Welcome to the Neighborhood
The next morning Ivy awoke to heart stopping humidity. When had it become so hot? She peeled back the damp sheets that was pasted to her body then hopped out of bed to check if the house had central air. On her way down the hall she clipped her shoulder as she rounded a corner leading into the small dining room, then nearly tripped over a chair that she’d sworn she’d pushed under the table. Ivy searched all over the house but found that no central air unit had been installed.
A knock came at her front door and she could only hope it wasn’t that nosy sheriff. To her surprise it was her landlord checking in on her.
“Morning. I don’t mean to be so bothersome so soon, I just wanted to know how you were holding up.”
“Ah, come inside.” she ushered him in and offered him a seat, “I just rolled out of the bed so forgive my disheveled appearance.”
“Can I get you some water?”
“No thank you Ms. St. James. I’m here about the cooling unit. I’ll be installing one just on the side of the house.”
“Yes, thank you! You’re such a Godsend. The weather is quite dreadful right now”
“Well things are only going to get worse, welcome to Summer in Colorado! I have a friend who’s into HVAC, so he’ll be helping me out. We’ll try to be out of your hair soon. Price should be arriving any minute now.”
“Thank you so much! Well I’m going to get myself cleaned up and I’ll be out of your way. I have some matters to attend to, so I’ll leave you to it.”
After showering, she dressed, scooped up her keys and left to hunt fown a cheap but decent art space she could rent to start her painting. After a couple of failed starts, she came across an arts and crafts store and asked around if anyone knew of a vacant but cheap studio she could rent. Lucky for her, a customer, a middle aged woman overheard her inquiries.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing that you’re in need of some space for painting.”
“Well I have a place up for rent. It’s my parents’ old ice cream parlor. We’ve torn out everything except for the flooring, and it should give you enough space for your work, that is if you’re willing to take a look at it. I’ll only charge $75 for usage. If you want I can take you straight to the building.”
“You’re too gracious.”
“It’s more than alright. I don’t believe I’ve seen you around theses parts before.”
“I’m originally from Salem.”
“So what brings you here?”
Ivy felt her throat tighten and fought to keep from shedding a tear.
“I just thought I needed a change in scenary, so here I am.”
“Well a change in scenary is always good. Sometimes I go visit my sister Mary-Beth and her husband Don in New York City. I got the surprise of a lifetime when I finally arrived there. My head about exploded with all the hustle and bustle going on around me! People and their vehicles move at the speed of light and New Yorker’s are a rude lot! I don’t know how my sister does it.”
Ivy soaked up all the stories the middle aged woman spouted, even until they stood in front of the old ice cream parlor. “Oh” she took Ivy’s hand, “I’ve been running my mouth and forgot to introduce myself. My name is Barbara Tilly by the way, what’s your name?”
“Ivy St. James.”
“What a pretty name!” she cleared her throat, “So would you like to take a look to see if it’s to your liking?”
Barbara open her oversized bag and fiddled around until she located her key ring. She shook it and all the keys clanged together until she found the right one.
“Ah there it is. Please excuse me, I have multiple building I rent out.” she laughed nervously.
Ivy supressed a chuckle and nodded. While Barbara fumbled with the lock Ivy saw the building was still in good condition and even had a huge window for curious passerbys. When Ivy heard the click of the lock, it brought her attention back to the middle aged woman. Strange enough, she hadn’t noticed the woman appearance until now. It was quite shocking for a woman her age to still be wearing bright red lipstick that seemed to be smeared over her thin lips. Her hair looked as if she’d been previously electrocuted, her blonde hair was absolutely stand on ends. And she had every color of the rainbow painted over her eyelids! But it all seemed to match her personality to the t, not to mention, she was covered in leather from head to toe and wore stilletoes to boot! Barbara was unlike any granny that she’d ever seen. Come to think about it, Barbara looked as if she’d be a riot if you got her started.
“Come on inside and take a look.”
Upon entry, indeed, everything from the counters, booths, tables and chairs had been removed. All that was left were off white walls and dingy tile floors, and there was a vast space in the back where those ice cream machines sat. This space was just large enough for an art show.
“If I take you up on your offer, is it possible to repaint the walls and fix some of those broken tiles? This place could use some character.”
“Do what you please.”
“Okay then, we have a deal.”
Both shook hands and Barbara reminded Ivy that payments would be made on the first of every month and since June was coming to a close in two weeks, she didn’t have to pay a penny until July. “Thank you for this opportunity, really. But is it possible to pay in advance for July, August, and September? I tend to forget about more important matters when I’m painting.”
“It’s more than alright dear. Just let me head out to my car to dig for my reciept book. I’ll be back before you can shake a tail feather.” she smiled warmly at Ivy then dashed out to her car.
Ivy stood back imagining what she could turn this place in to. A broad smile spread across her face as the thought of her paintings on display filled her mind. When she heard the door open a gust of wind filled the room followed by the click of the door closing. Barbara wasn’t playing around getting back before she knew it. When Ivy turned around, her smile fell from her face and was replaced with irritation.
“What are you doing here?” she ground out.
“I saw your car out front and decided to say hello…again.”
“You could have kept going.”
“I get the feeling you don’t like me very much.” he teased.
But before she could reply, Barbara emerged through the door with the recipt book in hand.
“Why isn’t it Sheriff Slate! How’d you get past me?”
“Morning Mrs. Tilly. How have you been?”
“Oh I’m still kicking. What brings you by here?”
“Ms. St. James and I’ve met before. I welcomed her to our town and she repaid me by kicking me out of her house.” he goaded.
Ivy blushed with embarrassment then cut her eyes at him. Barbara stared at Ivy in question then laughed.
“Well Ms. St. James, don’t feel too bad, many people have kicked him out their homes, including me.”
“He is rather bothersome.”
“I’m standing right here.”
“He may be bothersome at times, but he’s always there when you need him.”
“I should be used to your backhanded compliments by now but I just can’t settle it in myself.”
Barbara slapped his shoulder and chuckled “Bruce is a good guy and an even better Sheriff, you can trust him.”
“You should listen to her Ms. St. James, Mrs. Tilly is a wise woman.”
“If you’re finished harassing my customer, I need to meet the needs of Ms. St. James”
“Ah I see, you’re both kicking me out now. Okay, then as you both know, I don’t stay away for long.”
Bruce kissed Barbara on the cheek then moved a half an inch closer to Ivy. She shot him a dirty look that said ‘try it and you’ll regret it’. He smiled as his eyes hid his true thoughts then bid them adieu.
“He’s something else. I’ve know him since he was a boy. Bruce was always into something, pulling things apart to figure out how they work then putting it back together. It’s no surprise to me the profession he chose.”
“Is that right?”
“Oh yes! Bruce’s parent’s Diane and Tobias Slate nearly had to tie him to a chair, which wouldn’t have done a lick of good. Once Bruce rewired one of his father’s old cars and every time his dad turned on the radio, the windshield wipers came on squirting fluid on the windshield. I just about died with laughter that day. Bruce isn’t a bad person, it’s just that he has an inquisitive mind. He needs to know why things are the way they are, what’s the best way to get into a killers mind. I have to tell ya, he’s excellent at this job. Oh there I go running my mouth again!”
“Don’t think anything of it.” Ivy dug into her pocket to pull three months rent, then handed it over to Barbara as Barbara wrote Ivy the receipt.
“Well this concluded this transaction. I hope you feel right at home in Aurora, and if it’s okay with you, I’d like to come by again to see how this place turns out.”
Barbara handed over a spare key, shook hands, then disappeared through the door. Ivy looked around thoroughly this time and spotted air conditioning, which was perfect for those intolerable steamy days ahead this summer, and it would keep her cool for a bit of remodeling she’d be doing to spruce the place up. While eying the space in the back Ivy heard the door open then click shut. It must’ve been Barbara again. Just as she set foot to emerge from the back, a tall unidentifiable man wearing a black ski mask rushed her and knocked her to the floor, then pinned her in place. Ivy was so scared that she could make a sound. looking into, cold, hard, blue eyes gave her the feeling that she was going to die like her friend, alone.
But no further action was taken to her amazement, all this stranger did was stare at her coldly, surveying her response to him. He knew he could kill her anytime he chose, for now he’d just toy with her. Removing his weight from her, he inched back slowly, and turned to leave. He snatched off his mask and stuffed it into his back pocket then surveyed the streets through the massive window at the front of the store. When the coast was clear he snapped on a baseball cap he had secured through his belt loop and made his escape.
Ivy didn’t breath or move and inch until the heard the click of the door close. When Ivy was finally able to force her body to move, she crawled to lock the door and slinked back into the old parlor, trembling along the way. Though her business was taken care of, she didn’t make it back home until eight o’clock that night. It’d taken her hours to pull herself together enough for her to sit comfortably behind the wheel. All the while she spied through her rear-view mirror to see if she was being followed. Once securely in her home, Ivy checked every latch and lock she could to make sure she was protected though out the night. Ivy melted into her couch trying to reason what just happened. Maybe that lunatic mistook her for someone else, after all she was new to Aurora. Whatever the case, this couldn’t happen to her again. Consciously she knew the house was secure but that didn’t stop her from checking all the locks again. Once she felt confident, she took a quick shower, dressed and turned in for the night.
Ivy was having a nightmare where her attacker was wielding a knife to her throat, and immediately she shot up in terror twisting in her sheets, fighting as if her attacker was right in her very presence. All Ivy’s swinging and flailing stopped as she rolled out of bed and thud onto the hardwood floor. Her eyes opened through slits amid the pain in her right hip. Carefully pushing herself up from the floor, she rubbed her hip as she limped towards the door and into the hallway. The only blessed thing she had right now was cool air blasting through the house. She dreaded leaving her home even for a moment to put with this deplorable heat. Limping to her front room, Ivy opened the shades to the blinding sunlight that now enveloped the front of her house. Turning around, suddenly a figure loomed over her, with that same black ski mask and cold blue eyes. Startled, she fell backwards and froze into position. There he stood over a wide eyed Ivy, eyes burning into hers. He then squatted in front of her, staring intently, gauging her reaction. He pulled a pair of scissors from his back pocket and leaned closer to her. Ivy covered her body in a vain attempt to shield her vital organs. Instead she heard the snip of the scissors then footsteps beat against her hardwood floor, growing fainter as the intruder left the very way he’d came in, through the back door.
This couldn’t keep happening to her, and how did he break in without her knowing it?! It was clear to her that she’d have to take extra measures to ensure she’d keep breathing. What she didn’t understand was why hadn’t that lunatic wrought harm on her. Did he just get his rocks off on scaring her? Whatever the case, she’d personally change all the locks throughout her house and get a security system installed. No later than she made that decision, she made several calls to various security installation services and once she’d pinned down one of her liking, her options were explained to her via the other person on the line. She didn’t care care how much the system cost, she just wanted the damned thing to work. Within a few hours, her home was set up with the best security system available which made her feel more at ease. Once the installation was completed, the workers left and immediately she checked every door, lock, and closet space, starting with the back door. Making her way through the house, every lock that she hunted down, she gave a once over then set the alarm so she could shower with confidence.
Moments later Ivy emerged from the shower with a plush white towel tied securely around her body, then planted herself in front of the bathroom mirror and stared back at her reflection. She looked rather on the ragged side, of course from dealing with her best friends death and funeral and now this lunatic that has come out from the wood work! Irritated, she snatched a medium sized towel from a linen closet to towel blot her hair of any excess water. Upon further review her eyes fell on her hair. Cocking her head to the side she noticed one side of her hair was longer than the other. That crazy bastard had cut her hair! She fumed and fumbled through her medicine cabinet to locate some scissors so she could even out her flaming locks. Satisfied with her handy work, she marched to her room and loosened the towel, flung it on the bed, and searched for an old dark bohemian skirt and a top to match, then dressed, finally sliding her feet in well worn black sandals. Pushing all thoughts from her intruder from her mind, she reminded herself why she’d come to Aurora. It was to create a new life for herself, to become the best painter this state had ever seen, and she’d be damned if she let anyone get in her way! If that lunatic ever appeared at her house again, she’d be ready for him.
After leaving her cool home, Ivy drove along the street admiring all the buildings, some seemed to be stuck in time while others were more modern. When she pulled over, she exited her car and walked along the sidewalk until she came across a small store that sold paint. Well it hadn’t been her plan to paint today but since she was standing in front of this place, she may as well buy a few gallons of paint, rollers, plastic, and some holding tape. When she opened the door a bell chimed to inform the only two workers that they indeed had a customer.
An elderly man turned around and greeted her with a warm smile and bright eyes. “Hello there, how can I help you?”
“I’m here to buy up a few gallons of paint.”
“Well you’ve come to the right place. What colors are you looking for? Interior or exterior paint?” He gave her the run down of all the different types of paint, but in the end she ended up with two two gallons of white interior paint, another gallon of rose colored paint, a small pint of black paint, and four gallons of exterior paint with gloss, and all the knick knacks included.
“It looks like I’ve got everything that I need.”
“Yes it does. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you around these parts before.”
“I’m a newcomer.”
“I figured as much. We don’t have nearly as beautiful women around here as you.” he said as his eyes glinted in flirtation.
“You’re being way to nice to me.”
“No miss, you’re a real stunner.”
“Well thank you very much for the compliment.”
“No problem. I’ll just ring you up and have Lucas there in the back, help you will all this paint.”
“No it’s okay.”
“That’s why he’s here. Lucas, come out here for a moment.”
When a tall, slender man in fitted blue jeans and a tight, black crew neck shirt emerged from the back, he and Ivy’s eyes met, and a smile formed across Lucas’s face.
“This woman needs help with all this paint. Help her take it to her car.”
“You don’t have to take them all.”
“It’s no problem, you just wait here.”
She handed him her car keys and he immediately began lugging those gallons of paint and accessories to her car. When he re-emerged through the door, he stopped in front of her and gave back her keys. “All done.”
“Thanks. You really didn’t need to do it all yourself, I could have helped.”
“Nah. I’m a man, this is my job.”
Ivy smiled and nodded. “Well thank you both for your help. If I need anything else I know where to come to.”
“Thanks for stopping by, come again soon.” the old man added.
Lucas waved and smiled at her again. For a moment she stood there and smiled brightly at him and felt a bit of apprehension. Upon further review she noted he had short, thick, wavy black hair and hazel eyes. It seemed to her he could have any woman with his looks and he had a quite charming personality about him. After absorbing her fill she waved back and left the store.
Now, back on the road, it had taken her and hour to aimlessly arrived at that paint store, and an hour and a half to drive back to her new purchased old ice cream parlor that she was now going to freshen up with coats of paint. No later than she’s arrived that annoying sheriff showed his face again.
“I told you I’d be back.”
“How do you even earn a living stalking innocent citizens?”
“Stalking? Well it’s good to see you too.”
She tried brushing him away but he ended up helping her without her permission, with her paint.
“I didn’t ask for your help.”
“What’s with you new aged women? You’ve gotten out of your places. Damned that feminist movement.”
When she turned to meet him, she discovered a Cheshire grinned pasted across his face. For a moment she almost smiled but did her best to show disgust. “You know you wanted to smile. I have to admit, I made that one up on the fly.”
“What do you want? Why do you keep showing up here bothering me?”
Before he could answer she was already through the door. He snatched up the remaining gallon of paint and its accessories and lumbered inside.
“Before you rudely stalked off, which shows you have no manners, I was going to answer your question.”
“That’s what I said.”
Both stared each other down then Ivy turned her lips up at him. “Now, back to what I was saying. I have my reasons for showing up unexpectedly. What do you think of the house you’re living in?”
“What? What kind of question is that?”
“Stop being difficult.”
“The house is fine.”
“Mmm hmm.” he mumbled in question.
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing. If you say everything is alright, then that’s what it is.”
“So this is your reason for dropping by repeatedly?”
“One of two reasons.”
“Well what’s the other?”
“I’d like to take you out on a date.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me? Absolutely not!”
“Why not? You’ll be safe with me. I’m good at protecting precious jewels.”
“Oh come on” she rolled her eyes, “jewels?” Ivy laughed uncontrollably.
“Was it that funny?”
“I think you’re in the wrong profession pal.” she shook her head.
“I don’t find anything funny with asking you on a date with me. First you’re hostile towards me, now you’re laughing in my face. There’s only so much a man’s pride can take.”
“Well this means you’re free and clear to hunt down another woman. I’m not, nor will I ever be interested.”
“Never say never, and for the record, I don’t give up all too easily.” Bruce locked his attention to Ivy like a predator to its prey, and moved skillfully her direction. Ivy was taken aback with the look in his eyes, beaming his intent. No matter how much her brain told her feet to move, the message simply wasn’t getting through, and there she stood like a doe caught in the headlights awaiting her end. Before she knew it. Bruce had already made his way beside her, arms wrapped firmly around her waist. “Looks like to me you’re not putting up much of a fight. You were just blowing hot air all this time.” he said in a low, deep, husky voice. Bruce dipped his head down to meet her lips knowing a wide eyed Ivy would be watching him in trepidation. Raging waters sloshed and crashed in her stomach as she tried to quell the need to run and stay in place at the same time. How could she have let herself get into this position?!
Before she could form another silent thought, she felt a blinding, piercing light crack across her vision and her body went lax. Time seemed to cease as Bruce kissed her passionately, beckoning for her to join in on this small tidal wave of ecstasy. She let out a moan that revealed in fact that she was more deprived than she had previously thought. Ivy knew she was on the edge of giving in, and Bruce knew it as well, but kept pushing her ever closer towards that cliff when a noise from the door broke their connection.
“Oh, excuse me.”
Ivy pushed from Bruce’s embrace and cleared her throat.
“Uh, it’s alright.” her voice shook nervously. “Wait, you’re that guy from the paint shop. How can I help you?”
Bruce’s eyes narrowed and eyed this man suspiciously, mainly rankled that he interrupted his moment with Ivy.
“I can come back another time.” he started to back towards the door.
“No, no. It’s quite alright.”
“Let the man leave if he wants.”
Both Ivy and Lucas stared in surprise at Bruce. Ivy’s face heated in embarrassment as she tried to soften the blow of Bruce’s harsh words.
“What the Sheriff meant to say was-”
Lucas cut off her next words and held his hand up,”Really, it’s alright. Maybe I’ll see you around some other time.” He waved his goodbye and exited the brick building. Ivy turned and shot Bruce a knowing look.
“You were awful rude.”
“He was rude. Anyone with two functioning eyes could clearly see through the window that we were kissing. He shouldn’t have interrupted.”