Authors: Cynthia Brint
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #suspense, #Demons & Devils, #Ghosts, #Psychics, #Witches & Wizards
-Protected by Stone-
Copyright © 2013 Cynthia Brint
All rights reserved.
Protected by Stone is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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've always had a soft spot for fantasy and whimsy when it's mixed with the everyday lives of people. Slice of life that meets the magical, you know the sort.
This story was written with the intent to capture that feeling of small towns, dark corners, and the question of what might really be out there, just waiting for us to find it.
here have been many moments in my life that have struck me as surprising. In fact, I'd have to say I've encountered quite a few things that would qualify as shocking. Out of place.
Things that you just never see coming, and even as they proverbially slam into your chest, you keep on riding that numb daze.
Funnily, this wasn't actually one of those moments.
“I'm sorry,” I said, squinting at the all too greasy face of my supervisor. “What was that last part?”
“I said you're fired.” Mr. Fields' tone was strained, more exasperated than sympathetic. “Honestly, I swear you're hardly listening to me. That's part of the problem, too, Farra!”
My fingers tugged at the hem of my crimson work-shirt. “Part of, right. Right. What exactly is the rest of the problem?”
His eyebrows scrunched up, tight as elastic. The effect on his skin was amazing. “Are you kidding me?” One thick finger jammed outwards, I followed it obediently with my gaze. “Farra, you're supposed to be watching the children out here!”
I stared at the bright plastic tubes, the places where tiny children would scramble. It was easier than meeting his eyes. “Well, but you see, I was. I mean, I was definitely watching them.”
“Two of them were fighting in the orange section!”
“Right, and I saw that.”
“I—you're supposed to
stop that if it happens!
Rubbing my cheek, I glanced back at him slowly. As expected, his skin was gleaming like wet tomato sauce. “I was pretty sure they'd work it out themselves.”
His mouth tightened. We both knew why I wouldn't go into the play tubes. Why I never had.
Inhaling until his shirt buttons strained, my supervisor calmed himself. “Farra, listen. I don't want to fire you—”
“—but this issue of yours, this irrational paranoia about tiny spaces...”
My skin warmed, a bite coming into my voice. “It has a name, Mr. Fields. Claustrophobia is a highly recognized issue, you know.”
He leveled his brows, so I bit my tongue. Debating with him was not going to matter. “I can't have someone working here who refuses to go into the play area. What if it had been more than a scuffle? What if not going in there would have led to something fatal?”
I just bit my tongue even harder.
“Farra,” he said, much quieter that time. “Look. I'm really sorry.”
“Not sorry enough to not fire me,” I mumbled.
“No,” he agreed. “Not sorry enough for that.”
Turning away, I tugged the baseball cap off of my head and tossed it to him. “Alright. Fine. That's just that, I guess. Bye, Mr. Fields.”
He watched me go, I felt his gaze all the way until I broke out of that building with its incessant screaming children. He hadn't let me finish my shift before he'd given me the bad news.
Maybe I should be grateful,
I thought cynically.
He saved me the trouble of dragging the hours out.
It would have been a silver lining to the situation if I hadn't needed the money.
I could probably get unemployment. Except there's no way that money will arrive in time for my apartment's rent.
The walk home to said apartment was short. In the distance, I heard the howl of the trains. My place was supposed to be cheaper, due to the constant noise. I'd still managed to fall behind.
Glancing up at the stars, partially hidden by the light pollution of Macon city, I wished I could walk forever. Between my awful job—or former job—and my tiny apartment, being outside felt like the better option.
Cracking open the front door of the building, I squinted at the flickering light down the short hall.
Dammit, she's still awake.
Gritting my teeth, my fingers deftly removed my shoes. Sliding inside, sneakers hooked on my hands, I did my best impression of a ninja. The brown carpet was damp under my socks.
I hope that's just from the rain earlier. Ugh.
Holding my breath until my lungs burned, I inched as silently as I could past the door of my landlady. My own apartment felt miles away.
Calm, calm, just be very patient... and she won't... even... hear—
My thoughts were interrupted as the door to my right creaked open. There, staring at me through the gap, was the harsh frown of my landlady. “Farra,” she snapped, sounding like she'd been swallowing pebbles all night.
“Miss Tanner,” I said, straightening up and hugging my sneakers. Her eyes flicked to them, then to my feet. Keeping my expression smooth, I wiggled my toes nervously. “How nice to see you, shouldn't you be sleeping? Or something?”
Her eyebrows crawled up her forehead. I'd given up trying to guess at her age over the two years I'd been living in the complex. She had wrinkles worn deep into her pinkish flesh, yet her energy never wore out.
A vampire, clearly,
I thought in bitter humor.
“Where's my rent?” she asked, leaning further into the hall. “I asked for it three days ago, and you said you'd have it in two. Well?”
Gesturing with my sneakers, I shrugged into my ears. “Right! No, you're right. I
She stared at me expectantly.
My neck warmed, I was sure my whole face was red, flustered. “Uh. So technically, I'll still have it for you tomorrow.”
That's a lie, entirely.
“It's already late today! Farra, no more of this. You give me that rent, or you're out of here.”
The rock that had settled in my belly grew heavier. “Come on, Miss Tanner. You'd really kick me out? Just for being a few days late?”
“For being a few days late every month!”
Turning my head, I stared pointedly at the ceiling. The cracks were suddenly very interesting. “It isn't like it'd be easy to find a new tenant so fast. Give me a few more days, please? Isn't that less trouble?”
She cleared her throat. “I already found a new tenant to replace you.”
Miss Tanner was nodding, too smug for my taste. I'd have been angry, except I felt so far away from the situation.
She's actually going to evict me. She didn't think I'd have the rent... and well, she was right, but...
I realized she was still talking, my ears ringing as I tuned in.
“My nephew, he'll take it over. He's a good boy, he'll pay on time.” Those thin, spider arms folded as she pursed her lips at me. “So gather your belongings and get them out.”
I struggled to keep the hold on my shoes. “How long do I have?”
“How about... three days?” Her tone seeped with cruel humor.
Tightening my jaw, fueled by my frustration, I turned away and strode down the hall. I could hear her say something at my back, but I ignored her. What was the point in listening to her berate me further?
The door to my apartment jostled, clinking and resisting my key. For a second I was terrified she'd changed the lock on me. When the knob yielded, I sighed in relief.
Leaning against the wood, I reached over and jammed my elbow on the light switch. My shoes fell to the floor, echoing as they bounced. Running a hand over my ponytail, I tugged the elastic away to set my dark strands tumbling. They smelled like grease from my job. It didn't bother me, though. It wasn't as if my apartment smelled much better.
Stepping around stacks of paper, old mail and magazines, I made my way to the tiny attached kitchen. My fridge warbled at me, like the engine was threatening to die.
Not my problem anymore,
I thought indignantly, peering in at my meager food options. Snagging a can of orange soda, I bumped the fridge shut.
I had to shove some old laundry off of my futon to make room to sit. Groaning, my back cracked as I twisted in place. The soda was crisp, tingling on my tongue. Drinking it greedily, I eyed my apartment in one quick swoop. It was small, easy to observe in a single turn of the head.
It really was a mess. If I was honest... it always had been. But what did it matter? Who was I trying to impress?
Finishing the drink, hoping it'd keep me feeling full, I crunched the can and bent it. Casually, as I'd done before, I tossed the useless tin across the room. It bounced off my far too full trash, rolling across the floor.
If I had to describe the way I lived, I suppose it'd be sort of like a bachelor.
A bachelorette, that's what I am. And that's just fine. Really, just fine.
Except I was out of a job, not to mention a place to live.
Unbuttoning the top of my work shirt, I peeked over at the pile of mail I'd left stacked by the door.
Maybe it's time to check the classifieds. Not sure what else I can do.
Standing, groaning like an old man, I collected up an armful of paper. I checked everything so infrequently, I didn't know at a glance what was old or new.
Spreading it on my futon, I sat back down. Shuffling the envelopes around, my eyes glazed over within minutes. Bending the paper, I turned the outdated advertisements into folded planes. Soon, I was tossing them around my cluttered apartment.
“Good for something, I guess,” I sighed. Staring back down at the envelopes, I huffed dramatically. Forcing myself to dig through, find the current newspaper, and then scour it for work that I
had to apply for... it was all very defeating.
Sliding aside a wrinkled magazine, something dark brown stood out among all the eggshell white.
My fingers hefted the stiff envelope, holding it close to my face.
It's addressed... to me? Well, sort of.
The feminine writing said 'Miss Blooms', which was my last name. My mother's name.
She'd never married my dad, not before the accident.
Tightening my mouth, I scraped at the folded opening. It didn't take much to open the mail, but something about it was unsettling me.
No one sends me mail.
It drove me to be cautious, my nerves tingling as I unfolded the letter inside.
It was a simple piece of stationary, covered in tight, cramped writing from top to bottom. Scanning down, I read the words with rising humor.
'Dear Miss Blooms,
You don't know me, but I happen to be your grandmother. I've wanted to write to you for some time, but was hesitant to reach out to you. Unfortunately, the moment has come so late, and now the choice is gone. I'm passing on, and I'm afraid you're the only heir.
This must come as a surprise, truly. I never wanted to spring it on you this way.
I need you to come claim my house and my possessions, and the time to do so is short. There is much here for you, and...'
I stopped reading, folding the paper in two with a snort.
Why, how perfect! Yes, I'll have to hurry to claim my rare Nigerian Prince castle and the fortune that comes with it. Wouldn't want to lose that!
Rolling my eyes, I tossed the cruel joke of a letter across the room. It, like the soda can, fell short of the trash.
I need real solutions,
I thought somberly. Rubbing at my temples, a migraine starting to birth, I eyed the newspapers again.
In the morning, when I'm fresh. I'll look for work, a new place, all of that. Tomorrow.
he knock that woke me up was loud, it did the job with gusto. Perhaps it was an impatient visitor, or something that required my attention had occurred. Whoever was knocking had no respect for the hour.