Sweat pours down her face, starting at the top of her forehead, dripping down past her eyes, onto her cheeks, to her chin and dripping onto her pillow. Her ashen hair clings to her face, her breath coming in heavy gasps, her body unmoving with exception to her head, which she tosses back and forth until her breath came to a stop, her movements ceasing with her breath. Seconds passed, then a minute, finally she wakes up with a gasp, coughing, choking, gasping for air as if it was being sucked out of her room. She looks around, rubbing her hands along the naked skin of her arms, her nightgown clinging to her sweat soaked body. Sighing heavily, she rolls over and picks up her clock, squinting for a moment to focus the red colored digits “three thirty in the morning, great” she mumbles before setting the clock back down as gently as she could manage, which was just barely soft enough not to break it. Throwing her comforter off her she gets up and walks to her thermostat that was in her bedroom. Just under sixteen degrees Celsius, so why did it feel so warm? Pinching a small bit of fabric from her nightgown, she peels the fabric from her skin and lets go “I can’t go back to sleep like this” she says to herself and with a heavy sigh she heads to her bathroom. She turns the hot water on all the way then turns the cold knob until the water was a desirable temperature, once satisfied, she pulled up on the diverter on the faucet and watches as the showerhead began to spit out water, then have a constant flow. Satisfied, she peels off her nightgown and steps into the water, sighing with relief. -Another early day, I guess- she thinks, placing her hand on the wall, allowing the water to wash over her head and down her face. She remained like that for several minutes before deciding to wash her hair, face, and other parts of her body most people forget to wash. After about an hour passes, and her water began to run cold, she steps out of the shower and wraps a large, white plush towel around her middle. She wiggles her toes to feel the softness of the rug beneath her feet, taking another deep breath she reaches into the cabinet under her bathroom sink to find her hair dryer, setting it on the countertop, she unwraps the towel from her frame and quickly runs it over her hair, drying what droplets she could before she uses the blow dryer. She took her time getting ready, putting her makeup on after she put lotion on her face, she didn’t use a ton of makeup like most women her age, just enough to make it look like she was trying. Sitting naked on her bed, she reaches over to her nightstand and picks up her necklace. She never went a day without wearing it, it was a circle decorated with a crescent moon on one side, she loved to spin it, if she got it going fast enough, it would look full. She loved little illusions like that, probably why she still worked at the Tea Tree, a little Wiccan shop owned by an elderly Wiccan woman who was quite devout, Annie had been working there for years. She had grown close to the owner, Debbie, who had hired her on the spot when she was looking for a job back in high school, almost eleven years ago now. She smiles at the necklace and fastens it around her neck, running her thumb across the cool gold before walking to her closet to pick out an outfit. She chose some regular jeans, fit her just right, hugged her hips, a little tight in the thigh area and flared out just barely at the bottom. She fastens a brown bra on over her breasts, a burgundy top with a brown hooded jacket. She looked at the clock again, five thirty, she could open the store an hour early. Opening the fridge she examines its contents, a half empty gallon of milk, leftovers from the night before, ah good good, one left. She reaches into the fridge and pulls out a bottle of chilled coffee “sweet nectar of the Gods” she says aloud, holding up the bottle as if it was the new king of the savannah. Walking towards the door of her apartment she collects her keys from the stand next to the door, locks it, and closes it behind her. It was going to be a long day.
“Hey Annie, have you heard of this new spooky shop that opened up downtown?” an arm wrapped over her shoulder as her friend approached from behind her “It’s called the Tea Tree, it’s supposed to be run by this old woman who is a witch and everything we have to check it out after school.” Annie smiled but shook her head “I can’t Becca, I have homework tonight which I have to get done or I won’t be able to make it to the competition tonight” Becca punched her hand into her palm “that’s right, I forgot you had the big track tryouts tonight, do you think you’ll make it in?” Annie shrugged “I don’t know, I’ve been training all year so I hope so” her friend draped her arm over shoulders again “well then we should definitely go, we can get you a good luck charm or something.” Annie chuckled “Fine but just this once, and only for a little bit.”
The bell over the door rings pleasantly as Annie unlocks the front door to the Tea Tree, as their name suggested there was tea lining an entire wall of the shop, with a small machine for dispensing hot water, and cups ranging in all shapes and sizes for the customers. In the center was a large couch and several recliners people could sink into, a coffee table or an end table near each one. The rest of the shop had books to read, necklaces, charms, clothes, and other assorted nic-naks that people would be interested in purchasing. She walks over to the water pot and fills it up with water, replacing it on it’s base she flips the switch to turn on the heating element, then she sheds her jacket and hangs it up on a nearby coat rack before pulling the blinds up, flipping the light switches on and turning the sign from ‘closed’ to ‘open’. Walking back to the counter she readies the till and reaches under the counter for her cup so she could make herself some tea, she wasn’t much of a tea drinker herself, but she loved the way it made the shop smell, Debbie suggested, on more than one occasion, that she just use the diffuser with a couple essential oils, but Annie insisted that it wasn’t the same. Taking a deep breath of her peppermint tea as it steeps, Annie wrinkles her nose, something smelt funny. She buries her nose deeper into the cup, being cautious not to burn the tip of her nose, she takes a few short whiffs before shaking her head “it’s not that…” setting her tea down she looks around some more. In her hunt for the unpleasant smell, she walks into the back office, normally where Debbie does most of her paperwork and the like. It was then that she saw her boss laying on the ground behind her desk, the garbage and chair knocked over “Debs!” Annie rushes to her side and quickly places two fingers to Debbie’s neck, simultaneously pulling out her cell phone and dialling 911 “911 what’s your emergency?” she hears over the line “I need an ambulance at five-four-one Jackson Street, my boss collapsed” Annie tries to stay as calm as possible, though her heart was pounding hard in her chest “okay, ma’am an ambulance has been sent out. Do you know how to check for a pulse?” Annie nods, though no one was around to see “it’s there, but barely”
“Okay, ma’am the ambulance is only five minutes away, is she breathing?” again, Annie nods “I think so” Annie hears the sound of the operator typing on her computer. The woman remains on the line until Annie can hear the sound of Sirens approaching the building. As the paramedics came in with a stretcher, Annie feels tears sting her eyes “would you like to ride with us to the hospital?” one paramedic asks, but Annie didn’t respond “ma’am?” she glances over to the paramedic who was speaking “I’m sorry, what?”
“Would you like to ride with us to the hospital?” she shakes her head “n-no, I need to stay here and watch the shop, but…” she turns around to the desk and begins to scribble her number on a sticky note “please call me when you have news” the man accepts the small piece of paper with a nod “will do ma’am”
“Thank you” she says as the paramedics leave with Debbie. The moment she hears the bell of the shop door, she falls to her knees.
“Don’t cry Annie, I’m so sorry” Becca rubbed her back as she wept on the stairs of the high school “it’s their fault that they won’t win any tournaments this year without you…” it didn’t help, Annie continued to sob “I had my whole life set on getting onto the team, scholarships for college, jobs, everything…” she picked up some dirt from below her feet and tossed it angrily “they didn’t accept you because you didn’t go to any of the stupid camps. It’s not your fault your family can’t afford-”
“what am I supposed to do now?” she interrupted Becca quickly who then sat next to her friend and tucked her knees to her chest “find a job I guess” she suggested, Annie scoffs. “I think it’s a good idea, hear me out, if you can’t make your life in the Olympics, do it somewhere else. Your smart, anyone would be stupid not to hire you!” her enthusiasm made Annie smile, though she still didn’t believe a word that came out of her mouth, she was happy that her friend tried so hard “you’re right, I guess we should start with returning this stupid charm.” she holds up a chain with a small circle and crescent moon in it “it didn’t bring me luck for shit.”
Wiping her eyes, Annie stands back up, gathering the garbage off of the floor and replacing it in the knocked over bin. Tying the back closed, she walks it back to the dumpster in the alley, grimacing as small drips fall from the bag “ew…” she groans softly, tossing the bag into the dumpster. She walks straight to the bathroom after that, washing her hands thoroughly before returning to the office to return the chair upright. The bell rings “Annie?” a familiar voice “Becca, that can’t possibly be you” she says coming out of the back room. There she was, platinum blonde hair all done up in curls, her pale pink dress on so tight it didn’t hide anything. She kicks off her pink high heels and trots over to Annie, pausing just as her arms were almost around her “my goodness darling what’s the matter?” she sniffs back another tear and looks away “gone all this time and you can still tell when something is wrong” Becca blinks “hon, you don’t have to be a psychic to realize something is off.” she pulls her powder from her purse, opens it, and holds it in front of Annie’s face “I guess puffy red eyes would tip anyone off” she says wiping the back of her hand across her eyes again, Becca simply nods. “I didn’t think you’d be back home for…well ever” Becca waves a hand in front of her face “pfft. Are you kidding me? I was missing my bestie and had to come around.” Annie smiles “Yes, but aren’t you some big time actress now? You have a bodyguard and everything” Annie points to the brutish man with his arms crossed outside of the store “oh, him? Naw he’s just my driver.” Annie’s eyes drop to his belt “with a gun?” sheepishly, Becca moves her foot in a circle around the carpeting “an over qualified driver?” finally, Annie laughs and embraces her friend. “Now, tell me, what has you so in the dumps” her slight southern drawl and blue eyes made it hard for Annie to focus “girl living down in the south has given you a strange tone” Annie mimics her accent heavily “I don’t sound like that! Now don’t change the subject” Annie’s smile turns to a look of melancholy “Debs. I found her unconscious this morning, barely breathing, God knows how long she was laying there. She said she wasn’t going to stay much longer after I left, maybe if I stayed I could have…” Becca holds up her hand to silence her “there you go doing that thing again” Annie cocks her head to one side “what thing?”
“That thing you do, thinking that you have power over everything, that you can always do something. Sweety, you can’t help everyone, and there ain’t no reason to beat yourself up about it.” Annie smirks “ain’t?” Becca puffs out her cheeks “now Annie, I am trying to have a serious conversation with you, stop being a smart-ass” Annie laughs, unable to contain her joy, seeing her friend turned southern all flustered and red in the face. Deciding she couldn’t win, Becca places her hands on her hips and sighs “Anyway, I have a photoshoot for a local magazine. The new editor called and asked if I would donate some of my time for their cover of next month’s issue and, against my manager’s wishes, I decided to do it. It’s about celebrities who started local” again Annie cocks her head to the side “It’s about you isn’t it?” Becca huffs humorously “It’s not my fault I’m the only celebrity that made it out of this place.”
“True enough” Annie fingers the pendant around her neck “you still wear that old thing?” she looks down to the gold in between her fingers “of course, it brings me good luck.”