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   Chapter 4 No.4

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 8498

Updated: 2018-05-28 10:57


"MISTER BAIMBRIDGE?"

The woman at the back door held a black umbrella against her shoulder and struggled to keep her balance as she braced herself against a mighty gust of wind. She looked to be in her early twenties.

"Yes?"

"My name is Ashleigh Matthews. I live in Dr. Hardesty's pool house next door. May I come inside for a minute?"

There was a pained look on her face that reminded me of the loneliness I often felt. The kind of loneliness that gnaws a hole in your chest, steals your youth, and makes you vulnerable.

I parted the door just enough to allow her to get past me without letting in the whole storm. "Sure. Of course. Please come in."

"Thanks, " she exhaled dashing by me. As I closed the door, I caught sight of Mrs. Winslow gazing at me from a window. I gave her a two-finger salute and flipped on the kitchen lights.

"I'm sorry to impose on you on a night like this, " the woman said folding down her umbrella. She wore a pea-green raincoat over a white cotton shirt and faded jeans soaked from the knees down. Her lips were a bit too large for her face, but, still, she was extremely attractive.

"It's no problem, really. What can I do for you?"

"Well…two things actually." She looked around as if to see if I was alone. "My lights have gone off—"

"Oh? You could have a circuit breaker that's tripped. I'll be glad to go over and take a look if you like. Would you like to sit here until the rain slacks off a bit?"

"Yes. Thank you. That would be great." Her blond shoulder-length hair had six or seven strands of multi-colored beads woven into it hanging off the right side that clinked when she moved.

"And the other thing?"

"Well…" She rotated the umbrella from one hand to the other and wiped the bottom of her chin on the back of her hand. It had been so long since I'd had a guest in the house, I'd forgotten how to treat one.

"Oh, here, let me have that." I reached for the umbrella. "And the raincoat, too."

As I removed her raincoat, I caught the scent of her perfume. It was as out of place in my house as the aroma of a good home-cooked country dinner. She shook droplets out of her hair and the beads jangled. "That's some storm, huh?"

I balanced the umbrella in the sink and hung the raincoat on a cabinet door handle. "Yes, isn't it?" A smile spread wide across her face, but her eyes failed to hide her worry. "Would you like something to drink? Ashleigh, is it?"

"Yes. Ashleigh. A little wine would be nice—if you have any." I opened the fridge and was relieved to discover an unopened bottle of Zinfandel that had been tucked in the back some time ago for just this type of occasion. I reached in for it as her eyes roamed around the room.

The house had been nice in its day. Built in the 1920s as a hunting lodge by a man that owned a railroad. It had high ceilings, wide crown molding, polished oak floors, and glass paneled doors separating the downstairs rooms. But the place had eventually fallen into the hands of heirs who couldn't agree on whether to keep it or sell it. So for decades it remained unoccupied as the neighborhood grew around it. I got use of it from one of Martha's doctors, a great-grandchild of the builder, who just gave me a key figuring it would be better to have someone in it for free than to simply let it continue to deteriorate. I did not pay rent, but I'd made a good many repairs and renovations to it, especially to the kitchen. It not only brought the house back from the dead, it kept my mind and hands occupied when I wasn't working on a play or running Martha around town.

"It's nice in here, " she said brushing a strand of wet hair from the corner of her eye.

"Thanks." I uncorked the bottle then opened the dishwasher more out of habit than actual expectation and was surprised to find a clean stem of crystal. I poured the wine then circled the counter holding the glass out to her. "You said there were two things you needed, didn't you?" As she took her drink, I noticed her hand trembling, so I stepped into the den to light the gas logs in the fireplace.

"Yes. The other thing is…" She followed me and sat on the edge of the love seat nearest the fire holding her glass with both hands. "I'm trying f

or a part in a Brad Pitt movie they're going to be shooting here…"

I waited to see if there was more as I crossed back to the kitchen for my drink. "And—"

"I'll need some photographs for that."

I topped off my scotch. "Great. Seems simple enough." The wind rose and there was a sharp crack and a loud thump on the deck outside. Ashleigh jumped to her feet as if expecting something to leap through the glass.

"The regular head-shot for an agent?" I asked crossing back to the den.

She sat again slowly. "Actually… What I really need…"

I sat on the couch and waited.

"What I really need…" She rolled the glass in her hands. "…is something a little more…" She took a sip of wine and cleared her throat. "…a little more…"

I'd seen this before. I knew what she couldn't say. "Something sexy? Risqué?"

"Well…"

Lightning struck nearby and thunder rattled the dishes. "If you can't say it, Ashleigh, how do you expect to be able to do it?"

She walked to the window taking her glass. "Oh, I can do it, " she said, her voice sounding confident. But the color in her face suggested a different answer. "I have to do it."

She kept her eyes off me, but I couldn't keep mine off her. Her neck was long and her breasts just barely pushed the front of her shirt out. She was definitely intriguing. A flicker of lightning illuminated her face as she gazed out the window. "You need nude photographs to get a part in a movie these days?"

She cut her eyes toward me. "He wants them."

"I'm sure he does." I inhaled deeply. "But, Ashleigh…if you walked into McDonald's looking for a job and the manager asked if you had any nude photographs of yourself, you'd probably knock his block off and call the cops. So what makes this different?"

Her voice was quiet, almost dreamy. "Brad Pitt."

"Brad Pitt wants nude photographs of you?"

"I get to do the nude scenes with him." Ashleigh finished the wine in a single gulp, crossed back to the love seat, and flopped her petite figure onto it.

"Don't they use body doubles for that?"

She set the empty stem on the coffee table, sat back, dropped a loafer, and tucked her left foot up under her right thigh.

"That's the part I want."

"Why?"

She picked a painted fingernail at a spot on the seat cushion. "People tell me I look a lot like Julia Roberts. She's the female lead. So, I think I have a good chance to get it. I heard you're a photographer and since you're right next door, I just thought…"

"You'd do this just to be able to rub bellies with Brad Pitt on a movie set?"

She looked at me as if she thought every woman would. "Well, yeah."

"You know there will be about twenty-five other people standing around watching, don't you?"

She flipped a thread of hair off her face and stretched her right arm over the back of the love seat. "That's okay."

What is it with young people these days? They don't have time to do groundwork, build a foundation, or climb anything. They want to jump right into a world of fame, fortune, and adventure and don't mind mortgaging their morals to get it. That's nothing, the way they see it.

Thunder rumbled in the distance. I stood and lifted my glass. "Look, I don't mean to throw cold water on your dreams. Anything's possible. Why don't we go take a look at your fuse box? Would you like some wine to take with you?" I waited for her to respond. When she didn't, I moved into the kitchen, pulled another bottle of scotch from a cabinet, and cracked the seal.

"You don't think I'd get the part do you?" she said. I could tell her feelings were hurt, but I refilled my glass and drank from it without answering. "Seriously, you don't think I'd get it, do you?"

I turned to face her. "Well, how would I know, Ashleigh? I don't know you. I don't know them. I don't even know what the movie's about."

"You're a man, aren't you? You're about his age aren't you?" Lightning lit the room.

"Brad Pitt?" I sighed. "He'ss—a little older, I think." As I took a gulp, she stood and began unbuttoning her shirt while I choked back the scotch.

"Wh-o-o-o-a! Hey! Hold on there. Wait just a minute."

She ignored me, jerked the shirttail out of her jeans, and worked the rest of the buttons free.

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