Lilly’s phone rang as they turned off their street onto the service road, headed towards the estate Fane’s parents were renting. She answered it without looking to see who it was.
“This is Lilly.”
“Lilly, it’s Jeff from the store,” she heard her employee say and she noticed that he sounded nervous.
“Jeff, is everything okay? You sound a little tense,” Lilly told him.
“Well, there is a little problem. We have an irate customer demanding to see you, saying something about being ripped off. He won’t go into details, but he is really angry and I didn’t know if I should call the police or what so I called you.”
“If he hasn’t hurt anyone don’t call the police, we don’t need to bother them with this if I can solve it by me coming up there and talking to the man. Give me five minutes and I will be there,” Lilly told Jeff.
Lilly hung up the phone and took the first turn that would lead to her bookstore.
“Mom, what’s up? Is everything okay at the store?”
“I’m not real sure. That was Jeff, he is one of my assistant managers, and he says there is an irate customer demanding to see me. Jeff seemed pretty apprehensive about it so I think I need to stop by, but I will make it quick.”
“It’s no big thing, wolf-man can wait a few moments. I’m not going to tell him we are making a detour, let’s make him sweat a little when I don’t show up exactly at 1:00,” Jacque said with a mischievous smile.
“I don’t think you and Jen should be allowed to hang out any more, Jacque, she’s beginning to rub off on you and I can’t handle more than one evil witch at a time,” Sally said sarcastically.
Jen rolled her eyes. “There’s nothing wrong with making the man sweat a little. I mean, come on, he did fake his death and nearly drive our sweet little Jacque out of her mind. All’s fair in love and war, baby.”
“Well, there is that,” Sally conceded.
They pulled up to the curb in front of the book store and all four of them piled out of the car. It was way too hot to sit in the car even with the air on and besides that Jacque didn’t want her mom facing some lunatic by herself. Once they were in the store, Lilly started looking around, expecting to see or at least hear this so-called irate customer, but there was nothing. Everyone in the store was quiet, perusing through the store, some talking softly to one another. She walked up to one of the employees and asked where Jeff was.
“He said he had to leave, something about an emergency,” the employee named Lisa answered.
That’s weird, Lilly thought. “Well what happened to the customer who was so upset?” Lilly asked.
“What customer? There haven't been any upset customers this morning.”
Although Jacque had noticed that she hadn’t been picking up emotions lately, she could feel something wasn’t right. “Mom, I’m not really liking the sense of this whole situation. Let's go, okay?” Jacque told her mother.
“Yea, I’m with ya, Jac. I’m getting a bad vibe,” Jen added
Lilly felt the same way; something was wrong. They needed to leave but she didn’t feel comfortable leaving the store open. She turned back to Lisa and told her to politely tell the customers there had been an emergency and that the store needed to close, and then asked her to lock up.
As they all got back into the car, Jacque couldn’t stop the chill that ran through her body. She was blocking her thoughts from Fane and even trying to block her emotions because she knew if he thought she was even in the tiniest danger, or that there was even a potential for danger, he would come flying to the rescue and she didn’t feel like the situation was that dire.
As Lilly began to pull away from the curb, Jacque asked, “So mom, what do you think that was about?”
“I’m not really sure. Jeff has always seemed honest. I don’t understand why he would lie about an irate customer,” Lilly answered.
“Maybe he’s one of those disgruntled employees who’s gotten his panties all in a twist because he didn’t get that raise he wanted. Or maybe he’s got one of those problems where you hallucinate and see things that aren’t there. Or maybe he’s on crack so he’s hallucinating and seeing things that aren’t there, or hmphmm -” Before Jen could continue, Sally slapped a hand over Jen’s mouth.
“We really need to work on that whole brain, mouth filter, Jen,” Sally said morosely.
“Hmm hmm hmming” Jen grunted around Sally’s hand.
“Yes, yes, we know you're just saying,” Jacque translated for her.
“Well, whatever his panties are in a twist about, as Jen so eloquently put it, they just became the least of his problems considering he lied to me and then left in the middle of his shift.” Lilly pinched her forefinger and thumb on the bridge of her nose. It was times like these that owning her own business seemed like the least brilliant of all her bright ideas.
Jacque was looking at her mom, seeing the tiredness seeping into her like water searching for cracks in a foundation when she heard Jen whistle.
“Check out that tall drink of somin, somin.”
All of a sudden Jacque heard a huge bang. Lilly began to swerve. She jerked the steering wheel to the right to compensate but it was too hard. The SUV began to spin and as they hit the ditch on the side of the road, the car began to roll. Over and over it rolled like a barrel down a hill until it finally came to an abrupt stop, landing upside down with its wheels in the air. Jacque was screaming, hell, they were all screaming. She could feel the passenger side door crush into her side, the side of the front dash slammed into her leg and she felt a bone shattering crunch shoot up her leg and the seat belt was like a noose across her neck. She was so confused she didn’t understand what had happened. Finally the rolling stopped and as the car came to a jarring halt Jacque felt her head hit the side glass window and then it was quiet.
For a few moments it was eerily quiet except for the rapidly growing fire crackling in the air, smoke rising like a beacon declaring their crash site to all around. Finally Sally groaned and began to try to move. She shifted her legs, experimenting to make sure she was still intact.
“Everyone okay?” It was she who spoke first.
“If by okay you mean are my ears ringing out of my head, is my leg all scrapped to hell, did my seat belt cut a gash in my neck, and did our stinking car just do the tango down the side of a ditch, then yes Sally, we are okay,” Jen answered.