Thursday, November 26, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 45

Detective Tan talks to them a little while. Sam admits he was arrested for assault. Emma explains it was because of her dad, and breaks down. Tan leaves with Raleigh, and they talk about the injured man.

"If he's an employee, his prints are on record. We do in depth background checks on all our people. They do a random sweep every six months. If any new offenses show up, the employee is canned. In fact, we just had one a week or so ago."

"Random?" Tan asked.

"It occurs sometime during a six week period. We know it's coming, but not exactly when."

Frank nodded. "Gotcha. So, did it turn up anything?"

Raleigh shrugged. "I'm lower management, Detective. They don't tell me anything. Molly and I run this side. It's completely separate from lock down. That's Dr. Spiner's bailiwick over there. Dr. Stewart is in charge over here, though she probably knows a good bit about that side, too. They are partners, after all."

"In the business?" Frank raised an eyebrow.

"Um—not just the business," Raleigh replied. "In their personal lives. I'm not sure if they're married or not. I'm a little surprised he's not here. We called them both. I left him a voicemail."

"Unless—" Frank began.

"Unless he's our victim," Raleigh concluded.

Robbie and Dr. Stewart helped Sam get Emma upstairs. Their friends waited for them in the hallway. Glenn came forward, helping Sam carry his burden into her room. They laid her on the bed and Emma curled into a ball of misery.

"I'll be right back," Dr. Stewart said, and dashed off. She was back a few minutes later with a syringe. "Emma, I'm going to give you something to help you sleep. It's non-narcotic. Just a hefty shot of Benadryl."

"Okay," Emma mumbled into her pillow.

Dr. Stewart rolled up her sleeve, swiped with alcohol and administered the shot. Sam was allowed to stay with her. He went and put on his pajama bottoms and came back to the room. He lay down behind Emma, curling up behind her.

"Call if you need me," Glenn said. "I'm right across the hall."

Sam nodded, thanking him. Dr. Stewart turned off the lights and closed the door. Sighing, Emma closed her eyes. Sam put a protective arm around her.

"It's okay," he whispered.

Robbie and Dr. Stewart headed to the stairs.

"This could set her back another six months," Dr. Stewart said softly.

"She didn't do anything wrong," Robbie replied as they walked to the stairs. "Neither did our Sam. They're good kids, who got stuck in a bad situation."

"Do you think she saw—anything?"

"No, Sam would make sure. But it's him I'm worried about. I think he saw more than he's saying. I don't mean about the killer.... I don't know, I can't explain it."

"Do they know who it was? Who was hurt?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"Where's Manny?" Dr. Stewart asked, gesturing broadly. "It's not like him not to be here."

"You don't think—? Oh, my God." Robbie put her hand over her mouth.

"They didn't find a wallet or cellphone on him. His face was bashed in."

"They'll run prints, Amanda. It's not Manny."

"Are you sure?" Amanda Stewart's voice broke. "Do you know?"

"No, honey. Just a very strong hope and a prayer."

They went back to the dining room together. Raleigh was there talking with Detective Tan. They stood when the women came in. Dr. Stewart saw the expression on Detective Tan's face.

"No," she gasped, her knees going weak.

Robbie caught her, steadying her friend until the men could reach them. Raleigh held her while Frank Tan grabbed a chair. They lowered her into it.

"Dr. Stewart, I'm sorry to inform you that we've identified the victim."

"It's Manny, isn't it? Dr. Emmanuel Spiner?"

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 44


A police officer, Detective Tan, arrives. Sam tells him what they witnessed.

"I couldn't see him clearly. My distance vision isn't that great. I kinda need glasses. "

"Emma, could you see his face?" Robbie asked gently.

"No. But he was tall—well over six feet. White. Dark hair."

"That much I could see too," Sam agreed. "Kind of a big build. Not fat, just—big." He held his arms out from his sides, puffing his cheeks. "Like Steve Austin kinda big."

"Only with hair." Emma giggled a little.

"Steve Austin—with hair," Frank Tan repeated. "Facial hair? Clothing?"

"Might have had a beard," Emma said, stroking her chin. "Not a thick one. More like he hadn't shaved in a few days. He wore a lab coat like a doctor."

"He might have had on glasses," Sam added. "I think I saw light glimmer off his face."

"Yes," Emma nodded. "Dark frames."

Frank Tan turned to Robbie, Raleigh and Dr. Stewart. "Ring any bells?"

"Doesn't sound like any of our doctors," Dr. Stewart replied. "They run more along the lines of scrawny, short or stout. None of them are over six feet or muscular."

"That kinda sounds like one of the residents of the lock down wing," Raleigh said quietly. "Gordon is doing a headcount now. He can tell us if anyone is missing."

"Is there any way for a patient from the lock down to get to the weight room without being seen?" Detective Tan asked.

"I don't know. I've never really been in there. It's possible, I guess. But unlikely," Raleigh replied.

"Would someone have business after hours in the gym?" Detective Tan asked.

"No. That's all locked up no later than nine thirty. It's one of my jobs. I did it as usual. That will be on the security tapes. I have to punch a time clock when I do it. We also have a security guard who follows about an hour later and checks all the doors and windows. We are security conscious around here, Detective Tan. Some of those folks in lock down are very dangerous. The kids over here are basically harmless."

"Basically?" Tan's head came up, alert.

"I should have said completely harmless, sir," Raleigh amended. "I have their records if you want to see them."

"Thanks. I would."

The two men rose, leaving the others at the table.

"Anyone ever been arrested for assault?" Tan asked as they moved for the door.

Raleigh didn't reply right away, which Tan didn't miss.

"Has someone been arrested for assault?"

"I have," Sam said, standing slowly.

"You don't have to say anything," Dr. Stewart interjected. "That's juvenile offenses, Detective. Those records are sealed by court order."

"I have nothing to hide," Sam said quietly. "I've been arrested and done time in juvie for assault."

"Of my dad!" Emma cried, knocking down her chair as she stood. "For beating up on my sicko, pervert father and defending me! He didn't do anything, Detective. It's all just like he said. It's all my fault." She burst into tears.

Flinging herself into Sam's arms, Emma sobbed uncontrollably. Dr. Stewart and Robbie came over, hugging them both.

"I think that's my cue to go," Frank Tan said. He and Raleigh slipped out the door. "I don't consider the kid a suspect," he told Raleigh. "I appreciate the fact the told me. If he hadn't, I probably would have."

"Did they identify the victim?" Raleigh asked.

"I don't know. His face was pretty mashed up. No name tag or identification on him. We're gonna have to run prints and hope."

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 43


Sam and Emma get turned around in the dark, and end up in the security area for the lock down wing.

Sam glanced at the clock. It was 11:25. "I didn't know it was so late. We went to the pool around ten fifteen. I guess it took us longer to walk the weight room than I thought."

"It's darker than a bat's ass in there. How did you do it?"

Sam chuckled, holding up his cellphone.

Gordon grinned. "Innovative. Ah, here's Raleigh."

"You two had me scared to death!" Raleigh kept his voice low, but it was tight with worry. "Where have you been?"

Sam gave him a 30 second rundown. As he spoke, more people arrived. Several uniformed guards came up from inside the lock down wing. Along with them, an emergency medical team. One guard took over the booth as Gordon joined Raleigh. They went to a panel and unlocked a Lucite covering. Inside, there were two key slots. Their keys turned right and the lights clicked on in the weight room. They were visible through a small glass panel.

Another thing was visible through the panel. Sam angled himself so Emma wouldn't see the grisly sight inside. A man lay in the middle of the floor, head bashed in. He wore a white lab coat, like one of the doctors, but Sam couldn't see his face. It wouldn't have mattered much, the blows had obscured more of it. He moved a little, so Sam knew he wasn't dead, but there was blood everywhere.

Sam led Emma to the chair and made her sit. There were security cameras on the screens. Most of them showed empty halls and a bustling nurses station. The screens flickered, showing the exterior. Floodlights illuminated the outside of the building. Suddenly, a row of police lights scurried up the circular driveway, stopping at the front door. An ambulance followed. A gurney came out a few minutes later, EMTs and nurses in close attendance. The ambulance took off with its lights flashing, winding down the driveway to the road beyond.

Sam watched all this in silence. Emma stared at the floor, paying no attention to all the commotion. People walked in and out of the hallway, watched closely by the guard on duty. He made no effort to speak to Sam and Emma, so they didn't speak to him.

Thirty minutes later, Raleigh came back. He motioned to the two teens. The guard let them out, locking the door once more. Raleigh led them through two locked doors, which the guard opened for them by remote, and into the familiar corridor outside Dr. Stewart's office. Here, he rounded on them, furious.

"What the hell were you up to?"

Emma's eyes riveted on Sam. Her face went pale. He knew she was going to throw up or faint.

"Can we get Emma out of here? She's gonna hurl. I'll tell you everything once she's settled. " He lifted the limp girl and carried her to the kitchen with Raleigh behind him.

A glass of gingerale clutched in her hands, Emma sat at the dining room table. Her eyes were wide and distant. She said nothing and barely responded even to a direct question.

Raleigh and Robbie sat across the table from Sam and Emma. Dr. Stewart came in a few minutes later, looking harassed and afraid. A plain cloths police officer accompanied her. He was a tall, Asian man who introduced himself as Detective Frank Tan.

"Now we're all here," Dr. Stewart said as she sat. "What happened?"

Sam cleared his throat and took a sip of Emma's drink.

"Emma came up to see me after the party. I was feeling sorry for myself. So she ran off and I chased her. We were playing around. The door to the pool was open and we went inside."

"It couldn't have been," Raleigh said angrily. "I locked it myself at nine fifteen."

"It was open," Sam insisted. "We sat by the pool a little while, enjoying the quiet. Then we heard angry voices. It sounded like two men. We couldn't make out their words—at least I couldn't. We decided it was time to leave. We didn't want to get in trouble. But someone came out of the weight room. We hid in the shadows."

"Did you see his face?" Dr. Stewart asked gently.

The detective glanced at her. He obviously wanted to ask the questions. She wiggled her fingers at him and focused on Sam once more.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 42

While at the pool after hours, Emma and Sam hear people arguing in the next room. The dressing rooms are locked, so they hide behind the rack of lane ropes.

The weight room door, on the far side of the pool, thumped open and a man stood there. He didn't see them as they cowered in the shadows. Clinging to one another, they held their breath as the man tried the door to the hallway. It opened and shut behind him. They heard the chink of keys and a bolt latch. Dread filled them. They were locked in the pool area. Terrified, they went to the weight room door. This was open, but the lights wouldn't work—apparently on the same timer as the pool.

Emma clutched Sam's shirt, pulling it into a knot in the small of his back. Her hand trembled, her fear evident. He couldn't let the fear get to him. He was so afraid himself, he knew he had to keep her calm or they would both be hysterical. He didn't know what the punishment was for being in here after lights out. He didn't want to find out.

Sam had been in the weight room often enough to know the layout relatively well. The door to the corridor was directly across from this one. They had to transverse the room by clinging to the wall or they would collide with all the weight equipment and probably never get out. He knew that there was a third door. This led to the lock down wing of Ravenwood.

The lock down wing housed the people who weren't there voluntarily. They were allowed limited use of the weight room and pool, but didn't have the freedoms that the voluntary residents did. Sam didn't want to go that direction. They were sure to be caught if they tried that door. Instead, he kept going left, touching the wall with his left hand as he held Emma's hand with his right. Feeling their way along the wall, every now and then, they collided with the gym equipment. There would be bumps and bruises on shins and ankles.

When they reached the corner, Sam called a halt. They put their pants and shoes back on. As he pulled up his jeans, Sam remembered his phone. He could use it to light their way. It hadn't occurred to him before, he'd been too distracted. The flashlight app was a great invention, he thought as the bright white beam illuminated a three foot radius. With a pleased sigh, Emma followed him.

It took less time to travel down this way. The light helped them avoid obstacles. Considering that this was the wall with the free weights and barbells, that was a good thing. They arrived at the second corner easily. The door to the outside was only a few feet away. Taking a deep breath, they moved toward it.

A small sound broke the silence. It was just a little noise—no more than a whisper of a whimper. It came from the middle of the room. A soft rustling accompanied it. The whimper was repeated, more distinct this time. It sounded like someone gasped Help.

Sam froze. Emma ran into him, losing her balance. He caught her. Her face appeared ghostly in the light from his phone, her eyes wide. She'd heard it too. Sam pointed to the door, but Emma pointed to the source of the noise. Sam shook his head, waving his arms.

It was obvious to him, even if it wasn't to her, that they couldn't do much if they couldn't see. He went to text and typed a note that he didn't send. "We have to get Raleigh."

Emma nodded. They got to the door. It was propped open by a fold in the doormat. They scooted into the light of the hall and tried to get their bearings. Squinting against the light, they realized their mistake. Sam, who was used to entering by the hallway door, had mixed up the room's layout in his panic, and led them the wrong way. They stood just a few feet from a barred door. A man sat in a small office that was surrounded on three sides by bullet proof glass. He looked up, surprised to see them.

"May I help you?" His hand hovered over an alarm button on the counter.

"We got lost," Sam murmured. "We were cutting up, and ran into the pool area. But we got locked in."

"Someone's in the weight room," Emma blurted. "They sound hurt. We couldn't see them in the dark."

"One second." He picked up the phone and punched some buttons. "This is Gordon. Yeah, I got your missing kids. I think we have a situation in the weight room. I have the key but I can't leave the booth. Right."

He motioned to Emma and Sam. "Come in here. Raleigh says you two are cool." His smile was tight. He unlocked the door and let them in, locking it behind them. "Y'all ought not to be wandering at this time of night."

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 41

Sam has a great party. He's never had a birthday so wonderful, in his life.

Everyone cleaned up, except Sam. They wouldn't let him raise a finger. Instead, they sent him upstairs with his gifts in a flat box. When he got to his room, he sat on the bed with his head in his hands, and wept.

Emma found him there, his presents still in the box. She took the box from his bed and set it on the floor. Finger to chin, she raised his face. Hair was plastered to his damp cheeks. She brushed it free, a bit of it snagging on stubble. Using her fingers, she rubbed the tears gently away.

"You are loved, Sam. You're so special. I was never in a position to do this for you, but an eighteenth birthday is a big deal for a guy."

"Pretty big deal for a girl too."

She shrugged. "I hate my birthday. My dad first came to me the night of my tenth birthday. I've never understood why."

"Why what?"

"Why my birthday? Couldn't he have waited a day? A week? Forever? It was like some special occasion to him." She shrugged. "Now I'm making this all about me and it's not—it's about you. This is your day, your chance to feel special."

Sam smiled, stroking her cheek. "I always feel special when I'm with you." His touch became a caress. "You have no idea how much I want you right now."

Emma giggled, sliding off the bed. "Oh, yes I do. Contain the beast, Mr. Masters. Or I'll call for help. Glenn and Carlos will beat your scrawny ass."

"They'll try," he growled quietly. Grasping her belt loop, Sam brought her back near him. "I'll behave, I promise. But one kiss, Em? Please? A special, birthday kiss."

Her smile set his insides on fire. She pursed her lips, pulling him close—and planted a wet, sloppy kiss on his ear. Laughing, she bounced out of the room before he could catch her. Sam jumped from the bed, chasing her, but Emma had too much of a head start. She was fast. Even with his longer legs, he was slower. Giggling, Emma ran down the back stairs with Sam in hot pursuit. He knew they were heading toward a part of the facility that was off limits to them. His excuse was, he was following Emma to keep her out of trouble. He knew it was because he hoped, eventually, she would stop running and give him a proper kiss. His want of her made him even clumsier and he lagged behind.

Emma got to the indoor swimming pool. While it was bright and cheerful during the day, at night, it was a little spooky. The overhead lights were on a timer, and went off at 9:00. The interior pool lights cast an eerie aquamarine light, glistening on the white tile of the walls. The place should have been locked, but the door banged open.

Sam followed Emma inside. She had cast aside her shoes and jeans. Sitting on the side of the pool in her panties and T-shirt, she presented an inviting picture. Sam's shoes and jeans joined hers on the bench. He squatted next to her in his boxers and T-shirt. He didn't like water much. His mother had left him unattended by the pool once, when he was five. If it hadn't been for Emma and her dog, he would have drowned. If she hadn't been next to him now, he wouldn't have sat down.

The water felt good on his legs. It was just the right temperature, not too chilly, nor too warm. The automatic cleaner was at work, the octopus arms whisking the sides of the pool. Its movement caused waves to lap against their legs.

Emma rested her head on his shoulder and he put his arm around her. "I could sit like this forever, and be totally happy," Emma said.

Sam let his hand drift over to her breast. "Me too," he agreed with a smile.

Emma smacked his hand aside. "Behave."

"Yes, ma'am. Behaving, ma'am." But he didn't move his hand.

A distant door banged. They heard voices raised in anger. One voice was louder and more distinct than the other, but they still couldn't make out the words. Knowing they shouldn't be here, they grabbed their things and ran to the women's dressing room a few feet away. It was locked, so they ducked into a dark corner as far from the pool as they could get, hiding behind a rack of lane ropes.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 40


When they get back to Ravenwood, Sam is surprised with a birthday party.

"Nope, just a bunch of Vera's fans. You did this for me?"

"You didn't think we'd forget your eighteenth birthday, did you?" Emma looked near tears.

"No. You'd never forget that," he said softly. "Thank you."

"It wasn't just me," she replied. "The girls helped me plan it."

"Is this what you were talking about during your makeover?"

Vera chuckled. "Told ya he'd notice that."

"Come have pizza and cake," Emma insisted, dragging on his hand. "We got your favorite—pineapple, ham and feta."

"You're amazing," he said. "Thank you." He kissed her again.

They all ate pizza until they were stuffed. Once the plates were cleared away, Tim and Shelby lit the candles on the cake. Vera led everyone in singing the Beatles' Happy Birthday and Sam blew out the candles. They ate cake and ice cream before opening gifts.

"We went shopping in the attic outlet," Carlos said. "Raleigh gave Tim the keys, and we all were allowed to choose something for you."

"Except for me and Emma," Vera said. "We bought you this today." She handed him a bag from the outlet store.

"How did you buy this without me seeing?"

Vera rolled her eyes. "You know that guys can't stand to shop, so they wander around? I got this while you wandered."

"So, getting the bra was an excuse?"

"Of course! But it totally rocks." She pushed her breasts up, doing a shimmy.

Sammy opened the bag. There was a package of his favorite boxers and another of T-shirts. At the bottom was a small box. Inside, he found a pair of gold hoops. Even discounted, they were more expensive than any he'd owned before. Speechless, he put them in his ears before kissing the girls.

"You're not done," Tim insisted. "Here." He thrust a small package into Sam's hands.

It contained a variety of guitar picks. Some were slightly used, but most were new. There was also a well used, but functional, guitar tuner. Shelby gave him a coffee mug with his name hand painted on the side. Freddie and Carlos had found band T-shirts like he favored. Glenn proudly presented him with a pair of jeans and more socks. Donna had pawed through the gold suitcase, and presented him with a silk tie and dress shirt. Another trip into the junk room and Cory had found him some nice slacks to go with the shirt and tie.

Benji and Freddie held back shyly.

"We couldn't find much, after everyone else went shopping," Freddie said shyly. "But we came up with these." He handed Sammy a stack of CD's and a small portable player. "I know it's kinda low tech, but Raleigh said we can use his computer to put them on your iPod."

Benji's gift was the most random. He'd found a can of shaving gel and some fancy razors in the junk room. He also presented him with a manicure set.

"I know it's kinda girly, but it's got nice nail clippers in it and some tweezers. Guy or not, sometimes you've gotta pluck."

Sam thanked them all for the gifts. He'd never had such a wealth of presents, nor had he ever had such a fantastic party. Overwhelmed, he felt like crying. It took a moment for him to realize that no one here would care if he cried or not, so he let the tears flow.

"I never had this good a birthday," he admitted quietly. "My parents never remembered and the foster families didn't care. Sometimes, I'd get a cake, but mostly not. You guys have no idea what this means to me."

Emma came up to him, hugging him tightly. All the girls did the same. After that, the men lined up to clap him on the back. Tim even dragged him into a bone cracking man hug. Sam had to rabbit punch his ribs to make him let go. Laughing, the other man jabbed him playfully in the gut.

"Stop that this instant," Shelby said, before they could escalate. "What would Molly say?"

"She'd say to grow up or pay up," Tim replied.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Thursday, November 05, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 47

The next morning, Raleigh breaks the news about Dr. Spiner's death.

"I'm also very sorry to tell you that the man was our own Dr. Emmanuel Spiner, head of Ravenwood. His partner and wife, Dr. Amanda Stewart, has taken a long leave of absence. We're going to keep our doors open. The job we do here is too important. Dr. Cybil Abernathy will take over Dr. Stewart's patients, and someone else is taking over for Dr. Spiner. That position has yet to be filled. For now, Dr. Anton McNulty will step into Dr. Spiner's position—until the board can decide a permanent replacement."

"What's this gonna do to our therapy?" Carlos asked. "I was supposed to get out in a week."

"Dr. Abernathy assures me that she is taking the day to get up to speed on Dr. Stewart's patients and will do her best not to delay you. There won't be sessions today, but they will resume tomorrow as scheduled."

"Well, that just sucks," Carlos complained.

"I'm sure Dr. Spiner didn't get himself killed just to spite you," Freddie snapped.

"Oh, stop," Carlos countered. "I know that. This is how I handle stress, I vent. You have a problem with that?"

"Yeah, I do," Freddie replied.

"Enough," Raleigh said. "Isn't it bad enough that someone is dead? If you need to talk to anyone, let me know, and I'll get you set up with an appointment to see one of the therapists."

"Isn't that Robbie's job?" Emma asked.

"Robbie is staying with Dr. Stewart. They're good friends. Any other questions?"

No one said anything.

"Enjoy breakfast," Raleigh said. "Chores begin after you eat. World can't stop—" Pressing his lips together, he turned on his heel and left.

"Dr. Spiner was his therapist," Tim confided. "They were real close. This is eating him up."

"Why doesn't he take some time off?" Emma asked. "Surely, they would let him."

"Because that's not his way. With both the doctors gone and Robbie out, he feels its his duty to keep us going. At least Molly will be here soon."

"How's Chip?" Emma asked.

"Doing great. The doctors say they can come home today."

"It will be good to have her back," Donna said. "I miss Molly. And she's bringing a baby!"

The women, including Vera, sighed.

"What is it about babies that makes all women gooey?" Benji asked, twitching.

"You wouldn't ever understand," Cory said. "You have testicles. At least, theoretically."

"I have balls," Benji replied defensively. "Wanna see 'em?" He grabbed at his fly.

Cory gave him a derisive look and a snort. "If you've seen one set of balls, you've seen them all. Right, girls?"

Sniffing haughtily, the women walked off, leaving the men to gape after them.

"Nicely played," Carlos said. "You managed to insult all of them at once. That's got to be a record." He walked off.

"What?" Benji asked, addressing the room in general.

"Never mind, dude. You wouldn't understand even if we explained," Glenn replied, following Carlos.

"Don't you have a job to do?" Freddie added his resentment to the long list, and followed the others.

Benji turned pleading eyes on Sam.

"What did I do?"

"I wouldn't even begin to know where to go with that," Sam replied. "But you insulted all the women, and most of the men. Me, I'm easy going. I don't get upset." He shrugged and walked off.

"I'm sorry?" Benji called after Sam.

Sam turned around, walking backwards a few steps, waving. "Only say it if you mean it." He headed up to his room.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 39

With Sam's help, the mob scene at the grocery store, becomes a positive event.

"I couldn't believe it! All those kids telling me how my music had touched their lives. Unbelievable!"

They got to the van and found a handful of reporters there. All of them wanted an interview. Vera was ready to panic again when they shoved microphones and cameras in her face. Sam made them step off.

"Vera, just tell them what you told the girl inside," he prompted.

Taking a step forward, Vera ran her fingers through her hair. She smiled at the cameraman who was about her age. He grinned back, giving her a thumbs up.

"Vera, it's rumored you're in rehab at Ravenwood," a pretty blonde said.

"Yes. It was completely voluntary. I woke up one morning and I didn't know where I was or what I'd been doing. The last three days were a blur. I realized I was a mess and I evaluated my choices. You do some heavy thinking when you wake up with your face in a puddle of vomit. It wasn't pretty. Right then, I decided to stop drinking and partying. I still want to make my music, but I'm doing it differently.

"I let myself get into the lifestyle. One thing I've learned from my friends at Ravenwood, I don't have to do that. I let others have power over my actions. No more. I will still speak through my music, but my message is going to be presented differently."

"Do you plan on changing your musical style?" The blonde asked.

"A little. If it's speaking to those kids in there, I don't want to change it too much. But I want my message clear. I screwed up my life. I don't want them to do the same."

She turned away. The reporters pressed forward, but Sam shielded her with his body.

"Look, we have to get back," he said calmly. "If you want to do something useful, help us load up the groceries."

Laughing, the blonde's cameraman set aside his camera and took a bag from the cart. Several more men joined him. The groceries were loaded in no time.

"Will you call us when you're out of rehab?" the blonde asked.

Vera tilted her head to one side, closing one eye, as she examined the blonde reporter. "Yeah, maybe. Bring him. He's cute." Winking at the cameraman, she hopped in the front seat. "Drive, Sammy!" she commanded.

Sam took off carefully and headed out to the highway and home.

"What was that?" he asked as they got on the interstate.

"I don't know, but I hope it never happens again."

"Oh, come on. It was fun. You made their day. And who knows, maybe they will clean themselves up, too."

"I hope so."

They arrived at the gate of Ravenwood about 4:00. The gate swung open and they pulled up to the kitchen door.

"I'm glad they didn't need any of this stuff for dinner. We'd be eating twigs and berries," Vera said.

"I wonder if Raleigh's back," Sam replied. He picked up a box of groceries.

Vera took up another box and they walked to the kitchen door. The kitchen was empty. At that time of day, it should have been a bustle of activity with dinner preparations. Sam didn't see any food on the stove. Everything was really quiet. He set down his box and went looking for the others. Vera set her box down and followed him.

Sam pushed the door open between the kitchen and dining room. It was dark. Fumbling for the light switch, he cursed quietly when he couldn't find it. His hand bumped Vera's as she flipped up the switch.

"SURPRISE!" The room erupted with lights and sound.

Everyone stood around the dining room table. It was covered with pizza boxes, bottles of soda, paper plates and plastic cups. A huge cake sat in the middle. Happy 18th Birthday, Sam! It was a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing—his absolute favorite cake.

Emma came up, planting a kiss on both cheeks, then on the lips. "Took you long enough. God, we thought you'd been spirited away by fairies or something."

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 38

Vera and Sam are at the grocery store, where they see a girl who is a fan of Vera. It shakes her, and she almost has meltdown in the frozen food aisle, which is next to the beer. Sam talks her through.

"All with a Tontino's?" Sam laughed. "Cool idea."

They made their choices and headed to produce. A crowd awaited them. Dressed mostly in black, with a vibrant Smurf blue mixed in, a host of teenagers formed a wall across the produce section. They clutched CDs and photographs to their chests. When Vera and Sam appeared a shout went up and camera's clicked, taking a myriad of pictures. Startled, Vera screamed. She turned quickly, running into Sam, who was still standing behind her. He caught her as she took a tumble, helping her to her feet.

"Make them go away," she begged. "Please, Sam!" Dashing toward the sushi counter, she hit the double doors to the back of the store.

Several of the store employees followed her. Confronted with close to a hundred adoring fans, Sam decided he'd better take charge. Holding up his hands, he halted the stampede that threatened to follow.

"Hold up!" he bellowed. "Leave her alone. You!" He pointed to the first Goth girl to accost them. "Why did you do this?"

"I didn't! I wouldn't!" she babbled.

"She sent a text to everyone," one of the boys said. He showed a picture of Vera.

"We just want to show her how much we love her," another of the girls said.

"By ganking her at the grocery store? She's trying to get her life back. Scaring her isn't gonna do that. She's been through hell. I hope to god you haven't just screwed that all up for her. I'm gonna go back there and talk to her. Don't follow me," he warned, pointing at them. "If she decides to come out, you can get some pictures and autographs, but you're going to do it in an orderly fashion."

He pointed to the young man who'd spoken up. They were probably the same age, but Sam had infinitely more life behind him than the other kid.

"Line them up and I'll see what I can do. Any of you cause trouble, I'm calling the cops," he said, holding up his phone.

Silently, the crowd lined up, waiting. The young man did an admirable job on crowd control, with the help of some of the store personnel. Sam went through the doors and found Vera clinging to the sushi woman, sobbing. He took her gently, wiping her tears with a paper towel.

"You can do this," he murmured. "The Vera I know can handle this bunch of misfits. You're strong, you're courageous. You have boobs big enough to stop traffic."

Very giggled. "You bastard. This is one reason I started drinking. I just wanted to play my music—make some noise—annoy my mom. Then we got famous, and I couldn't handle the mobs."

"They're going to behave. I promise. And if they don't, I'll lay 'em flat. A few pictures. Some autographs. They love you." He tugged at her flannel shirt. "This is your armor, baby. Flash the tits."

Vera couldn't help laughing. She kissed Sam's cheek. "I wish there were two of you, then I could keep one for my bodyguard."

Clinging to Sam's arm, she went out the doors like a queen. Waving and smiling, she faced her fans. They clapped and cheered, but everyone kept their distance. By this time, members of the local press had shown up, as well as a handful of police officers. They kept the fans back. The boy whom Sam had tasked with keeping control, had everyone lined up. The deli manager had found a table and chair for Vera. She signed autographs and posed for pictures.

The fans put tips in a huge pickle jar. By the end of an hour, they were all cleared out, the pickle jar was full and things could get back to normal. The store gave them the groceries.

"We made a lot of money off those kids buying sodas and things while they waited," the manager told them. "More than enough to cover the cost. Come back anytime, but warn us, huh?" He winked.

Vera signed autographs and posed for pictures with the staff. By the time they were done, it was well after lunch time.

"We need to get back. Everyone will wonder what happened to us!" Vera said.

"That's what cellphones are for, silly. I called Emma and told her what was going on."

"My face is numb," Vera complained. "I haven't smiled that much in my life!"

"They love you, V."

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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