Leila awoke from her deep slumber and stretched spastically, groaning at the effort it took to move. The sore muscles in her shoulders shouted obscenities to her brain in an attempt to make said movements stop. She was not fully awake yet and if it wouldn’t have been for the sun shining right in her face as it glinted off her mirror, she probably would’ve fallen asleep once more. Blinking at the bright sunlight, she rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and turned her head to squint at the bedside clock that read 9:15 a.m.
“No. It’s too early for a Saturday,” she mumbled, trying to get comfortable enough to pass out again, having just gone to bed shortly after sunrise.
Her phone beeping brought her screaming back to reality as she tried not think about the strange events she had fled from. Grunting in frustration at the annoying beeping sound, she leaned over to get her phone off of the night stand, but was sorely disappointed to discover that her phone was across the room in her purse still. In order to make the noise stop she had to get out of bed and walk to her dresser. By that time, she would be awake and there would be no hope of falling back asleep after that. Rubbing her face in an effort to motivate herself to move, she sighed and sat up, yawning, still exhausted despite being able to catch some sleep. Standing up took a stupendous amount of her energy. Her legs felt heavy and her movements were sluggish as she ambled to the dresser at a snail’s pace.
“Oh geez,” she croaked, her throat dry and scratchy from what had happened the night before.
She shook her head to try not to think about that, still mostly convinced it was her overactive imagination at work once more. Her phone read that she had 3 missed calls, 2 voicemails and 6 text messages. Most of the calls and texts were from Elaine, but one was from her boss. She really needed to pay better attention to her phone. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, Leila decided to call Elaine first, suspecting that if she called Ms. Allen first, that she would be asked to go into work and would be too pissed off to talk to her best friend. Elaine answered on the second ring.
“What the hell, Leila? Where have you been? Are you okay? I’ve been calling all morning!” Elaine was frazzled and angry which gave Leila a twinge of annoyance.
“I must’ve had my phone on silent, sorry. You worry too much. I’m fine,” she lied about the last part, the words leaving a nasty taste in her mouth as they rolled off her tongue.
She didn’t want to have to explain something so unbelievable to Elaine over the phone, especially since she had not yet accepted the fact that the events had actually occurred.
Elaine gave a relieved sigh, “Well someone has to worry about you, Leila. You had me worried sick! Don’t ever do that to me again,” she lectured.
“Yes mother,” Leila said, grinning and rolling her eyes, “Thank you for caring so much.”
Elaine sighed, “Of course. You’d do the same in my situation.”
“You know it. So what’s up?”
“I’m good. How was your date?”
“Fine. How’s the coffee shop?”
“Haha nice try, I want all the juicy details though. Besides, you know there’s never anything going on here.”
“So nothing in the modeling front either then?” Leila dodged, chewing her nails nervously.
“I’m starting to think that I should completely give up on this whole modeling thing and maybe go back to school to be a fitness instructor like I used to talked about. That was always my backup plan, you know?” Elaine rambled on, effectively distracted for the time being.
“You totally should! You’d be really great at that. At like, motivating people and stuff.”
“Wait! How do you keep doing that? I want to know about your date. Stop stalling and spill!”
Leila grimaced, “Sorry, Elaine. Maybe later. I gotta call my boss back. Talk to you later, ’kay?”
Leila hung up quickly before Elaine could get a word in edgewise and called her boss reluctantly. One down, one to go.
“Leila, darling, thank you so much for calling me back,” the words sounded sickly sweet, but her tone conveyed her agitation quite clearly, “I know it’s a Saturday, but I was hoping that you would be a doll and come into work for a few hours to help me with some filing and such.”
“No ma’am. That won’t be a problem.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate your dedication to the company. I’ll see you at noon,” Victoria was curt and hung up without so much as a goodbye.
“Fuckity fuck fuck FUCK!”
Regaining her composure, she breathed in deeply and exhaled her disappointment, wondering if this is how Elaine must’ve felt just moments before. Leila had planned a whole day of drowning her sorrows by herself in a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream while watching cliche romance movies and moping in her pajamas. Now that was all shot to hell. Glancing at her clock, she realized she had just enough time to go see the fortune teller before she had to go to work. Maybe something positive would come from the day that had started going downhill way too early. She quickly got dressed, pulling her hair up into a messy bun and throwing on a black paisley skirt and a white, tucked in blouse.
She brushed her teeth quickly, throwing a banana and a granola bar into her purse before stumbling into the hallway, putting her black ballet flats on while trying to rush out the door. As she raced out of the hall and down the stairs, she almost smacked her elderly neighbor, with the door as it swung outwards.
“So sorry, Betty!” she called behind her as she slowed her pace, panting the rest of the way to her car.
The old woman just smiled and waved, seemingly unaware of the fact the she had almost been flattened by the massive wooden door. Leila hit the key fob on her key ring to unlock her door and flung her bag into the passenger seat before sitting down to start the car. The radio blasted the newest hit, from some pop princess she had never even heard of, through it’s speakers, drowning out all immediate thoughts from her head. She bobbed her head in time to the music while trying to cram her meager breakfast into her mouth and keep herself from swaying into oncoming traffic. Suddenly she smacked the steering wheel, groaning in her stupidity.
“Shit! I forgot my drink.”
Leila stopped at the gas station quickly for a bottle of water, still in a hurry to get to the bookstore to see the old mystic woman. She made it there in record time by a quarter till 11, parking her car around the side and peeking out her window to make sure it was open. Seeing that it was, Leila turned her car off and scrambled out. Holding her breath she pushed the door open expectantly, hoping to find the store owner in a talkative mood. Last time Leila had seen her, she was pushed out the door along with Nikoli, with no explanation whatsoever. This time she would demand answers!
“Hello?” Leila called out unnecessarily, as the bell that chimed above the door had already announced her presence.
“You came back,” came a gruff voiced to the right of the door.
“Yes...uh ma’am...I did. I need answers,” Leila realized she didn’t know the woman’s name.
“You can call me Sharon.”
“I’m Leila. I don’t think I had the chance to introduce myself the other night. Sorry about that.”
Sharon nodded and puffed on her pipe, the billowing smoke pouring out of her mouth and nose as she exhaled.
“It was to be expected,” said the old woman, causing Leila to press her lips together as she waited for her to say more.
“So, I was wondering if you could help me with something.”
“I cannot answer your questions right now,” she coughed out, her voice sounding gravelly.
“But please, I need your help. There’s so much that’s happened and I-”
“I wasn’t finished,” she interjected, holding up her hand, “Come back tonight at 8 o’clock, before I close. I have customers and cannot give you the information you seek while I am open.”
“Oh. Sorry. Alright, I can do that.”
“You too. Thanks.”
Once again, Leila left the store feeling more puzzled than when she had gone in.
Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she grunted as Nikoli’s name came up near the message icon, indicating a text.
“Leila, please let me explain. There are things you do not know.”
“No,” she said to herself, deleting the text with a swipe of her finger, “I can’t deal with this today.”