It was dark. Too dark. The cold night breeze wrestled with the tips of Callie's hair as she fumbled for the key to her front door. She should never have driven herself home, even if the club was only blocks from their condo. She glanced back at the sedan parked crooked in the gravel drive and giggled. Nika was going to kill her for taking up both spots, but no way was she getting back behind the wheel to straighten it out. With as much alcohol as she'd consumed, Callie was lucky to have made it back in one piece as it was.
Thump. It sounded like it came from inside. It couldn't have been Nika already. Callie had left her back at the club less than ten minutes ago and she had still been playing Saturday night fever on the dance floor.
She finally found the right key and slid it into the deadbolt. The lock clicked and she pushed in the door.
Thump. This time a little louder and definitely from inside.
Callie stumbled over the spinning threshold wishing that she'd stopped at their second round of drinks. But no. She'd chosen to drown her broken heart in the form of lemon drops. And then for Daniel to show up there? It was bad enough that he was already seeing someone else, but for her to come face to face with her replacement was just too much.
Thump. There it was again, probably just Mr. Whiskers. She felt along the wall for a switch and nearly did a face plant as light flooded the room.
"Here silly kitty," Callie called, kicking off a high heel and throwing her purse on the coffee table. It landed with a soft thud then tipped over, flipping it and all it's contents onto the glass top.
"Shit," she muttered, kicking off her other shoe as she continued toward her bedroom. "Screw it. I'll get it in the morning." All she could think about at that moment was squeezing into her pj's and crawling onto her nice warm pillow-top.
"Here kitty kitty," she called out again and smiled as she felt the soft fur of Mr. Whiskers rub against her leg. She pushed open the bedroom door and bent down to pick up the fat tabby. Before she could stand back up, Callie's head was slammed into the door frame and a dark figure raced out of the house and into the night. Blood slowly dripped out of her nose as her lifeless body slumped forward onto the carpet.
The road seemed to close in on Natalie as she struggled to keep driving. She sat behind the wheel of a silver mini-van while her nine year old daughter, Kiley, slept in the back seat. They had been traveling for nearly six hours but Nat’s eyes kept glancing nervously at the rear view mirror. Sleep was weighing down heavily on Natalie’s eyelids. She blinked several times in an attempt to stay awake, but knew it was only a matter of minutes before she passed out completely. She had to find somewhere to stay the night.
Luckily, they seemed to be coming upon a town soon. There were Interstate signs with a few gas station and fast food symbols posted at Exit 273. Welcome to White Springs, it greeted them in big bold letters as she curved right off of the interstate. When the road finally straightened out, Natalie had no idea which direction to go. There was only a red blinking light with a street sign that read Jackson Road. Left or Right? Natalie’s instinct was to find a way to get back on the interstate and drive to the next exit, but who knew how far that would be or if it would even be any better. No. She’d have to take her chances here. Out of habit, even though there were no other cars for miles, Natalie flipped down the blinker and turned right, hoping she’d made the right choice.
After passing what seemed like several miles of pastures and crop fields, Natalie finally saw some sign of life. She was disappointed to see that it was just a small run-down gas station off to the right of a four way stop. The only light was a single pole and that didn’t cover much area. In fact, without the headlights on the two very old gas pumps in the center of the tiny lot were barely visible. Natalie pulled into what she could only assume was their single parking spot and shut off the van. She turned around and looked at Kiley, her fragile little body curled up in the seat, eyes closed, face so innocent. That’s when she lost it. Her fingers fumbled with the talisman she wore around her neck and for the first time since they’d left Georgia, Natalie let herself think about everything they were leaving and started to cry.