This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!
*Note: A lot of this scene is me working out backstory for Shelley, which I should have done much earlier in the book. It will probably be integrated into earlier parts of the book and a discussion with Dillon eventually.
Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
After breakfast, Shelley watched Dillon walk down the trail from his cabin to the camp’s administration building. He’d invited her to go with him while he helped check in a large group of campers, but she’d declined. She hadn’t had any time to herself since this whole debacle started, and all she wanted was a shower and some space to think.
Ten minutes later, she stood under the shower and let the warm water slide down her skin. Running her hands over her face, her fingers traced the scar extending from just outside her left eye down and across her cheek, ending just above the left corner of her mouth. It had been there so long now that she wasn’t sure she’d know who she was without it. It had been Tabitha’s fault, kind of. They’d been playing in Uncle Andrew’s barn when they were kids, and Tabby had pushed her into a pile of hay. Only an old rusty combine blade had been hiding underneath, and Shelley had rolled right into the very last disk…with her face.
She’d been in first or second grade at the time, and she didn’t remember much after Tabby pushed her, just a lot of blood and pain, more pain in the ambulance, and way too many shots before she finally passed out at the hospital. When she’d woke up, Aunt Jane had held up a mirror so she could see the long line of stitches in her face and told her she was going to look like the monster her namesake wrote about as her punishment for playing in the barn when they’d been told not to.
Everything about that moment was clear as a bell in Shelley’s mind. Tabby laughing and pointing, the mixed look of contempt and satisfaction on Jane’s face, and the look of sympathy and horror on the nurse’s face as she watched, and then quickly took the mirror from Jane and told her visiting hours were over.
That nurse had been really nice to her. Brought her ice cream and found cartoons on the TV so she could watch with the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut. She’d spoken in hushed tones to the doctor later, and some woman in a suit had come in and asked a bunch of questions about Jane and Andrew and the barn, and then she’d gone back home with Jane and Tabby. They hadn’t visited Uncle Andrew much after that.
Jane had favored Tabitha before, but Shelley figured that was because Tabby was actually her child, and Shelley wasn’t. After the accident, Jane had constantly drawn attention to Shelley’s face, apologizing to strangers for it, telling Shelley not to look at people, and making sure Shelley knew that no boy would ever want to date her. It had taken many years for Shelley to leave that way of thinking behind, and oddly enough, Tabby had been one of her most staunch allies, negating much of her mother’s commentary – often with a well-timed eyeroll.
No. Shelley turned the shower off and toweled dry. The Tabitha she knew would not do that. She wouldn’t just blindly follow whatever Jane said, especially when it came to Shelley. She pulled on clean clothes and went to her bedroom, digging her cell phone out of her bag. She was going to call the hospital and talk to Tabby. Get everything straightened out once and for all.
Padding out to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, she tried to get a signal and couldn’t. Leaving the phone on the counter, she poured her coffee and went to the island and picked up the landline handset, pressing the button to get a dial tone.
Only there wasn’t one. She frowned at the phone, pushed the button again. The light came on, but the line was dead. She wondered when Dillon had last tried to make a call.
Putting the handset down, she sipped her coffee and considered her options. She could either wait there at the cabin until Dillon got back, or walk down to the admin office and let him know the phone was out. She remembered the cell service being better at the base of the camp where it was more open, so she could probably make her call down there anyway.
The coffee was only lukewarm from earlier, and she downed the rest of the cup and rinsed it out in the sink. Turning around, she reached out for her phone, but it wasn’t where she’d left it.
But a woman was standing on the other side of the kitchen, holding it in her hand with a smile that looked more like a grimace. The stranger didn’t mince words.
“What are you doing in my fiance’s house?”
Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 28!
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