First Drafts, Short Story, writing

She Always Looked Good In Red (rough draft)

She always look good in red. I remember the first time I saw her, leaning on a bar, curled amber hair framing her face perfectly. The red velvet of the dress she wore clung to the smooth curves of her waist. It cascaded down from her hips and pooled at her feet. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, I was lost in her. I remember our eyes met across that bar, her eyes shining in the lights, rose painted lips parting in a smirk over her white teeth. The man she was talking to fought to keep her interest, but her eyes kept finding mine and she excused herself from him. She made her way over to me, a perfect and elegant series of movements, her bare hand caressed mine as she slid onto the seat next to me. I felt the sweat bead on my forehead and she laughed at my nervousness. When she laughed she threw her head back, exposing the ivory of her throat; the pearls on her neck rising and falling. She took a sip of her whiskey, running a hand along my face.

I never thought much of myself until her. I still don’t, but I was willing to pretend to make her happy. I would do anything to make her happy. And she knew that. Money spent, parties thrown, expensive dinners eaten; all for her. All to see her shine. At first I couldn’t believe she’d want to be seen with me. A balding man in his late thirties such as myself didn’t deserve a spot in her life. But there I was. Illuminated in the brilliance that was her.

I didn’t think she would say yes, when I asked. I figured she was just with me until she grew bored but I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I asked, she said yes. We said our vows in an ice chapel and honeymooned around the world. Anything for her.

When she found out she was pregnant, I noticed a change in her. Not the normal change I had seen my friends and their wives go through. She became withdrawn, gaunt, almost never eating. Her amber hair dulled and began to fall out. She refused a doctor, telling me a doctor could not help her. The visitors she kept during the pregnancy were strange and quiet. Much older women, dressed in blue, would come and pray with her for hours at a time. I wasn’t allowed in the house when they were there. My wife would beg me to leave, she said they were to only ones who could help her now. I was soon sleeping in the spare room of my own house and then, after a time, I found a new place to stay until she was better. Until, until the day…

She called me, asking me to come home. I hadn’t heard her voice in weeks, only the women in the house communicating with my via phone called. I was so happy to hear her voice, so happy I cried. A baby cooed on the other end of the line, somewhere in the distance. She asked me to come home and I did, and I wish I hadn’t.

When the elevator reached my floor, a sudden wave of dread surrounded me. I tried to shake it off as nerves. The most beautiful woman in the world was waiting for me with our child. Our lovely new child. Something we had created together. Anyone would have been nervous. I slid my key into the lock, turning the knob, and entering the living room. But it didn’t look like a living room anymore. The ground was covered in newspapers and old containers of food. The curtains were drawn and when I reached for the lights, nothing turned on.

I called out for her and when I didn’t get a reply I called again. A soft moaning came from the back of the apartment. Turning on the flashlight on my cell phone, I navigated my way through the accumulated filth, gawking at the awfulness that filled my abode. I couldn’t understand how this had happened. I called for her again, only receiving moans in response. The door to our bedroom was closed, it took so much for me to open it.

What happened next seemed to move in slow motion. My hand grasped the crusted knob, stomach turning as I did. My nose protested the wall of smell that hit me as the door swung open. What I saw next will forever be burned into my mind.

A black creature stood on the heap of mattress that used to be our marital bed, crouched over a small bundle. It was sinewy and thin, each of it’s limbs caked in black dirt. It’s eyes darted to me as the door opened, reflecting like mirrors in the dark. It gathered the bundle in its clawed hands and shrieked at me. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t find my feet or my courage. This thing, this thing just stared at me. It made a clicking noise in it’s throat. It cautiously stepped toward me, it’s toenails grinding on the wood. As it drew closer, I realized the impossible. It was her. Under the filth, I could see her. The creature’s face was inches from mine, No, her face was inches from mine. I stumbled through saying her name. The creature pulled back and clicked again, returning to the bed, holding the bundle to it’s chest. The bundle gurgled.

I took a meager step into the room, doing my best to avoid startling her as she brought the bundle to her breast. The mirror was broken, a shard of it was within my reach. Whatever this creature was, it wasn’t my wife anymore. I winced as my hand closed around the glass, I felt it penetrate.

I said her name as I approached her, slowly and gently. The babe suckling at her breast, I heard her humming softly. I told her I was going to sit down with her, I told her I was going to touch her hair. Fighting repulsion, I laid her head on my chest. I stroked her hair, tears streaming down my face. I told her I loved her, my lips pressed against her forehead, the shards of glass cutting deep into her neck. I heard her choke and she pulled away from me, thrashing and screaming. The bundle was dropped as she writhed on the floor. The blood spurt from her throat, but soon she was still, and silent. The red washed over her, removing a layer of grime. I stood, shaking, and walked out of the apartment. I was on auto pilot. I don’t know how I got to my apartment without someone noticing the blood on me. I’ve called the police to tell them what I’ve done. But I won’t be here when they find out. Whatever that creature was, I can’t live on with the knowledge of it.

I see her face now, her reflective green eyes staring into my soul as I backed out of that room. It was true even then. She always looked good in red.

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Life, writing

2017: A Year of Almosts, So Far

I’ve been meaning to sit down and post for a while, but adult things got in the way and I couldn’t find the time. And before you go accusing me of watching movies and eating pizza, know that you are right. I have been spending more time just to myself because I think I’ve left part of me somewhere and instead of spending a lot of time going out of my way to find it, I’m just gonna grow a new part. Which sounds super gross if you’ve just watched a certain youtuber play through The Evil Within (Markiplier, it’s Markiplier). Any way, I’ve got a few new projects coming up in the next few months that I am very excited about. I’m not sure how much I can talk about one of them, but the other is pretty cool. We’re putting together a podcast. I think that’s all I’m going to say on that one, specifically because I know I’ll spoil something because I suck like that and I don’t want to do that.

You don’t realize how many people hate you until you update your blog at the library.

One thing that has been really bothering me is people who take creative writing courses because they assume it’ll be easy. That the class will be an easy A and there isn’t a lot of work that go into it. Now I’m not comparing a CRWR (creative writing) course to a 400 level engineering course. But I feel that there are quite a few people that are in my current writing course that are there because they thought it would be easy. That irks me so much. I mean, I don’t care what classes you take, you could take them all, but at least put forth an effort. Especially at university, where you’re paying to be here. If you’re not going to write anything, don’t take the course. I’m in a workshop class right now, and there are a ton of people who never say anything. I’m a little guilty of that, but that’s because there are some people in the class that choose to dominate and refuse to let other opinions stand without argument. Others just try to re-write the story without any actual feedback. Our instructor isn’t the greatest, but he’s not actually a professor. He’s our writer is residence at the college, so he has different ways of looking at the class and our work. I figured it wouldn’t be like the class we took last semester, mostly because of our instructor. But I was okay with that. He tries to lead the class to the best of his abilities, but I feel like there is a dominating force that deserves a punch in the face. Others aren’t going to share what they think as the ass sits smugly at the front of the room interrupting and arguing every point. If the shit he said was helpful then maybe, but it’s mostly just what he wants to hear himself say and I get angry every time he talks. He’s like the guy who joins your DnD session and then tries to be the DM because he’s read all the books and knows exactly how it’s played and obviously you don’t understand what you’re doing. Except I can’t kick him out of the group…

Speaking of DnD, there may be a person I can get a game started with here at school. There is a chance that I’ll get a job here during the summer, which means that I’ll have a place to live and everything, which is super nice. There are a couple of people who seem interested and it would be nice to get into gaming again. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way for me to release stress.

I’m working on a new short story. This is a lot different than the last one, there aren’t any creepy monsters or white cats. It’s a story about a guy named Draper that gets a job at an amusement park that is run by an omnipotent god that has no idea what he is really doing. Draper is a sad guy with a pretty complex back story that doesn’t get explored all that well yet. I had the SO read it and he said it works, but he inspired the story so he already understands the backstory. I’ve got to find a way to fit that into it without being blatant. There is a writing competition that takes place on campus that I’m thinking about going for. An former professor sent our old class an email about it with the tag line “What have you got to lose?”. I miss her so much, I wish she taught 340. There honestly needs to be more people like her teaching at the university level.

I like how I can’t seem to write when I need to but then I’ll hammer out a post with over 800 words in a matter of minutes. That has never made sense to me.

Anyway, keep an eye out on twitter/facebook for announcements of my upcoming projects, because I”ll probably share there first and I’m always open to feedback.

Picture Courtesy of google images
First Drafts, Short Story, writing

Knock Three Times (Part Two)

Matilda woke up a few hours later, her apartment quiet and cold. Stuffing her feet into her slippers, she shuffled to the thermostat. It was still set at the seventy mark from earlier, but the room temperature read about thirty-eight degrees. Matilda tapped on the thermostat and selected the outside temperate. It read sixty degrees.

She exhaled sharply, her breath steaming. She walked to the window and tried opening it, but the window was stuck. She pulled up on it with more force which only made the wood groan.

Fuck.” She smacked the window sill with an open palm and winced; grumbling in pain. Her breath fogged up the window. It was dark outside, the clock in the kitchen read seven. It was strange for it to be dark this early in the summer. A frozen gust traveled passed her ankles and she stepped back from the window. Kneeling down, she held a hand next to the vent on the floor. Cold air blew up from the vent; glancing back at the thermostat, she noted that the blue light for the air conditioner wasn’t on.

Matilda grimaced. With Mrs. Flintman gone she wasn’t sure who she should call to fix the air system. What about her son, a tiny voice in the back of her mind spoke. She dug through her desk, looking for any scrap of paper. Under a notebook she found a scrap of paper with the words ‘Flintman, son’ written on it. She grabbed her phone and dialed the number.

She got a busy signal. Frustrated, she hung up the phone and tossed it to the floor. She plugged in the kettle and while it warmed up, she dug out a hat and scarf from a wicker basket by the door. The kettle whistled and she switched it off. She began to pour the water into a mug when something stopped her in mid movement. Something that was almost familiar.

The beat was almost not there at all. For a moment she suspected that it was in her head, until it grew louder and she could hear the lyrics.

Knock three times, one the ceiling if you want me. Twice on the pipe, if the answer is no. Oh my sweetness. Means you’ll meet me in the hallway, twice on the pipe mean you ain’t gonna show.

She turned and looked into the rest of her apartment, scrutinizingly, as if blaming the room for the noise. Her eyes found the grate on the wall. It was louder than it had been the night before, cutting eerily through the frozen air. She knew then where the noise was coming from, although fixing the problem made her feel sick. The noise was coming from the basement.

Matilda paced her apartment, her slippered feet sliding across the hardwood. It had only been a dream after all, but just something about it had stayed with her. It was only Jason down there, maybe he didn’t realize how loud the music was, maybe she should just go knock and ask him to turn it down. The vision of the door to the basement stairs surfaced in her thoughts and she felt her breath catch in her throat.

Get a hold of yourself, for christsake you’re an adult. It’s a basement. We aren’t freezing to death listening to seventies music because you’re scared. Angrily, she stomped her feet, balled up her fists, and faced her front door. In a jolt of angry courage she pulled open her front door and stepped into the hallway. The hallway was colder than her apartment, but it didn’t deter her from walking toward the back of the hall, where the door to the basement would be. The music was in the hall too, up through the same grates in the walls. A low rumbling gurgle joined the music the closer that Matilda got. Her paced slowed as it got louder and changed into something more recognizable. It was a growling noise and it was moving on the other side of the wall. She shuddered and put her weight against the wall, her legs betraying her.

Only in my dreams did that wall between us come apart.

Her moment of courage was gone and she felt her knees start to buckle. The hallway began to rotate and twist. The growling continued ahead of her, she trembled. The music was blaring through the building, but she could hear something moving up the stairs. It was a soft and sludge-like sound, it made a slapping noise with every movement. The lights flickered and Matilda suffered with the music. The lyrics forced themselves into her brain scrambling all of her thoughts. She felt more dizzy and disorientated than she ever had. She heard the door to the basement swing open with incredible force.

I can feel your body swayin, one floor below me you don’t even know me.

The lights in the hall started to pop, going out one by one away from the basement stairs and sprinkling glass shards into the carpet. She felt a stone drop in her stomach and turned back to her apartment. She struggled to walk to the door, her entire body fighting her on moving; terror seizing her limbs. Tears were freely flowing down her face as she grabbed at the door knob. Whatever was in the basement was close behind her, she could hear it moving across the carpet. She could feel heat from it on her calves and the smell of rotting flesh filled her nose. She pounded on and forced her weight against the door, as it became harder and harder to breath. She screamed into the darkness as her door burst open.

Matilda fell inside and pushed the door shut with her foot. But not before she caught a glimpse of what was behind her. Green eyes that glinted in the darkness. She scrambled to lock the doors and sat with her back pressed it to, sobbing into her hands. The last thing she remembered before passing out was the music cutting out almost instantly, the growling stopping, and a soft, wet tap on her door.

First Drafts, Short Story, writing

Knock Three Times (Part One)

I do not know the original photographer, if you do please let me know.Matilda sat alone in her ground floor apartment. Her eyes followed the lines of the book, but her mind followed the footsteps of large and loud Mrs. Flintman upstairs. She heard that woman everywhere and was beginning to think Mrs. Flintman was loud on purpose, although one look at the woman would change the mind of others. Mrs. Flintman was a rotund woman, with a voice reminiscent of crows cawing at passersby; things that would be very hard for someone to change at the drop of a hat. Right now she was dragging her feet across the floor and Matilda was sure she saw dust fall from her ceiling. It was distracting and disruptive, but there was no way around it. Rent was only four hundred a month with full utilities and they were close to downtown Portland. Matilda couldn’t afford anything else at the moment, and, on the rare occasion when Mrs. Flintman was sleeping or out, it was quite peaceful.

It didn’t help that Mrs. Flintman owned the building either, or Matilda would have complained. She tried not to let it bother her and would do things out as much as possible.  She never brought people over though, for the sake they don’t ask why the hall staircase had orange shag carpet and smelled of cat pee. No one was ever really in the building but the two of them. There were only three apartments and the basement apartment had been empty ever since Matilda moved in. Mrs. Flintman’s son would come over sometimes. He was an average 30 something business man with a nice car. When they saw each other, which was rare, he would be pleasant with her. But she never got his name; he mostly came over to check on his mother. She asked him for money a lot, Matilda heard their conversations through the fan in her bathroom. He always suggested that she rent the basement apartment if she needed more money, which would upset her, and she would start to cry, which was his cue to promise to deposit money into her account as soon as he got to the bank.

Matilda was never sure what Mrs. Flintman used the money for. Groceries and things, for sure, but those were all delivered and never more than a few hundred dollars a month. Matilda had the working theory that the money went to online shopping and cats. There were so many cats and unopened packages in the building. Matilda had never minded cats, but now it was at a point where she struggled to get out the front door in the morning.

 

She came home from a busy day at work one day to the sounds of shouting. She recognized Mrs. Flintman’s, her son’s, and a second female voice she didn’t know. They were shouting about the basement apartment. Matilda had stopped in the hall to listen, her key in the lock. A great, white, and fluffy cat pressed itself up to her calves and purred. A slamming door upstairs made her jump and she quickly unlocked her door and stepped in, just in time for the unidentified voice to gain a face.

“We’re renting out the damn apartment.” The woman mumbled harshly, kicking the cat out of her way. The cat yowled and bolted through Matilda’s open door. The woman slammed the front door so hard that the dirty window cracked. Mrs. Flintman’s son rushed down the stairs after her. Matilda heard the whaling moan of Mrs. Flintman upstairs, and shut her apartment door.

Over the next few days, cleaning men and builders were in and out of the basement apartment. The carpet on the stairs and in the hall got pulled up and a new beige commercial carpet was laid down in it’s place. A week later, a moving truck showed up. Matilda had mulled over who her new neighbor would be in her mind so many times that she decided to be absent during their move in. She didn’t want to disappoint herself. A neighbor other than Mrs. Flintman, it was like a dream come true. She had imagined a woman her age and they could watch movies in the basement with popcorn and talk about how much they wish they could afford a better place. A whole apartment to buffer the sounds of Mrs. Flintman.

When Matilda did come home again, there was no new car in front of the building. The basement windows had acquired curtains though, a sliver of light passed through the part of a pair. She decided that she would let whoever it was get settled before she went down with a bottle of wine to welcome them to the building.  

Mrs. Flintman must have been asleep, Matilda didn’t hear the television upstairs or the woman herself. She sighed happily and dropped her bag on the chair next to the door. The cat that was laying there protested and jumped down. The white cat hadn’t left the apartment after the woman stormed out, and Matilda hadn’t bothered to get rid of it. Instead she gave it a name, Yonkers.

“Sorry.” Matilda muttered to the cat, falling onto her dark couch and kicking her shoes at the door. She stared up at the ceiling, her eyes heavy from a long day. That’s when she heard it.

Knock three times, on the ceiling if you want me…

It was very faint, almost a whisper. She turned and saw the source of the noise was the old furnace grate in the wall. Meaning the sound was coming from under her.

Twice on the pipe if the answer is no…

She continued to stare at the grate and grimaced. Her hopes of having a younger neighbor had been dashed. The song was so old, that they were probably old too. Matilda picked up a pillow and faux screamed into it. She went to bed that night with headphones in.

Her dreams were terrible. She was trapped in her building, the doors and windows were nailed shut and snow pushed against the outside. The lights were dim and she was filled with a sense of dread. Her last memory of the dream was sitting in the corner of the hall watching the door to the basement, hoping that it wouldn’t open. The door was opening and she was hit with a fantastic and terrible smell.

Matilda jolted awake in bed. Sweat poured down her neck and face, her heart thumping in her throat. Yonkers jumped up on the bed and meowed at her. She looked quickly around her room and registered no threat. Her clock read three.

She kicked off her blankets and hung her legs over the bed; Yonkers waddling through the mountain of discarded warmth. He laid down and purred. Matilda got up out of bed and walked to her front door. None of the locks looked out of place, but a raw nerve in the back of her brain wasn’t satisfied. She held her breath as she slowly turned the handle, the sound of the latch disengaging seemed to echo in the quiet of the building.

She pulled the door open and glanced back and forth down the hallway. No one was there and Matilda let her breath out slowly. She shut the door and re-locked it. She pressed her back up against it and realized how cold her apartment was.

Matilda checked her thermostat. It read the room at about forty -two degrees. She turned up the dial and pulled a blanket from the back of her couch. She turned on her kettle and pulled a mug from her shelf. The small window above the sink started to fog as the kettle grew hot and started to boil.

The furnace kicked on and Matilda felt the warm air flow over her toes. She looked at the clock and it read three thirty. Plucking a tea bag from the box, she poured the water into the mug, and steeped the bag.

The tendrils of the nightmare hadn’t dissipated by the time the sun rose, but Matilda pushed it as far back into her mind as she could. She did her best to distract herself, but by the time she should have heard Mrs. Flintman roaming from her bedroom to the kitchen, Matilda sat in silence with her thoughts.

She made a silent list of things she was going to do with her day; groceries at the farmer’s market, maybe stop by the book stall, grab a cup of coffee with a friend. And not go in the basement, the small voice in her head said. Yonkers was curled up in a loaf on the ottoman, his head raised as he watched out the window.

Matilda was restless the entire day. She felt as if something was watching her where ever she went and she caught herself looking over her shoulder more than once. She felt as if the world was pressed in around her and rushed home. Once she had the front door of the building close, she felt a tiny bit of relief.

The building was eerily quiet. Matilda couldn’t place what was missing until she realized in was Mrs. Flintman. Or the lack of her, really. Matilda didn’t think the absence of noise would be off putting, but it made her uncomfortable. It had been almost a full day since Matilda had heard anything from upstairs; and considered checking on the old woman just to be safe. She recalled how upset Mrs. Flintman had been after her fight with her son.

Matilda sighed and walked up the stairs, her conscious telling her to do the right thing and go check in on the old woman. Matilda had never been on the upper level of the building and the smell was the first thing to reach her. Rotting trash and cat smell, among other things, made their presence known to her nostrils and she shuddered. The door to Mrs. Flintman’s apartment was down a narrow hallway that was even smaller due to the amount of trash. Matilda kneed a table in the hallway and swore under her breath. She heard a shifting sound from further down the hall.

“Mrs. Flintman?” Matilda asked loudly, she moved the table out of her way and continued her way down the hall. Matilda finally got to the door, which she only could assume was one color at some point, and knocked. “, Mrs. Flintman?”

There was no response. Matilda knocked again, this time holding her ear to the door. Still, no noise. The smell in the hallway was getting intense, the bevy of smells changing steadily. Matilda pounded on the door now and it budged open, just the slightest. Matilda tried to situate herself to see through the gap, but Mrs. Flintman’s apartment was dark. She thought she heard the faint crinkle of plastic and a shadow move across the floor. Something about it made Matilda’s blood run cold, the shadow kept moving along the floor.

“Mrs. Flintman?” Matilda whispered urgently. “, Mrs. Flintman, are you there?”

The feeling of dread got worse, Matilda started to feel sick. She swear she heard a soft tearing noise followed by an even softer chewing sound. Her ears were flooded with a static noise and her breathing quickened.

“Mrs. Flintman?” She whispered even more urgently. Nothing, but the shadow on the floor, moving back and forth. Matilda felt the need to get off the top floor, her heart raced. She stumbled to her feet and tried to turn around. She lost her balance and caught the wall to steady herself. She didn’t take her eyes off of the gap in the door. The gap grew darker and she tried to walk away from it. She maneuvered out of the trashed hallway, catching her breath once she had room. She crouched slightly and tucked her head between her knees, taking deep breaths. A hand landed on her shoulder.

Matilda screamed and thrashed out to what ever was behind her.

“Woah. Woah.” A male voice shouted, grabbing one of her thrashing wrists. She realized it was a person and gasped in shock.

“Who,” She breathed deep. “,Who are you? What are you doing here?”

She pulled her wrist away sharply, looking at a man she didn’t know. He laughed.

“Don’t laugh.” She said harshly, rubbing her wrist where he had caught it.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I just, I didn’t think we’d meet like this.” His laughter subsided and he held out his hand. “, I’m Jason, I just moved in to the basement apartment.”

She stared at him and then his hand. She took it cautiously and they shook. Matilda looked him up and down. He was rather attractive; dark hair and tall, with piercing green eyes. She lingered on his eyes, there was something almost unnatural about them. They had been standing in an awkward silence when Matilda  broke it.

“I was looking for Mrs. Flintman, I haven’t heard her for a while and I was worried. Do you know where she is?” She asked him, speaking quickly. The feeling of dread hadn’t left her and she glanced down the stairs nervously. He looked over Matilda’s shoulder.

“Oh, didn’t she tell you? She went on vacation.” He continued to stare over her shoulder and she glanced behind her.

“Vacation? Mrs. Flintman?” She asked skeptically and then said quietly. “,That sounds impossible.”

She chuckled nervously.

“Yea, I spoke with her yesterday on her way out. She said she’ll be gone for a while.” His eyes moved from behind her to down the stairs. “Anyway, maybe we can get together one night and get dinner. Like a neighborly thing?”

Matilda’s brain was still swirling with information and she didn’t fully hear or understand his question.

“What?” She asked.

“Dinner? Get to know each other? We’re the only two that live here, it might be nice to have a buddy.”

“You mean, other than Mrs. Flintman?” Matilda continued to stare at his face.

“What? Of course. But I’d rather have dinner with you.” He chuckled again. He pointed down the stairs. “,I’ve, uh, I’m gonna go, I’ve got pasta on. But I’ll see you later right? Neighbor?”

“Yea, sure. I’m just gonna go close her door. It opened when I knocked. See you later.” Matilda turned back towards the hallway and began the adventure back towards the door. Her heart was still racing, as she moved between the towering piles of trash bags. The journey back down the hall wasn’t as bad as the first one, the air didn’t feel as heavy. She felt freer in the claustrophobic hallway.

As she reached the door, she noticed that it was closed. Puzzled, she reached for the knob and tried to jiggle it. The door knob held fast. The metal was warm under her fingers. She let go and told herself it must have been the wind that closed the door, that Mrs. Flintman must have left a window open. Probably so the cats could go in and out of her apartment while she was gone. She hadn’t fully convinced herself of that, but she decided it was the only thing that made sense. She worked her way back out to the stairs, descended them, and inhaled the fresher air at the bottom of the stairs. She slid her key into the lock on her door and entered her apartment. She went to her bathroom and took an aspirin, the stench up stairs had given her a headache. She felt gross, stepped out of the clothes that had brushed up against so many unknown substances, and stepped into her shower. With the curtain drawn she felt a sense of safety. With the new feeling of security, she allowed herself to cry, the water rushing over her; they weren’t tears of sadness, but tears of relief.

Matilda stepped out of shower, wrapped herself in her bathrobe, and laid down in bed. Yonkers curled up on her feet, and she closed her eyes against the world.

 

((to be continued…))