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SCARLETT COULD not sleep for there were too many negative thoughts that kept going round and round in her head and they made her anxious: David was dead, his funeral was the next day and after two years of hard work writing the play it was now a catastrophe. She felt frustrated and miserable as she got out of bed, grabbed her sweater, wrapped it over the top of her night gown and stepped outside. The stars twinkled and danced overhead. She looked at the sky and tried to recall the names of the constellations. But she knew very few aside from the Big and Little Dippers, Orion the warrior, who waved his arms in the distance and danced his eternal dance with the Seven Sisters of Pleiades. She smiled when she spotted Pegasus looking down, crab-like, at Hercules, who appeared to be racing across the sky. She imagined herself riding along the Milky Way getting far away from Liverpool and its problems, but knew in her heart that she never really wanted to leave this place. The late night air was vibrant with expectancy. In the suite above her garage the windows were now dark. Tom Hanson, the actor who had played Samson, had gone back to Toronto when the play had ended in the debacle. She had liked having him next door and being able to look out and see the lights. They had given off a warm and welcoming feeling. She had thought about renting out the apartment on a permanent basis once he moved, but now it seemed more bother than it was worth. She jumped, surprised, when Marc, who had come outside without her knowing, wrapped his arms around her.
“Oh…I wish, I wish…,” she said looking up at the sky.
“I know. If only we could change things,” Marc said softly.
“It’s going to be so hard tomorrow at the funeral.”
“Yes, for all of us. It’s so great what you did, helping the family in planning it all.”
“David would love it. I just hope we can pull it off. And thanks again for your part,” she said.
They listened to the soft Atlantic breeze rustling the leaves. This whole situation with death and dying made the nighttime feel so surreal.
“What do you suppose she meant…that fortune teller?”
“You mean about seeing Perkins’ ghost?”
“Yea that,” she said.
“How could she know a ghost from a person? There were dozens of people wandering around and dressed in the same way. Besides who believes in ghosts anyway?”
“Not me. I wouldn’t know one if I tripped over him. But most of the folks around here do believe, big-time. Remember when they had that TV series about haunted houses. I heard that it had turned the main actor from a disbeliever into a fanatic. We even have that disclosure law where, when you sell your house, and if it’s haunted, then you must disclose it, tell the buyer about it,” she said, shivering in the hot evening air. “Ooooo, what was that?”
“I suddenly had a strange feeling. Let’s go back inside,” she said, looking into the darkness.
“You’re tired. How about a shot of brandy and then you can get back into bed?” Marc said, entering the house.
“Okay.” Scarlett turned again to look over her shoulder and into the night. She suddenly felt very cold indeed as she stepped into the house.
Marc handed Scarlett a drink.
“Wow, I’ll sleep for a week on that.”
“I’d be happy if you got just one night’s rest. You haven’t slept properly for weeks.”
“I should have been there to help Darren set up at the church.”
“You can’t be everywhere and besides he had a crew to help him. Are you ready for what you’ve planned?”
“Ready as I will ever be. As short as it is, I just cry every time I try to rehearse it.”
“I know babe. It’s hard but we just have to take it one day at a time.”
“You know what’s been really bothering me lately? Remember how stressed David was during rehearsal? Well I asked him one day what was up and he mumbled something about things being tough, and he paused for a second before he said, ‘at work’. I can’t imagine why, he’s been working there for five years. It should be pretty routine by now I’d think.”
“Didn’t they just hire a new guy over there, an assistant manager? I wonder if maybe David felt that he had been passed over for the job. It happens all the time.”
“Yea, I remember the new assistant manager. I saw him the other day going into the Post Office and when I waved he just looked the other way.”
“He probably didn’t see you. With the new job he probably has a lot on his mind. But who knows? People are beyond understanding sometimes.”
Scarlett shivered and stuck her hands deeply into the pockets of her sweater. Her fingers touched on something. She removed it from her pocket and looked at it.
“Did you put this button in my pocket?” she asked Marc, surprised to see it there.
“No, why would I do that?”
“I don’t know. I’m quite certain that it wasn’t in there when I put this sweater on an hour ago.”
“What is it?”
“It looks like an old button.”
“Are you sure? Here let me see,” he said, taking it from her. “It certainly is a button and it looks old, very old. It appears to be an original King’s Orange Rangers button.” Marc handed it back to her.
“Well it’s not mine,” she said, placing it on the center of the coffee table and staring at it. “Maybe whoever it belongs to will come back for it,” she said as a rush of wind blew through the open window and knocked it to the floor.
Scarlett and Marc looked at each other but neither moved from where they sat. The button still lay on the floor when they had finished their drinks and went to bed. The first thing that she did the following morning was to look for the button. Though she could not explain why, she tied a string through the loop and hung it from her neck.
~ ~ ~
Scarlett was not the only one who could not sleep that night. Christian and Karyn were also awake. They were sitting in the lovers’-swing on their front porch. He held her hand and she slid her thumb up and down his fingers.
“I was supposed to start that summer drama class next week but my heart just isn’t in it,” he said sadly to Karyn.
“But you have to do it, you’ve got kids registered. Besides it might do you good. It’ll get your head in another space.”
“David’s funeral is tomorrow.”
“I know,” she said, not needing to be reminded, for it was on everyone’s mind. “It’s the talk of the town. What you and Scarlett are doing for the family is so amazing. You should be proud.”
“It’s the least we can do to…give David a good send-off.”
Christian shivered in the hot evening air.
“You okay?” Karyn asked.
“Yea sure, I just got a sudden chill.”
She moved closer to him and said, “I drove past the church today and they have screens and a seating area set up in the parking lot. They’re expecting a huge crowd.”
“I’m not surprised. David was loved and very popular. And how often does someone from this town get murdered? I’ll have to be there early…to set up. You can come later if you want,” Christian said.
“I think I’ll walk over just before the service and then we can come back together, after the luncheon.”
Christian wiggled on the bench, placing his hand on the seat beside himself. He felt something, picked it up and turned it to the streetlights.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“What have you got?”
“It looks like a button,” he said, getting up and going inside for a better look. “It looks like a Kings Orange Rangers button. I wonder where it came from. Is it yours?”
Karyn took the button and looked at it quizzically and gave it back, “No, it’s not mine.”
“The Rangers left town days ago. I wonder where this came from?”
“This doesn’t look anything like what that they wear nowadays. It looks much too old.”
Christian slipped the button into his pocket.
~ ~ ~
Alexis was sitting alone on her front porch for she, like Scarlett and Christian, could not sleep. It was her favorite place to be. Often during the heat of the day she would do cross-stitching or read a book while sitting in that same chair, though it had been weeks since she had done either. In the darkness she sat as still as a statue. There was not a soul about as her tears fell. David’s death had taken a heavy toll on her emotions. Unable to sit still she got up and paced and then went back inside. She turned out the lights, stood leaning against her kitchen cupboards and looked out of the window. The waxing moon was shining brightly. It was so inviting that she stepped onto the back deck and looked up into the sky, mouthing a tiny prayer so quietly that only she could have heard it. Then she slumped into a chair. Without warning she started to cry again, wringing her hands together. She sobbed, tears streaming down her cheeks. The wind rustled the leaves and she turned for she had the feeling that she was not alone…but no one was there.
She picked up the tissues from her lap and clutched them in her hands. When she moved her hand to wipe the tears from her face something dropped back onto her dress. She picked it up to look at it but it was much too dark to see what it was, so she went inside. It was a button. She looked at it curiously then peered out of the kitchen window and into the darkness, wondering where it could have come from. She quickly locked the door.
She was even more confused when she turned it in her fingers. She recognized that it was old, like a button the Kings Orange Rangers would have worn back in 1783. She slipped it into her pocket.
END OF CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
“Linda has published fifteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”