Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - A House Divided by Sydell Voeller

A House Divided, an inspirational contemporary romance, is available for download on Amazon Kindle:

This book is published by Books We Love Ltd.

Chapter One

“There’s got to be a mistake!” Rebecca Lorenzo exclaimed to the portly real estate agent who stared across the counter at her through wire-framed glasses. The sound of a printer mingled with their conversation.

“As I said, ma’am, the terms are all here in black and white, just as the owner specified. He made them precisely clear.” He stuck out his hand. “Oh, by the way, I’m Norm McIntosh.”

“Good to meet you, Mr. McIntosh. I’m Rebecca Lorenzo.” She turned to the pixie-like child who stood close by her side. “This is my daughter, Wendy.” Rebecca inhaled deeply. If the man thought this interruption—be it good etiquette or not—might distract her, he was wrong. “Mr. McIntosh,” she stated evenly, “I clearly remember the agent from this office that I spoke with on the phone, er . . . Nan Fetterman . . . telling me the two-bedroom apartment above the old Glasgow place was available on a six month lease with an option to buy the entire house. Wendy and I are counting on moving in today. We’ve driven here all the way from L.A.”

Norm McIntosh frowned as he turned his gaze back to the computer monitor. “Did you sign any papers?”

“Uh . . . no.” Rebecca’s face flushed. She suddenly felt more like the unsophisticated small town girl she’d once been during the eighteen years she’d grown up here in Freemont, Oregon—not the widow of a well-known movie star from Hollywood. “Actually, the other agent offered to fax a copy of the agreement to me, but I told her not to bother. I figured we could work out the details after we arrived in town.” Truth was, she’d been so sure of herself, she’d already given the moving van driver the address of the Glasgow place and sent him on his way.

“The house is indeed available,” the agent continued, “but for three months only. I’m afraid Nan must have inadvertently misinformed you. Perhaps she was looking at the file for one of the owner’s other rentals instead. He has a couple elsewhere in the area. On her behalf, I apologize.”

Rebecca’s heart sank. Purchasing the house had been her primary reason for coming here. Not only would she have the satisfaction of living in the very home that lay claim to her heart and soul, but she could earn the much-needed sum of money that Galaxy Productions had offered.

Outside the low-ceilinged office at Freemont Properties, an early summer rain slashed against the front picture windows with a rat-a-tat-tat sound. The office door swooshed open, followed by a blast of cool air as a middle-aged couple—a bird-like blonde woman and a tall, balding man—hurried inside.

Rebecca shuddered against the sudden chill.

“Be with you folks in just a sec,” Norm McIntosh tossed over his shoulder, and then turned back to Rebecca. “Now where were we again, ma’am?”

“We were discussing the Glasgow place on Marine View Drive. My buying . . . er leasing it.” She tried to ignore the yawning ache in her heart as an image of the stately two-storied Victorian house took hold in her mind. Yes, she could still see it standing against a backdrop of oak and maple with its white borders, gingerbread, and a stately turret. And now she was finally back again. Back where she would no longer have to worry about crime and stalking and twisted minds.

“That’s the big old house where the movie Winter Rose was made,” eight-year-old Wendy chimed in. “It’s also the place where my mama and papa got married a long, long time ago. You knew him, didn’t you? He used to be a famous movie star!”

Rebecca patted her daughter’s shoulder. “Wendy, sweetie, it’s not polite to interrupt.” She glanced back at the couple, hoping they hadn’t overheard. Ever since she’d married August Lorenzo, and especially after he died a year ago, she’d struggled to maintain as low a profile as possible for her daughter and herself. Life in the public eye had always unnerved her. And while every fiber of her being yearned to be with August once again, at least she and Wendy could find peace and healing here in her small hometown.

“Are you talking about August Lorenzo and the movie that was filmed in Freemont?” The woman’s flashing blue eyes mirrored her enthusiasm.

“Uh, yes,” Rebecca answered, pasting on a smile as she was forced to acknowledge still another one of August’s many admirers.

“Well, I’ll be!” the woman shrilled. “That’s just why we stopped by! To ask directions how to find it.” She turned to the man who’d casually draped his arm across her shoulder. “Why, Richard and I saw it six years ago when we were first engaged, didn’t we darling? We’ve heard people still stop by that grand old place and sometimes even get a tour of it. We were just driving through town and thought we’d check it out . . .”

The agent looked at the couple through tired gray eyes. “Yes, folks, that’s true. The woman who lived in the apartment above the house often obliged the public that way, but now that she’s moved out, it’s up to the owner.” He cleared his throat. “Hopefully, you’ve caught him on one of his more agreeable days.”

“So how do we go about finding him?” the blonde asked, while Wendy looked on with wide-eyed fascination.

“If you don’t mind holding on for just another moment while I finish here,” he answered, “I’ll phone him and see if he’s home.”

Rebecca struggled to rein in her growing impatience. True, she’d been fully aware that tourists still flocked to the old Glasgow place in droves, just as they’d done soon after the filming. Winter Rose was often said to have put Freemont, Oregon on the map. And the sequel-in-the-works would only help keep it there. But couldn’t the tourists hold off another week or so, closer to midway in June?

Norm McIntosh nodded towards the reception area off to one side and said, “Just make yourselves comfortable, folks. This shouldn’t take much longer.” Readjusting his glasses, he met Rebecca’s expectant gaze. “Shall I print out a copy of the rental agreement for you look it over, ma’am?”

“Yes . . . yes, please.”

She closed her eyes momentarily as the whirring sound of the printer resumed. What should she do? She certainly wasn’t interested in moving again in another three months. Right now was stressful enough, even with the help from the movers. Maybe her best answer was to go ahead and sign the papers, anyway. That would allow her to get her foot in the door, both figuratively and literally. It would also undoubtedly buy her some time to try to persuade the owner to change his mind.

“As I said, Simons also owns two other rentals,” the agent’s voice droned above the hum of the printer. “They’re out near the old mill pond on the far end of town. If it’s a lease-option you’re looking for, he’s offering that on both properties. Would you like someone to drive you over there and show you around?”

“No, thank you.” She shook her head. “I’ll take it. The Glasgow place, that is.”

“Oh, cool!” Wendy burst out. “I just knew we’d get to live there!”

Rebecca smiled down at her daughter. Yes, it was indeed the right decision, she resolved. For this short time, at least, she could relive the memories, the little bit of paradise where she and August had exchanged their marriage vows in the garden-like backyard that sunny day in May—a day when the world had been scented with the heady fragrance of lilac and heliotrope, and she’d been so young, and so much in love. Yes, it was a time she’d hold in her heart forever, the time August had pledged to spend the rest of his life with her.

A life that had ended all too abruptly.

From across the marble counter, the agent handed Rebecca the printed-out copy. “Take your time reading it. We don’t want any further misunderstandings, now do we?”

She tipped her chin, willing her voice to remain even. “I assure you, I will read every word. Ten times over, if necessary—even though, I do intend to sign it, no matter what.” And read every word, she did. This time, there’d be no surprises. No more slips in her typical savvy business-like approach.

Meanwhile, she was only vaguely aware of the agent punching in a number on his phone, and talking to someone on the other end of the line. Coming to the end of the document, she extracted a pen from her shoulder bag, scrawled her signature on the appropriate line, then handed it back.

“Mr. Simons plans to meet our visitors for a tour in about fifteen minutes or so,” he explained as he hung up the phone. “You might as well stick around, so you can get to know him, too. He’s not an easy one to figure out, mind you, so it’s better you understand that right up front.”

Pushing back her sudden uneasiness, she hurried on. “Thanks, but the movers are waiting, so I don’t have extra time. And as far as the house goes, I’m more than well acquainted with it.”

“Suit yourself then.” There was a thin smile on his lips as he handed her the keys.

Moments later, after Rebecca and her daughter climbed back inside her midnight blue Saturn, she started down the elm-lined streets towards the old Glasgow place, a four-mile drive across town. Already an exhausted Wendy had fallen asleep in the back seat of the car, and Rebecca found herself alone with her thoughts.

Her taut neck and shoulder muscles began to relax a little. At long last, she’d be there, she thought. Maybe offering to show the house as the previous tenant had done might give her a modicum of negotiating ammunition. The minor inconvenience would be more than worth the possible end result—if only the owner would agree to sell it to her. Living in the old house meant more to her than anyone could understand. The memories were so precious. So sustaining.

As she drove on, she remembered the winter after high school graduation, the winter she’d met August. Tears stung her eyes, blurring her vision. Yes, she needed to somehow get a grip, extract herself from the vicious claws of grief that had bound her this past year. She’d never dreamed she would lose him, at least not at the mere age of twenty-seven. Imagine . . . a widow before her third decade in life. And while August hadn’t left her penniless by any means, she had no choice but to manage frugally what money she did have.

She cruised past the community swimming pool, crossed the railroad tracks, and came to the long block of stately homes that marked the beginning of the historic district.

The gentle rhythm of the windshield wipers soothed her as she started up the hill. Here the grandest of the grand old Victorians stood, like stately sentinels overlooking the town. It was no small wonder Galaxy Productions had chosen this neighborhood as the scene for their shooting, she mused. In addition to Freemont’s abundance of historic homes, the town also presented the gray skies and driving rains that were all essentials to the story’s gothic theme and plot. The film had been so successful, it only made good sense the production crew had already hired a scriptwriter for the sequel. Ben Rardin, the location scout, had solicited Rebecca to secure the site again, offering to pay her $100,000. That would satisfy the tidy sum she’d need for the down payment, she figured—if only she could persuade the owner to sell the house.

Wendy stirred in the back seat. “Mama?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Are we there yet?

“No, but almost. Just go back to sleep. I’ll wake you when we arrive, after I’ve had a chance to talk with the man who’s driving the moving van.”

“Okay, Mama.” Rebecca glanced in her rearview mirror and saw her daughter stretch and yawn. Then, resting her head against the back of the seat, she closed her eyes and soon fell into a pattern of even, shallow breathing.

Rebecca came to the top of the hill and pulled over to a lookout site to better appreciate the view. She gazed west towards the jagged outline of the peninsula across from where the Pacific Ocean met the Columbia River. The rain had turned to a fine mist—sugar mist, as the locals called it. Nostalgia swamped her as she recalled that day in January when she’d been hired as an extra for the filming, the third day the production crew had come to town. Because she’d been working at the Chamber of Commerce—her first full-time job after graduation—she had known about the filming well in advance.

In a matter of weeks after she’d secured the part, Rebecca had fallen hopelessly hard for the sexy lead performer, ten years her senior. It had been love at first sight for August as well. Four months later in mid-May, they were wed. It wasn’t long before the filming was finished, Rebecca had packed up her belongings and bidden her parents and sister, Missey, a tearful good-bye. Then she followed her husband back to California to his own classic stucco home in Hollywood. And now . . . now all she had left of him were Wendy and her memories.

Rounding the final turn that led to the house, she pulled in behind the moving van that was parked alongside the curb. Minutes later, as she spoke with the driver through his open window, she spied a black Lexus parked on the opposite side of the street. Three people were piling out of it.

Looking back at the driver she said, “I’m sorry for taking so long. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly at the realtors’ as I’d hoped they would. Just give me a minute to unlock the front door to the apartment, and we’ll be all set.”

He scanned the house from one end to the other. “And where is it we’ll be unloading your stuff?”

“Upstairs. Follow the path that leads through the rose arbor on the south side. The entry is in the back—you can’t miss it.”

He glanced up at the sky. “Lucky thing it stopped raining, Mrs. Lorenzo. At least we won’t have to worry about tarping your stuff before we haul it all up there.”

“Yes, thank goodness for that,” she agreed with a nod. The sight of the three people drawing nearer pulled her attention away from the driver again. As they paused on the sidewalk next to the arborvitae hedge, she recognized the couple who’d asked for the tour. The third person, no doubt, had to be Mark Simons.

He glanced over at her, flashed her an unreadable grin, and waved.

Offering a perfunctory wave back, she flicked her gaze away. There’d be time for introductions, handshakes, and polite conversation later. But not now. It was already nearly five and she’d hoped to be reasonably settled no later than midnight. Besides, there was nothing more she would like right now than a hot bath, a few moments to soothe her frazzled nerves, and most of all, some quiet time with Wendy. Unfortunately, that might be a long time coming.

Fishing into her purse and drawing out her keys, she strode down the front walkway that led to the rose arbor. The blonde, her husband, and Mark Simons were ahead of her, ascending the stairway of the covered front porch where a flowering vine rambled up a weathered trellis. She caught a whiff of the flowers’ sweet fragrance. The cup-and-saucer-like blooms appeared a deep, rich color—Clematis, maybe.

Curious, she focused more intently on Mark Simons. He stood a little over six feet tall, she guessed, and carried himself with a commanding air of confidence. If he was as disagreeable as the property manager had insinuated, it certainly didn’t seem apparent now.

But first impressions could be deceiving, she was quick to remind herself.

* * *

Mark Simons unlocked the front door to the house, turned on the light switch in the foyer, and stepped aside, allowing his guests to enter first. “Come in, please. Make yourselves at home.”

As they did, he directed his gaze into the parlor off to the right, noting the elegant old sofa in rose-colored velvet with a highly polished mahogany finish. The ladies’ and gentleman’s chairs, in matching fabrics, were graced by a fern stand and lamp table. At the time he’d purchased the home, he’d also convinced the former owner to sell him the period furnishings. This, of course, provided even more interest to the visitors, since the furnishings had also been in place during the interior shots of the filming.

Yet thoughts of the house gave way to visions of his new tenant, the beautiful young blonde with her tall, willowy frame and fluid, regal stride. He’d sensed an aura of sadness about her, however, a vague feeling he couldn’t pin down.

“Oh, that must be the parlor where the wake in Winter Rose was filmed,” the woman enthused, snatching Mark back from his reverie. “That was one of my favorite scenes!” During the drive over from Freemont Properties, the couple had introduced themselves as Betty and Martin Stensilton.

“Yes, most memorable, I’m sure,” he said evenly.

Betty Stensilton fluttered one hand in the air as she continued, “My mind’s in such a fog today. Do you mind telling us your name again . . . er . . . Mister . . .?”


“Yes, of course! Mr. Simons.”

Mark offered her a polite smile. Frankly, he’d never seen the movie, so he had to admit, he could only share his visitors’ enthusiasm vicariously. “Would you like a guided tour or do you prefer to look around on your own?”

“We’ll just mosey around by ourselves,” the man answered. “I promise we won’t take much of your time.”

“No problem. I have a few details I need to take care of while I’m here, anyway.”

The couple wandered into the formal dining room, oohing and aahing over the crystal chandeliers, the royal blue floral wallpaper, and the massive oval mahogany dining table with the ball in claw feet.

Mark’s thoughts, however, were centered on the ringed water stains marring the burnt gold and cream ceiling motif. Please Lord, please let the rains hold off until fall. Last winter’s storms were terrible, and I don’t want to have to replace the roof, only in the end to tear the place down. He realized he needed to get his ducks in order, plan how he was going to write his proposal to Free Will Ministries in order to follow through with his plans for the property. But thoughts of the blonde kept intruding. Let’s see . . . Rebecca Lorenzo, wasn’t that the signature on the rental agreement McIntosh had faxed to him just a little while ago? And there was a child, too. Just the two of them . . .

Overhead, he heard footsteps . . . probably the little girl’s, judging by their quickness. Then came the shouts and heavier footfalls of the movers. They hurried down the outside stairwell, their voices fading as they crossed the front yard.

Mark wandered to the window that faced the street. Beneath the neon streetlight sat the van, its loading ramp still angled off the rear of the truck. A dog barked from somewhere in the distance. A car whizzed by. The headlights cut a fleeting swathe through the darkness, then were swallowed up in obscurity. For a fleeting moment, a pang of empathy for his new tenant and her daughter coursed through him. What on earth had prompted them to take the apartment for only three months? He’d been a landlord long enough now to realize that moving was typically a big-time hassle, especially when there were children involved. Maybe Rebecca was a schoolteacher, seeking a change of scenery for the summer. The Oregon coast was certainly a great place for that. Still, on second thought, hadn’t he sensed her quiet desperation only moments earlier? Surely her reason for coming here must be prompted by something more than just an extended summer vacation. Again, something stirred within him, something intangible, but powerful.

Lord, why has this lady got such a hold on me? he silently prayed. Especially when I don’t even know her . . .

* * *

“Mama! Mama! Come quick! Is this my new bedroom? Oh, it’s so, so pretty!”

Rebecca hurried up the stairs behind Wendy. This is more than just your new room, darling. This is the start of your new life. A new life where you’ll be safe and secure.

At the landing, she turned and spied Wendy disappearing through the first doorway to the right. Rebecca hurried after her.

“Oh, Mama! I’ve always wanted a room with a window seat like this one. And look! Look at the cool wallpaper with the stars, moon, and planets. It’s just like my friend Cindy’s room.”

Laughing, Rebecca joined her daughter inside the threshold where she was surveying the wallpaper beneath the dim overhead light fixture, her arms crossed over her chest. “Yes, this is perfect! I’m thrilled you like it.”

“And you’ll be in the bedroom right across the hall from me?” Wendy asked.

Rebecca laughed again, although it was a trifle disturbing to note her daughter’s recurring uneasiness. Ever since August had died, Wendy had been fearful of letting her get too far out of her reach. Rebecca hoped against all hope that the move, this new home, and new friends at school would help change that.

“Yes, sweetie. My room will be right across the hallway. Just like it was back in California.”

As Wendy raced over to the bay window, Rebecca inhaled deeply. The place smelled musty, but with a good airing, that would easily be remedied. Already she could imagine the tangy salt air wafting through the bedroom, causing the white Priscilla curtains to flutter. Oh, how clean and invigorating that would be—so unlike the smog-filled air back in L.A.

“And can we buy some really pretty blue cushions to put here in the window seat? Maybe we can even find some that will go with this cool wallpaper.” Wendy turned and looked at Rebecca. The girl’s doe-like eyes—so much like her father’s—were bright with anticipation.

“I don’t see why not. Actually, I think that’s a wonderful idea!”

“Just look at that big backyard down there,” Wendy said, twisting back towards the window. “And oh, something else, Mama. Can I get a puppy, too? There’s plenty of room down there for him to run.”

“I . . . I don’t know, sweetie. The man at the real estate office never said anything about whether the landlord will allow pets, and I didn’t think to ask.” Actually, her daughter had been begging for a dog long before August had died, but somehow they’d never gotten around to even looking for one.

“Will you please call up the owner and see what he says?”

Rebecca laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll see him around here sooner or later. There’ll be plenty of time then to ask him about a puppy.” She walked over to the window and, wrapping an arm around Wendy, followed her gaze across the backyard. It looked beautiful, just as she’d remembered it, with its sculptured beds of low-growing white flowers. She doubted whether Mark Simons would think much of a dog digging in the flowerbeds or tearing up patches of the manicured lawns. There was nothing to be gained now in pointing that out to Wendy, however, she decided.

“Wendy, just look at all the beautiful flowers,” she continued, hoping to divert her daughter’s attention from the dog. “Maybe later we should cut a bouquet for the dining room table.” White lilacs grew farther back and next to them dwarf milky white dogwoods. Perhaps the former tenant had planted the all-white flowers to be what Rebecca’s mother had always called “A Moonlight Garden.”

Already her easily distracted daughter had sprung up from the window seat and disappeared into the walk-in closet on the opposite side of the room, but Rebecca kept talking nonetheless. “And oh my, there are the caretaker’s quarters, too. Just seeing it brings back so many wonderful memories. The movie crew sometimes used it as a makeshift costume area.”

Tucked behind the gardens, the small building stood on the back edge of the property. All she could make out was a portion of the peak above the front door and one side of the shingled roof.

“I thought you said you used a costume trailer,” Wendy’s muffled voice sounded from inside the closet.

“We did. We used both, actually. But since the trailer had to stay parked on the front street, the caretaker’s building was usually handier.”

“Hey, look! I’ve even got built-in drawers back in here. This is so cool!” Obviously Wendy’s mind had raced on to more important things, like exploring every nook and cranny of her new bedroom.

Grinning, Rebecca turned from the window just as Wendy reemerged from the closet.

“Is there a mall in this town, Mama? I think we’re gonna need to go shopping pretty soon.”

“Yes, there’s a mall just up the highway, a good-sized one at that. As soon as we get the chance, we’ll go check it out.” She scanned one end of the room to the other, “And oh, while I’m thinking about it, we’ll need to find another twin bed for when your cousin Jodie sleeps over. There’s plenty of room in here for two beds, so it should work out just perfectly.”

“Boy, we’d better start saving our money, huh?”

“You got that right.” Dollar signs were already multiplying inside Rebecca’s mind.



Wendy’s mouth turned down at the corners, her expression pensive. “Please tell me again about the movie. I want to know everything.”

Rebecca closed her eyes. The memories were too poignant. She needed time . . . just a few hours, perhaps, to allow the reality to set in. The last time she’d been here in this grand old place, August had been close by her side. And now she was back again.

Without him.


Her eyes flew open. Giving her head a quick shake, she said, “I . . . I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lose track of what we were talking about.” She stroked her daughter’s bangs off her forehead, then motioned her back to the window seat. “Come on, sweetie, let’s sit down.”

As Wendy snuggled up close, Rebecca smiled. She had probably already told this story close to a million times, but it warmed her heart how Wendy never tired of it. “Well, let’s see. I guess I’ll start the same way I always do. The movie was about a beautiful lady who lived a long time ago in a grand old house, much like this one. That’s why the location shoot was here, of course. Anyway, the story happened in the dead of winter when the stormy season was at its height. The wind blew hard most every day. It rained a lot too. Sometimes the storms brought thunder and lightning.”

Wendy giggled. “Just like in a Halloween movie, huh?”

“Sort of. Except in some scenes, such as the one I was in, there was snow on the ground, which definitely made it more of a winter story.”

“And don’t forget about the woman, Mama.”

“Okay.” Rebecca squeezed Wendy’s shoulder. “The woman had a head of shiny black hair which nearly touched the small of her back, and her voice was more beautiful than a meadow lark. She was very famous and sang in one of the most elegant and prestigious opera houses in the region. Everyone would come from miles around to hear her. One of her admirers was a handsome sea captain—that was your daddy—who immediately fell in love with—”

“I love to hear about how you and Daddy were such famous movie stars!” a rapt Wendy cut in. “This is the best part.”

“Only Daddy was the star, sweetie, not me.” Rebecca tweaked Wendy’s cheek. “Daddy had been a famous actor long before Winter Rose was filmed. I was just a stand-in, a nobody, when he and I first met.”

“But that’s just not true.” Wendy turned and stared imploringly into Rebecca’s face. Her dark eyes glistened with what Rebecca feared might be the onset of tears. “You’ve always been a somebody, Mama—and most of all, you’ll always be the best somebody to me in the whole wide world!”

Rebecca hugged Wendy long and hard, struggling against tears. She hadn’t meant to sound so self-pitying.

“Wendy.” Her voice caught. “You . . . you and I . . . we’re gonna get along fine here. And just you wait. Before you know it, it’ll seem as if you’ve lived here your whole life.”

The sound of the movers as they lumbered up the stairs, gasping and panting, yanked her back to the present. With luck her several pieces of antique furniture had survived the trip and were still in good shape. If worse came to worst and her money began to run out more quickly than she expected, she might need to sell one or all of them.

“Well, enough of our silly reminiscing,” she said with a forced laugh, giving Wendy a playful swat on her bottom. “There’s work to do and plenty of it.”

“Yeah, and I want to start unpacking my clothes, so I can put them in my cool walk-in closet.”

Rebecca’s cell phone rang. The caller ID said it was Missey.

“Hey, sis, are you in town yet? You said you’d call the minute you arrived.”

“Sorry, I guess I got a bit distracted. And yes, we’re here. We’re in the process of moving into the old Glasgow place this very minute, just as I’d hoped, but things have gotten a bit complicated, I’m afraid. I’ll fill you in on the details later.”

“How about tomorrow afternoon? I’ll have the coffee pot on and a fresh batch of cookies on the table. And you tell Wendy that her cousin’s so excited to see her, she’s about bursting at the seams.”

“I’ll be sure to let her know. And you can bet that Wendy’s feeling the same.”

“Auntie Missey, hi!” Wendy called in a high-pitched voice from alongside her mother.

Missey’s answering laugh made Rebecca smile. “Hi back at you, kiddo! And oh by the way, the cookies I’m baking are your favorite. Chocolate—”

“Mrs. Lorenzo?” The velvety sound of a deep male voice followed by a rap on the half-opened door cut through their conversation.

“Gotta go, Missey!” Rebecca said in a rush. “Someone’s at the door.”

“Okay! Tomorrow then.”

“Uh-huh. See you later.”

“Mrs. Lorenzo?” This time, the rap was louder.

It must be Mark Simons, she thought. The voice didn’t match either of the two men from the moving company, so it had to be her landlord’s. Her emotions bounced between anticipation and near panic as she hurried to the door.

But oh why now? She dragged her hand through her disheveled hair and bit her lip. I’m just not prepared to face him yet—-in more ways than one.

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