Quiet Refuge: Abigail Fairchild Book One SampleNovember 11th, 2016 8:05 am | by Alex Ferrer | Posted in Book Samples
Shadows dappled the hallway; ambient light streamed in from adjacent rooms. Rayland Nichols paced, his mind raced as he searched for possible solutions. He would not take the fall for this, it was not his fault. The whole mess was out of his control. If anyone was to blame it was her, she didn’t follow the rules. Anger boiled in him. Where the hell was that idiot? He looked around for Lester.
“There you are what the—?”
“I had to take a whiz,” Lester appeared around the corner zipping up his pants. “Where is she?”
“I told you to guard—oh never mind.” Rayland bit off the remark, why criticize him now? It didn’t matter anymore. “There was a problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
Rayland didn’t answer. First, he wanted to find the right words.
“What happened? Is she okay?”
“Les, calm down and listen to me.”
Rayland held Lester with a grip on each arm. He could smell the cigarettes on his breath and team jacket. He waited for his friend to focus on him.
“There was a—well an accident. She forced me to defend myself—stupid bitch. It’s not as if I planned to hurt her, but she tried to knee me.” Rayland’s eyes slid away.
“So, she went home mad?” Lester’s face showed disappointment.
“No, dumb ass, she’s still in there.”
Lester tore out of Rayland’s grip and charged to the end of the hallway. Rayland watched as he flung open the door, turned on the light and stepped into the small closet under the stairs.
“Julene? No. No No. This is not happening. Wake up Julene. Please, open your eyes.”
Rayland followed and stood in the doorway. Lester on his knees pulled the limp girl against his chest. Her head dangled, lifeless.
Lester’s shoulders slumped when he comprehended she was dead. He looked up at Rayland there was no mistaking the accusation and rage in his expression.
“Why? You said she’d be mine.”
“I told you it was an accident.”
Rayland frowned at him, torn between self-preservation and sympathy for his friend.
“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I just reacted and pushed her. Her head slammed against the wall. I’ll find you another girl. Haven’t I always taken care of you? Come on buddy, help me move her now.”
“We have to take her home.” Lester’s eyes pooled, the tears creased his cheeks.
Surprised at the depth of feeling Lester showed for the girl, Rayland softened his tone.
“Les, you need to listen to what I’m saying, now.”
Lester raised his head and looked at Rayland. A flash of menace in his expression before his eyes deadened.
“You can’t carry her limp body through the school. Think about it. We’ll both end up in jail. She’s gone, we have to save ourselves. Please, Les, help me put her in the tunnel.”
“Huh?—No Rayland, it’s dark, and we won’t be able to get to her after they lock the doors. I will not leave her there.”
“She won’t care. We need to hide her. It’s temporary, I promise, we’ll come back for her later tonight. I know where there’s another entrance.”
Early the next morning Abi Fairchild stood in front of the mirror, in the first-floor lavatory at Jackson High, trying to fix her hair. She tried ratting it to give it height, but the humidity made it frizz, and hair spray made it worse. She wished they would air-condition this old wreck of a school. It was too hot and humid for April. One good spring downpour would cool off the town. After considerable effort, she gave up, with a sigh. She bent at the waist and let her hair hang loose. As she brushed out the snarls, she noticed somebody had painted over the graffiti under the sink. Scraping the loose hairs into a ponytail, she secured it with a rubber band. What a waste after the torture of sleeping on rollers. Remembering the cute new boy in her homeroom, she splashed lilac scent on her neck and considered ways to get his attention. He was no Rayland, but he might be fun.
“Hurry, we’re gonna be late.”
“I’m coming. First bell hasn’t even rung yet.” Becca Anderson, Abi’s best friend, exited the bathroom stall. She tucked her yellow blouse into her pleated, madras skirt, and left the flushing sound behind her as the stall door swung shut. Becca grinned at her friend in the mirror she washed her hands.
“Be cool. We got lots of time, and it’s Friday so lighten up. Becca dried her hands, smoothed her long blond hair, and hummed a few lines from ‘she loves you’.”
“Why doesn’t your hair ever frizz?” Abi said.
“I don’t know, genetics I guess, Mom has the same type of hair.” Becca ran her hands down her shiny, blond hair. “Where do you think Julene Hicks went? She doesn’t seem like a runaway, but I don’t know her well.”
“Hard to tell, I saw her talking to one of the jocks yesterday. Lester, I believe.”
“No kidding, why didn’t you tell her mom? She was out in front of school asking everyone if they’d seen her.”
Becca refreshed her lipstick—for a senior makeup was essential—and opened the hall door, green eyes darting towards her friend. She halted, and closed the door.
“I wasn’t sure. What—” Abi walked into her back.
“Shhh!” Becca stood rigidly, head angled, eyes closed as she listened through the vent at the top of the door.
That girl loved to eavesdrop. When Abi called her on it, she admitted it was her favorite hobby, called it gathering intelligence. Abi informed her it was just plain snooping regardless of what label she put on it. Still, she picked up interesting gossip. Unable to resist, Abi joined her. They both listened at the door.
“─the hell was you thinking? You can’t just leave her there!”
“Relax, don’t you think I know that? What was I supposed to do, let him carry her limp body through the parking lot? There were people everywhere. They ushered everyone outside and locked the school.”
Abi frowned at the familiar voice.
“But the tunnel—it’s dark and creepy. What happens when she wakes up and starts screaming?”
“She’s not going to wake or scream.”
“Never are you sure?”
“We’ll move her after dark. What—you got a better idea?”
“No, but that’s cold, man, leave me out of it.”
“Too late for that. Come on; we need your help. You’re the only one we can trust.”
“The only one with a working car, you mean.”
“At least listen to my side of this, you owe me. Can’t talk here, during lunch─on the field. We can practice plays and discuss what to do. Keep your mouth shut.”
“You’re sure—” The voices faded as they walked away.
“Did you hear that?’’ Becca looked frightened.
Abi gazed back and felt her eyes open wide. She raised her right eyebrow in a practiced expression meant to show casual concern but a shiver of fear slid up her spine, and her hands trembled. She tried not to jump to conclusions but wondered if they left someone helpless in the tunnel.
“I bet they came out of the custodian’s closet. There’s a hatch in the floor inside the door; I saw it one day when he had it open.” Becca said.
“Not sure, they went by too fast I couldn’t hear what they said.” Abi thought one of those voices sounded a lot like Rayland Nichols but kept it to herself. He was the most popular guy in the senior class, the varsity quarterback, and a shoo-in for prom king. They had been close until high school, she thought it was love. Then he met Belle Hampton, and now he avoided her. It pissed her off the way he discarded people, she wondered if anyone else shared her fate. If he weren’t so cute, and she didn’t know how sweet he could be, she wouldn’t care. For the thousandth time, she wondered if she had done something that pushed him away.
Becca opened the door a few inches and peered out. The coast was clear, so they exited and started toward their classrooms. Abi stopped and lingered at the end of the hall checking the door of the custodian’s closet. A bold sign over the door read: NO ADMITTANCE! AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.
The knob turned, it opened without resistance, the lock defeated by a wad of gum.
“No, forget it. We’ll be late.” Becca said. She had looked back when she turned the corner and saw Abi standing in front of the closet door.
“Okay, I’m coming, already.”
The two friends sauntered to the central hall on their way to class. Their conversation bounced between what they’d just heard and discussing the latest Billboard Chart.
“Which is your favorite, ‘I want to hold your hand,’ or ‘She loves you’?” Abi asked, but she quit speaking when Becca’s expression changed, and she nodded at the scene in front of them.
Rayland and his friends hung out in the middle of the crowded corridor joking around and acting like fools. Everyone else was trying to get to class on time. The students flowed around them as if they were boulders in a fast-moving stream. Nobody wanted to bump one of those football players. Unfortunate results might occur. Those guys could turn mean in a heartbeat when they had an audience. Individually, they were small town boys with personalities to match. Together they became a gang of emboldened blowhards.
The group of jocks watched the custodian walk the hall. He rolled the trash barrel along while he used his broom and dustpan to pick up litter. He managed his morning chores while avoiding the students that rushed to class. The jocks snickered and gave each other meaningful glances. They watched the old man and timed their attack. They started their ‘accidentally knock the man down’ routine with Lester moving out ahead of the group as if heading to class. Then, two guys shoved him from behind, and he slammed into the custodian with his shoulder in an expert block, timed to hit the old guy in the back. A simple maneuver for the first string guard. The result sent the thin man sprawling over his broom.
“Sorry boy,” Lester said, “Guess you in the wrong place.” He cackled and strolled away.
“That never gets old.” Abi heard one of them snicker.
Abi considered helping Mr. Perkins up but refrained. Being laughed at was not the issue, she couldn’t care less what those nerds thought, it was the public display of weakness that deterred her. If she showed sympathy or tried to defend him her reputation would be shot, she’d become the victim, and the bullies would pounce. Some students relished the chance to show their aggressive side. She wondered if it was a southern thing or if it was the same everywhere. Also, she would cross the race line by showing pity for the custodian, and then she would be in the crosshairs of an even more dangerous group. She did not dare take an unpopular stand in the civil rights debate. It was 1964, and although Alabama still hung on to her antiquated traditions, things were changing. It was a slow transition, but the Deep South would eventually catch up with the rest of the country. Her father told her to stay neutral and not get involved, things would get better. Emulating everyone else, she averted her eyes, shuffled by the old guy and felt guilty about it. Her pastor taught her to be kind to her fellow man, but this was high school. She repeated her mantra; in high school, you had to go along to get along and keep your head down. Abi never saw Rayland watching her from the doorway of his classroom, a pensive expression on his handsome face.
The custodian raised himself off the floor, his arthritic knees ground together making a creaking noise. Abi glanced at him over one shoulder. He had continued his routine, head down, sweeping around the lockers.