Their bed was cold when he woke, blearily looking at the clock. 4:08 A.M.
His wife was sitting bundled in a blanket in front of the patio door, gazing out at the snow. A mug of tea sat on the floor beside her, still faintly steaming. He came up and sat behind her. She leaned back so she was nestled between his legs and against his chest.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he murmured.
“I just wanted to watch the snow,” she whispered. “It’s beautiful.”
She smiled softly and nestled further into him, and they stayed that way until dawn.
He helped her carefully onto the dock, holding her waist to steady her as she stepped out of the canoe. The look on her face was like a storm cloud, dark and ready to burst. The corners of his mouth twitched.
She took a few steps and deliberately wrung out her shirt and hair, not saying a word. He took that opportunity to appreciate the glimpse of her bare stomach and the way her clothes clung to all her curves.
“Well, you did say you would probably tip us over.”
She glared and stomped her foot. “You pushed me in!”
Hello Readers! I’m back again. Sorry for my absence! I hope no one has been wasting away waiting for an update.
I’ve decided to return to writing Friday Fictioneers as individual little stories (keep an eye out for a new story soon!). But for those of you still interested in Nick and Emmeline’s story, I will try to keep up with it with its own little posts here and there. To prove it, here is a little update after our last adventure with the estranged couple, which can be read here.
Constantine is really shaking up Emmeline’s world, it seems.
The Web We Weave
Emmeline’s silent shock and look of fear vanished the instant the policeman turned away to keep other bystanders from advancing too close. Nick winced at the sound of breaking glass behind them as one of the windows in the apartment building burst and half a dozen firemen rushed forward, yelling as they attacked the flames. But Emmeline didn’t even turn around.
Nick studied her, tension radiating from every angle and in every line of her face. She was frowning and worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. He wanted to say something, but despite the multitude of questions that had plagued him since her declaration – “I’m a spy, Nicholas” – he could find nothing to say. Instead he just stood there on the sidewalk, watching her think.
At last she seemed to come to a decision. She released her bottom lip and her whole face relaxed into an emotionless calm. It was a look unlike any other he had seen on her lovely face, and it terrified him. “Em?” he said at last, still having nothing else to say.
She turned her cool gaze onto him. “I’ve been compromised,” she said in a tone of voice that matched her expressionless face. This terrified him even more. He didn’t know this cold, detached woman. This woman, he realized, he could easily believe to be a spy. “I need to return to my apartment,” she continued, seemingly oblivious to his inner turmoil.
“But Constantine already found you there!” said Nick with alarm. He had not forgotten her injury either, and anxiously looked to the place where he knew she was still heavily bandaged. “And you’re still hurt!”
Proving his point, a grimace of pain broke through her calm face. She quickly masked it again, but there was no hiding it from Nick. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Constantine proved his point. He can get to me. He’s isolated me. Now I just have to find out what he wants.”
“Well you’re not going alone,” Nick said firmly.
Emmeline looked at him in surprise, and for a brief moment he imagined her eyes softened when looking at him. He stepped up next to her and decidedly linked her arm through his. She leaned on him gratefully, and they set off back down the sidewalk at a much slower pace than they had come, looking for all the world like any other couple out for a walk.
They said nothing the entire way back to her apartment building. A brief wave of the hand was all they spared when Mary Ann loudly hallooed them from across the lobby before stepping into the elevator. Inside, ritzy jazz music playing over the speakers was jarring in Nick’s ears, but Emmeline appeared not to notice it. She stepped instantly forward the moment the doors opened onto her floor and made for her door.
Nick hastily moved up beside her to help her inside, but she entered before he could do anything.
The flowers were gone.
Nick’s eyes widened upon seeing the spotless apartment, not a single trace of the dozens of bouquets that had filled it earlier, not even a faint smell in the air. He glanced at Emmeline, who showed not the slightest surprise at the missing flowers. She grimaced again and limped forward towards the table. Instantly Nick was there to pull out a chair.
“For God’s sake, Em, sit down and let me help you.” He helped her gently into the seat.
“Don’t swear,” Emmeline scolded, suddenly sounding like her old self. It was such a welcome change that Nick smiled.
“I’m sorry, Emmeline.”
Suddenly recollecting the prescription he had picked up earlier, he pulled the crumpled bag out of his pocket. “Here,” he said, breaking the seal and twisting off the cap. “Take some for your pain. And don’t tell me it’s not bad, because I can see that it is. I’ll get some water.”
Emmeline said nothing. Obediently she swallowed the two pills, gulped down with a glass of water.
Constantine’s messages were still on the table. With a grim air, she leaned over and picked them up and immediately noticed a new one tucked into the middle of the pile.
Nick was hovering anxiously at her elbow. There would be no way to read it without him seeing. “Nicholas?” she said.
He was instantly attentive.”Yes?”
“Could you…” she trailed off for a moment, unsure what request to make. “Could you go into my room and get my tan sweater? I’ve got a chill. All this excitement hasn’t been good for me, I think.” She blushed, as though she were embarrassed to send him into her bedroom. Nick said nothing, just moved towards the hall to her room. Inside, Emmeline cringed at the blatant lie and wondered at his quiet compliance – the day had been nothing but a whirlwind of strange events and her behavior, she knew, had been completely out of character.
The moment he disappeared in to her bedroom, Emmeline pulled out the new message. It was in a pale blue envelope. Without hesitating, she broke the seal and pulled out the card inside. It was a thick heavy paper. Her heart leapt to her throat despite her efforts to remain calm.
The only thing written on the card was an address, and below that the words, “When you’re ready, my dear.”
Hello my dear, sweet, and patient Readers! I apologize for not posting anything for a terrible long stretch of weeks, especially after leaving you with that last cliffhanger (Who is Constantine?! What’s up with all those flowers? What is going on in Emmeline’s life and why is it suddenly so dangerous? Will Nick stick around?) but life has been crazy and busy and brilliant, and all my writing time had to be momentarily pushed to the side. But hopefully now I will get back into a regular posting schedule, even though I am sure life will not stop being busy and crazy.
First, some news! I am engaged! (that’s the brilliant part). I am overwhelmingly happy and so excited to start this new part of my life with my fiancé, Aaron!
And with that happy news imparted, let us continue on to Friday Fictioneers (at long last). Thank you very much to Rochelle for faithfully providing us bloggers with a prompt week after week all year long, and this week thank you to Kelvin M. Knight for providing the photo!
Do You Like Bagels?
Emmeline immediately spun around and winced, clutching her side as she hobbled away from her apartment.
“Woah! Where are you going?” Nick let the door close and ran after her, reaching out to steady her. “Em, slow down. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
She stopped. “Do you like bagels?” she said a bit wildly. “I like bagels. I’m hungry. Let’s go to breakfast.”
Nick looked bewildered. “Not until you tell me what’s going on,” he insisted. “Em, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Constantine,” she said, a quaver in her voice. “He’s found me, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to kill me.”
Happy Friday Readers! I am sorry for missing the last couple weeks and leaving you hanging, but things got a little crazy. Exciting things are happening behind the scenes in Nick and Emmeline’s story however, so I’ll give you a sneak peek in this week’s Friday Fictioneers. I was so excited to see this prompt, because it fits just perfectly with what I envisioned happening next!
Thanks as always to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for providing the prompt, and to Dale Rogerson for this week’s photo!
A Delicate Arrangement
“Are you with me?” The words echoed in Nick’s head as he helped Emmeline to her apartment door. She was still pale but a grim determination had replaced the fear on her face. She paused, her keys stuck in the lock.
“Do you need help?” Nick reached forward to turn the key but Emmeline snatched at his hand.
“No! We have to be careful.”
“Em, you’re not making any sense. What are you worried about?” He shook off her hand and opened the door.
Emmeline braced herself, then gasped. Her entire apartment was filled with flowers.
Hello, dear Readers! Is it really Friday already? This week has flown by! Time again for Friday Fictioneers, picking up Nick and Emmeline’s story where we left off last week with mysterious messages, someone named Constantine, and chatty receptionists.