AITL – Chapter Three

Sunday: May 22, 2022

After waking up and taking a shower, Aurora skipped breakfast and coffee to head to the sheriff’s department instead. She was nervous for the trip, even though it was just to fill out a bit of paperwork—although even she had to admit that nervous was quite the understatement when it came right down to it—and the bathroom door… thing the day before didn’t do much to help. The fifteen-minute drive had helped to calm her, however. She was thankful for that. By the time she walked into the sheriff’s department building in Oskaloosa, she felt confident about herself, a feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time.

And damn, did that feel good.

At least, she was pretty sure it was confidence, and even pretty sure felt pretty good when compared to her usual feelings. She wasn’t one hundred percent certain what confidence actually felt like. Had anyone ever truly been confident? Or did they all just fake it until they made it? Or was it just Aurora that completely lacked the trait?

She wasn’t sure, but she knew it was one of those things she hated not knowing.

The open dispatch position she was applying for would be a shift from midnight to eight in the morning. She didn’t mind pulling late nights and early mornings. So she filled out the application and handed in her résumé without any hesitation. She smiled at the receptionist as he told her she’d receive a call within a week, a call that would inform her whether or not she had an interview to eventually set up.

Aurora pulled out of the sheriff’s department’s parking lot and headed to the grocery store. She may have had pre-made meals from the neighbors, but she wanted something different than that. Something ‘different’, like frozen pizza and pop. When it came to Aurora Cole, the essentials were simple, things like coffee, creamer, sugar, frozen food, pop, and cheese sticks. For Aurora, the essentials were meals—or at least snacks—a person could eat all alone without feeling alone. She needed a new start, and she’d left home to find it, but that didn’t mean she truly wanted to be alone. That was why certain meals and snacks were important.

Like pizza.

A nice bagger boy walked her out to her car and helped her put the groceries in the back of her Blazer. He referred to her as ma’am, something that was a casual reminder that Aurora wasn’t exactly the youngest looking twenty-something-year-old on the block. She was okay with that, though. Sometimes, looking a little bit older than most girls her age made people think she had her shit together. That was always a plus.

Sitting in the driver’s seat of her Blazer, she met her own gaze in the flip down mirror in front of her seat. She sighed. She wouldn’t call herself ugly, precisely, but she was certainly far too plain to be considered anything near gorgeous. For as long as she could remember, she had been reminded of that on a relatively daily basis, sometimes from herself, sometimes from her classmates, and sometimes from her family.

She smacked the back of the mirror with the palm of her hand, slamming it back against the roof of the car. She wasn’t going to bring herself down. She had her false confidence now, and she was going to hold onto it for as long as she could before she single-handedly destroyed it all over again.

***

At home, Aurora put the groceries away and changed into her workout clothes: gray shorts, a sports bra, and a pink tank top, all made with the kind of material that was supposed to help wick away sweat. She slid her phone into the running armband she had secured around her upper arm. She pushed in her earphones and turned up her music. She snapped a leash onto Dexter’s harness, quickly followed by Cooper’s harness.

After a mile-long run, she was happy to be back in the house. She took off the dogs’ harnesses and went into the bathroom. She checked the bathtub for any potential gigglers. Nothing. She opened the basement door and checked there, too, just in case. Nothing. She closed the door, locked it. Finally feeling safe in her own bathroom, she shut the bathroom door and twisted the lock.

She undressed and took a long shower. She couldn’t help but close her eyes at the marvelous water pressure in the farmhouse. It was much better than it had been back home. Not to mention that she didn’t have a five-minute time limit anymore.

For the first time since she moved out of her parent’s house at the age of seventeen, she took a thirty-minute shower. And, God, did it feel good to rebel against old house rules.

***

Aurora sat down on the couch and set her plate on her lap. Cooper jumped up on her left side, Dexter on her right. She grabbed the television remote and turned it on. Immediately, she was greeted with a movie about a ghost of some kind.

She had never changed the channel so quickly in her life.

Aurora Cole didn’t believe in ghosts. She didn’t even believe in an afterlife. But that didn’t change the fact that the giggling from yesterday had still spooked her something terrible.

After watching a Roseanne marathon, Aurora finally gave up on staying awake around ten that night. Both dogs followed her to the bedroom upstairs, something she couldn’t help but be thankful for. She was even more thankful that they both slept on the bed with her, Cooper stretched out beside her and Dexter guarding the end of the bed, facing the door.

Aurora Cole didn’t believe in ghosts, but it didn’t mean she wasn’t afraid of the dark.


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