Tuesday = #Blogbattle
#BlogBattle is a weekly short story challenge using a single word for inspiration. Hosted by the talented Rachael Ritchey. This week’s word: Musk
There was more to last week’s story, so I am continuing it this week. This isn’t exactly how I thought it would go, so I know there’s still more. If you’d like to read the whole thing you can click here, or just start with the summary I have included, since I literally pick up from the last line.
Summary: Nicole has taken over the Bed & Breakfast Inn for Carol, who is off to travel Europe. One of the regular customers, Anthony Thompson, checks in right before a big snowstorm hits. With the song “Just the Way You Are” playing in the background, Anthony enters the kitchen the next morning. Over breakfast Anthony confides in Nicole, explaining to her about how his wife had died, and how he comes to the Inn the same time each year, because he feels her presence there, and it’s as if they can communicate with each other. This particular time, his wife tells him that her time with him was only until he accomplished his career goals, and until he would meet that special person that could help him move on. (These are the last lines):
Anthony hesitated for a moment, looks directly at Nicole and says, “I think that person is you Nicole.”
Nicole shakes her head in disbelief not sure she heard him correctly, but then inquires, “Why would you think that?”
Because she told me when I heard the song “Just the Way You Are”, that special person would be standing right in front of me.
Don’t freak out…don’t freak out!! Trying to stay calm, Nicole stares back at him with her mouth slightly open, she blinks, blinks again, and is just about to say something when she hears the door open to the mud room. With a breath of relief, all she can say is “Tucker.”
She quickly gets up to meet him in the kitchen when the smell of musk permeates her nostrils, which is the case with Tucker, that smell enters the room before he does. He must literally use one whole can of Axe Body Spray every morning. But this morning, it doesn’t annoy her at all. Before she enters the kitchen she greets Cody who has bounded in first. She scratches the golden retriever behind the ears and says, “Hey, boy, you cold?”
Tucker walks into the kitchen still brushing snow off of him, he is so bundled up she can only see his eyes. But oh so grateful to see him, she could just hug him. But that would be all kinds of inappropriate being the maintenance guy, and Carol’s nephew. As he starts peeling off layers of wool, she asks, “Tucker, what are you doing out in this weather?”
Without hesitation he says, “I had to check on you Miss Nicole, make sure you were all right. If Aunt Carol knew I hadn’t checked on you she’d knock me into the middle of next week.”
“I was just finishing up breakfast with Mr. Thompson, but since you are here, I need you to take a look at…”
“Anthony Thompson?” Tucker interrupts. Nicole nods her head. Without saying anything Tucker brushes right past her, and heads to the dining room. Nicole stands there with her palms up in disbelief and shakes her head, which leaves her no choice but to follow him. By the time she enters the room, Cody is curled up at Anthony’s feet, and him and Tucker are going on and on about snow blowers, and horsepower, so caught up in their conversation they don’t even realize that she walked in.
She clears her throat, and says, “Excuse me for interrupting, but Tucker, I need you to check on something for me in one of the guest rooms.”
“Good seeing you again Anthony, sorry, Miss Nicole, lead the way.” Anthony gives Tucker a nod, then glances at Nicole and is amused by the frantic look on her face; he doesn’t say a word, just reaches down to pet Cody.
When they reach the guest room upstairs, she quickly pulls Tucker by the arm into the room. She shuts the door behind her, and leans her back against the cool wood as both hands grasp the doorknob; she takes in several deep breaths.
Concerned Tucker says, Miss Nicole, are you OK? It looks like you’ve seen a ghost.”
She looks up at him, inhales deeply and on the exhale she says, “Almost.”
Starting to figure things out, Tucker says, “Uh-oh…what did Anthony tell you?”
By now Nicole is in the room and she begins pacing, she tells him, using her hands while she talks with lightening speed, “What did Anthony tell me? He told me about how his wife died, how he thinks she is still here, how they have conversations after he checks in, and that she was just waiting for him to meet that special someone so that he could move on, and that special someone is me. How can it be me? I don’t even know him, we just met, oh yeah, it is me because she told him, that when he heard the song “Just the Way You Are”, which happens to be my favorite song, she…meaning me, would be standing right in front of him. Guess what song was playing when he came down for breakfast Tucker…guess?
Tucker tries not to laugh, but says, “Ok…just breathe.” With quiet confidence he says, “Miss Nicole, there’s more to the story, you need to let him tell you. I’ve gotten to know him since he’s been coming here…he’s an upstanding guy who lost his wife and is trying to continue to live his life and make sense of it all.”
“But this stuff about his wife still being here, and him talking to her? You knew about it?” Nicole demands. Tucker nods his head once to affirm.
Without waiting for an answer Nicole says, “Did Carol know about it?” Tucker nods again; embarrassed he looks down at his boots.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Nicole questions.
Tucker calmly says, “We didn’t think you would find out, obviously there’s a reason he told you, give him a chance to explain. Everything will be OK. Hey, I’ll let Cody stay with you; you’ll be safe.
By the time they make it back downstairs, the dishes are cleared away, and a warm fire is crackling in the fireplace, Cody is snuggled up in front of it fast asleep.
Tucker heads towards the door, “OK Miss Nicole, I’m going to head back out, I’ll get Cody later…he’s a trained guard dog you know.” He says with an exaggerated wink that was meant to be more comical than flirtatious. “Hey Anthony, come on by once the storm clears.”
“Will do Tucker,” Anthony says with a wave.
“Thanks Tucker,” Nicole says as she waves good-bye to him.
Nervously, Nicole begins to straighten things that don’t need to be straightened. Anthony sits down on the couch with a cup of coffee, without looking at her he quietly says, “So did Tucker assure you that I’m not a bad guy?” He then looks up into her startled eyes, as she completely stops what she is doing. With a quiet chuckle he says, “Nicole, please sit down.”
As she walks over, Cody’s head lazily lifts up, he looks at her with disinterest and goes back to sleep. Some guard dog…OK…everything will be OK.
“Nicole, I need to apologize. I am sorry that I just blurted out all that stuff. But when you lose someone dear to you, you realize how short life can be. I wanted to seize the moment, but I got too far ahead of myself.”
“Well, Anthony…since Tucker gave you the ok, and Cody obviously likes you…if you don’t have any place to go, why don’t we start over, and you can tell me everything, from the beginning…I have all day.” Nicole says as she pulls an afghan off the back of the couch, wraps it around her shoulders, then curls her feet up under her making herself comfortable at the end of the couch.
With a smile that reaches his chestnut brown eyes, he replies, “Hmmm…I think I can clear my schedule. Will you make hot chocolate later?” He asks with a hopeful look.
“Sure…maybe even some treats too.” She smiles back. With the mention of the word treats, Cody’s head pops up and he is now wide-awake.
Anthony laughs and points his thumb towards the dog, “Some guard dog. That’s ok, you’re safe with me.”
Nicole shakes her head, as the dog goes back to sleep; she then looks directly at Anthony, slightly tilts her head and says, “You know what?…I believe I am.”
© 2015 Carrie Ann