The Serpent: Part 1

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Chapter 5

June 25, 2012

10:22 A.M.

“Smile girls!” the photographer shouted.

Victoria and Madelyn gave their best cheese smiles as the photographer flashed the camera for the seventh or eighth time. Sam’s face was getting really tired of forming phony smiles.

“How many more of these are we gonna’ do?” Sam asked irritably as the photographer looked at the photo.

“As many as it takes, Sam,” the photographer said. “Don’t you want your best smile on the front cover?”

People are gonna’ find a way to criticize even if I give my best smile ever, Sam thought.

“Alright girls!” the photographer shouted. “Now a silly one!”

Victoria and Madelyn both made the goofiest faces they could possibly make. Because the girls loved pictures so much, they clearly were having a great time. Sam, on the other hand, was so tired of taking pictures that his “goofy smile” felt extremely forced. Then again, all of his other pictures felt extremely forced. Sam could practically see how all the internet comments would turn out.

Victoria and Madelyn began to hop on Sam’s lap. Sam couldn’t help but form a mild grin.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Victoria excitingly shouted as she hopped. “Did I do good? Did I do good?”

“Did I do good?!” Madelyn shouted.

“Girls, you’re doing wonderful,” Sam said. “I’m so proud of y’all.”

“Thank you, Daddy,” Victoria said.

“Can we have ice cream when we’re done?” Madelyn asked.

Sam rolled his eyes.

“Yes, y’all can have as much ice cream as you want,” he said. “But after we’re done.”

“YAY!!” the girls both cried out, bouncing on Sam’s lap crazily.

Yeah, we’re definitely having salad tonight, Sam thought.

“Okay girls,” the photographer said. “Now give Daddy a kiss!”

Sam leaned down a bit so that Victoria and Madelyn could both kiss him on his cheeks. For the first time since the photoshoot began, Sam actually formed a genuine smile.

“Okay, great!” the photographer shouted after flashing the camera about four times. “Just a few more!”

Wonderful, Sam thought as his smile faded.

At that moment, the doorbell rang. Sam flinched.

“Gah!! Interruptions!” the photographer shouted, irritably. “Every single time!”

“Be right back,” Sam said, carefully lifting Victoria and Madelyn off his lap and onto the floor. He walked out of the room and headed downstairs. He could hear the photographer’s grumbling all the way from the bottom of the stairs.

Sam walked up to the front door and opened it up to see a very familiar, yet unexpected face.

“Hi Sam.”

Sam was full of so much surprise and shock that it took him nearly a minute to respond. Even then, he was almost completely lost for words.

“He…He…Heather?”

“It sure has been a while, hasn’t it?”

Heather hardly looked any different than the last time that Sam had seen her. Her wavy blonde hair looked exactly the same, she had the same exact purse and black shoes, and she looked as if she hadn’t aged at all in nearly five years. Heather’s only noticeable difference was that her glasses were now red instead of black. Even then, Sam was completely baffled by how little she had changed.

“How…how long…how long have you been back in town?” Sam asked.

“I actually just arrived a few hours ago,” Heather replied. “Man, what an awful flight. A whole bunch of college kids were sitting right behind me. The things those kids talk about, I swear…”

“Did…did you come down to visit?”

“No, I’m actually back for good. At least for now. There’s really nothing left for me in New York.”

“What about the academy?”

“It didn’t work out. Long story. Let’s just say other priorities got in the way.”

“Don’t you still wanna’ be an artist?”

“I’d still like to. Maybe another opportunity will open up for me someday. For now, though, I’m staying here in L.A. I need to figure out what I’m gonna’ do in order to pay the bills. Boy, these next couple of days are gonna’ be a headache.”

“Hmmm. Well…well I hope everything turns out okay.”

“But I’d thought I just quickly stop by and say hi. Just to see how you’re doing.”

“Oh, okay. Do…do you wanna’ come inside?”

“Come inside?”

“Just for a little bit?”

There was a brief pause.

“Ummm…sure,” Heather said. “I’m not really in a hurry to get anywhere right now. Why not?”

Sam felt a smile form on his face.

Heather walked inside and looked around the house for a moment. Sam closed the door and walked over to her. He couldn’t help but tremble a little.

“How did you get my gate code, by the way?” Sam asked.

“Oh, Alan gave it to me,” Heather replied. “We both figured you wouldn’t consider me an intruder.”

“Oh. How did you get ahold of Alan?”

“Well, he still lives in the same place. And he has the exact same phone number. He was pretty happy to talk to me again.”

“Oh, okay.”

“I love your new house.”

Sam snickered. “Not really a new house. I’ve been living here for about seven years.”

“Well, it’s new to me.”

“I guess so.”

“It really is a nice house. Though, you could decorate the walls a little bit better than that.”

“What, you don’t you think my Lovecraft posters are cool?”

“Of course they are. But you could also go for something a little more colorful and family-friendly. Maybe you can add a little ‘pink, pink, and more pink’ to the walls.”

Heather winked at Sam.

Sam rolled his eyes. “I’m sure my daughters would love that. Oh, speaking of which.”

Victoria and Madelyn both skipped down the stairs and then began to spin and twirl around the room. Heather’s face completely lit up.

“Oh, they’re so beautiful!” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” Sam said, chuckling.

Victoria and Madelyn danced around the room for a little longer and then raced over to Sam and wrapped their arms around him. Sam grinned and patted the girls’ backs.

“Hi girls,” Heather said, waving.

Victoria and Madelyn turned around and stared at Heather for a moment. A very awkward expression suddenly formed on their faces. It seemed to be a mixture of shyness and fear.

“This is Heather, girls,” Sam said, stroking Victoria and Madelyn’s hair. “She’s Daddy’s old friend. Say hi.”

“Hi,” Victoria and Madelyn said very quietly. They both clutched Sam’s arms tightly.

“Hi girls,” Heather said. “I love your dresses.”

“Say thank you, girls,” Sam said.

“Thank you,” the girls said very quietly.

Sam chuckled. “They’re very shy around people they don’t know. Or, at least adults they don’t know.”

“I can see,” Heather said, giggling. “They’re four and a half now, right?”

“Yep, four and a half. Can’t believe they’ve already been in my life for that long.”

“I know, right? I still have that picture of you holding them when they were really tiny!”

“Those old People photos? Yep, I remember those. I didn’t even wanna’ do that photo shoot, but People just wouldn’t stop bugging me. Ughh…”

“Well, the picture is still really adorable.”

“Yeah, I guess so. And speaking of People, I’m actually doing another photo shoot with them right now. Heh, what a coincidence. That’s actually why we’re all dressed up right now. Have to look our finest.”

Wish I actually felt my finest, Sam thought, trying his hardest not to lose his smile.

“That’s wonderful!” Heather said. “I can’t wait to see the pictures!”

Sam merely shrugged.

“Hey, there’s something I wanted to ask you,” Heather said.

“What’s that?”

There was a very long pause. Sam’s heart began to beat rapidly.

“How are you…are you…is everything…” Heather stammered.

“What?” Sam asked.

“I’m just wondering if…you…”

Suddenly there was a sound of footsteps coming from upstairs. Sam and Heather both turned around. Sam couldn’t help but groan out loud.

“Are we gonna’ finish this or what?” the photographer asked, bitterly.

“Can you give me just a few minutes?” Sam asked. “My friend just came over. I haven’t seen her in over-”

“We’re on a very short time limit, Sam! Let’s finish this already!”

Sam groaned again much louder.

“I guess I better get going,” Heather said, walking towards the door.

“No wait, Heather!” Sam shouted. “You don’t have to-”

“Well, if you have that photo shoot right now, I don’t wanna’ be getting in the way.”

“It’s just a freaking magazine! How’s that more important than finally getting to see a friend after a really, really long time? Come on, you can stay a little-”

“Sam, I really don’t wanna’ cause any trouble. I only came by to say hi. Maybe we can see each other again some other time.”

“Well…do you…do you wanna’ get some lunch later?”

“What?”

“Do you wanna’ go get some lunch together? After this is over. I…I don’t think I have anything going on for the rest of the day.”

There was another silence. The photographer grunting was the only sound that was heard.

“I…I guess that’s fine,” Heather said. “But where?”

“How about Olive Garden? You still love Olive Garden right?”

“I sure do. How can I stop loving Olive Garden?”

“Great! Then Olive Garden then? Maybe around eleven or twelve?”

“Umm…sure. I can do that.”

“Great! I’ll call you as soon as I’m done here!”

“Okay.”

A smile formed on Heather’s face. Sam couldn’t help but smile as well.

“Come on, Sam!” the photographer shouted.

“I’ll see you later, Sam,” Heather said, walking to the front door. “Or, I guess I’ll see you in a little bit.”

“Right,” Sam said. “I’ll see you Heather.”

Heather than waved goodbye to Sam and the girls and then walked out the front door. Sam was about to hold Victoria and Madelyn’s hands and walk upstairs, but the girls suddenly held their arms up towards him.

“Carry us!” Victoria and Madelyn both begged. “Carry us!”

Sam sighed and lifted both the girls up. He couldn’t help but constantly look back at the door as he walked up the stairs.

Don’t get your hopes up, Sam thought. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s probably not gonna’ happen. It’s never gonna’ happen. Just forget about it. Just forget about it.

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