“Don’t do it, Jillian.” Nate walked backward until he came up against the fridge and had nowhere else to go.
Jillian’s thoughts burned with anger. She reared back her arm and let the crystal vase fly. It shattered against the fridge, just missing his head.
“Let’s talk about this like adults,” he pleaded with her.
Jillian completely ignored his remark as she looked around the kitchen for something else to throw.
“Baby, talk to me.”
“Don’t call me baby!” Her eyes met his across the room. She stopped looking for an object to throw at him and snorted. “You know what, Nate, you aren’t worth it,” she snapped, grabbing her car keys and purse from the table on her way out to the garage.
She quickly got into her SUV, with no thought other than that she had to get away. After revving her engine, she shifted into reverse and squealed her tires as she peeled out of the parking space. It wasn’t until she merged onto the interstate that the tears finally started to blur her vision.
She felt like she needed some fresh air, so she instinctively put her window down. But instead of relief, all she got was a blast of hot steamy humid air in her face. It was July second, and Chicago was in the midst of a heat wave. That only added to her aggravation. All that she wanted at this time was to get out of town and as far away from Nate as she could. After ten minutes of sitting in Chicago’s bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95, Jillian allowed her thoughts to drift back to the argument with Nate. As the scene played out in her mind, she found herself gripping the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles turned white.
“You son of a bitch,” she yelled. She glanced at the car next to her. The group of high-school-age girls in it started to giggle. “Get it together,” she told herself.
The traffic started to slowly inch forward, and Jillian was faced with the dilemma of where she was going to go. She had gotten on the interstate and her first thought was to head in the direction of Michigan. Maybe that was a sign. Just then her phone rang. She looked at the caller ID. It was Rose.
“How did you know that I was just thinking about you?” Jillian asked.
“I was channeling you. Talk to me, little sister.”
“Now you’re a mind reader, too? How can we be related?”
“I just talked to Nate. He told me that you had stormed off, and he’s worried about you.”
Jillian felt her face grow even hotter. She put up her window and turned on the air conditioning, full blast.
“Jilly, are you still there, sweetie? Please tell me that you’re leaving him.”
Jillian was shocked by her sister’s statement. “I thought you liked Nate?”
“I always knew that you were too good for him. Last time I saw him, I didn’t like the vibe I was getting from him.”
Jillian chuckled. “I knew that I could count on you to cheer me up. I’m heading your way.” She heard screeching in the background.
“Shh,” Rose said as she tried to quiet her kids. “You’re on speaker phone, Jilly. The kids and I are excited that you’re coming for a visit. Let’s all do a happy dance.”
Jillian could hear laugher now. “Rose, I just want you to know, upfront, that I’m not going to be staying with you.”
All the laughter and the merriment stopped. “What?”
Amber’s little voice could be heard in the background. “Please, Aunt Jilly, please stay with us.”
“You can have my room,” Rock added.
Jillian shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I have deadlines to meet. I can’t get any work done when all of you are around, distracting me. If I stay at your house, all I’ll want to do is play.” She heard a click.
“I took you off speaker phone. Stay with us for at least a few days, please?”
“Sorry, Rose, but I need my space. I’m planning on driving up I-196 to US 31. I’ll stop off and get a hotel room when I get tired of driving. I’ll see you in a few days.”
“Good luck on finding a room on the Fourth of July weekend. You know it’s like a zoo, all summer long along the water front. You do know that, right?”
Jillian laughed at her sister’s attempt to convince her to come to her house. “I need a few days alone to just think and be angry. I’ll call you in a few days.”
“Okay. I love you, sis. But I still want to hear the full story of what happened between the two of you when you feel up to it.”
“I love you, too,” Jillian said as she hung up the phone.
The cars up ahead had finally started moving. She already felt better now that she had a plan in place on where she was going and what she was going to do.
Sunlight came streaming in through the window right into her eyes. Jillian looked at the clock on the nightstand. It was six a.m.
Jillian rolled over and sat up in bed. It was a comfortable room and she had been lucky to find it. Rose had been right. It had been hard finding a room for the night. This was the fourth place that she had stopped at and they luckily had a last minute cancelation. She hated that she had to be out by eleven a.m. because it was going to be impossible to find a room and she knew it. Jillian placed two pillows against the head board and leaned into them. She had left the curtains open in the room when she had fallen into the bed last night. Her room had a pretty view. She was at the Harbor House Inn in Harbor Springs, a cute little town south of her sister’s home in Mackinaw City.
“Now what?” she said to herself. Jillian looked around the room. She had stopped off in Harbor Springs last fall on her way up to see Rose and the kids. Her mouth started watering when she remembered the bakery in town that had the to-die-for fudge brownies.
Jillian threw back the covers as her stomach growled in protest to her not having eaten any dinner last night. She knew that in her state of mind last night she couldn’t have forced anything down. But, today was a new day and her body was telling her to eat.
“A brownie might not be the best thing for me, but who do I have to look good for naked anyway?”
After that thought, her anger boiled to the surface again. Jillian went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. If only she could wash away the images in her head of Nate and his intern. She wished that she could let it roll off her and not hurt. She dropped her clothes in a heap on the floor and stepped into the shower. As she did, tears started to flow down her cheeks.
The shower helped to calm her down and wash away her tears. She was still filled with anger by the time she got out, but now she was better able to control it. She looked around for a robe to put on, then she remembered that she wasn’t at a five star hotel in Chicago. She had no desire to wear her clothes from yesterday. She felt like a fresh start was what she needed to start off her day. Wrapping the bath towel securely around her, she peeked out the door and looked out across the open catwalk. She was on the second floor and had about twenty feet to go before she reached the stairs. All she had to do was go down one flight of stairs and walk another ten feet before she reached her car. “I can do this without being seen.” She unlocked her car with the key fob and tossed her keys back on the bed. She held onto the towel with one hand, looked both ways to make sure the coast was clear, and then she went for it.
Just as she was rounding the corner at the bottom of the stairs, a police cruiser turned into the parking lot.
“Oh my god!” she gasped and looked for somewhere to hide. Going back up the stairs to the open catwalk that led to her room didn’t offer her any cover either. She was totally exposed. She chose to make a dash for her car and hoped that the officer ignored her.
No such luck. He turned his overhead lights on and let them flash around once. Jillian was mortified. However, she had come this far, and she wasn’t turning back. She continued toward her car as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
The cruiser stopped behind her car and the front door opened.
She took in a deep calming breath. “Can I help you, Officer?” She raised her arm over her eyes to block out the sun. As she did, her towel started to slip and she grabbed at it franticly.
Before she knew it, he was standing in front of her. “Can I offer you some assistance, miss?”
She could hear the laughter in his voice. He was enjoying her predicament--she was sure of it. Jillian got a firm handle on the towel and tucked it in tight. She looked straight into the officer’s eyes. “You!” She pointed a finger at him. “You gave me a ticket last fall for going five over in town.”
She remembered being outraged that she’d gotten a ticket and more than a little annoyed that she’d been unable to sweet talk her way out of it.
He looked at her and shrugged. “Maybe I should write you a ticket for indecent exposure this time.”
Jillian stood her ground and stared right back at him. “What?”
He tried to keep a straight face, but he couldn’t. “Cool your jets, miss, I was just teasing. Although, I must say that it isn’t every day I see a woman almost naked running down the stairs.”
“I forgot my bag in my car last night, and I had to come get it,” she replied as she tried to step around him to reach her car.
He quickly side stepped in front of her, blocking her way, and flashed her a devilish smile. “I can carry it up for you if you like. I would hate for your towel to slip as you make your way back up the steps.”
His eyes were bright blue. It was hot out already this morning. Beads of sweat were starting to form on his forehead. He is really good looking, Jillian thought. His eyes are warm and friendly, and he fills out his uniform nicely, too. What girl doesn’t love to see a man in uniform, especially when he looks like this officer does?
She continued to assess him. The problem was that he knew he was good looking. She could tell by the cocky look in his eyes. He’s just like Nate, good looking and knows it--a killer combination as far as she was concerned.
She stepped around him. “No thank you, Officer.”
He backed up against his cruiser and crossed his legs as he watched her struggle with her bag while desperately clutching at the towel that was barely covering her. “Are you staying in town for long?”
“I’m having second thoughts about how long,” she replied sarcastically as she pulled with all her might to lift her heavy bag out of her car.
“By the way, I’m Todd Kent, the sheriff. If you need anything, I’d be more than happy to assist you.”
“I can get by just fine on my own.” She was beginning to get annoyed with him. He was obviously enjoying watching her struggle. She probably should have accepted his help, but she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.
As soon as she made it to the catwalk with her heavy suitcase, her towel started to slip. Keeping it in place was a lost cause, so she yanked it off, defiantly, and walked the last five feet to her door stark naked. Then, without glancing back at Todd, she stepped inside and closed her door.
Todd watched the whole thing with a smile on his face. He couldn’t help but laugh as she strolled into her room. He liked that she had the confidence to walk the rest of the way to her room without anything on, and he thoroughly enjoyed the view. The moment she made eye contact with him after he had pulled up in his cruiser, he remembered that he had given her a ticket last fall. She’d tried to talk herself out of the ticket by being all sweet and charming. He was glad he hadn’t caved, and he really hoped that he would bump into her around town again. He couldn’t forget her big beautiful blue eyes and her long blonde hair. It wasn’t platinum blonde or bottle blonde, it was her natural color, and he wanted to run his hands through it. He couldn’t help but think that today was going to be his lucky day.
© 2017 by Anne Lawson