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Teal was not going to like this. It was a blanket of white outside with a high of fifteen degrees. As the one in charge of her career, Ralph should have known better before sending her here. She’s told him countless times.
He would meet us at the hotel, not here on the bus where she can give him a good swift kick.
Oh, she’s waking up. Great.
Tony pulled up to a local coffee shop to get everybody their morning round of wake up juice. Strong, black, and hot coffee was what she liked. I preferred Earl Grey tea with lemon and honey.
Tony returned about the same time Teal came out. He set down the coffee while she sat at the table. She looked at me with squinted eyes.
“How many times do I have to say I hate snow, I hate the cold, and most of all, I don’t care to be in it? Huh? What is so difficult to understand? You are replaceable.” She hit the table hard enough to cause coffee waves.
Deep breath. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I explained it to Ralph. He pushed me out of his office and slammed the door in my face. I tried to tell you, but you gave me the same reaction. So here we are for an interview with a local radio station to talk about your latest release. Since the lake has frozen over, boats are not for rent. Instead, I rented a log cabin that looks over the lake. Far enough away from town, yet close enough to get whatever you would need. Ralph, in the meantime, will stay in the penthouse suite at the Regency Hotel.”
She opened her mouth but closed it. She stared at her coffee between sips until it was all gone. At least I thought it was gone because she threw the cup away. “I’ll talk to him. If he slams the door in my face, he’s done.”
I had to get over being blamed for this. We would be here in Porport for three days. I was lucky enough to arrange some time for her at Soneva Jani in the Maldives. She loved the water, and with the hotel right on it, she would enjoy that. They promised everyone would respect her need for privacy and relaxation and would do everything in their power to be sure she had that.
With that completed, I still needed to find a warm outfit for her to wear to the interview. It had to be something good enough to help avoid getting yelled at again.
Her hair was dark mahogany. Matching that color with her eyes was not always easy, but I had practice. After all, having one blue and one grey eye made it challenging. Not impossible.
She needed to be at the station for a meeting before the interview. That gave me a few minutes to get her some clothes. Ralph wanted this, and he got it. He better be prepared for the bills, though.
She left wearing a midnight blue turtle neck with a black leather trench. I recognized the outfit from a couple of interviews ago. She commented to me that it was appropriate. I understood she wanted better.
Luck was on my side when I found a clothing store next to the station—wool, cashmere, and angora on every table with a tag to match. After a lot of looking, I bought her a charcoal grey cashmere sweater, black and white tweed plaid pants, and she already had that leather trench. They looked warm, and she would look stunning in them. On top of that, they were on sale.
Purchase done, I returned to the bus and worked over them with a cleaning spray and a lint brush. Best I could without taking them to the cleaners.
She walked in. “You did buy me a new outfit. The trench coat is fine, but this outfit has gotta go. They better be warm too.”
I opened the closet and brought out the clothes. She ran her hands up, down, and inside out of the sweater with a smile that grew. That smile grew wider when she saw the pants. “Perfect. It takes a woman to know what a woman wants. The trench will work. I’ve got a pair of black leather boots. This is a keeper.” She went into her room and threw the clothes she was wearing out the doorway.
I gathered the old clothes and put them aside to be cleaned and donated later. In my head, I jumped for joy and yippeed at getting something right. She came out wearing a turtleneck and denim pants. “Call him. Now.”
I called the number, and he didn’t answer. I tried again and nothing. “Tony, we need to get to Ralph’s hotel.”
A few minutes later, we arrived. As soon as we stopped, Teal bolted out the door. She would send me in, but this must be big if she’s doing it herself. Tony jogged behind her.
I took the time to email Mom and let her know I would be by in a few days to visit. It would be nice to see them and Sara again. With no idea how long I would get to see them, I would take any to get away.
Drunken binges, Paparazzi, psychos, etc., started getting to me, which was my indication that I needed a break. To be able to breathe, sleep, and eat without wondering about anything bad was what I longed for. It sounded stupid, but until this job, I had no idea the simple things in life could be taken for granted.
She came back, slammed the door, and took a seat across from me.
Tony opened it and looked at me. He shook his head and put his finger against his lips before he closed the door. After that, he started up again, and off we went. I assumed to the cabin.
About a half-hour later, we made it. She walked to the door. “I’m not even going to ask why you never told me Ralph hired you to take care of me. Next time, if there is one, be sure to tell me everything. I hate finding things out at the last minute. On that note, the radio station interview has been canceled and unless there is anything else, give me the key so I can go inside.”
It felt like her eyes pierced right through mine. She didn’t move, look away, or change her look, for that matter. I didn’t know what to do so I sat there and took it.
Ralph told me he would take care of everything. I made a mental note to confront him about that later. In the meanwhile, after getting into my pocket, I took out the key and put it in her hand.
She slammed the door on her way out. That poor door was going to shatter if she kept that up. Without the heater, it was going to freeze in here. It’s a good thing I brought along a down blanket. Guaranteed to keep me warm. The only thing left was to find food.
We had a stockpile of chips and beef jerky, but I wanted something substantial. That meant—
The door opened. Teal narrowed her eyes at me. “You were planning to come along, but you forgot something, so you stayed behind to look for it. In the meanwhile, you told Tony to get some food for us to eat. All of that is well and good, but you’re taking an awfully long time. Don’t you think?”
“Ma’am, you’re instructions were never to assume I would be coming along with you anywhere. I was to stay behind unless you gave me specific instructions otherwise beforehand. You needed to present perfection and couldn’t do that with underlings following you.”
She raised an eyebrow. “When did I say or do all of this?”
“Right after I told you Ralph hired me to take care of you exactly nine months and three weeks ago.”
She ducked her head and closed the door. I stopped trying to figure out what or why when I got hired for this job. It was easier.
I reached into the closet and pulled out a down blanket, guaranteed to keep me warm even in twenty degrees below zero weather. She took the bed in the back, which left me the make-a-bed where the dining table sat.
The door opened again. “Tony brought food and promised it’s edible. One spaghetti and meatballs, one cheeseburger with the fixings including cheese fries, and one open-faced turkey sandwich with lots of gravy on top. One hot coffee, one hot tea, and one soda to drink. So unless you expect me to eat and drink all of that, why don’t you come along. We’ll figure out the sleeping arrangements when the time comes. That is unless you would like me to find a flame thrower to melt the ice come morning.”
Tony got all of that food, but that’s what he does. My new plan was to go in there and get my food to bring back here to eat. He would drop her off at the airport to be on her way to the great getaway. So what changed?
She came in and closed the door. “So either we’re coming back in here, and you’re going in there. It’s been the three of us since the beginning. Why change now?”
“You’re instructions were—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK. OK. I gave a lot of half-assed instructions to piss people off. Well, I’m changing those instructions. So you’re either coming on your own, or I’ll find a way to bring you with me into the cabin. Yes, that includes carrying you over my shoulder if I must.”
Maybe after dinner, I could go back to the hotel and talk to Ralph. I had no idea what was going on or why all of these changes. I could take the bus. I had the license to drive it and it wasn’t that big.
“All right. I’m coming.” I followed her to the cabin.
Once we came inside, we went into the kitchen. The burger and the soda were taken. Teal grabbed the turkey, which left me with the spaghetti without the garlic bread. I couldn’t complain.
Once we finished, I grabbed everything to throw away in the outside dumpster. I looked around to see where everybody went. Tony sat on the sofa and was doing something on paper. No Teal in sight, so she must be busy elsewhere.
I started up the bus and returned to the hotel. I got to his room OK, and when I knocked on it, he wouldn’t answer. Some people were hard sleepers and sometimes even harder after a meal, which could’ve been the reason.
The cleaning lady came around, and after I slipped her a fifty, she opened the room for me. He lay sprawled out on the bed staring at the ceiling with his mouth wide open.
Pale skin and dead eyes made me curious. I poked him, and he turned to dust. I jerked my hand away. Normal people would scream at such a sight. I didn’t, but I never regarded myself as normal. Look what I did for a living.
I went to the bathroom to rub my face with some water. I needed to wake up from this… this whatever, and move on. Problem was, he was my boss. He hired me to do a job, so without him what would I do.
I left the room and returned to the cabin. During that time, I realized that the only person that saw him was Teal. He could have had other visitors, but I only thought of Teal. Everybody was capable of killing, but very few would follow through with it.
I returned to the cabin and decided to stay. I made my bed and lay down in it. I faced the wall and wanted to forget what happened. That was not normal. Normal was a simple word with a complicated definition, granted, but simple in this instance.
Ralph was not a good man by any means. None of that made him bad enough to be killed, though, and turned to dust. How?
I got up at some point after trying to close my eyes to get to sleep. Too dark to go anywhere but the cabin. If everybody were sleeping, the noise would wake them up.
“It’s about time you came back,” Teal said. “Where did you go? Tibet?”
If she killed or fired me because I needed to know, then so be it. “You killed him, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I did. He was a no-good person. People struggle every day. His answer to all of that was a laugh, shrugged shoulders, and the hottest deal he made in this lifetime. His pockets bulged. Yet, he told me he couldn’t spare any of it. I couldn’t believe I actually followed him. It needed to stop, so I eliminated him. Tony never saw it happen, but he did see the after-effects.”
Did I dare ask? “So what happens now? He was my boss. He hired me to do a job. Whatever the reason that did not give you the right to play judge, jury, and executioner. Without him, I don’t have a job anymore.”
She smiled. “It’s OK. Nothing will hurt you. You still have a job. You take orders from me now instead of him. Things will be how they are supposed to be. Nothing more.” She cupped my cheeks. “Savannah, it is the three of us as it was meant to be. I came to this world a long time ago. You are one of only three people I wish to be by my side. You and Tony are two. The other one died of a heart attack at the end of World War II.”
Things got creepy. I couldn’t believe what I heard. This didn’t feel safe any more. My body shook, but I didn’t know why I was chilled. I shook my head and tried to get away. I got out the door, but I wasn’t paying attention and fell into the snow. I got back up but couldn’t see anywhere around me. I picked a direction and hoped that was the cabin.
Hands grabbed me from behind and spun me around. I closed my eyes tight. I didn’t want to see anything. Maybe she would let me go and forget that I existed.
“Savannah, you can open your eyes. The light isn’t that—”
“Hey, everybody OK?” That was Tony’s voice. “I guarantee you, I make one call, and I can get people here in thirty minutes.”
Teal left me. I heard mumbling and should have taken the opportunity to run, but run where? I ran straight ahead in the hopes the bus would be there. My hands slapped something solid and felt around for the door latch. I turned the lights on and locked the door.
I dialed 9-1-1 in the hopes somebody would be here in time to help. I couldn’t believe she killed someone and smiled. Why would she kill? I remembered what she said but still. Why?
I hung up. What good would it do anyway? It would take them too long to get here.
She came back in. “Well, Tony just wanted to be sure his girls were OK. I hate the cold and the snow. So let’s hurry it up.”
“I can’t go in there with you. I’ll stay here.”
“No. You will come with me.”
I shook my head.
“OK. All right. Freeze me to death why you don’t you. I’ll be back in a few minutes. It’s going to take the three of us to move back in.”
What did she have in mind? Kill both of us?
“It won’t take so long if all of us—”
Tony came inside with blankets. “The only thing in there we need. Everything else is still in here. I get the front bed.”
“Teal, I’ll make a deal with you. I won’t say anything about what happened, and… and… you can use me for anything you want.”
She scrunched her eyes at me. “What? I will not go into how that sounds. Let me think you’re exhausted. That’s why you’re talking nonsense. You made that one already.” She pointed to the bed. “Good night, everyone. It’s been an eventful day.”
Tony slept hard. That left Teal, who could hear ants walking when she slept. The door made noise when it opened, but if I closed it carefully, it might not make noise.
I waited until I heard heavy breathing before I attempted to open the door. It felt like the time I turned sixteen and got in after curfew. Mom and Dad had no idea.
I closed it the same way and realized I should’ve grabbed a flashlight and my bag. Too late to go back.
I walked ahead while feeling my way through. I got to the point I saw lights and went towards them.
Someone behind me. They walked towards me from the sounds of it. I didn’t realize how hard it was to run in the snow. Good exercise, but I wasn’t looking for that at the moment. I needed to get going.
“Savannah, what’s got you— Never mind. Don’t answer that. Just stop.”
I did that and turned around. “Teal—”
“It’s OK. I played judge, jury, and executioner with Ralph because I had to. You? I can’t. The three of us have become too close. Closer than I ever imagined. Do what you need to do, but don’t leave me. I’m begging you.” She dropped to her knees. “Please don’t leave me.”
Go? Stay? Holy shifting sugar. “I need a break. I need to visit family. Give me that.”
“Of course. Two weeks? You put me in the Maldives for two weeks. You have yours. I have mine. We come back. Right?”
How did she find out about that? I didn’t even tell her about that yet.
“Right? Savannah?” Her eyes glowed in the dark.
“OK. Two weeks. Yeah. Uhm… You have a concert in Miami. We’ll meet there.”
“I assume you mean in my dressing room. That sounds fine.” She stood up. “Now my legs are cold. Can we go back to the nice warm bus now?”
I nodded. She didn’t move. I moved ahead of her while trying to listen for anything that sounded funny. We made it back to the bus, and I sat down on the bed. She gave me a peck on my forehead before she went to hers.
“No more sneaking out. You hear?” She pointed at me.
I nodded. Too cold and tired to try that again anyway. I lay down while wondering if I would live to see another day.
Please visit Calliope on her blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog/