An excerpt from RAINBOW MAJESTY
by ANN ULRICH MILLER
© 2011 (all rights reserved)
An article from the JULY 2011 issue of THE STAR BEACON.
Chapter 6... Juniper Sutton, from Kansas, has agreed to run the gift shop for
her Aunt Rosalee at the Rainbow Majestic Lodge in the mountains of Colorado. She
has only been at the healing center a few days but has easily made friends with
the light workers.
At breakfast I sat with Aunt Rosalee and Gena, who discussed the upcoming fair
and compared notes on preregistered attendees as well as the workshop schedule.
I ate rye toast with a Southwest omelet and watched Clover enjoying her
breakfast across the room with Wes, who sipped coffee. She flirted openly with
him and I couldn’t help feeling annoyed. To make matters worse, Gena kept
glancing at me critically as if she knew I was more interested in what was
happening across the room than in talk about the fair.
“Guests will start arriving on Thursday,” Aunt Rosalee was saying. “The fair begins Friday morning. Juniper, do you think the gift shop will be ready to open by then?”
I forced my attention back to business then. “Oh. Yes, I think so, Aunt Rosalee. I don’t know how much of the stuff I ordered will be in by the middle of next week ...”
“That won't matter,” she replied. “We’ve got enough merchandise to open, and the T-shirt shop in Wade City promised the rainbow shirts will be ready to pick up no later than Thursday.”
“Oh, good,” said Gena.
I must have looked puzzled. Aunt Rosalee explained that she had ordered special T-shirts with the Rainbow Majestic logo on them. I was positive I could have the store ready for business in less than six days -- and sooner if necessary. Aunt Rosalee seemed pleased. Gena made no comment.
After breakfast I felt like getting a breath of fresh mountain air and stepped outside the lodge to greet the magnificent morning. A white-crowned sparrow sang its drowsy melody. I wandered toward the garden for a stroll. The air was chilly, but the warm sun felt soothing on my bare arms. I admired the bed of wildflowers just starting to come up in the garden. Various herbs grew here and there and a soft breeze brushed through the aspen trees along the path.
I didn't like my negative attitude that had formed around Wes and Clover. Somehow seeing them together had brought up envious feelings in me. I really liked Clover as a friend. I’d hoped we could be close friends, in fact. If that were to happen, I needed to let go of my resentment where Wes was concerned. He couldn’t help it, of course, if he was such a desirable, attractive man. But it irritated me that he could invoke such stirrings in me and then suddenly close the door in my face, so to speak. I would have to deal with my own hurt and get over this senseless crush I had developed toward Wes Andrews.
When I saw Drake carrying a wheelbarrow load of firewood through the parking lot, that was my signal to go inside. I didn’t feel like talking to Drake -- or anyone -- right now.
I worked most the morning and was making some progress at arranging things on racks and shelves. Someone had dropped off a CD player on my counter, so I plugged it in and tested some new age music selections while I worked, which helped settle my mood.
It must have been after 11 o’clock when Nadine Leachfield stopped in with a concerned look on her round face. “Have you seen Max?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “Why?”
“Oh, Max has disappeared somewhere again without telling Lance or me.” She may have been truly concerned about the whereabouts of her young son, but I noticed her attention was immediately drawn to some of the goodies in my shop. She began fingering through a pile of music CDs on the counter.
“How long has he been gone?” I asked. I recalled how Max liked to wander the secret passageways of the old lodge.
Nadine snapped back into the worried mom. “Oh, it’s been an hour at least.”
“I’ll bet he’s around somewhere,” I reassured her.
“Yes, he likes to explore the hallways and empty rooms in the lodge.” Nadine peeked into a box of books I hadn’t yet unpacked.
“Not working in the kitchen this morning?” I asked as I arranged a colorful group of candles on a shelf.
“Why, yes,” said Nadine. “In fact, I have to get back there. Lunch is coming up.” She hesitated. “It’s just not like Max to vanish for this long a time.”
I looked at her worried face and abandoned my candles. “Tell you what,” I said. “I’ll go see if I can find him.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean for you to have to go looking for him,” Nadine protested.
“Nonsense,” I said. “I could actually use a break.”
“Oh, thank you, Juniper.” A broad smile spread across her face. “Max likes you. I don’t think he’ll try to hide from you the way he sometimes does Lance and me.”
I closed the shop up behind us as we headed toward the kitchen. Gena peered at us from behind the front counter in the lobby as we passed. I left Nadine when we reached the spiral stairway in the great room. She hurried back toward the dining room and I went upstairs and headed directly for the back exit in the second corridor. If the door was locked that led to the attic, I’d have to find a way to sneak down into the basement off the kitchen, to get to the passageway Max had shown me a couple of days ago.
A maid was cleaning one of the rooms in that part of the corridor, but she didn’t see me. I looked around before trying the door, to be sure I was unobserved. To my dismay, the door was locked. Now I’d have to try going through the basement. On my way past, the maid stuck her head out the door of the room she was cleaning and greeted me.
“You haven’t seen a little blond-haired boy, have you?” I asked.
“No. You mean Max is missing again?”
She laughed and shook her head. “Don’t worry. He’ll appear when he’s ready.”
“He does this often?”
“Yes, he’s a crafty boy, for sure. Knows his way around the Majestic better than anyone else.”
I thanked her, then headed downstairs again. When I was sure no one in the kitchen was watching, I sneaked through to the basement steps and tried not to make any noise as I groped my way down into the dark depths. I heard Nadine talking to someone in the kitchen and Thelma rattling pots and pans in the sink. I didn’t dare turn on a light, but as my eyes began to adjust to the blackness, I could make out shelves of supplies for the kitchen. I wove my way around tubs and boxes, headed toward the far corner that I remembered. It took several minutes of searching before I located the narrow opening in the concrete wall that was concealed behind a number of crates and sacks of flour and other food staples.
I was able to slide myself sideways through the doorway, which began to slant upward as I groped my way through, unable to see. I knew from my adventure the other day that this passageway led to the first floor of the old lodge, and I’d eventually come out of the closet into what had once been a dressing room next to the old auditorium. The air I breathed smelled dusty and old, and a couple of times I cringed as my probing fingers encountered thin, thready spider webs. It seemed I had explored for quite a ways, and I started feeling nervous and disoriented, as though perhaps this wasn’t the right passageway Max had taken me through after all. But I knew all I had to do—if I chose—was to turn around and go back.
Instead, I labored onward and upward until finally I noticed a thin crack of daylight ahead. I was coming to the end of the passageway. In seconds, I pushed aside the panel that led from the tunnel through the closet, which was already open. I stepped into the dressing room and then made my way directly to the auditorium by way of the back stage.
An oppressive stillness enveloped me as I stood on the stage. Like before, it was dark and creepy, as if unseen eyes stared at me from the shadows, and it didn’t help now that Aunt Rosalee and Gena had kidded that the old auditorium may be haunted.
“Max?” I called out and heard how my voice echoed in the large room.
There was no answer. I wondered where I’d find a light switch, or even if one would work. In the dim light from outside I saw the old harp in its lonely position next to the stage.
“Max, it’s Juniper,” I called out again. “Where are you?” Again my words were met with silence. I slowly stepped down off the stage and strolled the dark aisle between the seats, all the while recalling that Aunt Rosalee had made it clear to me that no one was allowed in this old part of the lodge. I wondered what was the real reason she had abandoned its renovation after Uncle Fred had died.
Clearly Max was not in the auditorium. I was glad to leave that dusty place and headed down the old, crumbly hallway. Broken furniture and junky items cluttered the floor as I peeked into various rooms, calling for Max.
With a sigh, I turned around and headed back into the auditorium. It was the only way I remembered how to get back to the main part of the lodge without taking the tunnel all the way to the basement. I hoped Max had shown up by now. At least this had given me another opportunity to explore the forbidden sections.
A shudder of dread hit me suddenly as I entered the auditorium the second time. I definitely had the feeling I was not alone, and yet there was no sound or indication that anyone else was present. My rational mind told me I was being foolish, but I couldn’t help the morbid fear that was building in my core. I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
I almost tripped over an upturned stool and caught myself on a railing, then hurried to find the doorway that would take me up to the attic room. My heart beat rapidly now, and I was relieved to find the door easily enough. Squeezing sideways, I slipped into the passageway and began my groping journey upward.
When I reached the attic several minutes later, I breathed a sigh of relief and moved into the back room to find the narrow stairway that would lead me down to the locked door on the second floor. That’s when I heard a scraping sound.
“Max?” I called out, my voice trembling now.
A scuffle followed and then my eye caught sight of some slight movement over to my right. I moved quickly, just in time to see the boy crouched behind an old vanity with a broken mirror.
“Max!” I cried. “Come out. It’s just me ... Juniper.”
Max peered up at me with wide blue eyes. I couldn’t decide if he looked more like Nadine or his father, Lance. “J-Juniper?” he whimpered.
“Yes.” I knelt before him. “Max, they’ve been looking for you down in the lodge.”
“Did you tell them I was here?” he asked.
He crawled toward me, still worried as he gazed around the crowded room.
“What’s wrong?” I looked around.
“I heard the ghost,” he told me in a low voice.
“Down there -- in that big room,” he said.
“The auditorium, you mean?”
“Yes ... there.”
“Max, I was just in there. I didn’t see or hear anybody.”
“Well, I did.” His eyes were round and big.
“What did it sound like?”
“A voice,” he told me. “It was a voice.”
“Well, what did the voice say?”
“It said, ‘Go away.’ ”
“Max, did it sound like a man or a woman?”
“I don’t know.” His eyes began to well up with tears. “It was kind of deep, like a man ... but I couldn’t tell for sure. Juniper, is there really a ghost?”
I reached out to pat the boy’s shoulder. “Max, I’m sure not. At least I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“My mom does,” said Max. “She says there are ghosts. But my dad says there aren’t.”
“And what do you think?” I asked.
Max looked around anxiously. “I heard it,” he said. “It told me not to come here anymore.”
Most adults would dismiss this as a child’s active imagination, but I felt a chill go up my spine. Max didn’t act as though he were making this up. I was positive he had heard something. That’s why he had escaped up to the attic room. Yet my immediate concern was getting both of us out of here and back down to the lodge. I tried to make light of his words.
“Come on, Max, let’s go down the back stairway. I think we can unlock the door from this side.” I reached out my hand and he took it as he slowly stood up.
Suddenly, both of us froze. Harp music began to play from far away. The chords were coming from the auditorium down below. Max stared at me in terror. In the next second, he darted out toward the narrow stairway, and I was on his heels.
Order Rainbow Majesty, a novel of romantic suspense about light workers, at
www.createspace.com/3455770 or at Amazon.com. Rainbow Majesty is also available as an ebook for just $4.00 on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Go to the Author Web page, www.annulrichmiller.com/ebooks.html and click on the links.
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