If She Only Knew, page 1
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If She Only Knew
If She Only Knew
Copyright © 2017 by J.S. Andersen.
All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: October 2017
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
I want to give a big thank to my mom and husband, William, for all their support. And another big thanks to Dennis Young, for telling me to switch from 1st to 3rd.
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As Katie Nelson coasted into the parking lot, the rocks banging under her car sounded like a loud popcorn popper. Noise was her enemy. She looked at the old brick building sitting across the alley. Butterflies danced in her stomach as she parked next to the car of her old boss and nosy friend, Melanie Armstrong.
She exited her car, cringing from severe anxiety. Crap, Katie thought. I worked at Green Earth Health Insurance five years ago and have no reason to stress. I left on good terms, she reminded herself. Katie forced a smile and walked to the bottom of the stairs. Come on, girl, you have nothing to worry about.
The stairs squeaked as each foot hit the metal surface. Katie held on to the handrail, trying to keep her steps light. Mellow out, Katie, she lectured herself at the top of the stairs. She wiped the dampness from her hands on her pants. Katie was jumpy. Sweat trickled down her back.
The door opened without a noise and closed the same way. Katie got to the end of the hall and saw Fred. He was in his sixties, sandy gray hair, skinny, and funny. Fred’s face lit with a smile, but she shushed him before a word left his mouth. He saluted and went back to work.
Melanie’s door was closed. Katie knocked. “Who’s there? Get back to work; I’ve got phone calls to make,” Melanie barked.
Katie smoothed her hair and opened the door. Here goes nothing. “Important phone calls better than seeing me?”
A surprised expression crossed Melanie’s face. “Oh my heck.” She jumped out of her chair and skipped around the desk to give Katie a bear hug. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to visit?”
She returned the hug. “Hi back, Mel. Looks like you’re keeping busy—so busy you need to rehire an old worker.”
“Old worker? You’re moving back?”
“Did. Now I need a job.”
“You’re hired, and I’ll take you out to lunch. I’m starving.” She grabbed her purse, walked out her door, and tapped Fred’s desk. “You’re in charge.” She pointed to the three ladies in the back of the office. “Girls, look my way. This is our new employee. Katherine…” She paused.
“Hello, all. I go by Katie.” She looked back at Mel. “And my last name is still Nelson.”
“Great. So, to your left is Brenda, in the middle is Shawna, and to your right is Heidi.” Melanie pointed to each person.
Katie turned to face Fred again. “How can you stand to still work here?”
“Got me.” He laughed.
“Bye, and nice to meet you.” She waved and followed Melanie to her car.
“Let’s go to Nettie’s café. Haven’t eaten there for a while,” Melanie said.
After being seated in a booth and the lunch served, Melanie got to the point. “Tell me what’s going on. Moving back home is hard to do. Why did you?” She put the nacho chip halfway in her mouth back on the plate.
“When I think of Autumn, my heart aches. I miss my little girl so much.” Katie put her hand on her chest. “I tried to stay. I looked for another place to live in my price range in a different area and couldn’t find one. I loved my job and the people I worked with,” Katie took a drink, “but knew I needed to leave. It felt like someone was watching me.”
In between bites of chips, Melanie asked, “Weird. I know it’s hard losing a child and going through a divorce, but do you ever think of Kevin and wish you were still with him?” One thing Katie remembered about Melanie, she dug deep for personal feelings.
“Sometimes I do. But he changed. I miss the old Kevin and the fun times we had before and right after we got married. Now, the hurt still lingers.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re related to Kevin. Didn’t you notice a dark side to him?”
“Family reunions were a no-go in our family even though we lived close to each other. Kevin’s mom and my dad, her brother, had a disagreement several years ago. So to them, we don’t exist.”
“Nothing to be sorry about. Now back to my question—what happened?”
Katie tapped her fingers on the table. “As time went on, he put more and more distance between us. It got to the point where I was walking on egg shells to make sure I didn’t say anything wrong. I couldn’t even say anything affectionate without him thinking I was being pushy. I didn’t say much at all and waited for him to be the first to make any conversation or moves. But then I couldn’t jump into a deep conversation or he’d shut down. I got tired of playing those games. At times, he got so angry he was on the verge of hitting me, but he backed off. I hoped having a child with him would make things better, but things just got worse. He wanted a boy and couldn’t give full love and attention to our daughter.” Katie rubbed her eyes, not wanting to relive it.
“You’re a strong woman and will pull through in time. Don’t let it get you depressed. You know you always have a friend to talk to, right?”
Katie took a chip from Melanie’s plate and ate it. “Yep. You’re the best.”
“Hey there.” She grinned. “I know, but back to men in general. Eric makes fun of how I talk or try to explain something. I mimicked how he flaps his hands and he’ll say, ‘Don’t make fun of me.’ Go figure. I’m always on defensive mode.”
“Men are hard characters to figure out.”
“I agree.” Melanie took a sip of her drink. “Where’s your place?”
“The White Italian Plaza on 2nd Street. It’s the building kitty corner from the park.”
Melanie gave a disgusted look. “That piece of crap? It’s puny.”
“I’m happy with it and it came furnished. My only addition is the decorations of unpacked boxes against the wall in the family room and a picture of Autumn on my nightstand.”
“No other pictures?”
“It was the only one I found after Kevin went through our apartment and cleared everything and anything out related to my girl.”
“Please tell me more.” Melanie leaned forward.
“Okay.” Melanie scratched her head. “So back to your apartment. I have a friend who can do a home decoration party at your place so you can earn free decor.”
For a few weeks after work, Katie kept herself busy at her parents’ house, the one she and her brother, Bruce, grew up in. It sat a few minutes out of town in a small neighborhood surrounded by alfalfa fields. While there, Katie went through boxes in their shed to decide what to keep or get rid of. Her dad’s plan was to demolish the shed.
One night, instead of spending the evening with her parents, she had Melanie over for dinner and girl chat.
“I’m impressed this is a noodle-free meal.” Melanie chewed on a piece of steak.
“You’re welcome, and thank my parents. Love leftovers.” Katie spooned more salad onto her plate.
“We need to go to The Rink and unwind. With luck, there might be a handsome man there I can set you up with. I can think of a couple guys who wouldn’t mind a date.”
“No.” Katie slammed her hands on the table.
Melanie ignored the attitude. “In fact, I know a perfect match. His name is Peter and could take your mind off a lot of things. But fair warning, he is a pushy person. You challenge him, he’ll challenge back harder.”
“Men are forbidden in my life.”
“If you keep getting leftovers from your parents, men will knock down your door. But if you make your own meal, they’ll fail to return for the repetition of noodles and three choices of seasonings.”
“There are four seasonings to choose from, and thank you very much for that piece of sound advice.” Katie high-fived her close friend.
The next afternoon at Green Earth Health, all the employees were gone for the day but Katie. Melanie leaned over the cubical divider, watching Katie type like a mad woman. “Banging on the keyboard fast and hard will cause arthritis in the fingers and I’ll have to replace the keyboard.”
Katie kept typing. “I need to finish the long document. I’m on a roll.”
“I see. When you’re done with the batch, I need to tell you something. You know where to find me.” She taped the divider once and left.
Katie finished the batch and went to Melanie’s office. “Spit it out. I have papers waiting to be entered.”
“With that tone of voice, I might not give you a raise.” She gave a “so there” look.
“I’ve been here a month, Mel, too short to get a raise.” Katie sat on a spare office chair.
“You worked here before you moved to Montana and have more experience. You deserve a raise, and it might be enough for you to find a bigger, nicer place. Your apartment is too small for even a mouse.”
Melanie raised her eyebrows. “The raise will let you buy healthier food, or to at least put some in your kitchen. No surprise you’re skinny; I’ve seen what’s in your cupboards.” She spit out her gum in the garbage. “Nothing.”
“Top Ramen Noodles is something.”
“Ha. It’s after closing time and the claim batches are done. Let’s get out of here. Work isn’t the place to hang out at, but can be. Home is boring since my husband plays Wii games all night.” Melanie grabbed her purse and switched off her office light.
“I’d be having one of those boring nights too. I don’t mind staying and getting some overtime with a raise.” She smiled at Melanie.
“Did you drive or walk?”
“I walked. You know my place is close by.”
“Want me to give you a ride? I drive by your place to get to my home. I can drop you off.” She followed Katie down the hall to go outside.
“Nah, I’ll be fine.”
“Oh, the joy of walking.” Mel locked the door and they both headed down the stairs into the alley.
“Need to get the blood pumping through my legs after sitting all day.”
“Doing these stairs every day is enough for me.” Mel laughed.
They got to the bottom and Katie looked in her purse to find her house keys. Damn it. “Hey, Mel, give me the office key. I left my house keys in my desk again.”
“See, your brain is bored and forgets all the time. You need more nights out with me. Here.” Melanie put the keys in Katie’s hand.
“Thanks for the compliment.” Katie jogged back up the stairs and unlocked the door.
“You’re always leaving your keys behind and one of these days you will never find them. Get some spares made and I’ll take one for safe keeping.”
“I do have a spare set at home, but it doesn’t help when the door is locked. Happy Friday.” Katie tossed the keys back.
“True. See you on Monday.”
Katie waved. She went to her desk and grabbed the keys. This time they were on top of the desk and not in the drawer. Improvement.
“Hey, Matt, let’s go on 14th Avenue and see if we can have some fun.” Conner grinned with hopeful eyes. “We could pick up a girl, have some fun, and drop her off at the old skating rink.”
“The Rink is behind the cop station.” Matt gave him a look.
“I know. No need to worry. The pigs are everywhere else but there, like Buddy’s Burgers, Nettie’s Café, and look,” Conner pointed out the front window, “there’s a pretty gal in the alley. Stop the car here and I’ll grab her.”
Matt pulled into the alley. Conner jumped out of the passenger seat, ran a few feet, and grabbed Katie.
“What are you doing? Let me go!” She swung her arms to try to hit him and missed. The guy shoved Katie in the front seat, slammed the door, and jumped into the backseat behind her. Matt stepped on the gas, went to the end of the alley, and turned right on 1st Street.
“Hey there, chick, we’re not going to hurt you if you cooperate.” Conner pulled out a knife and waved it front of Katie’s face. “Are you going to play nice?”
She stared at the knife, frozen.
Matt looked over at Katie as he turned on Bell Ave. “Conner, I see the head cop heading out of Buddy’s. Drop the knife!”
Katie leaned forward, bit into the middle of Conner’s arm, and tasted warm blood on her tongue but kept her teeth locked in place.
“Matt, pull over, she’s biting me. Let go, you bitch, let go.” Conner moved his arm and Katie bit harder.
Matt slowed down and pulled to the side of the street. Right before he stopped, Katie found the door handle, opened it, and jumped out.
Autumn flashed behind Katie’s eyes and she thought she would join her daughter in Heaven as soon as she hit the sidewalk with a thump. It knocked the wind out of her as she landed on her side.
A male voice shouted, “Help. This lady’s hurt,” and ran to Katie’s side.
Another male’s voice answered, “I’ll take care of it.”
Katie got her breath back and didn’t want to deal with anyone. She pushed up to a sitting position and spit out blood. Not good. She hoped the guy didn’t have AIDS or
Warm hands touched Katie’s side and helped her stand. “Are you okay?”
She spun around, ready for a fight, and saw a man with the look of authority. Katie’s body stiffened.
“Hey, sweet pea, you all right?” the man asked again, and glanced at the spots of blood and spit on the sidewalk. “Bite your tongue from the fall? Let me see your arm.” He lifted it some to take a look at it. Katie didn’t move. “It’s a little scraped but not too bad. Let’s report this at the police station and I’ll check the first aid kit to see if we can stop the bleeding.” He turned, put his hand on the middle of Katie’s back, and guided her toward the station.
“Do you have a name?” He looked at Katie. “I can call an ambulance, but I believe your arm is fine.”
She didn’t say a word. Her mind questioned what to report. Why file a complaint when I don’t have a license plate number, type of car they drove, and don’t remember what they looked like?
“I’ll keep calling you sweet pea unless you do have a name.”
Sweet pea? He called me sweet pea? She rolled her eyes. “Okay, Popeye, my name is Katie. And no, I didn’t bite my tongue; I bit the guy’s arm while he held a knife to my face.” I sound a little snooty, but hey, I got attacked.
He liked her spunk and chuckled. “A report needs to be written to catch Bluto and his partner.”
“Do you have enough spinach to catch the bad guys?” Katie put pressure on her throbbing arm. She leaned over and did a final blood-free spit.
The handsome guy looked at her and grinned. “It’s not my first rodeo,” he said, and opened the front door at the police station.
Katie headed to the window of the front desk. “I need to report, um, a…” She wasn’t sure what to say.
The gentleman who took Katie there pulled a badge from his pocket and unlocked the door by the front desk window. She looked at the clerk and the man in awe.