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The Glassheart Chronicles

Courtney Cole

  The Glassheart Chronicles

  A Short Story Collection


  Fisher Amelie

  J.L. Bryan

  Courtney Cole

  Wren Emerson

  Amy Jones

  Tiffany King

  Nicole Williams

  Copyright © 2011 Lakehouse Press

  Cover art was created by Roobix, LLC.

  The Wonderboom


  Fisher Amelie

  For Jen,

  'Cause you're flippin' amazing

  And you don't even know it!

  Bramwell, West Virginia

  Ten-thirty p.m.

  Just breathe, Sawyer. Breathe. Take your phone from your pocket. Good.

  Now, dial nine-one-one.

  I dialed the numbers and as my thumb trembled over the send button, I let out a shaky breath.

  "Nine-one-one. What's your emergency?"

  I recognized the voice. I grew up with that voice. That voice sat behind me in almost all my history classes for some reason.

  "Casey, it's Sawyer."

  "Something wrong, Sawyer?"

  "You could say that. I think I may have just found the missing head to that tourist." I also think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  "Jeez Sawyer, you've only been back in town two weeks and you're already causing trouble?"

  "Casey, just get Danny down here," I said, impatiently.

  "Alright, where are you?" she asked.

  "I'm on County, about three miles from the center of town. Tell Danny, when I see his lights, I'll signal him."

  "Alright," she laughed, "Uh, want me to stay on the line with you until he gets there?"

  "Casey," I said through gritted teeth.

  "I was just askin'! Jeez Sawyer! Don't get your undies in a twist," she said, before pausing. "Are you sure? Because, if you're scared, I wouldn't mind..."


  "Alright, alright. He's on his way. Sit tight," she said before hanging up.

  As if I could do anything else.

  This is how the second week of my returning back to Bramwell, West Virginia ended. Just peachy, right? Sawyer Tuttle, ex-assistant district attorney for Suffolk County in Boston, Massachusetts, now unemployed finder of body parts.

  Unfortunately, my recently retired father suffered a stroke, leaving him paralyzed on the left side of his body. He's a tough old goat though and had made significant progress the first week he'd been released from the hospital, regaining much of his speech, but it was his body that wouldn't bounce back as quickly, forcing me to quit the job of a lifetime. A job I was positive I could never get back, regardless of my sterling records and alma mater, not after having only been there six months, quitting with hardly any notice anyway. Cities usually frown upon that type of behavior, despite the fact you're doing it for family.

  When Danny's flashing lights approached me from a hundred feet or so, I waved my hands over my head, alerting him to where I was. His cruiser popped and crunched the gravel as it slid to a stop on the shoulder. He stepped from his vehicle, checking behind him for oncoming traffic and affixing his hat tightly onto his head. His badge gleamed in the headlights of a passing truck as he drew near me.

  "Sawyer," he said, reaching out his hand.

  I shook it firmly and nodded. "Sheriff."

  "Hoped to see you again after all this time under better circumstances," he said, "but I suppose this'll do. Show me what you've found."

  I led him to the patch of brush where I discovered the head. Danny flashed his heavy light dragging it across the grass, giving me an extra gruesome dose of what I'd tripped over while jogging home along County.

  I saw these very same images in Boston on a daily basis as a criminal prosecutor but witnessing it in person just didn't hold the same effect. Apparently, pictures downplay the smells of their rotting subjects. I coughed into the sleeve of my t-shirt.

  "Awful, right?" Danny commented.


  Danny stood and spoke into the transmitter at his sleeve, "Casey, can you have Deputy Carson meet me at mile marker one-seventy-five? Tell him to tell the Johnsons that their weekly domestic dispute will have to wait until tomorrow as we've got bigger fish to fry. Also, wake the coroner."

  The thing buzzed with static before Casey answered, "'’Kay. Did Tuttle spill his guts all over the pavement yet or..."

  "Casey, we talked about this."


  "Alright, son. Tell me how you discovered the head."

  I cleared my throat. "Well, I was jogging home..."

  "And why would you jog so late at night on a dark road?"

  "I'm just used to working out late at night. In Boston, I wouldn't get back from the office until late so it was the only time I had to do it. Guess it became a pattern."

  "Alright," Danny said, jotting down information on a pad of paper. "Then what?"

  "I was jogging on the shoulder against the flow of traffic when a car approached. I forgot to wear any reflectors so I decided, to be safe, I'd jog deeper into the grass line until the car passed. That's when I tripped over something. It felt a little too soft and bulky to be a natural part of the landscape, so I passed my key flashlight over the area and the light reflected off the eyes. Freaked me out, Danny."

  "Can you think of anything else? See anything else that felt strange?"


  "Okay Sawyer," he sighed. "Number still the same?"

  "Of course. Has anyone in this little town changed their number in the past thirty years?" I asked sarcastically.

  "Yes," he said, thoughtfully, "Little Katie Shannon's parents had to change their number because she was handing it out willy-nilly at a bar in Charleston and a couple of chaps wouldn't leave her be."

  Katie always was a bit of a goof.

  "I get ya. You're just doin' your job."

  He smiled. "Need a ride home son?"

  "That would be great actually, thank you."

  Finishing my jog home was out of the question. There was something about not wanting to risk tripping over a second bloody head that night that left a bad taste in my mouth, best to leave that to the next jogging sucker.

  "Alright, as soon as Carson gets here, I'll have him swing you home."

  Danny went back to his cruiser and popped open his trunk. He began digging around and instead of bothering him, I opted to watch the black International Scout that was barreling towards us at what seemed to be a hundred miles an hour. Good gracious, they've got to be going at least eighty.

  When the driver didn't seem to be slowing down, I stepped back a bit to avoid any possible gravel that could kick up from their tires and peg me in the face, because that would have been my luck. When the driver came to a screeching halt on the shoulder opposite my side of the road, I stifled the urge to cross and punch the guy out. I couldn't see very well when the driver stepped from the Scout but I recognized the clickety-clack of a woman's heels. It was the same noise I remembered the women at the court house would make when walking with purpose on the marble hallways.

  When the woman's thin black high heels emerged under the lights of Sheriff Danny's cruiser, my heart stopped dead in its tracks. My cheeks heated to an unnatural warmth as I stared at the strap around her slender ankle. The most gorgeous woman I'd ever laid eyes on became engulfed by the light from the car. I followed those black heels up long, willowy legs and met the hem of a knee-length pencil skirt.

  Now, the only reason I even knew what those were was because my ancient secretary tried to explain to me the appropriate types of skirts women should wear in the court room and that I needed to tell fellow prosecutor Mary Kings
ford that she was dressing ‘inadequately'. I didn't, by the way, tell Mary Kingsford because I thought Mary's skirts added a little interest to my day.

  In my opinion, the pencil skirt is one of those elusive pieces of clothing that women believe are modest and truly, they are. But what women miss, or maybe they don't miss at all, is the fact that the pencil skirt does something to a woman's shape. Hips are curvier, calves are more pronounced, hips are better lined. There is nothing sexier to a man than a woman in a pencil skirt. Its appeal is the mystery and boy, do I love a good mystery.

  As my eyes followed the woman's shapely hips, they continued up until they met the face of a literal Botticelli painting. She was devastatingly handsome with dark brown wavy hair that fell at her elbows and eyes that pierced through me. I couldn't get the color but I was determined to remedy that very soon. She was probably five foot five and no older than twenty-one. Too young for you, old man. I eyed her carefully. She looked strangely familiar.

  At twenty-eight, there was no way such a young beauty would have anything to do with me but that didn't mean I couldn't appreciate her.

  "Thanks for calling me, Danny!" she yelled acerbically, breaking me from my thoughts.

  Danny looked up. "Oh Lord! Get out of here, girl! We haven't even started investigating yet and you can't be this close to the scene! Go on! Get! You can call me tomorrow for the details." She didn't turn around. "I'm serious as a heart attack! Get your butt back in that jeep or I'll call your mama!"

  But she just shook her head and laughed.

  "Nope," she said succinctly, before turning and stopping short two feet in front of me. "Well, well, well. What do we have here?" she asks, her eyes raking me up and down. "Let me guess, you were the one who found it?"

  "Yes, ma'am," I said, unprepared for the nervous lilt in my tone. I cleared my throat and answered more surely, dropping a pathetic octave lower than my genuine voice.

  "Yes, ma'am."

  You're an idiot, Sawyer. She made me feel like a little kid at school, answering to an intimidating school teacher which floored me because I was a criminal prosecutor for the city of Boston. I'd run across some of the most imposing people that walked this earth but I'd never had a reaction like this to anyone.

  She turned to face Danny once more, asking him a question but it was as if she spoke too slowly for me to catch on, I was so enthralled. Her hair blew in my face and my head swarmed as I breathed in her intoxicating scent.

  "What happened?" she asked, snapping her fingers in my face, searching her bag for what I assumed was a pen. She pulled one out and clicked the end, the sound reverberating in the air as if in slow motion.

  Before I could stop myself, the words came spilling out of me of their own volition. It was as if even words bent prostrate before this incredible woman and I couldn't stop until I'd told her everything, down to how many breaths I'd taken before she'd arrived, it seemed. She buried her eyes into her notebook, feverishly writing everything I was revealing to her. As I approached the end, having nothing more to say, I panicked, desperately needing to tell her more. This woman asked me for information and my body voluntarily willed itself to continue talking, to continue speaking until she commanded me to stop.

  Then, she brought her eyes to mine for the first time since she'd arrived.

  Our gazes collided in a spectacular explosion, wind lashed through my ears, tunneling out all other sound. Silence whipped around us, cocooning us together like we were the last two people on God's green earth.

  And it hit us like an atom bomb.

  My breath hitched in my throat and I felt an inexplicable need to place her hands in mine, to cull her body into mine, to press her front with mine and protect her from the world. Hers to mine.

  A sudden, frantic urge overtook me and I would have given every possession I owned, every cent in my custody to hear her whisper my name in that same instant. I expected the only relief I could possibly feel from the ache forming in my chest would be to crush my lips to that stranger's baffling mouth, a mouth whose lips grew heavy and parted in anticipation, sending a secret thrill through my skin.

  Our breaths sped beneath our chests and I heard a faint pant pass through that velvet mouth, her eyes searched my face, searched for a reason, for the something that could explain her necessity to have the same as I needed to have from her. Her unimaginable blue-grey stare made my heart beat so boldly that my body shook, afraid she'd perceive its deafening sounds. It beat this stranger's unfamiliar name with such intensity, I could do nothing more than to succumb to her unconscious summons.

  My hands slowly lifted to touch her face.

  "You've asked your questions. Now get." Danny's voice interrupted like a sonic boom, breaking us from our trance.

  I thanked God I wasn't the only one to act disoriented. We both stumbled over ourselves, examining the world around us as if we were witnessing it for the first time.

  "I've...I've got to go," she whispered to me.

  "Wait!" I say, reaching for her hand again but she shrugs from it before I can grab her. "Aren't you even curious as to who I am?"

  A faint curve met the side of her mouth and she narrowed her eyes.

  "Sawyer Tuttle, don't be ridiculous. How could I ever forget you?"

  And with that, she bolted for her Scout and sped from the scene, leaving me slack mouthed and dumbfounded as to what just happened between the two of us.

  I turned to the Sheriff, "Who was that, Danny?"

  Danny eyed me strangely, furrowing his brow. "Hit your head boy? That's my niece. That's Maddy. Didn't you recognize her?" He went back to removing plastic markers from a plastic kit. "She's a reporter now for The Bramwell Tribune, graduated last year in fact. Everyone's mighty proud of her." His chest puffed a little.

  I brought both hands to my temples, rubbing furiously. That was Madeleine Gray? Madeleine. Gray. My hands began to shake and I fisted them into my hair to steady them. Why? Why her?

  I knew, despite it being so late and my awful luck with his family, that Elliott Gray would be receiving a call from me that very night.

  "Ready?" Carson asks.

  "More than," I say.

  At home, I rummage through my old room, skirting packed boxes from my apartment back in Boston, searching for the one box that held Elliott's cell phone number, praying it was still good. The number was in an old address book, tattered and torn but priceless all the same because this book held answers. I followed the wood floor hallway and sat at my father's desk in his old office. Glancing over his shelves, I noticed dust collecting over his beloved novels. Need to ask Genie to dust these. I was stalling. My cell phone lay cold in my hand. It's just Elliott, Sawyer.

  Three rings later, he picks up.

  "Hello?" A groggy Elliott Gray answers.

  "Elliott," I barely say. "It's Sawyer Tuttle."

  "Tut?" Great, high school all over again.

  "Yeah, Tut," I hurriedly confirm. "Hey, I know it's late and it's been, what, I don't know, ten years or so."

  He laughs, a genuine laugh. Good sign.

  "All true, still good to hear from you though." He pauses. "I heard about your father," he adds softly.

  "Yeah, he's doing remarkably well though, just struggling with some physical stuff. He'll be right as rain in a couple of months, his therapists say."

  "That's amazing news, Sawyer. I'll never forget what he did for me. I'm glad to hear it."

  "I know," I said. It was critical that I avoid that topic.

  He coughed.

  "Listen, I'm calling...Well, I'm calling because I, uh, ran into your sister tonight, under some, uh, strange circumstances."

  "What happened?" He asked, more alert than I think I'd ever heard him. I always enjoyed making that guy uneasy.

  "Well, long story short, I stumbled upon the missing head of that tourist whose body had been discovered last week. Familiar with the story?"

  "I am. Go on," he said tersely, nervous about his sister, no doubt. />
  "Well, after your Uncle Danny interviewed me, your sister showed up for an interview of her own."

  "Mmm, hmm."

  "And, well, we had this moment."

  He quickly jumps in with, "If you're calling for my permission to ask out my little sister, you've got terrible timing, Tuttle. It's two in the morning here, not exactly the best time to convince me what a responsible guy you've become."

  "No, you don't understand. We had a moment," I said, emphasizing the word, trying to lead him to the correct conclusion without actually having to say out loud what I had always considered ridiculous. Saying it out loud would be the same as admitting it.

  Absolute silence followed for a good five minutes.


  He sighs. "Have you touched her?"

  "No, no. I've barely looked at her."

  "That's disgusting and no, you idiot, I mean, have you physically touched her yet?"

  "I tried but she shrugged away from me," I admitted.

  Elliott snorted.

  "Listen," I say, "I know it's late but I could really use some advice."

  "As much as I hate to say this, you need to touch her, to know for sure, you have to touch her."

  "How do I do that?" I ask.

  "You're asking me, Maddy's brother, to give you, Sawyer Tuttle, advice on how to put your hands on her?

  "You're already on my shit list for this two a.m. call, not to mention the moves you pulled on Jules in high school." I shrug into my shoulders at that embarrassing comment. "Do you really expect me, after I've already given you the solution, to also give you further advice on how to go about touching her? You're walking on thin ice, bro."

  "Alright, alright," I concede.

  "Call me when you do," he says. "And Tut?"


  "It's good to hear from you, ya' dirty rat."

  I smile as I hear the click of his phone. I spin in one fast circle in my dad's swiveling office chair, feeling for all the world like a teenager once again.

  The next morning, I wake early to call The Tribune, to get a hold of one Miss Madeleine Gray. As I prepare myself to make the call, I run my hand over my mouth, my hands trembled in anticipation. I couldn't believe how one girl could make me that much of a mess. Girl, I repeat inside my head. Six or seven years are quite a distance, Sawyer.

  But Maddy was no longer that little girl. She certainly didn't look like one and she sure as heck didn't dress like one either. I thought of her in her lovely, feminine skirt and that's when I decided I didn't care and that made me laugh out loud. I was certainly going to be rattling the bear cage when I finally caught hold of her and I was going to catch her. The city of Bramwell was going to hate my guts because little Maddy Gray was officially set in my sights.

  I rang the newspaper only to discover she'd called in sick. Of course. I lean my back against the wall in the kitchen, trying to get a grip on the supreme disappointment of not knowing where she is, a hollow wanting seeped into my heart. Find her.

  I ran past my mom, kissing her cheek in greeting and headed for the shower, knowing I wasn't going to stop that day until I touched Maddy and had seen for myself that this reaction wasn't what I knew deep down it really was.

  In the shower, I lowered my head under the fall of water, letting it cascade down my back. My brief moment with Maddy heightened my senses, making me aware of each rivulet of water as it sluiced down my back and shoulders. Madeleine Gray, what are you to me? I know what I wanted her to be. I would have climbed Everest twice in one day for her to be what I wanted her to be.

  After dressing, I helped my dad use the restroom and my mom dress his sarcastic ass. "Good to see your mouth hasn't lost its bite," I'd teased, then placed him in his chair. I practically ran to the old pickup I used to drive in college. I sat inside the cab and the leather protested beneath me.

  "Easy, girl. Just like old times," I wooed her, running my hands along the dash.

  I placed the key in the ignition and turned. Click, click, click. Nothing.

  "Damn it, Annie! Start for me, girl."

  I tried again but got nothing.

  "Fine, have it your way. You know I hate doing this," I mumbled underneath my breath.

  I stepped from the driver's seat and slammed the door. I paced in front of Annie three times before kicking the grill with everything I had in me. Before the kick had lost its strength I hauled to the cab once more, stabbed my keys in the ignition and turned. Nothing.

  "Listen, I know you're pissed. I can sense it but I've got a very important person to meet right now and I don't have the patience for this."

  I walked to the front of the truck once more. "Here we go," I whispered, before slamming my foot into the grill once more and running for the cab, turning the key again. She whimpered in response that time. "That's it Annie," I said, coaxing her, turning the keys once more, then again, and again, each time brought more of a response from her and with one final push, the truck rumbled to sweet life.

  "Ha, ha, hahaaa!" I shouted in triumph, jumping from my seat and landing on the grass beneath me. I whooped and hollered before turning to Annie and kissing her on the hood.

  That's when I heard a faint sarcastic clapping coming from behind me. I froze in terror, dropping my head to my chest.

  It isn't.

  I turned.

  It was. I lifted my eyes toward the heavens, a sense of humor indeed.

  "Hello, Maddy," I say coyly.

  She stands from her relaxed position, having leaned her striking body against the bottom banister of my parent's porch and started walking my direction.

  God, you look beautiful, I thought. She wore tattered, faded jeans that fit her like a glove, a pair of olive green Tom's, her black shoe liners peeked out at the sides of her shoes, the worn hems of her jeans encased the heel of them. She wore an indigo fitted t-shirt that read ‘Team Einstein' in white and her hair was down, the soft waves flowing with the wind. Her blue-grey eyes were engaging and glinted in the afternoon sun. Her lips were full and red, practically demanding me to kiss them.

  "Hello, Sawyer Tuttle," she teased with those begging lips.

  "Playin' hooky today, kid?" I said, stupidly emphasizing our age difference.

  "Checking up on me, Tut?" She countered, letting me know she wasn't going to be treated like the title I'd just called her. Touché' Gray.

  "I might be," I confessed, digging my hands in my pockets for safe-keeping.

  She narrowed her eyes as she came to a stop too close for my own comfort, for my own sanity. Step back, Gray or I won't be responsible for my actions. As if she could read my thoughts, she rounded my body and approached my finally running Annie. She ran her right hand along the hood.

  "I've always loved this truck," she threw over her shoulder at me.

  I crossed my arms over my chest as if in protection. Like an arrow to the heart, that girl.

  "Oh, really? And why's that, Maddy?"

  "Because it belonged to you," she said, shocking me.

  My mouth dropped open and I almost had to force it shut with my own hands.

  "Speak plainly, Madeleine Gray," I said thickly, not believing this was happening.

  She leaned her back against the side of my truck, placing her elbows on the hood and her left foot on the tire. "How much more plainly could I speak, Sawyer?" she dared.

  I gulped down my anticipation.

  "Wh...when?" I asked.

  "My sophomore year at Bluefield, when you were in law school, you'd come home on the weekends, sending all the girls around here into a tizzy, including yours truly. Except, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut, biding my time."

  My breath sped up. I crossed the little bit of yard until my arms surrounded her, my hands on the hood on either side of her tiny frame, inches from the touch I had been seeking.

  "Biding your time until when, Madeleine?" I scarcely asked.

  She brought her big eyes up, her breaths matched mine. "Until you noti
ced me on your own," she murmured.

  We stood there for seconds, minutes, maybe an hour, I couldn't be sure, just staring each other down, daring the other. I inched my face towards hers and she tilted her chin up.

  "Little Maddy Gray?" We heard from behind us.

  "Dang it," I whispered, my eyes sunk to the ground.

  My arms felt like magnets on that hood. I couldn't move them. Maddy, sensing my difficulty, ducked under my arm and met my 'perfect timing' mother at the top of the porch. My arms finally fell to my sides and I joined the women there.

  "It's good to see you, too," Maddy tells my mother. "It's been too long."

  "Come in here, child. I have a glass of lemonade with your name on it," my mama said, poking at the air in front of her.

  Maddy hesitated, looking up at me. I nodded my encouragement.

  "Don't even think about refusing me, Maddy Gray," my mother continued. Infuriating woman.

  All three of us met my father in the living room who was watching ESPN, some update on a college baseball team. He turned his chair our direction.

  "Maddy Gray! How are you, baby doll?" he asked. "I haven't seen you in such a long time. Too long honey!"

  Maddy surprised me and bent to grab my dad around his neck, hugging him tightly. I caught a single tear dripping down her cheek but she wiped it away before he could see it. My dad had helped out the Gray family once in a rather sensitive predicament. One that actually made me cringe thinking about, not only because of what had happened but because I had held a ten year old Maddy's hand during the thick of it and that sobered me quickly.

  She's too young for you, Sawyer.

  After a short visit with my parents, Maddy and I found ourselves alone on the front porch together.

  "Where are you living now?" I asked.

  "I have a little wood house off County. It's adorable, complete with white picket fence."

  It sounded charming, much like its owner.

  It got quiet, so I broke the silence. "I need to talk to you, Maddy."

  "There's nothing to talk about," she said.

  "I beg to differ," I said sternly, looking around, "but it's not safe to talk about it here."

  She snorted. Too much like Elliott.

  "It's hardly anything," she lied, tracing her toe over a gap in the wood planks of the porch, studying it like it was the night before an exam.

  "Come on," I said, bounding down the porch toward Annie. "I know the perfect place."

  Annie started in one turn of the key and Maddy took credit for that.

  "Where are we going?" She asked.

  "To the old vintage theater."

  "Sawyer, I hate to tell you this but The Ridglea shut down five years ago."

  "I know," I answered cryptically.

  "Alright," she said, turning her gaze toward the window, studying a town we've both lived in practically our whole lives.

  "Hasn't changed much," I said.

  She turned, locking her gaze with mine. "It hasn't changed at all," she said, making me wonder what she truly meant.

  We arrived at our destination quickly. The Ridglea Theater was a formidable structure in Bramwell, ancient in its architecture, an art deco dream. Dark red velvet lined every seat in its one room theater. Once a live venue house, it was turned into a movie theater in the late sixties. In high school, I worked the projector during the summers and during the last fifteen years of its existence, it only played classic films.

  I parked in the rear of the theater, near the back entrance.

  "You aren't going to just break into The Ridglea, Sawyer Tuttle! I'll not be a party to this criminal behavior!" she teased.

  "Oh hush, Maddy. It's not breaking and entering when the owner gave you a key, is it?" I said, dangling a silver key inches from her face.

  Shocked, she said, "I suppose not."

  We entered the theater and its old smell of dust and history assaulted my senses.

  "Smell that?" I asked.

  Maddy took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the sweet bouquet of The Ridglea, a Bramwell landmark.

  "Yes, I do. It smells like home to me, like high school popcorn fights, like Casablanca, like make out sessions with Robbie Dash."

  That caught my attention. It heated my neck with bizarre anger and that brought a sneaky smile to Madeleine Gray's face.

  "You like to push me, don't you?" I asked the cheeky girl.

  She lifted one shoulder and feigned indifference but the girl was obviously everything but apathetic and that made my stomach clench.

  It was dark once we reached the lobby and I instinctively reached for her hand.

  Her hand cupped beautifully inside mine.

  An instantaneous shot of warmth crept up my fingers, wound through my shoulders and sunk into my heart. The room began to glow with ethereal, dancing globes of soft yellow light, slowly rolling in and around us, never breaking their flow until Maddy jerked her hand away.

  This is not what Elliott and Julia described when they illustrated their gift to me. Theirs was decidedly more violent and I found myself wondering if there was something wrong with me, not with Maddy though, never with Maddy.

  "What. Was. That.?" Maddy asked.

  I answered by grabbing both her hands in mine once more. Baptism by fire. The immediate warmth soothed the edges of my heart, preparing me to give her answer. It was different but it was unquestionably our gift, perfect in all its simplicity. There's more, I intuitively thought, unsure why I knew this.

  "That, Madeleine Gray, is our gift," I whispered, in awe of our sinuous light.

  "Our gift?" She whispered back, in disbelief.

  I slid my hands up her arms as she whimpered in satisfaction, drawing her body into mine the way I wanted to the night before. Pressing her front to my chest, I buried my face in her neck and a low hum buzzed through my shivering blood, blood that raced through my veins at an absurd rate. Her pulse quickened and I could feel the throb of her vein against my lips. My tongue darted at the pulse and I couldn't stop myself from tasting her skin. Her hands were wrapped around my shoulders but the heat of my tongue made them drop limply at her sides as I groaned from her heavenly flavor, pressing my face deeper into her neck, inhaling her intoxicating fragrance deeply, nearly falling to my knees in acquiescence.

  The winding, soft illumination brightened with each accelerated heartbeat. I entangled my fingers in her silk-like hair, dragging them through until the tips escaped my fingers but the lights never faulted as my face was still buried in her remarkable neck. I slid my fingers through her hair once more, from the sides of her face to the base of her neck and gripped there, pulling her head back to meet my gaze.

  I married my lips with hers, the taste of her mouth too saccharine to be real, too hard to believe, too delicious to be true and then my tongue met hers, sending quivers throughout my entire body. She moaned into my lips, throwing the kiss into deeper frenzy. Our minds melded as one, reading every thought, every feeling and I felt her within my own thoughts, experiencing what I felt for her and it was overpowering.

  I want you so, she thought. I think...I think I'm losing control.

  You have me, I told her, and I won't let you lose control. You mean too much to me.

  But then, our considerable gift was beyond a doubt revealed as a cloud of energy burst between us sending our clothing and hair to whip in its wake. A loud, low boom sounded, drowning out all other sound. When the translucent ring pushed from us like a ripple in water the buzzing pitch only seemed to grow higher in tone as the ring grew larger, dissipating from us, but it wasn't over. The ring lashed back at an exponential rate, covering us completely and igniting upward in a large mushroom of white energy, ending in an even louder boom. We tried to pull away but the kiss couldn't be broken.

  Hundreds of images ran through our shared, undeniably connected minds. My parents at someone's wedding, beautiful children running through a backyard sprinkler, my much older mother crying at my father's funeral
, Maddy's brother Elliott middle-aged and walking through the door of my home for a very familiar visit, Maddy, yet not Maddy, as a child, crying over a skinned knee, Jesse Thomas covered in blood and laughing, Old man Thatcher serving Maddy and I food, Maddy's mother and father, Shelby and Mark, dancing in front of a Christmas tree, and finally me, yelling Madeleine's name into a fire just as a flash of something flew past me into the house ablaze before me, an image so disturbing I wanted nothing to do with it.

  The magnet driving us together broke abruptly, jolting us apart and we both skidded to the floor beneath us, the tunneled sounds of our visions fading into nothing. Darkness surrounded us once more and the stillness after such an implausible act was eerie. I lay on the marble lobby floor of The Ridglea breathing deeply, trying to piece together the assault but my thoughts were interrupted by faint crying. I bolted upright.

  "Maddy?" I whispered, afraid to startle her.

  "Here," she wept.

  I crawled her direction but withheld my touch, not wanting to alarm her.

  "Things seem strange to you, I know," I said, a pathetic attempt to appease her.

  She sat upright, "But...but not to you?" She asked.

  "No, not to me," I said, shaking my head in the pitch blackness surrounding us, as if she could see me.

  I heard her swallow. "Why Sawyer?"

  I sighed. "I'm not sure you'll believe me."

  "I was just flooded with alarming images that looked a lot like they could be our future, Sawyer Tuttle, and an image so disturbing I want nothing to do with it," she shuddered, repeating my very own thoughts.

  I slid my hand across the dusty marble floor until it met Maddy's but she didn't pull away as I feared she would. Our faces became illuminated by our dancing globes, like giant bobbing fireflies. We scanned our surroundings, terrified at the damage our blast should have caused, but as our eyes searched, we found nothing. The lobby was perfectly undisturbed, as if nothing had ever happened. We brought our disbelieving eyes back to each other.

  "You and I share a supernatural gift," I whispered.

  Maddy searched my face.

  "Sawyer, you''re scaring me. You speak with such confidence, it's unsettling. You act like this was expected! And why is the lobby in such perfect condition? Nothing should have survived that blast," she said, glancing around her, still so very unsure.

  "I did expect it and I don't know."

  "How could you have possibly known that this was going to happen?" she asked, her hands beginning to tremble.

  "I...I didn't know exactly what would happen but, I admit, I wasn't surprised either.

  "I recognized something in you yesterday and because of that called someone I know who shares a gift, similar to ours, with another person and his advice for me was to touch you. That, in order to be sure we shared this something, I needed to touch you.

  "I had planned on explaining everything to you before but lost myself and accidentally grabbed your hand without thinking. I'm exceedingly sorry. I never meant for you to find out this way. I meant to prepare you."

  I wanted so badly to reveal names but I didn't have the right to. I knew it would be up to Elliott to explain it to Madeleine. Plus, I considered what happened in that lobby shocking enough for one afternoon.

  "That's too cryptic, Sawyer." She thought carefully, "You said 'his'. Who is it? Do I know him?"

  Do you know him? "I'm sorry. I can't tell you."

  "Then I think it best you let go of my hand," she said, her eyes turning unexpectedly cold. I gripped harder, ignoring her plea. "You have information, Sawyer, and you won't give it to me? After what we just shared?" she asked, betrayal painting every line of her face.

  She jumped to her feet, ready to sprint but I met her before she could escape, wrapping my arms tightly around her body, her back pressed closely to my chest.

  "Please don't go," I whispered in her ear, her hair wisping out as my breaths blew across the strands. "Just hear me out."

  Her breathing became strenuous and a warm tear splashed onto my forearm. I whipped her around to face me, holding her face in my hands. I wished so badly to kiss her cheek, her forehead, chin, and lips but I refrained, afraid of what more could be revealed with the tie, settling to run my hands across her face instead, staring at her pleadingly.

  "Very well," she scarcely agreed.

  She freely laid her head across my chest and I covered her head with my hand, stroking her hair until our shared warmth calmed us both down. The light was all consuming yet peaceful, soothing.

  "This is incredible," she said quietly.

  The words filled me with such exhilaration, I panicked at giving myself false hope.

  "Look at me," I said. "Please, Madeleine."

  She did just that and I realized I would never call her Maddy again because Maddy was reserved for the ten year old I used to tease incessantly, the one who always fought back, for the sixteen year old I used to shake my head at, for the eighteen year old I pretended not to notice but could never quite pull off. This woman was not Maddy. This woman was Madeleine. My Madeleine.

  I opened my mouth to speak but my cell phone interrupted me. I grabbed my phone to smash it into the nearest wall but I remembered myself, knowing it could be my mom needing help with my dad. I hit the 'Accept' button, not familiar with the number.

  "Hello?" I asked, wrapping my arm tighter around Madeleine's shoulders. She sighed.

  "Sawyer, it's Danny."

  "Hey, Danny," I said, wondering how he got my number. Madeleine looked at me curiously.

  "Hey, your mom gave me your cell number. I hope that's okay."

  "Of course."

  "I need you to meet me at the station, if you can. The sooner the better, I have to have you sign an affidavit. You know the drill."

  I did. I put many people in jail using those sworn statements.

  "We'll be there in ten," I said and hung up the phone.

  "Feel like visiting your uncle?" I asked her.

  "Sure, why not."

  The two of us had to kick the crap out of Annie, but she eventually started and Madeleine kissed the dash in apology. For the briefest moment, I wished I still had my Land Rover but quickly recanted that wish. It was hot outside, so she rolled down her window, sweat trickling down her throat. She twisted her hair, toppling it on top of her head, fanning herself with her free hand. She searched the seat and found an old t-shirt of mine underneath an older law book. She used it to wipe the sweat dribbling down her neck and I found myself wishing I could be that t-shirt.

  Danny was outside pacing on the creaky wood porch of the ancient station when we arrived, his arms folded across his chest. When he saw us approaching, he stopped, shaded his eyes from the sunlight to get a better view of my cab and I almost laughed out loud when I saw his hands go to his hips and he shook his head back and forth. Rattling the Bramwell bear cage. I stepped from the cab and rounded the front, nodding my hello to Danny. I reached Madeleine's door and helped her from the car. I wasn't prepared to see our light but our brief contact made us both remember that we'd almost forgotten.

  "Hey, Uncle Danny," she said.

  "Don't 'hey Uncle Danny' me, Madeleine Gray! What do you two think you're doing?" He asked us both before turning his heated gaze onto me and I stepped back slightly, "She's too young for you Tuttle," he pointed in my face.

  I tried to defend myself but Madeleine's fire, my old familiar friend, came out with a vengeance.

  "Uncle Danny! Not that it's any of your business, Sawyer's only six years older than me."

  "Six years is a good amount of time, young lady! You weren't even in high school yet when he was a sophomore at Yale! This is just too weird. Your dad is going to flip!"

  Madeleine calmed at his words as if something had dawned on her.

  "If I'm not mistaken," she said, "it's one year less than the age difference between you and Aunt Becky."

  His mouth gaped open. "Uh, yeah, but, well," he stammered before collecti
ng himself. "Young lady! Your Aunt Becky was a mature woman when we met! You're just a girl."

  "I'm twenty-two. You and Aunt Becky were already married a year when she was my age!"

  His mouth fastened tightly, his eyes narrowed and he could only gesture to both of us to get inside the station.

  "Come on, you two."

  I winked at her when Danny turned to walk through the door, trying very hard to hold back the laughter bubbling in my throat. Fiery Madeleine Gray, the purest definition of gumption.

  Inside, as I signed my sworn statement and answered a few more questions from a cranky Danny, Madeleine wandered around the station for awhile. I hadn't realized it yet but I'd brought reporter Gray with me that afternoon.

  "And what's this, Sheriff Danny?"

  "What, Maddy?" Danny asked an invisible Madeleine as he rumbled through a few pieces of paper on his desk.

  He looked up. She was in the evidence room.

  "Dang it, girl. I think you're going to be the death of me. That room's supposed to be locked! Carson!" He yelled, getting up and heading Madeleine's direction.

  He emerged with a guilty looking Madeleine by her upper arm, leading her out the door. She started to walk away. "Wait a minute!" he said. "Give me your phone."

  She handed it over. Danny started flipping through her phone pictures.

  "Aha!" He said, deleting the obvious photos she had taken. "Listen to me Maddy girl, if you sent any of these pics already to that damned paper you work for and they print them? I'm going to have to charge you with tampering with evidence and impeding an investigation. You understand me, young lady? Those are serious charges." He turned over and caught my stare in the doorway. "Both of you," he continued. "Get out of here before I invent something to ticket you for."

  "Yes, sir," Madeleine said, throwing him an exaggerated salute. I wanted to laugh but all I could think of was how Julia that was of her and became slightly uncomfortable.

  "Maddy, you're pressing your luck."

  We hopped into Annie and both breathed a sigh of relief when she started at the second turn of my key and before we knew it, we were traipsing toward my house so I could help my mom with my dad's lunch.

  "What'd you find?" I asked, barely able to contain my curiosity.

  "Oh boy, wouldn't you like to know," she teased, wagging her eyebrows.

  "Come on," I urged, pulling into my parent's driveway.

  We started for my front porch when she pulled me short by my sleeve.

  "I saw the weapon," she said.

  All the color drained from my face. "Madeleine, you didn't pick it up, did you?"

  "Of course I did!" She scoffed but at the look on my face she said, "But it was sealed in a clear plastic evidence bag, hadn't even been processed yet. It's alright. I just wanted to see what kind of weapon could remove a man's head." I cringed. "It'll give me an edge in my article to know what type of knife was used."

  "You'll implicate yourself if you mention that knife, Madeleine Gray. You can't do that, not until the investigation's over and they've apprehended their suspect. You hear me?"

  She smiled flirtatiously at me.

  "Protecting me are you, Mister Tuttle? Mister district attorney?" She teased, sidling closely to me.

  "Without a doubt."

  She brought her face to mine and I slid my hands to her neck. We leaned into one another.

  "Are you sure?" I asked quietly.

  "Let's just try it." She said. "What's the worst that could happen?"

  That was all the encouragement I needed. I greedily pressed my mouth to hers, a crazed heat engulfed my stomach, working its lovely magic up into my heart and into the fingertips holding so strongly to her face.

  A single image came flooding to our minds.

  A man, murdering a young woman outside an abandoned barn late at night, a weighty full moon highlighting the blood splattered across her lifeless face. The murderer's meaty fingers gripped tightly onto a wood handled butcher knife as he tossed it into the field near the barn, the knife landing with a dull thud in the grass. Not recognizing the haunting dead woman, there was only one reason I could think Madeleine and I shared this image and I wanted far away from it and the weapon Madeleine had held in her hands not half an hour before.

  The mushroom cloud hadn't yet dissipated before we forced ourselves apart with every ounce of energy we had in us, the image too disturbing to endure any more of its message. The energy cloud may not have knocked us off our feet but it might as well have because panic flooded both our veins.

  Madeleine's face was drenched with tears as I read the message in her eyes. Flee.

  "Wait," I said, holding out my hands, my futile attempt to stay her in her place but she sprinted anyway, running as fast as possible to her car. I ran after her, hurdling over the large stone at the end of our drive and slamming her door closed before she could open it all the way, my arms encasing her. She tore at them in desperation.

  "Please, stay away from me!" she begged. "I can't do this. Please!"

  "Madeleine!" I yelled, her beseeching making my heart ache. "Listen to me!" Her eyes met mine for the briefest moment. "Call your brother," was all I could think to say.

  "What?" She asked, wide-eyed.

  "Just, call your brother. Tell him everything. Leave nothing out. Please, just do that for me."

  I released her from my prison arms.

  She hurriedly opened her door but before she sat, she threw over her shoulder, "I'm sorry but this is too frightening. I can't do it...I..I won't do it. Please, just leave me alone." And with that, she slammed her door shut and sped off, leaving in her wake, a devastated, very alone, and utterly gutted, me.

  Two weeks later, the ache had grown debilitating. I was barely sleeping, taking to the couch in a vegetable-like state, keeping the television on to drown out my paralyzing sorrow but it didn't work, nothing did. After noticing the lack of life in me, my dad asked if it was my job I missed so much and I was forced to attempt a smile around both my parents so they didn't pile any more guilt on their heavily-ridden shoulders but they eyed me wearily and I knew I was fooling no one.

  I saw Madeleine about town, stunning as ever, but even as beautiful as she was, I knew she suffered as I did, deep circles kissed the underneaths of her eyes, her cheeks had become sunken, her hair missing the sheen it always owned.

  We were dying, literally dying.

  I called Elliott five times a day and he tolerated me with kindness, having experienced this first hand and he confirmed it. We were dying. A slow death, but death nonetheless. He attempted to get a hold of Madeleine but she evaded his phone calls over and over, ignoring his pleas. I pounded on her door every night, pleading with her to listen to me, promising her we could figure things out but it was all for not. She wanted nothing to do with me.

  It was two am the Monday of that third week, an infomercial resounded in the background but it didn't have my attention. The only attention I could afford to give was for the aching hole inside my chest. I stared blankly at the television, seeing nothing when I heard someone pounding loudly at my front door. I threw my body up, grabbing the old baseball bat that sat in my mother's umbrella stand by the front door.

  "Who is it?" I asked, squinting out the peep hole.


  I froze. She stood, tossing her weight back and forth from one leg to another, her arms wrapped tightly around her abdomen, her face buried in her chest. I threw open the door, tossing the bat to the ground. We stared for several moments.

  "So, I talked to Elliott," she spoke in greeting, choking back a sob.

  "Oh, Madeleine," I said, engulfing her in my arms. Our warmth flooded over us, the light swirling in and around our bodies. She sighed as I let out the breath I'd been holding for nearly three weeks. "I missed you."

  She laughed as a sob escaped from in between her lips. "More than you could possibly imagine." But I could, so I hugged her even tighter.

  "He told me," she continued
. "Everything."

  "And?" I asked carefully.

  "And he thinks we share a gift of premonition," she admitted.

  "What does that mean to us, sweetheart?"

  "I think it means," she said, her glassy eyes pleading with mine, "that we have until the next full moon to catch a killer."