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Untitled - Chapter 2

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I crawled out of the bed quietly so I wouldn’t wake up Wesley. I undressed and slipped on a tank top and sweater. I crawled out of my cozy Pink Panther PJ pants and pulled on some faded white wash jeans. I looked at my hair in the mirror, which fell in hopeless, mismatching ringlets and curls. I let out a tired breath and pulled the mass of hair into a ponytail. I looked at the clock and realized I was running late. I grabbed my phone and jammed it into my pocket as I ran to get my purse. I slung it over my shoulder and raced out the door. I jumped into my VW Beetle, turned the key in the ignition, and hit the gas.
I was so thankful my phone was a touch screen as I pulled it out and dialed Ella. “Hello?” Came the response from the other end, along with the ringing of the phone. “Ella? Is everything alright?” “Oh, yeah – hey just wait a second! We’re not open yet! Jeez! Read the sign! Closed! Sorry. So what did you need?” Ella responded in a tired voice. “I wanted to tell you I’m running a few minutes late. I had to skip breakfast. Since I’m a little behind anyway, want me to pick you something up?” I slammed on the breaks as a light turned red. “Oh, no; I don’t think I need anything. Have you gotten another gig yet,” Ella’s voice finally came back after I heard her adjust the phone. “No, nothing at all. And to make matters worse, Wesley’s manuscript got another rejection letter. He’s taking it hard. For several slow seconds, she was silent. “Honey, I’m so sorry.” “Yeah, I just wish someone would accept it. I don’t even care about the money. Sure , it’d make things easier to have some more. But I’d rather have him happy.” Ella switched to practical yet motherly mode, “Riley, you’re a saint. Wesley is lucky you’re his girl. No matter what happens, he’ll be sure of that if he’s any kind of man.” “You’re right. I’ll try to get there soon. The traffic’s awful though.” “Don’t rush! I don’t want you getting hurt. Take your time. I’ll see you when you get here. ‘Kay?” I took in a deep breath and exhaled. “Yeah. Thanks Ella. See you when I get there.” I hung up and refocused on the road.
Soon I reached the studio. I checked my reflection in me rearview mirror. “This is as good as it’s going to get.” I murmured to myself. I noticed sweet, crazy old Mrs. Lane’s car in the parking lot. There was never a week the dear, beloved woman wasn’t at the studio with one of her many pets. Even though she was strange, I loved her to death. The only reason she came to the studio so often was for me and Ella. Yes, she loved her pets, but I doubt she honestly cared if she had a professional picture of each one. I wondered to myself, who she would’ve brought today.
I shoved my phone back into a tiny jeans pocket, picked up my purse, and got out of the car. The bell dinged as walked in. “Hey Riley,” Ella beamed. I looked to see who else was there today, happy to see the regular occupants, some customers, as well as some new clients: Trisha Mclean, with her two children, Lily and Kurt; Pastor Farris, and his wife Elaine, who always brought us some baked good, though they didn’t get their pictures taken; my and Ella’s best friend, Sharise, who’d recently become pregnant; Sharise’s fiancé, Tucker; Halley Sharp, a real estate agent who had an eye on the land where the studio was and had lately been bugging me and Ella to sell the place; and Melissa Hartfield, an interesting new woman who’d just moved to Yreka.
Yreka was a pretty small town, and it was about 270 miles to drive to Sacramento. The drive was about four hours. I had to make that drive every Monday and Tuesday night because unfortunately, that’s where I had to drive to get to the symphony.
I was the youngest person ever to be in the symphony, so that put a lot of pressure on me. I played cello in it, and the occasional piano accompaniment. My mother had grown up in Sacramento, so she had tons of connections there. That’s how I’d managed to get in the symphony.
It’d been three hours since we’d opened that morning, and I needed some fresh air. I told Ella and Sharise where I was going. I was at the door had turned to tell Ella and Sharise I’d only be out for a few minutes when the bell tinkled and the door pushed into me. I slipped and landed sprawled out on the floor. I hit my head against the stone tile and blacked out.



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