Wildwood Creek | Chapter 16 of 37

Author: Lisa Wingate | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1673 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 11

ALLIE KIRKLAND
MAY, PRESENT DAY

I can’t believe it!” Kim moaned as we finished breakfast. “I finally meet a guy I really like . . . a guy who might be the one, and now I’m headed into a communications blackout in the middle of nowhere for months. It’s just not fair.”

Three days before the cast was to report for transportation to the set, Kim’s relationship drama and the stress at work were driving me to the brink of insanity. “Yes, but look on the bright side. You found a good home for your truck, you met a nice guy you can get back in touch with in the fall, we’re off on an adventure for the summer, and we have almost no living expenses for three whole months.”

What we had here was a case of serious role reversal. I was actually looking forward to moving to location, while Kim suddenly seemed to be dreading it. She’d been with the truck guy every night since the Craigslist deal. I had yet to even meet him. “Kim, if it’s really meant to be, then it’ll last through a few months apart.”

She hadn’t mentioned the docudrama or cowboys in days. I had a sickening feeling she was thinking of backing out. “After all, he’s known all along that you would be gone for the summer, right?”

“Well, of course. I told him when I was selling the truck.” Pausing, she sniffed a vase of red roses that had arrived over the weekend. She had the moony look of a girl in love.

“And he decided to like you anyway, right? So, when do I get to meet this guy? You know, I haven’t even given my approval yet.”

She rinsed a dishcloth and then started wiping the counter, her lips straightening into a somber line. “I don’t want you to yet. I’m scared he’ll . . . meet you and decide he likes you better. I need time to cement things, but the problem is, I don’t have time. I’m not going to be here.” She lifted her hands, slinging a fine spray of water across the kitchen.

“No, seriously . . . why are you really not letting me meet him?” With Kim being so secretive, I wondered if something weird was going on—like this guy, Jake, was twenty years older than her and she didn’t want me to know it, or he was one of her professors or something.

“I am serious.” She went back to work, scrubbing at a stain that had been on the counter since the day we moved in. “You’re just so . . . skinny and tall and pretty, Allie. Everywhere we go, guys look right past me to ogle you. And you don’t even care, which makes me want to choke you sometimes, even though you’re my best friend and I love you. Jake is . . . perfect. He’s a decent guy, he comes from a little town like I do, his daddy is a deacon in the Baptist church, and he is . . . okay, I’ll admit it . . . so good-looking. I just want to keep him to myself for a while, okay?”

Sometimes Kim’s way of thinking amazed me. “Okay. But you’re wrong about the other thing. You’re the one with all the trophies and tiaras. While you were winning all that stuff, I was walking down the hall with bad hair, braces, and my mouth practically wired shut while the mean girls pointed and made fun of my lack of fashion sense.”

A sardonic snort answered. “You need to take a good, hard look in the mirror, Allie. I think that’s why Tova gives you so much trouble. She feels threatened. You’re younger, and you don’t even try to be pretty. You just are.”

I went back to my breakfast. Sometimes I wished I could see in myself the things Kim saw. Life would be a whole lot easier if I could shuck off that girl in the braces and the headgear, the one who disappointed all the family expectations.

“What I really wish is that I could be here for the summer.” Kim dumped imaginary crumbs into the trash can.

My stomach and my heart collided with a painful, queasy thud. “Kim, you signed a contract.”

“I know . . .” Dropping the dishcloth in the sink, she started toward her bedroom. “I’m excited about the pioneer life thing. I am. When I went in for my final paperwork yesterday, I just came right out and asked the guy if our town was Wildwood, and he just smiled and said, ‘You didn’t hear it from me, though.’ The more I read about the real town, the more fascinated I am by it. When I bought those CDs online, I also picked up a DVD about mysteries of the Civil War. Jake and I just watched it last night. Wildwood was, like, legendary. Nobody really knows anymore what’s myth and what’s fact, but in the summer of 1861, people from the town just started randomly disappearing—like into thin air.

“After a while, there was some kind of mass hysteria. Families were running off in the night, hiding in caves in the woods and things like that. Some people apparently just jumped off the cliffs into the river and drowned themselves. Then there was a giant storm. Whenever outsiders came to the place again, all the people were gone. Not one single soul left in town—just empty buildings. Now, that’s a history mystery, and it makes me even more convinced that the big, secret executive producer of this thing is Rav Singh, by the way. This totally sounds like one of his horror flicks. And it’s fascinating to think about—how could a whole town of people disappear? I just wish I could be in two places at once, that’s all. I can’t stand the idea of being away from Jake. Especially when we’re so . . . new. All I want to do is be with him. He’s the first thing I think about every morning.”

“Well, I can’t tell you how to be in two places at once. If I were smart enough to figure that out, I could be home to take the twins to their gymnastics camp next week, and my mother wouldn’t be pretending I don’t exist right now.” I instantly wished I hadn’t brought it up. I wanted to put the family issues out of my mind, but I couldn’t.

Kim sighed. “I know. I’m sorry. I understand that people have real problems. I do. You just need to ignore your mom and her emotional blackmail, Allie. This summer is your big chance, and the people who care about you should want it for you.”

Kim wandered off to her bedroom, and I finished breakfast, then got ready for work. There was a full day ahead at the Berman now that the school semester was over. The good thing was that I was gaining so much experience this summer, and in so many different areas, that I really did believe Kim was right. This summer was not only an opportunity to scratch together enough money to float another semester of school; it was my chance to make the connections I needed.

Kim caught me in the stairwell as I was headed out. She was wild-eyed and excited, still in her pajama pants and socks. “Oh my gosh I’ve got it!” The sentence came in one big rush of words. “I figured it out. My iPhone. My iPhone!”

“Shhhh!” There were three other apartments on the quad with ours, and it wasn’t yet seven in the morning. If we woke Stewart, he’d be calling the management. “I have to head for work, okay? I’ll talk to you tonight.”

“No, but wait. I’ve got it figured out—how to be in two places at once.” The volume started in a whisper and inched upward. “My iPhone. If I have it with me this summer, I’ll be able to keep in touch with Jake. It won’t be the same as getting to see him, but I’m telling you, Allie, I don’t want to lose this guy. I can’t explain to you how I know he’s the one, but I know this is it. I really do.”

Poor Kim. I hated to remind her of the obvious, but somebody needed to. “Remember the techno-turn-in that’s scheduled to happen as we move to the set? No driver’s licenses, no folding wallets, no cigarettes, no plastic anything. They’re not going to let you take an iPhone. It’s all in your contract. The only communication is the village post office—remember that? You and Mr. Right will be courtin’ the old-fashioned way. It’s kind of romantic, if you think about it.”

“It’s barbaric.” Kim held out her beloved iPhone. “I can’t take my cell phone, but you can take it for me. Even if we’re so far out in the boonies that there’s no cell phone signal, they’re bound to have some kind of satellite Internet and wireless in the crew camp. These are important people. They have to do business. There’s no way they’re going to be out of touch all summer.”

I pushed the phone away gently, pressing it against her body. “Kim, they’ve already told us no cell phones unless it’s company-issued. Randy is about to have a heart attack, and he’s only going to be up there for the first month or so to help with any dressing disasters.” Actually, the communications blackout bothered me too. But when the opportunity is huge, so are the sacrifices.

Kim extended the phone my way again, and we played a quick game of push-me-pull-you.

“You could hide it,” she said finally. “You’ll be traveling up there with mountains of . . . production stuff. How hard can it be to smuggle in one itty-bitty gadget? I won’t use it that much, I promise. I’ll just sneak off in the woods to text, email, or talk to Jake every few days. The battery will last a long time. You’ll only have to recharge it for me once in a . . .”

“No way!” I protested, my surprise escaping into the stairwell and echoing off the nearby apartments. No lights came on, thank goodness. “Kim, I am not getting involved in this, even for you. You know how quickly this could get me fired? Both of us, for that matter. They’ll make you into one of those nameless citizens who jumped off the cliffs into the river. You know, that’s what they do when cast members break the rules. They kill off your character.”

“Allie . . . please . . .”

“No. No way. No how. Nada. Nope. I’m not doing it. You and Mr. Wonderful will just have to keep in touch long distance, like our ancestors. It’ll be a great story to tell your grandchildren someday. I have to go to work. Good-bye.”

I turned away and left Kim there in the stairwell—mad, sad, or whatever she was right now.

The love bug was one of those things I was afraid I’d never really understand. I wanted to, but I just didn’t. Maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was so damaged by my father’s death, by everything that happened afterward, that I’d always be living solo in a world full of people, always keeping up my defenses, hiding behind the mask. What if I never found a place, a person, a life that . . . fit?

It was too hard to think about, so I shook it off during the short drive to work. In my mind, Grandma Rita offered one of her famous Texas wisdoms: Can’t never could, won’t never would, and shan’t probably should. Basically, it meant, stop whining and get busy doing. God gives every bird his worm, but He doesn’t drop it in their mouths once they’re big enough to fly.

Grandma Rita had a saying for pretty much any occasion.

By the time I walked into the Berman, I was feeling good. I took the back stairs and ducked into the assembly room, where the stitchers had not yet arrived at their sewing machines. The scents of fabric, and machine oil, and thread surrounded me, familiar and comforting.

A little tingle passed through me, and I had the bittersweet anticipation of a parent realizing it’s almost graduation time for a beloved child. In three days all the costumes would leave the Berman and through them, a bygone world would emerge. I’d never been part of anything this massive before, and just thinking about it filled me with gratitude and a sense of wonder. My coming here wasn’t an accident. This was a gift, but if I wanted this new life, I was going to have to be bold enough to work for it.

“Hey, rojito, you better not let the big kahuna find you there looking all tranquil.” Randy stopped in the hallway outside the door. “Some kind of edict came down from on high this morning, and our fair production supervisor is not in a good mood. She’s looking for you, in particular.”

I groaned, my little bubbles bursting one by one, swatted out of the sky by the ugly claws of reality. “Am I in trouble?”

Randy gave me a smile and a wink. “I think she’s got an errand for you. She’s in her office now. I heard her on the phone a minute ago.” As if on cue, Tova’s voice echoed down the hall. I couldn’t make out the words, just the rapid pulse of aggressive sound waves in her particular range.

Randy frowned. “That’s . . . the familiar noise of something unexpected coming up. With any luck, that errand she has for you will be off-site.”

“Guess I might as well find out.” I took a deep breath and headed down the hall. In the office, Tova was still engaged in a phone conversation. I waited near the door, out of sight.

“What do you mean you are sending him down here? Do you realize we are on the verge of moving to location? Randy’s crew is packing everything for transport today, not creating garments for . . .” Short pause, and then, “But . . . there’s no possible . . .” Pause. “He cannot just . . .” Pause, a little longer this time. “Yes. Yes. Yes, of course they are capable of it, but . . . Very well. Yes, I will see to it myself, of course.”

I stepped in the door just as she was ripping the Blake Fulton scrap of paper from the wall and giving it a look that could have fried an egg. So, the mystery cowboy had somehow reemerged. Had she finally called the number he’d given me in the deli, or had someone called her?

I didn’t even want to know . . . and then again, I did. I found myself hoping my unnamed errand had something to do with finally learning the truth behind that piece of paper and the guy in the grocery store. Who was he, really?

There you are. Finally.” Tova snatched a shoebox-size container off her desk. “Someone must do advance placement work at the set today. Delivery locations for materials from the costume shop and props not already in place must be clearly marked with the labels enclosed in this folder, and even then we will be fortunate if the transport service gets half of it right. It was my intention to go myself, so as to label things clearly, but it looks as though I will be . . . otherwise occupied. Since I can spare no one at this point, I am sending you. Here are the markers.”

She thrust the box into my hands, and I grabbed it just in time to keep it from landing on the floor. “These are directions to the location, maps of the set, and detailed instructions.” She slapped an overstuffed accordion folder on top of the cardboard box, and it slid sideways, landing against the crook of my arm. I shifted and clamped my chin to the stack to keep from losing it. “The keys to a production vehicle should be waiting with the guard at the box office. I have already signed for it.”

When I looked up again, Tova was staring at me like a serial killer about to go on a rampage. “Do not screw this up, Allison. If you do, I will make certain that not so much as the smallest community theater in the minutest backwash at the farthest corner of the map will even consider hiring you in this business. Do you understand?”

I felt my life flashing before my eyes. I hoped it didn’t show. “Yes, of course. You can count on me. I mean it. Whatever it takes,” I babbled out. A muscle knotted in my neck, and I realized that I was unconsciously recoiling from Tova’s murderous gaze, dragging the folder with me.

“If I had anyone else to send, Allison, I would not be sending you.”

“Yes, of course, I know that.” Wrong thing to say. Now she thought I was being a smart aleck. Her mouth twitched on one side, nerves and sinew straining for control.

“Follow the instructions to the letter. Do not deviate. Do not stop to admire the wildflowers. Do not linger over the blue, blue sky. Do not even consider sharing the information in that folder with anyone, or taking any stowaways along with you.” Of course, by stowaways, she meant a certain roommate, whose name we would not mention. “Are we clear?”

“Absolutely.” Holy cow! She was sending me to the set. Me! Through the haze of fear and the wild static of nervous adrenaline, it was just starting to dawn on me as I glanced down at the label on the folder.

I’d just been slated for the granddaddy of all production assistant errands.

A batch of butterflies hatched in my stomach, and it was all I could do to keep from grinning ear to ear. I struggled to appear appropriately miserable until Tova finished threatening me one last time, then left the room.

A muffled gasp slid out once she was gone.

I was headed to Wildwood!

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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