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The Painter: Part 5

If you have missed parts 1-4, please search for The Painter in the search box on the right hand side! Comments and/or questions are welcome! Check back next Thursday for part 6.

Part 5

I sat down beside Sal and waited for him to continue. He looked up at the darkening sky with mournful eyes.  I waited for him to talk, pushing my curiosity about this mysterious lady he mentioned.
Sal looked down at his paint covered hands and said, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. She’s my inspiration.”
“Who is she?”
His lips turned into a soft smile. “My beloved Oihane.”
I commented about how I have never heard that name before and he nodded. “It means from the forest. She loved these woods, so her name fit her well.”
As Sal continued to talk about Oihane, I looked at my surroundings.  Everything looked different like it had taken on a life of it’s own. Now that I knew who was the owner of the cottage, it lost that dingy and abandoned quality. This was Oihane’s haven. I never met her but from being in her favorite spot, I felt like I knew her for years.
“Where did you meet her?” I asked when Sal became quiet again.
“In Mexico. After we got married, we moved to New Mexico for awhile. I could tell she was never really content there. It was almost as if her heart wanted to be somewhere else.”
I gestured towards the woods. “She wanted to be here?”
Sal’s gentle smile came back as he glanced at the cottage. He didn’t have to say anything. His big brown eyes said it all.
“Enough about me,” Sal said suddenly. “I want to hear about you. How do you feel about this place?”
It was really hard for me to describe how I felt. Of course I still felt a strong dislike for the whole state of Oregon, but I could see why Sal liked being out here now.  I opened my mouth to speak, but Sal held up a hand to shush me.
“You don’t need to say it. Your eyes tell me everything.” Sal brushed some dirt off of his khaki pants. “I believe eyes are the perfect storytellers.”
“What about art?”
Sal threw his head back and laughed. “Art is magical. It can reveal a person’s soul without even them realizing it.”
My mind went back to the horrible painting I did earlier and I grimaced. That wasn’t how I wanted my soul to be portrayed. I told that to Sal and he laughed again.
“You are still learning. What you need to do is learn to unlock your soul and start painting with that instead of your head.” Sal tapped on my forehead. “It won’t be easy for you to discover what’s out there in the world if you keep that wall up around you.”
I remained quiet, knowing he was right but was too scared to admit it. Saying it just makes it worse.
“What do your dreams consist of?” Sal asked, breaking the silence.
The question caught me off guard. “I don’t know,” I said in a small voice.
Sal glanced back at the cottage and looked thoughtful. The air was getting colder around us as the sky got darker. Stars began to twinkle above us. The silence between us continued for a few minutes.  There was something about Sal that I couldn’t figure out.   There were many stories hidden beneath his weathered and worn face.
I wanted to know more about his mysterious wife.  There were so many questions unanswered. What happened to her?
When I asked Sal this, it was almost as if he shut down completely. He shook his head and stood up slowly.
“We should be getting back,” he said. “It’s getting late and your parents will worry.” Sal picked up his suitcase. “Although I know that you snuck out of your house and they don’t know where you are.”
I stopped in my tracks, wondering how this old man knew that. He was already at the lake when I shimmied my way down the tree from my bedroom window. Maybe he was a psychic. Maybe he just was really good at guessing things. It could be that I’m just that obvious of a person to be doing something like that.
“So, have you made any friends since you’ve been here?” Sal asked, still standing on the steps of the cottage.
I shrugged. “I don’t really like anyone at school. I have friends back in California.”
“Who says you can’t have friends here as well? You can never have too many friends.”
“How many friends do you have then?”
Sal laughed. “I’m an old man. I know what everyone says about me.”
My mind went back to what my mom said about Sal while we were in the kitchen.  She called him some old painter like he wasn’t important.  I felt Sal was important whether anyone realized it or not. I was going to make sure people saw how talented he still was.
I scraped at the peeling white paint on the wooden railings. “Do you not have art exhibitions or anything for your paintings?”
“Not anymore. Nobody wants to see an old man’s art. It’s not for anyone to see now.”
Sal started to walk away but I continued to stay where I was. I didn’t want to go home. Not yet.  Sal stopped and looked back at me.
“We should stop analyzing me and start focusing on you,” he said. “You are the young one with the bright future. You just don’t know it yet.”
“What else don’t I know?” My frustration was starting to go into overload. I didn’t want to explode on this old man. He was the only person who listened to me.
Sal looked surprised that I asked him this. He looked past me into the cottage and his eyes lit up.  What was he thinking?
“Do you want to see what’s inside the cottage?” he asked suddenly.
He walked to the door of the cottage with more speed than I  have ever seen. As he unlocked the door, my heart started to race. What was I going to find in that dark little house?

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Yesterday, I completely forgot to post part 4 of my serial story, The Painter. So here it is a day late. Sorry about that. Enjoy! Keep letting me know what you think if this is your first time reading it. You can also let me know what you think if it’s not your first time haha. That’s up to you. If you have missed parts 1-3, search for The Painter on the search bar on the right hand column.

Part 4

As soon as I walked in, I noticed the house was quiet. It was too quiet.  I wondered what my parents were going to say about my absence. In my hurry to catch up with Sal, I didn’t leave a note. My mom was probably having an anxiety attack.
The kitchen was brightly lit when I entered. My parents were standing around the sink, yelling at each other.  They were so engrossed in pointing fingers at each other that they never saw me standing there.
“It’s not like Ella to just go somewhere without leaving a note, Walter,” my mother said. “What if something bad has happened?”
“Like what, Laura?” my father asked. “I doubt she was kidnapped.”
My mother began to protest again, gesturing widely out the kitchen window, talking about how I was probably lying in a ditch somewhere. I knew that this was the time to step in.
“I think you’re over reacting just a little,” I said, causing both of my parents to whirl around.
The look on my mother’s face said it all. She let out a long breath and pulled me into her arms.
“We’ve been so worried about you! Where have you been? Didn’t you think to leave us a note? Haven’t we taught you anything?”
Her stream of questions didn’t stop until I pulled away. “I’m fine. I just went for a walk out into the woods. I didn’t know I would be gone for so long.”
“Going out into the woods at this time of night is dangerous!” my father shouted. “What were you thinking?”
I shrugged, not wanting to tell them the real reason I went out there. They would think he was some kind of old pervert and wouldn’t let me out of the house ever again.  It’s best to just keep that one quiet.
They stood there, waiting for me to explain myself, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. I sighed, wondering what to do.
“I just got tired of being cooped up in this house. I’m sorry if I made you worry. It won’t happen again.”
“You’ve got that right because the next time something like this happens, you won’t leave the house until you graduate college. You hear me?” my father asked, his face turning red with built up anger.
I nodded and that ended the conversation. My father went into the living room and I heard the television turn on. My mother stood at the sink, still staring out the window.  I could tell she was deep in thought and didn’t want to be disturbed.
Luckily, the next day was Saturday and I could relax without having to go to school.  My plan was to stay on my mom’s good side and help her around the house so I could sneak outside that evening to meet with Sal.  I had to know what was in that cottage. There had to be some significance.
That evening, I told my parents I was going to do some homework and get to bed early. To my relief, they nodded and didn’t say another word. I locked my bedroom door and climbed out of my window. All of my years of climbing trees paid off as I landed onto my feet.
Sal was waiting for me at the lake. Two easels stood before him and he motioned for me to take my place in front of one.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked as he started handing me paint supplies. I looked at them like they were some kind of tools from another planet.
“I want you to paint.” He looked at me like it was that obvious.
Sal started swiping the brush onto his white canvas. I watched him for a few minutes as he started to create some other world I had never seen before. “Well, what do I paint?” I asked, staring at my still blank canvas.
“Anything you want.  Just let the brush do the work.”
I did exactly that. My hand took control and I stood there for an hour just painting these bright colors onto the canvas.  When I finished, I stood back and looked at the finished product. My heart sank as I started to criticize everything about it. The lake looked more dreary than magical. The sunset was very bland and had none of the colors I saw with my own eyes.
“Do you know what you did wrong?” Sal asked, wiping the paint off his hands.
I shook my head, feeling a knot forming in my throat. I was a failure and a disappointment. I couldn’t paint a lake and a sunset. How did he expect me to do what he did?
“You painted with your head instead of your heart. That’s where you went wrong. But, don’t worry, Ella. You will get there in time.”
Sal’s painting was beautiful. The world he created sparkled and felt so real. I almost wanted to jump right into the canvas and live there.
“I don’t think I can paint like you, Sal.”
He patted my shoulder and smiled. “Yes, you can. I have no doubt that you will learn.”
Sal led the way back to that mysterious cottage in the woods. He set his battered suitcase down on the ground and brought out his hand.
“We will leave your painting here for safe keeping.”
My head raced with thoughts of what was inside that house.  “Can I come inside?” I asked, hoping for a positive answer.
Sal’s face turned grim and he shook his head. “It’s not time for you to see,” he said. “It’s not my place to share.”
“Whose place is it then?”
He merely shook his head again and shuffled his feet inside, shutting me out. I tried to peer through the windows, but they were too grimy from years of not being cleaned. This cottage has been sitting here unoccupied for years.
When Sal came back out, I asked him about the cottage again. Sal sighed and closed his eyes. He sat down on the steps and rubbed his frail arms.
“You’ll have to ask her.”

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If you missed part 1 or 2, click here. I hope you enjoy the continuation of my serial story, The Painter, a story I decided to bring back for everyone! Let me know what you think.

Part 3

“Why do you paint out here? What is this place?”
My question lingered in the air for a few moments as Sal dabbed his brush into the multi colored palette. He looked at his painting with his head cocked to the left, tapping the tip of the paint brush on his hand.
The look in his dark brown eyes was almost one of love. He cleared his throat and swiped some more paint onto the canvas with professional ease.
I wondered if my question was ever going to be answered or if I was going to stand there, looking like an uncomfortable idiot. The sun was beginning to dip down lower behind the dark trees in the distance, casting an eeriness around us.
“That is an interesting question, you know,” he finally said. “You should take a look around you for the answer. I’m not sure I know the words.” Sal smirked.
I did what he told me to do. It all looked like a normal lake surrounded by a wooded area. Sure, it looked pretty  with the sun setting in front of it, but I didn’t see the magical quality I think he saw.  When I told him what I saw, he scoffed and shook his head hard.
“You’re not a painter, that’s why!” he exclaimed, never taking his eyes off of his canvas. “But you will be.” Sal slid his eyes towards me and smiled. The wrinkles around his mouth becoming more evident. “I think there is hope for you, Ella McCormack.”
I’m certainly glad someone thinks so, I thought. For the next hour, I sat there on a bench beside the easel. I sat there, just watching Sal paint like a madman. It was almost  like he was driven to finish this painting before it got too dark.
As he finished up what he was working on, he chattered about his life in Mexico as a child and how much he loved it in Oregon.
“This place is the definition of peaceful art,” Sal said, wiping his brush clean on a paint splattered cloth. “This is where I was truly meant to be.”
“Why do you say that?”
He shrugged his bony shoulders and started putting away his supplies.  “One day, you’ll start to appreciate life for what it really is,” he said. “It took me awhile to open my eyes and see the beauty around me.”
I stood by him and looked at the painting he had created. I had never seen anything like it.  The colors of the night sky looked more real than what I could see above me. The lake had taken on a personality of it’s own. It felt like it was alive. It was mesmerizing.
Sal took the painting and his suitcase, walking  back into the woods.  I followed quickly behind, my feet moving almost automatically.  We were both silent as we walked. I had no idea where we were going. Were we going back to our houses? What was he going to do with that painting?
When we got to the part where the woods separated and instinctively I started going straight. Instead of following me, Sal went left, and I stopped in my tracks. Where was this old guy going?
I didn’t have to walk too fast to catch up with his slow steps.  I wasn’t even sure why I was following my strange painting neighbor into some unknown part of the woods.  I asked him where we were going and he waved his hands to dismiss the question. Realization was starting to hit me that Sal could be a man of few words sometimes.  I glanced at my watch and saw that it was almost 8 o’clock. My parents would be home soon and I wasn’t sure  how they would respond to the reason behind my absence. Glancing at Sal, I could tell he was deep in his own thoughts.  I wondered what he was thinking about. What kind of things went on in his artistic mind? Whatever it was, it was probably very colorful, I thought with a smirk.
Right at that moment, Sal turned and I was soon looking at a small white cottage. It looked like it belonged there among the tall trees and wildlife growing nearby. Sal walked up to the door and retrieved a small key from his pocket. Once he opened the door, I started to follow but  he stopped and turned to me.
“Stay out here. I don’t want you to see what is inside.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but  he shut the door in my face. What was that about? I sat down on the wooden steps and crossed my arms in front of my chest.  The darkness was spreading through the woods and I began to get scared. Maybe I should not have came all the way out here. I should have stayed home where it was safe and well-lit.
My heart began to pound in fear and I kept turning my head to see all around me. The shadows were beginning to play tricks on my eyes. With every sound, fear clutched at my throat. A bird cawed in the distance and I jumped up to my feet.
“Calm down,” Sal said, behind me, causing me to whirl around. “Nothing is going to get you out here.’
The painting was gone and instead, he clutched a glowing lantern.  “We should probably get you home. Your parents will worry.”
I let Sal lead the way home. We made it there in record time. Sal didn’t talk the whole way. There were so many questions I still had for him, but I didn’t know how to ask.  As soon as I saw my parent’s car in the driveway, my heart sank. This was not good.
Sal smiled and walked to his backdoor. This was my last chance to find something out.
“I see potential in you, Ella,” he said. “Meet me tomorrow evening and I will teach you all you need to know.”
“About what?”
He smiled. “I’m a painter. What do you think?
With that, he disappeared. Now, I was left to go inside and face my parents. I took a deep breath and opened the door. Here goes nothing…

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If you missed part one, click here. Also, don’t forget that tomorrow is the Interview with the Character blog fest, so sign up today while you can and check out previous posts for more details.

The Painter – Part 2

What did he have back there?
That question stayed with me throughout the night and into the long, school day.  Whenever I went to school, I always felt like I was invisible. I just went through the motions until that fateful bell rang, signaling my freedom.  When I walked to my car, I could see a bunch of popular kids hanging out by the car next to it. I tried my best to quickly walk by before any of them stopped me.
I wasn’t fast enough.
“Well, if it isn’t the newbie,” a tall, blond named Casey said. “Where’d you come from again?”
Everyone’s eyes were on me, looking me up and down.  “California,” I said, quickly. I just wanted to get out of there and away from all the stares.
“How come you never talk to anyone? Cat got your tongue?” Casey asked, causing everyone to laugh.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Jeremy walk out of the building with his basketball friends. This caught the popular girls’ attention and they forgot all about me.  They shouted Jeremy’s name and he looked over.  His bright blue eyes caught onto mine and I looked away. The girls of the group rushed over to talk to him which gave me the space to slip into my car. I drove away with those piercing blue eyes of his in my head.
“You should have just smiled at him,” I said. “Nothing wrong with being friendly.”
Great. I was still talking to myself.
As soon as I walked into my house, I could tell that something was going on.  The house was quiet and I couldn’t smell dinner coming from the kitchen.  My mom came rushing down the stairs, wearing a knee length black dress and her hair in a tight updo. I looked at her strangely and she waved me away.
“Your father has an important dinner party to go to tonight, so you’re on your own. There’s dinner in the fridge to heat up. Don’t burn the house down.”
I didn’t even get a chance to respond before she went out the door and got into her car. I shrugged and went up to my room to start homework.  The thought of being alone in a quiet house for the night excited me. I didn’t have to deal with fighting parents and I could finally have space to do what I wanted.
I heated up some left over lasagna and talked to my best friend, Tiffany, while I ate. I missed all of my California friends so much, but hearing her voice was enough to make my bad days better.
“Have you met any interesting people up there?” she asked after an hour of talking about her new boyfriend.
Immediately, I thought of my neighbor. I got up out of bed and went to my spot near the window. The adjoining backyards appeared to be empty except for my German Shepherd,  Gina, chasing a bird around.
As Tiffany changed the subject to her boyfriend again, I looked up at the sun starting to set in the sky.  My eyes went to his back door and stayed there. I knew he was leaving soon and I wanted to know where he went.
At that very moment, the door opened and he started his slow walk into the forest.  I knew this was my chance to answer all of my questions.
Hurriedly, I got off the phone with Tiffany and rushed down the stairs, shoving my feet into sneakers on my way out the back door.
The chill of the evening hit me and I buried my hands deep into the pockets of my sweatshirt as I jogged into the dark woods.  A part of me should have been scared, but my curiosity was taking over.
I crept my way through the darkened woods, following the old man’s footsteps that led deeper into the forest. I didn’t know where I was going, but the excitement of that mystery was bubbling over.
Before I knew it, his slow footsteps stopped ahead of me and I ducked behind a large tree as I peeked to see where we were. My mouth dropped open as I saw the huge lake ahead. The water glittering under the sunset. It was a magical sight surrounded by dark trees. The old man walked over to where a blue tarp hid something from underneath. With a flip of his hand, he revealed a tall, wooden easel. As he began to set up his equipment, I saw that my mother was right. He was a painter.  I stood there with baited breath, watching his hand fly across the blank canvas. He began to create a colorful work of art that I had never seen before.  I was almost mesmerized by how his hand controlled the paintbrush.
“You can get a better look if you stood closer,” he said in a surprisingly strong voice.
My heart leapt into my throat as I realized I had been caught. Was he angry? Would he kill me and throw me in the lake? My legs took control of my body and I crept towards him like a dog waiting to be punished after a bad deed.
“And who would you be?” he asked, his voice thick with a Spanish accent.
My eyes remained glued to his hands as he continued to paint. “Ella McCormack,” I said in a small voice. “Please don’t kill me.”
The sounds of  his laugh caused me to jump. It echoed deep into the forest. “Rest easy. My name is Salvador Rios. You can call me Sal.”
Finally, I looked up at his face and saw the deep wrinkles set beside his dark brown eyes. My worries went away and I smiled. There seemed to be a kindness that surrounded him. This man had many stories to tell. My heart was racing as I tried to find my voice stuck inside of me.
“Why do you paint out here? What is this place?”

Read part 3 next Thursday!

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A  year ago,  I participated in a serial story blog where different writers posted a serial story. We were assigned a day to post each part until we finished our stories. My first story on that blog was one of my favorite stories to write. For some of you, you may have already read it, but I have received some new subscribers to this blog, so I wanted to bring back The Painter for you to read! It has been a year since I wrote it, so I felt it was only appropriate to celebrate that! Check back on each Thursday for the continuation of the story! As always, feel free to leave me comments and let me know what you think! Enjoy. 🙂

The Painter

Part One

He always left his house at the same time every day.  He would shuffle out the door while the sun began to set, bleeding light pink across the sky, his back hunched over in its usual position. I would watch him from my bedroom window next door as he headed out of his back yard and into the woods. In  his wrinkled hands, he always carried a battered, black suitcase that shook in his grasp.
I always stood there and wondered where he went every night. He wouldn’t come back until late at night when the stars were twinkling bright in the sky. It was always at an hour that most elderly people were snug in their beds, sleeping off the ache they felt during the day.
But, not this old man.  I had only been living in the quiet neighborhood for a month. My parents had decided to move us far from our sunny California home to this dreary Oregon town. I remember feeling outraged to be leaving during my senior year of high school. I had shouted obscenities and screamed that I wasn’t going anywhere.  There was no way they were going to force me away from my friends to this unknown loser town.
They forced me anyways.
Now I stood in my new bedroom in some unfamiliar town where I had no friends and nothing in common with anyone.   On a typical Friday night, I would be out with my friends, going to the movies or whatever random thing we decided to do. I scoffed and kicked my night stand as I thought of what I was doing now.
“You’re standing in front of your window, spying on some old man walking into the woods,” I muttered.  “What a fun life you lead now, Ella.”
Downstairs, I could hear my parents yelling at each other. Out in public, people thought they were a picture perfect couple, but behind closed doors, they were each other’s worst enemy. I was always in the middle of it.
“Ella! Get down here!” my father shouted.
As I trudged down the stairs, my brain tried to think of whatever my parents could want.  I finished all of my chores a couple of hours ago and we already had dinner. What else could he want from me?
My parents were sitting on opposite sides of the living room. The television was blaring in front of them.  My mother looked furious in her armchair, picking at the edges of a throw pillow beside her. It was her usual expression when my father was around. I can’t remember a day when they did get along.
My father punched the mute button on the television remote and leaned back in his brown, leather recliner.  I stood there, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, nervously waiting to see what he had to say.
“I called you down here to see how school has been going. You didn’t mention a thing about it at dinner.”
That was probably because he wouldn‘t shut up about his day at work. I merely shrugged my shoulders. “Nothing really happened to talk about.”
“You didn’t make any friends?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. “Did you try at all to be sociable?”
“I have friends,” I said. “Back in California. You know the place you moved me out of?”
My father snorted. “You’ll find out this town is the perfect place. Quiet, small, and peaceful. That’s how it should be.” He pointed his finger at me. “My boss has a kid who goes to that school. His name is Jeremy. You’re going to make friends with this kid. It’ll do you some good.”
I glanced at my mother who was rolling her eyes. She threw the pillow down. “Oh, Walter. Just leave her alone. Let her be friends with whoever she wants. Butt out.”
“There you go again, telling me what to do! If anyone needs to butt out, it’s you.” My father grabbed the remote from the coffee table and punched the volume up on the television. A cop drama blared from the set. That was my signal that this conversation was over.
I went into the kitchen and got myself a glass of water. As I stood in front of the kitchen sink, I looked out into the woods. It was getting darker outside. I wondered what that old man could be doing out there.  How long could he stay out there? The real question was why was I standing here thinking about some strange old man anyways?
“Ella, what are you doing?” my mother asked from behind me.
I turned to see her standing at the entrance of the kitchen with her arms folded across her chest. Her furious expression was replaced with curiosity.
“I’m just staring out the window,” I said, turning back to my view of the back yard.
She came up to stand beside me.  We were both quiet for a moment as we stared out into the night.  The porch light turned on, illuminating our yard. My mom’s flower garden shone in the darkness as fireflies glinted above their petals.
“I just wanted you to know that you don’t have to be friends with Jeremy,” my mother said, breaking the silence. “Your father doesn’t understand how difficult it is to make new friends at your age.”
I could hear the cop show still blaring from the living room. I merely nodded in reply.  Just hearing her support me was enough.
In the distance, a dark figure moved out of the woods. It was the old man, still carrying his suitcase. I kept thinking about what he could be doing out there.
“Do you know who lives next door?” I asked.
“Just some old man. Nobody knows much about him. He used to be a painter, I think.”
She left the room with me still wanting to know more about this man. Why would an old painter go out into the woods every night? What did he have back there?

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I was going to write about “writing killers” today but I decided I’d make that post tomorrow. Instead, I wanted to post a story for you all to read. If any of you have checked out my Sample of Work – Stories page up at the top, you would have read an excerpt of one of short stories “Blanket of Ghosts”.  Some have been wanting to read more, so I decided to post the rest of the story here in parts! Sort of like a serial story, I guess.  I’ll post the excerpt that is in my sample page to get things started. Next Thursday, make sure to come back to read the next part! Oh and remember that everything is under copyrights so no funny business, you hear? Haha

Blanket of Ghosts (part one)

Lia could always feel the rain coming. Even before the weatherman predicted it on the television, Lia knew that a storm was approaching.  She would always walk out onto her back porch and watch the rain fall. It reminded her of days that she would rather not think about but she could never help seeing the thoughts that rushed through her head.  They plagued her like constant nightmares that wouldn’t leave her alone.
    “Man, it is pouring out here,” a voice Lia knew was her best friend, Jordan’s.
Lia didn’t turn away from the rain storm, and soon she felt Jordan’s presence beside her.
    “What are you doing out here anyways? Wait. I already know the answer and you know I don’t like it. When are you going to give it up, Lia?” Jordan asked.
    “I have,” Lia said. “I just like to watch the rain.”
Jordan looked at her in disbelief but didn’t approach the matter anymore.  A puddle began to form in front  of Lia’s back steps and Jordan laughed. Lia shifted her eyes suspiciously.
    “Don’t even think about it,” Lia warned. “I mean it.”
    “Oh, Lia. I would never think of doing anything evil to you. Including throwing you in that puddle.”
    “Right. Just like every time we pass by a pile of branches in a yard, you wouldn’t ever throw me in that pile. Now would you?” Lia asked.
Jordan shrugged and Lia shook her head. She shivered and turned to go back inside. As soon as she got cold, she always went back inside. Lia didn’t like to shiver. It reminded her of…things.
As soon as Jordan came inside, she flung herself onto the couch and flipped on the television. “Stupid commercials. They are so boring. Meaningless.”  
    “You didn’t come here just to harass me and the television did you?” Lia asked as she headed over to the kitchen to make dinner.
Jordan shook her head and  continued to flip the channels. “Nah. I only do that on Fridays.” Jordan began to laugh causing Lia to break her thoughtful moment and join her. She always knew how to make Lia laugh even in her darkest days. Even after that night when she felt she wouldn’t be able to pick herself up again.  After the night he left, Lia wasn’t sure she would be able to function. And yet, here she was: standing, breathing, and living.  She was doing this without him.  
Lia’s concentration was broken when Jordan started to shout. The look on Jordan’s face concerned Lia and she had known Jordan through many days when Jordan was a bit.. Crazy.
    “I know how to find you a man,” Jordan said, bluntly, causing Lia’s eyebrows to raise.
    “We’ve already been through this before, Jordan, and I am not going out with any of your relatives. Going on that blind date with your cousin Nick was bad enough.”
Jordan shrugged. “So I forgot to mention that he has a slight aversion to deodorant and spits every time he talks. I thought you guys had potential.”
Lia just shook her head. There was no way she could ever have any kind of potential with Nick Riley. Ever.  Not unless her sense of smell suddenly disappeared and she wore a rain retardant parka everywhere.
    “Nope, Lia, I just figured out the master plan to find you the perfect man.” Jordan motioned towards the television in an impatient manner.  Lia put down the dish towel she was holding and walked over to see what Jordan was meaning. Her heart sank and she groaned.
    “You want me to post a profile on E-Harmony.com?”
Jordan stood up and started to fling her hands around in the air in the emphasized gesture she always uses when she is trying to convince Lia to do something she thinks is a ‘master plan’.  “Lia, Lia, Lia. E-Harmony is the way to go.  They say they will match you to the perfect guy based on your interests and compatibility. They’ll search through all those ugly duds and find you Mr. Right and Gorgeous.”
Lia watched with dismay as Jordan rushed to Lia’s computer and went to the website. She wanted to grab her laptop away and tell Jordan to go home so Lia could enjoy the rain in peace. Just let her enjoy the rain. But she couldn’t. She never could because Jordan always meant well. They all meant well. Her family, friends, employees at the blues club she owned in downtown Memphis. They all wanted Lia to be happy. And she thought she was. Even without Mr. Right and Gorgeous.
    “Oh boy. Would you look at these couples? Wow, these two look extremely happy. And they got married a year later! Just think Lia. That could be you on this website a year from now. All happy and married…maybe with a kid on the way that you can name Jordan. It sound perfect to me. I’ll sign you up,” Jordan rambled, typing furiously at the keyboard.
There was no use trying to dissuade her from the idea, so Lia went back into the kitchen and looked out the window while she washed the dishes. I am happy, she convinced herself. But, maybe going out on a few dates won’t hurt. I could try.
Jordan clapped her hands signaling that she was finished. She ran into the kitchen and hugged Lia.
    “I know this is how you are going to meet the love of your life and quit moping around thinking about you know who. He was a jerk and no good for you. I know this is going to work.”
At that moment, the rain stopped. Jordan laughed. “See? That’s a good sign.”  
Lia wasn’t so sure.

 

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I promised you guys I would have the next part of my current serial story, Muhhhh: A Zombie Love Story, posted on Friday, so here it is. 🙂 Sorry that it’s a few days late. This week has been one crazy week for me. Hopefully, I’ll have the next part ready to go by Tuesday! If you have missed any part so far, you can search for it by putting in the title of the serial story.

Here is part 7!

Hearing those nearby crackling of leaves made every hair on my body stand up. I stood there, forgetting about my zombie boyfriend and wanting to hide in some dark hole where no monster could get me.
Jack stood in front of me, his gun now pointing towards the threat of whatever was coming near us. To say I wasn’t scared would have been a lie. Sure I was scared. Anyone who said they weren’t scared were either really stupid or a zombie, and if that the case, well, then, you had nothing to worry about.  As much as stumbling around like a brainless idiot with drool and blood dripping out of your open zombie mouth sounds like a party (okay, so maybe that’s a lie..), I wasn’t about to join the zombie club.
In my moment of panic, I didn’t notice that Zander had moved away. Jack noticed. He gasped and kicked my leg so I would look over at where Zander now stood. I had no idea what was going on? What was he doing, standing there where the noises were coming from? Was he going to join them and feast on me and Jack like a buffet or was he going to protect us? I was naïve to think the latter, but that idea sounded a lot less painful than the first. What can I say? I’m an optimist at heart.

“Zander? What are you doing?” I whispered.  I’m sure if Jack had a free hand, he would have clapped one over my mouth pretty hard. Lucky for me, he didn’t.

Before I could say anything else, a low, strange sound filled the air. It sounded almost like a our dog, Sandy, who would growl every time a stranger came to our house.  I looked around, not seeing any dog around. Then, it hit me. It was Zander.
I was learning something new about zombies every day. I glanced over at Jack who looked just as confused as I was. He glanced at me and I knew what he was thinking. Zombies don’t growl. They don’t say anything other than their usual moan. Maybe Zander was infected with a different strain of whatever made all of those people into zombies.  It just gave us more questions than answers.
If Zander had fur like a dog, it would be standing upright by now.  His growl became even more menacing. Maybe that was because it was a zombie growl.  Obviously, I was no expert on these things.
Another zombie appeared at the edge of the river. She stood there, wearing a tattered blue dress and a nametag on it with the name “Pamela.” She looked really familiar. Where have I seen her?
She took a slow stumble forward in her tan knee high boots. I gasped as I imagined her crossing over and eating our faces off. I liked my face the way it was. I backed away behind Jack who still stood there with the shot gun held tightly in his hands.
In an instance, everything changed. Pamela smelled our presence and lunged towards us. Before I could get a scream out, Zander lunged at her. It was almost like watching a wrestling match between two hungry zombies.  As they both turned on each other like animals, Jack began to pull at my sleeve. He wanted to sneak away while we had the opportunity. I was torn. I was scared and wanted to go home, but I wanted to make sure Zander was going to be okay.
I didn’t get a choice in the matter. Jack started to pull me away almost violently as we made a mad dash for home. I protested, feeling my heart getting heavier and heavier with the thought of Zander getting hurt.
Jack wouldn’t hear my protests until we made it to our yard. Only when we made it to our front door and it was locked behind us did he let go of my arm and turn to face me. Utter exhaustion and fear hit every bone in my body and I slid to the floor, tears rolling down my cheeks.
I could hear my parents talking loudly in the kitchen. Loud music was playing upstairs by our little sister.  It was like it was before the zombies came. It seemed so normal that there was no way Zander could be out there as a zombie fighting another zombie. He did it for me.  I had a zombie bodyguard. I was like Whitney Houston and he was Kevin Costner. Well, if Kevin Costner was a zombie, of course.
The thought of that made me smile and I wiped the tears from my cheeks before my parents could see them. At dinner, everyone asked what went on in the woods.  Lucky for me, Jack couldn’t say a word. He was always a horrible liar. When my mother asked us that question, he just ducked his head down and stared down at his empty plate.

“It went alright,” I said, quickly, not wanting to give anything away.

“Well, did you get anything?” my father asked, wanting to get straight to the point.

I looked at Jack who shook his head. I smiled. “We didn’t have an opportunity.”

Before my parents could say anything else, a loud series of knocks sounded at our front door. It sounded pretty urgent, whoever it was.

“Who in the hell could that be?” my father asked, throwing down his napkin.

He walked into the living room with everyone following behind. We were all curious to know what was going on. It reminded me of when we first found out about the zombies. Chub and Neil both stood at our door that fateful evening with guns in their hands, blurting out everything. Chub seemed more excited at the possibility of becoming a zombie hunter. I think he wanted to be like the guys you see in zombie movies who swoop in to save the rest of the surviving human race. Unfortunately, I was learning real life is nothing like the movies.
It was almost like deja vu to see Chub and Neil standing outside our doorway again. They both looked pretty confused but excited.

“What’s going on?” my father asked, cautiously. He began to peer behind them for some sign of another wave of zombies coming at us.

Chub shook his head. “ You are never going to believe what we saw.”

“Excuse me?”

“Seriously, you have to follow us.”

The sense of urgency in his voice made my heart clench in my chest. My hand immediately went to the necklace around my neck as I imagined Zander.

“You’ll never guess who we saw out there,” Neil said.

“As a zombie,” Chub added, nudging my father on the ribs.

Oh, crap.

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