The Reunion Trap Ch. 02
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My high school experience had ended in prison. Now, five months later, I was free. However, I had no home base. When I needed him, my best friend was nowhere to be found. My parents hadn’t really believed me with all the ‘evidence’ against me and had moved away due to hostility within the community. They had only moved across the city but had never visited me while I was in prison. I suppose they resented the fact that my troubles forced them to uproot their own lives. I wrote them off after that. I didn’t have parents. I refused to go ‘home’. Hell, I had no home. Thank the gods that I had a checking account in my name only. My parents used to mooch off me ever since I had a job at sixteen, since they barely made ends meet. So, I had to hide my money from them if I ever wanted to have any left for myself.
I had worked construction in the last summer and was able to save up about four thousand dollars. I knew that wouldn’t get me too far in Parker, my hometown, or most anywhere in Colorado. I also wanted a fresh start far away from there. So, the first thing I did after getting released was to buy a bus ticket to California. I figured that would give me the best opportunity to blend in and start over again. Worst case, I could take up surfing and become a beach bum. I laughed at the thought.
On the bus ride there, it did cross my mind several times that California was even more expensive than Colorado. I had to chuckle at my own stupidity, but hey, maybe it was fate. I had to suppress my logical side and only then could I find comfort in that thought. I knew that once I reached California, I would have to move fast. Otherwise, I’d run out of money quickly. As I pondered my destiny, an older lady sat down next to me on the full bus. She must have noticed something was bothering me.
“Well now,” she said. “I’ve seen my share of long faces, but you truly look like the world has come crumbling down around you. Care to talk about it? Sometimes it helps to get things out.”
I don’t exactly know why, but her suggestion sounded good right about then. It wasn’t long before I was pouring my heart out to this sweet older woman. She just had such a pleasant way about her. The bus ride from Colorado was long and by the time we arrived, I had told her my life story and my current troubles. For her part, she had offered to put me up in a spare room in exchange for yard work. Apparently, she had a decent sized property with a lot of groundskeeping that needed doing. She also had the space for me to hang my hat, so to speak. It seemed like a good fit. I readily agreed.
This was the second person that had basically saved me, and neither one had really known me. Why couldn’t my own friends, classmates, and especially my parents care about me this much? My older brother had called me every week while I was in prison, despite living in Japan on an internship. He was my only family now. Fuck the rest of them.
I smiled warmly at the lady, Claire, to who I was very thankful. She looked to be in her fifties, and she told me that her kids had moved all around the world and she could use some company. She was so nice, I figured it would be a bonus to hang out with her from time to time. However, I kept my walls up. I could tell someone my life story easily enough but letting them into my heart was on a whole other level.
When we arrived in California, Claire called us an uber while I grabbed her bags. I only had one small backpack myself. I refused to go to my ex-parent’s house to gather whatever was left of my things. I figured they may have thrown everything out, anyways. Considering the last time that I saw my ex-parents, they had basically disowned me, I wouldn’t put it past them. A friendly guy in a Subaru drove up about ten minute later and after I set the bags in the Subaru’s back, he drove us to Claire’s home.
I wasn’t familiar with California, but I could smell the ocean when we exited the uber in front of a wrought-iron gate, so I knew we couldn’t be far from it. I figured it would be a short walk to ‘the beach bum life’ it this didn’t work out. I chuckled inwardly as Claire punched some numbers into a keypad. The massive black gate swung open ponderously. She looked at me and rolled her eyes.
“My daughter insisted on a security gate,” she explained. “I think it’s overkill, and it makes me feel pretentious.”
I liked this woman even more already. I wasn’t so sure about the daughter though. Claire led me inside, and the gate closed behind us, just as slowly. When I first saw the property, my eyes grew wide. The house was immense and immaculate, and the grounds were enormous. There were numerous trees past the massive yard. It had a pond and even a stream running through the property with a couple little foot bridges crossing it for access to the backyard. After the dry scrub of Colorado, it seemed to me like a paradise.
“How could you afford all this?” I blurted out before my mind could catch up with my mouth.
“Wow, this is more than I expected,” she said to herself, Antalya Travesti her hand unconsciously going to her face. I thought the reaction was a bit strange for someone simply coming home from vacation. Then she seemed to register my comment. “Oh, hon… I couldn’t. We’ve owned the property since the late eighteen-hundreds. I’ve been visiting my sister for a couple months while my daughter had the house renovated. I can’t believe this. The house must be twice the size it was when I left.”
I noticed a trickle of tears flow down her face as she fought to breathe normally. She was clearly overwhelmed. I mentally kicked myself. The entire bus ride had been all about me. I still knew almost nothing about Claire. At least I was learning about her now. I guess I had written this daughter off too soon. Anyone who would do all this for their mother couldn’t be all bad.
“Well,” she said, sniffling as she fought off her emotions and forced a smile. “Why don’t you join me in exploring?”
“Glad to,” I replied, smiling back at her. We went inside and looked around the gorgeous house. It had a large kitchen, hardwoods throughout, a living room, parlor, dining room, a full bathroom, and front room. And that was just the main floor. There was a large wooden deck out back overlooking a swimming pool. Apparently, this was new too because that brought on another round of tears and sniffles. There were three bedrooms upstairs and four more bathrooms throughout. A fully furnished basement for working out or watching TV completed the house. It turned out that there was a finished bungalow down the hill. Basically, a small apartment for visitors. This is where I ended up staying.
Claire took me shopping and I got myself a phone and laptop to get started on the plan I had been formulating in my head. Claire gave me the password to their internet account and the apartment had a landline from the house. The speed was better than even my high school’s internet. I had no complaints and quickly found my online accounts. And it wasn’t just my checking account.
I had numerous stories that I had written and posted on my personal website. I had bought and paid for it with my first paycheck and kept everything I had ever written there. It was technically public but would be hard to find unless someone knew one of the addresses for it. Strangely, the visitor count wasn’t where I had left it. At least I thought it had gone up. I honestly didn’t keep as close an eye on it as I probably should. Shrugging to myself, I checked and found I had posted over two hundred stories already. It was past time I put some of these stories to good use.
It was slow going, but the days passed happily as I got to know Claire better. Her husband had passed a few years back, but she had five children to keep her company. It sounded like all her children were successful in their careers. What really surprised me was that the daughter she had been talking about was only eighteen. Somehow, Claire’s youngest daughter had made enough money to buy all of this for her, and the young woman was barely even staying there. I saw some pain behind her eyes whenever she talked about her, so I never asked anything about her. I only learned whatever she volunteered. Other subjects were happier, so we spent our time discussing those. She was always gushing about the latest suitor that had caught her eye.
I found that she was a little like me and kept her guard up, but for completely different reasons. Claire was concerned that her suitors were only interested in the property and not her. I tried to convince her that she was a very striking woman and any man would be lucky to have her, even if she happened to be dirt poor. I didn’t lie, she was very attractive, for a much older woman. I did feel a bit disingenuous as I wasn’t personally attracted to her. Maybe if I had been born about twenty years earlier…
The days turned to weeks, and I still wasn’t making much headway. I had had no idea how hard it was to break into the writing industry. Apparently, networking was the order of the day and unfortunately, I knew no one. I was laying in my bed, thinking about how I could start making connections when I heard the front door burst open. Next, I heard a decidedly feminine grunt as something was noisily dragged though the doorway and across the floor. It didn’t sound like Claire, so I snuck to the bedroom door and looked out, expecting burglars or worse. What I saw stopped the breath in my chest. A tall slender woman was dragging two large suitcases into the common room. Other than my bedroom, the bungalow just had a kitchenette, bathroom, and this large common area that connected all three. The woman stood up straight and looked around the room with a contented little grin on her face.
I had finally found a face that was equally as beautiful as Nadia’s and helped me chip away at the claws that bitch still had in me. Of course, this woman’s beauty was different. She looked slightly younger than me but seemed more grown-up Konya Travesti when I had first glimpsed her face. The spell had been broken when she had smiled and now, she looked like an excited young lady with sparkling eyes. Her head was wreathed in flames, at least that’s what it looked like with the sun beaming into the doorway, highlighting her silhouette, and darkening her face. Her eyes must have been adjusting to the dimness of the room because she turned around and flipped the light switch. The room was instantly bathed in light, and now I could see that her eyes were the color of turquoise, not the more common blue, but more of a pale green. They were enchanting. Freckles were sprinkled across her nose but had left the rest of her face bare. To say that I was charmed would be an understatement. I was speechless. I couldn’t move.
Suddenly, the girl’s gorgeous eyes came to rest upon me standing in the doorway and her flame-red eyebrows shot up instantly. Her hands grabbed something from the purse she had strung over her shoulder. I barely registered the movement as I was mesmerized by her eyes. I still couldn’t talk.
“Who the fuck are you?” she screamed, asking the question rhetorically, I assumed, since she didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, I heard something click in her hand and I felt something wet splash all over my face. The enchantment was broken. Instantly, my eyes were on fire and I dropped to my knees in excruciating pain as snot and slobber ran freely from my face. “You’re squatting in the wrong damned bungalow, asshole,” she yelled as I felt two sharp pains, one in my chest and the other in my shoulder. The next thing I knew, I was convulsing from the electrical current flowing through my body and mercifully lost consciousness soon after that.
I awoke sometime later, back on my bed in the bungalow. I felt like I had been hit by a truck, and then it had backed over me a few times for good measure. I was shirtless and had bandages on my shoulder, chest, and head. It took a moment before my memories flooded back to me, but I was still confused as to what had really transpired. As awful as I felt, I wanted answers. I looked at the nightstand and saw my phone lying there. As I reached for it, I heard a knock at the door.
“Come in,” I said loudly enough for whoever it was to hear.
Claire came in with some soup. She was smiling, but something else was there, behind the smile.
“Ahh good, you’re awake. Good, good. I made you some soup as a sort of apology for what happened,” she said as she set the soup in my lap. “My daughter and I got our wires crossed and I may have forgotten to mention you to her.”
I saw that the bowl of soup she had brought was still steaming, a hearty chicken noodle. After blowing on it to cool the top, I took a bite. It had that mouthwatering homemade flavor and I loved it. As I ate the delicious soup, I listened to her explain what had happened to me in greater detail. Apparently, her daughter had come to visit unexpectedly, and she normally stayed in the bungalow. When her daughter saw me, she assumed I was a burglar and used mace to bring me down and tasered me to keep me down. When I fell, I had hit my head on the doorknob. That explained a lot. I had finished the last tidbits of chicken and noodle and was pouring the broth into my mouth when her daughter appeared in my doorway. Finishing, I thanked Claire and handed her the bowl, wiping my chin just in case.
“Um, Jace…this is my daughter Celia,” she said smiling, as she took my bowl and got off the bed. “Celia, this is Jace.”
One look from her daughter and Claire excused herself. “I’ll let the two of you get acquainted, or should I say… reacquainted.” She let out a snicker as she left the room. Her daughter’s face turned red, from embarrassment or anger, I couldn’t tell. Her face softened again as she sat on the end of my bed.
“I wanted to apologize for jumping the gun and assuming you were trespassing,” she explained.
“It’s okay,” I replied. “Hesitation, when you may be in danger, can get you killed. You probably did the right thing. Besides, I’ll be alright. I’ve been through a lot worse.” That comment took her aback.
“Really?” she asked in shock. “I maced you and then tasered you for good measure.”
“Yeah, well…I got my ass kicked by half the football team of my high school, and those guys were actually trying to kill me,” I explained. “So, what you did was closer to a tickle. I really hard tickle.”
“Oh yeah,” she said as she ignored my attempt at levity. Then she looked up into my eyes with those turquoise gems. “Mom told me your story. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about that too. Look, you seem like a nice guy and deserved a break after life had kicked you in the teeth. I feel even more awful after adding to the dogpile of bad stuff that has happened to you. Can you forgive me?”
“It’s all good,” I replied, smiling weakly. “I got a break when a nice lawyer got me out of prison. I got another break when your İzmir Travesti mother took me in. And I got a third break when I met you.”
“Oh, you know who I am,” she asked rhetorically, her voice getting suddenly distant.
“Um, no,” I answered, confused. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re the first person I’ve seen that is at least as beautiful as the Nadia that your mom must have told you about. That girl captured my heart before she royally screwed me over….um, so…who are you then?”
Her demeanor changed in an instant, the warmth returning to her face along with something else that I couldn’t place.
“I guess I keep thinking the worst of you,” she sighed. “It doesn’t matter who I am. What matters is what I can do for you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, instantly intrigued.
“Mom tells me you’re a great writer and haven’t caught a break yet,” she said.
“Yeah,” I replied, adding somewhat frustratingly. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to make some connections in the industry. It seems like you need to know someone for anyone to give you even a look.”
“Well mister, then I am your golden goose,” she smiled at me, her turquoise eyes twinkling with promise.
I cocked my head at her comment. “How so?”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said delicately. “Just give me a few of your pieces and I’ll take it from there. Do you trust me?”
I stared at her for a moment, suspicion creeping in. I swept it away when I thought of Claire. This woman had done a lot for her mother, after all. Since Claire had left me alone with her, I figured I could at least trust her a little.
“I think I can trust you,” I said.
“Great,” she said, slapping me on the leg and handing me a small piece of paper. “That’s my email. Send me what you’ve got, and I’ll handle the rest.”
She left me to my thoughts. I found my laptop and perused my work, forming a plan in my head. Part of me was still apprehensive, so I emailed her a few of my pieces, just not the best ones. I was nothing if not cautious.
I didn’t see Celia again for nearly a week. She came in when I was having breakfast with Claire. I had recovered from my ordeal, just a couple of minor scabs and a small bruise on my forehead to show for it. Since I was in the bungalow, Celia was staying in the main house, but she was always gone by the time I went up to visit. She had a big smile on her face when she dropped an envelope on the table in front of me.
“What’s this?” I asked, after swallowing a sip of coffee.
“That is a contract,” she gushed. “Actually, it’s three contracts. Everyone loved your writing and they want to option the rights to five of your stories. They said you have an authenticity to your writing that’s been lacking in the industry for a long time.”
“I’ll be honest,” I replied. “I don’t know what this all means but it sounds very promising. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“Just look at the contracts and see what you think,” she said. “I already had my lawyer look them over and she said that they are solid.”
Smiling my thanks to her, I opened the envelope and poured over the contracts. Basically, one offer was for a three-book deal. Another was for a television series pilot, and the third was a contract for a screenplay. My work wasn’t done, and I’d have to adapt my stories for the TV series and the movie, but the offers came to a combined total of $47,000. Not bad for a newcomer.
“By the gods, you’re my hero!” I exclaimed as a familiar feeling edged up my spine. Oh crap, I thought to myself. I’m starting to have feelings for this young woman. I quickly reminded myself of Nadia and squashed that seductive bug before it could burrow under my skin. The wall I had erected in middle school was alive and well.
Soon, I was hanging out with Celia more than I was with Claire. Of course, that was partly because I used her as an intermediary with the studios and publishing house. I still had trust issues, and rightly so when it came to money in Hollywood or wherever my stories were going. I made sure to keep my guard up and things were going well. It had been a month and everything with the contracts was coming to fruition. I decided to drop my guard just a little and gave Celia my best work. She had earned my trust. Most of it was older, but a couple of the pieces were new as I had some spare time after my new contractual obligations.
After I had sent the emails, I started to get nervous and even panic a bit. Unfortunately, my best work also happened to be my most personal work. I had basically exposed my soul to this female and didn’t know if I could survive getting it crushed again. I could almost feel the wall around my heart crumbling. I grabbed my laptop and let my emotions flow onto the page, the catharsis of writing calming my fragile nerves. After a couple of hours, I felt better and decided to visit Claire for a bit.
When I arrived at the house, no one answered. It was a little strange, especially since Claire always expected me around dinner time. It was a mystery I’d have to solve another day. I headed back to the bungalow that I was now renting from Claire. I had insisted that I was now earning a living and could afford to pay for my keep. Besides, I didn’t have much time for groundskeeping.
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