Solitary Sky ~ Chapter 3

Chapter 3 is finally up, but I had some formatting errors...the font becomes a little bigger after the beginning.  I tried to fix it, but it was beyond my HTML capabilities. ;o)  Please try to enjoy anyway. 

Sunlight streaming through the window woke me earlier than usual on a Saturday morning.I blinked my eyes until the room came into focus and I remembered where I was.The warm smell of fresh coffee and Gram's banana nut muffins filled my room, tempting me out of bed.I followed it downstairs to find Gram scurrying around the kitchen in her silky blue pajamas and matching robe.

     "Good Morning, roomie!"  She waved a potholder-covered hand and flipped steaming muffins from the pan out onto a plate, setting them next to the other plates of food lined up across the bar.

     "Morning," I said. "What’s all this?"

    "Well, I didn't want to wake you to ask what you wanted, so I made a multiple choice breakfast—scrambled eggs, veggie sausage, hash browns, and banana nut muffins."

     "Um…wow,” I said, rubbing my eyes.  “I’ll have a little of each.”

     "Take as much as you want, I already ate."

     "Gram, this is really great, but you didn't have to cook for me.  I can fend for myself."

     "I know, but I don’t get to make breakfast for anyone but myself…sometimes the dogs," she said, filling my glass with orange juice. “Thought I’d make your first morning special.”

     "Okay, but from now on I’ll make my own, or have whatever you made for yourself.  No going out of your way."

     "Sure, sweetie.” She winked, handing me a plate.

     I piled some eggs, a spoonful of hash browns, a link of veggie sausage, and one muffin onto my plate and carried it to the bench table in the dining room.  I ate slowly, basking in the morning sun that poured through the large picture window while Gram darted around the room looking under couch cushions and rummaging through the bookshelves.

     "What are you looking for?" I asked.

     "My appointment book," she said, "I always keep it in my purse but it's not there."

     "I didn’t think you psychics ever lost stuff."

     "Lilah Claire! I am not a psychic—I am an animal communicator. You know the difference."

     "Of course I do," I said.  “Just wanted to make sure you were still sensitive about it.”

     "Ha-ha. Now how about gettin’ off your butt and helping me find the blessed thing."

     "Have you checked the minivan?"

     "Not yet," she said, tightening the belt on her robe and slipping on her shoes, "but I swear I brought it in with me after that emergency call last night.”

     "It’s probably still out there."

     "Hope you’re right," she said on her way out the door.

     I smiled to myself and finished off my eggs.  Outside I heard the dogs barking and getting all excited like they always do when they think they’re going for a ride.  Less than a minute later Gram walked back through the door with her appointment book in hand.

     “I knew it,” I said, satisfied with myself as I carried my plate to the sink.

     "Now who's the psychic?" she teased.

      Gram asked me to go with her on the appointments she had lined up for the afternoon.  I knew I’d have enough time to unpack and spend the day with her before going out with Val tonight, so I said yes.
     I was eight-years-old the first time she brought me along, after years of begging.  She let me gently pet the animals while she “talked” to them.  It was a magical experience seeing her connection with the animals. Back then I was convinced she had super powers. As I got older I just thought she had really good intuition, but the family “gift” she told me about yesterday was something entirely different—like a supernatural gene passed down through the generations.  I still had a hard time believing Gramma Saqui’s stories could be true, but between Gram’s gift and my own visions, my wall of doubt was crumbling fast.

     Our first appointment was with Tracy, a teacher at the elementary school.  Her three month old kitten, Rocky, was having trouble eating.
     "We took him to the vet and they ran all kinds of tests, but they can’t find anything wrong with him," said Tracy with a concerned frown. “I don’t know what to do—he still won’t eat.”
     “The problem likely isn’t medical,” said Gram, putting one arm around her shoulder and giving a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t worry, hon, we’ll find out what the problem is.”
     Tracy and I stood in the kitchen and observed quietly as Gram scooped Rocky up and sat down on the couch, gently scratching his head and closing her eyes.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was literally taking a cat nap, but that was how it worked.  Her communication with animals wasn’t about any kind of verbal back-and-forth.  She’d relax her body and clear her mind, waiting for them to send her a “message”.  Sometimes the messages would come in the form of pictures or emotions. Sometimes they were sensory.  Once she came home and rinsed with mouthwash ten times after the client’s dog “told” her he’d been sneaking treats out of the litter box.
     "Did you change Rocky’s diet recently?"  asked Gram.
     Tracy nodded her head. "I bought him the inexpensive food at first, but thought he might like the kind the vet recommends better."
     "Go back to the cheap stuff—he loves it."
     “I might still have some,” said Tracy, running to the pantry.  She emptied what was left of the old cat food into Rocky’s bowl.  He heard the food hit the bowl and sauntered into the kitchen, eying us and the food suspiciously.  He crept up and sniffed the ocean fish flavored kibble, then dug his nose in hungrily, taking crunchy little kitten bites. 
     Tracy broke into a huge smile, her eyes misting up, and hugged Gram hard. "Thank you so much, Audrey—you are amazing!" she gushed, turning to hug me, too.  "And it was nice having you here, Lilah—thank you.”
     “You’re welcome,” I said, though I hadn’t done anything but watch.
     We said goodbye to Tracy and Rocky and headed back out to the minivan.
      “Are you feelin’ OK?” asked Gram once we were inside.
      “Yeah, why?”
      “You’ve been kinda quiet this morning.”
      I yanked the seatbelt over my shoulder and latched it, staring at my lap a few seconds before responding.  “Last night…I had another one.”
      “Another vision?”
      I nodded my head. “It was Val this time.  She was with Jason.”
      “Oh, no—not that again.  What is she thinking?”
      “She says she hasn’t talked to him.”
“Yeah, well you better keep an eye out. She’s got a weakness for that scumbag.”“I’m here to make sure she stays away from him.  He will never hurt her again.”

     Gram and I saw two more clients that afternoon—one spray-happy Tabby cat and a Chihuahua with a mean streak.  The cat was a quick fix, but the Chihuahua took most of the day.  Little Sophie had recently been adopted from a rescue.  Her owner, Kathy, told us she was sweet and shy most of the time, but if anyone came near while she was holding her, Sophie would turn into a vicious, spitting mess.
     When we got to Kathy’s house, Gram asked her to leave the room so she could work one-on-one with Sophie, reassuring her that it was absolutely necessary.  I followed Kathy into the kitchen where she fixed us a sandwich and iced tea.  She took full advantage of a captive audience, rambling on about her daughter’s brand new baby and worthless husband.  I listened intently and gave a few sympathetic responses.  The woman was clearly in need of some human conversation.
     Nearly two hours later, Gram called us back to the living room.
     “Sophie had a lot to say.” Gram still held the sleeping Chihuahua in her lap.  “She had a rough go in her previous home.  She loved her owner dearly, but the owner's husband physically abused her while she was holding Sophie.”
     “Oh, that’s terrible!” gasped Kathy.
     “It made Sophie feel very angry and protective, so she lashed out at the husband every time he came near,” Gram continued. “Eventually she was lashing out at everyone—all because she wanted to protect someone she loved, the poor thing.”
     Gram suggested several more sessions to help Sophie understand that she's in a safe place now.  Another abundantly thankful client, more hugs and tears, and we were done with Gram’s clients for the day.  I looked down at my watch.
     Maybe I'd get lucky and Val would be running late—or better yet, she'd call and cancel altogether.

     "She's here!"  Gram yelled from downstairs.
     I was just slipping into my shoes and grabbing my purse and overnight bag when I heard her car pull in the drive and start beeping.  I flew down the stairs and gave Gram a quick kiss on the cheek on my way out the door.
     "Bye, girls—have a good time," she called from the door.
     I waved and blew one more kiss before jumping into the passenger seat and slamming the door.

     We drove eighteen miles to Selinasville and pulled into a parking lot right off the side of the road with a huge sign in the front that said, "Dusky's Detour".  It was an old, crumbling brick building that had been a gas station before the highway project came through and rerouted traffic.  Dusky lost a lot of business and almost went bankrupt until he came up with the idea of turning it into a bar.  Now beer flows from the pumps instead of gas, there's live music every weekend, and Dusky's is busier than ever.  It was so packed we had to park way out in the grass and make the hike back up to the door.
     I was a little uncomfortable using Val’s sister’s friend’s fake ID—not that I was worried about getting in trouble.  It was more my family history with fake IDs…and bars.  I tried not to think about it as we neared the entrance.  The bouncer snatched up both of our IDs at once with his big beefy hands and held them up to his flashlight.  He looked between us and the IDs a few times, then handed them back.
     "You ladies enjoy your evenin’," he said with a gold-toothed smile and a look in his eyes that made me squirm.  We smiled nervously and pushed past him into the lobby.
     "Eww, what a creeper," said Val, "but, hey—we got in!"
     We wove our way through the crowd toward the bar.
     “I’m getting a beer, what do you want?” asked Val.
     “Just get me a soda water and lime.”
     “You sure?”
     I nodded and Val flagged down the bartender.
     "Let’s sit as close to the stage as possible," she shouted into my ear as she handed me my drink.  We moved to the "garage" area where the band was setting up.  On the way, some stumbling drunk girls behind me shoved up against my shoulder, causing my drink to splash all over the guy in front of me.
     "What the f—" he said, whipping around.
     "Sorry, they pushed me," I said, pointing to the drunk girls.
     "No, no…it's okay," he said, his expression softening, "Hey, my name’s Kyle, lemme buy you another drink.”
     “You don’t have to—“
     He leaned his face in close to mine, his breath reeking of alcohol and words slurring as he snaked his hand around my back.  “Your drink is almost gone now—it’s the least I can do, right?"
     "No, really," I said, removing his hand. “I’m good.”
     “Mmm, yeah I bet you are,” he mumbled into my ear, and revulsion rolled through my stomach.
I quickly turned to Val and nudged her to go, not bothering to look back for his reaction.  We dodged through the crowd, hoping he wasn’t following us, until we found the lounge area.
     “Did we lose him?” asked Val.
     “I think so,” I said, looking back.  “Let’s hang out here a few minutes just in case.”
     The lounge was in the back of Dusky’s, behind the bar and set far from the live music.  A row of six low-backed booths lined the far wall and small tables were scattered everywhere else.  It was a quieter atmosphere with soft lighting and a slight haze in the air from all the people stopping in for a smoke and some drunken conversation.
     We scooted into an empty booth in the back and almost immediately, Val got a text from her sister. While she texted back, I played with my straw and scanned the room, noting the random things they decided to hang up on the walls after the renovation: old tires with Christmas lights strung over them, long-expired license plates from nearly every state, and a poster-sized picture of a hot air balloon race that someone had autographed.  Plastered along the entire back wall above us was a collection of old pin-up calendars, some dating back to the early fifties.  I searched through the crowd for our stalker, but only found a room full of random faces talking too loud, laughing too much, and trying way too hard…except him.
     He was alone in the corner booth at the other end, looking down at a pile of papers on the table and mindlessly turning a beer bottle in his hand.  Despite the low lighting and smoky haze, I could see the silvery highlights shining in his dark, careless hair and my heart launched into my throat.
     It’s him…
     I wrestled with the urge to run away and the curiosity of wanting to go ask his name.  Instead I sat staring like a preteen with a crush, but I couldn’t stop.  Then, as if he could feel my eyes on him, he lifted his head and looked directly at me, sending my insides into a full-on panic.
     "Hello?  Lilah…did you hear me?" Val's voice snapped me out of it.
     “No, sorry…what?”
     "I said let's go get a table, they're about to start."
     “Okay, I’m coming,” I said, taking a long, deep breath before scooting out of the booth and following her out of the lounge.  On the way I turned to sneak one last look at the guy in the corner, but he was gone.
     We wandered through the packed garage several times but couldn’t find an open table. 
     “Where are we gonna sit?” asked Val. “I don’t wanna stand in the back of the room…this sucks!”
     “There.” I pointed to a small empty table off to the side of the stage where two inebriated guys left to join a group of friends at another table.  Val and I rushed over just as the lights went down, but the table next to it stole the chairs before we got there.
     “Screw it, we’ll just stand here!” Val stood in front the table and raised her hands over her head, yelling and clapping as Modern Myth took the stage.  They played though a few songs and Val went through a few more beers.  She screamed and waved at the lead singer, singing along through every song.  The singer paid a lot of attention to her, even signing an autograph and snapping a picture with her during their break.  By the end of the second set, she was about to burst.
     "I can't hold it anymore, I gotta go!” she said as she ran off toward the bathrooms, motioning for me to follow.  She busted through the bathroom door, throwing her purse back to me as she hurried into the first open stall.
     “Oh, sh—the lock’s broken!” she shouted.
     “I’ll hold it for you.”
     “Thanks, Li-lah.”
     “Sure thing, V.”
     After a quick wash and the required amount of primping, we exited the bathroom.  He was standing right outside the door—like he’d been waiting for us. 
     "Heeey…there you are," said Kyle, slurring even worse now.  "What about that drink?"
     He flung his arm around my neck, pulling me closer to him and his 90 proof breath.
     "I’ll get one for your cute little friend too."
     "No," I said, unwrapping myself from him.  "We're leaving."
     "Where’re we going?" he asked with a droopy-eyed grin.
     Val rolled her eyes and held her tiny hand up in his face.  "Hey, Stalker-dude?  We're leaving now and you’re not—get it?"  She bulldozed past him and headed to the door with me right behind her. We ran out to the parking lot, trying to put as much distance between us and him as possible.  We kept running until we were sure he wasn’t following us.  Val shuffled along with her arm hooked in mine and talked nonstop as I nodded my head and pretended to listen.
     "That was awesome!"  she said way too loud.  "It was literally the best night of my life. Modern Myth rocks so hard…I love them!"
     "They love you, too," I teased.
     "You think so?  This does say, 'Love, Marco'."
     She read the note he scrawled on a bar napkin aloud over and over the rest of the way back to the car.
     "Give me your keys, Val.”
     She tossed them in my direction but overshot by several feet, landing them in the grass. I went over and bent down to get them. When I stood back up, Stalker Kyle was standing next to the car.
     "Crap," I muttered to myself, reluctantly walking back.
     "You girls are fast," he said. "You almost lost me."
     "That was the idea,"  said Val.
     “We’re going home,” I said for what seemed like the hundredth time.
     "Whoa, wait," he said, creeping closer to me.  “You girls shouldn't be all alone.  I’ll go with you."
     "You wish," Val scoffed.
     "Look, Kyle, we said no—so back off!"  I yelled at him, hoping I sounded forceful in spite of the panic taking hold of me.  I unlocked the door and grabbed the handle to jump in, but froze as I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I whirled around ready to scream, but it caught in my throat.  He was standing next to me.  The lips that had kissed mine with so much passion in my vision were real, and close enough to make that kiss happen.  I tried to speak, but a wave of white hot heat washed through me, sucking all the air from my lungs.  All I could do was stare into his eyes again—up close this time where I noticed they were a deep shade of grey, like the night sky lit by a full moon. My eyes traced down the slope of his nose to his slightly-parted lips curved into a smile that only made my blood course warmer through my body.
     "Ready to go?" he asked casually.
     "I...uh," I stammered as my breath partially returned.
     "Yeah, let's go," said Val.
     I shot her a puzzled look.
     He nodded at me and sidled up to Stalker Kyle.
     "I don’t know if you’re too drunk or too stupid to know these girls want nothing to do with you, but you need to walk away...now,” he growled.
     "Who the hell are you?" snapped Kyle.
     “I don’t think you heard me.”
     He moved inches from Kyle’s face and mumbled something too low for us to make out.  Kyle stumbled backwards as if he'd been pushed and walked off without saying another word.
     "Sorry.”  He turned back to us, his voice softening.  "I didn't mean to startle you.  Seemed like you were having a hard time getting rid of that guy."
     "Thanks." I said barely above a whisper.
     “Yeah, you totally saved us,” said Val.  “He followed us around all night.  He would not go away.  I mean, maybe he’s a nice guy who was just like really, really drunk, but I don’t think so.  He could be a rapist, or murderer. I don’t even wanna think about what he was planning to do to us!  Guess we’re lucky you found us—unless you’re a killer-rapist, too.”
     “Val!” I said, mortified.
     “Just sayin’.”
     “It’s OK,” he said. “I’m not a killer…or a rapist.”
     Val and I smiled at him and each other, launching us all into an awkward silence.  I glanced over his shoulder into the parking lot watching people gather and cars drive off into the night, but I could feel his eyes only on me.  I wanted to just tell him goodnight and get the hell out of there, but another part of me wanted to find out who he was, where he came from—and why is he here?
     "So what’s your name?” asked Val.
     “I’m Hunter,” he said, shifting his eyes to her.
     “Hi, Hunter. I’m Val and that’s Lilah.”  She pointed at me over the roof of the Bug.
     “Lilah,” he echoed, the sound of my name from his lips sending ripples through my stomach.
     “You look kinda familiar,” said Val.
     “I just moved here. My brother opened a book store in Gentian.”
     “The one downtown?  That’s where I know you from.  I went there with my mom the day you guys opened. You helped her find a book on pottery—her latest thing.”
     “Yeah, that was probably me.”
     “So, are you a senior?” she asked.
     “A senior what?”
     “At Gentian High?”
     “Oh, I—uh already graduated.”
     I stood quietly, hearing their conversation, but nothing was sinking in.  My mind was scrambled.
     What is wrong with me?
     I didn’t want him to think I was some weird girl who never talks, but the harder I tried to find the right words, the harder it was to get them out.  So I smiled and nodded, trying not to stare at his lips as he spoke.
     “We’re headed back to Gentian, do you need a ride?” said Val.
     “My car’s right over there.”  He gestured to a small, silver convertible across the lot.
     “Okay, then.”  Val opened up the passenger side door.  “Maybe we’ll see you around.”
     “Maybe,” he said, looking back at me.
     “It’s a small town,” she said, getting in. “Trust me, we will.”
     He opened my door and motioned me into the driver’s seat.  “Goodbye, Lilah…Val.”
     “Bye.” I smiled and Val waved.
     He closed the door and backed away as I started up the engine.  I laid my foot down heavy on the gas and we lurched into motion.  I guided Val’s car through the crowded parking lot toward the exit, but couldn’t stop my disobeying eyes from drifting up to the rear view mirror.  Hunter was already in his car, sitting with headlights on, but not moving.  I got my eyes back on the road and tried not to think about it—about him as I pulled out of Dusky’s.
     “What is with you?” asked Val once we were down the road.
     “Nothing,” I said, trying to make it true.
     “C’mon, Lilah, you didn’t take your eyes off Hunter and you said maybe two words to him.”
     “So what?  That Kyle guy got me all weirded out, then Hunter showed up out of nowhere and—”
     "Came to your rescue like a knight in shining armor?" she said with her hands clasped together at her shoulder.
     "I think I just tasted vomit."
     “Deny it all you want, L, but you’re crushing on him.”
     “You are.”  She sang the words like a song.
     “Just drop it, Val!”  I yelled and she looked hurt, but that was probably more the fault of the alcohol than me lashing out at her.  She stayed quiet the rest of the way and I kept my focus on the road.  I was angry, but not at her.  I was ashamed at myself for letting Hunter have such an effect on me.  I got overwhelmed by the way he made me feel even though my vision had given me warning. 
     And I was terrified thinking that Val might be right.


Thanks for reading...and please comment. ;o)



  1. loved this chapter! can't wait to read the rest. is it too late to tell you I found a typo? it's this sentence right here. " I smiled to myself and took the last finished off my eggs." it didn't quite make sense. but other than that, I'm just really excited to get to know Hunter.

  2. Hey, Marilyn! I can't wait for you to read the rest, too! ;o) Thanks for finding that little editing oops...I will fix that! =)
    I think you'll like Hunter...I do! ;o)

  3. I really like Hunter. A lot. Intriguing chapter. I wonder what will happen between Val and Jason. I left a "Liebster" award for you at my blog, if you're interested. Doralynn

  4. Hey, Doralynn! =)
    Thank you so much for reading...I appreciate your comments! Wow, I've never received any kind of blog award before...thanks for being my first...and for following! ;o) xoxox