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The Dirt on Vic and Lia
Written by Elizabeth GoodGenre(s): New Adult Romance Drama, Medical Drama, Family Drama
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An excerpt from
The storm would not go quietly. An early morning squall whipped torrents of rain from Raritan Bay into Keyport Harbor, drenching clusters of homes and land along the sandy shore communities of Union Beach, Keyport, and further up into Cliffwood Beach, a small town dubbed the forgotten resort of upper Monmouth County, New Jersey—a fifteen minute car ride from the Benedict’s family home. By morning’s light, the strong gusty winds, along with alternating tranquil breezes, blew remnants of the nasty weather further aloft, whistling loudly through treetops, drafty windows and doors on its way out.
Sixteen years earlier, Hurricane Donna left the summer-fun destination of Cliffwood Beach as a suburb struggling to rebuild and survive. Blocks and blocks of well-kept, year-round homes stand in stark contrast to street after street of abandoned cottages in disrepair, further marring the once-pleasing landscape with sorely neglected lawns and shrubbery.
Overgrown scrub pines, planted too close to the bungalow rental Lia Benedict-Somers now called home, swayed violently with each burst of wind as it dissipated west. Straggly limbs of pine needles bristled angrily to and fro against east-facing windows of her tiny, rustic dwelling on the corner of Shore Concourse Road and Shady Nook Street. They were causing a racket, gnawing, scraping and scratching at the glass panes, but effectively buffered the sentient murmurs that were swirling in her mind and begging to be addressed, but they wouldn’t—not today. Not any day. Not any time soon.
Lia tiptoed around her darkened bedroom. An inch of daylight, filtering in from a tattered old shade, guided her way to the dresser. She rummaged the second drawer and found what she was looking for.
She stood at the foot of her bed and peeled off sweaty clothes, stripping to nearly naked while watching him sleep, amazed he could fall into deep slumber with all the noise going on outside. She was satisfied. He was so still, so peaceful. She hopped into a well-worn pair of straight-leg stretch denims and scooped up a plaid flannel work tunic that had fallen to the carpet but never took her eyes off him. She pulled the tunic over her head while zeroing in on his chest. He is breathing, isn’t he? You’re being paranoid, said the only perceptive voice she’d allow to the fore.
She pushed both arms through her shirt, wriggling it past her waist, then leaned closer to the bed, squinting. Wait a second, his chest isn’t moving. Oh God. Rushing to his side of the bed, she placed a shaky finger under his nostrils.
This was crazy. She’d work herself into a tizzy whenever he’d sleep, and knew she’d go through this same process the rest of her life. “Sleep well, my love.” Inching out of the room she closed the creaky wooden door behind her.
Tick Tock. That cat wall clock was too loud, for sure. But at least those awful bushes were no longer a nuisance. She was glad the winds were finally dying. He needed rest and she had curtains to finish. But ring ring went the phone, again.
The freckle-faced redhead smugly hung the black receiver in its cradle. She checked her watch and opened the heavy phone book to the white pages. With intense blue eyes and a red-painted index finger guiding the way, she went down the list of “S” surnames until she found a number matching the one scrawled in ink on the diner napkin in her other hand. She tapped her finger on the page. “Bingo. This must be his house,” she said, scribbling the address in pencil under the phone number already committed to memory. She closed the book, stuffed the napkin in her apron’s pocket and got back to cleaning remaining dirty tables from Burlew’s breakfast crowd.
Persistent winds of doubt had been brewing a shit storm, flooding Lia's peace of mind, seeping in, flowing out, and eroding the hard-sought happiness she was desperate to keep. They would not be passing any time soon. But she went about her domestic business anyway, gathering tools for the task at hand.
She positioned a wobbly, wooden ladder against a kitchen window sill, kept the sick feelings at bay, and then cautiously climbed each step. The rod, balanced on her shoulder and already shirred with red/white gingham curtains, jerked forward as she reached the fifth rung. She’d heard the rip and stepped down to examine the damage she’d done to the last of four sets of panels with matching valances purchased the day before.
Why couldn’t anything come easy? Not that it was a big deal, really. She’d ask Ma to sew it. Or maybe Tina. No, on second thought she’d buy another, or maybe fix it herself. Ma was under too much pressure and, besides, Tina couldn’t be bothered with curtain repairs, especially hers. She rolled the damaged panel in a ball and tossed it in the kitchen garbage.
The combined sounds of clinking utensils and loud conversation shrill coming from the lively lunch crowd at Burlew’s Cliffwood Inn were finally dwindling to low-volume drone from the few patrons left lingering over coffee. But this time wasn’t safely quiet to use the pay phones near the restrooms. Roxanne LeBreux searched for dimes and dropped the rest of her tip money in her apron’s pocket.
The attractive waitress unleashed her hair from its rubber band, letting the soft ringlets of her flame-red mane hang freely down her back.
Roxanne poked her head through the kitchen’s swinging metal doors and called out to her boss, “Sammy, I’m taking my next break outdoors. I’ll be back in ten.” Retrieving a single Winston cigarette from between her breasts, she then walked briskly through the restaurant’s entrance, straight to the private phone booth near her car.
Ring. Ring. Lia glared at the noisy phone, hoping it wouldn’t wake him. Tick Tock. Now she stared at that clock over the stove, its tail swinging as loudly as the ring of the phone. She hated that beady-eyed black cat. Skirting around the ladder, to get to the knotty pine wall by the front door, she reached the phone before it rang again. This better not be Tina. She should’ve been here by now.
“Hello? . . . Hello? Who is this? . . . Why do you keep calling here? . . . And who are you? Stop harassing us . . . And don’t ever dial this house again. Creep.”
Shivering, Lia hung the receiver back in its place and turned the volume lever to low. Who was doing this? And why? This was today’s fifth creepy phone call. Police know how to trace pesky crank callers. Yeah, good idea. She could ask Steve. She’d ask him the next time she saw him.
Lia brushed aside newly-hung kitchen curtains far enough from the window to peek outside. The early morning storm had given way to sunny skies despite the fierce winds. She used all her strength to lift the rickety bottom window, then swung a red-cushioned, 50s style, metal chair around and sat facing outward, her chin resting on crossed arms over the sill. She breathed in then exhaled, relishing the warm gentle breezes against her skin. She couldn’t help but notice her ring finger.
Facets in her engagement ring—a perfect, three carat, colorless diamond handed down by Nana Somers—sparkled magnificently in the sunlight. Obnoxious ring, and Vic loved it. She hated it. Too heavy for her bony hand, she wriggled it off.
But Fate had brought her this rock. If she hadn’t phoned Decker the week before that New Year’s Eve so long ago, she wouldn’t be Mrs. Vic Somers today. She held it between her fingers studying the high profile, marquis-cut diamond stone. Sadie, Sadie, married lady. It’s what she’d always wanted.
A cursory glance to the bedroom door, she then placed the heirloom diamond in a Baccarat crystal bowl, a wedding gift from her mother-in-law, Yvonne. Together, the two luminous items gleamed with the brilliance of the sun in an absurd contrast to the rust-pitted metal table on which they were held.
Lia leaned on the sill thinking back. Decker just had to tell Vic she’d phoned. She’d begged him not to, but men gossip way more than women. Yes, that call to Decker sealed her future. Queasiness once again bubbled in her gut. She needed to vomit.
So many things went down that New Year’s Eve. She’d thought it could work with Jesse Carlisle but it was Vic all along. And that traffic stop by Steve was pure destiny. He’d told Vic she was at The Sweet Shoppe. And of course Vic showed up. Her eyes hitched a ride on fast-moving clouds and she drifted to the last day in 1972 . . .
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