Hey y’all. Thought I’d try something different for the next few posts. A friend suggested I offer a taste of my writing stash. So, stepping out on a bit of a limb here.
Today’s post is half of a short story I did few years back. I’ll post the first 3 pages this week and the last 3 next week. Let me know what you think.
SCRATCH THE SCRABBLE
The tile bag lay slug-like on the table top. Thin wrinkles gaped like worn teeth in a dry mouth. Dulcie steeled herself for her turn. Scrabble. She didn’t like the game in the first place, and playing with strangers made it worse. Steve insisted they come.
“Just for a little while, Honey. An office party. To thank Ward for thinking of me.”
After the dry misery of being laid off, mindless warehouse jobs, fast food, and any part time he could find, this job, offered by an old college classmate sounded like salvation. Dulcie welcomed any signs of Steve digging out of that hole. But these people! She stifled a shudder.
Red headed Ward Keller, tombstone white teeth in a Roosevelt smile, chomped the cigar trapped in his rubbery mouth. He seemed to relish flexing his huge arms over his broad chest. His wife Peggy curled like a cat in her chair, black cap of curls studded with red highlights. Her languid smile ebbed and flowed with Steve’s replies to Ward’s mindless jokes about women, politics and money.
“You’ve sure changed since college, Ward.” Steve drew seven tiles from the bag. “I remember your have terrible health problems. Asthma the main one, wasn’t it?”
Ward laughed. “Not since I met Peggy. She cures all my ills and chills.” Peggy smiled indulgently, dragging her nails along his arm.
“As long as you give me what I want, darling,” Peggy purred. “Your turn to draw, Dulcie.” She smiled, the glint of the lamplight making her teeth sharp and pointed.
“Sure.” Dulcie rubbed her thumb on the underside of her wooden ring. It felt warm and smooth, like the rowan branch it came from. Holding her breath, she extended her hand into the bag.
The leather clung to her fingers but as the curved surface of the ring touched the bag, it retreated. The cool tiles clicked between her fingers like bones, skittering away from her hand. Dulcie managed to scoop up five, then two more slipped out, face down.
“I go first.” Ward slapped out a five letter word in the center of the board. “Claim.”
Peggy smiled tolerantly at her husband. “Such melodrama.” She looked across the table to Dulcie. “So you’ve been with the library for several years then.”
“And she just got a promotion. Dulcie handles all the cataloguing, getting books into the computer network.” Steve’s eyes shined with pride at his wife.
“Sound’s like you got a bright girl there, old man. Come on Peg, your turn,” Ward boomed.
“Slay, on your Claim, Darling.” Peggy and Ward exchanged glittering smiles. Dulcie stifled a shudder. Everything they said seemed to have more than one meaning. She glanced at Steve but he was studying his tiles. Peggy winked at Ward, the barest tip of a pale tongue licking the corner of her mouth.
“Disclaimer,” Steve said, laying out the word. “19 points. Right?”
“Yes, sir.” Ward said, dutifully writing down the score.
Dulcie rubbed her ring. Her finger tingled, hand muscles throbbing. The silver chain around her neck lay quiet, the bell pendent silent. She frowned at the small lettered squares before her. The markings quivered in the lamp light. She picked up a tile. It brushed the rowan ring. Instantly, the letters stilled.
She held her breath, pretending to rearrange her tiles. Touching each white square to her ring, a word emerged. There was more at stake here than a simple game.
“Deny.” She smiled in relief at Steve. He grinned and Dulcie’s heart flowed with love and cold resolve. Whatever these two people wanted, they weren’t going to get it at Steve’s expense.
“Anyone care for snacks?” Peggy asked, rose to her feet.
“Sounds good. I bet Steve here could use some goodies.” Ward stretched his hand toward Steve like a blessing.
“I’ll help.” Dulcie bounced up and headed into the kitchen ahead of Peggy.
Peggy shook her head. “There’s no need.”
“We can get back to the game quicker this way.” Dulcie ignored Peggy’s brief frown. The small kitchen, old like the rest of the house, gleamed. The floor, glossy black, contrasted to the white of everything else. She put a hand on a cabinet door. The knob felt oddly slick. “Glasses?”
Peggy rearranged her black brows. “Yes, on the right. I’ll get the wine.”
“Oh, Steve can’t take wine. Allergies. I’ll fix him some water.” Anything they ate or drank in this house would have to be watched. She ran water from the tap, sniffing for strange aromas. Nothing.
“Allergies? What a shame. I couldn’t help but notice your ring. Family heirloom?”
Dulcie looked down at the swirling design. Protective, alive on her finger, the swirls of the endless knot looping and turning around and around. “Yes, from my father’s people, the Pellings.”
Peggy’s languid eyes blinked. “Pellings.” Her mouth twisted then smoothed. “How interesting. You know your family history?” Her cat like smile tilted. The green eyes narrowed.
“A little. I know my dad’s people were from Ireland. You interested in genealogy?”
Peggy answered with a throaty chuckle. “Oh my, no. All that I am now comes from those who gave me life.” Her pink mouth smiled at Dulcie, eyes half closed.
“And who gave you life?” The words were out of Dulcie’s mouth before she realized it.
Peggy lifted an eyebrow. “Those who went before. I could ask you the same.”
“Ladies?” Ward’s bellow sounded from the living room. “Where’s the refreshments? You’re holding up the game.”
“Coming, darling.” Peggy took a tray of sandwiches from the counter top. Dulcie picked up the drinks, mind working furiously. There was old magic here, but she could not be sure of what kind.
“Dulcie tells me she’s a Pelling.” Peggy’s lips curled around the words. “They’re rumored to be descended of fairies, you know. Sorry to hear about your allergies, Steve.”
Ward raised his eyebrows. “Oh.” He frowned.
Steve looked puzzled but before he could speak, Dulcie handed him his glass. “Here, Sweetheart. The water is very cold, right out of the tap.” She kept her tone light. “Now, who’s turn?”
“Keep,” Ward said firmly, eyes on Steve.
Peggy studied her tiles for a moment then laid out a word. “Kill.” She brushed a finger to her lips, watching Dulcie.