The overheard words reignited the sense of unease she thought she’d put to rest. “Leave what?” Her curiosity piqued, she moved closer in an attempt to look over his shoulder.
Will spun, shoving the object behind his back and bumping her in the process. “Oops.”
Tonya made a grab for Will’s arm to keep her balance. Realizing her predicament, he reached out to hold onto her before she fell wrapping both arms around her. A thump drew her attention. Whatever object caused Will’s irritation tumbled to the floor. Secure in his embrace, she closed her eyes for a second enjoying the warmth, the stability, even the motor oil smell wafting off him.
Memory of her predicament forced her eyes open and to the floor. A crude doll lay face down on her floor. A doll, how odd. It made her wonder if some child had lost her dolly. Even from this distance, it resembled a sock puppet with rubber bands on it making indentation for the head, arms, and body. The tiny purple floral dress it wore resonated, stroking a memory she couldn’t quite bring to the forefront of her mind.
“It’s only a doll. Nothing to get worked up about.” His reaction about the object puzzled her. Although, why anyone would leave it at her house didn’t make sense. The neighborhood mainly consisted of retired autoworkers who had lived in the same house for the last forty years. Years ago, kids ran the neighborhood, but they grew up and moved away. The few new faces included herself and the amorous divorcee next-door. Young families preferred the newer neighborhoods with homeowner associations and a commons with playground equipment, not here.
His embrace tightened, keeping her from picking up the doll. “It’s not important. I’ll get rid of it.”
“Yeah, okay.” She agreed, while wiggling in his arms. At first, she thought his arms tensed because of desire, but his set face didn’t resemble a lover’s. Instead, a fierce mask of determination shaped his features as if ready to undertake a mission or a distasteful task. Not sure, how sure felt about being a mission, definitely against the task label. An adventure, well, that had possibilities. His entire demeanor changed when she left the room and the doorbell rang. It had to be the doll, or the deliverer.
The floral pattern clicked, but she needed a closer look. Instead of struggling, she went limp and slid out of Will’s arms. An unwholesome dread penetrated her fingers as she grasped the doll.
A masculine grunt behind her indicated her would be guardian dropped to his haunches too. The material retained a silky feel she remembered. The doll still face down as she brought it up to her nose. A citrusy perfume wafted from the fabric. A loud gulp filled the silence. It took a second for her to realize she swallowed.
Why hadn’t she immediately realize the doll’s dress came from her favorite shirt still bearing residue of her Happy perfume? When had the shirt gone missing? The color and bust twist made it a go to shirt for weekend wear. It made the girls more apparent without resorting to any hydraulic lift lingerie creations. Its disappearance nettled her, even causing her to go online to find a copy, which she hadn’t since it was out of season. Her fingers loosened, dropping the doll.
No exact date came to mind, but she did know it hadn’t been too long ago. Someone had been in her house. Her suspicions crawled over her skin as if tiny invisible bugs leaving hairs up in their wake as they moved on. “Clint.” She growled the name.
What else had he done? He could have installed cameras or microphones recording their very conversation. Saw it once on a television news show. Her eyes cut to Will’s concerned face. Good thing, she hadn’t given into her initial attraction last night. No reason to give Clint a free show.
His hand under her elbow steadied her as her thighs ached from their squatting position. His breath brushed her cheek as he spoke. “I don’t know about you, but this crouching is getting to me. Why don’t we sit down and talk this out.”
Tonya pushed forward on her toes to rise. “Yeah, let’s do that.” Her shoulders drooped as she stood. Any energy she’d felt on the unexpected appearance of the handsome lawyer drained away. Clint stood between them as real as any person separating her from Will as effectively as a quarantine notice. One bad decision made on a night she’d felt especially lonely would undoubtedly keep her alone.
Anger slowly slid across her skin replacing fear as she sank into the overstuffed loveseat. The soft snuffling of Sebastian gobbling a dog treat fanned her resentment. Her head snapped in her dog’s direction. Her index finger flew out at the animal. “You were supposed to be some sort of protection. I imagine you were had for the price of a pig ear or a pork chop.”
Sebastian’s survival instincts caused a hesitation in consuming the cookie. It could be a thoughtful interval. On a normal day, his momentary stop she'd label regret, but not today. No today, was the no good rotten day were everything went wrong. Technically, things had been wrong for a while. Unfortunately, today threw the spotlight on it. The doorbell rang. What random hell now!