It wasn’t until I got home and was unpacking the bag of things I took to Ginger’s that I realized I had forgotten all about the squishy envelope of fabric samples. The nice dinner and wine had me so relaxed that I could have gone straight to bed.  But, I was curious to see the fabric samples and to avoid having a fabric designer angry with me over tardiness.

I opened the envelope and pulled out five twelve-inch square of fabric with a hand drawn floral design and four paper copies of each design. The fabrics were a modern twist on traditional design. Three of the prints included an ample amount of negative space, giving them a somewhat modern look. I sized up the collection for how each print might be used. Overall the patterns read home accessories such as linens, pillow, and curtains. Two of the prints would also make nice handbags, aprons, and table runners. My job was to take her five designs and create several distinct color schemes.

When I worked on my first project with the designer years ago, I learned that in the fabric business these color schemes are called colors-ways. Each fabric line typically had four to six patterns and three to four color ways of each pattern. Color choice has a tremendous impact on the success of a fabric collections. Not only does it need to be visibly appealing to the consumer, but picking the right color way can help make the patterns adaptable for multiple uses.  From quilting and clothing, to hand towels and stationary, pattern design is serious business.

Her designs were busy so I decided to create a calming version, a monochromatic color-way, something feminine, and finally a crisp modern version. Hopefully my choices would work for a wide variety of taste and products. I became transfixed on the fabric pattern, color wheel, and colored pencils for several hours. My only thoughts were hue, value, and contrast.

I marveled at the thought that someone paid me well to do something I found so enjoyable. I reminded myself that I did spend time testing colors together and often reworked them again and again. I also had to keep record of the standardized color numbers used for each color-way and consider how much deviation the background fabric could cause. It really was work, but it was pleasant work.

My efforts resulted in one version with light green, a medium green, brown, aqua, charcoal, olive, chartreuse, and rust – using neighbors on the color wheel helped to create the calm palette. I also created a feminine edition in three shades of pink, a muted gold, and a minty green. Next, I chose five shades of blue to create a monochromatic palette and traditional look. My final color-way was a modern take on black and white by adding a limited amount of pale yellow and a color somewhere between salmon and red. I toyed with a hint of green, because three of the patterns were floral prints, but decided that using mostly black with minimal yellow and a red, kept it crisp, clean, and helped declutter the busy pattern.

I was happy with the finished work and scanned the colored sheets before folding them into a new squishy envelope for the trip back to St Petersburg. I e-mailed my work to the designer and saved a copy for my own files. If she liked them I could expect a check in about a week to ten days after she received the samples. If the fabric manufacturer liked her finished designs, I could expect to receive additional compensation based on the amount of fabric sold. This was like the royalties my parents earned; however, on a much smaller scale. My name would never appear on any labels or descriptions – I was a “ghost” colorist leaving all accolades and success for the designer.

It was late, very late. I resisted the urge to go to bed and bathed the dogs and packed for the trip instead. Luckily, I hadn’t unpacked the dog’s bag from the previous trip so that was an easy chore.

I finally snuggled in to bed, and began to let myself drift into sleep all the while thinking about the fun Ginger and I would have in Anchorage, when my phone alerted me of a text message. If I didn’t read the message it would beep all night. If I turned off the phone then I might miss an important call. I had no choice but to check it if I wanted decent sleep. The text was from Guy and it was a simple, “I miss you.” I was confused. I hadn’t spoken to him since the blond-in-the-airport incident and now he sends a text saying that he misses me. I don’t even know if he was back home or in Anchorage.

I got up, put on my slippers and threw a heavy cardigan over my pajamas intending to walk the dogs around the front yard since they were also awake. I could contemplate my response while they relieved themselves. I had no sooner got them into their Puppia harnesses and attached their leashes, when I heard a bang so loud that the house shook.  Most of my books, pictures, and artwork fell to the floor. Boom! There was another one. What the heck was going on?

I grabbed a dog in each arm and started to go outside to see what was happening. I considered that it could be an earthquake and going outside can be dangerous due to falling objects. Suddenly, I heard what appeared to be a loud swishing noise, almost like water running, on one side of the house. The electricity flickered and I began to panic. The ratties were crying and started to fight me to get down. There was no way I was going to let go of them without knowing what was going on. I was headed to the window when images of the dark dining experience hit me. Somehow the fear I was feeling now triggered the fear I felt that night and the memories came flooding back.

Suddenly, while gripped in fear of my realization that John Sinclair had assaulted and threatened me that night, my house made an eerie sound and felt as though it lunged. I tried to open the front door and saw that the jam was no longer square. This event had nothing to do with John Sinclair. This was much bigger than him. Whatever was going on was a force of nature. I kicked and pushed the door until I had it open far enough to get one leg through. I managed to get my torso and the ratties out but the door opening twisted again and closed in on my other leg causing me to fall. I was trapped.

As the house appeared to turn, so did my leg into an unnatural position. I tried to reposition my body to relieve the pain. I used all my energy to hang onto the dogs that were now scratching and clawing to get loose. I tried to scream for help but it seemed that there were too many other noises that easily drowned out my cries. I was shaking and no longer had the strength or position to be able to overpower Daisey and Eddie. They slipped from my arms and I let out a primordial scream as I watched them run away from me toward the busy road below.

I could now hear the sirens of emergency vehicles but I couldn’t see much. I was on the deck but with my face on the ground, my view was obstructed by piles of dirt. It hurt too much to move. I no longer had the energy or pain tolerance to try to dislodge myself. I heard the scream and cries of others but couldn’t see or hear my rat terriers. I began to cry in pain and for the loss of my dogs as I realized what happened – a mudslide.

Another wave of booms occurred, my house screeched, and more debris went rushing by the house. It made it way onto the deck and was trying to cover me. I shook my head and used my arms to keep my face above the mud, rocks and vegetation that was oozing across the deck. I felt the shifting of my house and a loud snap. With that sound, I felt the most excruciating pain in my life. It felt as though my foot had been severed from my leg but I couldn’t see anything. I tried screaming for help again but nothing came out. I felt myself weakening and wondered if it was blood loss.

The rain on my face woke me up. I was cold, wet, and stuck in an awkward position. Not only was my left leg twisted and stuck in the door but the pile of dirt and debris had grown and was pushing my head and shoulders up and away from the door. This caused more pressure on my leg and I had to work to keep mud from covering my face and blocking my breathing.

Where was everyone? I could hear emergency sirens and voices that seemed far away. Perhaps they didn’t know I was trapped up here. I wanted to somehow signal for help but couldn’t. Where were Eddie and Daisey? Had they made it to safety or where they drowned in debris? I cried and sobbed out loud from the grief of loosing my dogs.

In addition to shivering uncontrollably, my teeth had now begun to chatter making it impossible for me to control myself and yell for help. The house screeched again and I worried that if it shifted again, it might be the end for me. I said my prayers and tried to focus on the happy things and loved ones in my life. As the world around me began to fade away I shut my eyes and gave up the fight.


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