Lightning in the Oak

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 11, 2019

Reads: 69

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Submitted: June 11, 2019

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“The roots of Grandma’s tree are still alive,” Ashley said. “Just because it looks dead, it doesn’t mean it is.”

“Since when did you become an expert on a tree at a house you haven’t visited in years?”

Ashley turned her head up. Did she hear what she thought she heard? If it were coming from the other end of the office, it could be hard to sort through the endless clacking of computer keys, waves of files being opened and shut, low-toned, boring (Oh, I’m sorry, “professional” sounding, Ashley thought) conversations with clients, and crashing of phones back into their cradles from the coming storm.

When the sound of thunder failed to clap, Ashley sank back down into the corner of her cubicle with her iPhone.

“Ashley? I believe I asked you a question.”

Ashley rolled her shoulders back, pulled a loose blond strand from the shoulder of her black jacket, and tilted her head up.

Ok. Customer service voice. Short, but polite sentences. You deal with this kind of behavior from clients all day, every day. You’ve gotten valuable information from people for way less important things than this.

Ashley began to take a breath to speak, but her stomach interjected.

Ok, NO more eating potato chips for lunch, Ashley promised herself. She rolled her eyes. Didn’t she say that yesterday?

“Sorry about that,” Ashley said. “I wasn’t trying to be rude.”

“Imagine if you actually put your effort into it, then.”

Ashley pulled her iPhone away from her ear to glare at the screen, even though he wouldn’t see her face. She wrinkled her nose when she saw all of the oil smearing on the screen.

Wasted another twenty dollars on an anti-smudge screen, Ashley thought.

“Ashley? I don’t really have time for this. I’ve got work to do.”

Oh, you mean sitting around and reading the checks your tenants send you in case they even miss one penny of their rent, Ashley thought.

“I apologize,” Ashley said. “What was your question?”

“You weren’t listening? Again?”

“Again, I apologize, but I’m actually at work right now. Is there a better time for both of us to talk?”

“We’re flying to Hawaii tomorrow,” he said.

“Hawaii?!”

“Yes. It’s this magical place where people go to for vacation when they’ve saved up enough money.”

Oh geez, I’m SO sorry I’m spending my thirteen dollars an hour on frivolous things like rent and food!

“What’s the best time for you?” Ashley asked.

“This afternoon.”

“Today?!”

“You might want to get your money back for that paralegal degree if you’re asking me that. Yes, today. We have to get to the house early today because our flight is early in the morning. As soon as we come back, we’re going to start working on the house to get it ready to rent out. Your grandmother had next to no maintenance done on the house over the last few years, and with the way that tree grew, it’s going to interfere with the plumbing, and it’ll cost thousands of dollars that I don’t have to fix it.”

You mean thousands of dollars you’d rather spend on Hawaii. Or whatever magical place I can’t afford to visit on Google Earth, much less travel to.

 “Ashley? Ashley!”

“Yes. I’m sorry, I’m here.”

“You keep apologizing but you still tune me out. Just like your dad used to do. Maybe we are related after all.”

“If that’s meant to be a stab at either Nana or my mom, I’d appreciate it if you would leave them out of this.”

“Excuse me, then. And no, it certainly has nothing to do with your mom. Excuse me if my manners fell a little short.”

“Insulting someone short enough to punch you in the balls isn’t smart.”

“What did you just say to me?”

“I said, is three a good time for you?”

Oh, the silence on the other end. Ashley hoped she didn’t snort loud enough for him to hear it.

“Yeah. Three is fine. I’ll give you an hour to get into the house and get what’s yours. Not that I think you’d need all that time. Maybe if you spent more time with her, she’d have left you more.”

She did. I just let you have it.

Ashley closed her eyes. She tried to tell herself that it was the right thing to do. Legally, financially, and even morally.

Turn the other cheek. I’m sure he’s having fun turning it black and blue.

“Three, on the dot, then. Not one minute before, not one minute after. Then I lock everything up until it’s time to remodel. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Ashley said.

“Glad we could get this worked out, Ashley.”

“My pleasure, Uncle Dominic.”

“Your grandma would be so proud of her little fairy.”

Ashley thanked God that she heard the click of his phone before he could hear the hiccup from her end.

Ashley pushed herself deeper into the corner of her cubicle. She hadn’t heard that name in years.

Ashley looked at the calendar on her wall. April 30th. Had it already been a year?

He wrapped up things pretty quick with her estate then, Ashley thought. Maybe a little too quick. But she’d have to e-mail her estate professor from college if she wanted to settle it.

SLAM!

Ashley shrieked—and then again when she felt the static electricity from the fabric on the cubicle strike her through her scalp.

Static electricity? This time of year?

She tried to stand, but her phone fell to the ground and she scrambled to pick it up.

“You better not be thinking that you can just sit around and do nothing if you want the old man to promote you,” Sasha said, resting her hands on her hips. Ashley stared up at Sasha. Damn. Hurricane Sasha made landfall after all.

“So, you heard,” Ashley said. “About my request. Even though I specifically asked him not to tell anyone.”

“It’s hard not to hear him when he’s getting his supplies in the closet.”

Yeah, and I bet you were just “passing” by when you heard it. Or maybe showing him how to sharpen his pencil.

“Well since I’m in trouble anyway,” Ashley said, standing up and giving Sasha a more pointed glare, “I’m going to go ahead and let you know that I have to leave work early today. It’s important.”

“Is that more important than the cases that have to be worked on today?”

“More important than you ditching a whole week for Coachella,” Ashley muttered.

“Pardon me?”

“I said it’s a family matter. It’s only one day, Sasha. I can more than make up for it over the weekend if I have to.”

Ashley wanted to rip her hair out for volunteering for another weekend.

“Sounds good then,” Sasha said. “As long as the work is getting done.”

Yeah, as long as it’s YOUR work getting done, Ashley thought, eyeing the folder Sasha had just slammed on her desk.

“The deposition for the Leary case is tomorrow morning,” Sasha said, gesturing to the folder. “The questions need to be done by today. Finish that, and I’ll be happy to let the old man know about your early departure.”

“Just don’t get stuck supply closet then,” Ashley mumbled.

“Sorry?”

“I said thanks, I appreciate that.”

Ashley waited for the satisfying sound of Sasha bossing another paralegal around before sinking into her chair. She flipped through the scant pages.

She didn’t even get this started! She made it sound like she needed me to wrap it up!

The only thing Ashley wanted to wrap up was Sasha’s neck.

I’ll just have to come back afterwards then, she thought. Not that Uncle Dominic’s going to let me spend much time in there anyway.

No, she didn’t expect to spend much time there. But she could expect another night at the office so long that the only upshot was that at least she didn’t have to waste more money on gas for the morning commute. Her neck ached looking at her desk, her bed for the near future.

She opened her drawer and pulled out the envelope from her grandmother’s estate lawyer. She wanted to peek at it one more time before never setting foot at her grandmother’s house again. Her stomach growled again.

She was starving. And she wasn’t sure if she had another dollar for one more bag of chips.

Even if she did, it wouldn’t last her the night in this office.

She took a deep breath and nearly dropped the envelope. The scent of cinnamon, cardamom, mixed fruits, and the subtle but lingering undertones of tea and whiskey greeted her.

Barm brack, Ashley thought. The paperwork is reeking of it.

Her grandmother hadn’t made this bread long since before she died.

Right around the time she fell senile. Right around the time we lost Mom and Dad. And right when she stopped calling me her “little fairy”.

Another wave of the smell enveloped Ashley. Her coworkers continued working. Could no one else but her smell it?


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