Beneath The Brambles, Chapter 5

The breakfast was exceptional and the company even more so.  According to Twyla, "Honey, I've lived here for over thirty years and I know all there is to know about everyone within a twenty mile radius.  I can even tell you the brand of deodorant they use... or don't...  and who to avoid on hot days because of it."

They got to a first name basis very quickly and Shasta had to reveal her real name.

"Now I know about how people give odd names to their kids and all, but I'm willing to bet money that Shasta isn't the name you were given at birth, am I right?"

Chagrined, the writer nodded and took a breath.  " I was always kind of hyper active when I was a kid. I was pretty bossy too.  At least I always bossed my sister around. I did everything early.  Talked, walked, whatever.  I was kind of a ..." she cleared her throat and looked down at her cup, clearly uncomfortable, "a prodigy, I guess.  Anyway, for reasons only my subconscious understands, I always seemed to talk to my sister in the third person.  As a result, I was forever saying things to her like, 'She has to play with me, now,' or 'She has to take a nap with me'.  Oddly enough, I could usually remember to be polite about it and add Please and Thank You, but I was such a motor mouth, as Leslie calls it, when I was little, that the words kind of ran together and sounded like 'shehasta'.  The family thought it was cute for some reason and started to refer to me by the phrase and it evolved into Shasta.

When I submitted my first manuscript to Plume Publications, they accepted it right away, but the advertising editor thought my real name.."

"Which is?"

"Oh, yeah.  Emily.  Anyway, he thought it sounded too old fashioned and since they were planning to try to hock me to the public as the modern day Agatha Christie, they wanted something younger and more memorable.  He called my dorm to ask me about it, but I was out and my sister was in.  When he told her what he wanted me for, she gave him the info and he ran with it.  The rest is literary history."

"Well, at least you weren't named after a lawn mower.  My..  " The ringing of the telephone interrupted her.  "Let me get that for you."


"Well hello, honey, how are you doing?"

"Yep, its me. Your friend is right here. She just had a little accident last night and I'm here to help her out a bit.  Here ya go."

Handing the phone to the young woman she said, "Its Stephanie, for you."

"Steph?  Hi ya."

"Hi ya, yourself.  I was just calling to see if you got everything settled in and found your way around."

"Yeah, I did.  Thanks."

"So what is this that Twyla tells me about an accident?"

"Well, I went out last night and ended up trying that restaurant you recommended..  "

"The Ravens Nest?"


"Great, so how did you like it?"

"Oh wow, the food was just fabulous.  Who would have thought I could find food that good in such a small place."

"Well, you know the owner is the only woman chef ever to have worked at Maxim's in Paris.  She was trained and taught at some of the finest culinary arts schools in Milan, Florence, Paris and New York."

"No kidding!"

"Oh yeah.  As a matter of fact she's standing there listening to you talk to me right now."  Even through the phone, Shasta could tell Stephanie was smiling at her.

The writer didn't know if she should feel embarrassed or stupid as she looked to the woman whose back was to her, busily cleaning up their breakfast dishes.

Clearing her throat, she continued, "Thanks for telling me.  I feel like an idiot now."

"Don't.  Twyla is one of the kindest and most unpretentious people you will ever meet." Before the blonde could break in, she went on.  "Now, tell me about this accident."

"Ah..." She knew if she told her everything, shed get one of two reactions.  The first being an I told you so from her publisher who was convinced that she couldn't go a day without getting herself into the middle of some kind of problem, and the second was an overreaction and the command to get back to L.A., where she could get some help with her injuries. She didn't want to go. The publishing house was notorious for taking special care and precautions with their best selling authors, and Shasta was their top money producer.  She knew she would have to hedge a little bit with this explanation.

"I... I got mugged in the parking lot."  She hoped that would be enough.

"You got what?" She could tell that Steph wasn't buying it all the way by the skepticism in her voice. "Details, please."

" I went to the restaurant and passed the bar.  There was a drunk there who tried to pick me up, but I skipped into the dining room and forgot about him.  Evidently, he didn't like the rejection and saw me coming out later.  I guess his feelings were hurt and he kind of... you know, got mad and hit me." She was trying really hard to sound calm and believable about it, but she knew it was a lost cause when she heard the woman's tone.

"Okay, we'll try this again.  What happened, and what aren't you telling me, and how are you? All of it.  In detail.  And this time the unvarnished, unsullied, unfabricated truth." Stephanie let go a long sigh.  "You are now and have been as long as I've known you, the WORST liar in the world.  Don't even attempt it. Even if it isn't an outright lie, you know I can always tell when you're trying to not tell me something. I'm a busy woman Em.  Just the facts please."

She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, sucking in along breath.  She knew she'd never get away with it.  She never had.  Everyone knew.  She was never able to get out of date with a simple I'm sorry, I have plans like her friends did.  And, the worst of them all, had been Stephanie.  She was like some godsdamned sort of bloodhound, the way she could just smell it whenever she wasn't being completely forthright.  In addition, unlike her more polite friends or relatives, she never let it go.  She started to understand that this inability to hide any part of herself, like everyone else, could be part of the reason she turned to writing fiction.  After all, they were just made up stories.  She was, in actuality, telling lies and tall tales about people she never met, doing things she wished she had done. That the stories seemed to sell so well let her know that they were at least believable.  No, the problem lay in her delivery.  Something about her face and tone of voice when she said anything untrue just gave her away.

Knowing it was useless to try to avoid it she summoned all of her sophomore year journalism class know-how and related the 'who, what, why, where, when and how' of the incident last night.

" I've got a few bruises on my face and my ...chest, a swollen eye and a broken wrist.  If I were you, I wouldn't expect me to meet my deadline on time.  Right now just wiggling my fingers hurts like crazy."

"Oh Honey, I'm so sorry.  You just forget the deadline issue and get well.  Hell, one of the reasons your there is to relax and get a little more focused.  Take some time to heal and unwind.  The area is beautiful.  Take some walks, take some naps, go shopping, and meet the people out there.  A finer and friendlier little town, you'll never find.  And listen, I'll be up to see you this weekend to see how you're doing.  You just let Twyla take care of you for a while and if you need anything before I get up there, you know you can call me.  I'm here for you 24-7, do you understand?"

The smile on her face was evident in her voice when she replied. "Oh Steph, you are such a sweetie.  But really, I'll be fine.  You don't have to make a special trip up here."

"Nonsense, I was going to surprise you any way.  But now, I have an idea and I think you'll like it.  I can't tell you about it, I'll have to show you.  Besides, I love it there.  I'll bet you didn't know that I grew up in that house, did you?"

"Wow.  That must have been great.  You can tell me all about it when you get here."

"I will, I promise.  Now let me speak to A..  Twyla again."  She held her breath, hoping the very observant writer would let her get away with her inadvertent slip.

"Okaaay." Steph heard the tone and knew she had a split second to get the writer off the phone before the inquisition began, so she interrupted.

"Listen, I've got another call so I'm kind of in a hurry here..."

"All right.  Bye Steph.  Here's Twyla."  She handed the phone over to the woman who had just resumed her seat at the table and watched her closely.

"Hi dear."

The older woman seemed to listen for a few minutes then responded.  "You know I will.  Can't wait to see you too.  Bye Honey."

Just as Shasta opened her mouth to speak, Twyla said abruptly. "My, the time goes by so fast when you're with good company.  We're expected over at the Sheriff's station in less than an hour so why don't I help you get cleaned up and dressed and then we'll get going."  She stood and pushed the chair in, then came around to help the writer up. She led the injured woman to the bedroom, all the while keeping up a running stream of conversation, picking up where they left off before the phone call.

"As I was saying, my husband now.  He had the most awful habit of naming our kids after whatever thing in his life was giving him the most joy at the time.  That was his only stipulation, you see.  I wanted a lot of children and he was more than willing to oblige, as long as he got to name them.  As a result I have children named after the darndest things..."

The little blonde was so entranced by the whole conversation, she simply forgot what it was she wanted to ask the charming older lady about, and before she knew it, they were pulling into the lot of the Sheriff's station.

"...the last one he named after the boat he just bought. To this day, I don't know how those kids ever got through school without killing one of the kids that teased them about their names.  Oh, they most assuredly had plenty of black eyes and bruises and I was called to come in and get them whenever the teachers witnessed the fight, but I can only be grateful that we never had to pay for any broken bones. Well," she paused and thought for minute, staring out the windshield, "except for that one time.  Of course, that had nothing to do with name calling.  Nope, different matter altogether."
The writer saw the woman's jaw clench and just a hint of remembered anger in her eyes.  The fierceness of it scared her a little and she was sure, right then and there, she never wanted this woman mad at her.

"Well, here we are young one.  Let me just help you out."
Matching the deed to the words, Shasta found herself entering the Sheriff's office.

It wasn't a large place.  The front counter was waist high and sitting behind it was a tall, dark haired man sitting at a desk, working on a laptop. As the door closed behind them, he looked up.

"Hi Mom." He pushed himself away from the desk and using one hand to brace himself, jumped lightly over the counter.  He kissed the smiling older woman on the cheek and then turned to the writer.
"You must be Ms Cutter. I'm Cole and on behalf of the residents of Bramble, I really want to apologize for what happened to you last night.  Why don't you come on over here and sit down and I'll let the Sheriff know you're here."  He led her around the counter to a chair next to the desk he had been sitting behind and asked her if she wanted anything to drink.

"Well, I'll leave you in Coleman's hands and be back by your house later this afternoon to bring you some dinner.  Anything in particular you don't like or can't eat?" Twyla had leaned down and had her hand on the woman's shoulder.  The look on her face was so concerned that Shasta couldn't help but be touched by it.

"Nope. Not allergic to anything that I know of. I've never been partial to lima beans, but that's about all.  But listen, you don't have to go out of your way for me like this.  I'm sure I can manage a frozen pizza or a can of soup. Steph told me that it was your restaurant I had that great dinner in last night and I know that must take a lot of time to manage.  I'll be fine."

"Uh oh.  You've done it now, Ms. Cutter.  We never say the P word around Momma."

"Listen to the boy Emily, he knows what he's talking about.  I do NOT allow the people I care about to make do with frozen pizza!  Now you just listen to me.  Your body has experienced a trauma and you need the right foods to heal.  I'll be back over to your place no later than five and you will eat a decent dinner, understood?"  The look leveled at the younger woman was stern and uncompromising but the underlying current of concern and kindness couldn't be brushed off by Emily's need to fend for herself.  Refusing this woman's hospitality would hurt her, she could tell.  It was the last thing she wanted to do to her new friend.

"Yes ma'am, I understand.  Thank you so much Twyla for everything, and I'll be looking forward to your company later tonight."  She smiled her biggest smile and reached her left hand over to pat the one resting on her shoulder.

The older woman gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze and smiled back.

"Good enough." Turning her attention to the deputy, she said. "Now, I'm headed into to the Nest so what do you and the sheriff want for lunch?"

Heading back to the desk from a small side table, he put down a tray with two cups of coffee, sugar and cream next to the little blonde. "I don't know.  Let me check."  He picked up the phone and punched a number.
"Hi, Mom and Ms. Cutter are here.  Mom's headed to the Nest and wants to know what we want for lunch."  There was a small pause.  "I know, but no matter what I say, the minute you ask for something I'll just change my mind and order that anyway."  He laughed a little at the response and then said. "Okay, will do."

Putting down the receiver he turned back and said, "Make it two Monte Cristo's with fries and of course whatever Ms. Cutter here will be having and I'll be by to pick them up at about one, okay?"

"No problem.  I know you just had breakfast a little while ago Emily so you get Coleman here to tell you what's on the menu around 12:30 and he can just call it in.  Now, I'm out of here.  Have a good day my dear and watch out for Ms. Cutter here."  She reached into her jacket and handed him a bottle of pills.  "Hobie says she's to get these every six hours for pain as needed and she should have something to eat with them and lots to drink."

With that, she turned and left as they all bid each other good byes.

Before the door closed completely and before Shasta could turn back around, she heard the door in front of her open and the Sheriff enter the room.

"Good morning Ms. Cutter.  I hope you're feeling better today."

Instead of the tall dark haired J.D. she expected, she turned to the melodious voice and the stunning presence of the beautiful deputy from last night.  Except now she was wearing the Sheriff's badge.


Harley smiled and understood instantly why the look on that lovely face was so confused.

"It's a little complicated."  She extended her hand and offered it to help her up. "Why don't you come with me and I'll explain it in my office.  Then you can make your statement and I'll tell you what we found out about the man who attacked you. By that time, it should be time for lunch and after that I'll have Cole here, drive you back to your place."

That said, she helped her up, picked up the blondes coffee cup and led her into the office with the word Sheriff clearly delineated on the door.

The stunned writer just nodded and followed along at her side.

Chapter 6

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