Monday, October 19, 2020

Introducing New Characters

I borrowed a few characters from the series I’m currently writing to create a short story for my next few posts. This is set several years before the first book. It will wrap up in December so I had fun squeezing in a few holidays. I hope it’s as much fun to read.

Part 1

    Audra walked around the counter closer than was strictly necessary. She wasn’t trying to avoid the shadow on the opposite wall. She wasn’t afraid of the shadow because it was a shadow. Shadows were harmless. Her eyes sought it out despite her intention to ignore it. She froze when it moved. “Grandma?” she called.
    “Yes, dear?” The older woman at the stove answered without immediately turning around. She had a large spoon in her hand when she did. “Do you need something?”
    “Um…” Audra felt foolish as another employee glanced her way as well. At fifteen, she was the youngest person who worked at the January CafĂ© and everyone knew she had the job because her grandparents owned the place. She didn’t want to look like a baby. “Never mind,” she said.
    Grandma May smiled pleasantly and went back to cooking.
    Audra stepped forward to post the dinner order she’d just taken. Her eyes strayed to that corner again. A small space between the cooler and the wall was dimmer than the rest of the kitchen. Two brooms were propped against the wall. The previous night, Audra had grabbed one of those brooms and noticed an eerie shadow between them. She’d moved both brooms around trying to figure out where it was coming from with no luck. With the huge cooler in the way, the only light source was directly behind her. The shadow stayed the same no matter where she stood. Something under the cooler had to be casting it. But that was impossible. The cooler was resting completely on the ground.
    The mystery had mostly disappeared from Audra’s mind when she started today’s shift. It wasn’t until the cheery sunlight began to fade from the windows that she remembered the patch of unexplained darkness. She began to peek at it whenever she passed and sometimes shifted her path for an extra look. The shape wasn’t always the same. Sometimes it seemed darker than others and even flickered menacingly at her. Her heart began to race each time she approached it, causing her to hug the counter more every time she passed.
    She took her time with other cleaning chores in the hope that someone else would grab a broom first. Audra didn’t normally mind riding her bike home after work. Even at night, her small town felt peaceful and safe. Thoughts of that unexplained shadow pushed her pedals faster than normal. The creepy shadow practically followed her considering how much she continued thinking about it. All day at school, whenever her teachers weren’t distracting her with information, she was picturing the shadow. It was even beginning to have a face.
    She told a few friends at lunch, told them how silly she was being. They laughed with her, then quickly forgot about it. Audra didn’t. That shadow gripped her imagination like nothing had in quite some time. By Friday, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to hide how scared she was of that corner. Grandma May could calm her down and explain it away. But Audra hadn’t worked there very long. What if her grandparents decided she was too babyish to have a job after all?
    Audra needed someone to come with her and discreetly point out the source of the shadow and how it was far less scary than the Jack-o-Lanterns clinging to the front window. She couldn’t ask any of the friends who had already laughed with her. It would be embarrassing to admit she was truly afraid.
    Logan was at her house after school. He was there nearly every day. He was mostly a friend of her brothers, Ryan and Trevor, but Audra was included a lot more since Ryan left for college. A lot of the games he and Trevor liked needed a third player. She didn’t have to wait to be invited anymore. She simply sat at the table as they were setting something up.
    Ghost Chase? She sighed at the reminder she didn’t need. The pictures on the board were cartoony. Rather than ease her fears, the grinning ghost seemed to mock them. She wished Ryan was coming home for the weekend. He was less likely than Trevor to make fun of her. Trevor would definitely make fun of her.
    “I’ll be the ghost,” Trevor said.
    Audra could almost hear him suggesting she was scared of the tiny cardboard figure, though she knew that was her imagination, too.
    “We’ll get him. Right, Audra?”
    She nodded at Logan. Maybe she could ask him to check out the shadow with her. Logan was the same age as Trevor. They were both seniors. Sometimes she couldn’t help feeling a little swoony around Logan. He was someone she wouldn’t mind coming to her rescue. Working with him against her brother felt awesome. Every time Logan smiled at her ideas or suggested the next move for their team, she almost forgot about her other problem.
    The guys studied together awhile after the game. Audra paid attention from a distance to know when Logan was getting ready to leave. She hadn’t forgotten her problem and didn’t want to ask for help in front of Trevor. When Logan gathered his things, Audra followed him to the porch. “Logan, wait. Can I ask you something?”
    “Okay.” He turned to face her at the bottom of the steps with her still at the top. There were only three steps. He put one foot on the bottom one and pushed himself off the ground in a backwards hop back to the sidewalk.
    “Are you busy tomorrow?”
    “Well… you know my Saturdays are always full of board meetings and other important obligations.” He smiled teasingly.
    She returned the smile self-consciously. Was she really going to ask him to look at a shadow with her? She had to. She couldn’t think of anyone better. “I have to work tomorrow, um, at three. But I… There’s a… thing… and I wondered if you might… um…”
    “Spit it out, Audra.”
    “There’s a weird shadow on the wall, and it’s freaking me out because I can’t figure out what’s causing it,” she said in a rush.
    Logan’s eyebrows scrunched. “There’s a shadow? At the restaurant?”
    “Yes,” she said.
    “And there’s something you think I can do about it?” It looked as though he didn’t know whether to be confused of flattered. Or both.
    “Maybe.” Audra laughed at his expression. “I don’t know. It’s bugging me so much that… I can’t ask my grandparents because they’ll laugh or think I’m wasting their time or something.”
    “Where is it?”
    “In the corner, by the cooler. You know, back where we keep the brooms.”
    Logan nodded. “Is it a broom shadow?”
    She leaned forward enough to swat at his shoulder. “That was the first thing I checked.”
    “And you’re sure that’s not it?”
    “I moved both of them, and it didn’t move.” Except when she wasn’t moving anything. She tried to keep her shudder internal at the memory.
    “Will they let me in the kitchen to investigate?” he asked.
    He was in the kitchen all the time. Now he was just giving her a hard time. Audra sighed and narrowed her eyes at him. “Will you help me or not?”
    “You got me curious now so I think I have to.”
    “You’ll be there a little before three?”
    “Uh…” His eyes drifted up as he seemed to consider for the first time if he might have a conflict of some sort. There was only a brief pause before he said, “On the dot,” then waved as he turned to leave.

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