Toes first, I lower myself into the steaming water of my antique clawfoot bathtub. The aroma of lavender and muscle-relaxing oils swirl and blend. They’re pushed and pulled around the air through the lifting steam, rolling up the length of my body like barrels of smoke. I flinch at the burning heat. The water is as hot as I can stand it without actually burning my flesh. I want the heat to last. I plan on planting myself in the tub for quite some time.
It’s been nearly three years since I moved Maylee and Josie back to the California coast with me. They both seem to be healing and adapting well. All parties involved in the downtaking of Braun, Craig, and their entire human trafficking operation are long since locked away. Most of them for life, as they should be. Despite my girl’s being in their early twenties, and having been exposed to such horrendous acts that no human should be exposed to, they’re much like children. They’ve had to learn how to function in the regular setting of society all over again.
They’ve been coached and encouraged to look people in the eyes once more. They’ve seen countless therapists, and doctors. They’ve even worked ods and end jobs, but are still unable to stick with anything longer than a week without flashbacks and anxiety attacks rendering them unable to complete their daily tasks, therefore giving them no choice but to quit. Jeremy is a big help. He made the move with us, and is renting the townhouse attached to our own.
He’s been so patent with the girls, and with me. Mostly with Josie. It’s like he’s waiting for her to be comfortable enough around a man to give him a chance. I think he’s in it for the long haul, and has been the best friend a woman like me could ask for. I often wonder if we could have possibly made it this far without him.
I listen to Maylee and Josie giggle through the thin wall. It’s nearly midnight, and they’re clearly too occupied to be sleeping. I roll my eyes at their giggles and allow a grin to consume my face. The sound of their cheerful voices is music to my ears, especially Maylee’s. Too much time passed when I didn’t think I’d ever hear the sound of it again. Our waking to screams and nightmares from each of them is growing lesser and lesser by the month. I’m sure the hauntings from their past will be with them always, but for now, right this moment, I relish their happiness.
I hollar through our thin walls as I slowly lower the rest of my body, “Are you two going to be up all night? I was hoping to relax in the bath!”
A second round of giggles sound, followed my Maylee’s infamous snort.
“Sure thing, Aunt Autumn!” Maylee hollars back.
“Enjoy your bubbles.” Josie chimes in.
I huff to myself with a sarcastic lift of an eyebrow that no one can see, as I give the empty bottle of bubbles a shake.
“Yeah, thanks for that.”
“I’m sure.” I respond flatly.
“No really,” they giggle again. “Anytime!”
I chuckle, before securing my earbuds as tightly as I can, trying to ensure they won’t fall out into the water. Chance has been heavy on my mind lately. He usually is, but recently he’s been rooted so deep in my brain that I can’t seem to think of anything else. It’s like he’s weaseled his way into my head, and now he’s blocking out my normal thought process. I find a playlist that’s most fitting to my mood, and to the memory of him, and I press play. A few of the songs are a bit juvenile, but I could care less. Life is too short to worry about such things, and I know better than most how quickly everything you love can be stripped away.
I take in a few deep breaths and relax my body in the water, letting the oils do their job to relax my legs and back. I let the heat consume me. I try to remember him, every detail of him. I think of the sharp gray shards of color in his piercing eyes, and the warmth from the palms of his hands. The music is cranked in my ears, loud enough that all background noise is completely blocked away. I close my eyes and relax my neck against it’s little wrap-around bath pillow, as I take a refreshing gulp from my wine glass.
I exhale deeply and let the words of Dangerous Woman, sung by Ariana Grande pull me in. That’s when I hear it. It’s faint, and blends in with the beat of the background music, but it sounds like it’s coming from outside the speakers.
I sit up, and pull the cord from my right ear. No louder than a whisper, I hear it again. “Auuuuutumn.” The voice is as smooth as butter.
It sounds like him, like Chance. I shake my head, it can’t be, I’m imagining things again. This isn’t the first time that I thought I’d heard him, and last time it wound up being some kids playing down the road. I close my eyes tightly and pretend I didn’t hear it. Then I shove the speaker back in my ear and resume my previous position in the water.
“Autumn!” This time it’s louder, and as plain as day.
Just like before it’s coming from above me. All that’s up there is an attic, stuffed with boxes and a bunch of memorabilia that I’d rather not see again, yet somehow can’t bring myself to toss away. I pull myself out if the water, and wrap up in the fluffy white bathrobe I’d hung on the door.
The door creaks as I push it open, and I tip toe out. First, I peek in at the girls, just to be sure. As I creep my head through the crack of the door, I hear it again. His voice is back to a mere whisper, but it’s him. I know it is. I haven’t seen his face since that unforgettable night in Denver, but I’ll never forget his voice. It’s a part of him that’ll be with me forever. I gasp at the sound of it and a white hot chill runs down my spine slowly, one vertebrae at a time. Maylee and Josie are fast asleep, snoring even, the both of them.
I shut their door, as not to wake them with any noises that may be made in the attic before I make my way down the hall and pull the latch. A short ladder drops from the ceiling granting me access to the small storage space that’s always hidden away above our heads. One hand and one foot at a time I make the climb. Just as I’m about to pull the light’s switch over my head there’s a loud CRASH!
I jump back a step, unable to stop myself from tumbling over a stack of boxes. They spill to the floor, their contents splayed out in the darkness. My hands are shaking, and my knees are weak, but I manage to scramble back to the pull cord of the light switch. The little space lights up, revealing emptiness, a broken mirror against the wall, and one single framed picture.
I stare blankly into the haunting gray shards of color of Chances eyes in the photo. They stare back into mine from behind the glass of the frame, as it stands upright on top of the bottom box of the stack I’d knocked to the floor.
DUN DUN DUN
I hope you enjoyed the scene guys!! I actually pulled the characters for this story scene out of Search For Maylee, an already published works. They may not be from my WIP, but hey, it’s my challenge, I can do what I want with it, right?!
This month, USA Today Best Selling Author Jacquie Biggar joined in the challenge. She wrote a very compelling scene to our Oct. theme of “Bump in the night” using the characters from her hit book, Skating On Thin Ice! She nailed it to, talk about the chills! Go. Check. It. Out.
Also, the Yukunerk Blog joined in with a bone chilling scene using the characters from The Guild! You don’t want to miss out on this hunted house tale, it’s a twisty one!
By the weekend I’ll have a scene theme anounced for November. I’m really loving this challenge, it’s so much fun, and such amazing writing practice to use the characters that you already love in a fresh themed scene!