Crush, p.29
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       Crush, p.29

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Twenty-Six


  I lifted my punch card and slipped it into the time clock, glancing briefly at the schedule on the wall beside it. I was working with Clay tonight it appeared. I was mildly surprised since we hadn’t worked together in a while. There was also the word, “trainee,” penciled in by my name. That confused me since I wasn’t new.

  Jon walked into the breakroom carrying a bunch of cleaning supplies to the closet.

  “There’s the word trainee written by my name,” I said casually. “What’s that for?”

  “Oh, sorry. I forgot to mention you’re helping the new guy tonight.” He deposited the items he was holding onto their appropriate shelves.

  “So you did hire someone finally. What’s his name?”

  Jon looked puzzled. “It’s your friend you told me about, Hunter Wilder. I figured he would’ve told you. He came in and interviewed this afternoon with Jen. She seemed quite taken with him.”

  I turned away so he wouldn’t see me roll my eyes as I deposited my purse into my employee locker. I bet she was impressed. Hunter probably laid the charm on so thick she didn’t stand a chance.

  I leaned my head against the locker and sighed heavily. Hunter and Clay together at my job. This was going to be a long night.

  “Are you okay, Cami?” Jon asked, concerned.

  Straightening up, I turned, giving him a bright smile. “I am, thanks. Just a long day at school today. I’ll be fine. Where do you want me to train Hunter tonight?”

  “I’m going to start him off with theater care. I restocked all the cleaning supplies for you two as well. I’ll be leaving in a bit, but Jen will be in the office if you need anything.”

  “Okay. Thanks.”

  Jon gave me a smile and left.

  This was good. Only two people usually worked theater care at a time. That meant Clay would be in the snack bar with Mandy or Shane or in the ticket window. Hopefully, I could keep Hunter and him apart for most of the night.

  Of course, this also meant the two of us would be spending a lot of time together without anyone else around. That made my pulse race a little, but I was bound and determined to keep him at a professional distance.

  “Hey, Cami,” Clay’s voice interrupted my thoughts, and startled, I jumped.

  He gazed over me and gave a lazy half smile of appreciation. “Did I catch you by surprise?”

  “Yeah. I didn’t hear the door open.” I fidgeted with the hem of my dark-blue uniform shirt with the red theater logo embroidered in the upper left corner.

  Clay looked at my hands curiously, before glancing back to my face. “Are you all right? You seem nervous.”

  I nodded. “I’m fine. I need to tell you something, though.”

  His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What?”

  “I’m training a new employee tonight.”

  He waited for me to give him more information, but I didn’t continue. “Who?”

  “Apparently Hunter got a job here this afternoon.”

  Clay didn’t say a word, but his jaw clenched. He walked over to his locker, opened it, pulled out his name badge, and began fastening it to his shirt.

  “Where’s he starting?” he finally asked.

  “In theater care. Where are you working?”

  “Snack bar,” he replied tersely.

  “Please try to be civil,” I begged him. “This is work. We need to be professional.”

  He snorted. “Whatever, Cami.” He shot me a wounded look. “I can imagine he’ll love his new job. He’s gonna get paid to follow you around through dark rooms. He’s probably thrilled.”

  “Clay, please.”

  “He always manages to find ways to infiltrate your life even more, doesn’t he?”

  I remained silent, and he made his way to the door, flinging it open roughly only to nearly collide with Hunter on his way in.

  I groaned audibly.

  Clay gave him a stormy glance, but Hunter only looked mildly amused as he slid past him and came over.

  “So, I was told to report to you—that you were my trainer.” He winked, and I couldn’t help staring. I hadn’t seen these ugly polo shirts look this good on anyone before. Jon should’ve started him at the ticket window. He’d have packed the house.

  “Why didn’t you tell me you got the job?” I asked.

  Clay gave a huff and left the room.

  Hunter shrugged. “I didn’t know until a couple of hours ago. I thought I’d surprise you.”

  “Well, you did.” I glanced at the door Clay had left through.

  Hunter followed my line of sight. “Look, Cami. I didn’t think he’d be working tonight since you said you didn’t get scheduled together much anymore. I swear I’ll be on my best behavior. I’m not trying to rock the boat.”

  “So you’re saying you didn’t try to get this job because I work here?”

  “No, I’m saying I only took this job because you work here. I don’t really need the money, but I like being with you, and I hate it when you’re at work.” He slid a glance over my form before returning to my eyes. “That is when I usually get into trouble you know—when you’re not around.”

  This was something I hadn’t thought of. If he was here working, he wasn’t out partying with a bunch of losers. Suddenly, things seemed a little brighter.

  “Are you trying to make amends?”

  “I am.” He stepped closer. “I’ll do anything I can to prove you can trust me.”

  There were so many questions I wanted to ask, but now was not the time.

  “See that utility cart over there? Grab it. We’re going to load it up with our supplies for the night.”

  He grinned and winked. “Yes, ma’am.”

  I couldn’t help the little flutter in my chest. I wasn’t going to lie to myself—I’d never looked forward to a shift as much as this one.

  “I don’t know if anyone told you, but part of our employee benefits is that we can have all the free fountain soda we want. We can also have one small bag of popcorn per shift. Anything else you want during your break you have to pay for.”

  “Sounds good.”

  I opened the closet Jon had just been in. “Most of our cleaning supplies are in here. Occasionally, we may run out of stuff. Our backup supplies are in a storage room in the attic. I’ll give you a tour of everything after we are done loading the cart.” I lifted a dustpan that was hooked to a long-handled broom. “Most of the time we’ll be walking around with these, cleaning up trash and popcorn spills. We’ll use them to clean the theaters after each show too. The shows are timed on rotations so we can easily move from one to another. The bathrooms have to be checked every hour and then cleaned again at closing so they are ready for the next day.”

  “Got it,” Hunter said.

  I pulled the supplies out one by one and showed him where they went on the cart. “We’ll need to move quickly after each movie so the patrons can begin seating for the next showing. The rest of the time will be pretty easy, and if we have a fairly clean crowd, things can even get slow.”

  “I don’t have a time card yet,” Hunter interjected. “Jon told me to have you write my hours down for tonight and sign them off, and then he’ll get me one made up.” He handed me a piece of paper with a time written on it. “This was when I got here.”

  “Oh, okay.” I folded it and slipped it into my pocket. “Let’s go to the attic then.” I smiled mischievously. “They say it’s haunted, you know.”

  His interest was immediately piqued. “Do they now? And who is they?”

  I giggled as I led him out the door and down the back hallway to a wide set of stairs. We slowly walked up them. “All the employees. I think Jon is the only one who isn’t afraid of coming up here by himself. This building is old, and there used to be a private theater up here for the family that originally owned the place.”

  “What happened to it?” he asked curiously.

  “Oh, it’s still there, but it’s locked up. Ap
parently, the owner back then came in and found his wife dead in one of the seats with a movie still playing. The story goes that he was so distraught, he locked the theater and never let anyone use it again. Many employees have claimed to hear strange noises or smells, and a few have said they’ve seen the ghostly apparition of the woman herself. They say she’s wandering the theater looking for her husband.”

  “When did this supposedly happen?” Hunter asked, seeming very intrigued with the tale.

  “In the nineteen fifties, I’m told. Someone came in later and did the renovations, adding all the extra theaters to it. It used to be one big one downstairs and this smaller one upstairs.”

  “Hmm. So they use the smaller one for storage now?”

  I shook my head. “No. The theater remains untouched. It’s kept locked. Even Jon doesn’t go in there. He says it’s to remain undisturbed out of respect for the dead.”

  “So there must be some truth to the story.”

  “Yes. It was an ancestor of his.”

  “Interesting. You’ve never seen the inside of the theater then?”

  “Only in pictures. I’ll show you the album they’ve kept of the building’s history.”

  Hunter chuckled. “It is kind of spooky. Maybe they should call in the ghost hunters.”

  “Laugh all you want now,” I said, grinning. “It’s not so funny when you actually experience something.”

  “You’ve seen the ghost?” His eyebrows rose in speculation.

  “No, but I’ve heard the strange noises and smelled weird things on occasion. Things I couldn’t explain away.” Goosebumps prickled over my skin as we reached the top of the stairs, and without thinking, I reached over to slip my hand into his.

  “Why, Ms. Wimberley, I do believe you are crossing the bounds of appropriate behavior with a coworker. I may need to fill out a sexual harassment report.”

  “You’re right. I should let go.”

  He gripped my hand tighter. “I don’t think so. You should let me hold it . . . for safety reasons of course.” His eyes twinkled mischievously, and he winked before glancing down the hallway. “Let’s do some exploring later, if we have time, and see if we can stir up the ghost.”

  I shook my head. “You have absolutely no respect for this story, do you?”

  He shrugged as he glanced around. “I’m not trying to discount anything. I’m just being practical. Most things can be explained away if they’re researched enough. Has anyone tried to find out what might be making those noises and smells? Do they ever check the theater to make sure it remains undisturbed?”

  “I really have no idea. I’m sure there has been some mild investigating by management after the staff complained about it, but I couldn’t tell you.” I pointed to a set of old, carved, wooden doors depicting cherubs frolicking on them. “Those lead to the theater. The plain door at the far end of the hall is the storeroom.”

  “It’s kind of like stepping back in time up here,” Hunter said as he observed the old red and gold wallpaper and cream moldings lining the walls, along with the art deco wall sconces. “Is this all original?”

  “It is. Even the carpet.”

  He glanced down at the red carpet that was still plush where it ran down the edges in to the very worn center. “I bet it looked really nice back in the day.”

  “The album is on the shelf just inside the door. They’re black and white, but you’ll get the idea.” I watched him while we walked and started giggling. “Are you sniffing the air?”

  He grinned. “Yes, I am. You said people smelled weird things when they were up here. I’m just seeing if I can too.”

  “And?” I paused, crossing my arms as he moved toward the double doors that lead into the theater.

  He turned to face me. “I got nothing.” He sighed heavily, looking disappointed.

  I laughed. “Most of us run through this hall, not wanting to be here by ourselves very long, and you’re standing there trying to find something. Aren’t you scared?”

  He gave me a look of scorn. “Puh-leeze. Why would I be afraid when I have you to protect me?”

  I snorted and started laughing hard. “You must be really hard pressed for protection these days.”

  He smiled widely and walked over, stroking his fingers over my lips. “I’ve missed hearing your laugh lately.”

  My smile slowly slid from my face. “Things have been a little stressed.”

  He nodded. “I know, and I’m sorry. If you really want me to back off, Cami, I will. Tell me now and I’ll steer clear, but if that’s what you want, you need to know I’ll still be watching out for you.”

  This was my moment. If I really wanted him to leave he would go. He meant it.

  “Hunter, I’ve never wanted you gone. I just wanted the truth.”

  “And I want to give it to you, really, I do. I’m just asking you to trust me for a little longer, okay?”

  I could see the sincerity written in his eyes. I wanted to believe what he was telling me.

  “You know what? I owe you an apology. In the very beginning I said I wanted to get to know you better, flaws and secrets aside. Then when things got crazy, I backed out on that. I’m sorry. Take all the time you need. I’ll be here if and when you’re ready to talk. Until then I’ll do my best to trust you.”

  He relaxed visibly. “Thank you. You have no idea what this means. I’ll try not to disappoint you.”

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