Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Signs and Wonders" by Alex Adena (Novella)

Genre:  General Fiction

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  A faith-healer since childhood, Annie Grace has conned the masses to achieve fame and fortune. But her life starts to unravel after a district attorney targets her and a pesky television reporter threatens to ruin her ministry. As a crisis of faith develops, Annie discovers she really can perform miracles. What is the meaning of these Signs and Wonders?

She counted the dimples on the ceiling.
No, really.
Dimples. On the ceiling.
Twelve, thirteen, fourteen …
Annie Grace did not want to answer the hotel wake-up call, so this is what it had come to. Counting dimples on the crackle finish on the ceiling. It was a beautiful hotel room, wherever she was. Temple, Texas? No, Temple was yesterday. This was … she couldn’t remember. Her days blurred together. Also, her head was pounding from all the whiskey she had downed the night before.
Next to the phone was the bottle, which had a half-glass left, and two lead-crystal glasses. Two. Annie grimaced as she pondered what other Bad Choices she had made last night. Whatever they were — and wherever she had made them — she had made them in comfort. The sheets felt like silk. The pillows were perfect down-filled clouds of bliss.
The phone was going to keep ringing until she answered. Ernesto surely left that instruction with the clerk at the front desk. Ernesto left nothing to chance. He took good care of Annie, making sure that even if her schedule was a grind, she spent the night in the nicest room in town. That room always had her favorite scotch whiskey.
“Hello?” Annie answered. She could have said anything and gotten the same response, but her throbbing forehead had sapped her of her sass and spunk. “Um, oh. Thank you.”
The clock radio next to the phone showed it was ten in the morning.
Putting the phone back down, she pulled the sheets to her chin and went back to studying the ceiling. She couldn’t focus, however, as those two glasses kept reminding her that she wasn’t drinking alone last night. The second clue was when Annie determined the shower had been running … and had just stopped.
“Hey! Um … ummm … Randy?” she blurted, instantly realizing she had picked the wrong name. Like it mattered.
The young man who walked out of the bathroom was tall and trim, wearing jeans and a white shirt that gripped his muscular chest. This guy was clearly at the top of the list of the Bad Choices that Annie had made in her life.
“It’s Kevin,” he said.
“Whatever. I need you to go. Now,” Annie said. She didn’t really mean it but the phone was going to ring again if she wasn’t out of there soon.
“Don’t you want to have more fun?” Kevin teased.
He started to lift his shirt. Annie wanted to start counting abs. She really did.
But she resisted. “You’re not listening to me. I have to be somewhere. And I’m late.” She made a shooing motion with her right hand, like Marie Antoinette dismissing one of her subjects.
He finally got the point and left.
Annie had met him the night before at Mickey’s Roadhouse and, after a few drinks, started giggling at his lame jokes. It took her a few more drinks before she started talking about her late daddy. Annie knew he didn’t care, but she knew he would listen as long as he thought there would be fun later in the night.
Did they have fun? Eh. She guessed so. Was it a distraction? Yup.
In a blur, Annie took the world’s fastest shower and got dressed. Some women needed two hours to prep themselves for what Annie was about to do, but she had it down to a science. Everything had been put in its place before she had gone out drinking, and even with a hangover — even if she was blindfolded — she could be ready to go in five minutes. It was her uniform and it worked. Every time. A black pencil skirt highlighted her long legs and trim waist. Annie’s blonde hair flowed down her back, and her white blouse was cut just low enough to reveal the faintest trace of cleavage. Black, high-heeled boots cemented the confident-but-sexy, beautiful-and-bold image she had carefully cultivated all these years.
Annie glanced down at the nightstand and the bottle. She poured the remains of the whiskey into a glass and gulped down the dregs. One fog descended over her while a different one lifted.
Waco, she realized. She was in Waco.
Randy? He was two nights ago … and not as cute as Kevin.

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