The Dark Man


Scene 2

"Oh, shit, Jelly!" Mel whined into the phone, sitting in the dark of her rental car, parked on a tree-lined street. "I'’m going crazy already!"

"What's up, babe?" Jelly mumbled, sleepy voice. The sound of rustling bedclothes came through Mel's bluetooth, followed by a whispered. "It's just Mel. She's upset. No, it's okay. Stay in bed." and then she came back on the line. "What can I do?"

"Listen to me whine for a minute?" Mel said with a tearful laugh.

"Anytime, babe." Footsteps carried in the back ground. Mel could almost picture her in Hello Kitty pajamas walking down the hall and into the kitchen, so she didn't keep Pam awake. "What's up?"

"Just having the worst time." Mel looked at the plain gray fabric of the rental car's ceiling, trying not to cry as she expressed her frustrations. "So, my plane was late. They gave away my car registration and I got stuck with a gas-guzzling behemoth SUV. I got lost getting here. Karriston is not just a quick hop from Grand Rapids, no matter what it looks like on the maps. You can't see anything out here. It's just all trees. Trees, trees, trees on flat land. All trees! And snow. That's right, freaking snow. Still. How are you supposed to find landmarks when everything's just trees and snow?"

"Getting some cheese for you?" Jelly offered.

Mel laughed, at herself, at her friend. "I told you there would be whine."

"What else?"

"I missed my appointment with the lawyer, of course." Mel paused to sniff, wiping the tears off her cheeks with the sleeve of her jacket. "That was while I was still trying to find my way out of Grand Rapids. But not to worry, he says. His wife does real estate, and she'll meet me at the cottage tomorrow morning. He'll give her the keys."

"Eek. The relative referral. You're in hillbilly territory now for sure." The sound of a kettle filling with water echoed in the background. Mel smiled, Jelly was such a creature of habit. She wished she was there and could drink some of that tea.

"So, I missed the lawyer," Mel summed up her crappy day, "and he's sending his wife with the keys. I get lost on my way here. Seriously, there are way too many trees here. And lakes. Everywhere you turn around, there's another damn lake, or pond, or river. Where do they get so much water? I finally make it into town. I blew through it twice, and kept having to circle back. It's that small. And, Jelly, you won't believe this?"

"What?"

"My hotel is not a hotel. It's a freaking bed and breakfast." Mel felt her voice strain with a building scream. "Like I'm on some romantic weekend, or something. Fuck!" She hit her gloved hand on the steering wheel, looked at the glove through a white cloud of her own breath. "Oh, and that's another thing. It's cold here! Freaking cold!"

"Can't you just go to a hotel?" Jelly asked.

"There is no hotel. The B & B is it." The gasp in Mel's voice said it all. "There isn't even a Burger King. Just a McDonalds. And it's closed."

"They close McDonalds?" Jelly sounded dubious.

"Apparently when you're in the middle of nowhere, they do." Mel settled back into the car seat. "And I'm really hungry."

"So, here's what you do." Jelly started, pausing to sip her tea with a soft slurp. "You write it up as a bad day, all of it. Go check in at the B & B. You've already booked a week, take it. The bed should be soft. And there should be breakfast in the morning. That's what the second B is for, after all."

Mel sagged in the seat. "But I'm hungry now," she whispered, even knowing that of course Jelly was right. Some days were just bad days, they were born that way, and if you let them, they died that way.

"Tomorrow you'll go deal with the relative referral, at least long enough to get the keys. And then you'll get to see the house your mom lived in. How awesome is that?" The smile in Jelly's voice was, as always, contagious. Her dimples were practically a venereal disease.

"Yah, okay." Mel crossed her arms over her chest; half from pout, half from cold. She tucked her gloved fingers into her armpits, and wondered how much of the cold was just from knowing she was in Michigan, not San Francisco?

"And then you are going to find the house adorable, if a bit dusty. And it will be filled with all sorts of mementoes and photo albums and trinkets of your mother's. You'll spend a week tidying up, and learning about your family history, and be back in time to go to Vail with your big, pouty boyfriend."

Mel smiled. That would be nice. "Big, pouty, pretty boyfriend," she corrected.

"If you say so," Jelly said. "Now, get your butt in there and go to bed. Bad days don't die until you lay your head on the pillow."

"Thanks, Jelly." Mel mumbled, getting sleepy. "You're just the best friend ever." Jelly said something else, and signed off the call, but Mel had already started to drift off. She was warm, now, all cuddled up. And with her frustration expressed, her exhaustion kind of took over. Her breath puffed out in little steam cloudlets from her nose, slower and slower. Her eyes closed on the tree-lined street that still showed faint smudges of snow...

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