He sat in the Adirondack chair and looked out at the lake. It was still early: the sun was barely over the eastern mountain and dew was still on the other chairs situated on the beach. He loved this time of day, the cool air, the waterfowl on the lake awaking, and the lack of activity allowing him to hear the soft lapping as the water reaches the sand. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The aroma of the damp bark mulch brought him back to a time of innocence and awakening. If anything could break his block this was it, it was this place with so many inspirational sights, sounds, and smells.
He was called Chance because he was given a second chance at life, but now Etienne Pettijohn wanted to live up to the nickname and have another chance at writing. Four years have passed since his last publication, a 1500-word for a local college's literary magazine. In those four years, he's accomplished nothing of consequence, nothing for publication. He felt like his imagination abandoned him, surprisingly left him when his wife, his second, walked out on him. He and his agent found it funny, joked that she took his muses as well.
"Good morning," a female voice said. He opened his eyes and looked to his right.
"Good morning to you." Chance smiled slightly as he saw the source of the greeting. He wasn't sure why he smiled. Could have it been her red hair, long but rolled up into a bun? Could it have been her eyes, doe shaped and a mix of hazel and gray? Could it have been her skin, alabaster and flawless in appearance?
"How are you on this fine dawn?"
"I'm fine, and yourself?" He noticed that she wrapped herself in a blanket, one that he didn't have in his room. Though it appeared to be new, the style was something he saw in his great-grandmother's flat: From the 1950s, possibly older.
She looked at him with wide eyes and a smile that put Chance at ease. "I am doing well. I love this time of day." She sighed heavily, but her smile remained.
"I do, too."
"Why?" She stood and turned her chair. She faced him, looked into his eyes.
He thought for a moment and looked into her eyes. He felt some great ease when he did so. Chance forgot his answer, tripped over his words. "I, um, I think, no. Think isn't a strong enough word. I believe that this time of day, with the promise of a new beginning, of innocence. It shows me that anything and everything is possible."
She looked at him with a twinkle in her eyes. "That sounds wonderful." She turned her head away, collected her thoughts, and returned to him. "Are you a writer by chance?"
He nodded. "How did you know?"
"Your answer was very lyrical. Only a writer could say such words and cause an emotion in others."
She stood and returned the chair to its original place. "Yes you did, quite so actually." She turned to the lake and sighed.
"It is a beautiful view," he said.
"Every time I see the dawn," she began, but her words fell away. "I am sorry for disturbing you."
"No, you didn't." Chance turned his head away from her: He found it difficult to think when engaged in her eyes.
"Would you look at that?" Chance looked at her pointing off to the distance. Loons were landing in the lake, half a mile from them, but they could hear them splashing as they landed, so to speak, on the water. "What do you call a flock of loons?"
"A flock, I'm not sure." He returned to her face and saw a hint of sadness. Surprisingly, he felt a twinge of it himself. He wanted to reach out, to comfort her, to hug her, to tell her it was going to be fine.
"I must be going. I am expected for breakfast." She thanked him for the conversation and walked away. Chance stood quickly, an effort to talk more.
"Will I see you again?"
She stopped and turned. "I hope we can meet and talk more." The smile on her face told him she was hopeful.
"Until then, have a good day." He returned to the chair and watched as she walked away from the chairs.
An early morning mist came off the lake, enveloping his new friend. Within a few moments, she disappeared within the gray haze. He smiled, remembering how lovely she looked and sounded. Chance sat back in the chair, closed his eyes, and let his senses of hearing and smells loose.
"The kitchen is open," he mumbled, as he smelled the smokiness of bacon waffle to him. His mouth watered thinking of the meat.
"Good morning, Mr. Pettijohn," the dining room hostess said. A young woman, her blue eyes something most men and some women would drool over, welcomed him. "Would you like the same table or something different?" She grabbed a menu.
"I'd like the same, if possible." The day before, his first morning at the resort, he sat alone and away from the other guests that arrived for an early breakfast. He loved solitude these days, loved to be alone with his thoughts, and hoped his creative juices would somehow return.
"It's not a problem." She smiled broad and genuinely, led him to a table by the window overlooking the lake, away from everyone. She handed him the menu and told him his server would be with him shortly.
The day before, he brought a pen and journal with him, in case something struck. Unfortunately, nothing did, but he did find out that the resort smoked bacon for their own use. The precious day, Chance people watched, hoped to see possible characters for future literary endeavors, but came up empty. No one tickled his muse. Today was different.
He opened the journal and wrote a few notes: Blonde hair, blue eyes, height and weight approximated, bra sized as well. Chance did not know why she would make a good character, but wrote the notes just the same. "Perhaps she can be a minor character in a suspense short story," he thought to himself. He put his pen down as the server arrived.
"My name's Ashley and I'll be your server this morning." The black-haired woman tried to pour coffee into his cup, but he stopped her: Placed a hand over it. "Would you like a few minutes to look over the menu, or are you ready?"
Chance looked at her, into her deep blue eyes and smiled. He ordered while looking over her body and tried his best to imagine what was under the uniform she wore.
"Thank you. I'll have your drinks right away." Ashley walked away, her bottom swayed. He didn't see it before, but Chance saw that she was dressed in tight pants, perhaps in an effort to receive more tips from the male customers. When she disappeared into the kitchen, he added a few more notes to the journal description of Ashley: loves to wear tight pants, sways as she walks.
He wanted to write more, but his drinks arrived. "Thank you Ashley," he said. His eyes moved down from her eyes to her chest as she leaned over; he could see the color of her bra. Chance smiled when his gaze returned to her blue eyes. She didn't blush when she saw his eyes move.
"You're breakfast will be ready in a few minutes," she said as she left his table.
Chance shook his head and looked out the window. He wanted to see the lake from this vantage point, give him another perspective. He reached for his pen and was ready to describe it when he saw her again, the redhead from earlier.
"Wow," he whispered as she walked along the shoreline, dipping her toe in the water, a mist still enveloping her. Something in just watching her walk made Chance smile. He couldn't figure it out, couldn't explain it to himself what made his stomach fill with butterflies; give him a sense of anticipation. He just met her, didn't even know her name. He liked watching her. He sighed heavily, thinking that he'd like to be there with her, holding her hand as they walked by the lake.
"Excuse me," a female's voice said. Chance turned and saw Ashley had returned, his breakfast on her tray.
"Oh," was all he could say, realizing that he lost all sense of time, looking at that mysterious woman. He sat up straight, allowing the waitress to place his food onto the table.
"Is there anything else I can get you?" Her smile was genuine, nothing pretentious about it.
He gave a quick look at her décolletage again before looking into her eyes. "Not at the moment, Ashley," he answered. He moved his journal to the other side of the table and watched her move away.
Chance gave a quick look out the window, hoping to see the redhead once more before attacking his food. She was gone: All he saw was the mist.
He sat on the resort's porch and watched as the sunset, the warm hues of orange and red intersected by clouds of purple. In the distance, frogs and crickets sung to garner the opposite sex's attention. Fireflies were beginning to dance in an ash grove. All these were sense images that would be best served in literary tales, and he knew it. He brought his journal and would enter them in later. For now, though, he would enjoy them, even if he were alone.
Chance thought of her, of the redhead, often during the day. While he walked along the shoreline, he remembered her doing the same thing. While he was on the nature trail, he couldn't but help believe that she would know all the names of the flowers and tell them to him. While at dinner, he wondered what she would have ordered, what their conversation would have been on. Now while in the colorful sundown, he wondered how she would have reacted.
"Get a hold of your Etienne," he whispered to himself, trying to regain his wits. "You don't even know her name."
"Good evening," a soft voice whispered. He turned to face the person. He was still alone.
"Good evening," the same voice said in his other ear. He turned right and saw her, the redhead, sitting in a chair. She wasn't there a moment ago, not when he looked that way to see fireflies.
"Did you have a good day?" She sounded softer than she did that morning, he noticed. It was as if she was tired, had no energy left.
"I did. Thank you."
"I am sorry. I never introduced myself. My name is Rebecca." She extended her hand.
"I'm Etienne, but you can call me Chance." He took her hand and found it rather cold, not ice cold, but like she had spent time out in winter without gloves.
"I like Etienne." She smiled and her eyes twinkled. "Why can I call you Chance?"
He returned the grin. "It's a long story, but short version is that I was given the nickname by a grandmother when I was given a second chance at life."
"Oh I would love to hear the story."
He noticed that Rebecca still had her blanket with her. He wanted to ask her about it, but something inside whispered to him to let it go: Don't ask a dumb question. "Maybe we can go inside, have a drink or something hot, and talk about it."
"Oh, no," she quickly answered, as if he said something that frightened her.
He wanted to apologize but the night concierge, Prentice Harper, interrupted. "Mr. Pettijohn, I have a message for you."
"Thank you," Chance said. He stood and accepted the pink piece of paper. Harper turned and walked away. Chance read the message: the kitchen had a two slices of seven-layer chocolate cake left and wondered if he'd like one.
"Would you like to accompany me," he started but ended when he found himself alone again. He didn't hear her leave, her footsteps on the hard pine boards.
He shrugged his shoulders and left. He needed to get to the kitchen before he missed out of the delicious dessert.
Chance Pettijohn sat in his suite and looked out at the night. For the past hour, he had been writing notes on Rebecca, trying his best to describe her. He knew that he couldn't come close to portraying her accurately in words, but he felt that he needed to try.
He had her skin down, describing it as being porcelain white or alabaster. He had her hair, red like that of the Celtic women from Britain and France. Her voice he described as smoothing and otherworldly.
"Otherworldly," he mumbled to himself again. He turned away from the window and walked to the bed. "Otherworldly," he repeated. The word meant something to him, a clue to her perhaps.
He wanted to think more about this, but his eyelids were heavy. He was tired. He turned down the bed and slipped onto it, without turning off the lights.
"A little rest before I return to writing," he thought. He removed his glasses, placed them on the nightstand, and closed his eyes.
The knock on the door awoke him. He rolled over and grabbed his glasses. He looked at the clock: 5 AM. "What the fuck?"
"I'm coming," he said after another knock. He slipped off the bed and to the door. He peered through the peephole and quickly opened the door: It was the redhead. She walked past him.
"Wow," he whispered to himself when he noticed she what she was wearing. No longer wrapped in a blanket, he saw her in an opaque pale white nightgown. His eyes widened when he saw her naked ass was slightly visible.
"How did you find my room?" He took a seat on the living area's couch while she sat across from him in a chair.
"Does that matter?"
He noticed that the bottom hem had risen to her mid-thigh, showing an immodest amount of skin. Chance tried not to stare but it was useless.
"Do you like what you see?" she asked, opening her leg slightly.
He looked and saw her inner thigh. He wanted to see more. He looked up at her and smiled devilishly. "Of course I do."
Rebecca squirmed on the chair, causing the top of her gown to open slightly. A breast fell from the opening. She did not attempt at covering it.
Chance smiled as he looked at it. It was alabaster, the nipple and areola a soft pink, her nipple hard. It was larger than he thought, a D-cup he noted to himself.
She looked down at her chest and smiled. "I see you like my lack of modesty this morning. Tell you something, I like my lack, too."
He laughed but never took his eyes away from her. Chance was about to speak, to ask another question, when she suddenly stood and walked to the bedroom.
"Care to join me?" She looked over her shoulder and seductively smiled. Chance bolted off the couch and walked to join her. She turned and removed her nightclothes. She sat nude on the edge of the bed.
He stood statue-like, unable to move. He had difficulty breathing. Shock best described how he felt. Shocked and excited, he could not deny it. He looked her body over, from the top of her red hair to her feet. He made notice of her curves, her hips perfect to him.
He licked his lips at seeing her large breasts. He could almost taste her; feel her nipples in his mouth. He couldn't wait until she was under him, their bodies creating heat, filling the room with the scent of sex.
She noticed his appraisal and slowly, teasingly, opened her legs. The tufts around her sex were a lighter shade of what was on her head, shaped in an almost perfect triangle, the length short. He sneered as he approached her.
"Take me sir," she whispered as she fell back onto the bed. He started to remove his clothes as he moved forward.
"Your lips are so warm," she said when they kissed.
Etienne Vaughn awoke with a start, bolted straight up. He was drenched, could feel his hair was wet. He reached to his left, to feel if she was with him. It was empty, the covers still on and cold. No one had been there. He grabbed his glasses and looked at the clock. It read 1:23 and from the natural light that entered the bedroom, he knew it was in the afternoon.
He put on his glasses and attempted to stand. He collapsed, his legs giving out. He felt tired, exhausted, like he did when he was an athlete, like after a hard soccer practice. He grabbed onto the bed and pushed himself up.
On uneasy legs, he moved to the bathroom. He turned on the shower and went to remove his clothes, but noticed he was already nude. He stepped in and allowed the water to flow over his body, refreshing him.
"I'm famished," he mumbled as he put on his clothes. He grabbed his wallet and made his way to the restaurant. Chance needed to eat: He knew a good meal would energize him.
"We missed you this morning," the hostess told him as he came into her view. "I thought you'd have been here," she added as she escorted him to a table by the window.
Seated, he looked to her. "Have you seen a beautiful redhead come around here?"
Her face drained of all color. "Um, your server will be with you shortly," she strained to say. She turned on her heels and quickly walked to the kitchen.
"Odd," was all he could say. He looked at the lunch menu, trying to decide whether to have one or two burgers.
"Can we speak with you?" Chance looked up and saw Ashley and a cook standing. He stood and nodded, gestured for them to sit.
The cook, a man in his 20s with dark skin and wearing the whites cooks always wore, leaned in. "You've seen Rebecca?" Chance noticed that he had a French-Canadian accent.
"Yes. Wait, you know her name?"
Ashley whispered, "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"What do you mean ghosts?"
The restaurant workers looked at each other before telling him the story, the tale of Rebecca Vander Velt. "When the resort was finished in the 1910s," Ashley began. She leaned in and took one of Chance's hands. She squeezed it gently. "A couple on their honeymoon, Thomas and Rebecca Vander Velt, came to enjoy the surroundings. They were in love. When they signed in and were shown their room, they thanked the bellboy." Ashley looked away, nervous and shaking.
The cook picked up the story. "An hour later, the husband came to the front desk, frantic, saying that his wife had disappeared, said that she went to freshen up, but hadn't returned. When he went to look for her, he couldn't find her.
The front desk clerk gathered several more of the staff and told them of the event. They searched the entire hotel, searched the grounds, and even went into the near-by woods. They found nothing. Before dusk, the sheriff arrived and began another search."
"Henri, shouldn't you be in the kitchen?" an older gentleman asked. He was wearing a vest similar in color to Ashley's uniform. Chance guessed that he was the manager.
"He saw Rebecca," the cook answered without looking. The man grabbed a chair from another table and joined them.
"Did she take you to bed?" he asked.
"What?" Chance asked. "What?"
"We were getting to that," Ashley said. She was curt: the manger apologized. She squeezed his hand again.
Henri continued. "During the night, a deputy found the woman's body, back on the lakeshore. She was still in her clothes she had on when she checked in, but she wrapped in a blanket. The coroner declared that her husband had strangled her. While in custody, the man confessed but never gave any explanation."
Chance sat and looked at them. "Wow, no one knew why he did it?"
The manager spoke. "Before he was hanged, he told a deputy that he did it because she laughed at him. No one should laugh at him."
He thought for a moment, his creative mind going through many scenarios of why she would laugh. "Could it have been a nervous laugh?" Chance asked.
Henri nodded. "That's what we all believe. She was giggling because she was a virgin. She had never seen a naked man before."
Chance shook his head. "That's so sad, to die on your wedding day." He was silent for a moment, before looking at the manager and speaking. "What about you knowing that I had sex with her?"
Ashley answered. "Whenever a man sees her, in less than 24 hours later, she will come to his room wearing a see-thru nightgown and seduce him. They will have hot and heavy sex, but he'll barely remember it. He'll be drained of energy, like someone, something, fed on his life force."
"Like a succubus," Chance whispered.
She nodded. "That's what we've been told." She released his hand and looked at him. "You'll be okay. The only side effect, other than being drained, is an incredible hunger."
"Will I see her again?"
Henri shook his head. "We've heard of no one seeing her again."