Good morning and welcome back to my portion of Tuesday Tales, a chance for you to see the step by step way I create a story which unfolds into a novel. But this writing exercise has a twist. Each week’s entry is based on a wortd or picture prompt. This week, the word is pretty. Next week, Tuesday tales will be spread over a few days with a Christmas theme, so make sure you check back each day until Christmas Eve when the story will end.
So, without further ado, here is this week’s offering from Hello Again.
Opening the bathroom door, Charley took two tentative steps into the room before Bill whisked her off her feet and carried her to the table.
“I can walk now,” she protested weakly, putting her arm around his neck.
“Not according to the doctor,” he said, smiling at her, his green eyes, so much like Mike’s, lit with playful laughter.
He set her down on the chair she’d occupied the previous night. Shirley placed a steaming mug of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal in front of her. The hot drink called to her soul as it did each morning. If she replaced anything from her lost appliances, it would be her single brew coffeemaker, an extravagance, but one she was pretty sure she’d never be able to survive without.
“Thank you,” Charley said, raising the cup to her lips, and sipping the hot brew. “Delicious. You know, the one thing I’ve never been able to do with a large coffeemaker is brew a decent cup of coffee. Mike used to make ours because he claimed mine was unpalatable.”
“I don’t think you’re alone there,” Bill commented and laughed. “The coffee down at the station either tasted like motor oil or dishwater. I’m sure there are some potfuls that can he used to shellac wood.”
Shirley returned to the table with coffee and cereal for herself.
“Making a good pot of coffee is an art,” Shirley said. “I buy the best Arabica beans I can get—not the premade stuff you get in cans. I keep the beans in an airtight glass jar, and grind them fresh for each pot. I only make small pots, so the coffee doesn’t sit around for hours. It’s all about freshness.” She chuckled. “When I was first married, my husband said I made the world’s worse cup of coffee, but I’ve learned a trick or two over the years.” She turned to Bill. “There’s brown sugar and milk on the table, and another serving if you want more. I know it’s your favorite.”
“How do you know that?” he asked, his eyebrows crinkled in confusion.
“The spirits, of course. How many times will I have to explain that to you? Now, eat up. There’ll be another storm late this afternoon, and you’ll need to be back by then.”
“Another storm?” Charley asked, seriously questioning the wisdom of moving out west after all. “A twister?”
“Maybe, but not like yesterday’s,” Shirley answered matter of factly, as if predicting the weather, à la spiritual beings, was an everyday occurrence. “They won’t hit us, but we’ll get more rain.” She took a mouthful of coffee. “The horse will be here shortly.”
“What horse?” Bill asked, and Charley realized he was as confused as she was.
“The spirit horse comes when I need him.”
“Are you telling me you ride a ghost horse?” Bill asked incredulously, and Charley stifled a giggle at the vision of her short, stout hostess atop some white stallion.
Shirley laughed. “Not a ghost horse. He’s a wild pony, a pinto, the leader of a small band that roam the foothills. The spirits send him to me when I need him, but I haven’t ridden in at least ten years. I polished the tack and saddle for you last week.”
“And of course you knew I’d be coming.” Bill shook his head.
“You specifically? No, I told you that. I knew I’d be having guests for a few days. I was hoping it wouldn’t be those hooligans back again, but I sensed no danger this time.”
Bill frowned as if he wanted to say something else.
Did that mean someone else was in danger or would be, or that Shirley would be in danger another time? Before Charley could ask, Shirley spoke again.
“I’ve found the ammunition for the rifle, so we’ll be fine while you’re in Sintaluta,” she said.
“Rifle?” Charley asked. “Why do you need a rifle?”
“Shirley had some unwelcomed guests last week,” Bill began only to be cut off by the feisty old woman.
“Guests my ass,” she said forcefully. “Those motorcyclists were rude, destructive thieves. I should’ve emptied both barrels into them instead of the air.”
“Damn, Shirley,” Bill said, “if you’d killed or wounded one of them … The more I think about it, the less I understand why they even left. They had to know you were alone.”
“I’m never alone, Bill. You should realize that by now.”
“Yeah well, a bunch of ghosts won’t do much to save you from an angry gang member with a gun,” Bill said, his frustration evident in the vise-like grip he had on the spoon.
Charley observed the discussion, spooning oatmeal into her mouth, fascinated by the emotions on Bill’s face. He was exasperated by the woman, but there was more than that. He genuinely cared about her. Mike had cared about people too, but never quite this way. This was deep and personal—almost a filial love. Shaking away the thought, she smiled.
“This is the best hot cereal I’ve ever had, Shirley. It’s never been a favorite of mine, but if it always tasted like this, I’d be hooked.”
“I’ll teach you how to make it tomorrow,” the old woman answered. “Today, we’ll make dumplings for the chicken stew we’ll have for supper. It’ll pass the time while Bill’s gone.”
“Where are you going, Bill?” Charley asked.
“I was going to walk the five miles into the main village on the Reserve to see if I could find out more about yesterday’s storm. I can’t get a cell signal out here, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get one there. I’m hoping I can get through to Regina and see what I can do about getting us out of here.”
“Do you think you can get a message to the school board in Saskatoon?” Charley asked. “If I don’t report in by the sixteenth, they’ll give the job to someone else. I have the signed contract with me. I expected to be there by today…” she let her voice fade. If she lost that job after all of this, what would she do?
Don’t borrow trouble, babe, Mike’s voice echoed in her head. I’ve got this covered. Charley blinked, feeling light headed.
“In two days,” Shirley said, the confidence in her voice brooking no argument.
“In two days what, Shirley?” Bill asked as Charley fought to make sense of everything.
“In two days, we’ll all leave here. For now, if you’re finished, Charley needs to get cleaned up so I can bandage her leg. I’ll get you some of my daughter’s old clothes. The stuff in your bags is wet and musty smelling. It’ll need to be washed. We’ve got time to do that this morning.”
“Is the power back on?” Charley asked.
“No, but the generator is hooked into the propane tank and can provide all the electricity we need.”
“Okay.” She swallowed the last mouthful of coffee and rose. Before she could move any further, Bill scooped her up.
“I’m going to miss this job when it’s over,” he said and winked.
“If I ever need a quick pick-me-up,” Charley joked. “I’ll keep you in mind.”
Well, that’s it for now. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales