First off, a song of hope.
I haven’t done a serial in so long that I think I may have forgotten how to write one. This one has its unfortunate inspiration from the storm brewing off the coast of the eastern US. As always, I welcome your input. If you have suggestions or criticisms, tell me (you know, as long as they’re about the story) ;). Thanks. And, if I’m a bit rusty, please forgive me. 🙂
Is This Hotel California or Margaritaville?
I park the car. It was a long haul from home, bumper to bumper, with Rufus sitting in the front seat panting most of the way while we listened to a playlist of beach songs just because. Because the beach is my home. Because the beach is my blood. Because I might lose my beach.
The sky has been steel-gray for about five days now and I think I may have forgotten what the sunshine looks like. But Rufus reaches over, licks my cheek, and makes me realize that it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re together and safe, that’s what’s important.
I grab my purse and climb from the car, my body unhappy about so many hours behind the wheel. Rufus bounds over the console and outside, his tail wagging. This is all just one big adventure for him. I’m lucky to have a dog who has seen the worst and is happy for all the good things and even some of the not good things, like this hurricane evacuation.
I check the address again on my phone. This looks like an abandoned warehouse. I’ve heard of people doing scams during disasters but could someone really be that mean?
Knocking on the door, I wait. I could swear I hear what sounds like a band playing “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm?”. Really?
The door swings wide and a big bearded guy in a wife-beater with intricate tattoo sleeves grimaces at me. He looks like a biker dude with a really bad hangover.
“Yeah?” he asks.
“My cousin, Mandy, said I should come here. That you all are taking people evacuating from OBX?”
He stares at my face. “Mandy, huh?”
I nod while thinking that maybe I should just reconsider. My credit card is clean. I could stay in a hotel.
“You’re Waffle Butt?”
My cheeks glow red and I feel myself cringing. Oh. My. Freaking. Goat. Mandy has just been disowned as my cousin.
He grins. “It’s all good. Sitting in waffles is better than sitting in a lot of other things. Take that from personal experience.”
“Nice dog. What is she?”
“He’s an English Shepherd. Rufus.”
He gently pats Rufus on the head and Rufus sighs like he’s just made his new best friend. “I’m Lyle, by the way.”
As I walk into the warehouse, I realize immediately that it isn’t what I was expecting. It looks like, well frankly I don’t know what it looks like. There’s a built-in pool with changing LED lights and fish. There’s what looks like a bar where a half-dozen people are sitting watching the hurricane news on the TV despite the band that is actually playing cover tunes in the corner. And then Lyle leads me to a corridor which looks a lot like the dormitory for disruptive juveniles. In a previous life I would have been right at home.
“You’re in number 16. Sorry, but you have to share a bathroom with 14 and 15.”
“Not a problem. Thanks so much.”
“Dinner is at 6:30 and then we have social hour. You don’t have to join, but we’re a fun group. You might enjoy yourself.”
I nod, taking the key he’s offered. “Thanks again.” Social hour? I feel a little like I’ve entered part Hotel California and part Margaritaville and am desperately hoping it’s more of the latter. Who are these people? But if they’re friends of Mandy’s they can’t be all bad. Right? I mean. Hopefully?
Returning to the parking lot, I look to the east and imagine the storm with its voracious appetite building off the coast of my home. I shiver despite the hot humidity. I grab my bags and Rufus’ necessities. That’s when I see the Sheriff in his tan uniform walking a very familiar walk across the parking lot to his cruiser because I saw that walk for the most important three years of my life. The best three years of my life. He hasn’t seen me and all I can think is that time has been very, very kind to Steve Nielson. And I can’t decide if I hate him or love him for it.
≡≡≡to be continued≡≡≡
FYI for future installments this will be under the category Don’t Worry Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright