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Eye of the storm


    As the dawn approached, the remaining blackness of the receding night crept away like a vampire returning to the sanctuary of its coffin. Stung by the light phantoms of the deep hissed as they unlocked their shackles and hurried after the darkness.  With the threat gone the surrounding area awoke and the sunlight made its way over the vast Victorian rooftops of Glenbow neighborhood. The yellow-orange light tickled the sensitive leaves of the flowers who opened their petals in rich laughter. Like clockwork the Indian summer wind played tag with the sunlight through the valley and ruffled the treetop purchase of the dozing birds.  Giving them the nudge they needed to wake and harmonized in their own unique symphony with the rustling of the leaves.  Despite the mornings overall pleasant appearance, within this extravagant rose garden lay a deadly thorn. A dark forbidding cloud engulfed the black Ford that was parked in the shadows behind the Swiftly Shop Gas Station. 
Sheltered from the light by the tall roof of the building and the car's tinted windows Paul slept deeply in the back seat locked in his slumber by unseen demons.  They all danced the forbidden dance inside his mind as they watched him fight to get away from his dead father. The long since deceased man stumbled after Paul, with his empty sockets fixed knowingly on his boy's face as if he could really see though his baby blues once more. He watched in horror as his father's lip-less mouth began to move and gagged uncontrollably when this unnatural movement caused his discolored skin to fall off his gray skull in globs of decaying tissue. Paul involuntarily cringed each time his fathers remaining teeth chattered together as he formed the inaudible words that only Paul could hear. Paul tried desperately to look away from this hideous sight but he was locked in the deadly stare by some unknown force within the empty sockets that pierce the depths of his very sole and dared him to look on.  As he began to lose all hope that he could ever escape his father's advances.  Paul's demons retreated like the Phantoms outside as the sunlight beamed brightly through the windshield.  When he was completely freed Paul's eyelids fluttered! 

In hopes that the soft glow of the morning would wake her husband, from his cave under the bed spred. Tara pulled the drawstring and a warm rainbow spilled in through the frosted windows. Her idea backfired however because instead of getting up, he grumbled something about it being too early and sank deeper in the warmth of the bed. Unable to think of a better plan of action to awake the slumbering beast she decided to let him alone and went into the master bath to begin her day. Tara turned on the shower, striped out of her silk nighty, kicked it in the general direction of the clothes hamper, and stepped into the steady stream of hot water closing the glass door behind her.
The water trickled off her head; and then down her front leaning back she let it massage her. She moaned as the deep heat forced the nighttime stiffness out of her. Fully awake and clean Tara stopped out and grabbed her towel off the rack. When she dried her back Tara glanced at her reflection and a revaluation came to her thanks to the mirror she knew exactly how to wake Miles. Happy with her new idea Tara smiled, wrapped the towel around her wet hair and went back into the bedroom to execute her plan. First she finished getting ready for work. Then filled with sure determination not to fail this time Tara swiftly crossed over to the bed and stood directly over him. Casually she bent down and placed a luscious kiss upon his lips. Miles immediately awoke and returned her kiss, then he playfully he pulled her into the bed to continue fondling her. After only a few minutes Tara reluctantly pulled away and with a seductive toss of her head and a sly smile on her face she turned on her heel and quickly left the room saying in her wake,
"I better see you at breakfast, buster, or you won't be getting any more of those!"
"Don't worry I'll be there, I can't live without your sweet kisses," Miles shouted at the empty doorway, "Besides, if I missed breakfast Nana would have my head." Miles snickered to himself as he headed for the master bath to get ready for work.

Mary Ann sat daintily at her pink vanity and stroked her long brown hair. In time to her brush strokes she repeated the lines for the school play one by one committing each of them fanatically to memory. Caught up in the act she set down her brush and rung out her hands trying to rid them of the blood of the king. Each line flowed forth form her lips as if she was saying them for the first time and her face twisted with the anguish of her dilemma. Mary was so into her part that she did not notice her mother watching her from the doorway and jumped off her seat when she started clapping.
"Bravo, Bravo what an exhalent performance!" Tara praised "Well my Shakespearean lady are you ready for breakfast?" Mary smiled at her mother’s reflection and pulled her hair back in a high ponytail. While she put on the last finishing touches of her makeup Mary Ann looked at her mother in the mirror.
Tara's light blue summer dress formed to her hourglass figure, accented her eyes, and brought life to her heart shaped face. Jealously Mary Ann wished she looked more like her mother, she figured that if she did then she would at least have a somewhat of a chance that John would notice of her and invite her to the Halloween dance this Friday. Unfortunately she had to live with short stubby legs, enormous hips, and a big bun. With this look and her bad luck with men he probably wouldn't even give her the time of day let alone ask her out on a date. Disappointed Mary Ann sighed as she got up from her vanity, she would just have the stay home and memorize again this year.
"What's wrong, Honey? You look a little bit blue, is something bothering you?" Tara inquired. Marry could not hide anything from her mother but she knew exactly what her mother would say she had heard that same speech so many times before that she had it memorized word for word. Her mother would take her in her arms in a big bear hug then stroking her hair then she would say in a soft calming voice.
"Honey you are beautiful and talented in your own right. If a boy will not pay attention to you maybe you are better off.  For instance, if you are not tied down by Mr. Wrong. Then you are sure to be single when Mr. Right comes along. Besides if you looked like me people would keep getting us confused and neither of us would ever have our own identities." Knowing her mother was right Mary changed the subject before she got her self lost in that motherly speech once again.
"Me, blue? Mother, in that dress you look like a Smurf." Mary Ann said taking her mother's arm and led her out into the hall and into the kitchen
"Smurfit," Mary's mother corrected squeezing her arm affectionately for a minute before she crossed the tile floor to pour herself some fresh coffee.  Marry laughed and sat down to enjoy the piping hot breakfast that was set before her.
*****
Like a river breaking through floodgates the memories of the previous nights poured into Paul's head filling his mind with so many mixed images that his temples throbbed. Fearlessly, he shook his head as if he were trying to clear an etch sketch and one by one the images fell into place like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle that was throw into the air and became reassembled as the pieces hit the table. Seven years ago on August 6, he had robbed this very Swiftly Gas Station to get enough money to marry and support his new wife and six-month-old daughter. Paul had it all planned. He would go into the store and get the money, run out, and then drive away casually with the thoughts that nobody would know him. However, nothing went right! When he plans things out beforehand nothing seams to go right he is much better at spur of the moment action and reaction. This time was no exception. Paul pulled his car up to the front door of the Swiftly Shop gas station and slowly got out. He tied the thick belt around his trench coat and checked each and every pocket to make sure that he had everything, his ski mask, 44 magnum and his money belt. Everything checked now it was time to get the job done. Ducking against the howling wind that was thrashing through the tree tops like a wild beast after it fleeing pray, Paul forced his way across the parking lot dodging the flying garbage as he went. Not losing a beat he pulled his black ski mask from his pocket and started to pull it over his head when he ran right smack into someone. Paul stepped back in surprised! Before him was a man whose body was that of a football player, but his deep blue eyes sparkled despite the gloom of the approaching storm, and pudgy round face that could be mistaken for that of Saint Nick. This stranger struck Paul as out of place in this fast paced city. He would fit in better at a large ranch. The stranger bent down to retrieve his dropped articles. When he was upright again, cradling a large bouquet of flowers, he yelled over the storm.
"Excuse me Mister! I was not watching where I was going. I was instead concentrating on getting these here flowers to my truck before they are blown clean to pieces. You can’t win a girl’s heart, when you came home with a bouquet of tattered old stems.
This sure is going to be some storm, it probably will not let up till the cows come home." If Paul had not been in such a nervous hurry, he would have laughed and said
"Stranger, in this wind the cows would not even have a chance on getting home. When the storm was finally all said and done there would be mooing in the tree tops half way across the state." instead Paul stepped around the loquacious barrier and continued his previous mission of robbing the convenience store. He later regretted this act of coldness when that homely stranger positively identified him when he faced a judge and jury. It would have been much simpler to have shot the stranger right there for it would have saved him form spending seven long years in a state prison for armed robbery and the brutal murder of the sales clerk who was unfortunately working the grave yard shift that night.
*****

Miles crossed the warm threshold into their newly remolded kitchen and kissed his wife and daughter on their identical rosy cheeks. Then took the hot plate that was heaping with French toast and scrambled eggs, which was offered to him by their live-in maid Nana. Heavily he sat down in his place at their large round breakfast table and took an enormous bite of the steaming food. When he had fully chewed and swallowed the food, he turned to Nana and exclaimed,
"Mmmmmmmm, Nana I do declare you make the best French toast in all of
Montana."
"Why don't you stop trying to butter me up, instead you should be concentrating on buttering the French toast. If you do too much talking and not enough eating you'll be late for work, that goes for you too young lady. Get a move on your friend Abbey will be here soon and we all know how she doesn't like to wait," Nana replied.
Almost as if someone had poked her with a pin, Mary bounded from her chair and dashed out of the kitchen, not even pausing long enough to put her dirty dishes in the sink. Nana just sighed and with long heavy steps crossed the kitchen to retrieve the forgotten articles and refilled Tara and Mile's emptied coffee cups. As Nana filled his coffee cup, Miles took a good look at the woman standing in front of him. Nana would have been attractive in her younger years, but now she showed the wear and tear of a lot of hard years working in places unfit for anyone. For instance, before she came to live with them, Nana worked fourteen hours in a filthy butcher shop for ten dollars a week. Not one pay of it was saved she use each paycheck for the forever increasing doctors bills of her dying husband and to unselfishly support her twin boys Paul and Mike, who could never get out of debt. After her husband died, Nana moved to California, where she started a small house cleaning business to support her self. She was getting along fine until Paul came knocking at the door demanding she give him money to get married. Nana only wanted the best for her baby so she withdrew all her life savings leaving her with nothing to live on. But he still wasn't satisfied, left with no other options Nana had to find a way to sell her little house. Ever since that stormy August day, when Nana, entered into the “Newman and Newman real estate and interior design” she has been a part of their family. When his cup was full Miles took a long, deep drink. The coffee was good it reached every part of his drowsy body and brought him instantly to action.
"Why don't you take the day off Nana, you need to get away for awhile. I'll take my girls out to supper, so you don't have to worry about fixing anything. Go buy yourself a nice outfit, take a stroll in the park: whatever, just get out of this house. I believe that it is starting to grow on you." Miles suggested to Nana.
 "I have the laundry to do and the little bit of yard work I didn't finish yesterday," Nana said turning to the sink to start the water running for the morning dishes.
"All that can wait until tomorrow today is free for you to do as you wish," Miles said as he brought his plate and cup to the sink.
"You are officially off for the day, don't let me catch you doing any work. Well, after you do the breakfast dishes that is it, got it?"
"Yea, all right, after the dishes are done I'm to do whatever suits my fancy, except the chores that need to be done."
"Exactly" Miles said and with that he left her to do the dishes. Pausing a moment to take he's wife's arm and then they both left the kitchen to finish there duties before work. When they stepped out into the hall, they were almost trampled by Mary who was dashing toward the front door in response to the waling horn in the driveway.
"Bye Mom, bye dad see you after drama practice," Mary said in between her hugs and kisses of farewell. When the good-byes were said Mary was out the door, down the steps and into Abbey's 1969 Aqua Nova before her mother could even open her mouth to wish her good day at school. Miles kissed his wife and then he too was out the door in a flash and off to work. Tara, unlike her rushed family members, took her sweet time. First she glanced at herself in the hall to make sure her hair was in place then she casually picked up her brief case and coat by the door and strolled out across the threshold into the damp morning. Pausing for a moment she surveyed the sights around her. An adult robin hopped across the yard tenuously in search of a worm. The neighbors' dog barked and wagged his tail in a friendly greeting. A nearby cat lay lazily in the sun, the tulips in the flower box under the windowsill were in full bloom, and a colorful butterfly danced around them with a grace of a professional ballerina.
"This really is going to be a beautiful day," Tara exclaimed to the creatures around her "be sure to in joy it."
"Oh, I will," Said a phantom voice form within the strange car parked on the street. Startled, Tara tripped and fell backward bumping into the flowerpot which toppled off the front stoop and crashed to a million pieces on the concrete sidewalk. Where did that car come from Tara wondered, she had not seen it when she first come out the door and she had not heard it drive up.
Frustrated she began to pick up the scattered pieces of the once beautiful flowerpot. As she struggled to get up with an arm load of broken parts a bony hand grasped the back of her left arm and lifted her up ward as if she weighed less then a feather. Frightened that she would turn around to face a massive man she pulled away form him and with out looking back crossed the yard to discard what remained of the broken pot. After she had gained enough courage she took a deep breath and turned on her heal to her surprise was face to face with the stranger form the car Actually face to mid chest for he was twice her height. The stranger was not a muscle man either instead he was the perfect example of a beanstalk on steroids.
"Hi, my name is Paul" he said grabbing up her hand in his and shaking it vigorously till it felt as if he had pulled her arm right out of its socket. His cold hand grasped on to her hand so tightly that her fingers were turning blue. His touch sent shivers up Tara's spine. She felt like she had just shook hands with a corpse whose skin had eroded away leaving just the cold hard bone.
 When he spoke again Tara cringed his voice was high pitched and squeaky like someone was scrapping their finger nails down a chalkboard.
“I am looking for my mother, Nana. The last letter she wrote me said she was working here for you nice folks. You must be Mary no wait you are her mother Tara, my mother has told me all about you."
"That's funny" Tara managed to squeak she has not said a word about you. Nana is in the house. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to be late for work if I do not get a move on." Tara yanked her hand away form him and scurried across the lawn to retrieve her coat and brief case where she had set then on the side walk. Tara was about to bid him good day when she felt his cold grip upon her arm again it was so chilling that the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Rudely he spun her around to face him so he could fix his intense stare into her eyes.
"We shall meat again!" he demanded fixing his baby blue eyes to her green ones. Tara was instantly mortified his gaze was so gripping, and full of malevolence that she had to turn away within a few seconds. Even after, Tara turned her bead toward the ground she could feel his pulsing stare penetrating her skull. No longer wanting to be in his presence Tara quickly move toward her car she did not want to look at him or feel his death grip upon her arm again. It wasn't until she had reached the safety of her car that she dared to glance back, but all she saw was the door slam shut with such force that it shook the windows. Tara started her car, and turned up the heat despite the sweat that glistened on her forehead. Quickly pulled out of the drive and speed off, Tara wanted to get as far away from the mysterious stranger as she could before she was once again caught in the eye of The Storm.

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