Authors: Rachelle Vaughn
012 by Rachelle Vaughn
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form
ithout permission in writing from the author.
Red Valley Blues
Ally Monroe was running late for work. Again. It was partly due to certain people on the freeway who felt it was their god-given right to cut other people off. Just because they drove a nicer car or had somewhere more important to be, they thought they were entitled to pull into other people’s lane, narrowly missing hitting their bumper by mere inches. To add insult to injury, the BMW in front of Ally had rudely passed her only to abruptly put on his breaks.
Yeah, you got really far ahead, didn’t you?
Ally wasn’t normally prone to mental road rage, but something about this shiny silver car and its pretentious driver made frustration boil up inside of her. Who did this guy think he was, anyway? She was just as entitled to a place on the freeway as he was. Or so she thought. Her hands gripped the steering wheel as the traffic slowed to a gruesome stop and go.
Red Valley had significantly grown over the past decade. Ally’s hometown had become a desirable location for people to escape the over-crowded San Francisco Bay area. So, they made their way north in droves. According to the brochure, Red Valley was a prime travel destination located on the Red River in Northern California just midway between Sacramento and the Oregon border. But as a result of so many people relocating, Red Valley had become just as populated as San Francisco, hence the gridlock.
This was exactly how Ally
want to start the day off. By having malicious thoughts about the imported car inching its way ahead of her. Especially with it being Friday and all. Friday was the best day of the work-week. At least it was supposed to be. Lately, all the days of the week had begun to run together.
Among its other qualities, Red Valley was also the second sunniest city in the nation. Although it was mid-March, the sun was blazing and it was warm even at barely ten o’clock in the morning. “April showers bring May flowers” seldom happened in Red Valley. Every year summer seemed to creep in a little earlier and last a little longer.
Hoping for a distraction, Ally flicked on the radio. The local DJ was in the middle of discussing the Red Valley Razors, the city’s professional hockey team. Ally always found it hard to believe that a place as sunny as Red Valley had an ice hockey team. The DJ’s booming voice interrupted Ally’s thoughts as he began to recap the team’s game the night before.
“Last night the Razors defeated the North Carolina Cardinals three to two in overtime. What a game it was, with captain Cody Lambert scoring the game winning goal with two minutes left in overtime!”
Then the DJ promised to give away two tickets to the Razor’s next game to the ninth caller. Before he finished rattling off the station’s phone number, Ally turned off the radio. Hockey was the last thing she had time for.
Finally reaching her exit, she bid farewell to the shiny silver BMW stuck in traffic in front of her and tried to focus on the day ahead of her. Pulling into the Kaufmann Animal Hospital, she parked her car. It wasn’t a BMW by any means, but an aging sedan running on its last leg. It wasn’t flashy or new or glamorous, but it had always gotten her where she needed to go. Not with the greatest fuel efficiency or the quietest, most comfortable ride, but it got her to her destination in one piece. And that was all that mattered.
Ally had worked part time at the Kaufmann Animal Hospital for the past two years. She only worked half days, but it was great work experience. She was glad to finally find a place where she felt like she belonged. Bouncing around from job to job out of high school proved to her that she had no idea what she wanted to be ‘when she grew up’. Until she answered a help wanted ad for the clinic. Figuring she didn’t have anything to lose and she liked animals, she went for the job and landed it. She wasn’t prepared to actually
Lynn, the office manager, ran the clinic with her husband and veterinarian Dr. Kaufmann. They had been married for thirty years. Lynn had been so warm and welcoming to Ally that she knew she had found her career ‘home’. It wasn’t until after she had settled in to her job as assistant that she realized veterinary medicine actually appealed to her. She could see herself as a veterinarian working to help and care for animals. Animals that were reliant on her to help them. It wasn’t unlike how Ally cared for her grandmother at home, but she couldn’t very well make a living at that, now could she? Gram’s social security checks and Ally’s part-time work at the clinic were barely keeping them afloat.
Ally smirked when she pictured herself and Gram on a raft surrounded by a pool of utility and doctor bills. She shook away the mental image and refocused on work.
Friday was usually a slow day at the clinic, except for a few last minute people bringing their pets in before the office was closed for the weekend. Ally anticipated the usual morning check-up appointments and the occasional, rare unexpected emergencies. They wouldn’t have any spay or neuter appointments until Monday, so Friday should be a walk in the park.
But, then again, every day was fairly slow at Kaufmann Animal Hospital ever since the Red Valley Animal Clinic had opened. Their biggest competitor boasted state of the art equipment, longer hours and more services. To make matters worse, they were only a block away. Poor Dr. and Lynn Kaufmann’s business was down and there was buzz around the office about the hospital going in the red.
Ally grabbed her purse from the passenger seat and went into the familiar, old brick building. Smells of pet food and antiseptic fluttered into her nose the second she stepped foot into the office.
“Good morning, Lynn.”
Lynn looked up from her computer screen. She had mousy brown shoulder length hair and wore scrubs with purple and yellow butterflies on them. “Mornin’, hon.”
Ally pulled her uniform scrub top out of her purse and over the tee shirt she was wearing before shoving her purse into the bottom drawer of her desk.
As assistant, Ally’s duties included a wide range of things. Answering phones, setting appointments, helping Dr. Kaufmann perform procedures and cleaning out cages. Sometimes she was called upon to comfort a scared kitty or nervous puppy. You name it, Ally did it. It was a hodgepodge of tasks, but she liked the variety. This kind of experience was essential to the career path she had chosen. Also, she liked the ‘family’ type of feel at the clinic. Lynn was probably the closest thing to a mother as Ally had ever had. Besides Gram, of course.
Ally’s parents died in a car accident when she was five and Gram had taken her in. Gram raised Ally as her own daughter would have. That had been almost twenty years ago.
. Time really did fly. Whether you were having fun or not. Ally loved her life, but with Gram’s ailing health, fun times didn’t drop onto Ally’s doorstep every day. Well, not unless you counted Ally’s best friend Izzy. She was always dropping by Ally and Gram’s house with her designer bag of bottomless tricks. Now, she was fun, fun and more fun. All the fun you could handle wrapped into a petite five foot two package. Izzy the Magnificent. Ally pushed away thoughts of her best friend and tried to focus on her job.
“Are you okay?” Lynn asked. “You look a little frazzled.”
Ally raked her hands through her long blonde hair and quickly put it up into a pony tail. “I’m better now that I’m here. It’s a zoo out there.”
“I heard there was an accident on the interstate.”
“Ah,” Ally nodded. “That explains why I spent the last forty-five minutes in a slow moving parking lot. I tell Gram every day how lucky she is not to have to drive. She told me she wouldn‘t know how to start a car nowadays if it didn’t have a crank in the front.” Ally chuckled, but at the mention of Gram, Lynn grew serious.
“How are you and your grandmother getting along?”
“We’re doing well. We manage to scrape by like everyone else, I guess.” Ally brushed off the question. She wasn’t looking for sympathy, so she tried to change the subject. “What’s on the agenda for today?”
Lynn frowned. “Not much. In fact, that brings me to something I have been meaning to talk to you about.” Ally bit her lip while Lynn continued. “Doctor has been tossing around the idea of dropping Friday’s altogether.” Lynn always called her husband ‘Doctor’. Actually, when she thought about it, Ally had never heard Lynn call her husband by his first name, Hubert. “At this point, I don’t think it would make a difference being open four or five days a week.”
Ally grimaced. It would matter to her paycheck. She mentally ticked off her and Gram‘s monthly expenses. “That’s too bad,” Ally said finally.
“Oh, hon, I’m sorry to start off the day with bad news.”
“That’s okay. I guess I could use one less day on the freeway with all the crazies on the road during the morning commute.”
“See,” Lynn offered up a smile. “I knew I could count on you to look at the bright side of things.”
Ally smiled back, trying not to think about the impact Lynn’s news would have on herself. The Kaufmann‘s were losing the business they had built brick by brick. Their livelihood was disappearing. One day at a time.
No matter what the future held, they still had work to do, so Lynn went into the back room to stock supplies and Ally stayed at the front desk to hold down the fort. It continued to be a slow morning, so Ally pulled her Biology book out of her bag to study. She had recently begun taking classes at the Red Valley Community College. Ultimately, her goal was to get all of her general education classes out of the way so she could eventually apply to a school for veterinary medicine.
Veterinary Medicine. It sounded like a good, solid career choice. It was the only thing she could see herself doing for a living. But, at the rate of one class per semester, she would complete her general education in, oh, fifty years. Her tortoise-like method was a long process, but she was limited to how many classes she could take because caring for Gram was usually a full time job in itself. And, throw in her part time job at the vet’s office, she had the bare minimum of time left to further her education. She did have Ruby, a nurse who came by to take care of Gram a few days a week when Ally was at work, but evenings were still a lot tougher.
The office phone rang, interrupting Ally’s thoughts of scholastic achievement.
“Good morning, Kaufmann Animal Hospital.”
.” Izzy’s high-pitched singing voice pierced through the phone line. Ally flinched at the shrill sound of her best friend attempting to carry a tune. Fortunately, Izzy was much better at carrying a designer handbag.
Though Izzy herself did, she never let anyone else pick on Ally. When they were in school together as kids, if anyone even looked at Ally the wrong way, Izzy would pounce on them like a crazed watchdog. Or, more like an agitated Chihuahua. Ally was good people. And just because Ally developed twice as fast as every girl in school and was several inches taller than all the boys, Izzy was not about to stand by and watch her be ridiculed. The two girls had been inseparable ever since. Izzy even spent the night at Gram’s when her father was on one of his many drinking sprees. Now, all these years later, Izzy was as feisty as ever.
“Hey Izzy. What’s up?” Ally marked her place in the Biology book.
“I’m taking you out tomorrow!” Izzy chirped.
“But I thought you were supposed to be studying for your Broker’s License.”
Izzy was a real estate agent at Red Valley Real Estate Group. Her intention was to get her Broker’s License so she could own and manage her own real estate firm someday. Going into business for herself was her life long dream.
Izzy always did have good intentions. But right now, she had plans for her best friend.
“Ugh. I can do that when I’m supposed to be working in the office. So, what do ya say? Tomorrow afternoon. You and me. And the Red Valley Razors.” Izzy referred to the same hockey team Ally had heard about on the radio. Izzy loved hockey. And all sports, for that matter. Any event involving a group of men, preferably sweaty and parading in front of her, was a favorite past time of hers. Bats, sticks, clubs, balls. They just screamed testosterone.
Hi, my name is Izzy Sinclair and I’m a manaholic.
Yes, Izzy sometimes acted like an alley cat, but she was a good friend to Ally. She always helped Ally see the lighter side of things and she had no qualms about shirking her work responsibilities. Especially when there was a good time to be had.
“What are you talking about? You know I’m not into sports,” Ally complained.
“Sports, schmorts. This is art on ice, Ally. All those big, strong men gliding across the shiny rink--,” Izzy made it sound like poetry on ice, “--then slamming into each other, their sheer force and strength rattling the glass.”
“Izzy, I can’t--”
“Ally. Come on. It‘ll be fun.”
“It’s my treat. Come on, woman. You need to get out of the house more often.” Silence answered her on the other end so she tried a different approach. “There’s nothing good on television on Saturday anyway.”
There. Izzy knew that would seal the deal. Ally would always rather stay home and veg on the couch in front of the tube as opposed to going out and being a normal, social being.