Friends, colleagues, families, and the whole market of Cleveland television viewers are impacted.
What to do . . . oh, what to do?
And just what does an innocent red hair bow have to do with it?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)|
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By Mike Haszto
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Mike Haszto
All rights reserved.
It was the ultimate of dreary days, of another beginning.
Although it was mid-September, the local weather in Sandusky was muggier than a Flint armpit in the midst of a social riot. Even the Canadian Soldiers, a harmless though hording, flying insect that invades the tourist area each summer, evacuated for more pleasant conditions. Thick clouds with absolutely no breeze and a dripping moisture from everything imaginable highlighted the dreariness. The people, who eventually surrounded Ashley Malone, in fine prickly form, placed a close second in the dreariness race.
Dreariness breeds depression ... sure ... but it also fuels hostility to a large extent.
From the get go, it was one fight after another to move forward in her overcrowded yet lonely world.
After finally falling asleep just an hour before in the sauna she calls a bedroom, the blurry eyed brunette with the southern drawl fired a pillow across her queen size bed to try and silence her alarm. It didn't work.
With mounting stress, she attempted to roll over toward the annoying noise, but her hair got caught in her necklace, tweaking her head to one side, leading to an unbalanced situation of momentum going one way and her freshly pulled hair going the other causing sharp pain.
"Really? REALLY?" she screamed writhing in suffering waves of emotion.
The anticipated crescendo was building.
Her second attempt at silencing her first enemy of the day was just as successful, though this time her shoulder buckled under her body as she rolled.
This pain wasn't as sharp as her hair being pulled, but was duly noted.
"What the hell happened to my shoulder?" she whispered in exasperation. "What did I do now?"
She still lay crumpled in a human heap upon her pastel green bed sheet. Her pain flipped to frustration and then quickly back to a long moan.
"My hair, my shoulder, no sleep ... and my flipping head hurts to boot" she moaned to herself.
After a long moment of clearing her mind, she gathered up what physical strength she could muster and moved toward the alarm. The sudden silence of the room spoke to the success of turning off the alarm, nevertheless remnants continued to beat inside the now throbbing head.
Ashley rocked herself back and forth until she could get into a seated position on the side of her bed. Looking around in the semi darkness of her bedroom, she grasped the television remote and clicked on the usual morning news show on Channel 14.
All of her tension and stress that was harboring inside that body of hers vanished. It was no secret to her as to why.
She smiled at the handsome anchor as she moved to stand on the floor, taking a deep breath to now start her day. As she cleared the overnight cobwebs from her mind, her first thought immediately went into a vision of that newscaster having breakfast with her...or was it having her for breakfast?
She giggled like a schoolgirl as her body reacted with a slight quiver to her wishful thought.
She took another couple of moments standing there focused on the television with a slight grin on her face, awaiting his presence again.
This was a regular scenario with her ... minus the pain of course. She stood still and continued to soak up any camera time of her fantasy named Brock Tanner. And when he showed up on the screen, she twirled her long hair just like a teenage school girl. She stared intensely at his eyes and lips as he read the news, until the spell was broken by an advertisement touting used cars.
Snickering through her body's heightened passion; she strolled to the bathroom to further her routine. Unlike most mornings, she found herself standing in front of the large bathroom mirror looking at herself. She studied a few facial marks and then noticed a serious bruise on her left shoulder that appeared to be quite deep. It was very tender to the touch and caused her to cringe.
"Damn girl, what did you do?" she thought.
Just then, another vision of Brock Tanner flooded her mind, overwhelming her. She looked into her own eyes and smiled. She witnessed her body go through some chills which led to some tingling and the sort. Her eyes wandered down and noticed the goose bumps that covered a good portion of her arms and legs. She touched her right breast and noticed the changes they went through ... and soaked up the brief moment now with eyes closed.
Seconds later, she stopped as the moment faded. She turned on the shower and stepped behind the curtain.
"Oh my gawd!" she yelled into the chilling atmosphere. "I love cold water, but Jee-sus!"
Ashley loved cold water indeed, her morning showers being cold was a part of her routine. Still, the shower this morning stung a little more than usual. She knew it would in some small way. Yet, she couldn't put her finger on just why.
Maybe it had to do with the dream she had, and/or her antics around just after midnight that caused her not to be in a ripe enough mood for the bitter chill. In any event, she wasn't recollecting anything.
While shivering under the cold water, she checked her body closer for any marks that it might have accumulated overnight. Not finding any other visible cuts or bruises other than her shoulder, she straightened her posture, put her face under the liquid needles and began to cry.
Except for the shivering, she didn't move for several minutes.
She knew that something was wrong, though she wasn't ready to admit it just yet.
The ring of her cellphone filled her with warm blooded urgency. She pushed the shower head down, leaned out from behind the shower curtain and grabbed her cell from a shelf above the toilet.
"Hello?" she answered.
"Good morning Sunshine! Where the hell are you?" shouted a woman into her sensitive ear.
"What the fuck, why are you screaming at me?" she shouted back, showing displeasure in the loud voice on the other end of the phone.
That voice belonged to Erin Brant, one of several best friends that Ashley kept.
"Where are you girl?" Erin repeated.
"In the shower, where else would I be?" cracked Ashley with a tight bundle of stress added in for emphasis.
"Umm ... maybe Brock Tanner's place?" laughed her friend.
"Yeah, I wish. Why are you teasing me like that?"
"I'm serious Ash. I thought you'd be there."
"Why's that?" questioned Ashley as she directed the shower head into the side wall so she would stop getting sprayed by the water.
"Well, you were there when you called me at two thirty this morning ..." started Erin.
"I was? I did? What the fuck ..." she interrupted and then lamented.
"You don't remember?" posed an increasingly perturbed friend. "You lie to me this morning? You woke me up and lied to me? Fuck that girl. I will kick your sorry ass from here to Bellevue."
"Wait a sec. I'm thinking. Hey, let me call you back. I'm freezing my ass off in this shower ..." she said.
Erin responded to the point.
"That's what you need, cold water to freeze your ass off. Stay there a little longer. Call me in fifteen. Okay? Bye" she snapped. Ashley put down the phone, turned the shower to warm, and lathered up the soap.
While working her upper torso, she cringed in some pain. It went further than the mark on that shoulder, radiating into her chest and ribs.
"Oh shit. What did I do?" she again stated out loud.
Staying away from her shoulder, she washed her bottom half, rinsed and turned off the shower. She became so preoccupied with what Erin had said that she forgot to shave. She realized it as she was drying her legs.
"Damn ... been four or five days" she griped aloud. She talked to herself quite frequently.
A wave of disappointment shot through her, as she always prided herself on her overall appearance. She always wanted to look desirous, just in case her knight in shining armor appeared. So as the towel caught the static of her stubble, disappointment again ran through her body.
She combatted that low feeling by turning toward the bathroom mirror, standing up straight, and admiring her curvy frame that had just dropped fifty pounds in the past nine months.
"Damn you look hot girl ... even if you are a little hairy today ..." she smiled in self affection, blowing a kiss to herself in the mirror. "Brock, one day all this will be yours."
She looked down at the small white clock on the corner of her sink.
"Shit, I need to run."
Ashley was never one to be late. She scampered back to her bedroom and dressed in about ninety seconds, even as Brock was again reading some news. Her outfit was organized in advance, as always. She was compulsive about that. She spent another three minutes putting on her face, not wasting a second.
She kept stride to the kitchen, opening the refrigerator. She grabbed a bottle of unsweetened ice tea and gathered a large blueberry muffin and was out the door with an ease and flair.
When she settled into her SUV, she called Erin over her Bluetooth.
"Hey Ash, have you and your memories synchronized yet?" she asked as she answered the phone.
"Not a chance. I can't remember anything after going to bed at ten" Ashley admitted.
"You went to bed at ten? You sure? I don't believe that ..."
"Cuz you were out and had no plans of going home to bed ..." tallied Erin.
"That so?" Ashley disagreed.
"Yup. The only way you were going to bed at ten is if you were with a certain somebody" Erin teased.
"Whatever. I tell you that I was in bed last night at ten. That's all that I remember" insisted Ashley.
"Were you alone?" queried Erin.
"Of course I was. You know that. Who would I be with?"
"Well, Brock of course" she joked, with full knowledge of Ashley's obsession with the Channel 14 talking head.
"Yeah I know you do. But seriously, if you went to bed at ten, what the hell were you doing calling me from his house at two thirty?" pushed Erin.
"You still going there?" Ashley pushed back.
"Uh, yeah. Look, you woke me. We spoke for ... like ... fifteen minutes. Are you saying you woke me up and lied to me?"
"I'm not saying anything. I don't remember doing it."
"You don't remember where you were at two thirty?"
"That's bullshit girl. Bullshit ... with a capital B."
"What makes you call bullshit?" asked an oblivious Ashley.
"Have you checked Facebook today?"
"Like I've had time?"
"Well you need to" demanded Erin.
"I'm driving right now. Can't you tell me?" pleaded Ashley, still not getting the picture from Erin.
"Well, according to your post at two thirty, you were standing at the front door of Brock Tanner's house in Westlake."
"What? Are you serious?"
"I seriously doubt that" conceded a stunned Ashley.
"It's on Facebook. You posted it. How can you doubt it?" Ashley paused before answering her friend. She gave it about twenty seconds of focused thought.
"Because I have no idea where he lives" she confessed.
"Hey, you posted it. I didn't. You called me. I didn't call you. You woke me up at two fucking thirty. All I'm saying is what the fuck."
"Shit, I really don't know. Let me think. Erin, I'll be at work in about fifteen minutes. See ya then."
"Okay. See ya soon. Drive safe girl."
"Why are you telling me to drive safe, Erin?" Ashley asked with a touch of paranoia.
"I'm going to go out on a limb here. It sounds like you're an emotional wreck."
"It's starting to sound that way, I guess. I'm fine. See ya in a little bit" Ashley declared, signing off.
* * *
About fifteen minutes later, Ashley walked into the offices of her public relations firm on Columbus Avenue with her usual firm walk and smiling face. She was most definitely suited for the business, with her sharp business mind and inspirational personality that was strong and contagious. Her persona was normally trademark positive: in her appearance, in her image, and in her demeanor. She was well loved by her co-workers.
Erin was one of her co-workers who had known Ashley for over half of their lives. She worked closely with Ashley in the same business for over twelve years. Her personality was almost a complete carbon copy of Ashley's: bright, cheery and driven, though both were such good friends that neither stepped on each other's toes nor were taken from offense to. They simply fit together very well, understanding each other's perspective. They spoke their minds to each other without the political correctness bullshit that evolved from the turn of the century.
"Hey you, so what's the story?" Erin asked as she followed Ashley into her office.
"No idea. You tell me" she replied as she put her oversized purse bag down on her well organized pristine desk.
She pulled out an ice tea from the colorful bag and set it down on the left side of her desk as she sat down in her comfy office chair.
Erin stood somewhat motionless, with a slight sway back and forth, looking at her in disbelief.
Ashley felt the tension in the air and at this particular moment didn't want a part of it. She surrendered.
"Tell me Erin. Please just tell me for God's sake. I'm freaking lost ..." she pleaded.
"Lost? Lost? Are you kidding me?" wailed Erin as she began to lose some self-control "You haven't been lost in twenty years...what gives girl?"
"I don't know. I DON'T KNOW! Tell me what you know! ERIN!!!" begged Ashley.
"What's the last thing that you remember from last night?"
"I don't know. I really don't remember anything from yesterday as a whole" she replied as she took a deep breath to calm down while moving restlessly in her chair.
Erin leaned on her desk, half sitting on the left hand corner. She further leaned in towards her friend. She was in a hyped up, disbelieving, and yet trying to calm down frame of physical mess.
"Jesus girl, you don't remember anything from yesterday?" she half whispered.
"No" Ashley said quietly yet firmly.
"No?" repeated Erin.
"No" she said convincingly with emphasis.
Erin saw the look in the eyes of someone who demonstrated plausible deniability.
"Shit Ash, you're starting to scare me here."
With tears filling her eyes Ashley said calmly "Imagine how I feel."
"Don't need to girl, I can see it in front of me."
Ashley sniffled, rolled her eyes to the back of her head and waved her hands in front of her face to regain her composure. The eyes were very much teary, though none went over the wall and escaped.
"Okay, so what's out there? What do you know? What kind of damage control do I need to do?" Ashley asked in rapid fire form. It was amazing how she moved herself from emotional wreck into problem solving mode in a split second.
"Well, I only know what you posted on Facebook and your call to me at two thirty ..." reiterated Erin.
"What did I post? Was there more than one post? What time was that?" Ashley continued in her sudden and strong movement to get answers.
"Well, turn on your computer" directed Erin as she pointed to it on the desk like a fashion model would with a limp curved wrist, open palm with all five fingers pointing. "Let's take a look and you can see for yourself ..."
Ashley took another deep breath. A moment of truth was Approaching ...CHAPTER 2
Brock Tanner has been a morning fixture in the Cleveland market for eight years. Originally a famed disc jockey and program director for nationally renowned radio station V-103, he transformed his highly visible and successful radio career to television with WVVV-TV on Channel 14 the past four years. The five and a half hour morning news program with Kacie Barman, Alicia Bollinger and Darrick Gates shot to number one in the market ratings in under a year, no doubt because Brock possessed the three necessary skills/instincts to make it such a meteoric success ... good looks, personality and camera presence. Of course, his fellow newscaster Kacie, lead reporter and medical expert Alicia, and meteorologist food guru Darrick were just as skilled, nevertheless Brock was the decided leader amongst the viewers. He was nicknamed 'Mr. Nice Guy' because he never turned down anyone for anything. Pictures for fans, charitable events, social media and interviews, he was a face of the station and he was always visible in some way.
Nichole, his truly beautiful wife, is an extension of him who stands on her own. A very classy, inspiring and professional woman, she always flashes a genuine smile and a sun bright personality. She met Brock sixteen years ago as freshmen at the University of Akron, where both were majoring in Communications.
Excerpted from Modern Privacy by Mike Haszto. Copyright © 2015 Mike Haszto. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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