Beneath The Brambles, Chapter 18
Emily got a smile and a waving hand that indicated she should come in from both the brother and sister. As she opened the door, Harley was on her feet offering her the chair and gracefully closing the door behind her.
"J.D., you remember Miss. Cutter, right?" Harley said as she leaned casually against the door.
"Of course, how could I forget?" The smile he gave the injured woman was the spitting image of the one she had learned to adore from the Sheriff and she instantly rewarded him with one of her own. "How could I forget meeting one of the loveliest women to ever grace this town, let alone one of my favorite authors?" His smile became a grin with just a touch of teasing in it, as he continued, "Not to mention the only victim of a felony in Bramble for the last five years."
Harley stiffened at that and was just about to apologize for her brothers rude behavior when she heard the small woman laugh and the sound of it relaxed her.
"Well, Ive always tried to be a woman of distinction. Who knew Id be famous for this? Say, do you think I could work it into my bio for the book jackets, ya know, right after all that drivel about graduated Duke University and best-selling author and all?"
"Nah," D.J. replied, giving a little shake of his head, "Id save the room for Winner of The Pulitzer Prize for literature. You can just use this as chat on the talk shows promoting your next book." The grin returned and he looked at the lovely woman in front of him and realized how much hed missed seeing in that dark parking lot. Well, I can sure see the attraction, Harley. Youd have to blind as well as stupid to miss it.
"Well, as Stephanie would say, if there is trouble to be found, Ill go out of my way to find it. Although, oddly enough, I havent had to work very hard at it since Ive been here." She grinned and the next words came out of her mouth without any thought behind them. "Maybe I better get out of town before things get worse." She couldnt understand the way her throat closed and her heart clenched as she uttered it, and she was so preoccupied with her own reaction she missed the stricken look on the face of the Sheriff, but J.D. didnt.
The tall woman leaning casually against the office door seemed to slump and for a few seconds she thought her knees would give out. This was the nightmare behind every thought of the smaller woman from the moment they met. She racked her brain frantically to find something to say that would make that idea disappear from the authors thoughts but her fear and agony wouldnt allow any logical thought process through.
Thankfully J.D. came in for the save. "Not a bit of it Miss. Cutter. What would fiction be without conflict? Here you have the perfect opportunity to find story ideas and you dont even have to work at it. Ill bet youre already mapping your next few books out in your mind, huh? I wouldnt be offended if you happened to add in a small town newspaper editor either. I see the character as" he leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling while he visualized, "tall, dark, wise and devastatingly handsome. A part-time lawman and full time hero. A man who works to better his community and bring to light the issues that impact the lives of the citizens for whom he serves. A man ."
His sisters voice cut the air interrupting his lofty ramblings. The words she said however didnt hold in them the gratitude she felt toward him. She knew her brother could feel it even if she didnt say it.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get over yourself J.D. Emily is used to having her books sell.
The author too was grateful for the ready-made excuse he provided to stick around. Even as confused and overwhelmed by her own self-realizations as she was, the last thing she wanted to do was leave.
"I couldnt agree with you more J.D., and please call me Emily. I have at least four new stories running around in my brain and they can all trace their origins to Bramble and the people in it. I have to stick around just to see where my muse will take me." She leaned forward and lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Besides, I promised Id help the Sheriff figure out this little problem. You know these lawyer types have trouble thinking three dimensionally."
He leaned forward as well and matched her low tone. "I know. I blame it on all that Latin. Too regimented. No chance to think creatively."
The author shook her head in agreement. "Exactly! That whole Just the facts maam mentality can really hinder a persons perspective, so I feel thats its, well, my duty, to kind of guide her in the right direction, if you know what I mean."
The editor couldnt help the small grin he was trying to suppress while bantering with the small woman. He saw now a good deal of what his sister must have seen in her. He was impressed with her wit and charm and found himself liking her a lot. Good girl, Emily. You just stick around. I think you two will be good for each other, and Im going to help in any way I can.
"I do Emily. I really do. These legal types just cant seem to loosen up enough to see the possibilities. Why, I remember this one time "
"Alright, alright" The sheriffs voice fairly dripped with disgust, but her smile gave her away. "Thats enough. You "Creative" types," she used both hands to make quotation marks in the air, "can continue your diatribe about us rational types later. Right now I have a case to solve." She opened the door and continued. "Lets go Emily. Lets leave William Randolph Hearst here to his business." She stepped out and listened as her brothers parting shot rang though the building.
"It was great talking to you Emily and if you ever need someone, well, lets say, more well-rounded to talk you, you know where you can find me." He rose and walked her to his office door seeing Harley at the door to the street holding it open for the blonde. In a stage whisper he was sure would carry to the sheriff he said, " Its not really her fault. She was spoiled as a child. You know, Daddys girl?"
Emily giggled and responded in kind. "In that case, Ill cut her some slack." She smiled as she started to walk toward the woman holding the door. Her voice at normal pitch again, she threw over her shoulder, "Great talking to you, J.D. See you later."
As they walked toward the patrol car Harley asked, "So, what did you find out from Rita, Miss Creativity?" She leaned on the front bumper and crossed her arms waiting for the woman standing next to her to respond.
Emily rested her weight on one hip and said. "Nothing, yet."
"Ah ha! All that creativity at your disposal and you get bupkas, eh? Well, never mind, Ill talk to her and well "
"Wait a minute. I said nothing yet. The bait is set and the trap gets sprung tonight at six oclock." The small triumphant smile Emily wore as she spoke made the Sheriff a little nervous.
She cleared her throat and said simply. "Explain."
"Sure, but in the mean time I was wondering if we could go someplace." The smile left her face and a look of trepidation replaced it. Harley had no idea what the reason for it was, only that she wanted it to go away. Now. "What is it Emily. Whats wrong?"
The writer looked at her loafers and took a deep breath. Now that she was here and had to ask for it, she didnt know how. She decided maybe just being honest with the facts would work and went with that.
"I need a place to think for a while." She tilted her head at the sheriff and shyly continued. "A lot has happened to me in the last couple of days and I need some time to sit quietly and think it through. Do you know what I mean? I mean, I just need a little space to put my thoughts in order and think about things."
Yeah I know exactly what you mean. More lately than ever. Ive got to make some time to do that too, and very soon.
"Yeah, I do know, " she said. She tried to think of a good place to leave the writer alone for a while, somewhere quiet and most of all, safe.
"Well, when you feel this way at home, where do you usually go?"
The author laughed deprecatingly as she said. "My living room." She smiled and continued. "I have this great view of the beach from my living room windows and since I live alone I just put a cushion on the floor, put the phone on mute, put in some quiet classical music and do a little meditation. By the time the CD ends I can just open my eyes and stare at the ocean and clear my head." Thinking about it and the equivalent possibilities found in Bramble, produced an image of a large floor to ceiling window facing the woods at Harleys house. It would be perfect, but she knew she could never ask for it.
"How about my house?" The minute she heard Emily describe what she needed she saw the woman seated before the window at her house, facing west as the sun set through the trees.
"Perfect." The word just jumped out of her mouth before she could censor herself. Feeling a little embarrassed by her eagerness, she tried to cover it by more conversation. She reached for the handle on the car as she said, "Great, why dont we drive there and Ill tell you about my talk with Rita and whats happening tonight."
The sheriff nodded and moved to get in the car. As they turned around and headed to Harleys the writer started revealing her plans.
"When I walked into that classroom I realized it was a creative writing class. I assumed that Rita was helping the teacher because she wanted to and not because she had to. Am I right?"
"Yeah. Shes always been one of you creative types and even though shes only fourteen, she takes her last two classes at the high school with Mrs. Johansson because shes so bright, they ran out of things for her to do in the elementary school. She wants to be a writer." The sheriff smiled at her and could see the immediate advantage Emily would have with the girl.
"I thought so. I kind of hit them over the head with my pen name and the rest was pretty easy. After her teacher and I talked for a while we left and I asked her to help me at Stephanies tonight. I told her I needed help moving my things to the guest room and changing the bed linens before Stephanie comes and she agreed to come over at six and help me out. When she gets there, I plan to take it to the next level and use some of her hero worship and a little bribery to get the information."
"Yeah. I caught a clue as soon as I saw her turn around and then when I got a look at her backpack I knew I had my hook. Ill bet shes the middle child, right?"
"Yeah, howd you know?" Harleys respect for the womans insight was clear in her eyes as she spoke.
"She had written a quote by Rufus Choate in magic marker on the front of her back pack." She could see it clearly as she spoke of it, black calligraphy against the bright yellow backpack. "It said, "A book is the only immortality." For someone that young to feel the need to remind herself of that says that she feels the need to standout. Make her mark, so to speak. Its typical of the middle child, and their need to be noticed and distinctive."
Harley was impressed with the womans knowledge of human nature and her ability to read people so quickly. She still wasnt sure what the plan for tonight was though.
"And you are going to use this knowledge, how?"
"Well, she obviously wants to be a writer and being one myself will make her more likely to go out of her way to please me. Its what I would have done at her age. Id have made myself as indispensable as possible hoping to learn everything I could and make that person I idealized my friend, maybe my mentor. However, thats not all I have up my sleeve." Her smile turned a bit evil as she stared through the windshield.
"Okay, what else have you dreamed up in that oh so creative brain of yours?" The dark haired woman was intrigued by that little smile the author wore. I can see now it might be a really bad mistake to misjudge the convolutions of that mind. Note to self: Never underestimate the bard. Second note to self: Try to stay on her good side!
"Well, as I remember myself at that age two things about being fourteen stand clearly forth. One, I was an absolute slave to fashion. Whatever was hot and happening had me by the short hairs. If it was popular, I did it." She laughed a little remembering some of the awful things she wore at that age just because everyone else was wearing it. The image of a younger, shorter, less developed, less confidant self, dressed in spandex shorts on those skinny legs, with the pink tank over the rose T-shirt tied beneath her non-existent bust and that terrible hair assaulted her. The sadist who created hair crimpers should be forced inside a giant one and crimped to death.
"Two, I was addicted to popular music. I carried it with me wherever I went. It was the background to everything I did, including sleeping, and thats where Ill win Rita over. She turned her head and gifted the sheriff with a confidant smile.
"What? Dont tell me youre in a rock band too? I know youre gifted and very smart but I really didnt think your talent extended to electric guitar and lyric writing." The sheriff smirked and lifted her brows inquisitively. "Sing something for me, come on. How about eight bars of Melissas Im the Only One?" The smirk became a grin and the seduction was on again full force. What in the hell am I saying? I just cant seem to stop myself. Well, she seems okay with it, lets see how far I can push it. "Ah, the visual of you up on the stage, Fender in hand, belting out hard candy rock and roll, shaking your head, sweating and grinding your hips whooee, lady." Harley stopped to register Emilys look of shock and decided to let her off the hook. "See. And you thought I couldnt be creative!" She stuck the tip of her tongue out at the younger woman before firmly resuming her watch of the road before her.
"I you " Emilys sputtering came to a halt when she realized she had no clue what to say in response. She was torn in so many directions. She was awed that the sheriff could paint such a picture of her, and even more, that the visual she painted for her seemed to be something the dark woman would like to see. She was reeling from the obvious flirtation and her libido made an appearance out of the blue, and she was angry because no one, NO ONE had ever left her a stuttering speechless mess the way this woman had. Words were what she did. Shed never been left groping for a response and she didnt like the feeling. She felt like an adolescent and she hadnt liked that the first time around. Jesus, what you do to me Harley. I dont know whether Im coming or going with you and the only constant is my need to have you near. I have got to get a hold of myself. Just the thought of the unintentional double entendre made her smile and frown in quick succession. Maybe thats part of the problem. Maybe Ive just been "lonely" too long and Im just reacting to the stimulus of a beautiful woman paying me attention. The frown accompanied the thought that self-abuse with one arm in a cast was going to be difficult and unwieldy. Accepting that this line of thinking was getting her nowhere, she took a quick breath and tried to formulate words into coherent sentences.
"No way. I only do personal appearances one on one." Ha! Take that. And this "Ill just let The Boys take care of her."
The Boys? No matter who they are, I dont like the sound of that. Particularly that she knew whoever they were well enough to call them The Boys. Drat! Having had the bait flung in her teeth, she was left with no recourse but to open her mouth. "Okay, Im all a quiver with anticipation. Now, just who are The Boys?" She couldnt help the disdain that dripped from her voice when mouthing the last two words. Whoever they were, they should get boils on their butts.
"Yeah, The Boys. Kevin, A.J., B-Rok, Nick and Howie D. The Backstreet Boys. She was wearing their T-shirt when I met her. Now as I remember me at that age, I wasnt just a fan of rock and roll groups, I was a fanatic. So this should work out nicely, since they happen to be friends of mine."
The sheriffs rueful smile and nodding head gave instant approval to the authors idea.
"Oh yeah, shes really hot for them. She was close to clinically depressed at the beginning of last month when her folks said she was too young to go see them in concert. They were doing a charity gig in Santa Barbara for one night only and when they told her no, she decided to go live with her big sister in L.A. I found her where Bender turns onto the highway at ten-thirty at night. She was going to hitch a ride." Harley gave a little laugh. "Youre right though. I remember how I felt at that age. There is nothing more foolish than a girl/woman in flux." She blew out a short breath. "All that estrogen and no idea what to do with it. I dont know why my mother just didnt kill me outright. I put that woman through hell."
As much as Emily would have liked to pursue that last remark and find out more about the woman she was so fascinated by, something else the sheriff said had her attention. " So what happened after you found her? Did you just bring her back home?"
"Eventually. We talked for a while and she told me how she felt they were being unfair to her." Harley gave a knowing smile to Emily who nodded back, "Then she told me how all her friends were going." The author groaned at the phrase every teen-age girl in history must have used at one point as the sheriff nodded and said "I know, then I suggested maybe going to see her big sister for a couple of days would be a good idea. She idolizes her, and always has. I figured at least she wouldnt be here to hear about her friends doing what she wasnt allowed to do, and then we went and talked to her Mom and Dad. Next day her sister picked her up for a few days and when she came back, she was fine."
Thats the clincher. Only three possible scenarios will fit. Thank you Harley! "Her sister lives in L.A.?"
"Yeah. She always hated it here. Couldnt wait to leave." Harleys voice was even but the author could tell that she felt sad about it. "She works in some big office for some kind of executive. She hardly ever gets back here and when she does, all she can do is put down small town living and compare it to the fast life style she has in L.A."
Emily held her next question for later as they pulled into Harleys driveway. First things first, if Im going to do this I have to clear my head.
They went inside and Harley showed her where to find her CDs and how to operate her stereo, brought over a couple of large cushions and placed them on the floor in front of the window and told her shed be back at a quarter of five to get her for dinner and then left her alone with her thoughts.
The sheriff didnt drive far, just up the road, around a small copse of trees and then about a quarter of a mile in she stopped and got out. She thought shed take a few minutes to clear her own head and this is where she always came to do that.
The hike up the barely visible trail to the summit of the hill would have been overlooked if you werent specifically looking for one. She took her accustomed seat on the large flat rock over looking the gorge and smaller hill on the opposite side. Just barely visible in the distance was a small plume of smoke from the ancient cabin of the hermit whod lived there for the last eleven years. The sheriff had wondered about him often and tried to garner as much information as she could before her father told her flatly, to drop the issue. "Hes not hurting anybody and some people just need to be alone. Now you give him his privacy and let him be!" If it was anyone else but her father saying that, shed have ignored it, but it wasnt and she agreed, grudgingly, to let the man alone.
Often when she came here though she wondered about him and gave herself over to creating a reason for his seclusion and withdrawal. It was calming, because she never had to verify it or worry if her theory was wrong and by the time she quit her contemplation, whatever was troubling her was reduced to manageability. But not today. Today she needed to really give some thought to how she was feeling and what, if anything to do about it.
Emily. What in the world do I do?
Mozart had just finished and her breathing was almost non-discernable as she sat in the full lotus and tried to allow her thoughts to center. She switched to a different breathing technique and told herself to find the answers. After a few more minutes, she opened her eyes and took a deep cleansing breath, focusing on the light of the sunset in just one spot as it poked through the trees in front of her.
Who are you Emily?
The image of herself as a child before her parents death came to her and alongside that, an image of herself a month ago and one of this morning. She noted the differences in appearance from her childhood to now and let that go. Then she tried to feel the differences in the way she felt and thought.
The first thing that became clear to her was that todays image was much closer emotionally; to the child she used to be, than the person she was a month ago.
The next was that, the feeling of who she was a month ago was much safer than the woman who woke up this morning. Casual and detached were much easier things to be. There was no risk in that.
I guess one answer is that who I am, or who I have been up until now is a fraud.
And WHAT I am mostly is afraid.
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