’t working.
“Sure,” I said to her.
With that she stepped into the room and shut the door. I stood there for a moment, not sure how to react. There had never been anyone in my life that I had just instantly disliked. Lana was really grating on my nerves. I took a deep breath and pulled my luggage over to the room with too much sun. I wasn’t going to let her ruin my day.
As soon as I stepped in I loved it. It was nothing extravagant, but it was perfect. There was a full sized bed and soft lavender sheets. It had plain off white walls, a pretty cream colored carpet, and its very own bathroom! The best part about this room was the view.
Even though the boy’s dormitory was in the way, the building was so pretty that I just didn’t care. I was right across from a dock. The sun was dancing on the water and I could even see a few sail boats go past the canal.
I hurriedly unpacked my bags; I didn’t bring much because I wasn’t a clothes hoarder like some of my friends, and laid down on the bed so I could stare out the window. I ran over my itinerary, making sure I didn’t need to be anywhere. The next assignment was to meet our Mentors and work partners for lunch. A part of me was dreading that, but the bed was so comfortable, I didn’t worry about it for long.
I was suddenly just so tired. It must have been from all the food and excitement. Between the warm sun on my skin and the low hum of the air conditioner in the back ground, I was out cold in a matter of seconds.
Maybe subconsciously I realized I shouldn’t be sleeping because I jerked awake. I sat straight up in bed, my heart pounding. It was doing that a lot today. The sun had gone down; the moon beams glittered across the lake.
What time was it? I looked at my wristwatch, but I couldn’t see. The moon’s light avoided my room, leaving me in complete darkness.
Why had no one woke me? I mean, I didn’t expect Lana to make sure I went to the meet and greet, but surely someone would have realized I was missing. I wasn’t that forgettable was I? At least C.J. would have noticed, right?
I hastily jumped out of bed and collided with the dresser. My head was still so groggy with sleep it was hard to put one foot in front of the other.
“Hello?” I called. “Lana?”
I was going for my bedroom door, but a sound stopped me. At first I couldn’t make out what it was, and then I heard a muffled cry. It was coming from the bathroom. I couldn’t move for a moment, it was just too dark and too creepy and fear gripped me tightly. There was something in there.
Then the sound came again, louder and I made my way toward the bathroom. I took each step tensely, not wanting whoever was in there to hear my approach. After a while, the crying became louder.
“Hello?” I called knocking on the door. “Lana?”
“Go away!” a muffled voice cried back at me.
“Abby? Why are you in my bathroom?” I wondered. “Why are you crying?”
“Please, don’t hurt me anymore,” she wailed.
My stomach did a nervous flip. Her words frightened me to my very soul.
“Abby. What is going on?” I said, my fear giving new volume to my voice.
“Rayna?” her voice sounded a little hopeful. “Oh, Rayna! You need to get out of here! If he comes back and finds you, we’re both dead!”
“If who comes back? Abby?”
“Oh no! Oh no! He’s coming! Rayna get out of here!”
Then she started to scream and it sounded as though someone had a sledge hammer in there beating the walls to dust. I nearly fell over with fright, but I somehow managed to stay where I was. Someone was in there with Abby and they were hurting her. Panic gripped my limbs, I couldn’t move and I couldn’t breathe.
Thankfully, adrenaline kicked in and knocked me to my senses. I had to help Abby. I turned the knob. Locked. I started to claw, kick, and ram the door with my shoulder. I would have spit on it if I thought that would have helped.
“Abby!” I cried, still ripping at the door.
Someone grabbed my shoulder and I turned around ready to fight. I couldn’t see anything; it was like a dark, thick smoke enveloped me the moment my eyes began to focus. I may not have been able to see anything, but I could feel it. What I felt was pure evil. I wanted to tell whoever was holding me to let go. I wanted to tell them to get their filthy hands off of me, but all I could do was scream.
Published by A.G. Porter
Copyright © 2012 by A.G. Porter
Edited by Bridgette Mattox
Cover Art © Mel Gannon/Mahdesigns | mahdesigns.deviantart.com
Photo © Alarich | Dreamstime.com
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