When I went back downstairs Max was gone. Reveling in the silence I picked up my shopping list and rechecked it as I went through every room to make sure I had written down everything I needed. I added binoculars, a small notepad, and a folder. I wanted to document everything that happened and keep notes. I knew Rose would be showing up any minute, so I ran back upstairs, which I immediately regretted, took half a pain killer, found my gun, and stashed both of them in my backpack. Next I checked to make sure my ankle pictures were still on the memory stick in my camera. I took the card out, and stashed it in my backpack also. I was having trust issues.
“Come in Rose.” I said as I sat down to put on my boots.
Rose bustled in. “I’m finally ready to go, or as ready as I’ll ever be this year. We need to stop by my house and get my luggage then we’ll hit the road.”
“Relax Rose, take a deep breath, I still have to let Killer out and give him a bone, he’s staying home this time.”
I stood on the deck waiting for Killer to finish his business and let my eyes drift over the landscape. I released a sigh of relief. I didn’t see Max anywhere and nothing seemed out of place. As soon as Killer finished up he ran inside and planted himself in front of the fireplace.
“Be good Killer, I’ll be back tonight.” I gave him an extra-large rawhide bone to chew on for the day and scratched behind his ears.
Rose and I drove in silence for the next hour, both of us deep in our own thoughts. When we arrived at my first destination Rose looked over at me.
“I’m staying in the truck” she said. “You make shopping into a marathon race and I don’t want to get left behind.”
“I don’t blame you, I’ll be right back.”
I grabbed my shopping bags and got right to it. Rose was right, I entered the store and raced through the aisles. My motto, go in and get out as quickly as possible. Stores make me claustrophobic, the aisles are too narrow, and too many people liked to gather and talk in them, creating endless road blocks to maneuver through. I rushed out of the store in no time flat. We did this for all of the other stops I had to make and then drove towards the airport.
“We’re early.” Rose said. “Let’s stop for some coffee and pie first.”
I pulled into the first parking lot I found. The street leading to the airport had restaurants and hotels on both sides. We parked at an all-night coffee shop and claimed a booth by the window, ordered coffee with key lime pie and dug in.
“Give me all the juicy details.” I said to Rose, knowing she understood what I was talking about because her face turned bright red.
“We’re just having a good time together.”
“Is the relationship serious?”
“Well, he didn’t want me to leave and I don’t want to leave either, so I guess it’s as serious as it’s going to get.”
I grinned, their affair could get more serious if she let loose, she’d been alone for a very long time. I watched her as I finished my pie. She purposely dressed down today in jeans, a blue sweater, and brown boots. She’d pulled her hair back in her normal braid, but left the sparkling hair clips out. I knew this was how she was going to be dressed during her visit with her kids and it made me sad she felt like she had to be someone else so she wouldn’t embarrass her family. She should be able to stay up in the mountains with me, everyone up there liked her just the way she was, including Bear. A smile spread across my face.
“What are you smiling about?”
“I’m just happy Bear likes you for who you really are.” I said as I waved for the waitress. “I wish you could stay.”
“Yeah, me too. Bear’s a good guy. He’s going to get in touch with you after Thanksgiving for the meeting, is that alright?”
“That’s fine with me, I’ll cook dinner for him or something.” Hopefully the psycho creature wouldn’t hanging around my house by then. Because honestly, I didn’t think it was a psycho human anymore after thoroughly examining the mutated hand prints the thing left on my ankles.
I ordered a whole Key Lime pie to go before we drove the last mile to the airport. We sat at the toll both waiting to pay the fee when I noticed a tear slide down Roses cheek. I gave Rose a questioning glance.
“I’m alright,” she sighed as she stared out the passenger side window. “I’m going to miss the mountains, you know my family isn’t that bad, they just want me to grow up.”
“No worries Rose, I like your family, they just need to relax a bit and give you a break. You’ve done your job raising them.”
“They’re professionals,” we both laughed.
Rose’s family were wealthy, successful, suit wearing, briefcase carrying professionals. They leaned closer to the stuffy side if anyone asked me, but since no-one ever did I kept the thought to myself.
I found a close parking space in the terminal and we both dug Rose’s luggage out from underneath all of my stuff. We hauled it into the airport and gave it to the lady at the counter, she printed out Roses tickets, and we took the escalator to security. I handed Rose her Christmas present, which I hoped she’d unwrap on the plane. The small package contained a small pewter dragon wrapped around a ruby colored thin crystal I’d put on a long chain for her to wear while she was in Cali. She could easily hide the necklace under her sweaters, so it wouldn’t be seen. We gave each other a big hug and I watched her go through security. I cringed, I was now officially alone with Max and ghost boy.
I made one last stop at a Mexican food restaurant on the drive out of town to pick up a spinach and cheese blue corn enchilada with green chili, sour cream, and three sopapillas. I needed some comfort food for the next couple of days.
My mouth watered as the scent of the enchilada wafted through the truck and my stomach growled. I was so distracted by the thought of kicking my feet up by a nice roaring fire, reading a book, and eating, that by the time I pulled into my driveway I’d forgotten about retrieving my gun out of my purse for protection. I had my dinner and pie in my hands, and was jogging up the steps to my deck when I came to an abrupt stop. A nest of leaves built similar to a underground burrowing animal rested in front of my door. I didn’t hesitate; I unlocked my front door, avoided the mess as much as possible, stepped in, and slammed the door behind me, locking it. An icy numbness rapidly consumed my shaking hands, goose bumps slithered over my skin. I wasn’t hungry anymore.