Another piece that started off as a school assignment. I am considering sending this in for possibly publishing, and maybe even continuing the story if the feedback on this is good.
They sat in the grass right outside of their last class, soaking up the sun before it disappeared behind the trees while other students went about their days around them. To the left was Lena, her legs stretched out in front of her. Converse dressed her feet, dark, tight jeans hugged her legs, and a simple black hoodie formed to her body. A book occupied her hands, and a small pen stuck out between her fingers like a cigarette. To the right was Clara, sitting cross-cross with her hands in her lap. Short shorts stopped just at her thighs and knee high socks with colorful stripes clutched her calves. A pair of high top shoes covered her feet, their laces matching the brightness of her socks. Squeezing her chest was a low cut tank top with thin spaghetti straps, and over that flowed her unbuttoned, dark red cardigan. They exchanged quick glances, and then back to their readings; Lena to her book and Clara to her Kindle.
“So what are you doing tonight?” Clara asked as she blew a strand of golden hair away from her face, never looking up from the kindle.
Lena turned the page of her little book with a single finger. “Studying-”
“You of all people can afford one day of fun over studying,” Clara interrupted.
Lena shrugged, but did not rebuke Clara. “Update my journal. Netflix…”
“No… just Netflix.”
Clara shut off the screen of her kindle and glared at Lena. “So the same thing you do every night. It’s friday. You need to turn up. Go meet a boy. Have some fun and do stuff and things with him.”
“You know I don’t hook up.” Lena turned the page again.
“Well you’re not exactly putting yourself out there to meet a guy.”
“I will. Just haven’t had the opportunity,” Lena explained.
“Oh please,” Clara snarked. “You wouldn’t go for it if the opportunity screamed from the heavens and landed right in your lap.”
It was then that a shadow fell across Lena’s face, consuming her until it stopped in the grass right behind her. Lena glanced up as he approached her. The man, silhouetted by the sun at first, stepped to the side, revealing a sharp but warm smile. Lena closed her little book, keeping the page marked with her finger. The sun caught her eyes at just the right angle, turning dark brown into a golden shade of caramel swirls.
“Hello, Lena,” the man said. His voice was like gravel, but smooth.
“Hi there,” Lena smiled. “Umm. I’m not sure I recognize you. I’m sorry.”
“Michael,” the man introduced himself, and then gave another sharp toothed smile.
His eyes, burning like blue flames, observed all of Lena, from her bouncing shoes, to the glimmer in her eyes, to the dark hair she’d tucked behind her ear. He tried to divert his eyes from her chest, avoiding too long a glance at her cleavage. With the sun behind him, his jacket glistened in the light like slick raven feathers.
“We have English together,” Michael explained. “Professor Clarke…”
“Oh,” Lena glanced to Clara and then back to Michael. “It’s just such a big lecture hall.”
Michael shook his head. “It’s fine. I sit a few rows behind you so you wouldn’t have been able to see me. But I’ve seen you around campus and you contribute in class quite often so yeah… I was wondering, if you’re free this weekend, if you’d like to go out with me? Coffee? Dinner? Party maybe?”
“Ummm…” Lena stared into Michael’s eyes, and could feel Clara’s burning into the side of her head. “I… actually… I’m free now if you are.”
Michael shrugged. “I am, actually.” He extended his hand out to Lena.
Quickly stuffing her book and pen into her bag, Lena took his hand and stood. She turned quickly to Clara, who flashed her a double thumbs up and mouthed “score”, and told her “talk to you later.”
Clara watched her friend walk off with Michael, and felt as if she was the one that had just scored the date. She watched, like a proud, giddy parent, until the two walked all the way down the path and out of sight, headed for the parking garage.
The headlight to Michael’s Dodge Challenger blinked quickly and its horn gave a sharp beep as he unlocked it with the push of a button. He escorted her to the passenger side door and opened it for her. Before she stepped into his car, she could help but notice the sleek black finish and the crimson red race stripes across the hood. When she did plop down in that leather seat, she noticed many of the same colors: deep black seats, dashboard, and stick; red speedometer and gas gauge. Michael rounded the car almost in a flash, and as soon as he sat in the car, he turned the key in the ignition. His Challenger roared to life, and its deep voice echoed throughout the parking garage.
“I’ll let the lady choose,” Michael said, one hand on the steering wheel, the other on the stick. “Fancy resturant? Or turnt club?”
Lena narrowed her eyes as she stared at Michael. “By your word choice, I think that you’re hoping I pick the club.”
“I’m fine with both.” Michael gestured with his hand on the steering wheel.
“Okay… The club,” Lena said, even though she’d never been to one, and she hardly thought of herself as a dancer.
“Excellent choice.” Michael put the car in gear, gunned the engine, and sped off.
The music blurred into one blaring sound. The bass thud in their chests. The lights, green, red, and blue, swirled and danced around the room along with the sea of bodies pressed almost shoulder to shoulder on the dance floor. The air carried the scent of smoke and liquor. Michael led the way through the initial crowd at the door to the bar, and the very ground under their feet shook with the music.
“What should I start you off with?” Michael asked as they took a seat in the swiveling stools.
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” Lena replied.
“Really?” Michael’s brow raised. “I don’t go for the girly drinks.”
“I’ll match you.”
Michael nodded, and then signaled the bartender. “Can I get two shots of fireball?”
After carding the both of them, the bartender served their shots, and when he went to serve another patron, Michael gripped the bottle and asked him to leave it with him. The bartender obliged and went on his way.
Michael then turned towards Lena and raised his shot glace to face level. Lena did the same, and then they each threw back their drinks and slammed the glasses onto the counter. A few hot, cinnamon flavored drops of harsh liquor dripped to Lena’s chin as she forced down the shot. Before she could, Michael reached out and wiped away a drop with his thumb, and her lips opened to his gentle touch.
They’d taken three shots before heading to the dance floor, weaving through the dancers until they found themselves in the middle of the sea. The air in the center of the dance floor was thicker, hotter, almost tangible. They sidestepped in unison first, until the next song came on, and the current of dancers shifted, pushing them closer together. Already building a layer of sweat, they danced with no space between them.
She turned, and backed up and pressed into Michael, and together their bodies swayed until he spun her around and took hold of her by the hips. Lena’s hands found their way behind Michael’s neck, and she found herself staring up at him. It was then that Michael reached into his pocket and brought his hand up between them, producing a little baggy with two bright yellow pills.
Lena’s heart skipped a beat. “What’s that?” she muttered under the music.
Though he could not hear her, he could perfectly read her lips. He took one pill from the bag, placed it on the edge of his tongue, gave Lena a wink, and then swallowed it down. He then took the other pill out of the bag, let the bag fall to the floor, and brought his fingers to Lena’s mouth. Lena pinched her lips shut at first. But there was something about the way Michael touched her, his rough, calloused fingertips that somehow caressed her skin like the little end of a feather, that made her lips open just slightly.
The pill tasted bitter as soon as it touched her tongue, and she could feel her heartbeat speed up before it had even ventured all the way down her throat. Her taste buds tingled even after the pill was gone, reminding her of pop rocks she would eat as a child. When she looked back into Michael’s eyes, her mind began to swirl like that of the lights shining from behind Michael’s head.
She did not remember how, or when, but Lena suddenly found herself dancing on top of the bar counter, a bottle of Jack in one hand, Michael’s hand entwined in the other. Her hoodie was nowhere to be found. Random strangers grabbed at her legs and feet, but she didn’t care. She only took a break from her dirty dancing to reach over and pour shots into open mouths.
A hand grabbed her wrist, and suddenly she felt her feet hit the floor. Her vision blurred. She blinked slowly, and when her eyes opened, she heard the jolting smack of a fist colliding with a skull. Her eyes darted towards the commotion. Michael stood over another man, holding him up by his collar, dropping right hand bombs onto the man’s face. She saw Michael raining down punches onto this stranger, but it did not register in her head. Once her legs went numb, and her vision blurred, she forgot about him completely.
The hard wooden stool of the bar turned into the soft leather of Michael’s Challenger. Its seat purred against Lena’s body, trying to lull her back into darkness, but a bump in the road startled her back to her senses.
She looked out at the road, and the vast expanse of the night. The yellow lines in the black asphalt stung her eyes like lasers being shot right at her. Though her breathing was normal, she felt like her lungs were filled with helium, that her chest was floating far away from her. A tingle went through her face and fingers, and her throat felt small and clamped. When she looked at her hands in front of her, she saw two of every finger, and it wasn’t until she really focused in that her vision corrected itself.
Lena shifted uncomfortably in her seat in an attempt to untie the knot in her stomach, and then turned to see Michael with one hand on the steering wheel, the other on the stick, and an empty bottle of Hennessy between his legs. “Where are we?”
Michael glanced at Lena briefly as he shifted gears, driving more than twenty miles above the speed limit.
“Where are we?” she repeated.
“What are you talking about?” Michael’s brows pinched together.
“Tell me where we are,” Lena demanded. “Take me home.”
“Quit acting weird. You were having fun just two seconds ago. Now finish what you were saying about that time you and Clara got lost at summer camp.” Michael’s fiery blue eyes only left the road for brief moments.
“What?” Lena muttered. “How did you know about that?”
“Because you were just telling me… and were about to get to the part where you finally found your way back again… Lena? Are you okay? Le-”
Lena startled back to consciousness again, this time on her knees on the cold tiles of an unfamiliar bathroom. Her face rested against the toilet seat, and vomit trickled from her mouth to the bowl. She sat there, her body covered in goose bumps, covered in nothing but a thin, black bikini that she’d never seen before. Like her hoodie before, her clothes were nowhere to be found, along with her phone, wallet, and backpack. A knot seized her insides, before she could stand, and her muscles all strained as she heaved and heaved until bile reluctantly left her stomach and fell into the toilet bowl.
There was a knock at the door. “Lena?”
Michael slowly entered the bathroom to see Lena on the floor in tears. He too was absent of his clothes, and wore only black swim trunks. Beads of water still trickled down his legs and his hair still clung to his scalp and forehead.
“What’s going on? Where are my clothes? Where is my phone. Where am I?” Lena sobbed.
“Hey hey,” Michael knelt by her side. “They’re on the bed where you left them. We’re at the motel. We’ve not been here ten minutes yet. You haven’t even joined us at the pool. So what’s wrong? You were fine five minutes ago?”
“I don’t remember five minutes ago!” she lashed out. “I want to go home.”
“Hey. Hey. Calm down. Okay.” Michael helped Lena to her feet, carrying most of her weight until she found her legs again. “I’ll take you home.”
Everything was dark at first. Her elbows hurt from holding up her weight as she sat forward at a diner table. Right under her face she could feel the warmth resonating from a cup of coffee, and its chocolate aroma filled her nose. Her hearing returned to her next. All around her, the clatter of plates and utensils, low chatter of weary waitresses and their customers, and shuffle of feet scratched at her ears. It was only when she removed her face from her palm that she saw the light of the diner, realized that she was back in her own clothes and wore Michael’s jacket.
“Shit…” Lena muttered, squinting at the bright light that made her splitting headache worse.
“Let me guess… you have no idea where we are?” Michael dropped his gaze to Lena.
Lena shook her head. “You said you would take me home.”
“We were headed back to campus when you said you needed to get out of the car… can’t you remember?”
“No,” Lena snapped, but did so in a hushed voice. “I have huge gaps in my memory. I don’t know how we even get from one place to another. And what I do remember is fuzzy… I don’t even know if… if you-”
“I assure you that I didn’t,” Michael cut her off.
“Well how can I be sure? I don’t trust you. And I won’t get in the car with you again. And if I suddenly say I will, assume I am not myself and don’t let me,” Lena demanded.
Michael crossed his arms. “If I was such a scum bag that I would take advantage of you when you’re drugged out, then why wouldn’t I just say sure but go back on my word-”
“Because I will go to the cops…” Lena replied. “And if I had my phone I’d call them now but I can’t seem to find it,” she said accusingly.
Michael’s brow warped. “Your phone died on the road so you put it in your bag… And before you go calling the cops for something I didn’t do…” he lifted Lena’s bag from next to him on the red seat and placed it on the table, “why don’t you read your journal? You couldn’t keep out of it pretty much every chance you got.” With his own fiery blues, he stared into Lena’s eyes. “You look a little better. Your pupils aren’t saucers anymore. See there?” Michael gestured to the glass wall of the diner. “That bus should be here any second now. Sixth stop should be the campus. Here’s some cash for it.”
Lena pulled her bag into her lap, peeked in it, and accepted the cash from Michael.
“So I assume I won’t be getting a second date.”
“No,” Lena shook her head. “What happened today wasn’t me. I don’t party. I don’t go crazy. I don’t lose control like that.”
“A little mayhem never hurt anyone…” Michael’s eyes darted out the diner towards the bus stop. “Better get out there now or you’ll miss it.”
Before she could change her mind, or allow it to slip into darkness again, Lena jumped out of her seat, threw her bag over her shoulder, and rushed out of the diner. In her hurried pace, she reached the bus just before the last person boarded. Once inside with her ticket paid for, she remembered to breathe, and let out a deep exhale. She stepped through the dim lit bus, passed men in hoodies and coughing elderly until she got to a comfortable, gumless seat in the middle. Before anyone else could, she took the seat next to the window and dropped her bag in the seat next to her.
The bus whined, and then began to pull away from the diner. The cold glass felt good to Lena’s forehead, the cold easing her headache and the vibrations soothing her mind. But she didn’t allow herself that comfort for too long before she reached into her bag and produced her journal, flipping to the last page she remembered writing. There was her writing on the very next page, and for five pages more that she didn’t remember writing. Lena returned to the first page she didn’t remember, and her brows pinched together as she focused on the sloppy penmanship.
Lesson one… don’t take random pills from hot first dates, the line read.
And if I’m reading this, odds are I still can’t remember shit. The dance floor is a little blurred, so odds are it’s gonna be completely gone later. But good thing I’m aware of the fact that I’m not able to remember what happens ten minutes later… so here is to keeping record of it all so I can look back later. You’re welcome, future me…