Find the beginning of the story here: Fire the Management


Becca found herself in a cold, white room. The lights were bright and she did her best to blink the brightness away. It was utterly quiet. “Hello,” she said, but her voice disappeared. The walls seemed to absorb any sound she let out. Breathing became harder, the room warmer. She looked around.

The recognition came when the room began to materialize into Aunt Jo’s. The walls, in their flowered wallpaper, she remembered from when she was a child. The house was always out of place. She had thought it belonged somewhere down south.

The tall windows seemed odd. Usually the curtains were drawn, but this time they were open. She knew she was in a dream by the glass that reflected like mirrors. She walked up to them anyway. They felt colder than the room and she assumed it was winter outside. Somehow she saw falling snow in the reflection.

Her mind wanted her to walk away, to leave the room, but her body wouldn’t do what she said. She stood there as the darkness filled the room, like smoke. It was heavy and suffocating. Finally, her legs gave way and she ran to the door. The world seemed to end there. She tried to stop and pull herself back, but she fell. The sensation woke her.

In her room, she stared up at the ceiling, her breath heavy in her chest. She was both excited that she was able to recognize that she was dreaming and terrified that she had been trapped. She picked up her phone. Two missed calls. One from her mom and one from her dad.

Her heart jumped. “Jenny,” she said to the room. She called her mom first. “Is Jenny okay?” she said when her mom answered the phone.

“Yeah,” her mom replied. “She was asking for you.”

The confusion lifted as Becca realized it was not, in fact, the middle of the night, but mid-morning. “Hey,” she heard Jenny say. “When are you coming to break me out of this place?”

Becca laughed. She remembered when it was simple and easy. “I can stop by after work,” she said. “Do you need anything?”

“Yes,” Jenny said. “Coffee. They won’t let me have anything here.”

“Well, it’s probably for good reason.”

“I will literally die if I don’t get some good coffee.”

“Okay,” Becca said, knowing there was no way she was going to bring her anything against what the doctors said.

She hung up and got herself ready for work. There was no thinking to it. Put on the black shirt, the black pants, and grab the black apron. Then walk down the stairs and clock in.

She barely made it in the door when the first question came, “Oh my God, Becca,” the cute little hostess named, Kiley, said. “I can’t believe you are here. Jason said he would take your shift.”

Becca looked up and saw the manager come from the back. “Are you good?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Becca said as she started toward the back to put her things away. “I’m good.”

“This is like the second time your sister has been in the hospital.”

Oh right. “No,” she said. “I mean yeah, but I think she’s okay,” she said. “Wait, how did you all find out?”

“Seriously?” Jason said as he entered. “We’re friends.”

Then she also remembered that Jason and Jenny had hung out a few times. One of the reasons Bo was so overprotective.

“Right,” Becca said. “Listen, I’m good. You don’t have to cover for me,” she added to Jason.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

Becca thought about it again. She did have a good reason to take the time off, but she also did need the money. It’s not like she had a ton of cash flowing in and the idea of selling the house was not a thing that she thought she could do now.

“Yeah,” she said again. She opened her locker and put her purse inside. There was a bag hanging off the hook. “What’s this?” she asked as she opened the bag. A long box was inside.

“I don’t know,” Jason said. “It’s your locker.”

She pulled the box out as Jason turned to tell the manager he was going to head home. Inside the box was the one thing she she was extremely happy to see. It was Aunt Jo’s wand. “How did this get here?” she looked up once she realized what was going on.

Jason had already left the area and she was only in the room with the manager. He shrugged.

Becca put the wand back into her locker. Be more careful. She checked and double checked the lock and still didn’t feel comfortable walking away from it. Her mind raced at the possibilities of how it could have gotten there. The reality of her life at the moment, meant it literally could have gotten there in any way.

All of that was found when she asked Kiley about it. “Some lady brought it in and asked if I could give it to you,” she said. “I forgot I put it in your locker,” she started, “which is exactly why I did that. Because I would set it somewhere and forget.”

In that moment, Becca realized the people in the restaurant might be a bit gossipy, but they all showed actual care for her. More than she could ask for considering the lack of effort she put into their lives.

 

She carefully carried the box that held the wand when she clocked out for the night. She slipped it into her bag and promised not to lose it again. Her big bulky strap over her shoulder kept everything in place.

The night had grown dark and as she entered the hospital she passed Marcus on his way out. He sent her one of those sexy, half smiles. She responded with reddened cheeks.

“Glad your sister is okay,” he said as he turned to keep eye contact but never stopped walking.

“Thanks,” she replied.

Jenny met her with excitement. “Where’s my coffee?”

Becca sat her bag in the chair by the window and let her father respond. “Jenny,” he said in his stern voice. Becca laughed as Jenny silenced and crossed her arms like a child.

“Anything new?” Becca asked.

“No,” Jenny fell back onto the pillow. “Just a lot of tests.”

“Any results?”

“Not yet,” Jenny said.

“Are you gonna be here for a minute?” Becca’s dad asked as he started to pack up his computer.

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Jenny began but both Becca and John ignored her.

“Yeah,” Becca ignored Jenny’s response.

“Okay, mom will be here in a couple hours to stay the night,” John went on.

“You guys,” Jenny said. “Seriously.”

John went over and kissed Jenny on the head. “You’ll always be my baby girl,” he said.

Jenny rolled her eyes like a teenager, but as soon as John left the room, she looked to Becca and said, “I really screwed up.” Her eyes wide like she didn’t know what to do.

“What do you mean?” Becca asked.

“Well,” she started. “I think the seizure might have been caused by something I did.”

Becca shot her a look. All she could think of was the spells they had been doing and her suspicion that Jenny had been doing more than she said she was.

“It’s possible that when I had the seizure, it was because I was high.”

“Being high shouldn’t cause a seizure,” Becca said.

“Not pot,” Jenny added. “I may have snorted a little powder.”

“What the fuck, Jenny?”

Jenny sat up to begin a lengthy explanation but didn’t get another word out of her mouth. The room darkened. As if out of nowhere, swirls of black began to materialize. Becca turned and turned to see each new one appear in dizzying swiftness. The two girls looked at each other and the anxiety they shared jumped through about the room. Becca looked over at the windows to see that they had turned to a mirrored surface. She remembered her dream the night before, and the book of the little girl, and the weirdness she had been experiencing as her waking life and dreams collided.

“What time is it?” she said out loud as she scanned the room for a clock. That was the only thing that confirmed her reality. Time was always wrong in her dreams. She finally found the round clock on the wall with the the hands pointing to 21 and 23.

“Oh good,” she relaxed. “It’s just a dream,” she began. “Wake up.” Those were the words she used when dreams got out of hand.

“Becca!” Jenny screamed as she climbed out of the bed. She grabbed hold of her IV pole with one hand and Becca’s arm with the other. “This is not a dream. It’s 9:23pm. That’s a military clock and if it was a dream, I wouldn’t be in this room with you.”

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