Rachel Thompson

Monday, August 12, 2013

Running Against Traffic by Gaelen VanDenbergh

The door to Carmen’s Grocery was propped open. Wooden stands of produce lined the outside wall under a green canvas awning. Paige walked inside and looked around the small, tightly packed store. It was brightly lit, however, and a jazzy beat was bopping from corner speakers, interrupted periodically by Deirdre’s pre-recorded voice announcing daily specials. “Folks, we have a great deal on ham today. Pick up some freshly sliced Boar’s Head from the deli counter, and while you’re at it, grab some coke. Or diet coke, if that’s what you should be drinking. You know who you are!”

Paige picked up a wire basket and walked up and down the narrow aisles, pulling random items off the shelves, trying to recall what she normally ate when she was at home. They couldn’t have eaten out all the time, but for the life of her she couldn’t think what they had eaten in the condo’s sleek granite and stainless steel kitchen. She found her way to the check-out counter where a heavy-set teenaged girl was talking on the phone. Her hair was dyed black, accentuating her creamy white skin and thick, dark lashes.

“Oh, you are bad,” the girl gurgled. “You are bad! No, I’ll see you soon, baby…Nasty boy. Shut up!” She hung up and sniffled. “Sorry, that was my boyfriend. We’re hooking up later,” she said, proudly.

“Must be nice.” Paige waited, fidgeting with the handle of the basket.

“I’m Carmen.” The girl spoke as if her nose was stuffed up, calling herself Carbed. “You must be Mrs. Davenport. My mom said you just moved here.”

“Yes. No. I’m…I’m Paige Scott,” Paige stammered. “Do you take credit cards?” Her voice trailed off as she remembered that her credit cards were likely canceled. She fished around in her bag and found the ATM card that David had stashed there. The sneaky bastard.

“Um.” She looked up at Carmen, embarrassed. “Do you have a cash machine?”

“Sure, Mrs. Scott, right over there.”

“Please, just Paige. Thank you, Carmen. Also, do you have a Ye Olde Liquor store around here?”

“Yep, make a left out the door and another left onto Cherry.”

Paige stared up at the sign hanging outside what looked like someone’s home on Cherry Street. It creaked in the hot breeze, swaying on hooks on the eave above the front stoop. Though it read Wine and Spirits, she was sure she was not in the right place. She stepped through the front door. To one side was a small counter with a large glass jar stuffed with bills, beside the cash register. There was a typed notice taped to the back of the register: If I’m on the couch, leave the money in the jar. Any change will be donated to the Wells Lake Junior Hockey team. Otherwise, ring the bell. If I don’t show in five minutes, see the part about the couch. He was there alright, toes up on the couch, snoring like a bulldog. Paige selected a bottle of vodka from the shelves of alcohol that lined the room and slid it into her grocery bag. She dropped the money in the jar and headed back out to find the bank, which she remembered David had said was also on Cherry Street.

Money, money. She had never had to think about it before. All it was to her was a piece of plastic. Others managed it, worked for it, filled accounts with it. Now it was all worry and confusion.

Dragging herself up the front steps of her house, Paige thought hard about the mere three thousand dollars in her bank account. The bank manager had rushed to assist her personally, but had been unable to answer her questions about any mortgage, as it was clearly in another name, with another lender. Or perhaps David had bought the house outright. He had plenty of money, and it couldn't have cost much. Paige felt a tiny pang of guilt for thinking negative thoughts about the house. It let her stay. It didn't ask anything from her. It did its best.

Hot, sweaty and fatigued by panic, Paige pushed the front door open with her foot, dropped one bag to switch on the standing fan in the living room and carried her purchases through to the kitchen. Two o’clock in the afternoon is the perfect time for a cold, stiff drink, she thought, unloading her wares onto the Ugly Table. She was grateful for the cool quiet of the old house, soothing her from the harsh daylight of the world outside. She filled a glass with ice and splashed vodka over it.

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction

Rating – PG13

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Gaelen VanDenbergh on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://gaelenvandenbergh.com/home/


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