Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Invisible Support Group

Over the last nine years, so much of what I write has to do with the loss of a good friend. There are days where I find that I don't think of him at all, then there are days, like today, that he is in my every thought.

I had a dream last night. In this dream, I was back in Virginia, and I didn't look like myself, I was tall and insanely thin and blonde (I'm average height, a (dyed) red head and not thin, at all) and travelling in the car with my high school best friend, who didn't look like her at all, but in my heart I knew it was her. And in the back seat was my friend, who didn't look like him, but again, in my soul, I knew it was him.

We were driving on the highway, past this circular shaped building, and I pointed at it and said, "There it is, that's my building. I designed that and it's my baby."

It was a Sam's Club, I'm not sure why that's important, but there it is anyways. So after we drove some more, there was flirting and this overwhelming feeling that something was going to happen. That some kind of change was going to happen, I can't explain it, but if you've ever felt it, then you know what I mean.

Flash forward in the dream and we're at this odd little pizza restaurant that doubles as a bar. I've never been to a place like this, and the place in the dream wasn't familiar. There's a gap in the dream at this point and the next thing I remember, we're arguing. He's telling me there's a girl that he just can't walk away from, and if he could be with me he would.

I'm crying, we're all back in the car and there's a room with exposed brick walls and fighting, and then he's gone. And I laid in bed with tears streaming down my face.

All day today, I haven't been able to shake this feeling. I can't even explain the feeling. It's sadness, obviously, and loss. This feeling that's best described like this: having what could have been in your grasp and getting a taste of some other life and then feeling it slip through your finger tips, again.

I don't want any other life than the one I have. I love my girls beyond words or expression and I love my husband with all that I am, was and could ever be. I want my life with him and with my girls. Truly I do. There are times (call it my writers brain) that likes to explore what my life could have been if only...I dream it up, I sometimes write it up..but that's the extent. It makes good fiction because that's all it is.

Sometimes I feel like I'm being haunted by the memories. Sometimes I wish I had someone to talk to about it, someone who understood.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Twenty Five Years

Seven days ago, I got a letter than literally changed the course of my life. One minute, I was trundling through life thinking everything was the way it had always been and then BAM!





When I say in the blink of an eye, I mean it. The blink of an eye, the ring of a cell phone, the click of a mouse and the speed of a google search.

You see, twenty five years ago, my family moved away from the home I'd lived in my entire life. We moved to a new house in a new city. I never saw my biological father again after that day. I remember things, but now I don't know if I'm remembering them correctly or if I'm remembering then but twisted to the way I was told the events happened.

For two days after the letter arrived, I cried. I cried for almost forty eight straight hours. Almost wrecked my brand new car and probably fed my kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And I spent about thirty six hours on the phone with my sister.

Then three days after my entire life imploded, I said okay. Enough is enough. Time to move on. I reached out to my biological father and stepmother and since then my life has been flooded with family I would have sworn had forgotten me.

To my surprise, even after 25 years, they haven't. I spent so much time thinking of myself that I never stopped to think about how this is affecting my long lost family.

It's almost like my life was ripped out of a novel. Hell, I might just write the damn novel myself. It's so unbelievable that no one would stop to think for a second that it was true.

During this last week, I've found the path that leads back to God. Now, i'm not saying that I went from being an atheist to being a devout religious person. Because that isn't what happened. I felt like I was drowning for almost a week. I couldn't talk to anyone because I had no least none that made sense outside of my mind, so I prayed instead. Not really prayed tho, I guess, it was more like I imagined I was in a church talking to a group of people, telling them my story, telling them everything I couldn't say outloud.

I fell asleep "talking" to these people in my mind and when I woke up the next morning  I had a certain kind of inner peace that I'd never felt before. Now, I'm not saying God healed my pain and that prayer is the answer to everything. But it helped me.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

New House

Last weekend a co-worker told me about a family friend who was renting their house. My husband and I have been searching for a house for oooh...about a year now. I won't lie, when I drove out there last weekend to look at it, it was not what I expected. The house honestly looked like something out of a horror movie.

I tried to peek through the living room window and walked right into the web of one of these scary ass mofo's

*Side note* That is NOT my hand...banana spiders freak me the hell out. Kthnxbye

So...Imagine me shrieking like a banshee, and jumping like a kangaroo. 

Moving on. 

I got a looked decent inside. Not bad. 

Then yesterday my bestie and I rode out there (yes, rode out there. The house is a mile or so outside of Jennings State Forest and about 15 miles from my current house. It is in the woods, the sticks, bfe.

We walked the house, peeking in the windows and oh. mah. gawd. The previous renters left it a freaking disaster. It needs a ton of love. 

My husband and I drove out again today to meet with the owners and do a walk through.

The living room is an amazing size, with a ton of natural light. We have a formal dining room (which will be a study or office or whatever) the kitchen. Oh God, the kitchen. If a kitchen could give orgasms, I would have had 20. Maybe more. It is huge. It is the largest kitchen I've ever seen, in my entire life. It's the only space in the house that isn't a disaster. Thank God, because it would have broken my heart. 

There are four rooms, two bedrooms and like 2 acres of land. The girls will have their own rooms, I'll have a craft room/writing room. 

But we have to get it cleaned up first. There is no carpet, only the old linoleum that needs to be ripped up, the walls have to be repainted because it looks like some hippies lived there and did a shit ton of acid and painted the walls all kinds of psychedelic colors. It hurt my head. Bad.

So the hubs and I are going out there Tuesday to tear up the floors and clean. Wednesday, we're paiting and Thursday we're moving in. 

I am so freaking stoked, y'all don't even know. Everybody keeps telling me I'm taking on too much, that it's too big of a project. But I look at it like I get to make a house the way I want it, make it look and feel how I want. Yet I don't have to worry about half the shit homeowners have to worry about. If something breaks it's on someone else to fix. But I get to design the house to my liking. Not fitting myself into someone elses idea of home. 

I wanna scream and shout and jump and just generally be elated. 

Pics to follow as the remodel starts!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Stop leaving your kids in the goddamned car

This is a rant...feel free to run away screaming at any point.

That being said, here we go.

I work at the mall and you would not (Literally would not) believe some of the crap I see on a daily basis. Last Saturday I went outside to catch some sun while on a quick break. One of the managers of the store I work in comes up to myself and one of my co-workers and basically starts grilling us about one of our customers.

I'm all like hold the hell up lady, I don't know what the hell you're talking about. She explains there have been several customer complaints of kids unattended in a car in the lot. I tell her I don't know anything about that and go about my business.

While I'm outside, there is a gold caddy in plain view, the windows tinted, the engine running. You can see shadows bouncing around in the back seat, the window rolls down and a tiny face peeks out smiling. Said manager comes out on her walkie talkie and approaches the car. Granted, she is a grandma looking lady (older, friendly face, etc) these kids roll the window down and start talking to her.

They tell her that their dad went inside to see if they could get their pictures made (PEOPLE! Please stop saying that. I am not making a picture of you...I'm not drawing you or painting you...that statement is so damned country it irks the fucking shit out of me. You are having a picture TAKEN!!! ranty post,..I warned you) so anywhoo...

Another manager comes out, the cops show up...and nothing happens because Dad comes strolling out and the car was running with the a/c on. Never mind the fact that he left his five and seven year old inside unattended. I'm shaking my head so hard right now it ain't even funny.

Fast forward to tonight. I popped into walmart for coffee (cause who can legitly function without that stuff?!?! Can I get a high five?!) and as I'm getting out of the car this woman and her daughter (who was no older than 10) get into the car next to me. The engine is running, the windows rolled up. As the daughter opens the door, a baby is SHRIEKING in the middle of the backseat. The baby was probably around Cailyn's age (a year or so, it was in a forward facing car seat) and there was no one else in the car.

This crazy bitch left her baby in the car alone, in the walmart parking lot.


I cannot wrap my head around that. I cannot for one second, even think that its a good idea to leave Cailyn alone in the car, running or otherwise.

She's a baby, people are crazy and I'm rather attached to Netflix and my freedom. How can anyone think that is a good idea!??!

Is this a new trend?

Last summer all we heard about were parents leaving their kids in the car to basically in Florida, they passed a law basically saying that if someone leaves their kids in the car and a bystander sees it they can legally bust the window out to save the child.

Have these parents decided that this summer they'll leave them in the car..and instead of baking them, they'll let any crazy person steal not only their car, but their child as well?!?!

I guess so. And it makes me sick as fuck...I have Bree, who will be 14 this year. My husband and I tried in a we're really not trying kind of way, to have another kid. It took nine damn years before I finally got pregnant with Cailyn. I have a co-worker who is due in a few weeks with her second child, her oldest is nine and she's had several miscarriages while trying for a second child. I read a story the other day about this couple who has tried soooo many things to have a baby and all they've been met with is devastation and disappointment. So many people can't have kids or have a super hard time conceiving...shit like this makes me sick to my stomach. I mean, how can your "God" make the good people struggle and give these undeserving assholes kids?

I can't fathom it...I truly cannot.

So yeah...stop leaving your kids in the goddamn car..if you don't want to be a parent, there are plenty of us who will take them..

Friday, May 20, 2016

My Wish for You

You guys...I've been at my job for almost six years (minus the six month hiatus I took after I had the baby) and in that six years I've seen and heard a lot of things, I've met a lot of amazing people. When the company started closing studios back in 2012, my studio was the first casualty. I was moved to another studio, which was the second casualty. Finally I was moved to a third studio where I started working in late 2012. 

When I got to that studio, the girl I worked with had been with the company for like 12 years. She had/has a lot of customers that come specifically to her and only her. Over the first few months there, these kids came in one day looking for her. She was off that day and I started chatting with them, setting them an appointment with her, etc. 

Over the next four year years I've come to know them rather well. Well, as well as you can know someone you see occasionally and can talk to, have a laugh, whatever. They're nice kids, super sweet and sickeningly in love. (I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

Today, those two sweet kids tied the knot and I got to be there to see it happen. 

They are so young, so full of life and carefree. I send wishes to heaven that they can stay that way, stay young at heart and carefree, that life doesn't try to drag them down and kill their spirit. I hope they remember how in love they are today so that in ten years they aren't sitting on opposite couches so disconnected from one another that they can barely stand to be in the same room. 
I wish that life leaves them free from the heartbreak and tragedy, that they accomplish all their dreams, and get everything they want out of life. 
I hope the very best for them in the years to come.
Congrats Amy and Joseph!

More than anything, I hope I get to see their story continue. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Shitty Shoes

I was scrolling through posts on facebook the other day (well more like two weeks ago..maybe..I dunno..I'm sleep deprived, Starz this amazing show called Flesh and Bones that I may or may not have stayed up watching all night) and I came across this one posted to my daughter's biological fathers page by his new girlfriend.

I won't copy and paste it because 1. It's her intellectual property and 2. I don't feel like getting even more irked than I already am.

It's one of those little posts that these girls who think they're cute post, about thanks for letting go of a good man because now I have him so hahaha here's my written middle finger waving in your face.

Because I'm a bigger person, I stuck my tongue out at her post (literally, not figuratively) and kept going. But the more and more I thought about it, the more and more it pissed me off.

He might be a good person now; I'll allow that, but 15 years ago? No. He was a lying, cheating dirt bag who brought women to my apartment while I was on deployment (I am a United States Navy Veteran) while our daughter was living with my parents.

When my oldest was two-ish, we split up for good. He took off to...North Carolina I think. My enlistment ended and I decided to get out of the Navy rather than re-enlist.

I moved in with my parents while I readjusted to civilian life. All the while, he was in North Carolina. Didn't bother to come see our daughter. The last time he saw her was Easter of 2005.

Shortly before Easter, he was supposed to pick up my daughter and I and move us all to Texas, to be a family. I waited for hours that day for him to show up. When I finally called him, he said he wasn't coming. That he was going to Texas alone. Naturally I was broken hearted. For some stupid reason, I loved his dumb ass. A few weeks later, I decided it was high time for a fresh start; up and moved from Virginia to Florida in the summer of 2005.

Summer passed, lingered into what should have been fall. He and I got in contact again, he had his then girlfriend write a letter on behalf of him, in which he accused me of all kinds of maleficence. Then had the nuts to ask me for yet another chance.

At the time I had just started seeing my husband. So I told him so. Then he accused me of keeping him from his daughter, of keeping us from being a family.

In my head, I saw it as me keeping my heart safe from him. After that I didn't hear from him again. He stopped writing my daughter, stopped calling.

In December of 2005 my husband and I got engaged then in April of 2006 we married. (Yeah, yeah I know..y'all only dated for a few months then got married?!?! Are you crazy?!?! Sure...sure we are..and we are still married, ten years later...sometimes when you know, you know...anyways)\

So...a year passes without word, then fades into another and another and before I know it, it's 2011 and he has not bothered to try to find me (all of my mail was forwarded to our new address after I married, my phone number didn't change until a year or so after I married. My parents have lived in the same house they lived in when we were a couple) or see his daughter, or hell even support her in anyway.

And even's 2016. He hasn't seen her since she was two and a half. Oh he asked to see her at Christmas (of 2015). I forgot to ask him about it (I can work six days a week, sometimes ten to twelve hour days at Christmas, so see I forgot for a good reason) but he never brought it up either. So guess he wasn't really that interested in seeing her.

So sure, sweetheart. If you want to thank me for letting go of a lying, cheating, child making but not supporting piece of human, go right the hell ahead. I had the boy, you have the "man."

But truthfully, I got the real man. I got the man who stepped up, stepped in, and fathered a child that wasn't his. He's loved her, supported her, taught her how to ride her bike and sent her off to her first day of school and will be there when she graduates high school and college. He's been the one to go to her band recitals, and will be there when she earns her spot on the football team. The real man, the man she calls Dad will get to live it, while he, he only gets to read about it.

So, in a sense, I guess you're welcome. I got the better end of the deal out of him anyway. I have my amazingly talented and beautiful daughter who dreams out loud and colors outside of the lines. I have memories, he only has regrets.

I hope when he breaks your heart his next girlfriend is kinder than you were.

That was cathartic.

Disclaimer: (only because my husband has a tendency to read this occasionally)

It pissed me off, sure, but it wasn't worth bringing up because you would have told me exactly what I already figured out on my own and it was better for me to get to these conclusions on my own. Personally, good riddance to old rubbish. I know you're the better man, the only man for me. Love you babe!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Summer Anthology Piece

I volunteered to write a piece for a facebook group's summer anthology. I don't know why I signed up..but I did...I literally wrote like thirty different things before I settled on what I actually wanted to write..and even still I'm like...meh. It's a different genre than what I typically write so I'm struggling with that, and overall, it's taking a shit ton of research and overall yeah...comfort zone level: AHHHH!

I think if I can finish it, the story can be pretty least in my head it's pretty I'm gonna post part of it's not done yet..I'm still about 7k words away from finishing it and I have two weeks left to get it done...this week killed oldest auditioned for the high school's dance team, which left me picking her up from her school, dropping her off at the high school then going back two hours later to pick her up again. I need a vacation..just saying..anyways...back to the point...the story is called Black Swan. It is about DEA agent Shane Branson who finds out that his high school sweetheart, whom he thought was dead, actually isn't...and that she is actually tangled up in a worldwide drug cartel selling a very dangerous drug called Black Swan. Shane has to go undercover to infiltrate the ring and bring it down.

So without further ado...Black Swan


"Branson, get your ass in here right fecking now," Special Agent in Charge Declan called out from behind his desk.
    I jump up and head into his office, sweat pooling in the armpits of my shirt. This is it, I tell myself. My chance to finally get out from behind the desk and into the field.
    "Yes, sir?"
    Declan looks up from the folder spread open on the desk before him. "Sit down Branson," he orders motioning one of the two chairs facing him.
    Nervously, I sink into the soft leather club chair and sit attentively. He frowns at me, his eyes scanning my face, his heavy jowls jiggling slightly with every labored breath he takes.
    "Several divisions have been working on a specific case for the last few years. A distributor that started in France recently made its way onto American soil and with their arrival, brought a new drug that has started flooding the streets of Denver."
    Confusion swirls through me. Denver was a hotspot for drugs since the legalization of marijuana a few years ago. Naturally, a few illegal distributions made their way to the party. I said with a frown, "I don't understand."
    "You don't understand what, son?"  
    "Why you called me in here, for starters. What is it you're hoping I can do?"
    Declan smiled, the expression not quite reaching his beady black eyes. "Today's your lucky day kid. I'm sending you into the field. I want you to track down the distributor and infiltrate the group. We need Intel if we're going to take this son of a bitch down. Three high school kids have already been hospitalized. We need to nail this asshole before someone dies."
    Swallowing hard I struggle to breathe against the lump in my throat threatening to strangle me. Undercover; shit. As I open my mouth to speak, I choke on the words and quickly press my lips together.
    "Hell, son, speak. Don't sit there flapping your gills like a goddamned fish," Declan barks.
    "Sir," I croak. "I have never been out of the office let alone undercover. Are you sure I'm a suitable fit for this assignment?"
    "Branson," Declan chuckled humorlessly. "You'll do it and you'll thank me for it later."
    I bit back the denial and accusations of sabotage, silently wondering what this man had against me. Declan sat behind his desk, his eyes daring me to give voice to my complaints. When he saw I wouldn't cave, he pushed a thick manila folder toward me.
    It looms on the edge of the desktop as I lean forward, retrieve the stuffed folder and glance at the label. A series of numbers and letters, the typical identifying markings of a D.E.A case file stare boldly up at me. Beneath the label is the word "black swan."
Curiously, I open the file and glanced at the first page. It is dated five days ago and describes an encounter a seventeen-year-old high school senior had with a woman who sold her something the girl called "bevy."
The statement continues, describing the remaining events of the encounter as well as the effects the drug had on her and her friends.
"Sir, what is "bevy?"
"That's what we need you to find out," Declan said. "You have today and the weekend to study that file, learn everything you can from it, and report to Intelligence first thing Monday morning. They'll set up with everything you need."
I brush the file shut, rise, and address Declan. "Is that all?"
He waves his hand effectively dismissing me. "Shut the door behind you." As I turn to leave, Declan calls out, "And do not breathe a word of this to anyone. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," I nod, clutching the file to my chest; I close the door behind me and make my way to my desk. Collecting my cell phone and car keys, I exit the office, holding the file tightly all the while trying to seem casual about it like the file wasn't of any importance.
Stepping out into the lingering summer sunshine, a wave of heat hits me. I don't know what I was thinking taking the position at the office in Houston. The heat here was a literal hell on Earth considering there was most likely still snow on the ground in my hometown of Fort Kent, Maine.
The inside of my car was like a furnace as I crank the engine and turn the air conditioning on full blast, cringing as boiling heat blows in my face. Tucking the file into the crevice between the seat and center console, I roll down the window and back out of the space.
Making the short trip to my apartment, I contemplate the day's events. Why would Declan choose me for this assignment when there were so many, better qualified, agents. I haven't been in the field, never been undercover. Hell, I had no idea how to even begin to go undercover.
Sighing, I pull into my designated parking space and shut off the car. Retrieving the file, I exit the car. Silence greets me as I enter my cool, dim apartment. Dropping the folder on the end table, I loosen my tie and grab a beer from the kitchen. Carrying it back to the living room, I sit down and grab the folder.
Opening it, I turn the first page over and skim the second. Another witness statement, from someone attending the same party as the first witness.
A quarter of the file was signed statements from partygoers. Setting them aside, I skim the rest of the files, all pertaining to the case in France.
For as much paperwork was stuffed into this folder there was very little information to go on. Everything pointed to a woman. Each statement claimed they bought the "bevy" from a dark haired woman who was anywhere from seventeen to twenty-five, average height and build. A few descriptions said she wore a necklace that looked like an 's' others said she wore no such thing.
Slamming the file shut, I swallowed the last of the beer and ran my hands through my hair.
This was going to be a lot harder than I imagined.

Monday morning broke clear and humid as thunderheads gathered on the horizon. Static crackled in the air as I made my way into the agency.
As I entered the intelligence office's reception area, an agent emerged from the glass door dividing the area.
"Shane Branson?" she drawled, her voice sweet like sugared honey.
"Yes," I answered.
"I'm Special Agent Mallory O'Rourke. I'll be in charge of you assignment from here on out. If you'll follow me, we'll join the other agents in the conference room and get you caught up to speed."
She turns to the door producing an identification badge and swipes it. The door beeps, clicking open. Agent O'Rourke heaves the heavy glass door open and motions for me to enter. The office is quiet; the faint ringing of a phone breaks the silence, a hushed voice speaking quietly, the sound carrying across the room.
I glance around the seemingly deserted office wondering where all the agents are. Ahead of me, Mallory snaps her fingers.
"Come on Ace, everyone is waiting."
I follow her up a short flight of stairs and into a large conference room where more than a dozen people are waiting, seated around a large table. Laptops, tablets, and spread out across the surface. At the head of the table is a large monitor, the Drug Enforcement Agency logo filling the screen.
"Special Agent Branson, welcome," a bald man sitting at the head of the table says. His skin is the color of coffee, his eyes intelligent and sharp. "Please, have a seat."
I nod in welcome and take the first available seat closest to me. Taking the seat beside me, Agent O'Rourke folds her hands and turns her attention to the head of the table.
"Alright, everyone settled then?" the man addresses the table. A few of the agents shift in their seats, settling their folders and devices before turning their attention to him.
The man nods, turning his eyes on me. "As most of you know I'm Deputy Director Anthony Mullins. For those of you that don't, I supervise the day-to-day operations of this division, reporting directly to Director Robert Martinez. We're all here today to go over the Black Swan case. Who is familiar with the case?"
The man seated across from me opens his folder. "The case first came to the attention of Interpol a year ago. An agent managed to infiltrate the outer layer of the group before his identity was compromised."
"Where is this agent now?" I asked.
Deputy Director Mullins had the good grace to glance away, his eyes filled with regret. "He was killed two weeks after Interpol pulled him out. Car accident."
I swallowed hard, my heartbeat accelerating. "And now you want me to infiltrate this group? Respectfully, sir, I don't frigging think so."
"Special Agent Branson, we believe you might potentially know the cartel leader."
Jerking back in my chair, I gape at the deputy director. My thoughts whirl in my head, images flickering like a Rolodex through my mind, scanning faces for someone who would be selling dangerous and illegal drugs.
"She calls herself Leda now," Mullins supplies. "Leda Swan. However, when you knew her, her name was Lisbeth Sullivan. I believe you two went to school together, even dated for a while."
The air left my lungs as if someone had shoved a giant vacuum down my throat. Black spots danced across my vision as memories of Lisbeth and I danced to the surface of my mind.
"No," I stammered. "There is no way. She...she died twelve years ago."
"Or she didn't," the agent seated across from me muttered.
"No," I thundered, my fists pounding the tabletop. "Not possible. I watched her die."
Mullins shook his head, digging through his file and producing a stack of photographs. A cherry red headed woman with piercing pale blue eyes stared up at me from the glossy 8x10. Around her neck was a gold chain, a swan pendant hanging in the center of her chest.
Retrieving another photo from the stack, Mullins slid it across the table to me. I glanced down at the page, Lisbeth's pale blue eyes smiling up at me. Regret sucker punched me as I fingered the edge of the photo.
Mullins slid the third photo towards me, this one a replicate of the second one; however, Lisbeth's hair had been brightened to the cherry red.
"The proof is in the pudding," he said softly. "Leda Swan is Lisbeth Sullivan. I'm sorry Shane."
I closed my eyes, my fingers massaging my temples as Mullin's words bounced around my skull. "How?" I murmured. "How is it possible? I witnessed her death, sir. I saw it with my own two eyes."
Mullins shrugged, then gestured to the photographs. "That's what we need you to find out, Agent Branson."
I glanced at the photos again, then looked up at Mullins. "I'm in," I said. "Where do we start?"

Two weeks later, I boarded a plane headed to Denver. I had a new look, a new name, and an entirely new life fabricated down to the very last detail by the agents in the intelligence office. As I stared out the window at the clouds drifting by, the dark haired man in the window staring back at me still had the ability to shock me.
Fifteen days ago I was blond haired and blue eyed, a faceless member of the human crowd; unmemorable so they colored my hair the same shade as wet coffee grounds and changed my wardrobe. A few days worth of stubble shaded my cheeks. Coupled with the dark hair and edgier clothing, I looked like the kind of guy everyone in high school avoided and the one all the girls lusted after in college.
When I showed up for work the day after the transformation, Mallory did a double take, walking right into a filing cabinet and dropping the stack of files she was carrying.
" is so different," she gasped as I stooped to help her retrieve her folders.
"Yeah, you're telling me," I smirk. "I don't know who the hell I am anymore."
"You're Jesse Vance," she smirked. "Existential bad boy, no good attitude, and a rap sheet as long as I am tall. You, sir, are a badass. On paper at least."
I learned this morning that Mallory would be my handler; she would pull me out if things got out of hand. I would report to her and she would have my back.
I landed in Denver three hours after leaving Houston. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I exited the airport and made my way toward the line of cabs waiting at the curbside.
"Where to guy?" the cabbie calls through the partition as I slide into the backseat.
"Lower Downtown," I reply, setting my bag near my feet.
He eyes me in the rearview mirror nodding, then starts the meter as he pulls away from the curb. I stare out the window as the highway gives way to the city. When we roll to a stop outside a rundown motel, I shove some bills through the divide and sling by bag over my shoulder.
This place looks like a shit hole, I thought as I stare up at the crumbling fa├žade. Shaking my head, I push the door open and approach the desk, giving the clerk my name. I hand her my new credit card and accept the key.
Once inside my room, I pull out my cell phone and dial Mallory's number. She answers on the third ring with a perfunctory, "Hello?"
"Hey," I say picking up the curtain and peering down at the street. "I'm in Denver."
"Everything go alright on the flight there?"
"Nothing unusual. I'm heading to that bar from the reports tonight. Anything you want me to be on the lookout for?"
"Not anything specific. Just remember, lay low for a few days. Get a sense of what's going, who's coming and going, and try to establish some key players."
"Got it. I'll check in later."
"Alright. Be careful...Jesse."
"Will do. Talk to you later."
I hang up and toss the phone on the bed as I stare at my reflection in the mirror. Anxiety churned my guts as I inspected my face. I couldn't do this, could I?
Didn't matter if I could, I told myself. I had to. Lying back on the bed, I thought about the last time I saw Lisbeth. It was the summer after graduation; we were lying in the bed of my truck, parked in the middle of a field at the north side of my parent's farm, staring at the fading sky.
We were talking about the coming fall, about the path our lives were going to take. She seemed off as if something was on her mind that she was struggling with.
Memories were funny that way. Every time I revisited those moments, the ones occurring right before and up to, her death, I remember things I didn't register at the time.
Her sudden distance, her anxiety, and reckless behavior.
Rubbing my eyes, I cleared my mind. I wasn't certain about anything anymore. I didn't know if my memory had been altered by the idea that Lisbeth wasn't actually dead or if I was, in fact, remembering things more clearly now that I knew she wasn't dead.
Either way, there was a mystery to be solved here. One I needed to know the answer to finally.
That night, I headed to the bar in question. Stepping through the door, I cringed inwardly at the smell. Old beer and stale body odor permeated the space, lingering on the bar and in the booths. Fighting to keep my features even, I took a seat at the bar and nodded at the grizzled old man with a dingy towel draped over his shoulder.
He tipped his chin curtly and made his way over. "What can I get ya?"
"Whatever's on tap, don't really care as long as it's cold," I said briskly.
The man shrugged and tipped a surprisingly clean class beneath the tap and gave the handle a firm pull. Gold liquid splashed into the glass, rushing toward the brim. The head overflowed, dripping down the side of the glass.
Sliding it across the bar, he said in a sandpaper tone, "three fifty."
I rolled my left hip up and dug my wallet out of my back pocket. Retrieving a five-dollar bill from the fold, I slapped it on the wood and picked up my beer.
Taking a long pull, I glanced around the rowdy bar. No one seemed out of place or like they were waiting for something.
To my left, a couple sat awkwardly at a table, she had a bruised cheek, he wore his bad attitude like a jacket on a brisk winter day. I observed their limited interaction with each other, taking note of the way she didn't look him in the eye and the way he didn't look at her at all.
I finish my beer and order another as the bar door crashes open, a group of twenty something's stumbling through the entrance, laughing loudly. Falling into the stools beside me, they call for shots, chanting as they pound their fists raucously on the top of the bar.
When their drinks are delivered, they fall into a hum of conversation, the rise, and pitch escalating with the conversation. I catch wind of the word "bevy" and try to keep my body from reacting.
"Yeah man," the guy sitting two stools down from me says to the guy on his right. "It was the best high I ever had."
"How'd you score?"
He shrugs and brags, "Some chick just walked up to me outside of The Hollow and tells me to open my mouth and stick out my tongue."
"And you did?" his mate asked incredulously.
"Dude, if you had seen her, you would. She was hotter than hell itself; of course, I opened my mouth. So anyway, I'm standing on the sidewalk near the alley with my tongue hanging out and she pulls out this skinny metal tube and pops the top. She drops this little purple pill into her hand, sets it on my tongue, and tells me to close my mouth and shut my eyes; fifteen minutes later, I'm screwed up seven ways from Sunday. It was the best high I'd ever had with none of the side effects."
"And it's called bevy?" the other guy asks.
"How do I get it?"
I shift in my seat, angling my body towards the group.
"She gave me some card," he mutters, reaching for his wallet and pulling out a glossy black card with a white swan embossed on it, a phone number in the center of the bird. "Call the number, I guess."
I glance at the number, repeating it over and over until Icommitted it to memory. Turning away from the group, I pull my cell phone out and enter the number into my contacts.
Finishing my beer, I slid off my stool and head toward the door anxious to get back to my room. As I step outside, the cool night washes across my skin and anticipation rolls through me. I had the number, hell I had a lead. Not bad for my first day.


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