Lighting a Fire Under the Saddle

The writer is slumping again! Apparently, she’s finding out that the ‘quick’ 14.5 she’s working on is proving to be harder than a regular LAC book. I wonder why that would be…


Chapter 1

Something roused me from my sleep. A dream, I figured and nuzzled closer to Claudia, who seemed herself to be stirring.

“Door,” she mumbled. A second later, she shot straight up, yelling, “Someone’s at the door!”

Her own dream, I further figured, but another second later, our dumb-ass doorbell corrected me. My eyes sped to the clock radio: 1:28. I dove for the lamp switch as Claudia hurried into her robe.

“Who could it be, Kate?”

“No frickin’ clue,” I replied, which was the truth, but one that didn’t acknowledge the feeling of doom in the pit of my stomach. “Wait for me. I’m going with you.”

The doorbell sounded again as I raced to put on sweatpants and a T-shirt. I caught up with her at our bedroom door, and together, we bolted down the hallway.

After I flipped on the porch light, we stole a peek, and my stomach instantly lurched.

There stood Holly.

The look on her face was cruelly reminiscent of the one she wore on the day Laura had been shot. Scared shitless, I seized the doorknob. 

I barely had the door open an inch before Claudia yelled, “Holly, what’s wrong?” 

With a red, puffy face, she answered, “Laura and I had a fight.”

Holy frickin’ shit, hell had frozen over!

I think we gaped at her for a full moment. Her sentence did not exist in the English language; hence, there existed no ready response.

“You had a what?” Claudia questioned.

“A fight.”

“A fight?” Claudia questioned again. “What happened, Holly? What the hell happened?”

“That counselor!” she spat and then bowed her head. “That counselor said I needed to tell Laura what I did, the stupid gas thing in my studio.”

Again lacking a reply, we stared some more, trying to fathom the unfathomable. 

“You told her?”

“I knew I shouldn’t have. I knew I shouldn’t have,” she answered. “It’s in the past, but she said Laura had a right to know something that big.”

Claudia regained her wits. She grabbed Holly’s arm and hauled her to the couch in the living room. I turned on a lamp and sat in the chair adjacent to them.

“You told her tonight?” When Holly clarified that it had been early evening, Claudia ordered, “Details. Give us details.”

She shook her head but not in refusal, maybe a thought-sorting motion. “If I had to do it, it made sense to do it tonight. Jaye’s safely back home. Her work’s been going okay. Plus, it’s Friday so I thought we’d have the whole weekend to take care of it if something went wrong.”

“And something went wrong?”

She started crying. “I’ve never seen her this angry. She scared me.”

“What the hell do you mean, she scared you?”

Holly swatted her. “Not that kind of scared me. She’d never hurt me. You know that.”

“Then how?”

Again, she shook her head. “I’ve seen her mad before, but this is different. Seriously, I really did think her head was going to explode.”

“What did she say to you? When you told her, what did she say?”

“Nothing! Absolutely nothing. She just got mad. I think she’s so mad she doesn’t even know what to do.” She paused for a moment. “I just let her be, like I usually do. She has ways of working things out, but this time, she either can’t or won’t.”

“Holly, think about it,” Claudia said. “Has she ever been mad at you?”

“Frustrated, I’d say, but we take care of things right away. We’ve both always hated it when it feels like something’s between us.”

“Did you try to take care of it?”

“I tried to get her to talk to me, but all she’d do was glare at me.” She drew a deep breath. “I honestly couldn’t stand it anymore, Claudia. I told her I needed to leave. I’ve been driving around for hours, waiting for her to call me. But she hasn’t. I don’t think she’s going to.” She started sobbing. “If I end up losing her because of something I did when I thought I lost her, I will—”

“You’re not going to lose her.” She pulled her into her arms. “You’re not going to lose her.” She gently rocked and simply let her cry for a few moments. Finally, she said, “She probably just needs some time.”

Rather than accepting the words as reassurance, she seemed to take it as condemnation or something. She slumped onto Claudia. “Time away from me,” she defeatedly said. “My God, I screwed up—so bad that she can’t even stand to look at me.” Her crying turned to sobbing. “I’ve never seen her like this, and I can’t even be there for her. Because I did it.”

Claudia shot me a pleading look. I knew what it meant—and just how unnecessary it was. I had already risen to head to the bedroom for my shoes. I squeezed her outstretched hand as I passed.

My mind swirled almost violently, each step seeming to make a new vortex. Holly hurt like hell, understandably so. But what of Laura? What the hell was she feeling after hearing such a thing? All I could think was that she was alone in it, utterly alone—even to the unprecedented exclusion of Holly. Indeed, hell had frozen over.

Suddenly cold to the bone, I threw on a sweatshirt and then wriggled into my shoes. For some strange reason, I thought of the “Be mine” heart Claudia had given me, and I seized it from the dresser on my way out the door.

When I returned to the living room, it became apparent that Claudia had informed Holly of my unspoken intent to go to Laura. Still crying, still clinging to her best friend, she looked at me and said, “Thanks for doing this, Kate. I owe you, again.”

Some foreign thing in me wanted to say: I’m not doing this for you, Holly. You have Claudia. I’m doing this for Laura. I guessed on some level it was for her, too, and for me, and for everyone who gave a shit about her. Then I reminded myself that Holly wasn’t selfish enough to believe this was simply about her. Laura was and always had been her priority. Wasn’t that what precipitated this whole frickin’ scenario, Holly loving Laura literally more than life itself?

Proving that, she rattled, “Please make sure she knows I love her and that I’m sorry. I told her a hundred times, but I don’t think she heard me. Oh, and tell her I miss her so much it hurts, and tell her to eat something. I don’t think she’s had anything since this morning. She gets sick to her stomach when she’s angry and won’t eat.” Her crying intensified, and she blubbered, “I did this to her. My God, I did this to her!”

“She loves you, Holly,” I told her. “That’s not just going to go away.” I believed that. Every cell of me believed that, and I figured somewhere inside she believed that, too. Didn’t she? Or maybe I simply had no conception of Laura’s true state.

Claudia shushed her as she maneuvered her to a prone position on the couch. Then she stood and walked me to the door. Handing me my keys from the table, she whispered orders to be careful and to let her know when I arrived safely.

We kissed goodbye, and I slipped out the door and into the surreal August night.



1 thought on “Lighting a Fire Under the Saddle

  1. Oh, so this is 14.5 about Holly trying to gas herself. I thought that was messed up. Really hard to judge. I am interested in reading this story!!

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