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On the surface, Charlie LaRue is a nice guy with a pretty sweet life. He has a great home, a lasting marriage, and owns the best bakery in Ransom, Louisiana. But Charlie's not happy. When you've been pushed around your whole life, you either learn to deal with it or you don't; Charlie accepted that long ago as the cost of living. His acceptance, however, had a larger price than expected.
With his seventieth birthday fast approaching, a series of debilitating headaches have Charlie questioning his choices. He hardly sleeps anymore and hallucinates while struggling to make a wedding cake worthy of his daughter's lavish third wedding. Meanwhile his golden anniversary looms, and his insatiable wife and daughter continue to make more demands than ever.
A shadowy secret even Charlie is unaware of, however, is about to be revealed. Once unleashed—for good or evil—there will be consequences.
Page Count: 176
Word Count: 41975
Get hold of yourself, Dad said.
Yessir. Charlie wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
He went back up front and flipped off the lobby lights while he still had the gumption to do so. Could leave them on, he thought, but that would likely attract the attention of local cops cruising by at this hour. Good guys all, but he didn’t have time to be socializing with the boys in blue tonight.
So much to do.
Charlie leaned against the doorway and closed his eyes. Pearl’s gift, Ruby’s wedding—it was all just too much. When you start having hallucinations, he thought, you’re pushing way too hard.
He walked back to where the unfinished cake was waiting. Maybe it was time to turn the whole operation over to Kathy, he thought. She could handle it, and maybe he’d finally get that dream vacation and start enjoying life.
Five feet from his workstation, he froze. The seven-story tower of vanilla cake was right where he’d left it, held together with raspberry mortar. But sitting next to it as if it belonged there was a crumpled little brown pinstriped bag.
Charlie’s hands trembled and his heart began to jackhammer.
He tried to remind himself that he was a grown man and didn’t believe in spooky things. Instead of allowing himself to wonder where it came from, he focused on putting things away in an orderly fashion. And fast.
He hustled the cake into the cooler with as much care as possible, feeling unseen eyes on him the entire time. Then he shut off all of the lights, locked the back door, and headed for the car. Both hands were shaking as he chucked the bag containing what he knew was Pearl’s beading wire into the dumpster. He watched to make sure it went in.
It wasn’t meant to be her anniversary gift anyway.
Charlie distinctly remembered throwing it out the car window on the drive into town. His logical side wanted to analyze how it had reappeared in the bakery, but to do so might mean he really was having some sort of nervous breakdown. Considering the circumstances of the last year it would be understandable, but he wasn’t ready to accept that.
He wouldn’t be able to handle any more ridicule and he sure didn’t want anyone’s pity. Charlie was unaware as he got behind the wheel that he was talking to himself. Every so often, he answered.