The warm early morning sunlight peeking through the curtains and falling across Avery’s face woke her from a blissful sleep. She laid on her side for a moment, staring at the veiled glass of the french doors that lead to the balcony, able to tell there was a bright clear sky behind its shroud. Colin laid with his body close behind her’s, one arm wrapped around her slim waist; he was still asleep. Avery took his hand in her’s and pulled it up to her lips where she softly kissed his fingers; the two had only been in Paris for a few days, and there was still a dark line of grease under his nails from the years he had spent working as a mechanic in the shop across the street from the diner where she worked as a waitress.
Avery slid out from under Colin’s arm and slipped out of bed, she pulled the sheet away from her sleeping lover as she tip-toed across the cold marble floor of their penthouse hotel room, wrapping it around her naked body as she went. Colin grunted behind her; uncovered and no longer with the warmth from her body next to him he slowly began to wake up as well, blinking the sleep from his eyes and entranced by her every step until she arrived at the double doors. Avery pulled both doors open fully at the same time, a corner of the sheet in each outstretched hand, the bedroom behind her flooded with light as a warm gentle breeze blew past her causing the sheet to ripple. Colin could not take his eyes off her body as she stood there, silhouetted from him by the sheet, and completely revealed to the outside world on the other side of it.
Avery let her exposed body bask in the warmth of the sun as it rose up into a cloudless sky, she heard the faint sounds of traffic forty stories below, and looked at the Eiffel Tower in the distance, glad that the rain from the previous few days seemed to be over, the world now smelling fresh and clean. As if she could feel Colin’s thoughts behind her, Avery allowed the sheet to fall down her back to just above her waist before wrapping it around herself once more and turning to face him. Avery looked at Colin laying on the bed, he was still naked from the night before; she didn’t need to ask what he was thinking, his body told her exactly what he wanted.
She smiled at him playfully as he watched her cross the room; Avery’s movements graceful, as she passed the bed Colin continued watching, her hips gently swayed with each step. Avery placed one hand on the doorway and let it trail behind her, the sheet falling to the floor just as she disappeared into the bathroom, “Get dressed.” Avery called out to him as the sound of the shower spit to life, “I want to go see the city.”
Colin ignored what she said; instead he joined her in the shower where Avery acquiesced to his desire once more before they both dressed and headed out to explore their new surroundings.
It was hard to believe that it had been just one week since that man with a northern accent broke into the house Avery’s grandmother had left her, he had tied her up as he searched under the floorboards for hidden riches. Colin had stopped by unexpectedly that night to surprise Avery, and nearly had his head bashed in with a crowbar for his efforts. Avery had barely been able to free her hands in time to pick up the man’s gun from where it had been dropped during his fight with Colin, and shoot the maniac through the back. With his dyeing breath the man issued an ominous warning, that he was not alone, that there are others looking for the same thing he was.
The man died in Avery’s foyer, after which she took Colin upstairs to the bedroom and showed him the money he had pulled from the floor as she sat tied up in the corner. Colin went over to inspect the opening, and when he did he found that there were still more bundles of the money left inside. The two removed more of the floorboards and continued to pull out more and more money, when they finally finished in the early hours of the morning they had found nearly a million dollars, but as Colin pulled the last of the bundles out of the floor he found something else underneath it.
The luster of the silver necklace that Colin pulled from its resting place below the final bundle of one hundred dollars bills had been faded by tarnish for quite some time. The necklace’s chain seemed impossibly thin, and at its end hung an intricately woven Celtic cross not much bigger than his thumb. “There’s something written on the back.”, he told Avery as he passed her the necklace, it was so delicate it felt nearly weightless in her hand.
Avery furrowed her brow as she examined the tiny inscription on the back. She could tell that there were two words, but there was too much tarnish covering the second word to tell what it was. “The first word’s Dues, that’s Spanish for two right?”
“I can’t tell what the second word is though, it looks like it starts with a ‘C’…maybe cats.” She offered jokingly.
“Two cats.” Colin replied thoughtfully. “And here I always pictured Jesus as more of a dog person.” The two shared a laugh as they sat among the torn up floor boards and looked around at the small stacks of money piled up throughout the room.
“Now what?” Avery asked, there was a hint of desperation in her voice not to be the one to have to answer her own question. In just one night her entire life had been turned upside down. She wasn’t sure why she trusted Colin so much, or why she felt so comfortable with him. Maybe it was all the afternoons they had spent flirting as she served him grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries at the diner where she worked the counter. Colin had asked her out several times during the years that she spent caring for her ailing grandmother, but Avery denied him every time. She worked at the diner six days a week and barely made enough to keep the lights on at home and afford the many medications that were helping her sick grandmother cling to life. Now she sat amongst more money than she knew what to do with, and she was glad that she wasn’t alone.
“Is this the only room your grandmother used to rent out?” Colin asked as he fanned through a stack of the hundred-dollar bills before tossing it into one of the piles with the others.
“No.” Avery answered him, “She told me she used to rent out the room across the hall too.”
Colin looked through the doorway and into the smaller bedroom across the hall. “Do you think we should check it?”
Avery looked around herself and then shook her head, “I don’t think I could handle uncovering anymore secrets tonight.”
Colin wasn’t sure why he felt so strongly about Avery, but he knew there was something special about her the first time they met at the diner across from the auto shop where he worked. Her eyes spoke a language that his heart understood, even if the rest of him didn’t; and every time that Colin asked her out and Avery told him no, he would simply tell her that it was okay, that eventually she would change her mind, and that he was willing to wait until she did.
Colin wasn’t supposed to be at Avery’s that night. It was only Thursday, and their first date was still another night away; but Colin was excited that Avery had finally agreed to go out with him, and he had stopped by to give her the bouquet of supermarket wildflowers he had impulsively picked out when he got off work earlier that day. As he stood on her front porch waiting for her to answer the door he thought about how corny he must look, and contemplated leaving before she could open the door. He would have had plenty of time. As Colin continued to wait he began to feel a bit uneasy; he looked through the window next to door to try to discern if there was any movement coming from inside, and wondered if Avery might be in the back of the house and unable to hear his knock.
As Colin looked into the foyer he noticed a briefcase setting in the floor, the rug by the front door was bunched up as if it had been kicked, and a small table that had been holding a potted fern of some sort was knocked over on its side. Colin tried the door, and found it unlocked, he stepped inside and called out for Avery. Avery’s reply came from upstairs, she had shouted something about a man that Colin couldn’t quite make out, but the fear mixed with anger in her voice was easily recognizable. Then out of no where the stranger appeared, rushing down the stairs with a crowbar in one hand. In that instant Colin was ready to sacrifice his life to keep Avery safe, and he did his best to fight off the intruder, but it was Avery that killed the man and saved his life instead.
“What about the guy downstairs?” Colin asked.
Avery had let herself forget about the dead man down stairs, but Colin was right, it was an issue that had to be addressed. Avery answered, “I guess it’s time to call the police.”, as she sat there gazing into his steel-blue eyes and silently thanking God that Colin was there with her, and that she wasn’t having to face this ordeal on her own.
“You know they’re going to take everything when they come, right?” He sat there looking back at her, and into the warmness of her chestnut eyes.
“Of course they are, but what other option is there. It’s not like we can hide all of this and hope they don’t find it.”
Colin sat quietly for a minute before offering his suggestion, “We could do what you said before, we could just leave.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. You heard what that guy said. He’s got friends that are looking for this money too, and it won’t be long before they end up here, and what then?” Colin waited for Avery to answer, but she had no response for him. “Instead of calling the police we should bury that guy deep, somewhere in the trees out back, clean all this up, leave town and never come back. We could start in Paris, and when we get tired of that we could go somewhere else, anywhere else we wanted.”
“You are serious.” Avery said, she carefully crossed the room full of missing floor boards and sat beside him. “You would do that? Leave with me and never come back.”
“With you, yes.” Colin answered her, and then cupped Avery’s face in his hands and pulled it in close to his own, their lips met and they shared a long passion filled kiss. When their embrace parted Colin said to her, almost breathlessly, “I brought you flowers.” referring to the flowers that now laid strewn about the floor downstairs.
“I saw them.” Avery replied, her voice shared the same anticipation that Colin’s did, and her lips trembled slightly as they longed to be locked with his once again, “They’re pretty, but I’m not going to have much time to enjoy them. I’m leaving town soon.”
They left the room and went downstairs; Colin drug the dead man’s body out into the woods, and Avery began scrubbing the floor of the foyer where the blood had pooled. It was hours later when she finally finished, and when Colin came back inside he was covered from head to toe in dirt. “How deep did you bury him?” Avery asked as she watched Colin, leaning exhausted against the wall.
“Lets just say you won’t have to worry about any stray dogs diggin’ him up.”
It took the two of them most of the rest of the day to replace all the floor boards, and to put the furniture back in place. The sun was starting to go down Friday evening when they finally packed the last of the money into the back of Avery’s old Jeep Cherokee and headed out-of-town. They didn’t stop driving until they reached Cincinnati where they holed up for the weekend in a motel on the outskirts of town. First thing Monday morning they went from bank to bank, renting deposit boxes and stuffing them full of money until they had it all stashed away. On Tuesday they boarded a flight with a small bag full of money, and flew first class to Paris.
The first two days they were in the City of Love the rain never stopped. Avery had spent hours staring out from the balcony at the Eiffel Tower in the distance. She had also bought a tourism book at the airport as they waited for their flight, and now as they sat in their room at the top of the Napoleon Hotel and the rain continued to fall; Avery told Colin about all the things she wanted to see as soon as the weather cleared. Colin promised to take her to see them all; The Mona Lisa at the Louvre, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and anywhere else she wanted to go. They spent their days wrapped in each others’ arms and talking about the future, and they spent their nights passionately making love.
When the weather finally cleared on the third day, and they stepped out of the hotel, hand-in-hand heading for the Eiffel Tower, they never even noticed the man dressed in a black suit and trench coat that followed them.
written for: Goodreads – Week 200 – Free-for-All, write any story you want.
photo by: Stephan Edelbroich