This and That but Mostly the Other

Hello dear reader, I’m afraid I have some bad news…

You may have been expecting this to be part five of my story, Choose Well, but I’m afraid it won’t be continuing in this space. The good news, if you consider it such, is that you can find the rest of the story and the conclusion in my new book, “This and That but Mostly the Other”, available now in print and ebook. I’ve included links below to make it easier to find if you choose to take a look, but by all means please check your favourite online book seller or grab the ISBN and talk to your local bookstore to see if they can get it in. If you’re upset because I’ve tricked you, simply keep an eye on this space for more short stories to come, free of charge. I promise I’ll have better marketing techniques for next time.

this and that

Amazon / Kindle (Canada) – https://www.amazon.ca/This-That-but-Mostly-Other-ebook/dp/B07NSDTZWN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550754218&sr=8-1&keywords=%22this+and+that+but+mostly+the+other%22

Amazon / Kindle (United States) – https://www.amazon.com/This-That-but-Mostly-Other-ebook/dp/B07NSDTZWN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1551023736&sr=8-1&keywords=shane+kroetsch

Kobo (Canada) – https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/this-and-that-but-mostly-the-other

Kobo (United States) – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/this-and-that-but-mostly-the-other

Booktopia (Australia) – https://www.booktopia.com.au/search.ep?keywords=shane+kroetsch&productType=917505

FNAC (France, Belgium, and others!) – https://www.fnac.com/ia8771449/Shane-Kroetsch

 

Change of Season

The first morning rays were breaking the horizon, illuminating the scattered clouds as if the world was on fire. Lynn shielded her eyes and checked the clock on the dash for the third time in the last five minutes; Jordan was almost half an hour late now. Wishing she had hit the snooze button a few more times Lynn leaned back in her seat, nobody deserves to be woken at five o’clock on a chilly autumn morning only to be stood up.

There wasn’t much for scenery at the timeworn roadside truck stop. It was on a flat stretch of land just outside of the city. Most likely built in the fifties, the plain cinderblock building with flaking white paint held a family restaurant and a small convenience store tucked off to one side. Four tired fuel pumps sat out front of the shared entrance. In a world of marketing and brand recognition it was truly just a place to stop because you needed fuel or a quick bite to eat. Not having much else to do Lynn passed the time by speculating about the lives of the other highway travelers as they came and went.

Currently sitting at a window seat in the restaurant was an older gentleman hunched over his breakfast special. His leathery face hidden by an unkempt silver beard, tired eyes keeping watch over his Peterbilt sitting out by the exit. What if he was a poet, creating works that would rival the masters, but too insecure to share with the world? On his way back to an immaculate BMW was a well-dressed business type, a double-double in one hand and a smile on his face. What if he had just told his boss to shove it and left his nagging socialite wife the keys to their downtown apartment so he could run off and start over with his high school sweetheart? It made Lynn ponder briefly what someone would think of her, a young woman sitting impatiently behind the wheel of her little Mazda, a stone’s throw from the middle of nowhere.

Lynn had recently accepted a job at Hemmett Supply Co. as support for the out of town sales group. It was grunt work but for the most part she enjoyed it, and with one exception everything was going well. Lynn’s first solo project was a proposal for a newly acquired customer. Due to incorrect information submitted by one of their vendors Hemmett lost the bid. Lynn’s boss, John, was upset but understanding. Jordan on the other hand, who had championed the account, was furious. He screamed at her over the phone for almost five minutes straight. Lynn felt terrible about the situation but there was no way to fix it. After a couple of weeks things seemed to get back to normal though, to the point recently where Jordan had insisted on Lynn coming out for a ride along. John thought it was a good way to “mend some fences”. How could she disagree?

Any hope of escaping the day’s adventure vanished as Jordan’s Acura barreled into the parking lot at a reckless velocity. Lynn exited her car and locked the doors as he pulled up beside.

“Hey buddy!” Jordan called from his open window.

“Hi Jordan.”

“You ready to go? Big day ahead of us, I’m really excited to have you out here!”

“Happy to be here.” Lynn said with a forced smile. Excited was definitely not the word she would have used.

Lynn opened the passenger door of the RDX, dropped her laptop bag in the foot well and her water bottle into the door pocket. The cold leather seat creaked as she sat down and buckled up. Even with the window down the aroma of last night’s intoxication still lingered. The oversized sunglasses Jordan wore concealed them but Lynn could imagine heavy lids with blood shot eyes beneath. Immediately Jordan accelerated out of the parking lot and on to the highway.

“Big day! Thanks again for coming out, been waiting a long time for this. Here, I got you a coffee.”

Jordan grabbed a to-go cup from the center console and forced it into Lynn’s hand. Not wanting to be rude she took a swig. The coffee was bitter and had a strange aftertaste but Lynn did her best to hide any misgivings.

“Do you like it? It’s my special blend.” Jordan said.

“Nice.” Lynn said, not wanting to cause any undue tension.

Even on a good day Jordan made her feel uneasy. While she hoped it was just the hangover there was something different about him today, something that didn’t bode well.

As they drove on Jordan explained who they would be seeing and what issues might be brought up. They briefly discussed office politics but it was mostly Jordan complaining about how terrible everyone was. After a short time they ran out of things to say so instead sat quietly as the landscape rolled past.

The sun was creeping higher in the sky, flashing in and out of view between the trees that lined the road; Aspen’s with their changing leaves signaling the new season, slender Pine trees pointing tall towards the heavens. Lynn was watching the tree line, hoping to see some of the local wildlife, when Jordan broke the silence.

“So what made you come out here anyway? You’re from the coast right?”

“Most recently, but that’s not really where I’m from. I like to move around, experience different cities and their culture.”

“You’re not running from anything are you?”

“No. Just trying to find myself I guess…”

Lynn paused, suddenly feeling light headed. She shook her head gently and blinked a few times, trying to drive the sensation away.

“Just in time.” Jordan said with a satisfied grin.

Lynn’s vision began to blur. She tried to move or speak but her body refused to respond. Without warning the car quickly slowed and made a sharp right hand turn. As everything went black the only sound to be heard was of car tires on a gravel road.

Lynn forced her eyes open, trying to focus. The room was cold and dimly lit. She was laying on a tarp which covered an unforgiving wood floor. Her coat and boots had been removed, her hands tied behind her back and legs bound at the ankles. The rope was coarse and tightly wrapped, the pressure was uncomfortable. Immediately in front of her was a worn leather recliner and next to it an old lamp with a large Bear figure at the base situated on top of a simple looking end table. There was a window above the recliner but it was obscured by plastic and faded curtains which gave only an impression of the trees beyond swaying in the breeze.

Lynn began to shiver, her breath ragged. Trying to get herself under control she became aware of someone, or something, rustling around just out of sight. Suddenly Jordan ambled in front of her with a brief look back, checking for signs of life. Lynn’s first instinct was to shut her eyes, to buy some time, but instead she quietly held Jordan’s gaze.

“Oh good, you’re awake. Can I get you anything? Another coffee maybe?” Jordan laughed low and continued on his way.  “That was rhetorical by the way.”

“You’re making a mistake.” Lynn said.

“Shut your mouth. I know what I’m doing.”

Fumbling to attach a sheathed hunting knife to his belt, Jordan came back to Lynn and knelt down inches from her face.

“Let me explain something to you. Things are hard out here. My customers are struggling to stay in business which means more pressure on me. I bust my ass twelve to fourteen hours a day just to keep up. And then to top it all off, I get people like you coming in and making the whole situation that much worse!”

Lynn turned from his harsh gaze, “I’m sorry. It was a stupid mistake.”

“Shut up!” Jordan roared, standing once again. “You’re useless! A waste of space! It’ll be the last time you cause trouble for me though.”

As Jordan moved back across the room Lynn swiveled her head to follow his path, he stopped in front of a large metal cabinet and threw the doors open. Straining to see the contents of the cabinet it became clear to Lynn how serious of a situation she was in. Assortments of rope, chemical containers, and tools were stacked inside. The tools were ugly, implements of torture no doubt built with purpose by Jordan himself.

Lynn started sobbing quietly, she pleaded with Jordan. “Please untie me. I promise I won’t fight. Please…”

Jordan paused for a moment, then turned to Lynn with an unpleasant smile and said “Maybe… Yeah, maybe I will untie you. That could be even more fun.”

Jordan unsheathed the hunting knife and knelt down to cut the ropes from Lynn’s wrists and ankles. Lynn flinched and a whimper escaped her lips.

“Oh I’m sorry, did I get you a little there?”

Jordan returned the knife to it’s sheath and moved back to the cabinet. He began whistling an unusually chipper tune as he gathered items in preparation for what was to come.

Suddenly there was a dull thud followed quickly by throbbing pain and vision awash with stars. Jordan fell to his knees, right hand covering his cracked skull, blood seeping between his fingers. With his left he fumbled for purchase on one of the cabinet shelves to stop from collapsing completely but only succeeded in scattering most of the shelves contents aimlessly on the floor.

Lynn dropped the heavy cast Bear lamp, now bloodied, bits of scalp and hair sticking to it like a grotesque fungus. With Jordan crumpled on the floor, barely conscious, she bent down to grab the hunting knife from his belt.

Lynn stood back and scanned the room. It appeared to be a small log cabin; rustic might have been the word if the situation was different. To the right of the recliner and now empty end table was a small room, door slightly ajar, an old army surplus cot and some discarded clothing on the floor. Beside the room was a makeshift kitchen. On the crudely built countertop sat an old camp stove along with a few well used cast iron pans and cooking utensils. Empty whisky bottles were piled up in the corner. A large water container mounted to the wall had a hose hanging down into an enamel basin. Just off of the kitchen sat a compact table and single wooden chair with Lynn’s coat draped over the back. As she moved toward it she was abruptly pitched forward by Jordan as he fell into her, arms around her waist.

“Bitch…” Jordan said.

Lynn screamed. Struggling to remain upright she swiveled quickly and plunged the hunting knife into his upper back. Jordan cried out in agony and dropped to his knees. Lynn immediately followed up with a powerful kick to the groin, as Jordan folded to the floor he exhaled sharply and then was still. Grabbing the lengths of discarded rope Lynn quickly bound his hands and legs to ensure there would be no more surprises.

Exhausted, Lynn staggered to the kitchen chair and sat, watching Jordan while she caught her breath. After a moment she leaned forward and pulled her coat onto her lap. Digging in the front right pocket she quickly retrieved her cell phone. A single bar on the service indicator danced in and out of view so she took a chance and dialed, after a short pause it began to ring.

“John speaking.”

“Hi John, it’s Lynn. Listen, I’ve been trying for almost two hours now to get ahold of Jordan and I haven’t been able to get through, cell reception is brutal out here so I’d like to make my way back if that’s all right with you, maybe work from home for the rest of the day.”

“Jesus. Lynn I’m really sorry, I’ll touch base with him and find out what the hell is going on. I know he’s had a lot of pressure on him lately but that’s no excuse to leave you stranded. I appreciate you making the effort, head home and we can talk in the morning.”

“Thanks John, I appreciate it.”

With that the phone fell silent. Lynn walked back beside Jordan and knelt down in much the same way he had only moments before.

“Well Jordan, I’m sure this didn’t turn out quite the way you expected, did it? You made the whole process too personal and that made you reckless. I don’t know where your anger comes from, but it was your downfall.”

Lynn put the exposed tip of the hunting knife to Jordan’s side, he recoiled slightly but gave no response save for a low groan.

“On the other hand I am anything but reckless. I learned from the best and was a very keen student. They’re never going to find your body Jordan, soon enough your feeble existence will all but be forgotten.”

Lynn stood and surveyed the cabin once more, taking inventory of anything that would prove useful for the task ahead.

“Well, guess I’d better get to work.”

The Watcher

I got another story on The Drabble!

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By Shane Kroetsch

I see them all. Walking as a means of social interaction, or an escape from a forced family life. They stroll down the middle of the road, at a distance. Or the sidewalk, close enough to touch.

If only my biggest complaint in life was boredom. If only I could ignore facts, because they stand in the way of my own privilege.

I squeeze above my knee, massaging the pain away. Except it doesn’t ever really go. From what I’m told, the worst is yet to come. Which is why I’m up here watching, instead of down there living.

              
“I write to make sense of life, and to give the monsters in my head a place of their own.” – the writer

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Take Care

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I sit in the creaking nylon-web lawn chair and wrap both hands around my coffee mug. Arlo comes up beside and lays down on his blanket. I watch the ripples on the water flicker with the light of the rising sun. and the reflection of an eagle circling overhead, waiting for expanding rings on the surface.

I’m content. A feeling which has eluded me for too long. After months of Rayna telling me to take better care of myself, the proverbial straw broke like the earth splitting in two. That’s when everything changed.

It started at work. I got back from lunch a few minutes late. My boss pointed one of his passive-aggressive comments in my direction. I threw my notebook at him, then my chair. On my escorted walk to the front door, I blew a little kiss to the receptionist. Colour drained from her face. She knew that I knew, and now I didn’t have any reason to hide it.

With each step toward my car, I became lighter. The warmth from the sun soaked into my skin. I smiled for no reason. I exited the parking lot with the windows down and the stereo cranked. The immediate instinct was to turn right at the lights, like I had every weekday for the last seven years. Instead, I pushed down on the turn signal lever, and with the green, went in the opposite direction.

I drove backroads for hours, taking corners too fast for fun, not because I had somewhere to be. I’d wave to horses and moo at cows as I passed. At a three-way stop, I let the car idle and stared at the tinge of warm colour along the flat horizon. My phone buzzed in the cup holder.

The boys are getting together for a pint, you in?

I stared at the screen like the words were foreign. I swiped to open the messenger app.

I am.

Gravel spit and the back end kicked out as I turned in the intersection and pointed toward the city.

A spot opened in front of the pub as I drove up. My dust covered car stood out in the sea of shiny paint. Not that I cared. Inside, I headed to the back corner and the usual table. Raff raised his glass to me. Carter nodded. Jonathon didn’t notice me. He was telling a story about last night’s conquest.

At the end of the table, I took the glass out of Raff’s hand and poured the amber liquid over his head. As Jonathan’s story trailed off and his eyes went wide, I cracked his jaw. I shook my hand out and patted Carter on the back. “Find better friends.” The reactions of the people around me failed to register as I walked out the door.

By the time I pulled up at home, the sun was minutes away from setting. Rayna sat on the front steps with her arms crossed, and her lips pinched tight enough they disappeared.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Out with the guys.”

“Anything you want to tell me?”

I shrugged. “By the sounds of it, you already know.”

“How could you get fired? And why did you punch Jon?”

“Well, technically I quit. And Jonathon is a dick, I should have done it years ago.” I walked past her into the house. Arlo met me in the porch, doing his little dance and wagging his tail. Rayna followed along, nattering at me. Talked the whole way through me packing my bag and replacing my dress clothes with jeans and a t-shirt. On my way to the garage, I dropped my key fob and cell phone on the kitchen table. I pressed the button to open the big door and walked down to the cool concrete.

Rayna stood in the doorway. Arlo sat beside her with his ears perked. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

I pulled the cover off dad’s old truck. I focused on how the dim light played off of the chrome and followed the swaying body lines. “I’m taking care of myself.”

“You’re ruining your life is what you’re doing.”

“Doesn’t feel that way to me.” I opened the passenger side of the truck, tossed my bag on the footwell, and patted my thigh. “Come on, Arlo.”

Arlo cocked his head, then bounded down the steps and up into the truck. Behind the wheel I flipped down the visor and a set of keys fell into my hand. I spread the ring out. One key for the ignition, one for the gas cap, and one for the cabin up north.

***

Photo by Haeden Kolb on Unsplash

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For more stories like this, and updates on books and my creative life, subscribe at ShaneKroetsch.com, or follow on Twitter or Instagram

New Book Day!

Oh hi there. Things have been quiet around here because I’ve moved my focus over to my new website, ShaneKroetsch.com. It would mean a lot to me if you could check it out, and subscribe there for updates.

It would also mean a lot if you would have a quick look at my new book, Into the Storm. This is the first of a trilogy, and represents five years worth of work finally paying off.

Cover and Blurb IG

I hope you are staying safe and well in these interesting times. Take care.

 

Shane

 

Chocolate

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The aftermath of dinner service covered every available flat surface. Saute pans had been stacked up on one side of the range top. Smoke from the broiler billowed and twisted under the harsh fluorescent hood lights, the temperature maxed to burn off bits of meat and fat.

Sam piled up empty containers and food stained utensils to move them to the dish pit. On the way back he slipped on the red clay tile floor where a bowl of soup had been dropped and not cleaned up properly. Sam stretched an arm out, looking for purchase, but only managed to bump the faucet on the bain-marie as he crashed down to his knees.

He stood with a groan, pushed the faucet back, then swore to himself. Chef was warming chocolate for the dessert course. The bowl was now half full with water. Sam swore to himself again. It was ruined. He wiped his hands on his apron, then ran to the back storage room to find more.

 

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Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

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This started as a prompt from a writing group that I attend put on by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. We were asked to write down ten things about chocolate. I did, but also had a scene come to mind from my previous life as a chef, so I used it to write this piece. Another aspect to the prompt was a scene building map, this is something I’m going to go into more later, but I can see how it helped bring this to life and I’ve added it to my writers toolbox.

Now to some not so good news. I hate breaking promises, but unfortunately I will have to today. The plan was to have my new website ready to launch this week, but it’s just not there yet. For the sake of what I have going on in my life at the moment, like finishing William for the CBC Short Story Prize, developing the first of a series of three books we’re launching in the spring, and that I am likely starting a new job next week, I am pushing the launch back to November 1, 2019. This is a big deal for me, and I want to do it right. I’ll also be relaunching my social media presence, or maybe just having more of a focus on it, and I’ll have details on a new collection of short stories that you can get for free in December. So, long story short, the freight train isn’t really slowing down, the journey takes a little longer to complete sometimes than you think.

Speaking of social media, in case you didn’t know, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram. Maybe see you there?

 

William

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William rocked forward in his seat as the horse’s footfalls slowed and the streetcar came to a stop. He lowered himself down to the dirt road and waited. When the streetcar pulled away, he shuffled across Yonge Street and headed east along Upper Gerrard.

With the noise and confusion far behind him, William slowed his pace. He focused on the rows of narrow brick houses. Some had their curtains drawn, others let in what dreary daylight was available. One had the window glass on the main level pushed open, letting the smell of cooking vegetables waft down the street.

William left the sidewalk and limped up to one of the brown painted doors. He leaned a hand against the frame and looked to the window beside. An old woman sat in a plain chair with a pressed wood back. She worked two knitting needles in slow and precise movements. William faced forward and lifted a key from his pocket. He set it in the lock, turned it, and pushed the door open.

He stopped in the doorway of the parlour and removed his hat. His landlady set her knitting on her lap and looked up over the frames of her glasses.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Doyle.”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Summerhayes.”

“I trust your journey was successful?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Your leg acting up again?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Mrs. Summerhayes pursed her lips and returned to her task. William turned, reached out for the banister, and eased himself down the stairs to his room.

 

***

Image by Verone Solilo

***

William was my response piece from this years Voice & Vision collaboration. 15 artists and 15 writers are paired together and tasked to create something unique based on each other’s work. You can learn more about my contribution and a lot of other amazing artists and writers here.

I was very fortunate to be paired with Verone Solilo this year, when I saw her piece, Victorian Row, I fell in love instantly. You can see more of Verone’s work here, I look forward to seeing Victorian Row hanging on my wall very soon.

I had more to share with William’s story, so I’m developing a larger piece to submit to this year’s CBC Short Story Prize. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Life has been busy this week, and on top of it I’ve got a bit of a cold slowing me down. That means all the exciting news I have for you gets pushed back another week. Only one more week though, I promise. Stay tuned!

 

A Very Short Story About a Fence Post

Another day and the sun rises, like it has countless times before. A spider crawls out from the crack that runs to my top. It strings a thread down to the highest line of rusty barbed wire reaching out in line with the ditch. Soon a perfect web glistens in the sun, awaiting something that looks like breakfast.

The cows are out early. I notice the fat one eyeing me up. It ambles over, its mouth grinding back and forth with a stray blade of grass sticking out one side and drool cascading down the other. I look for any sign of intelligence in its wide, dark, eyes, but once again find nothing. I think it’s going to pass me by, but I’m wrong. It turns and¾Oh no, not the ass end.

I’m nearly ripped from the ground as it pushes a massive thigh back and forth across me. On the field side I’ve lost most of the dried lichen that took years to build up, and I’m becoming smooth and irregular in shape. The others say it’s not a problem, but I hear them snicker when they think I’m not paying attention.

Stupid cow. I can’t wait until she’s taken off in the big long trailer like the rest of them. Then I can get some peace and quiet, for a few months at least.

***

At a recent writing session, we were asked to write for 10 minutes about an inanimate object. This isn’t something I normally enjoy, mostly because I don’t think I do it well, but then the image of the cow rubbing up against a screaming fence post came to mind and here we are.

In case you missed it, I have a big announcement coming soon. Very, very soon. Websites and newsletters and books, oh my! Stay tuned.

***

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

The Most Important Things

The most important things are the hardest things to say. That would be why I’m sitting here staring at my hands while you talk about your day. I nod and try to smile. I even ask a question or two to keep things moving, but it’s for no other reason.

I’m trying to work up the courage to tell you any one of the things that should have been mentioned long before. That I want you to take your sunglasses off so I can see your eyes, or that you have a drop of ketchup on the end of your nose.

What I really want to say is that I’m confused and scared. I feel the need to remind you that I love you and I don’t want you to move four hours away. That maybe we can find a way to make it all work out, here, together. We could, I know it, if only you felt the same way that I do.

***

This story came from a quote by Stephen King that I was given as a writing prompt recently. You can see the full version here. To be honest, the quote is something that has been with me for a lot of years, I’ve had it written down in one form or another since I was a lot younger than I am now. It resonates, I suppose you could say.

I hope you’re not too depressed now, because I want you to be excited about something that I will have ready to show the world in a few weeks time. I’m building a brand new website. Writing My Way Out of Here has served me well, but it’s time for the next step. I have some new features planned, and some exclusive content if you’re willing to sign up for my monthly newsletter. I’ve also been working hard on writing, and have a few new books scheduled for the new year. By a few, I mean four, and I’m nervous and excited and maybe a little terrified. Here comes the freight train! That’s me by the way…

***

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Smile

“Smile,” Thea said.

My hands clenched tight enough that I could feel my pulse. The heat from the horse’s breath washed over my neck and made me shiver. When it shifted a foot behind me, I almost had a bowel movement.

“Come on, get in a little closer.”

I didn’t move. I couldn’t. “Just take the picture. Please?”

Thea grumbled and set her eye at the viewfinder. She turned knobs and pressed buttons. I bit my lip and looked to the pen across the way, at the small flock of sheep that had recently been sheered. They milled about and chewed at the air. I counted them to distract myself. Maybe if it had put me to sleep it wouldn’t have been the worst thing.

I heard the click of the shutter and ran to Thea’s side. She watched me for a moment and frowned. “You alright? You look a little green.”

“I’m fine,” I said. I stretched out my hands and looked at the indents my fingernails had made. “Maybe we can go in for lunch now? I think the sun is getting to me.”

 

***

Hello friends. I wanted to take a quick minute to let you know that I have some big news coming soon. A new website with new features, a newsletter with content you won’t find anywhere else, and books. An ambitious amount of books. I hope you stay tuned.

***

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Beyond the Divide: Part 27

Liz leaned back and stretched her legs out in front of her. She looked up into the sunshine, it was warm on her face. Birds chirped and flew from tree to tree in the park behind her. A butterfly flew along the sidewalk in front of her. Liz tracked it as it bobbed up and down and out of sight.

For no specific reason, she felt content.

Evie sat down on the bench and folded her hands on her lap. “Hello, Liz.”

A narrow smile formed on Liz’s lips. “Hey, Evie.”

“You seem to be in a good mood.”

“I am.”

Evie looked away. “I am happy for you.”

Liz turned to Evie and her smile faded. “What’s going on?”

Evie shrugged and faced forward. “I have much on my mind.”

“Okay.”

“You made quick work of the hound, I hear.”

“I did. I’m surprised you didn’t stick around.”

“I would only have been a distraction. I was and am confident in your abilities.”

“Thank you?”

Evie looked at Liz from the corner of her eye. “Do not be that way. You are special. There are not many who can do what you do.”

“Oh? What is it that I do then?”

“Face the darkness and win.” Evie swept her hand in front of her. “Not go crazy in all of this.”

“I didn’t know that was a big deal.”

“It is a much bigger than you know.”

Liz nodded and looked to the tips of her toes. “Okay.”

“Would you do it again? If you could?”

Liz shrugged. “Sure.”

“It is an important role to play. To provide balance.”

Liz twisted in her seat and leaned an elbow on the arm of the bench. She looked to Evie and waited.

“You might expect a flowery speech, or for me to explain in minute detail the reasons for my decision. If so, I will have to apologize in advance.” Evie pulled at her skirt and smoothed it with her hand. “It is time for me to move on. It has been time for a long while now, but I felt I had to wait until there was someone who could take my place.”

Liz pulled her legs in and straightened her back. “Does that mean you want an answer right now?”

Evie stared, but did not speak.

“Right.” Liz faced forward and ran her hands down the tops of her thighs. “Okay. I’m in.”

“Are you sure?”

Liz nodded.

Evie lowered her gaze and gripped the edge of the bench. “Thank you.”

“So that’s it then?” Liz said.

“It is,” Evie said.

“I hope it works out for you, whatever comes next.”

“It will, I have no doubt. It will be an interesting journey, finding myself again.”

“Good.” Liz looked up the road in front of them. “Listen, I’m not the best at goodbyes, and I should be going anyway. I need to see Mark.”

“Absolutely.”

Liz and Evie stood together. Evie moved in close and wrapped her arms around Liz’s waist.

Liz smiled and set her arms over Evie’s shoulders. “Bye, Evie.”

Evie stepped back. She attempted a smile. “Goodbye, Liz.”

 

***

 

Image by Kaleigh Kanary