(Recap: Amy is at the mercy of a psychopath. She has been kidnapped and is isolated in an old cabin hidden away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her wife Sky and dog Rudy are lost in a snowy forest, fighting the elements searching for Amy. Chapter 6 opens one year before the capture and depicts how Amy met Sky.)
(One Year Ago)
Amy looked around the room and for the tenth time wished the floor would open and swallow her. Being an introvert, she hated parties. She always felt awkward because she never knew what to say. After the basic niceties of, “Hello…How are you, and How about this weather,” she usually drew a blank, and stood looking like a deer in headlights.
“Ugh, why had she come?!” Amy was miserable.
But Amy knew why she had come. She had promised Rose, and she didn’t want to let her best friend down. Rose, also a fellow colleague from the University, had worked hard to set up this party. In fact, for the last two months while on their morning runs, most all their conversations were consumed with this party.
Amy smiled at the memory…There they were jogging in place at the first stop light, and Amy heard all about the chicken salad and pimento cheese finger sandwiches. Oh, and of course the platter would rest upon the daffodil table cloth that had once belonged to her now deceased grandmother. Then the light turned green and they would run quietly until stopped at the second light, at which point Rose picked up the conversation where she had left it at the previous light… “…and of course, there will be crystal vases with fresh cut daffodils upon every table, and the silverware…”. The light turned and off they’d go again.
Amy looked around the large room, and saw the visual image of what she had imagined for the last two months. She knew it well and felt she could navigate the room blind without a seeing-eye-dog.
The thought of a dog caused her to smile. She liked dogs. In fact, most of the time she liked them better than humans. They were loyal and you can always be yourself around them. They never told you, “You stink,” even if it’d been a while since your last shower. However, people were not that cool. They were happy to say, “You need a shower.” In that case, Amy supposed it a good thing for all those down wind.” She giggled.
In her 32 years, Amy had also found people to be far less accepting…she thought of her own family. But Rose had been different. She had listened to Amy’s story without judging and for that Amy was eternally grateful. Outside of family, Rose had been the first person she told her heartbreaking, coming-out story. Rose had sat with her, and cried with her, and accepted her unconditionally no strings attached.
“Amy! You made it!”
Amy looked up from her reverie, and saw her best friend coming towards her with a gigantic smile, and her arms open wide. In an instant Amy was glad she had come.
Amy returned the smile and barely had time to say Rose’s name before she was engulfed within her warm embrace. Rose always gave the best hugs. She held you tight like she’d not seen you for years, and Amy could feel Rose’s heart quicken, so there was no doubt in her mind of her friend’s happiness to see her. Amy felt blessed to have Rose in her life.
The two loosened their embrace, but still clung to one another. Rose surveyed Amy, and Amy surveyed Rose. Rose’s red hair, usually in a pony-tail, hung loose around her pale shoulders. The freckles splashed across her nose were practically invisible because of the powder she wore, but Amy knew they were there. It was only yesterday the two had run four miles under a bright sun, and the baseball cap on Rose’s head had helped to protect her delicate skin, but the freckles on her nose were angry and protesting the suns hot rays.
Rose always hid her freckles with makeup while teaching at the University, but by the end of the day the powder she had bathed them with, faded, making them visible for all to enjoy. Amy loved Rose’s freckles and welcomed their appearance each day, after all, they so aptly fit her green eyes, and bubbly personality.
“I’m so glad you came,” Rose whispered and kissed Amy on the cheek.
“Me too…” was Amy’s half-truth.
“C’mon I’ve got someone I want you to meet.”
Rose took her hand and led her deeper into the crowed room. Amy inwardly groaned for she knew the real torture was about to begin.
Almost everyone called out to Rose as they passed… “Great party Rose…Hey Rose, you need to see this…Rose, who catered…Rose, who’s the DJ, damn he’s cute…”.
Rose smiled at each and held up the pointer finger of her right hand which everyone knew to mean, hold on a minute, an so they all returned to whatever it was they were doing happy to patiently wait their turn.
Amy and Rose stopped abruptly just before the bar to see a rather loud raucous between a big burly man and a slender blonde. The crowd that had gathered was cheering the two who sat at the bar holding a filled shot glass in the air.
The bartender slapped the bar and said, “Go!”
The woman downed hers first, and grabbed for one of the four glasses set before her. She finished the second as the man was turning his first shot glass upside down. The woman wasted no time downing the third one and paused only a second to burp. After the burp she threw down the contents of the last glass and slammed it down hard upon the bar. By the time the woman yelled, “Done!” the man was just reaching for his fourth glass. He cursed and set the filled glass back on the bar spilling some of its contents. Disgusted, he walked away. The woman smiled and reached for the abandoned booze and wasted no time tossing it down her throat. She burped and then asked, “Who’s next?”
Amy was stunned by the outplay she had just witnessed, and she couldn’t take her eyes off the brash woman at the bar. Her athletic build was clothed in a white Oxford shirt, faded jeans, and black leather boots. The tanned arms escaping the rolled-up sleeves were lean and well defined. Amy noticed her blonde hair was short and spiky… not as in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo kind of way, but rather a more toned down Mad-Max kind of way. Amy almost giggled at the analogy. She noticed the woman smiled and laughed easily and her blue eyes sparkled, and not a bit dulled by all the booze she had downed.
Staring at the woman, Amy whispered, “Who the hell is that?”
“That is who I want you to meet.” Rose said with a straight face.
As if she overheard, the woman at the bar turned to catch Amy and Rose staring. She smiled at Amy and Amy felt her tummy do a little flip-flop. They held to one another’s stare a tad too long, and then the woman stood, and walked towards Amy and Rose.
“Rosie!” The woman pulled Rose close for a hug and a quick kiss on the lips. Still holding Rose close the woman added, “How the hell are you? It’s been too damn long!”
“And who’s damn fault is that?” Rose shot back.
The woman stepped back, tilted her head, and replied, “I’ve been on the road for the last 4 months.” The woman offered a sheepish smile and added, “…but I guess I could’ve returned your calls. It’s been a crazy season…um…but that’s not a good enough excuse to not call a friend… I’m sorry Rosie.” The woman tilted her head again and asked, “Still friends…”
Rose pursed her lips as if she were trying to decide.
“Pleeeeeeese…” the woman begged with a million-dollar smile spread across her face.
Rose let forth the laughter she had been trying to hide. “Sky…Damn you! How the hell can I stay mad at that face!” She paused for a second and added, “…and that hair…”
Amy thought it impossible, but the woman’s smile grew more radiant, and then they both laughed and gave each other another hug.
“The hair?” She patted her spikes and whispered, “You know me…gotta keep people guessing…”
Amy stood watching, feeling a bit like a third wheel. As if Rose had read Amy’s mind, she turned to Amy, put an arm around her, and pulled her close.
“Sky, I’d like you to meet a very dear friend of mine.”
Sky looked at Amy and then back to Rose.
“I thought I’d already met all your friends…?”
Rose bantered back, “A lot of things can happen in four months!”
Sky looked chagrined but only for a moment. She stepped closer to Amy and gently took her hands. “Forgive me…I’m Skyler Blue…most people just call me Sky. And you are…?”
The question hung in the air as Amy stared into Sky Blue’s blue eyes. No words came to mind…so she just stood there…another deer in the headlights moment.
After a few seconds of awkwardness, Rose came to Amy’s rescue.
“Sky, this is Amy Bennett! We’ve only known each other a couple of months, but I feel as if I’ve known her all my life. She’s an artist extraordinaire, and a damn good running partner!”
Amy flushed, and heard her beating heart echo through her body. It was so loud, she wondered if they could hear it as well.
Still holding Amy’s hands, Sky smiled into the large brown eyes staring back at her.
After another long awkward pause Amy finally found her voice, “Hi…I’m Amelia, and I teach at the University with Rose.”
The dark figure watched the transaction between the three women. He sat in an inconspicuous corner with the cover of a well-placed, and rather large yucca plant. The makeup he applied earlier was hot upon his face, and he knew he would have to leave soon, but he wanted to stay long enough to get an idea about the people in Amy’s life.
Amy was new to the city and didn’t have many acquaintances which always made for easy prey. Getting to know his prey’s inner circle was paramount for a successful outcome. The object of the game at this point was to make Amy as isolated as possible, and to do that he needed to know how to drive a wedge between her and her friends.
He surmised that Amy was pretty close to her red-haired colleague from the University. He had watched them every day this week as they met up on the corner of 5th and East Main for their morning run. After waiting a safe following distance, he fell in behind them and jogged just like the many others devoted to their exercise regime.
This new lady, though…he knew nothing about. This night would indeed be an educational event. He sat tight, smiled, and continued to watch the introductions unfold.