Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Ten)
The big yellow sign announced DIVERSION in stark black letters. Ciel turned away from the garish sign only to be faced with darkness. The one small break in its thick density was Professor Jeffries' wedding photo, floating in mid-air. Again, the picture disturbed her, but she still couldn't pinpoint why.
“Ciel. Help me . . .” Janice's raspy voice called out, echoing all around her.
“Janice? Where are you?” Ciel spun around, but there was nothing but unending darkness now.
“Please . . . find me,” Janice's voice pleaded. “Find me.”
Ciel jolted awake with her heart raging in her chest. A dream. It was just a dream, but it felt so real—and so urgent.
Later that morning, Ciel helped Mrs. Rafferty clean up after art class. Jean Rafferty was a cool teacher, one she trusted and often talked to.
“What's on your mind, Ciel?” Mrs. Rafferty tilted her head, her light brown curls bouncing against her shoulder. “I know that look.”
Ciel hesitated a moment, her brow wrinkling. “Do you know . . . Professor Jeffries is married, right?”
“Ye-es.” She fixed Ciel with a stern look.
“Oh, no! I'm not interested in him that way.” Ciel's face burned with embarrassment. “Did you ever meet her?”
“No, dear. Melinda Jeffries doesn't come out in public very often.” Jean looked away and busied herself with some paintbrushes.
Mrs. Rafferty sighed, wiping her paint-splattered hands on an old towel. “I shouldn't be discussing this with you. There was some kind of accident—it left her face disfigured. Please don't spread that around.”
“Of course not!” Ciel remembered the photo in Professor Jeffries' office. “Mrs. R . . . is that why their wedding picture doesn't show her face?”
“From what I understand, the accident happened a few years after they were married. Perhaps a face shot would just remind her of what she's lost.” She shrugged. “Supposedly, she was a real beauty.”
“Yes. You better run along to class—and please keep our talk to yourself.”
“Sure.” Ciel gathered up her things and slung her backpack over one shoulder. “See ya later, Mrs. R.”
Ciel's mind was reeling. It certainly didn't excuse it, but the information might go a long way toward explaining why Professor Jeffries was cheating on his wife.
When school let out, Ciel hung around the teacher's parking lot near the black Ford Explorer with the license plate PBJ. She wasn't sure what her intentions were, but the need to do something wouldn't leave her alone.
Paul Jeffries left the school building, and Ciel watched him weave his way through the other cars in the lot. Wavy brown hair fell carelessly over his forehead, and for the first time, she could understand what might have attracted Janice to him. There was a leather satchel slung over his shoulder and a sheaf of papers in his hand. He balanced the papers as he dug into a pocket for his keys. The Explorer chirped and the lights flashed.
“Paul! A word before you go?” a teacher she didn't know called out.
Ciel had a small window of opportunity while Professor Jeffries was distracted. She took it without considering the consequences.
When Professor Jeffries drove out of the parking lot, Ciel was ensconced in the back of his SUV, curled into a ball under an old blanket.
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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook