Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Take Aim. Chapter Three: Disarm

Welcome to Take Aim, our latest progressive story project. Each time I start one of these projects I'm like a kid on her birthday. Each time the story returns to me is like opening a gift. I tear the wrapping off with anticipation and thoroughly enjoy each submission.

But I am also aware, as we work our way down the list of writers and through the heart of the story, that the end is coming. It's met with both anticipation and a bit of melancholy. Because I fall in love with these stories, these characters, and their journeys.

But today is that day. Again.

Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Presented by www.BakingInATornado.com | #blogging #collaboration #MyGraphics

Take Aim, like the other of these projects, took on a life of its own. That's the point, after all. Distinctly different voices come together and ultimately compliment each other in pursuit of one simple goal, to share a story. Today it's my pleasure to share the finale of Take Aim.

Take Aim, a Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Presented by www.BakingInATornado.com | #blogging #collaboration #MyGraphics

Before you start, be sure to read 
Chapter One: You Can Run 
Chapter Two: Clear Sightlines.
And now on to Chapter Three.

Take Aim.
Chapter Three: Disarm

The interview with Mike went surprisingly well. Despite having creeped me out at first, he seemed like a genuinely good guy. He obviously had a solid business model going at the cafe. They served breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch on the weekends. They stayed open on the nights that coincided with big sporting events. The place had a family friendly atmosphere, and from what I was able to gather, the staff was like a family. This could be just the job I needed in my life. Of course, there was no telling for how long I would be here.

Over the last five years, the shortest time I had spent at a new "home" was under a week, and the longest was just over six months. As much as I hated moving, I prefer staying no longer than three months. Usually around the third month, my sense of safety was all but gone and I started sleeping poorly. My (justified) paranoia would be on high alert, and my friendships with those around would begin to suffer. It was when this started happening that I always felt it best to move on.

The hardest move had been from Westwood, Massachusetts. That was the place I had stayed for a bit over six months. There, I had lived in a nice home, renting a basement apartment from a wonderful lady named Rosemary. Around the third month, I had opened up with her a tiny bit about my past. Not enough to put myself (or her) in any danger, but enough to give her an idea of why I was the way I am. Leaving her behind had been hard, but it had been necessary. I had gotten a glimpse f Matthias as he was heading into the hotel down the street from the small bookstore I had been working at.

I had excused myself from work, claiming I was sick, and I had gone home and packed. I was gone from Rosemary's home within the hour. I hope she realized how much she meant to me, and how much I had enjoyed our time together. She had been a fabulous landlord, and a friend.

I shook my head, returning my thoughts back to the present. I was waiting for Mike to bring out some paperwork for me to sign. He mostly needed help for the dinner shifts, especially on the nights where they featured sporting events in the bar area. I had gained a lot of experience waitressing over my years of studying at Berkeley. Over these past five years, I had gained more experience, and even gained some bartending experience.

As I sat looking around the warmly decorated cafe and bar, I felt myself relaxing. Yes, this was going to be a good fit. At least for my time here in Aspen. How long that would be, I had no clue. As I glanced toward the back of the house doorway, I saw Mike emerge, a stack of papers in his hand. He really was a handsome guy. He looked strong and solid. I bet his wife was grateful to have such a strong man at her side. Hopefully she never felt the brunt of his strength. I shivered slightly and plastered a smile on my face.

"Okay," Mike said, as he sat back down next to me. "Here are all the papers I told you about. now, I pay in two ways. You can receive a computer generated check once every two weeks, or I can pay you in cash weekly. Now if you take the weekly cash pay days, it is entirely up to you to keep track of your earnings and pay your owed taxes. Tips are another thing entirely. You will keep any cash tips you are given. Any other tips you are given, whether they be added on to debit and credit purchases or they are shared between you and a co-worker, you will receive in cash weekly. Again, it is your responsibility to keep track of them."

I nodded my head and smiled. This was going to be perfect. If I was able to be paid in cash, that would be less of a paper trail leading to me. Maybe I could even manage to stay here for six months again. I listened intently as Mike continued on explaining exactly what each paper was, and what was expected of me. 

For two weeks, work at the cafe went without incident. Each day I came in, put on my apron, and smiled at the customers. Many were regulars, but several were just "pass throughs" visiting the town for tourism. It was a breath of fresh air to be Rachel, unknown to anyone else, and to create a new persona for myself.

Harriet and Mabel had even begun to grow on me. They continued to bring me goodies while jabbing each other in the ribs. I continued to throw them out but looked forward to the giggles their interactions with one another would create.

As the days wore on and I began to settle into routine, I found myself feeling more and more comfortable with Mike. He was kind and strong. He made me laugh, and I could tell that he didn't worry about my pasted. He was interested only in my arrival to work on time, my ability to wait on customers, and my willingness to come back the next day. That's why, when he said it, I wasn't prepared.

"So, uh, Rachel," he stammered, "any chance you're gonna let me take you out this weekend?"

I was shocked. I was certain he was married. As stable as a guy that he was, he was bound to already have someone laying claim to him. But he was so handsome. And so kind. I couldn't resist.

"I would really like that," I said, eyes focused on the floor. "Where should we meet?"

"I'd love to pick you up," he offered. "Can I come to your place and get you?"

This caused me to pause. Coming to my apartment would mean potentially running into the Dizzy Duo or the judgemental British couple. I shook my head.

"No, lets just meet here. I think that'll be easier. My neighbors are - um - a bit meddlesome."

As expected he didn't argue. Just smiled and nodded with an "OK then. Let's meet here Saturday at 9. You aren't working that night, but I do need to close up."

The next few days actually dragged. I felt flutters every time I saw him, but he didn't make things strange. He went on with a business-as-usual attitude (which really made me like him more). I found myself daydreaming instead of listening to customer orders. I stumbled a bit if I caught Mike's eye and almost dropped trays of food. I couldn't believe I was letting myself behave this way.

Finally, Saturday night arrived. I quickly swiped my eyes with mascara, put on a basic but classic pair of jeans and blouse, and pulled my hair into a ponytail. There was a knock at my door. I knew he wouldn't just wait on me at the cafe.

I pulled the door open quickly and with a laugh said, "Mike! I told you I'd meet you at the cafe."

But Mike wasn't the person in the hallway. It was Donny Donut, and he wasn't holding flowers.

Kimberly of When I Grow Up

I closed my eyes and shook my head quickly. Was I dreaming again? Did I dream up the fact that Mike was interested in me? How was this possible. When I opened my eyes, Donny was still standing there, holding a pipe wrench with both hands. I was ready to let out a scream, when he sopke.

"The Gambinos said there's a leak up here."

I could feel the color draining from my face. There was some big misunderstanding here and I wasn't sure I could talk my way out of it.

"I, uh, am not sure . . . " is all I managed to get out.

Donny pushed his way in. "I'll just have a look-see then."

I flinched, sure that the pipe was going to be connecting with my head, but to my surprise, Donny walked past me and headed to the bathroom. I stood dazed for a moment, then curiosity got the best of me and I went to peek in the door. Donny had his head under the sink, then abruptly stood up. "We have a situation here. I'll have to shut off your water until it's fixed.:

"Oh," is all I managed to squeak out. Then I started to laugh. Donny looked at me rather oddly, but I couldn't stop.

"It may be a few days," he said. "You won't have any running water in the apartment. I can talk to the landlord about pro-rating your rent so you can stay somewhere else."

"Thank you!" I said, a little too enthusiastically. "I thought . . . never mind. That a very kind of you."

Donny left and I realized the time. I was more than a half hour late for my date with Mike, it was almost 10! I called the cafe but ther was no answer. We had never exchanged cell phone numbers. We had no other way to reach him. I hurriedly grabbed my purse and headed out the door, hoping that he would still be there.

I got to the cafe and it was dark. I stood out front for a moment, wondering what I should do next. I turned to head home when I heard a soft, "Hey, Rachel." I turned and Mike was there. "You made it."

"Yeah, sorry I'm so late. My super showed up about a leak just as I was about to leave. I was so afraid -" I stopped, thinking of what Mike might think about me if I told him the rest, how I thought my apartment super was a Mob hitman. Then it occurred to me, the man with the pipe was too familiar. Where did I know him from? I would have to ponder that later.

"Afraid of what?" Mike asked gently.

"That you wouldn't have waited." Well, that was true too, but not a truth I really wanted to share right now. Then as the thought struck me, "You waited almost an hour for me to show up?"

Mike shifted uncomfortably, "Well, not exactly. You see I live here." He pointed to the windows above the cafe. "I saw you standing here through the window. Are you still up for going out? I don't think anyone is still serving food, but we can get a drink."

"Sure," I said and we headed down the street.

and me!

Yet again I find myself frantically packing my boxes. 

It was bound to happen. It always does. Interrupted is my new normal. 

But this was fast. One dream of a threatening man wanting to take what he thinks is his due is usually enough, but I pushed it this time. I stayed. I hoped it was not a premonition, just fear. But seeing "Donny Donuts" in the super? I didn't have time to think about it last night. Or this morning as I went to work pondering where I could relocate temporarily until the water was back on. But I know now that Matthias really was close, my subconscious knew it. My subconscious was screaming it.

Did I really see him out the window of the diner this morning? Doesn't really matter. My instincts are now demanding that I take action. There will be gossip, no doubt about it. In mid-shift I walked out the kitchen door, through the alley and cautiously made my way back here. Relieved to find my apartment empty, to be able to pack without having to explain myself to the super. Pack. Run. Send for my belongings and send them from one place to another to mask where they're ultimately going . . . when I decide where that is. 

My nerves, once again on edge, I take a last look back as I open the door to my tiny apartment and I jump back, startled. There in the tiny hall is a wall of people. My neighbors Harriet and Mabel, Mike and all of the staff of the cafe, the chief of police, the sheriff, the district attorney, all of whom I'd gotten to know at the cafe. There is my landlord, the owner of the hardware store. The whole town standing at my door.

"Dear" begins Mabel.
"It stops here" Mike continues.
"We're small town people but we're smarter than you think" Police Chief Jacoby this time, "there's a young man in town asking for Julia . . . "
County Sheriff Marco: "but he's describing you."
"Whatever brought you here, whatever is making you run, it ends here." District Attorney Harbor.

My mind returns to that dream. Matthias is not actually Donny Donuts and wedding vows or not, my life is not a debt I owe to him. And yet, exactly like that dream about Donny Donuts, Matthias is a real danger. Not just to me but to all around me.

As I look at them all I know something else too. It's been 5 years, countless towns, no relationships, no connections, no meaningful life. No one can take aim at my life unless I let them. I can continue to be the silhouette on that paper or I can stop being a target. Only I can disarm the hunter.

"Come in" I find myself saying to more people than could comfortably fit in my tiny living room. And when what seems like the entire town is standing shoulder to shoulder in my apartment, I shut the front door, lean my back against it, look at them all and finally, finally, speak my truth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

PS: Domestic violence is not fiction, it's a fact. That stark reality left a personal mark on my heart this past year when, for the first time ever, I feared for people I knew. Safety should not be a goal some of us must strive for, it should be something we can all take for granted. If you are in a compromised situation, there is help. There are hotlines and shelters and legal clinics. It's free. Leaving may be hard, may even be terrifying but please reach out within your community. Trained professionals are waiting to take your hand. Be safe.

I'd like to thank again the talented bloggers who worked so hard to make this cohesive piece of fiction come together. I highly recommend you visit their blogs and see what else they have to share:

Diane of On the Border
Rena of The Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver and The Blogging 911
Tamara of Confessions of a part time working mom
Dawn of Spatulas on Parade
Sarah of Not That Sarah Michelle
Jenniy of Climaxed
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles
Lydia Cluttered Genius and Simply Brilliant Studio
Kimberly of When I Grow Up
and me!

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


  1. Good for her to come forward. I hope she will find peace - justice even.

    Love the creative writing journey - especially how Lydia brought back all the characters. Thank you for another great collaborative project, Karen!

    1. Yes, I love how we all work hard to add our own voices while being sure to pull the whole story together. And I love how different these stories all are from each other. Thanks again for joining in.

  2. Love it! What a great story with an amazing ending! Well done!

  3. This is amazing! Isn't it fun seeing where others take the story? Thank you for including me!

    1. So glad you joined in. I love every piece of this story.

  4. Thank you another good read this morning

  5. Wow...that was amazing. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

  6. Just caught up on this writing journey. So cool that many contributed to keep the story going. Well written by all!

  7. I can't believe I actually cried at the ending! This was an amazing experience as usual!

    1. Yes, I agree. I love the way we all work together to build these stories.


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