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Mystery Man

By:Kristen Ashley

two narrow walls both fit with gorgeous stained glass.

Two years ago, that stained glass was my undoing.

Two years ago, approximately six months and two weeks prior to meeting my Mystery Man, I’d walked one single step into this ramble and wreck of a house, saw that stained glass, turned to the realtor and announced, “I’ll take it.”

The realtor’s face had lit up.

My father, who hadn’t even made it into the house yet, turned his eyes to the heavens. His prayer lasted a long time. His lecture longer.

I still bought the house.

As usual, I should have listened to my Dad.

I looked out the narrow side window at the door and saw Darla, my sister’s friend, standing out there.

Shit.

Shit, shit, shit.

I hated Darla and Darla hated me. What the hell was she doing there?

I searched behind her to see if my sister was lurking or perhaps hiding in the shrubbery. I wouldn’t put it passed Ginger and Darla to jump me, tie me to the staircase and loot my house. In my darker daydreams, this was how Ginger and Darla spent their days. I was convinced this was not far from the truth. No joke.

Her eyes came to me at the window, her face scrunched up, making what could be pretty, if she used a less heavy hand with the black eyeliner, and the blush, and her lip liner wasn’t an entirely different shade as her lip gloss, not so pretty.

“I see you!” she shouted and I sighed.

Then I went to the door because Darla would shout the house down and I liked my neighbors, they didn’t need a ten thirty in the morning, biker bitch from hell standing on my doorstep and shouting the house down.

I opened it but not far and moved to stand between it and the jamb, keeping my hand on the handle.

“Hey Darla,” I greeted, trying to sound friendly and pretty pleased with my effort.

“Fuck ‘hey’, is Ginger here?” Darla replied.

See!

Totally spent her days looting.

It took effort but I stopped my eyes from rolling.

“No,” I answered.

“She’s here, you better tell me,” she warned then she looked beyond me and shouted, “Ginger! Bitch, if you’re in there you better come out here, right fuckin’ now!”

“Darla!” I snapped, “Keep your voice down!”

She craned her neck and bounced on her toes, yelling, “Ginger! Ginger, you crazy, stupid, bitch! Get your ass out here!”

I shoved out the door, forcing her back and closed it behind me, hissing, “Seriously, Darla, shut up! Ginger isn’t here. Ginger is never here. You know that. So shut up and go.”

“You shut up,” she shot back. “And you get smart. You’re helpin’ her…” She lifted her hand, pointed her finger at me, thumb extended upwards and then she crooked her thumb and made a gunshot noise that puffed out her cheeks and made her lips vibrate. I would have taken a moment to reflect on how good she was with verbal sound effects if the serious as shit look in her eye wasn’t scaring the crap out of me.

So, instead of congratulating her on the only real talent I suspected she had, I whispered, “What?”

She dropped her hand, got up on her motorcycle-booted toes so we were eye-to-eye and said in a soft, scary voice, “D-e-a-d, dead. You and her, you don’t get smart. You get me?”

Then I asked a stupid question because the question was asked often and there was always only one answer that answer being yes.

“Is Ginger in some kind of trouble?”

Darla stared at me like I had a screw loose. Then she lifted her hand, did the gun thing with the sound effect, finger pointed at my head. Then she turned around and walked swiftly down my front steps.

I stood on my front porch staring at her. My mind absently noted that she was wearing a tight tank top, an unzipped, black leather motorcycle jacket, a short, frayed jeans skirt the wearing of which was a crime in several states for a variety of reasons – both fashion and decency, black fishnet stockings and motorcycle boots and it was around forty degrees outside. She didn’t even have on a scarf.

The rest of my head was caught up with my sister and Darla’s sound effect.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

* * * * *

I drove my car trying to tell myself this was a good plan and knowing that my first plan, the one where, after Darla left and I went back into my house, I walked directly to the phone and called my father, was the right plan and this plan was garbage.

But my father and his wife Meredith had disowned Ginger awhile ago. It was approximately ten seconds after they came home from a vacation to Jamaica and lost their happy, island holiday mojo when they saw their daughter on her knees in the living room, her head between the legs of a bare-chested man, his jeans opened, his head lolled on the back of the couch because he was passed out and Ginger was so whacked on whatever she was taking she had no idea her activities were getting her nowhere.

And, incidentally, the living room was a disaster as was the rest of the house.

As you can probably see from this story, I was loath to bring my father into another situation involving Ginger. Especially since this wasn’t the worst story I had, it was just, for Dad and Meredith, the last. They were currently living a carefree, Ginger-free existence and I didn’t want to rock that boat.

Therefore, I didn’t call Dad.

Instead I thought of Ginger’s boyfriend, Dog. Dog was a member of a biker gang and Dog was as rough as they come. But I’d met Dog, I liked Dog. Dog was funny and he liked my sister. She was different around him. Not a lot, but at least she was palatable.

Okay, so Dog was likely a felon but, as ironic as it was, he was a good influence on Ginger and those didn’t come around very often as in never. Not in twenty-five years. So, since I was getting the hint from Darla, Ginger’s one and only friend, that Ginger’s trouble was a little worse than normal, I needed firstly to do something about it and secondly, since this was Ginger, call in reinforcements or better yet, lay the problem on their door.

Enter Dog.

I dro

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