Beneath The Brambles, Chapter 31

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Emily had been walking for an hour. Walking and thinking. Walking and stewing.

When Twyla woke her this morning, she’d been mortified. The woman hadn’t said a word about having found her passed out on the toilet, but she hadn’t really needed to. Emily could see the look of disappointment that the woman tried to hide. She knew why, as well. After all, Emily was a guest in her house and she felt that Twyla would never have been so rude as to chastise Emily for her immature behavior. Nonetheless, she could see that the older woman was disssapointed in her. And after that nice, intense little talk she gave me about getting serious with Harley. What she must think of me now. I wonder if she’s changed her mind.

Emily sighed to herself for about the millionth time since she came to full wakefulness today. Could I have screwed up any bigger? She had to smile. Yeah, I could have. She remembered some of her other most embarrassing moments and realized, on the whole, this was a minor incident by comparison. Thank all the gods that at least Harley wasn’t there last night to see her make a fool of myself.

After she hurriedly washed and dressed, she gave Twyla a mumbled but sincere apology. Emily told Twyla she needed some air to clear her head and was going to take a walk for a while. Twyla told her it was a good idea but cautioned her to stay close to the house and be careful. She grabbed her wallet and jacket making sure she had her cigarettes and phone and took off.

She’d been walking toward Bramble and before she realized it, she had tuned on to Bender road. Still trying to get her mind around her actions last night, she wasn’t even aware of where she’d been walking. She stopped suddenly, just across the street from the Burger King to decide where she was going. Ah, damn. Why can’t I even think of a thing without complicating it with subconscious psychological questions? But the deeper question of where she was going remained anyway.

Well, for the surface answer let’s try the diner and get some coffee. I can’t believe I left without any caffeine this morning. This place is getting to me. Maybe I should just get the hell out of here. And once again, the thought of doing just that made her chest ache.

"That’s it. No more soul searching today. No more deep questions. No more intro-damn-spections!" She was aware that she was shouting and glad there didn’t’ seem to be anyone on the street to hear her.

Resolving firmly not to ask herself why it made her chest hurt to think about leaving Bramble or where she was really going in her life or what the fuck she was thinking of getting so toasted last night, she made only one decision, and that was to order the coffee black and hope it was a strong.



Harley was just finishing getting dressed. She noted idly to herself that she needed to get her laundry done. She stretched her long arms over her head and heard the satisfying pops of her vertebrae correcting their alignment.

Today, she felt pretty good. The board meeting last night had been interesting and productive. Dad and Wilson did a great job sewing up that fiber optics contract. It’s gonna be a big money maker for the family and all the people in the company. Can’t wait to get that profit sharing check this year!

After the meeting and dessert with her siblings, she was able to get out of the house without any more personal inquiries from her siblings or their wives. Even though nobody said anything, she was aware that they were aware of her feelings for the new tourist in town. She was grateful that at least her brother’s wives had the tact to restrain the guys from what would have surely been an all out inquisition.

She made it back to the station and after clearing her desk, she stripped down to her underwear and did enough sits ups, push ups and squats to make her pleasantly sore this morning and tire her out enough to sleep like a baby last night.

Well, if nothing else, by the time Emily leaves I’ll be in better shape than I’ve been since the Navy. She tried to ignore that catch in her breathing that came when she thought of the small woman gone from Bramble.

She took in a deep cleansing breath and pulled her long ponytail up and into a bun at the base of her neck. She grabbed her heavy brown leather jacket and her hat and headed back to the station.

She’d check in with Cole and then be off to UCLA to meet with Livie and hope that Polly was awake and could be questioned.

It was either serendipity or just damned bad luck that as soon as she turned the corner onto Bender, she had to slam on the brakes to avoid running into, or more correctly, over, Emily Cutter.

Emily’s first hint that she was in danger came from the screech of brakes and the gripping of the tires on the asphalt. As expected, it startled her and she realized what almost happened, a split second later she recognized the car and the woman hurriedly exiting it.

Aw, shit! That’s all I need! Her head was still pounding from her hangover and her nerves were still shot. She was just too tired and cranky and pissed at herself not to react badly to the whole thing.

"What in the hell did you think you were doing?" Emily screamed.

"What was I doing? What were you doing? You can’t just walk out in the middle of the damned street and not expect to run the risk of being road kill. What’s wrong with you?

"Me? I wasn’t the one who came barreling around the corner at a hundred miles an hour!"

"No, you were just the one walking across the middle of the street. I should haul your ass in for jaywalking, loitering and being a public safety hazard." Harley had no idea where all this venom she was spewing came from. All she knew was that the woman in front of her could have been killed and it would have been on her head. She couldn’t even begin to deal with that and as a result, she just started venting. It wasn’t at all what she wanted to say, or do. She wanted to grab the woman to her and hold her until the pounding of her heart slowed to normal again and she wanted to tell her to be careful and not to risk herself foolishly again, but all she could do was yell at her.

The minute Harley realized who she nearly hit, her throat closed and her eyes filled and she had to swallow hard to keep from vomiting, but by the time she made it to the front of her car, Emily was yelling at her. Then for some strange reason, she couldn’t help but yell back.

"Oh, I see it now. It finally shows its head, that small town emperor syndrome. Just because you’ve got the badge and the power, doesn’t mean you can do no wrong. I guess if you want to break the law around here all you have to do is be a Ravensdown, is that it? Not even in your cop car are you? No lights, no siren! I guess everyone here knows whom not to mess with. Talk about abusing your position. It’s as they say, isn’t it? Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Emily couldn’t even recognize herself. She knew it was her voice; she just had no recollection of thinking the words she was saying. It was though someone else owned her mouth.

The writer was staring intently at the sheriff and watched in amazement as, for the briefest moment, the look on the taller woman’s face went from rage to a hurt so profound it caused Emily’s heart to stop. Then it was gone, and so was the look of anger. A look of absolute indifference replaced it, and Emily realized then, she must have said the one thing that made the woman she was so crazy about, dismiss her completely.

She wanted to take it back. She wanted to take back the whole stupid thing and rewind her life until she once again saw who drove the car that nearly ran her down. Emily wanted a do-over more this moment than any other time in her whole selfish, supercilious, superficial life and she knew she wasn’t going to get one. She was struggling to find the words to express this to Harley when the sheriff spoke.

"Try to cross at the corner or a crosswalk next time, Ms. Cutter. I’d hate to see anything happen to you. Excuse me." Harley said, softly.

Then she was back in her car and carefully driving around the writer who still blocked the road.

Emily pivoted, following the car’s progress down the road and found herself weeping like a baby and feeling absolutely lost.


Harley held herself in check until after her brief visit to the office and then, halfway to the highway she had to pull over. She was shaking so hard her vision was blurred.

‘Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.’ The same words he’d said when they led him away after the court martial. It was his excuse…his only rationale for what he’d done to her, to them. As if he wasn’t responsible. As if the command he’d been given was to blame for the choices he made.

That Emily could think that of hercould say that to her. Not that the woman had any knowledge of what the words would mean to her, but the way she said them. The poisonous way she flung them out at her.

I guess that makes it easier, in a way. I really don’t know her very well and this just proves it. I was probably just pretending she was… I’ve just been lonely too long. Maybe I need to do something about that.

Then she thought of her life before Emily Cutter fell into it. A smile gained purchase as she realized going to L.A. for a few hours might allow her to regain a bit of her self. Might allow her to stop for a second and try to get over this obsession she had for the small writer. She checked her address book on her cell phone and smiled when she saw she’d had the foresight to save the number in her phone.

She quickly hit the button to dial and her grin gained another layer as she heard it answered.

"Hi. I’m glad I caught you."

The voice on the other end expressed its pleasure at being caught.

"Say, if you aren’t busy, I’m coming into L.A. in a couple of hours. As a matter of fact I’m on my way in now, and I was wondering if you might be free for a few hours later. I was hoping I could take you to dinner, if it’s not too short a notice."

After only a second’s hesitation the woman answered that she would love it. Not that Harley had any doubts. Harley wasn’t quite as vain as this attitude would suggest, but the beautiful woman she was speaking to had made it abundantly clear that she was more than willing to see Harley anytime she was available.


"Great. Why don’t I give you a call as soon as I finish my business and we can set up a time and a place to meet?"

After her affirmative response, Harley replied.

"Good. Talk to you later, Gabrielle."

She continued to smile as she put the Ford in gear. Hmn, Gabrielle. I’ve always liked that name.


Emily stood there just watching Harley’s SUV drive away and crying silently, until she heard someone driving a car up behind her. This time she paid attention and moved quickly to the other side of the street before it reached her.

She found herself in front of the diner and went in. Before she took a seat she rushed to the ladies room and, glad beyond belief it was just a single restroom, locked the door.

Over and over again the writer asked herself why she‘d said what she did to Harley. Why she was determined to ruin her own chances with the woman. She stood at the sink, running the water and staring at her reflection in the mirror. For just a minute Emily didn’t recognize the person staring back at her.

She took a deep breath and realized she’d better sort herself out before she alienated anyone else. After all, so far today I’ve disappointed my hostess and hurt my… What was Harley to her? I don’t know, but I want her to be something. Maybe I need a shrink. She was pretty sure in her tours around town she’d never seen the shingle for a psychiatrist. They probably don’t need one. Everyone around here is so happy and well adjusted; they have no need for a shrink. It’s only us out-of-towners who get crazy, I guess.

Since the first idea didn’t work, she started to think about whom to talk to about this. It had to be someone who knew her and it had to be someone who knew these people. Then it came to her.

She washed her face in the cold water from the tap. Then searched for the paper towel dispenser. That’s when she really noticed the bathroom. It was pink and pale green. There were pictures in gold frames on the wall of peaceful landscapes and waterfalls. It had a throw rug on the floor and real flowers in a bronze vase on the toilet tank. The soap was in a pink dispenser and hanging on the wall next to it, was a towel rack with several pink folded paper guest towels over it. The whole room was so dear it was almost nauseating, but she couldn’t help but smile at it anyway. It was just so Brambles!

She kept the smile on as she took a seat at a table and waited just a moment for the young waitress, who if memory served, must be Ruthie Butler, Sadie Rimshaw’s friend, to serve her.

The thought made her sad. She wanted to know this young woman and all the other people Harley and Twyla had told her about. She didn’t want to be unwelcome here. She wanted to be a part of this and now she may be banished from it.

She closed her eyes and willed the tears away as she smiled weakly and asked for coffee. Ruthie smiled back and returned with it in moments.

"Anything else I can get you today?" She was cute, this young woman, small with light brown eyes and hair, cut just to her chin.

Emily wanted to say she needed help but of course she didn’t. Instead she asked if she had any pain reliever’s for a headache.

Ruthie scooted off and came back to the table with a small bottle of acetaminophen.

"You know, we’re not supposed to do this. It could be considered dispensing medicine with out a license, but I don’t think you’ll turn us in and you look like you’re hurting."

Emily smiled back and once again was on the verge of crying. She doesn’t even know me and she wants to make it better. Jesus, where have I been living that the people I know don’t even make a pretense of caring for each other!

"Nope, I promise I won’t turn you in. Thanks very much for the pills. Maybe I could have an English muffin, if you would?"

Ruthie smiled and took back the bottle closing the lid. "Sure. Coming right up."

Emily sipped her coffee. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as Twyla’s but it was fresh and strong. She took another sip then opened her phone. She had only one person she could call for help. She only hoped her own abysmal behavior hadn’t blocked this avenue for her.

She waited for the phone to be answered and when on the third ring it was, she inhaled deeply and spoke. "Hey, Stephanie, it’s me, Emily. I need to talk to someone and I don’t have anywhere else to turn?"

"Emily are you in trouble? What’s wrong?" Stephanie sounded so agitated that Emily was quick to reassure her.

"I’m fine. I’m all right. Well, I’m not all right but I’m not in trouble I just did something and I think I shouldn’t have. Wait, I know I shouldn’t have but I don’t really know what it was I did and I don’t know why I did it."

Stephanie took a few seconds to try to figure that out. "Okay. You’ve lost me. Maybe you should start at the beginning."

"Uhm, okay, but that could take a while. When will you be free today? I could call back then or are you booked all day?"

"Wh…Oh. I see. Emily I’m not at the office, I’m still in Brambles."


"I decided to take another day or two and just had all my calls forwarded to my cell. Where are you? I’ll come get you and we’ll talk."

"Oh, no. I don’t want to take any of your time away from Savvy. We can talk some other ti…"

"Stop. She’s not here. She had to go back to UCLA. She has a pop quiz scheduled for this afternoon and it gives her too much pure fun to miss torturing her poor students. She’s driving back up tonight and we’ll drive back down tomorrow night."

"Well, okay, then. Listen. I just ordered something at the diner in town and as soon as I’ve eaten I’ll head on over to your place."

"I can come get you. Savvy took the Mercedes but there’s this hot little red Jag sitting in my driveway that I could always use…"

"NO! No you don’t! Not my baby. If I can’t drive it, no one else can either."

Stephanie could almost see the pout come over Emily’s face as she spoke the words. She was going to suggest the sheriff’s taxi service when Emily cut in.

"I need to walk a bit to clear my head and put in to order what I want to say. Just don’t go anywhere and I promise to be there in less than an hour."

Steph agreed and after hanging up, her muffin arrived. She thanked Ruthie and dug in, determined to find a way out of the mess she’d blundered into…with Stephanie’s help, she hoped.

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