The Worry Curse, Part Twenty-Nine

Laina shifted her boots on the threadbare floormat, nudging the margarine tub. The medallion fragments jostled and slinked inside their plastic cell. She withdrew her feet and hugged the edge of the passenger seat.

The downtown corridors heightened into a labyrinth of manmade fortress walls. Glowering steel and concrete stretched to obscure the stars. Halogen streaked the paved gray and black world as other steel-cocooned passengers raced by. Neon lights branded the string of tattoo shops and bars. Bessie squeaked to pause at the midtown stoplight. The surly waitress trudged past the Reverend’s empty office-booth with a pot of coffee.

Arden tapped the faded vinyl of his steering wheel. “So, where we headin’?”

She studied the glow of light tracing the strong angles of his profile. “My apartment’s empty, if you need a place–”

“Nope.” He held up a hand. “Wouldn’t do for me to stay there. Besides, I got hostels and shelters downtown here where I can do some good for a few weeks. I wanted to know where to take you for the night. Your cousin’s place would be the best option, considering the enemy has targeted you.”

“I hate imposing on her, but let me see if I can reach her.” Laina dialed Jayme, but the call went directly to voicemail. “She must be out with her fiance. No telling if they’re coming back tonight or going to his flat. I guess we should head to the towers.”

He turned onto the next street and squinted at her. “You sure you wanna stay in that building tonight? After the string of murders? The hostel might not be such a bad alternative.”

Stained bunk sheets and vomiting addicts swirled in her imagination. Laina grimaced. “I’ll lock my doors.”

The rusty hatchback squealed to a halt at the curb. Arden shifted into park. His chest brushed her shoulder as he reached into the backseat. Heat bloomed in her chest and flushed up to her cheeks.

He grabbed a leather book from the floorboards and handed it to her. “Take this.”

She let her hair fall to cover the blush of her skin as she traced the gold embossed lettering on the front. “Thanks.”

“Glad to do it.” His phone rang in the console’s cup holder. “Oh, man. Excuse me.”

As he answered it, Laina fished in her purse for a canister of pepper spray.

“Roy, you stay right there. Put the gun down …” Arden leaned forward, tense cords straining from his collar bone to his jaw. “Wait for me to get there, okay?”‘

She gripped the door handle and waved at him.

Phone still against his ear, he bit his lip and mouthed, Sorry. Call when you get inside.

Laina got out of the car and tucked the Bible in her purse as she shouldered it. She gripped the pepper spray and marched toward the mist-scarved apartment tower.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.



“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-3).


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