Amazon and others. Paperback and Kindle
Visit my website! http://janellemerazhooper.com/
Amazon and others. Paperback and Kindle
Visit my website! http://janellemerazhooper.com/
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Chapter 5. Goodnight, Princess Lily
They ate at a restaurant on the waterfront that had served Northwest seafood since Bill Boeing launched his first airplane from Lake Union. Mike ordered a bucket of steamed clams, and Lily ordered crab cakes. It was late, so the dinner rush was over. Their main entrée arrived before they’d finished their appetizer of fried calamari.
Over dinner, Mike raised concerns over Lily’s bathroom guest. “That’s an awfully big snake. Big enough to be dangerous. What was his name?”
“Boogie. Velma likes to dance.”
“Where does he live?”
“On my floor, just around the corner.”
“Why do you think he went to your apartment?” he asked as he worked his way to the bottom of his bucket of clams. “You don’t have anything he could make a lunch out of—except you.”
“I’m serious,” Mike persisted. “I saw a television documentary on anacondas in the Amazon, and a huge snake watched a group of scientists walk through a shallow marsh and waited for several men to pass until a female scientist went by small enough for him to handle. When the woman passed him, it came up out of the water and grabbed her.” Mike pulled away from the table and gave Lily an appraising look. “What are you? About a size two?”
“Mike! You don’t seriously think Boogie is stalking me? Maybe he was really after my big green elephant, or the rabbit from next door.”
“I know it’s pretty far-fetched. But what else could be drawing him to your apartment?” he drummed his fingers on the tablecloth as he thought. “Tell me about that rabbit. Does he ever come over to your place?”
Mike interrupted her, “Are you kidding me? Boogie and Bomber?”
“Well, he leaves bunny bombs sometimes.”
“Okay. Go on,” Mike grinned.
“Well, Bomber visits frequently. He’s a sweet little creature. Other people have dust bunnies under their bed. I have the real thing. I buy those little peeled carrots for him at the grocery store.”
“Bingo! That rabbit’s scent must be all over your apartment. Boogie is using your flat as a hunting ground. Maybe he can’t get into the apartment where Bomber actually lives.”
“Probably not. There’s no cat flap at Barbara’s.”
“Cat flap?!” Mike almost screamed. “There’s a cat flap on your front door? Funny, I didn’t notice it.”
“Well, it’s been painted white to match the door. And it is blocked. At least it’s blocked enough so a cat can’t get in.”
“I bet a snake wouldn’t need as much room as a cat. I’d better look at it tonight. I don’t think your snake’s owner can be trusted to control her pet. It’s lucky for me Boogie doesn’t eat cherry pie.”
“You’re going to eat more pie?!”
“It’s okay,” Mike said with a devilish grin, “sooner or later I’ll work it off.”
Lily caught her breath, but said nothing. She wasn’t willing to open herself up to ridicule over her virginity in a conversation over an empty clam bucket. She had a late start getting into the dating scene to begin with, and just when she’d started college, she’d lost her mother, and then, her aunt. When most girls were sneaking boys into their dormitory rooms, Lily was struggling with the loss of her family and being homeless. For now, she’d keep her family history to herself.
When they got to the door of Lily’s apartment, the missing snake sign was off the door and a shaky Boots was standing guard.
“Good evening, Boots,” Lily said.
Mike stopped in place and waited expectantly for an explanation of the lizard’s name.
“The landlady is Jamaican and she says she’s just keeping him around until he’s big enough for her to make a pair of boots.” While she spoke, she picked a couple of hibiscus blooms from the plant by the door and tossed them to the big lizard as they passed by. Boots pounced on the blossoms like they were live prey.
“What else does he eat?” Mike wanted to know as he gave the creature a wide berth.
“Oh, he’s strictly a vegetarian. But he can get cranky and bite. He’s been more agitated than usual lately. I think Boogie has him spooked. He used to be the toughest kid on the block. Now, he’s got competition and I think he might feel threatened.”
“In a fight with a constrictor, which one would win?” Mike wondered.
Lily shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Boots might be the loser strictly because of his gentle personality. I don’t think he has the killer instinct of a snake. One of the tenants upstairs has a friend at the Woodland Park Zoo. He’s going to take him to lunch and see what he can find out.”
Mike looked at the cat flap and Lily put on tea and served the last of the pie. “What do you think, am I snake meat?” she asked Mike when he came into the kitchen.
“Lily, there’s no wooden frame on that flap. It’s closed on the top and bottom, but it’s loose around the sides. It looks like a homemade job, or else it’s very old.” Then, he asked, “Do you have any duct tape?” When Lily produced a roll from a kitchen drawer, he said, “I’m impressed. I never would have guessed someone as dainty as you would have duct tape in her kitchen drawer.”
Lily whispered, “I even have a hammer.” She heard a low, appreciative whistle in response.
Mike wrapped the silver tape around the cat flap opening several times. “It’s not pretty, but it’ll do until we come up with another solution.”
He started to sit down at the table, but he was still uneasy. He got up and started walking around the apartment. He looked in the closet, bathroom, and under the bed. “I don’t know how you can be so calm. I’m six feet, and a hundred and sixty pounds, and I’d be afraid to sleep here.”
“I think you’ve solved my problem, I’ll be okay now,” Lily said with false bravado.
“Maybe we should hang a Boogie bell over the flap, to announce the snake if he manages to wiggle in again,” he said with a laugh. “Have you got one in that drawer?” he asked, with a nod toward the drawer the duct tape was in.
“Fresh out,” Lily admitted.
There was one piece of pie left. When Lily offered it to Mike, he studied it carefully. He picked it up, turned it slowly around, and seemed to calculate its size. Then he looked up and asked, “Are you still a good girl?” When Lily nodded yes, he said with a laugh, “Then I’d better pass.”
When he left that night, he kissed Lily warmly and whispered in her ear, “Lily, I’m not a lech, but I’m not a monk, either.” Then, he winked and said, “Call me if you run out of duct tape.”
“I don’t have your number,” Lily said weakly.
“I left my card under your phone,” he said with a grin.
Lily abandoned her brave front once Mike was gone. Before she climbed into her bed, she searched the apartment again to double check for Boogie. He couldn’t be loose again already, she told herself. Velma wouldn’t be so careless when she knew she and the snake were so close to being evicted. Surely, she knew finding another snake-friendly apartment wouldn’t be easy. Still, she opened cupboard doors and rechecked her closets.
When she locked her patio doors, she heard some rustling in the big tree that grew alongside her building; she had an uneasy feeling, and scolded herself for becoming afraid of everything, even the killer squirrels in the trees.
She had crawled into bed and shut off the lights when suddenly she remembered Mike said he’d left his business card underneath her phone. She turned on her bedroom lamp and went into the living room.
When she picked up the phone, there was nothing there. She must have misunderstood him.
Disappointed, she crawled back into bed and turned off the lamp. Seconds later, she switched the lamp back on and looked under her bedroom phone. There it was. He must have put it there when he was checking to make sure Boogie hadn’t gotten back in. On the front of the card, he’d circled his home and mobile phone number. On the back, he’d written, “Call me anytime. Day or night. I mean it, Lily.”
She turned out the lamp and tried to go to sleep, but she couldn’t get comfortable. Her pillow was lumpy. She turned on her lamp one last time and lifted it up to see what was there. She found a bracelet box with another silk sack. Inside this one was a black-enameled silver-toned snake bracelet with red rhinestone eyes.
He might still be on the road. She dialed his mobile number. When he answered, he laughed.
“You found it.”
“I did. It’s wonderful. Thank you so much.”
“It’s not one of my pieces; it’s one of my competitor’s designs, but we’re friends. I thought you’d get a laugh out of it. You don’t have to wear it, it was just for fun.”
“I will wear it. It’s so cute,” then she shyly added, “and it’s from you.”
“I don’t suppose I can come back?” Mike teased.
“Sorry. I’m all out of cherry pie, anyway.”
“Next, I’m getting you a rhinestone chicken,” he said as he made playful chicken noises.
“Very funny. Good night, and thank you again.”
“Good night, Princess Lily.”
Oh! Never in her whole life had a man called her princess. Lily snuggled down deep in her blankets. She didn’t hear the surprised cry of a squirrel in the tree outside her window.
Honorable mention, 2014 Animals, Animals, Animals Book Contest, Wild Card category, NA (New Adult) & up. See more: www.JanelleMerazHooper.com
Dear reader, I hope you enjoyed this chapter from Boogie, Boots, & Cherry Pie. If so, please consider tweeting it! Many thanks, Janelle
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