Thursday, July 5, 2012

Two Doors - A Collaboration Challenge Story

The Collaboration Challenge has begun! Let's see what I come up with, then check out who's joining in.




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Part One: Two Doors


The sound was sharp as she clenched the soft paper. Light filtered in through gossamer drapes of a perfect hotel room. She hadn’t known places this nice existed outside of a little girl’s imagination. Her lip twitched up, though there wasn’t much humor in it. If my friends could see me now came to mind, but she hadn’t had any of those in a long time.

There was a soft warning knock before the door opened to admit Freddy. When she had seen him for the first time last week, she’d thought he was a cop chasing her out of her roost on Second Street. It was just an architectural detail with enough crunchy leaves to make something of a pillow. After five years on the streets, she wasn’t picky.

The best part of her Second Street spot was no one else seemed to know about it. She wasn’t sure how, but she’d never had to fight for it. The only drawback was Second Street was a pretty classy neighborhood so she could only use it if she was damn sure she wouldn’t be seen. When Freddy had poked his big, gray-haired head in, it had appeared as if a black and white had finally caught her.

“How are you, Miss Naomi?” he asked her now as he had then. A week ago the question had shocked her cold. Today she was so used to the question she almost answered.

“Where did you get this?” she demanded, showing him the bow-tie-shaped piece of crumpled paper. He stood tall and composed in a crisp black suit. His ties were the only exciting thing about him. Today he wore a laser blue stripe tucked neatly under his buttoned jacket.

“I told you. Mister Tyler asked me to give it to you once I found you. That was not an easy task. It took me three days to connect Naomi with Gnat,” he muttered, his tone letting her know he did not approve of the nickname.

Gnat ignored him. She had already asked how he’d made the connection when no one alive knew her as anything other than Gnat – small and black from head to eyes to skin. He’d answered her question by stating he was resourceful before returning the conversation to Tyler.

She held the piece of paper a little tighter. It was a note a fourteen year old girl had written to the first boy she’d ever loved after he had told her he was leaving. It was a letter of forevers. “I’ll love you forever.” “I’ll think of you always.” They were things that seemed possible before her house burned down, killing her brother with flame, then her parents later in the hospital.

It was a sad story, one she had survived. She’d survived the foster system she ran away from, her first knife fight, her years on the street with all its unexpected darkness. Her existence might not be much, but she’d survived.

Then this old guy finds her and somehow gets her to this hotel by telling her an old 8th grade crush was trying to find her. She kept looking for the catch when the hot meals came along with gifts of clothes. What was behind the trip to the hair dresser where they sheered off all her dreads, smoothing what was left into a short bob? The only answer was crumpled in her hand.

“Alright, Freddy, why hasn’t Tyler come to see me himself?”

“He wanted to, Naomi, believe me. He simply could not.”

“Why?”

“The trip Tyler made can only be made once.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

Freddy’s voice was soft. “I recognize you have had a hard life since you last knew Tyler. He has had many difficulties, too, though of a greatly different variety. He thought ... he was hoping you could help him with them.”

“What, like as in a job?”

“Of a sort,” Freddy confirmed. Gnat felt her recent meal threaten to make a return trip.

“So that is what this has been about?” she asked, gesturing around the lush room. "Getting me ready for some job interview with an old friend?"

“No,” Freddy countered firmly. “This is because you needed it. I could have taken you to Tyler last week much easier than it will be today. As it is, we are out of time. I will be going home today. Will you be accompanying me?”

Did he know what he was asking? She only had rosy memories of Tyler, few of them probably accurate. She'd since learned of a darker world under all that pretty glamor and wasn't willing to take anything at face value.

Still, it was a choice. Wherever Freddy was going, he was going today. Did she want to take her chance with him, or go back to the streets?

“Where exactly are you going?” Freddy studied her for a moment, then seemed to make a decision of his own. He walked to the door between this room and the next, opening it to reveal the other closed door leading to the adjacent room.

“Why not let Tyler explain?” He stepped toward the closed door and simply disappeared.

Gnat blinked. The life she’d lived this past week had been worlds away from what she was used to. What she had just seen was …

She was jaded, basic, beaten down. She’d lost everything.

The soft paper made sharp sounds in her hand. Her choices were not what she wanted, but were something she probably would have seen as romantic before the streets, before the fire, back to when she’d told a brown-eyed boy she would love him forever.

“Well, if I’m going to disappear,” she muttered, walking toward the door, leaving her world of nothing behind, moving toward something

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I wonder where that door leads .... We may find out next week when Nicole Pyles takes control. Along with Nicole, we have Leonard Suskin rejoining us. Our first timers are Yolanda Lane and Tena Carr. With everyone taking two weeks, this is a long one. Join us for the ride and let us know what you think along the way in the comments.