Claire and Aiden had finally gotten across the parking lot to their car. It was early in the day and the biggest strip mall in Indigo Lake County wasn't too busy. As noon approached, the teens in the town would be converging onto Ralph's Arcade and the small theater. Summer was quickly making its exit, and the crispness of the morning air reminded them that school was only a week away.
Claire spotted Mrs. Laurie coming from Peer's Pharmacy, and quickened her pace to avoid the old lady. She was uneasy around her, and from the way Aiden reached for her hand and gave it a firm squeeze, he had also seen her and was equally unsettled. There was nothing outwardly strange about Mrs. Laurie aside from being almost imposing in her presence. Mrs. Laurie was 68-years-old and made a point to remind everyone about it as often as she cared to mention it. She was 5'7" with shoulder length auburn hair and lovely grey eyes. She never seemed to be ill and lived alone, and for this reason Claire never understood why she so regularly filled prescriptions. It was not her physical presence but her aura that was strange and mysterious. Mrs. Laurie always made a point to speak your name and give you direct eye contact when she addressed you, and her eyes seemed to hint at some knowledge she had about things you could not know. Her small bright pink lips were perpetually upturned at the edges as if she would break into a full grin at any time, but a smile would have looked strange upon her face. Perhaps it was the fact that no one knew too much about Mrs. Laurie. Not even old lady Fisher who knew about everybody, or Ralph that owned the arcade who had been here all his life and had seen and heard it all just about. Claire couldn't pinpoint it as she made her way over and realized that her quick pace wasn't quite quick enough as Mrs. Laurie met them at their car.
"Hello Claire, how are we today?", Mrs. Laurie asked. She always spoke Claire's name as if it hurt her to say it, and her constant use of the word 'we' was simply nerve wrecking.
"Fine. Just fine Mrs. Laurie," Claire said and motioned to Aiden to get inside the car. Aiden quickly hopped in and placed his pet's cage on his lap. Not particularly interested in talking to Claire at all, Mrs. Laurie made her way to the passengers side and peered in at the small bunny.
"I just got that for him today. He's very excited to get him home." Claire said in an effort to get the womans attention and perhaps shoo her away. Mrs. Laurie just stood there gazing at the bunny as if she were almost puzzled by its existance. Claire got into the car and started it and let the windows down. Immedietly as if she had been waiting for the window to come down Mrs. Laurie leaned into the passenger side window.
"So you got yourself a thumper there huh big guy," she said almost to no one in particular. Without answering Aiden wrapped his thin arms around the cage as if to protect Thumper from her.
" How did you know his name was Thumper" Claire asked, becoming more and more unsettled at this strange encounter.
"Oh," Mrs. Laurie said as though she had beed snapped out of her enthrallment by Claire's words, " he just looks like a Thumper that's all," she said raising herself out of the window as Claire put the car in gear.
"Well I hate to be the party pooper, but we have to leave now Mrs. Laurie," Claire said as she slowly began to back out of the parking space.
"Don't let him speak to you."
The words just hung in the air between them. She spoke them directly to Aiden. She spoke them loud enough to be heard but softly, and there was a quiet sense of urgency in them that sent a chill down Claire's spine. Aiden looked long and hard at Mrs. Laurie and grabbed his mothers skirt. Claire did not want to look at the womans face. Mrs. Laurie's words still hung in the air like a bit of winter's chill as she whispered them again. Claire drove out of the parking lot as fast as she could. It wasn't until she pulled into her driveway that she noticed her knuckles were white from griping the steering wheel.
(Okay that's it for right now. I'll be back to add some more later!)