Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Briefs #14 The Hollow: Soul Seekers

Copyright 2014  JC Wallace
Each week a group of authors participate weekly in Wednesday Briefs Flash Fiction. Each installment is 500-1000 words long and is posted to our blogs each week. After you read the latest in my story, click on the link at the end to visit the other flashers.

Levi spent the remainder of the day playing with his new phone, and receiving dozens of texts from Gia expressing unabashed jealousy over Levi’s new toy and making sure he kept up on the gossip, which Levi could have cared less about. When Gia’s last text mentioned Noah, Levi ignored her.

True to his word, Logan sent a text complete with a picture of him with his girlfriend, Melissa. Levi couldn’t glean where the photo had been taken, but Levi was certain it wasn’t anywhere Logan truly wanted to be. Night and Day was how Levi described Logan and Melissa despite that, they appeared to care deeply for one another.

Levi dragged his laptop across the bed and logged into his Facebook account, which he rarely checked. The last time had been over a week ago. Besides Gia, there weren’t many other people Levi considered true friends. Compared to others on the social network, his friends list bordered on the pathetic, filled mostly with relatives. Some friends on his list were people from his college classes. A few were from Plattsburgh, including Professor Winston who’d taught Levi’s philosophy class. For some reason, they’d clicked and kept in touch on Facebook since Levi had abandoned college for the safety of home. She’d been trying to get Levi to come to Plattsburgh to visit but he’d declined each time. For the most part, Levi had accepted many of the friend requests, being nice.  Now, the small red box with the white number “one” at the top of the screen made him wonder who he’d be friending out of nicety this time.

Clicking on the red box, Noah Macy’s small face beamed back at him from the request. Fuck! He let out a moan and threw his head back onto the pillow. Why was this guy’s name constantly invading his life? Gia must have put him up to it. Levi bit down on his lip and tapped his finger against the keyboard. What harm could come from friending the man who’d saved him from freezing to death? Gia had been prepared to offer up his phone number to Noah. This act might serve to silence the subject with Gia, giving enough time for all of the hoopla to die down.

Two choices—“Accept” or “Not Now”. Tentatively, he pointed the white arrow to Accept. Just do it. With a press of his thumb the request was accepted“friends” with Noah Macy. No big deal right? But if it wasn’t then what was with the nagging intuition that Noah was about to complicate his life?

Probably a premonition because Noah showed up at Levi’s house that night.


Chapter 8

Nothing. Not a twinge, or a skip of the heart, or an inkling of the warm lust Levi had experienced yesterday as he’d gazed up at Noah from that gurney. As he assessed Noah sitting on the couch across from him, he studied the contours of his cheeks, the shape of his lips and tried to recreate that perfect moment in the hospital. Nothing. Both relief and remorse struggled to be recognized.

Earlier, Levi had been relatively pain free and comfortable in his bed. Reluctantly, he’d moved to the couch in the living room after his father announcement that Noah would arrive at six P.M. No amount of arguing or excuses got Levi off that hook. The question of the day? How did Noah get an invitation to his house and from his father no less? Impossible, Levi had thought, yet there was Noah sitting across from where Levi laid propped up on pillows. Noah’s wavy auburn hair had been pulled neatly into a ponytail. None of those pesky, errant waves from yesterday were visible. In his button-up, blue shirt, khakis and leather loafers, he’d come dressed to impress.

Levi’s father had monopolized most of the conversation so far which took the pressure off Levi, however, Noah kept insisting on dragging Levi in. After a play-by-play of the events after Levi had stumbled to the cabin, Noah went on to explain why he’d been there in the first place. To Levi’s surprise, Noah was an Adirondack guide, as well as a college student and caretaker for the owner of the cabin, some big lawyer from Albany. Most weekends, Noah guided fishermen, hunters, hikersanyone who wanted the mountain experiencethrough the Adirondack Mountains. During the week, he attended classes and kept up the cabin. A bonus, he added, was his unlimited use of the cabin since the owner only visited the area a few times a year. Noah had flashed Levi a wide grin with that last bit of info as if that would impress Levi.

Levi’s mother stepped into the living room, asking Noah for like the tenth time if he wanted anything. Again, his answer was no. Apparently, he wasn’t getting that saying ‘yes’ would have saved him from her incessant hospitality.  Unfortunately, his mother’s mission this time wasn’t to serve as much as to drag his father from the living room.

Great, alone with Noah.

Unease filled Levi’s gut. Noah may have saved him, but now Levi felt as if he owed Noah something and he didn’t like the feeling. Small talk was not Levi’s forte. Any kind of talking at all was something he tended to avoid. What would a normal person say in this situation?

Noah relaxed on the couch, his arm resting across the back. Levi could swear there was a nervousness underlying his cool fa├žade.

Silence rarely bothered Levi, in fact, most of the time, it was his saving grace but he chose to break it first.

“I’m not sure if I said it at the hospital”Levi could have said anything given the drugged state he’d been in“and…well, I just want to thank you for helping me out yesterday.” He breathed a sigh of relief. He’d spoken and lived to tell about it.

Noah sat forward on the sofa and propped his elbows on his knees. His face brightened and a gleam flashed in his eye. His smile was a bit too wide. “No problem. Kind of a freaky day, huh?”

The understatement of the century. “Yeah, I guess.” So, Levi had said thanks and now wanted to know when to expect Noah’s departure.

When Noah sat back on the couch, getting comfortable again, Levi feared it was going to be a long haul.

“So, exactly how did you end up here, at my house, tonight?” The question sounded ruder aloud than it had in Levi’s head.

Before Levi could retract it, Noah answered. “Your father called me. He actually knows my mom. He surveyed some land for her a couple of years ago. Your Dad said he appreciated what I’d done for you and then asked me to visit.” He shrugged his shoulders.

Probably more like getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth. The fact that his father trusted a stranger more than he trusted Levi was a sickening kick in the stomach.

“So how’re the ribs doing? That was a nasty bruise. I can only imagine what it looks like today.”

Levi’s cheeks heated at the memory of Noah lifting his sweater yesterday. It increased his unease ten-fold. “I haven’t taken off the wrap that the doctor put on. He said not to remove it for a couple of days. Something about keeping the swelling down. Really, I have no desire to see it.”

Time to leave, right?

 “You’re lucky you only broke a rib. At that distance, you could have been knocked out.”

The enormity of the distance he’d fallen hadn’t hit Levi until Noah had driven the motor boat from the camp. When Levi had pointed out the massive stone ledge, Noah had shook his head in disbelief and questioned how Levi had walked away with only a broken rib.

“Yup. I’m the lucky one all right.” Levi moaned silently. A dental visit would have been less painful than this conversation, but how did he end it without being totally impolite. Then, as if on cue, Logan walked into the living room, Melissa following close behind.

My hero!

Levi introduced them to Noah. Logan vigorously shook Noah’s hand, showing his appreciation.

“Hey, thanks for taking care of Crash here for us. We just never know what he’ll do next,” Logan said, winking at Levi.

Levi glared at Logan and crossed his arms.

“Logan, don’t pick on Levi. How’re you feeling?” Melissa asked, flopping onto a chair with a magazine she’d been carrying (no doubt some kind of girly shit.)

Levi knew he liked her for a reason. “Good.”

Noah chuckled with an impish smirk. “Crash?”

“Logan, you’re gonna get it,” Levi murmured but first he had to remove himself as the focus of the conversation. “Hey, Logan. Noah’s an Adirondack guide.”

That statement not only removed the focus from Levi, but also saved him from further conversation with Noah. By eight o’clock, Levi’s ribs pulsed as the pain meds wore off.  Levi excused himself for the comfort of his bed. 

Logan assisted Levi off the couch. Climbing the stairs was a slow process, his ribs pained with each lift of his right leg. Relief came in the form of pain meds and the escape of sleep.

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