Deadly Proposal

The lights were dim when John Arken and his girlfriend, Jean Jansen made their way down the isle at Club Nokia in L.A..  They were at Nokia for a Pee-Wee Herman stand up show.  Their mutual love of Herman had brought them together when they started corresponding through a fan site online.  John had bought them tickets to celebrate their six month anniversary.  Jean had moved from Arkansas to L.A. after only two months of talking online.  They were soul mates, John was certain.  It had taken some doing, but he had arranged for a special surprise for his beloved tonight, during the show.

“I think this is us, right up here,” John said, smiling.

“The first row?  John, are you sure that’s right?”  Jean asked.

“We won the raffle, babe.  First row, center stage,” he said. 
“That is so cool!  Maybe he’ll pick us to do an improv bit about,” she said hopefully.

“That would be awesome!”

Jean was nearly bouncing off the walls she was just so excited.  Herman had been her favorite comedian since she was a child.  Pee-Wee’s Playhouse had been her favorite show.  She took her seat in the front row and marveled at how close the stage was.  Just then, the lights began to dim and it was all she could do not to squeal in delight.

The curtains opened and the spotlight was on Pee-Wee and his big blue chair.  John and Jean laughed at all the right places, all the crude jokes nearly bringing tears to their eyes.  About half an hour into the show John excused himself to the restroom.  Jean could not believe he would leave and miss any part of the show.  She didn’t ponder this long, her attention instantly drawn back to the stage.  

“We have a special guest tonight folks, and I think he’ll be here any minute,” Pee-Wee said in his nasally voice.  Just then his door bell rang.  “That’s him now!”

Pee-Wee got up and opened his bright red door and John Arken was standing on the other side.  Jean was shocked.  What was her boyfriend doing up on stage during Pee-Wee’s Playhouse?  John looked nervous as he joined his favorite comedian on stage.

“Everybody, say hi to John,” Pee-Wee said.  “John’s here for a very special reason tonight, isn’t that right buddy?”

“Yeah...yes.  I’m here to ask my girlfriend, Jean, a very important question,” John said nervously.

“Jean, why don’t you come join John up on stage?”  Pee-Wee said, waving to the side stairs.

Jean sat in her chair for a moment, unable to move.  She was confused and excited.  A member of the security team came over and escorted her up the stairs to the left of the stage.  It was amazing, she was standing in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.  Her pulse was racing and her palms were sweaty.

“Jean,” John said, dropping to one knee in front of her and taking her left hand.  “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” Jean squealed and began jumping and down.  Her heavily hair sprayed red hair swaying only slightly with the movement.  She stopped bouncing only long enough to let John slip the ring on her finger before grabbing John in a violent, jumping hug.  Then she whipped around and grabbed ahold of Pee-Wee, squeezing him hard.

Just then the lights went out and screams rang out from all over the theater.  Jean kept her arms wrapped around Pee-Wee’s neck and buried her face.  The sound of feet echoed through the room as the audience ran for the doors in a panicked mass.  The startled screams turned to those of pain as people were pushed down and stepped on.  Seconds had passed before the backup generator kicked in, filling the theater with an eerie, dim yellow light.

On stage Jean opened her eyes and looked around, there were three men surrounding her, Pee-Wee and John.  Their normal, human faces distorted with rage, mouths open and lips pulled back, exposing long, sharp canine teeth.  Jean screamed and jumped away from Pee-Wee, tripping over her own feet and falling to the stage floor.  One of them men leapt at John and sunk his teeth into his neck.  Jean watched in horror as the man, no vampire, drank the blood of her fiance.  Blood dribbled out from the vampires lips, running down to stain the collar of John’s green plaid shirt.  Someone screamed, high and loud, and it took Jean a while to realize it was her.   

To her left, Pee-Wee was darting in and out of stage props, trying desperately to evade the two vampires who were closing in on him.  He tried to duck behind the chair and sneak off stage, but they were there, waiting for him.  Letting out a blood curdling scream he tried to dive away, but the vampire caught him easily.  The comedian was hoisted into the air and slammed down to the ground, which succeeded in knocking the air out of his lungs.  Jean watched as the two vampires pounced on him like wolves on their kill.  Her attention was brought back in front of her when she heard a loud thud over the screams of the scattered audience.  The vampire had finished with John and dumped him onto the floor where she could easily see the gaping wound at his neck.  She stared at that wound, watching as the last drops of her lovers blood slowly ran out. 

Instinctively she looked back up at the vampire.  His lips were still stained with blood, glistening sickly in the yellow light.  Jean began to back peddle, crab style, until her finger tips found the edge of the stage.  Her heart stopped for a fraction of a second, then her fight or flight instincts finally kicked in.  She took one look at the vampire with his blood stained mouth and decided flight was her only hope.  Without any more hesitation she swung her legs around and jumped off the stage.  Her brain registered the carnage in front of her and nearly stopped her in her tracks.  Broken and bleeding bodies littered the isles leading up to the doors.  Everywhere she looked vampires feasted and the air was filled with the coppery tang of blood.  A snarl behind her snapped her back into flight mode and she began running up the closest isle.  

Several times Jean dashed past other vampires feeding violently on fellow audience members.  It took everything she had just to keep her feet moving towards the doors.  At last her path was clear, just twenty more feet and she’d be free.  She hit the door, still running.  The force of her momentum knocked her off her feet when the door did not open.  She sprang back and pushed on the door again.  Locked.  She beat her fists on the door, screaming loudly.

Jean jumped when hands grabbed her shoulders.  She turned her head just a little to see who it was.  It was the vampire from the stage.  He turned her around roughly, his face pressed close to hers.  She struggled futilely against his painful grip, catching the scent of old blood and rotting meat on his breath.  The vampire pinned her back against the door with one arm across her body, his other hand snaked up to her hair, yanking her head aside and exposing her neck.  Jean had time to let out one more scream before those sharp teeth sunk into her neck.  Terror filled her and she fought with everything she had.  It wasn’t enough to move the vampire at all.  Her limbs became heavy, her mind sluggish, until finally she just stopped fighting.  Her last thoughts before the world went back were we were going to get married.
Wolves Den

Sun, sand, sea - total relaxation.  So why couldn’t he let go?  Reid had driven out to the coast two days ago, trying to lose himself in the sun and the surf.  No matter how hard he tried to distract himself, she was all he could think about.  The way her long dark hair shimmered in the dim light of the pub, the way her eyes lit up when she smiled at him, the soft feel of her skin under his fingers.  He didn’t even know her name.

That night had started out like any other.  Reid went to the pub for dinner and a drink after work.  It was only the middle of the week, and things had already gone to hell.  His glamorous job at the local newspaper was turning out to be nothing more than shit detail, covering local lotto winners, bingo raffles, weddings, and funerals.  All of his dreams of being a big time reporter, digging up the dirt and making waves, seemed to be passing him by.  For three years he had patiently waited for his turn at a decent story, but finally he’d had enough.  He’d gone to his boss and demanded to be put on the crime desk.  Mr. Hammond had practically laughed in his face.  So, after work, Reid headed down to the Wolves Den to drown his sorrows.

Somewhere around his third beer she sat down on the bar stool next to him.  He could not help but notice her right away.  Her features were sharp, but delicate, her complexion was dark, almost Hispanic and her hair was nearly black.  She ordered a mojito for herself and another beer for him.  They talked for a while before she drug him out to the dance floor.  After that his memory was a little fuzzy.  Reid wasn’t even sure how they got back to his place.  The sex was just a blur of sensations in his mind.  Flashes of her skin, her hair, and the feel of her body under him came back to him in pieces, but never the whole picture.  Four long scratches on his back were the only real souvenir of his night with her.  Afterwards, he’d been sore for days and he desperately wished he could remember everything that happened.  It seemed such a shame to forget a night that had left such an impression on his body.

Then the dreams began.  Each night Reid dreamt of her, there in his apartment, just like the night they met.  Always, her face fades away and became that of a wolf.  Then he’s no longer in his bedroom, but in a clearing in the forest.  The sky is dark, clouds covering most of the moonlight, trees make dark figures around him as they sway in the breeze.  The hair on the back of his neck stands on end and he feels eyes upon him from somewhere within the forest.  A rustling in the leaves behind him makes him turn.  Behind him, coming out from the underbrush is a large wolf and somehow he knows it is her.  In the darkness her fur looks black.  The clouds shift suddenly, exposing not only the full moon above him, but the wolf before him.  The light makes her coat gleam and he can see it is the same color as her hair.  It reminds him of the dim light in bar, highlighting her chestnut hair as she smiled at him.  Her eyes gleam, dark, liquid chocolate, like no wolf he’s ever seen.  They stare at each other from across the clearing, Reid blinks and the wolf is gone.  

Wind wails around him, kicking up a small storm of dirt and leaves.  The moon is gone from sight, covered by clouds again.  Pain racks his body, making him drop to his knees.  It feels as if his bones are going to come out of his skin.  He writhes on the ground, trying not to scream.  In the distance he hears the howls of wolves, it feels as if they are calling to him.  Bones are shifting under his skin and he cries out, desperate for the pain to stop but it just keeps coming.  Raising his hands above his face, he sees that they have become claws, covered in fur that matches the gray hair that came to him prematurely.  Then, just as suddenly as it started, the pain stops.  

Reid stands up, realizing he’s still much closer to the ground than his usual six feet.  He shakes his head, trying to clear his mind from the hallucination he must be having.  His whole body shakes, shaggy fur swaying as he moves.  He tries to yell, but a spine chilling howl escapes his lips instead.  Panicked, he begins to run, not knowing where or why, only knowing that he must.  The trees fly past him, and he is surprised by how easily his body moves through the underbrush.  He never misses a step, never runs into a thing.  A feeling of freedom like he’s never know fills him.  The smells of the forest are almost overwhelming.  He can smell everything, the trees, the other animals, the stream nearby, and wolves.  The last scent sticks with him and he finds himself following it almost without thinking.  He runs faster as the scent becomes stronger.  How many are there?  He wonders as several scents begin to overlap, all of them wolf.  Before him is the stream he smelled earlier, and he skids to a halt just before sliding into it.  Panting, he dips his head to take a drink and is stunned by what he sees.  Reflected in the water is the head of a large gray wolf, eyes a few shades darker.  Reid’s eyes.

The dreams ends abruptly and he wakes in a cold sweat.  Every inch of his body hurts, as if they changes in the dream really happened.  He’s too exhausted to do anything but lie there and think about the dream.  The same dream he’s had every night for thirty days.  Every night the same dream, the same pain, the same exhaustion.  Tonight was no exception.  Reid had hoped coming out to the coast for a few days would make a difference.  After two nights, the only difference seemed to be the level of pain in his body.  He hurt so much more tonight.  Slowly, he got out of bed and threw on a pair of shorts.  Maybe, he thought, a dip in the ocean will help.

Outside the night was dark.  Clouds moved slowly across the sky, covering up the moon.  Reid headed towards the wooded trail that lead from his cabin to the beach.  The night was unusually quiet, not even the crickets chirped.  Pieces of his dream drifted back to him, and the hair on his neck went prickly as he made his way through the woods in the dark.  The quiet was disrupted by a rustle in the underbrush to his right.  He knew it was stupid to be worried, there was no such thing as people who turned into wolves, but he couldn’t help the sinking feeling of déjà vu creeping over him.  He left the relative safety of the trail and headed left, where the rustling came from.  The rest happened in slow motion: the clearing, the wolf, the pain, the howls in the air.  

Panting, Reid rose to his feet in one fluid motion.  He lifted a hand only to see a large gray paw before his eyes.  He shook his head, just like the dream, and his fur swayed around his body.  For a few moments all he could do was stand there in the clearing, breathing in the scents of the forest, trying to understand this massive shift in his reality.  His head snapped up automatically when he heard the howls in the distance.  All instinct telling him to find them, to find his pack.  One moment he was standing still in the clearing, the next he was running, and he was free.

The Oracle’s Dilemma

Hazy green light spilled from the pit in the floor, casting shadows over the pale marble.  Pythia, The Oracle of Delphi, sat upon her ornately carved tripod above the chasm in the Temple of Apollo and let Apollo’s message flow through her.  She spoke in a language unrecognizable to the warrior standing before her.  When she was finished her priest translated:

Great battle shall begin and great battle shall end with the emergence of one who holds the sacred spear.  Look to the light the guides the way to the land of your foe.”

The warrior bowed to the priest and to Pythia before turning to leave.  In the forecourt the remains of his sacrifice were being hauled to the fire and he deposited several gold coins into the bowl by the entrance.  He had a war to plan and much to ponder after speaking with the great oracle.

Slowly, the green smoke settled, barely spilling out of the chasm in the floor.  The oracle came out of her trance, looking tired and weary.  It was the seventh day of the month, midday, and yet she found herself thoroughly exhausted.  Winter was three months gone now, and each month her exhaustion seemed to worsen no matter what preparations and cleansing ceremonies she followed.  With each prophesy she gave her body ached a little bit more and she slumped lower and lower on her tripod.  Out in the forecourt she heard the next offering being sacrificed to her god, and she prayed silently for Apollo to give her strength.

The day wore on and Pythia continued to be drained by each prophecy.  By the time the sun set she could barely hold herself up on her tripod, hardly able to move let alone prophesize.  

“My Lady,” her priest said, “you are finished.”

“You are released to go about your business,” Pythia told him, waving him away with much effort.

It was some time before The Oracle made her way off her tripod that suspended her over the chasm.  Her many priestesses had already gone to their chambers, knowing not to bother her at the end of The Day of Prophesy.  Her chiton hung more loosely from her form than it had in the past because her appetite was much diminished since the passing of winter.  Pythia slowly made her way to her home and to her private alter to Apollo.  

Pythia knelt at her alter and lit a golden candle in honor of the Sun God.  She closed her eyes and she prayed to him with all her heart.  For twenty years now she had been The Oracle, but time seemed to be catching up with her.  There was nothing Pythia wanted more in life than to simply be The Oracle of Delphi.  She had long since forgotten her birth name; she had no identity outside being The Pythia, Apollo’s oracle.  During the six days of cleansing that lead up to the Day of Prophesy she had completed every ritual, every prayer ever known to the oracle, anything to keep her strength up.  Yet, today she was flagging worse than ever.  Was there nothing left to do, she wondered.  Was it simply time to give up being The Oracle of Delphi?  Despair overwhelmed her and she cried out to her god for guidance. 

A flash of heat warmed her back, wind blowing her hair in her face and Pythia turned around to see her patron standing behind her. His white robes glowed, as if the sun itself were trying to shine through him.  Pythia averted her eyes from the glow until Apollo dimmed his inner light enough for her to look upon him properly.  He appeared as a handsome young man with delicate features and golden blonde hair, kissed by the sun.  Pythia recovered quickly and prostrate herself at his feet.

“Rise, my beloved Pythia,” Apollo said, his voice like liquid gold.

The Oracle of Delphi, giver of Apollo’s prophesies rose to her knees but kept her eyes averted.  Her god had not only heard her call for help, he had come to her in person.  She was overcome and the tears continued to pour down her face.

“Why do you weep?”  Asked the god.

“I fear I am failing you,” she whispered.

“You delivered prophesy today to all who came seeking it.  How is that failure?”  Apollo inquired.

“I grow weaker with each passing month my lord.  I fear my body is betraying me and I do not know how much longer I can serve as your oracle.  I am but your servant, Lord Apollo, and I do not wish to be anything else,” she said, trying to keep her sobs in check as she spoke.  It was such an honor to be in the presence of Apollo and here she could not stop blubbering.

Apollo strode over to his high priestess and placed his hand on her head.  Sure enough he felt the sickness that ravaged her body.  His beloved oracle was indeed dying.  Apollo was the god of many things; prophesy, medicine, music, poetry, the arts, but he was bound by the laws of his kind.  Getting directly involved in the affairs of mortals, even his own oracle, was strictly forbidden.  It made him sad to hold such power and be unable to use it.  Gently he stroked her hair for a few moments, trying to decide what he could do for his oracle.

“Priestess, you have served me well.  Let me play you a song on lyre to help you sleep,” Apollo said.

Pythia lay down on her bed.  She could not take her eyes off the wondrous figure of her patron god.  His skin began to glow softly, but not enough to hurt her eyes, as he began to play his lyre.  A soothing melody filled the room and Pythia sighed in relief.  Slowly, her body relaxed and all the pain and weariness seeped out of her body.  She tried to keep her eyes open, not wanting to miss a moment of Apollo’s beauty as he played the lyre for her.  She hardly felt deserving of such a gift.  

Apollo played his lyre for this maiden who had dedicated her life to him.  With his music he eased her suffering, allowing her to drift gently to sleep.  Once her eyes had closed and her breathing slowed to a soft, unsteady rhythm the god of prophesy left his oracle in peace.

In the morning a young priestess entered Pythia’s chambers.  They were worried, for Pythia had not come to dine with them that morning.  She called out to her high priestess but received no answer.  She entered the bed chambers and found Pythia laying on her bed looking as if she were still asleep.  The Oracle of Delphi was dead.

Fashion Fox Paws

Fashion Fox Paws

Veronica Ellis walked into the news paper office wearing a sleeveless black dress by Gucci, complete with a wide leather belt at the waist.  Her shoes were black patten leather pumps, Louis Vuitton of course, and a Louis Vuitton hand bag from the 2011 Romance collection.  It did not occur to her for one second that she looked very out of place walking into the Jacksonville North Carolina Sunshine News office.  It was her first day at her new job.  She was going to be writing for the entertainment section of the local paper.  

Ronnie had been in Jacksonville less than twenty-four hours.  A week ago she’d married a man she’d only known for six days.  They had met in LA, where she was a fashion editor for IN LA, a local magazine.  Jonathan Holmes was a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Lejeune.  He’d been in LA on vacation with friends.  Ronnie was not normally the impulsive type, but she fell for Jonathan instantly.  Their passion burned bright and hot, and after only six days they drove to Vegas to get married.  It was the most reckless thing she’d ever done in her entire life.  Then she followed it up with the second most reckless thing she’d ever done; giving up her job and her posh apartment to move across the country and live with a man she barely knew.  

“Hello,” Ronnie said to the woman at the reception desk, “I’m Veronica Ellis, here to see Don Hopkins.”

“Have a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here,” the woman said, smiling politely.  She eyed Ronnie one more time and picked up the phone.

Ronnie sat down in a hideous, orange plastic chair and looked around.  The outer office was bland.  The cement bricks had been painted a dull cream color that had yellowed with age, and the only art on the walls were posters of typical beach scenes.  She sighed and began to worry for the first time.  What was she doing here?  This was nothing like her office back in LA.  

After a few minutes a portly, balding man with a terrible comb over came out into the lobby.  He introduced himself as the Editor in Chief, Don Hopkins.  Ronnie smiled and shook his hand, trying very hard not to gape.  Don’s suit was clean and straight, but it was cheap and his shoes were dull and scuffed.  This is my new boss, she thought slightly horrified.  No one back at IN LA would be caught dead dressed like that, not to mention sporting an actual comb over.  She took a deep breath, trying to remember that she wasn’t in LA anymore.

Don lead her back into a small news room with a dozen or so small cubicles.  As they walked to the back of the room Ronnie felt eyes on her from every direction.  For the first time in her life this made her feel awkward, out of place, and a little unwelcome.  Panic started low in her belly, but she took another breath and shoved it away.

“Here ya go,” Don said, his southern drawl showing itself.  “Just let Roxanne, my assistant, know if ya needs anythang.”

“Thank you Mr. Hopkins,” Ronnie said and sat down at her desk.  

The cubicle was four feet square, with dingy carpet walls that may have been white at one point, cheep plastic desk and an ancient swivel chair.  Ronnie looked through the her assignment box, ready to just get to work.  She was so happy to be with Jonathan, but so far Sunshine News was making her uncomfortable.  Looking through her in box did not brighten her day.  Her assignments included typing up a handful of wedding announcement, two obituaries, and a profile on a restaurant opening.  Not a single thing on fashion, shopping, or style on a budget.  Jacksonville’s idea of entertainment was definitely not the same as LA’s.  For the time being all she could do was write up her given assignments.  She would definitely have to spend the weekend out on the town to get a better feel of life in Jacksonville.  Maybe then she could pitch Mr. Hopkins some better entertainment ideas.

Ronnie’s weekend on the town did not pan out as planned either.  She went home and told Jonathan about her day.  He chuckled a little, but hugged her sympathetically.

“Jacksonville will take some getting used to, babe,” he said.

She sighed and laid her head on his shoulder.  “What is there to do around here?  I want to go out this weekend and see if I can come up with some column or story ideas,” she said.

“Well, we can go to the movies and have dinner,” Jonathan said.  He was getting the feeling his new wife was going to have a very had time adjusting to life in here.  Jacksonville was a military base with a small town built around it.  Over the last decade the city had crammed in ever retail chain imaginable, but that hadn’t changed much other than the traffic.  It wasn’t necessary to go to Wilmington to find an Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, or Best Buy anymore, but no one had thought to import any class to go with the stores.  No museums, no live theater performances, no swanky clubs.  It was not something either of them had discussed or even thought about when they got married, last week.  They really hadn’t thought about anything before they got married.

“That’s it?  No night clubs?  No dancing?”  She looked at him incredulously.

“The clubs around here aren’t exactly classy, like you’re used to.  I don’t really think you’d like them.  It’s mostly a bunch of single people sweating and grinding on each other trying to get laid.  Other than that, there’s karaoke and bowling,” he said sheepishly.  He somehow felt responsible for Jacksonville’s lack of class all of a sudden.

“Oh, okay,” she said slowly.  She was trying desperately not to be a snob about this small town, but the LA girl in her was horrified.  “Well, we’ll do dinner and a movie then.”

Olive Garden was the nicest restaurant in town and they waited over an hour for a table.  The food was good, but the place was noisy and very crowded.  There were babies and toddlers at almost every table.  Ronnie found the screaming and whining very distracting.  It just cemented further her desire to never have children.  When she said as much to Jonathan the silence grew awkward.  Never in her life had she felt so socially awkward and out of place.  At home in LA she’d always been popular, first in high school, then college and most recently at IN LA.  She did not know how to handle herself in the situations she kept finding herself in.

“You don’t want kids?”  Jonathan asked quietly.  At thirty years old he’d always put his career first, going on deployment after deployment once the war in Iraq started.  He’d never had the time or desire to do much dating, but his life was slowing down now.  He was going to be stationed at the base for a while, and he was hoping to find someone to settle down with and start a family.

“No.  I never have, really.  Kids just aren’t my thing,” Ronnie said awkwardly.  She’d never had to justify this to anyone before and it was making her a little angry now.

“Oh,” he said.  “I didn’t realize you felt that way.”

The rest of the night was just as awkward.  They went to the movies; it was crowded and the theater smelled like a hamster cage.  Ronnie was dressed for the heat outside, and Jonathan had not warned her how cold the theater would be so she froze.  By the time they got home that night they were both ready for bed.  That spark that had become a fire in LA seemed to have been dowsed by the wet, sticky North Carolina air.  They went to bed in silence, though sleep was hard to come by.

Monday morning came and Ronnie went back to work at Sunshine with no new ideas.  There just wasn’t anything worthy of an entertainment or style column in this town.  Ronnie slugged along through the week, typing up wedding and engagement announcements, obituaries and local interest stories.  He coworkers made very little effort to talk to her.  Each day she came in and sat in her ugly, carpeted cubicle wasting her masters degree in journalism.  She was beginning to wonder what the hell she was doing.

Jonathan had seemed a little distant ever since their first weekend out.  Ronnie figured it was because she didn’t want to have children, but when she asked him what was wrong he shrugged it off.  Even the sex seemed to have sizzled out some.  They had been married for three whole weeks and Ronnie was seriously wondering if it had all been a huge mistake.  Their week in LA and the subsequent honeymoon in Vegas had been wonderful.  They had talked for hours and hours, staying up all night and the sex had been mind blowing, as if their bodies had been made for each other.

Panic filled Ronnie when she looked back at what she’d left behind, and then ahead to what years in Jacksonville would be like.  She had worked so hard to get the job at IN LA, and she’d been working her way up through the rank and file.  Eventually she would have been Editor-in-Chief.  Why did I walk away from that?  At thirty-two years old she’d walked away from her dream job because she’d spent ten incredible days with a guy she barely knew.  But she knew she had to stick it out for a while, she couldn’t just walk away before she’d given the marriage a fair chance.

A few more weeks went by, and a few of Ronnie’s co-workers seemed to be warming up to her.  Mr. Hopkins’ secretary, Roxanne had invited her to get drinks with some of the staff that night.  They were meeting at someplace called Oliver’s, inside a hotel.  She didn’t know what to expect, and Jonathan was on duty, so she went through her closet trying to find something to wear.

Ronnie walked into Oliver’s in her brand new Badgley Mischka Platinum Label peacock shirred charmeuse dress.  She’d bought it on bluefly.com a few weeks back and this was the first time she’d worn it.  Her black leather platform sandals by Gucci went perfectly with the dress.  She was smokin’ hot and ready for a night out on the town.  Two seconds after paying the entry fee her enthusiasm deflated.  It was a tiny U-shaped room with a dance floor in the middle and tables on the outside.  Jonathan had been right about the clubs; the dance floor was full of sweaty people bumping and grinding to Country music, of all things.  She found her co-workers tucked into a corner table, booze already flowing.  Roxanne was wearing a skin tight black mini skirt and an orange tube top.  Her blonde hair was teased to death and at least one bottle of hair spray had died to make that coif.  She fit in perfectly with the rest of the crowd.

“I think I might be a little overdressed,” Ronnie said with a nervous laugh.  

“Yeah, I think that’s what they call one of those fashion fox paws,” Roxanne said with a twang.  She laughed hysterically at her own joke.  

“A what?”  Ronnie asked, confused.

“You know, fox paws, when someone wears the wrong thing to the party?  Geez.  I thought you were from LA,” Roxanne said rolling her eyes.

Ronnie stared at Roxanne for a moment, unable to blink.  Is this woman for real?  She made herself stay for one drink, just to be polite.  She pretended to laugh at their jokes, and it was easy not to talk as the loud Country music blared through the room.  After she finished her drink she excused herself to the ladies, but made her way to her car instead.  Tears were building in her eyes as she pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.  But it wasn’t really her home, and she was sure now that it never would be.  All she wanted right now was to be back on a planed headed to LA.  This whole thing had been a mistake; marrying Jonathan, leaving her amazing job for one at a third rate, small town local paper.  By the time she arrived at the house she had made up her mind, she was leaving.  

Hastily she packed all of her designer cloths in her expensive suitcases and called a cab.  She felt terrible about leaving Jonathan, but she couldn’t do this for one more minute.  She took off her simple, but elegant, wedding band and left it on the dresser with a note.  Tears threatened again as she looked at the ring on the dresser; she really did love him, but she couldn’t live this lie any longer.

Ronnie stepped out of the house, toting her suitcases behind her and walked to the cab in her driveway.  The cabbie helped her stow her bags in the trunk, and then she got into the car without looking back.