The Sugar Quill
Author: S. Gwendolyn (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Retrospection  Chapter: Chapter 1 - A Misleading Forecast
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Shadows on the Autumn Moon

Author’s Note: June 2006 - I was not sure that I had the desire to continue once Half-Blood Prince came out last year, so I took some time off away from my story.  In the end, Susy would not leave me alone saying that any ending was better than none.  I knew that if I ever were to continue I would either have to move into the genre of Alternative Universe or give up on my perfectly planned happily ever after.  So, while it will be challenging to finish this piece of fiction so that it continues to match cannon rather than the original fantasy, it’s something that I feel I must do.  Enjoy!

Shadows on the Autumn Moon

S. Gwendolyn

Part One—Retrospection

(Disclaimer:  J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter and all associated characters and places. I’m just playing.)

Chapter One—A Misleading Forecast

“...And for today’s weather.  Looks like we’ll have another six to eight inches before tomorrow morning, which isn’t going to make driving home tonight any easier.  So drive slowly and I recommend spending the day inside tomorrow with a nice cup of hot cocoa if you can…”

Why can’t meteorology be a more accurate science?  There isn’t supposed to be five inches of snow in April!  But that’s Salt Lake City —always expect the unexpected.  Susy Blake wished that more accurate predictions could be made, as she turned off the radio on her desk in disgust.  She had left her coat at home because of yesterday’s forecast of sunshine and high temperatures.  What was worse, her car was parked four blocks away from the Salt Lake Times building.  She was not looking forward to that long and extremely cold walk.

As she gathered up the articles that she would work on at home, she began to go over the familiar routine of why she just didn’t give up and find a decent job.  She had to work seven days a week including holidays (not that the day taxes were due is really a holiday, but she thought it would be nice to be able to procrastinate like everyone else and work on them today instead of being at work.)  She determined again that she spent far too much time at work for the $7.00 an hour she was making. The position provided her with no benefits and her title, "Junior Editor of the Editorial Section," was a joke.  Basically it was her job to say “good job,” “wonderful” and “more coffee?” to the official (meaning better paid) editorial writers.  She had once written an editorial of her own, but the editor threw it out after he read the title: “Man’s Search for Magic.”  He said there were too many facts and that it took the mystery out of the world.  But once again she came to the conclusion as she walked down the stairs that the only reason that she stayed was because she didn’t know where else to go.  She had a better job once, but that was when she worked at...

Susy stopped and gazed out of the foyer window for a moment.  It looked like December all over again with people rushing about with packages, although the folders they were protecting from the snow did not contain toys or gifts but the valuable forms that would keep the post office workers busy until midnight.  There was a job that she did not envy. Before bundling everything up in an extra newspaper to protect it from the snow, she noticed a man just outside the front door trying to stay warm.  She thought that he was probably one of the many homeless people living in Salt Lake that was caught without shelter during the storm. Normally she tried not to pay any attention to them because she could do little with her meager budget, but this man was different than the rest.  He didn't look like the “homeless” type with his long black…cloak?  As she walked toward the glass door for a closer look, he suddenly turned around and looked directly at her.  They were both caught off guard for a moment.  It seemed like he was looking into her soul, searching for some sign of recognition; and then as if suddenly he found it, he ran off into the icy blizzard and vanished from sight.

"Strange," Susy muttered as she bent down to pick up some papers that she had dropped in the moment of surprise.  Having wrapped everything in the protective newspaper, she quickly left the building.

"Susy?  Susy, are you still there?  Wait!" Jarett, the errand boy, came running out of the building after her.

"Yes, Jarett.  I'm over here."  She walked back into the foyer, dusting off a few snowflakes that had fallen on her hair.  Susy felt that Jarett was the only person who understood her because they both had miserable jobs.  Jarett was called the “errand boy”, but he was hardly a boy.  He was twenty-seven years old, had bleached blond hair, blue eyes, and looked more like a NFL football player than a newspaper boy.  They had met during her first year in college and had been close friends ever since.

"What is it, Jarett?" she asked.

"I don't know.  Mr. Applegate gave me this envelope to give to you.  It looks important."  Opening the pale blue envelope, Susy found a note written in silver ink.

Ms. Blake:

It has come to my attention that your position does not fit your current qualifications.  Come to my office before you leave today.

~L. Rouselore

“That’s a little bizarre.  Ms. Rouselore wants to see me.  I wonder what it’s about.”

“Well, you’re not losing your job, since Mr. Applegate hands those out personally in black envelopes.  It’s got to be something special if Ms. Rouselore is asking for you.” Jarett’s eyes began to twinkle as he continued, “Maybe she wants you to inform the general population about the tragic romance in her life or is going to dedicate a memorial or something to the guy she’s been grieving about for the last hundred years…”

“Whatever,” Susy interrupted.  “I’ve got to go.  See you tomorrow.”  Jarett was a tease and a bit of a gossip.  She realized that this was his way of keeping the situation light.  Neither of them had ever met Ms. Rouselore, the owner of the Salt Lake Times, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the rumors about her.  They’d even started a few of their own.

“Well, you'd better get up there.  I want to know the truth about the million dollar engagement ring she has tomorrow.  Bye, Susy.”  He flashed a smile, zipped up his coat and ran out to the parking garage.  Susy missed him already.  She couldn’t think of any other reasons why she had been asked to see the owner of the paper other than to stop spreading the rumors that Jarett had mentioned.  But speculation would never lead to the truth, so she quickly walked to the elevator.  She hoped no one else could see her knees shaking as she pushed the elevator button.  Moments later, although it seemed like hours, the doors finally opened.

“Hi, Charlie.  Seventeenth floor, please.  I need to speak to Ms. Rouselore.”  Charlie was probably the only elevator operator left in the state.  “I have an invitation if you want to see it.”

“Wow, Susy Q.  You can only go up from here.  I bet she’s got something special up there for you.”  Charlie was like a grandfather to her, always kind and always hoping for the best, even if it was completely impractical.  “You know what, Susy Q?  I’ve been here at the Salt Lake Times ever since it opened in 1940.  I’ve taken a lot of important people to the seventeenth floor: movie stars, C.E.O.s, politicians.  However, out of all of them, I think you’re the most nervous.”

“Is it that obvious?” Susy questioned.

“You just need to relax.  Out of all those famous people, Ms. Rouselore is the only one who doesn’t come down—at least, not when I’m here.”

“So it is true.”  Susy’s curious nature perked up.  Was this verification of her favorite rumor?  “She is a tragic lover trapped by her grief.  Oh, tell me all about it.  I love heart-wrenching romantic tales.”

He chuckled to himself and gently patted her on the shoulder, “That’s a story that will have to wait for another day.  We’re here—the seventeenth and most important floor.  Good luck, Susy Q.”

She stepped out of the elevator into a dark hallway.  Unlike the rest of the building, with cubicles crammed into every available space, it looked like the only thing on this floor was the secretary’s desk and Ms. Rouselore’s office.  She reached to knock on the office door when she heard voices—loud, angry voices.  She quickly stepped behind the file cabinet by the secretary’s abandoned desk, somehow feeling safer there.  The voices seemed to be coming from deep within the next room.

“Lori—if you don’t stop this obnoxious grieving, you’re going to ruin this project and lose the business,” a male voice shouted.

“I’m not going to lose anything.  And remember, I’m the one Daddy gave the business and responsibility to—not you!” a female voice yelled back.

“Oh, don’t get me started on that one.  You never wanted it until…oh, never mind.”  The male voice tried to calm down.  “Listen to me as your brother, if not the chief of this little operation of yours.  I know that you have the means to do anything you want, and that if you put your mind to it—you can accomplish anything and everything.  But your heart isn’t in or at the Salt Lake Times.  It’s with him—and he’s dead.  You hear—DEAD!”

“How dare you!”  Something shattered against the wall.  “Get out!”

“I’m tired of this.  When you want to get your mind out of the grave and back to Salt Lake, I’ll talk to you about the Weasley Project.”  He started to leave but added bitterly, “Sleep well with your memories.”

Susy pressed herself more against the wall and tried to be invisible as the door opened.  Mr. Applegate stormed out of Ms. Rouselore’s office and quickly went to the elevator.  Applegate and Rouselore are siblings, she thought.  That’s just too weird.  Susy stepped out from behind the file cabinet as the elevator door closed.  She knocked quietly on the door, but quickly jumped when something large broke against it.

“Go away!  I’ll take care of the Weasley Project myself!  I don’t ever want to see you again!”

“Ms. Rouselore?”  Susy spoke timidly.  “It’s Miss Blake. You sent for me?”

“Come in, Ms. Blake.”  The irate voice was now like silk.  “Make yourself at home while I freshen up for a moment.”

Susy hesitantly opened the door and stepped in.

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