Authors: Diane Collier
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Melancholy was about the worst thing a writer could face of course and Julia Peterson was just such a person. A strand of her dark red hair fell in front of her face as she watched the world outside her window and broke her from her stupor as she brushed it out of her face. Julia looked towards her computer, the blank screen awaiting her, taunting her, daring her to sit down and fill it with words. A small frown appeared on the woman’s face as she stood, stepping over Gearbox, resident mouser and lap warmer extraordinaire, or to put it more simply, the stray cat she’d adopted in spite of it being forbidden by her lease.
Gearbox looked up at her and gave a soft meow, looking over the woman’s shapely frame in the appraising way only a cat is capable of, the gaze of a creature that didn’t exactly care what she looked like, but looked all the same. The observation turned back what it always would, a slightly tall redheaded woman with soft grey eyes that seemed indicative of a kind nature, who had somehow managed to keep most of the desserts she’d enjoyed in her life out from her hips,. A decent pair of breasts hung from her chest, a little bigger than the lady herself liked, but Gearbox found the perky things quite comfortable to sleep on overnight. The lady’s lap also tended to appeal to the small grey tabby, but the rest of the lady’s body, the cat dismissed as unimportant.
Julia sat at her computer and minimized the taunting program, tensing up a little as someone does when a cat hops on their lap when they was nothing between claws and the bare skin of their thighs. She opened her email and scrolled through the spam, notifications from social services that she barely checked, one sale of her most recent book, which was something she supposed. The mundanely of it all got to her some days. The young woman managed to get by writing for a living, but it gave her a wanderlust that she could not really afford to satisfy. She could write stories about far off worlds and wonderful adventures day in and day out, but it would never change the fact that at the end of the day she was still just an average 27 year old woman in a cut rate apartment trying to make ends meet off of petty writer’s pay.
The scrolling stopped at an odd email, the subject line read “Julia, meet me at Atmey park, 5PM, don’t be late.” Her brow furrowed as she read the subject, the sender’s name was “XtoyourY”, with the hosting site for the email was tacked on at the end of course, making it look a bit awkward. Julia opened the email to see if the body of the message had any more information, but it was blank aside from a single X on the page.
Julia leaned back in her chair and scratched behind Gearbox’s ears, the cat suddenly remembered, the lady’s hands were nice too, breasts, lap, hands, the cat could not quite put them order of preference. =
“Who the fuck do you suppose this is?” she asked aloud, the cat looked up at her, it’s grey ear flicking slightly from the scratching, Gearbox was a sharp kitty, but was still simply a cat, it offered her no answer aside from purring. Maybe it was hands, hands might be the best, but the little fuzzball concluded that more testing was required.
Julia checked the clock on the wall; it was about 4:30 in the afternoon. If she wanted to find out the mystery sender‘s identity, she’d need to head to the park pretty soon. Of course, checking out an anonymous email telling her to meet them somewhere was foolhardy, possibly dangerous AND stupid. The potential reward besides satisfied curiosity was pretty low. So of course this sounded like a wonderful adventure to the bored writer. The thought of the exciting quest, perhaps romance or danger awaited her, it had to be better than spending the day looking at cat videos on the net.
Gearbox was clearly disappointed to be uprooted as Julia stood, sitting him down on the floor as she went to her bedroom and put on something a little better for going out into the world than her birthday suit. She picked out jeans and a plain white tee shirt, a brown jacket over it in case it got cold while she was out. The outfit was simple and efficient, though it wasn’t much, she liked it.
She then strode over to the couch to grab her purse, a small black number that held the usual suspects, wallet, car keys, cell phone and a small kit of basic makeup. Julia was a bit of an oddity however, being a writer meant that she was imaginative, and being imaginative tended to cause her to think her day to day life is bound to be more exciting than it usually was. A side effect of this meant she also tended to carry a taser and pepper spray. While Julia did not consider herself to be of exceptional appearance, she did notice that she could turn a head or two, and a lady could never be too careful, even in a fairly safe city like Woodcrest.
Like the rest of the day up to this point, the walk to the park was uneventful. Julia did not live far and besides having to avert her gaze from a shady looking fellow in a baseball cap on the walk, nothing of real interest happened.
Atmey Park was one of Woodcrest’s points of interest, it was one of the loveliest parks Julia had ever visited, she would often come just to sit. It was just the place to get inspired for the next story. Even without the mysterious email she probably would have ended up here. She took a seat on her usual bench and sighed, she took some time to look around. Up a path a short haired man in a brown vest was talking to a blonde walking her dog, down another of the paths a kid was playing some form of football with his friends.
Dull, she let out an exasperated sigh, it wasn’t as if she’d come out here hoping to get involved in an action movie or something, but when you get a mysterious email from an anonymous stranger telling you to come to a place, you expect something at least. Looking at her watch it was 5:02, she hadn’t been late, or least she was fairly sure she hadn’t been.
The disappointment in her thoughts took form in a memory, she thought of someone she tried not to think of often, her old boyfriend Lucas Williams. She’d met him in this park one summer afternoon as she sat in her normal spot, listening to her MP3 player and trying to get inspired for a story which just refused to come to her. Lucas had been an outgoing guy, after looking over her shoulder writing in her notebook he smiled and told her that maybe the story would make more sense if she didn’t try and mash up quite so many different genres. Julia, in true writer’s fashion, defended her right to make the story as she saw fit, forcing Lucas to clarify that he didn’t mean forever, just in the beginning of the story. After an awkward silence they both laughed and conversation had spawned from it. They both enjoyed writing, though they had different tastes in it, and Julia did eventually admit she might have been rushing the story a little.
Julia had taken to meeting in the park for chats with Lucas, then they developed a more personal friendship, and of course a relationship cropped up not long after. Julia found it a bit trite, but Lucas was sweet enough that she was willing to forgive the fact they were the embodiment of a romantic comedy trope. She blushed at a sudden memory that struck her however, she supposed most romantic comedies didn’t involve the couple finding a nice sturdy tree in a secluded part of the park, the lady in a skirt sans underwear, the gentleman in just jeans and a shirt, pressing against the tree and…
Julia shook the thought from her mind, it had been years since they had been together, Lucas became a soldier and he promised he’d write to her. He got to visit once on leave, but after he went back the letters stopped coming. That was that, it’d been 4 years since his last letter. Julia had grown, moved past it, didn’t think about it much anymore. Unless she was at the park of course, or drunk, or the nights where she curled up in bed a noticed no one was there with her, those were probably the worst.
She hadn’t thought about him recently though, not until that email came, she supposed on a subconscious level, she’d hoped it might be him, that he might be back. Julia had been in and out of a few relationships since Lucas disappeared, some good, some bad, and one where her love of carrying around pepper spray and a taser had come in handy. But none felt quite as right as it had with Lucas. Not that they were bad partners, nor was the sex bad, in fact one of her suitors had a fun trick he could do with his tongue that even Lucas couldn’t match, shame that the guy never wanted to do it after their second time.
The poor girl had to shake the thoughts from her mind again, her blush had been growing. If she kept thinking of all the sex she’d had in her life she would certainly be in no shape to pursue any mysterious strangers stalking her on email.
It was then that Julia found herself interrupted in her thoughts, her cell phone made a little flute sound, alerting her to a text message. She fished the phone out of her purse and looked to the screen, “Come to Blackout Bar and Grill, 5:30, Table 12. X” she read aloud, she looked around the park, nothing seemed out of place, and no one seemed to be watching her. Julia stood up and put her phone away, apparently she was on a scavenger hunt.
The Blackout Bar and Grill were known for their ribs, it wasn’t world famous and it didn’t claim to be, but it did have the best damn baby back ribs that Julia had ever enjoyed. She hadn’t eaten, and clearly the game wasn’t over yet, so she decided that checking out the bar would at least give her chance to have dinner.
The jaunt was short and peaceful, a hobo asked for money and Julia gave him a dollar, he thanked her and was on his way. Before long, she’d reached the Blackout. At this time it was still just a little early for the dinner crowd to be in, she walked in and requested table 12 from the hostess. The woman smiled and led the way to the table, which was unoccupied.
Julia frowned softly; she wasn’t sure what she was expecting, the park had been a bust, why not here too? Mr. XtoyourY certainly liked to tease, and she was getting a little tired of the game he was playing with her. Still, she didn’t let it ruin her mood as she picked up the menu, though she just as quickly put it down again, it wasn’t as if any other item was going to get those ribs off her mind and when the waitress came, that was exactly what she ordered.
The Blackout happened to be where Julia had gone on her first official date with Lucas. He’d promised that the ribs were to die for and on that point he was absolutely correct. Lucas knew the owner and had arranged for a bit of a special treat on their 5
date, the rice pilaf that came with the ribs had been shaped like a heart, it was a very cheesy gesture, but the goofy grin on her face when she’d seen it made it clear that she’d liked it. The memory made the same dopey grin appear on her face in the present. Of course, her goofy grin had not been all that he’d gotten for that sweet gesture, since the tables in the Blackout were covered by cloths that reached nearly to the floor. A playful lady might just be able to hide under the table to give their boyfriend a present if he could be quiet about it. With all the places that Julia and Lucas had gotten busy together, Lucas got very good at keeping quiet, very fast.
A bit of time passed and her meal came, the rice pilaf was not shaped like a heart, but it was still delicious, the ribs were still heavenly. The combination of being there awhile and the wondrous food almost made her forget why she’d come in the first place. Upon remembering she checked around the table, under it, then her cell phone, no messages, no clues or leads; Julia supposed that maybe Mr. XtoyourY must have gotten tired of the game. The young redhead sighed and shrugged but she had a small smile on her face, it had indeed been a better use of her time than watching cat videos.
The check came and she looked it over absently, pulling her credit card out and pausing, she turned the check over and saw that there was writing on the back, “Go up to the bar, look for a big guy in green.” She frowned, looking up to the bar; she did see a patron that fit the description. After paying the check Julia decided to ask this guy what the hell was going on.