Confessions of the Crow

Confessions of the Crow

A Story by Tarra Gordon

I’m in a world of hurt. I’ve landed myself in serious trouble. They are on to me. I fear for my life. I’ve been vigilant, precise, and detailed, yet there is no doubt…I’m being followed, monitored...


Get ready for a Women's Romantic, Emotional, Suspense, Murder Mystery!


~Chapter One~

THE LIMO MOVED SLOWLY. The air inside reeked of sadness and despair, hopelessness. Although there was ample room, I felt confined, smothered. Gasping for air, I rolled down the window and looked toward the sky. Why, God? I pleaded silently. How could you let this happen? Where were you? Tears erupted and spilled onto my lap, my body quivering. I leaned back and pressed my hands to my face. Who are you kidding? I chastised myself. You’ve always known this was a possibility. After all, you chose to spend your life with a man whose job placed him in danger.

The noted psychologist, Kübler-Ross taught that grief occurs in five stages. First, there’s denial and isolation, followed by anger - then comes bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Grief is a merciless master, a ruthless sort of monster whose greatest weapon is its ability to hide in plain sight, and I was immersed in its stranglehold.

He’s gone! a voice echoed in my head. You’re alone. This painful reminder forced a shiver up my spine. It traveled across my shoulders, down my arms, and into my unsuspecting hands. Shifting in my seat, I reached for the overhead mirror. What’s happened to you? I questioned, glimpsing at the face staring back. My once bright eyes were dim, bloodshot, and smeared with mascara. While attempting to straighten my drooping blonde curls, I crinkled my nose and let out a weary sigh. He loved touching my hair. He said my freckles were cute, he called them angel kisses. Tears continued to spill as I returned the mirror upright.


THAT WAS ME en route to the most difficult day of my life. I was naive. I believed life was supposed to be fair - that I had the ability to control my destiny. I honestly thought that once I married my prince, I’d live happily ever after - end of story. Austin was not only my world, but the sun, the moon, and the stars - the center of my galaxy. Tragedy had brought unexpected changes. The life I knew no longer existed. My dreams had shattered into a million pieces, colliding head-on with a destiny I hoped never to face. "If only I could have told him goodbye", I mumbled. My parents, in-laws, and I were headed to a place that had become all too familiar - Peaceful Hills Mortuary. Not only would I bury him, but my foolish ideals as well.

So much for my storybook ending…


THE SCENE WAS VIVID. The moment I closed my eyes, I was there. I could see him behind the wheel of his black 1999 Pontiac Grand Am. Although his eyes appeared fixed on the road, they shifted restlessly, searching for signs of trouble. His pulse quickened when he saw the fear in her eyes, a woman alone, stranded in the dark; her situation dire. He had no choice. As a police officer, it was his job to help complete strangers. But you weren’t on duty, Austin! I silently protested. Why didn’t you just turn your head like everyone else and keep driving?

My eyelids fluttered and then sprang open. Determined to look attentive, I blinked and refocused on the familiar faces seated around me. Lines of sorrow had settled into the creases above my mother’s eyebrows and around her mouth. I’d seen this emotion before, I saw it the day we buried her father. Ignoring her own anguish, she cupped her hand and blew me a kiss. I pretended to catch it.

Both my parents and his were seated facing each other on tan, leather bench seats. Talk about opposites. While my parents were humble and unassuming, his were self-righteous and flamboyant. Mine understood the value of a dollar - his were spendthrifts. Mom ventured back into the work place after Dad retired, taking a job as a waitress. She was smart, well beyond her high school education. She could read people, she had instincts. She knew how to deal with rude customers and cope with long, grueling hours. Her idea of getting "fixed up" was a dress that showed off her legs, a dab of blush, and a pale shade of lipstick. Her short, blonde pixie cut framed her cupid face, accentuating her jade-green eyes. Her delicate pearl earrings set off the modest strand around her neckline.

My mother-in-law’s outfit, on the other hand, was a showstopper - black fishnet hose, strappy black heels, and a checkered, black and gold, silk scarf that draped across her plunging neckline. The glare of leopard print blurred my vision. Her glossy lips were outlined in bright red, the same shade as her dyed, shoulder-length hair, which, for the most part, was tucked beneath her ostrich-feathered hat. The concentrated odor of her musky perfume caused me to leave the window cracked.

My father, whom I loved and admired, was wearing a threadbare; gray polyester suit, pale green dress shirt, and coordinating striped tie, which complemented his gentle, pale green eyes. Dad’s hair had become mom’s dilemma. He parted what was left of it deeply to the side and then swept it across his forehead. Austin’s father William, commonly known as Bill, remained trim and fit; not an extra ounce on his 5’9" frame. Perhaps to look trendy, he used gel to spike his short, cropped hair. Typically, he was stoic, rigid, and reserved, never showing the least degree of emotion, but that day he fidgeted nervously, flicking imaginary specks of lint from his steel gray Armani jacket and slacks, and then settled his gaze outside the window.

Coincidently, our folks lived on opposite ends of California - Austin’s in Calabasas (the new Beverly Hills) and mine in San Jose, where I was born and raised. Living in Phoenix placed us several hundred miles from all of them. While I was spared Georgia’s diva-like ways and her husband’s cold demeanor, I felt the expanse between my own parents and me. We remained close, never letting a week go by without a phone call. Mom told me I acquired Dad’s joy for life along with his captivating eyes and full lips, but insisted I inherited my silky blonde hair and dimples from her.

Dad spent his career as a long-haul trucker. The summer vacation between my freshman and sophomore year of high school he invited me to join him on the road, saying it would be the best education I ever got. He was right. We explored the countryside together, trucking from the West to East coast. I learned all sorts of things that summer, including how to play poker. After dinner, he’d pull out a deck of cards, and we’d play ‘til dark. He explained that poker and life had similarities - that players who reigned in their emotions and performed well under pressure became successful at the game. He advised, "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then, but only through adversity are true leaders made." He taught me how to bluff, take risks, and understand the concept of "odds". "Trust your gut, Kat," he preached. "Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons."

Although Dad was on the road the majority of my developmental years, he reminded me often that he was as close as the phone. When I got stuck on a homework problem, I’d speed dial his number and we’d work it out. He got me through algebra one call at a time. Looking back, I’m amazed at the patience he had with my teenage drama, the stickiest topics being boys, grades, and Mom’s curfews. When I’d overhear them talking about me, it would always end the same, she’d hand me the phone, and he’d caution, "Kat, if Mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy."

I was convinced my dad was a genius! He could tackle any problem I threw at him, and best yet, make me think I’d come up with the solution all by myself. I loved driving him crazy! He’d cringe when I’d insist he learn the words to the latest songs on the radio. We spent hours on the phone, him singing along to my favorite girl bands while he trucked down the highway, clicking off miles. To this day, whenever I hear one, it causes me to cringe, remembering all I put him through!

I was jolted back to reality when the limo crawled over a speed bump. Glancing into the rear-view mirror, I noticed the elderly driver’s eyes. They seemed to be smiling at me. When our eyes locked, from his thin, aged lips escaped the words, "He’s in Paradise with God." Although his sentiment should have been reassuring, skeptically I considered the likelihood that he recited the same line to all of his passengers. Even though I smiled in return, his message offered little comfort. God has plenty of angels, I thought dismally. I need Austin here with me!

As we slowly motored our way into the parking lot, I forced myself to unclasp my fiercely gripped hands, surprised by the deep grooves above my knuckles. Anxious, I glanced out the window, knowing it was too late to turn back. The time had come to accept my fate, to say a final goodbye to my husband.

~Chapter Two~

AHEAD, WHITE PLASTIC lawn chairs were placed in long rows upon freshly cut green grass. I was overwhelmed, not only by the amount of family and friends, but by the number of uniforms present - Austin’s co-workers. Collapsing onto the nearest chair, I shrugged my coat off, hoping to catch my breath.

"Can I help with that?" dad offered as mom sat down next to me, her expression concerned. The moment it was off, I regretted my decision. Although the weather was mild, I felt chilled to the bone. Reaching back, I returned my arms into the silk-lined sleeves and then began rocking back and forth, squeezing the coat tighter and tighter, as though somehow it had the ability to protect me.

The plaintive sounds of bagpipes filled the air as the casket was taken from the silver hearse. Two formations of police officers stood at attention and saluted it. Six of Austin’s fellow officers, including his father, carried the casket and laid it on top of a thick drape designed to conceal the cavernous space below. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t force my eyes away from the darkness. How am I supposed to accept that my husband’s body is going to be laid to rest there? I wondered dismally. Filled with desperation, I reached out, only to feel the distance expand. It felt as though we’d been separated into two different worlds - him below, me trapped above.

While observing the flower arrangements through bleary eyes, I tried to focus on the attached cards, no doubt expressing sorrow for my loss. Unable to concentrate, I made a mental note to return and collect them after the service ended. Glancing at the program, I was thankful Austin’s lieutenant, Scott Murphy, had agreed to officiate. The crowd hushed as he slowly stood. His imposing physique and distinguished uniform provided a commanding appearance as he walked toward the podium. Clearing his throat, he began in a low timbre, "We’ve gathered here today to remember Austin Waverly and to mourn his loss." Then he paused and looked toward the sky. "Austin, my friend, you were a one of a kind." As his eyes dropped, he inhaled deeply and continued, "Officer Waverly provided outstanding service to the citizens of Phoenix. His fellow officers considered him a character builder, a motivator. He exemplified everything we stand for." Then he scanned the crowd. "First, I’d like to address his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Waverly. Congratulations to both of you. You raised a fine son, a contributor. It’s come to my attention that Austin’s father is a former police chief. Sir, I honor and hold you in high esteem. Thank you for the service you’ve rendered." Then gradually, methodically, he raised his hand to his cap’s edge, paused, and saluted. Bill returned the gesture with the same measured tempo.

From there, his eyes turned to my parents, who were seated alongside me. "Next, I'd like to honor Austin’s in-laws. Austin always lit up when he spoke of your daughter. It was no secret how much he adored her. Feel proud. You raised a lovely, gracious daughter." Then his eyes locked on mine. "Katrina, Austin gave everything - his very life - to protect and serve. May God bless and comfort you." Blotting his eyes, he continued, "Let it be known to all, we’ve lost an outstanding officer in Sergeant Austin Waverly, and I’ve lost a loyal, irreplaceable friend." Gulping, he cleared his throat. "If anyone would like to share their thoughts or feelings, please feel free. You may use this microphone or stand and speak where you are. The time is now yours." Then he bowed his head, pivoted, and returned to his chair.

Jessie Morgan, Austin’s partner, was the first to stand. They’d worked together the past year; in fact, Austin first introduced him as the unit’s FNG (freaking new guy). Hanging on the wall in the office they shared was a picture of the two of them smiling, climbing into their cruiser, Austin sitting in the driver’s seat and Jesse closing the passenger door. Being burly guys, together they were an intimidating pair. I could see the picture clearly in my mind. Austin’s medium brown hair was combed haphazardly away from his face while Jesse’s was shaved short, Police Academy style.

My eyes clouded with tears, sensing his pain. He began, "What do you say about a man who was larger than life?" Then he paused. "Not only was Austin my partner, but a friend. We shared an unspoken bond of brotherhood." Looking directly at me he continued, "Oh my God, Kat, do you have any idea how much you meant to him? He always kept his cell phone handy; he didn’t want to miss your call. I admired your relationship, he was a lucky man." Then he smiled and looked away. "Over these past months, I discovered Austin, the man he truly was. Although he was feared on the streets, he’d be the first one to stop and help someone in need." Wiping his eyes, he cleared his throat. His smile fading, he continued, "I don’t know how to protect the city without him. I’ll miss him for as long as I live." With his arm extended toward the casket he concluded, "Goodbye, friend. I love you, buddy."

My eyes followed his toward the casket. It was draped with an American flag. Placed on top was a massive red rose bouquet adorned with brightly colored patriotic ribbons.

"Kitty, are you holding up?" Dad whispered as he squeezed my hand.

"Is there anything I can do?" Mom added lovingly.

"This is totally overwhelming," I mumbled between sobs. "I’m just so grateful you’re both here."

Up next was Mr. Riley, Austin’s baseball coach. The moment he introduced himself, stories flashed through my mind. Austin spoke so highly of him, telling me of the difference he’d made in his young life. Now the tables had turned. It was Coach Riley preparing to tell me inspirational stories about my husband. How ironic, I thought miserably, shaking my head in despair.

The podium dwarfed when he approached and gripped each side with his enormous hands. His piercing green eyes glistened as he spoke about Austin’s competitive nature, his passion for fair play, and his respect for the rules of the game. He gushed with pride as he gave examples of how he’d improved as a player from where he started as a freshman to the level he’d risen to as a senior. He freely admitted to favoring Austin, saying he considered him a son. Turning his eyes to me he added, "Kat, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Austin had entered the Police Academy. He had all the attributes of a police officer. I was proud of him."

Andy McDonald, who attended the Police Academy with Austin, spoke next. He was an easy one to recognize. Although his fellow officers towered over him, he compensated with a strong, muscular build, quick wit, and engaging personality. Andy was the practical joker in the group. He began by saying that Austin was his role model. "He told me he believed in me." Pausing to gain his composure he continued, "Austin followed a strict moral code, there was no gray in his world." He had everyone in stitches toward the end when he talked about their "ride-alongs". At the end of their shift, the two of them would sing at the top of their lungs, "Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha-gonna do, whatcha-gonna do when they come for you." His story brought a smile followed by more tears. My Austin loved to sing, the louder the better, but he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. That didn’t slow him down, though; he belted out songs every chance he got.

The services concluded with a twenty-one-gun salute, followed by a stirring performance of "Taps" and the traditional folding of the American flag. I thought my heart would melt when I saw my father-in-law’s face. His stoic expression had disappeared. Replacing it was distress: a man clearly heartbroken, in dire agony. His eyes were swollen and bloodshot, and tears stained his leathered cheeks. Kneeling down at my feet, he presented the folded flag.  I felt its weight and everything it stood for when he placed it in my hands. I was so overcome I couldn’t speak. All I managed was mouthing the words, "Thank you."

While those in attendance stood, I took Mom’s hand. "Mom, did you and Dad notice?" I asked. "They’ll be buried side by side."

"Oh, honey!" she gulped. "That’s perfect."

"Let’s take a few moments," Dad added as he turned to Mom, "to pay our respects." I nodded in agreement as I gripped the flag and turned toward her grave. I put my fingers to my lips, kissed them, knelt down, and pressed them to her marker. When I looked up, Mom was visibly upset. "Now Brianna won’t be alone," she sniffed. "Her daddy will be with her."

"Her daddy will be with her . . ." I mumbled out loud, the haunting sentiment cutting, the impact unbearable, like a dull knife slicing through my already broken heart. Oh my God, we wanted her so much! Mom helped me decorate her room. Holding Brianna for the first time was all she talked about - it’s what we all talked about.

Unable to hold back any longer, I slowly collapsed. Dropping to my knees, I covered my face and burst into tears. "Why? WHY? This isn’t fair! I didn’t deserve this!" I pled in agony. At that moment, I broke. All of the pain I’d stuffed down erupted. I cried for the life I couldn’t control, for the profound loss I felt; but mostly, I cried for the way it should have been. My hopes and dreams dashed, my perfect little family gone, utterly destroyed.

"I’m so sorry…" Dad whispered as he reached down to help me up. "You’re my angel! Always have been and always will be. Your mother and I are here for you." Then he placed my hand into my mother’s. "Hold tight," he said smiling at both of us. Turning to face the crowd, in a withered tone he announced, "Folks, thank you for your support today. Please stop by the church for lunch." Turning back he looked into my eyes. "Kitty," he whispered, "I felt him. Austin was here today."

No words needed to be spoken. I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him. Then he pulled back and winked. This had been our secret sign ever since I was a child. A wink always meant, "I love you." I winked back and then placed my hand through his bent elbow. As we walked back to the limo, I looked up toward the clouds. "Please, God," I mouthed. "Watch over my precious angels." That’s when I remembered the promise I’d made. I told Dad to go on ahead, that I’d be right back.

Walking from arrangement to arrangement, I removed each card. Reading these will give me something to do during the luncheon, I thought optimistically. To get a better view, I fanned them out.

That’s when I saw it for the first time.

"What? What is this?" I sputtered as I pulled a charcoal-colored card from the bunch. On the front was a picture of a shiny black, metallic crow. I let out an audible gasp when I took a closer look:



~Chapter Three~

WHAT KIND OF SICK, CRUEL JOKE IS THIS? I thought, flinching awkwardly, stumbling backwards with fright as warning shots fired in my head. Looking up, I scanned the area for possible onlookers. What kind of person would do this? I questioned. Horrified, I slid the cards back together and then forced them deep inside my coat pocket. When I caught up to Dad, I tried to smile, but was too preoccupied. "Gotcha!" I mumbled to myself. What does it mean? Ahead, the driver waited motionless next to the open passenger door. He appeared to be stretched as tall as his short, bent frame would allow. With a noticeable twinkle in his eyes, he nodded and reached for my hand.  Leaning in, I peered down the length of the interior to find my mother attempting to make polite conversation.

"The service was wonderful, wasn’t it?" Mom asked as she smiled coyly at Bill.

"Uh huh," he grumbled, his voice low and edgy. Mom attempted to speak once more, but stopped short when he turned away, his eyes fixed out the window.

What’s with him? I winced - stunned by the blow he’d dealt. At that moment, I didn’t care about his pain, but only the pain he inflicted. How dare he treat my mother as though she were insignificant? Mom turned to Dad with a quizzical look and reached for his hand. Her response reminded me of my own guarded relationship with my father-in-law. Oftentimes I’d ask Austin why his dad was so complicated - forever standoffish and cold toward me. He’d just shrug and tell me it was job related - a difficult case or stressful investigation. Maybe he was right; a lifetime of law enforcement had taken its toll, leaving him a hollow, empty shell, incapable of feeling much of anything.

As I settled onto the plush leather seat, a shrill noise from behind startled me. "William!" she snipped. "This is ridiculous! Why is Katrina allowed to sit in front of us? It’s not right, nor is it fair! After all, we are his parents."

Shocked, I glanced over my shoulder. Shielding my mother-in-law’s face was a multitude of fluttering ostrich feathers extending from her black velvet hat. Bill seemed oblivious, his eyes unwavering, still glued to whatever held his attention outside the window.

What a pair, I mused as I turned back around. Georgia took "diva" to the next level. Not only was she self-absorbed, but believed herself to be a bonafide socialite. That, coupled with her husband’s status as a former Police Chief, well…their illustrious company could get a bit…taxing. "Did you hear about ‘this’ party, or ‘that’ function?" she’d blab endlessly. If she wasn’t boasting over her active social life, it was because she was spewing accolades over the volunteer work she provided her local chapter of the Red Cross. If her audience managed to endure that bit of drivel, she’d then rattle on about her arduous days filled with scrumptious luncheons, spa treatments, and afternoon shopping sprees.

Taking my chances, cautiously, I slid closer to her eminence. Shifting my eyes ever so slightly, I peeked at her reflection in the side window. Discreetly, I watched as the angle of her eyes slanted, and then with dagger like intensity, turned fully upon me. Taking a breath, she clamped her lips firmly together as though blocking something she desperately needed to release. To lessen the impact, I closed my eyes and waited for it to be over. This was the story of our lives. Sadly, I’d memorized each of her sarcastic looks, never sure why I affected her the way I obviously did. Was I a threat perhaps; the "other woman", an outsider who invaded her rightful place as queen of her son’s heart? I couldn’t guess with complete accuracy, but certainly suspected it to be the case.

Although she and Austin were opposite extremes, they did share something extraordinary in common: their eye color, a mesmerizing shade of ice blue. And in that moment, in the flecks of sapphire and violet, I unmistakably saw…him. The impact was so crippling that I flinched, clamped my eyes shut, and then turned away. After several deep breaths, I attempted it again, convincing myself it was the right thing to do. After all, I wasn’t the only one grieving, and to be fair, I had to give her credit; she and her husband had certainly raised a remarkable son.

"Georgia," I began. "How have you and Bill been managing?" No sooner did the words escape my lips than her theatrics began. She threw her hands in the air and howled like an alley cat, no doubt a precursor to her upcoming performance. To my relief and good fortune, the limo turned and came to a stop.

And thankfully - so did she . . .

With the parents ahead, I lagged behind, aware of each footstep; the church looming in the distance. What a beautiful stained glass window, I marveled as I proceeded up the steps. At first, its colors appeared blurred, but the closer I got the intricate design became clearer. Carefully taking it in, my eyes gravitated toward a white dove perched high on an olive branch, but when I looked away, the dove transformed from white to utter blackness. That’s not a dove - it’s a crow! I gasped, caught off guard. Clutching my coat tightly around me, I fastened each button and then bit down on my lip. Placing a tissue in my pocket, my fingertips brushed against the card’s edge. The sensation was terrifying; I was filled with an overwhelming sense of foreboding.

"Gotcha!" I mumbled, absorbing its haunting resonance; then repeated it once more. Questions jumbled up my mind. Did it have to do with Austin’s death, or . . . was it meant for me? Was I safe? Should I tell someone, and if so, who? At my wit’s end, I cringed, realizing I couldn’t answer a single question. Resisting the urge to scream; instead, I stuffed down all traces of panic, determined to replace them with something calming. Sing! I told myself. Music was something I’d come to rely upon as a mood elevator. Sifting through my mind, I went with the first song that popped into my head, one that my mother had taught me as a child. Taking a breath I began, "Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird." Mockingbird? What? Why did I choose that song? What’s going on? I gulped.

With the safety of the church ahead, the massive door handle inches from my grasp, I had an insatiable desire to turn back. Glimpsing over my shoulder, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted movement. When I turned further, my panic multiplied and then quadrupled. Headed straight for me was a woman; her demeanor, nothing short of menacing. Adrenaline surged yet I was rigid; frozen with fear. I could see she was wearing dark clothing, but couldn’t make out her features. Her face was turned away, and dark sunglasses concealed her eyes. When she slipped her hand into her purse, I panicked even further. Is she reaching for a gun? I stammered, my knees buckling. When her hand resurfaced, it was no longer empty. Oh God, this is it! I thought, filled with fright. She’s going to shoot me! This is how it ends? I die on the church steps? Bracing myself for the impact, I ducked and shielded my face.

"Kat? Are you OK?" she asked, her tone concerned. Peeking between my fingers, I hunched over gasping for air. "Paige…" I stammered, "You scared me half to death! Nearly gave me a heart attack!"

Ignoring my melodrama she broke into a sprint, quickly closing the distance between us. Bracing myself for the impact, she threw her arms around me with such force that her sunglasses went flying. I watched helplessly as they ricocheted off the door, tumbled across the steps, and then sank deep into a prickly cactus bush.

"No biggie," she mumbled, squinting and shielding her eyes. "I needed new ones anyway."

"What’s in your hand?" I groaned, releasing a pent up sigh.

"What, this?" she asked, waving a packet of tissues in the air. "I came prepared. Why? What’d you think it was?"

"God, I don’t know," I moaned, embarrassed. "A gun or something."

Stepping back, she raised an eyebrow and crinkled her nose. "A what?" she questioned breathlessly. "Hold on a second." Pressing her palm to my forehead she searched my eyes.

"I’m not sick! It’s my eyes. I can barely see! I’m not wearing my contacts. With everything going on, well - I figured it wouldn’t be a good day to wear them."

"Kat, you should’ve seen your face!" she said, shaking her head. "You looked like you’d seen a ghost."

"Thanks for sharing…" I huffed while unzipping my purse. Fishing for my glasses, I slid them on. "There, all better; now I can see. Hey, did you miss your flight? I thought you’d be here for the service."

"God, I hate airports!" she ranted. "I got there in plenty of time, checked in, the whole nine-yards. Never fails though - my flight was delayed. I called. Didn’t you get the message?"

"I left my phone at home." I conceded, gnawing on a stray hangnail.

"At home, really?" she winced, coming to a complete stop. Resting her hands on her hips, she cocked her head to the side and then crossed her eyes.

I couldn’t help but smile.

Paige Kingwood and I went way back. We’d been best friends since the sixth grade. Although it’d been months since our last visit, we talked constantly on the phone, by text - you name it. She and I had history, a lifetime’s worth. She was everything a best friend should be. We were open books; she knew everything about me and vice versa. She loved to remind me of the blood oath we took back in the seventh grade behind the school gym. We promised, "No secrets allowed." It’s been an easy promise to keep.

"Anyway, sorry I scared you," she sighed while checking her watch. "I left the message at twelve-thirty, gave all the details including my new arrival time. Oh well, so much for that." she added, her innocent expression fading. "I know it sounds ridiculous, but, how are you?"

Paige had a habit of asking questions she already knew the answer to. "Paige," I whimpered back, "I’m heartbroken; devastated, completely grief-stricken. I can’t believe it. This wasn’t supposed to happen! How can he be dead? It’s not possible!"

"I know … I know. I’ve been thinking about it constantly. I’ve been so worried about you! I wanted to leave the moment you called, jump on a plane, and just get here." Then her lips formed into a scowl. "But my boss is a freaking jerk! I’m convinced he makes up his own rules! He said that since I’m not a blood relative, I’d have to follow protocol. I don’t know why I bothered to push the issue since his second excuse was as lame as the first; he blamed it on being short-staffed and then gave me the look. You know the one. God! He’s a hard a*s! I can’t stand him!"

"Honestly, Paige, it’s OK. All that matters is you’re here now."

Over time, things have a way of changing. Friendships tend to whither and fade. Not ours. Paige was my rock - that never changed. We’d been through thick and thin. She defined loyalty. Growing up, we were inseparable. In high school, I’d proudly introduce her as my sister. She’d laugh, raise her hand and announce, "I was adopted!" Actually, I wished we’d adopted her. It didn’t matter to me that we looked nothing alike. While I was pale - lily white - she was caramel, beautifully bronzed. I was tall - she was short. My eyes were green; hers were a golden hazel. I was built like a pencil; she was wider, more like a ruler. Big deal! Most importantly we were alike in the ways that counted. For instance, we grew up in the same neighborhood, shopped for clothes in the same stores, went to the same church - heck, we even wore the same color lip-gloss! She could beat most boys at arm wrestling - until we turned fourteen - and I beat ‘em at poker. Our mothers played bingo Friday nights and bowled in the same league on Monday afternoons. My dad was a trucker, hers, an electrician. Both families drove clunkers.

Back in our school days, Paige was considered a "tough girl". She was the girl who refused to back down, the girl who had your back. Bullies scattered and ran when a fight was ready to break out. She claimed it was because of her weight and big attitude. Truth be told, although she came off as tough, she was pure marshmallow inside - although I was told never to mention that. Personally, I think she was proud of her reputation. Put it this way: she was never picked on.

During our senior year in gym class, we learned the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. One day we found a scale parked at the end of the lockers. We all lined up behind it. Paige was first to step on. She measured 5’2" and weighed 168 pounds. I measured 5’7" and weighed 115. I never considered her heavy, though; in fact to me she looked just right. She had the whole package: she was cute, smart, spunky, and had a spitfire personality. Her eyes sparkled, and her laugh was contagious. Nothing’s changed. Not only was she pretty, but naturally so. She never wore braces or got pimples, and everyone was jealous of her hair. They still are! It was incredibly thick and looked fantastic no matter how she wore it. Sometimes she’d wear it in braids and tell the kids she was ¾ Indian. With a straight face, she’d say her great grandfather was a bad a*s Cherokee Chief who scalped pale faces. About then, she’d lunge at ‘em. They’d stumble backwards and duck every time! When I’d glimpse in her direction, she’d shoot me a look - and then burst out laughing.

Her report cards were loaded with A’s, and her name always appeared on the honor role. Between her brains and ambition, she could have chosen any career. In high school, she considered becoming a PE teacher. With her athletic ability, it made sense. But in the end, her interests changed and she went into nursing. As part of her training, she rotated through each department. It gave her an opportunity to determine where her strengths and interests lay. It didn’t surprise me that she ended up in the emergency room. With her keen ability to think fast under pressure, she made an ideal candidate. I’d ask how she felt about the trauma there. "Oh, you mean the blood and guts?" she’d gloat. "It’s no big deal, you get used to it. They come in banged up, but we send ‘em out good as new."

"Hey you," she nudged as she grabbed my hand. "How about the two of us blow this joint? Let’s sneak away for a few minutes and spend some us time."

Next thing I knew, we’d made a U-turn and were headed toward the sidewalk. When she produced her famous - have-I-got-news-for-you grin, I braced myself for what was coming.

"What’s up?" I muttered under my breath.

"You’ve seen her, right?"

"Who? Seen who, Paige?"

"Of course you’ve seen her, duh! Georgia," she said in a half whisper, her hand cupped over her lips, her eyes darting in all directions.

"What do you mean, ‘have I seen her’?"

"Mind you, I know it’s not the time or place, but for crying out loud, she’s taken it too far!"

"What? Taken what too far?" I mumbled out of the corner of my mouth, my jaw barely moving.

"Her face! I thought by now she’d be done with plastic surgeries. Someone - not you - but someone needs to tell her to knock it off!" She took a breath, "God! Her outfit! Come on! Who’d wear a skintight jungle print and tacky feathered bird hat to a funeral, much less her son’s?" She paused and her eyes narrowed, as if carefully reassessing her position. "I need to shut up, and hope to soon, but I can’t. I’ve got to let it out. Doesn’t she realize she looks like a hooker? No, actually taking her age into account, more like a madam? What does Bill think of her?" Studying my reactionless face, her eyes widen. "Or does he think? Nope, he wouldn’t dare!" she answered herself.

Instead of agreeing, I frowned and shook my head.

"Oh, God, Kat, I’ve done it again. Forgive me! I shouldn’t be talking trash about your mother-in-law, especially at a time like this. I’ll zip it." Pressing two fingers to her lips, she twisted and ran them to the other side, and then flung an imaginary key into the air. "There, I’m done - no more." Hanging her head, she sighed, "What’s wrong with me? I’m totally inappropriate - rude as hell. S**t - s**t - s**t! I’m sorry!"

I bit my lip harder to hide my amusement and shook my head in awe. How does she do it? I wondered. She’d managed to take me from unspeakable sorrow…to laughter.

Unfortunately, the moment refused to linger. It was replaced by the glaring factors that had brought us here. Reaching into my purse, I grabbed a tissue with one hand, her arm with the other, and together, we headed back to the church.

© 2014 Tarra Gordon

Author's Note

Tarra Gordon
On all the major ebook seller's. Thanks for your time.

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Added on March 11, 2014
Last Updated on March 11, 2014
Tags: Women's, Romantic, Emotional, Suspense, Murder Mystery


Tarra Gordon
Tarra Gordon

Chandler, AZ

I'm a new Author. I just completed my first novel, a woman's suspense mystery called Confessions of the Crow. I'm anxious to learn how to market effectively through social media, etc., in order to gai.. more..