I need to get my butt in gear before I have the whole thing posted here….

Short chapter for this week.

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Chapter 4

The music was blasting as the headlights approached, their light reflecting on the wet pavement. Closer and closer they came, he raised his hand to shield his eyes from their blinding light. Darkness crept in, it was cold. The image of a hazy figure lying in the road. An old woman, no a young woman slumped over in a car, still buckled in the seat belt. There was blood on the driver’s window and the woman’s long hair partially hung through the broken glass. The sirens rang out through the rain before the sight of the spinning red lights approached.

Michael sat up abruptly in bed. There was a soft knocking on the bedroom door. He would like to have ignored it, but the rhythmic beating was incessant. He tried in vain to shake off the crazy dream and dragged himself out of bed to answer the door. Elizabeth stood in the open doorway staring down the hallway, her hand still motioning the knocking, almost thumping him in the face. He quickly grabbed her fist, holding it in place.

A nervous giggle escaped her lips. “Sorry. I wasn’t looking.”

Michael was not amused. “Can I help you?”

“Mrs. Peters sent me. You need to come down.” She said quietly.

As she pulled her arm away, she rubbed her finger on Michael’s wrist. “I like your bracelet.” She said before leaving him alone in the doorway.

Michael inspected his wrist, which had an old beaded bracelet tied around it. A forgotten trinket until someone mentioned it. The paint on the misshapen round beads had been worn down to the wood, but he wore the bracelet all the same, a small remnant of his youth. Had he been wearing it earlier? Even that was foggy. He wasn’t even sure how long he had been sleeping. No light seeped through the heavy drapes. The room was still dark so he either hadn’t been up here long, or had slept through the entire day.

Group had started by the time Michael entered the sitting room. Just in time to listen to Karen complaining once again about her husband. Michael could almost not bare to listen, but he took his seat all the same. “Vincent doesn’t know where the carpool list is. I tried to tell him it was on the side of the refrigerator.” She turned to Michael. “You see what I mean? He needs me down there.”

Michael did what he could to hold back his laughter. “He’s probably doing just fine lady. I mean, how badly can someone screw up carpooling.” Most of the group gasped. Simone raised her head up from the floor, her brown eyes opened wide.

Michael looked around clueless about everyone’s response to what he had said. “What?“

Mrs. Peters used a firm, but calm tone. “Michael, please try to be respectful of others. We are not here for criticism, just understanding. Everyone is just trying to work things out so they can move on.”

“Geez, he could be a total wreck over the carpool schedule for all I know.”

He immediately slunk down in the chair, arms crossed, like a child pouting and let his mind drift. One by one they went around the room. Simone froze up when asked to participate. Elizabeth of course was just waiting for her Dad. Michael just sat quietly, ignoring the request. Mrs. Peters didn’t stop at Conrad, he could have had his turn before Michael had come downstairs. Ruben, as it would seem to be the usual case, went last again. Michael didn’t pay attention to anything that was said. He spent that time reciting lines in his head from a movie script he was sure he would be cast in. When Ruben had finally finished talking, everyone rose and moved their chairs. Michael dragged his over to the closest wall, uncaring if it was the right place or not. If it was wrong, someone else could fix it. With the room empty, Michael decided to sit in the chair by the fire, rather than go upstairs like the rest. He liked the chair better than the springy bed. Just as he sat, Karen returned and sat at the old television.

She worked the antenna and large knob for a few moments until the sound of static no longer buzzed. Karen spoke loudly across the room. “You are Mike James aren’t you?” He turned towards her, but her eyes still very much focused on the blurry picture of the television. “I know Mrs. Peters likes to call everyone by their given names, but you are him. I just know it.”

Michael remained tight lipped.

“I have seen every one of your movies. I am such a fan.” Every time he wound up in one of these places, there was at least one person who would gush over him.

“Glad you liked ‘em.”

“I can’t believe you are here. I mean, how did you wind up in this place?”

Michael started to reply with a snide remark, but thought better of it. No sense opening the door for Karen to get friendly. He had hoped she was done talking so he could have some peace. She wasn’t.

“I remember reading stories about you, but you know you can’t trust what you read in the tabloids.”

“We all got our problems lady.”

“Right, none of my business. I mean, who am I? Just a simple stay-at-home mom. I just can’t believe I am meeting you here of all places.”

Karen shifted uneasily in her chair. She bit her lip as she scanned the room, trying not to be so obviously star struck.

“Normally I would ask for your autograph, but what would I do with it now?”

“Well, catch me before one of us is out of here and I will get you one. Take it with you.”

Karen gave him a strange look, confused by the remark “Oh…kay, but you know…”

“Karen.” A calm voice interrupted her mid sentence. Mrs. Peters stood in the entrance of the room. “You must allow people to reflect. Please give Michael that courtesy.”

Karen went back to the television, ending her chatter after the reprimand. He was grateful to be left alone, but had the slightest curiosity about what Karen hadn’t finished saying. It seemed there was a lot more that Mrs. Peters had still not told him.

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