To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 30) Instant Anxiety
Lyla is almost asleep when she hears the door to her room squeak lightly as if it were opening. Looking up she can see it moving ever so slightly which makes her heart pound. Soon she realizes that as the curtains billow the door gently moves in the other direction. Smokey begins to grumble in a low tone and her breathing becomes heavy; again the door opens and pushes back ever so slightly with the breeze.
“It’s only the wind Smokey, go to sleep.” mumbles Lyla as she rolls over. But Smokey is getting a little louder which causes Lyla to lean up to see what has her so upset. Her eyes are immediately diverted from looking at the cat. On the interior wall of Lyla’s bedroom is a wide mirror. In it Lyla sees a tall dark human shaped mass reflecting back at her as if someone is standing behind her but in front of the window! She freezes in place.
There is a prickling feeling, almost an ache at the nape of her neck as her body responds to the fear. Frozen, she tries to let her eyes adjust to the darkness thinking it must be an illusion, but whatever or whoever it is has remained!
Instant anxiety hits her and she hastily turns pushing herself to the middle of the bed pulling the sheet and blanket with her. She feels a rush of terror and adrenalin as she backs up against the headboard of the bed holding on to it with one hand. The sudden movement from Lyla causes Smokey to jump from the bed and push her way out through the cracked door.
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 29) Outside The Door
Thinking Marcus is playing a trick on her, Lyla quickly yet quietly steps over to the doorway to listen. The floorboards pop and creak again as if someone is just outside. “Not this time Marcus.” She says to herself as she flings the door open and jumps out into the hall. “Ah ha!” she yells. But no one is there. What she does find however, is dread. It’s a very dark cold feeling that instantly overtakes her numbing her to the core. She is almost frozen completely still as she looks back and forth down the hall by only moving her eyes. She does not turn her head in either direction as she slowly backs into her bedroom quickly pushing the door shut behind her as if it was hot to the touch.
Lyla sits back down at the foot of the bed and rubs Smokey’s ear. Normally this would send the fluffy cat into a purring fit but she doesn’t make a sound in fact she doesn’t respond at all. She sits quiet and still as if listening for the slightest sound from the other side of the door. Smokey’s body is tense and the hairs along her spine are standing straight up.
“What did I do, Smokes? Buy a haunted house?”
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 28) Creaking Floorboards
“Come on, no time for ghost stories.” says Lyla as if she is talking to Smokey but in actuality she is trying to convince herself that everything is fine. “It’s just a dark night with very little moonlight.” She makes her way to the second floor where she feels extremely anxious and doesn’t know why. Smokey bolts past her and disappears down the hall into the bedroom but Lyla remains in the same place.
“Last one there is a rotten egg and I’m always the last one there.” mumbles Lyla as she tries to ease her tension. She looks down the hallway in both directions and everything appears to be normal, so why so jittery? She shivers as she glances around for one last look. She feels it again, that overwhelming sensation of being watched and from close by. The air seems impenetrable making it hard to breath and her gut reaction is to run for her bedroom like a little kid. She stands still for a few seconds before she starts walking. As she takes the first few steps that rushed feeling of someone coming upon her quickly sets in and she quickens her pace. This is the second time she has felt frightened in such a manner and she doesn’t like it one bit. Very quickly she makes her way to her bedroom.
“Oh snap out of it!” Lyla says to herself as she enters her room and shakes her arms out to her sides to help the goose bumps go away. She turns the television on for some low noise as she washes up in the bathroom. She then sits on the edge of the bed while she rubs lotion on her legs, arms, and hands. There is a loud click as she snaps the lid shut on the lotion bottle and sets it aside. Just as she begins to feel comfortable there is a creaking sound from the floorboards in the hall. She realizes the house is old and she keeps telling herself it’s simply settling. The creaking sound alerts Smokey from her bedtime grooming as well and she lays her head down on her paws keeping a watchful eye on the door.
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 27) The Painting
Lyla is in deep thought. She’s trying to make sense of what Marcus has said about Crispin but she just doesn’t see it. In fact, she finds herself wanting to be around Crispin more and more. Lyla stands up and pushes the swinging door open as she turns off the light in the kitchen. At that moment, something from across the foyer in the dining room catches her eye. There was movement but she could not make out if it was a reflection of car lights from the street or a person in the house. She blinks twice trying to get her eyes to adjust to the dark but she feels fear creeping in on her.
“Oh, not this again,” She says to herself. “Hello?” She slowly makes her way toward the dining room. Is anyone there?” She sees a soft glow coming from deep in the dining room. As she enters the room she is drawn to the fireplace. Hanging above the mantel and dimly lit from the bottom is a beautiful painting of two flowers intertwined and spiraling up displaying luscious full creamy blooms at the top. The background colors are blends of deep greens, dark oranges and brown tints, which build a very earthy and realistic look.
“What? This wasn’t here a minute ago. . . I don’t think.” Says Lyla as she gets closer to the artwork. The painting is so detailed that it appears you could reach out and dampen your fingers from the dew on the petals of the flowers. Lyla steps up on the hearth and holds onto the mantel as she studies the painting. She recognizes the brushstrokes immediately. “Marcus, how lovely,” she says in a whisper as she touches the dark wooden frame. “Beautiful!” She says loudly thinking Marcus recently hung this up and is hiding from her. Still standing on the hearth, she turns around looking out at the room. “You got me!” She yells letting him know he has been discovered, but the room is silent. “Come on out Marcus, I know you’re here.” The curtains gently billow from a breeze that blows in through an open window and she walks in that direction.
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 26) Garden Gate
Walking home Lyla can’t help but feel down and thinks maybe she should have been more supportive to what Marcus was saying. But he is so against Crispin and doesn’t want to hear the good things anymore than she wants to hear the bad. He’s just acting so odd about everything and she does not understand why. Lyla rounds the corner and is on her street when she looks up.
Further down the sidewalk and on the left is the gate to her back yard. She notices it is wide open and that a strange man has walked into her yard. Picking up her pace she says to herself, “Who is that? I was supposed to put a lock on this thing day’s ago, damn it!” she quickly makes her way to the gate.
Working in the yard are fifteen to twenty people. A large Iron gazebo with a dark shingled roof has been erected in the center of the yard with a stepping stone path to the water garden. Two individuals are trimming shrubs, others are hanging Chinese lanterns, placing blooming flowers in containers, intertwining climbing roses and honeysuckle up tall iron stands, and setting candles in little glass containers all around.
Startled she pauses and then says “Um, hello?” Stepping out from the shadows of the veranda is Crispin Duff.
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 25) Cases Of Circumstance
“I don’t like this one bit.” says Marcus as he closes the laptop. “Everyone Duff comes into contact with, even over the web, somehow manages to fall off the face of the planet.”
“Hey you two!” squawks the voice of Marnie. Lyla and Marcus look up to see Marnie coming towards them across the grassy lawn. She is swinging her hips with each step and waving as if she were just crowned Queen. She stoops down near the blanket and sets a shopping bag from the garden shop on the grass behind her. “What on earth are you two up to today?” She does not wait for a reply because she really doesn’t want one. “Did you see my hair cut? What do you think?” she continues as she turns her head from side to side. “A woman stopped me on the street to tell me how much she liked my hair, isn’t that just a scream?”
“Looks great, Marnie, did you cut much off?” asks Lyla as she looks from side to side trying to see what the difference is from her last trim. “Oh god yes, it just grows so fast! I want it to look it’s best for your party tomorrow night. Can’t wait!” she says as she nudges Lyla on the arm. “Have you talked to Penny? She is really going all out on the food and I think the party list is up to 45 people.”
“Oh, wow… that’s a lot of people to have coming to my house, she didn’t tell me all that.” says Lyla as she looks at Marcus with a questioning glance. “I think she is really trying to impress a few people, I know that handsome Crispin Duff will be there. Penny said he accepted his invite in person,” says Marnie as she pulls out her mirror to put on bright pink lipstick. “He’s quite a catch. I wouldn’t let him get away, Lyla.” she says grinning at Marcus as she stands up to leave. “Um, funny to hear you say that, you seem to be quite taken with him,” says Lyla. She puts her hand over her eyes to block out the sun as she looks up at Marnie.
“Oh, I would never let a man come between the friendship we have Lyla. Not even someone as wonderful as Mr. Duff. You better snatch him up, he’s a keeper.” Again Marnie looks directly at Marcus as if she is purposely trying to get him jealous. “Well, it was good to see you Marnie.” says Lyla. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow night then?”
“Oh my yes indeed you will. I’ll be there early to help. Bye bye for now.” Marnie turns and walks back toward the street. Several steps out she glances over her right shoulder at Marcus giving him an odd look, then grins and waves again. “Wow, she’s acting a bit odd.” says Lyla. “I’ve always thought she was a bit off and that conversation sealed it for me.” Says Marcus as he watches Marnie. “Yeah, you’re right there” states Lyla as she too watches Marnie mosey across the deep green grass. “Okay, so as far as your doppelgänger theory goes, I don’t know what to tell you Marcus. I think you are just reading more into everything than is actually happening.”
“Lyla, there is something bad about that guy and I don’t know how else to say it. I think you need to distance yourself from him.” says Marcus without wavering. “Marcus you are one of my most favorite people on the entire planet and I trust and believe in you.” says Lyla. “But.” says Marcus. “But, I honestly think all of these oddities are simple cases of circumstance. Penny is over worked and has always been a worrier and Marnie is so self-absorbed she can’t keep anything straight. Quite frankly, Crispin has been nothing but a gentleman to me and I’ve never felt like I or anyone else was in danger.”
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 24) Her Exact Double
“So what exactly are you implying?” asks Lyla now a little more serious than before. “I think Duff is malicious and I don’t think he is a regular person.” Marcus stops typing and lowers his voice. “I know I sound nuts, but, I think he is a doppelgänger.” Lyla looks at him mystified. “A doppelganger.” She repeats and holds back a laugh, “and how is that possible professor Marcus? Good grief. We looked for doppelgänger back in our early teens when we were going to be ghost hunters! None of that stuff is real, you know that.” She says with a laugh as she hands him a bottle of water.
Marcus pauses and looks at her intently for a moment, then grabs a sandwich. They sit in silence for several minutes as Lyla watches, waiting for him to respond but he stays quiet. Thinking she hurt his feelings she starts to apologize, “Marcus I didn’t. . .” but Marcus starts talking, interrupting her apology.
“First thing this morning Penny was in my shop for a short time, then about 5 minutes later she showed up again talking about seeing herself leave my shop.” He looks at Lyla then squints. “Penny and I both saw her exact double in her exact clothes, step out of the garden shop across the street! She then turned the corner out of sight.” Marcus pauses for a moment then says, “I chased after the double but they were gone, vanished! Some kids were playing nearby and said a man, ironically matching Crispin’s description, walked past them, but not a woman! I went back to my shop, started looking Duff up on the net. Without sounding the bell at the door the next thing I know he is standing right behind me! That scared the hell out of me!”
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 23) Questioning His Motives
“What the. . .?” says Marcus to himself. He tries another search and the only thing that pops up is from the local news and Marcus reads it aloud. “Locally well known entrepreneur Randall Weston transfers ownership of recently purchased land to Duff Industries for an undisclosed purchase amount. What?” questions Marcus, he reads on; “Mr. Weston went on to say that he plans to relocate away from the area very soon.” Says Marcus in a snide way. “Just like every other story that now I cannot find!” says Marcus completely frustrated as he punches the top of the counter with his fist.
“Having technical difficulties, Marcus?” comes a voice from very near behind him. Completely taken off guard Marcus spins around quickly to find Crispin Duff within two feet of him. “How’d you get in here?” asks Marcus. The chimes at the door did not sound to alert him that someone had arrived so he glances in that direction expecting them to be broken or on the floor. To his surprise they are still intact and hanging very still.
“The sign says you’re open.” states Crispin calmly as he lifts his hand pointing at the sign on the door. “I thought I’d check on the progress of my painting while I was in town running errands. Will it be ready for Friday’s event?” quizzes Crispin as he steps closer to Marcus and rests his arm on the counter next to the laptop.
Marcus nods yes as he closes the screen on his computer and steps toward Crispin. He wonders if Crispin was in the room all this time and if he was, he now knows he is questioning his motives. “I finished the painting earlier this morning.” States Marcus and without hesitation he continues with, “You know, I’m kind of curious as to why you’re staying around this little town for so long. I mean, you’re a busy man I would think you would have flown home or gone on to another place of interest by now.” Boldly remarks Marcus as he heads toward his painting room at the back of the shop. “Surly the web stuff can be done long distance so I can’t imagine Lyla needing you here in person.”
Crispin grins as he looks out the window and replies with, “Actually I genuinely like it here, it reminds me of home.” He pauses for a moment. “Lyla and I have things to work on so I felt it best to set up residence here for a while.” He turns to see where Marcus is. “Is it a crime for me to stay long?” he asks in a very sly way.
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 22) Myself
“I have my questions and I’ve been researching a few things.” Replies Marcus as he twirls the paintbrush in the cup turning the clear liquid into a murky white blend. “And I’m not going to share my suspicions quite yet, so you can forget about digging any deeper.” He turns away from his artwork as he sets the cup of thinner down hard. It’s a miracle the glass container didn’t break. He then faces Penny as if subconsciously asking her to leave.
Looking as if she is insulted, Penny says “fine then” and quickly turns on her heels and leaves the shop. Marcus grabs all the supplies he was using to complete his project and steps into the backroom to thoroughly clean his brushes. About five minutes later he hears the chimes ringing at the door so he walks back into the shop where he finds Penny sitting on a chair near the counter.
“Long time no see,” says Marcus as he walks out into the shop while wiping his hands dry on a soft cloth. Then he stops and tips his head sideways as if confused. “Did you forget something Penny?”
“Wha, what?” says Penny jumping slightly as if Marcus scared her. “Did you forget something?” repeats Marcus as he looks at her oddly. “I, I’m just. . . ” stammers Penny as if she is dazed. “Are you okay, Penny?” asks Marcus as he moves closer to her. She is acting very strange and he is now concerned. “I don’t know,” she says “You’re going to think I’m crazy.”
“I already think you’re crazy but that’s beside the point.” exclaims Marcus jokingly. But Penny does not laugh; she simply sits there looking out the shop window. “Penny, what the hell is going on?” asks Marcus a bit frustrated and worried at the same time. “Do you need a doctor?”
“Maybe,” she says. “Are you hurt, are you having chest pains?” he asks. “No, I’m seeing things.” says Penny. “Seeing things? Like what?” asks Marcus as he pulls a stool closer to where Penny is and sits down near her. “Myself.” she says as she looks directly at Marcus. They both sit quietly for a moment, looking at each other with puzzled expressions. “You saw yourself. Where?” ask Marcus. “I was coming up the sidewalk to see you and I saw myself leave your shop and walk across the street. It was me, in my clothes, I walked across the street.” She points out the window.
Marcus gets up and quickly goes to look out at the street. He sees what appears to be Penny coming out of the garden shop which is right across the street from his art gallery. She walks down the sidewalk and past the red brick building where she turns the corner stepping out of view. Marcus then looks back at Penny who is sitting right there, in his shop. She has a very blank look on her face as her eyes slowly look from the street to Marcus.
To Dance With A Fetch (Excerpt 21) Windows To The Soul
“I’ve really enjoyed spending this evening with you,” says Lyla as she tips her head to the left leaning it against the back of the sofa while she looks directly into Crispin’s green eyes. They watch each other intently for several seconds, neither one saying a word. The silence that could be very awkward is actually remarkably comfortable. The bubbling sound of the downspout has slowed slightly and the flames in the fireplace continue to pop and snap as the fire burns on. Crispin then breaks the silence.
“I find you absolutely fascinating,” he says to Lyla as he becomes a bit more serious and reaches out to hold her hand. With a slow blink of the eyes, Lyla smiles then takes in a deep breath. “Um, it’s getting late; I should probably be heading back now.” She says, not really wanting to say it but knowing she should. She looks back at Crispin and for a split second there is a slight glimmer that flashes making Crispin’s eyes glow from within. It was odd, yet beautiful and slightly mesmerizing. “Hum, you know, you have very interesting eyes,” says Lyla as she tries to focus on them. Crispin leans in closer to her not blinking or wavering in any way as he looks into her pale blue eyes.
“Eyes are the windows to the soul.” states Crispin as he gently cups her face in his hand in a very tender way. Lyla closes her eyes as she leans into his gentle touch. She looks up and Crispin’s eyes gleam once more as if small flecks of glitter have caught the firelight.
“Oh.” She says pulling back slightly and shaking her head from side to side as Crispin pulls his hand away from her face slowly. “I’ve had way too much to drink,” she brushes the loose strands of hair away from her eyes and laughs at herself. She continues to back away slightly and again she rests her head on the back of the couch and takes in a deep breath as she closes her eyes for a moment.
“You can stay here if you like and I can take you home in the morning,” offers Crispin as he takes the glass from her hand and sets their drinks on the end table.