Short Story: Save Me

IMG_2082My buddy and co-podcaster Kevin Tumlinson has started blogging his short stories, so I thought I would copy him 🙂  This story, SAVE ME, was one I did in grad school (Johns Hopkins, MA in writing). The style is a bit different from what I’ve been doing recently, and I think I’ve learned a lot, but I hope you enjoy!

SAVE ME

Kim knew Gabe was sitting on the other side of that door, smirking at himself and listening to her repetitive knocking. He knew this was her first date Triston, but he had to give her a hard time. She thought taking Triston to a party at her best friend’s house would be a good idea, but now she realized she should have told the guy to take a hike.

A stranger peeped through the yellow drapes, but a minute passed and no one let her and her date in. She shrugged and glanced at Triston to see how he was doing. He just stared at the window with his mouth slightly open, as if he couldn’t breathe through his humongous nostrils. It wasn’t exactly fair for her to single out his one fault like that, but hey, he had been fairly annoying so far. As she was about to give up and call it a day, which maybe she should’ve done anyway, Gabe finally opened the door.

He stood in the doorway with his dorky smile, a smile so welcome after dealing with Triston’s nervous grimaces all through Sunday brunch. Yup, they had done brunch for their first date. She shuddered at the thought and made a mental note to never do it again.

“This is Triston,” Kim said, wishing he had at least shaved. His eyes connected with Gabe’s for a moment and then darted around the porch as he pursed his lips. He didn’t seem to be the most social guy now, although he hadn’t shut up during brunch. She wondered if he had spotted the scars on Gabe’s arms, if he was contemplating the many scenarios that could have brought those scars. She hated discussing it.

Gabe gave her the look, the one he always did when he didn’t approve of some new guy. “Hey,” he finally said with a nod to Triston.

Triston grunted.

“Can you get me a drink?” Kim asked Triston with a nod toward the kitchen.

With a frown he brushed past Gabe and went inside without so much as asking what she wanted. She just wanted him away during the inquisition. Gabe stood in the doorway with his always-judging-squinty-eyes.

“Kim…” he said.

“I’m over it, moved on. Triston’s great. He’s in college you know?”

“That’s wonderful… And it’s been a whole month, right on schedule.”

She rolled her eyes and pushed past him, ignoring the scent of sweet Old Spice. The smell lingered, but she knew Gabe and her would never be like that. He and her older brother were best friends and, well, she’d considered it before but it just didn’t seem right. What would people think?

Triston waited by the ice, shifting his eyes between two drinks in his hands as if unsure which he wanted. He passed Kim the screwdriver and kept a pinkish-orange concoction for himself.

“Thanks,” she said.

He nodded and the two sipped their drinks in the silence of the kitchen. The yelps of college girls and other party noise drifted in from the back yard, but neither Kim nor Triston said a word. At last he put an arm around her. That was sufficient. She didn’t need conversation if she knew she had someone close, preferably making physical contact.

That’s how she was. In her diary, on the very first page she wrote that there are two things everyone should know about her: (1) She hated dogs, and (2) she couldn’t be alone. Gabe knew this. He and her brother James made fun all the time. She always had a boyfriend. It wasn’t a conscious decision, more of a fact. Before Triston there was Chris, and before him there was Todd – never more than a one month break in between. They didn’t seem to last much more than a month themselves, not that she thought about it. A less-than-intelligent shrink would possibly look to her parents’ divorce as the impetus for this need, but she insisted to the pages of her diary that wasn’t it.

The urge to have someone, to know that she was loved, started about two years after the divorce, when she was seven.

They’d all gone to the park, her and her family. The morning’s rain still shone on the asphalt – growing up in Seattle, she was used to this. She remembered laughing as her aunt Shelly’s pit-bull chased the Frisbee, slipping through the grass and on one occasion slamming its head into a tree. She remembered that moment because it was such a small agitation toward the dog compared to what came later.

If only Shelly hadn’t accepted Kim’s mom’s invitation to come over after they had finished at the park, but she has never been the type to refuse an invitation. On the walk home they waited for a long line of traffic to clear the way while the dog snapped at a flock of pigeons and cars inched forward, their breaks squeaking and hissing. They reached her house and the stupid dog ran all over the living room. Kim’s mom didn’t seem to care until it knocked over her money tree. It tried to crawl up onto Kim’s lap, not realizing her lap wasn’t nearly as large as Shelly’s. When it moved his head to stare at the door, drool covered her jeans.

On the way to her room to change her pants, she heard a door creak open. Someone yelled, “Oh my god,” so she ran back to see what was going on. The back door swayed in the breeze. She approached apprehensively, knowing she didn’t want to see what waited for her. The dog’s barking sounded joyous in the afternoon air.

She passed through the door and her jaw dropped. Every muscle froze. The dog was struggling through a hole in the chicken wire of her rabbit cage. Then it was in and had papa bunny in its jaws and there was a crack like stepping on shells. Momma bunny and several of the dozen or so babies escaped through the hole as that damn dog bit into one of the baby rabbits.

Kim was paralyzed, her mouth open and a scream echoing through her ears – it must have been her own but she didn’t remember screaming. What she remembered was her aunt, laughing! Her mom chided her aunt, her brother ran through the grass yelling “Stop, stop!” and the dog just kept on attacking, one bunny after another.

The memory hurt, but what really hurt was that they were all so busy laughing, chiding, and running, that none of them would just put their arms around her and take her from that place. She couldn’t move and her eyelids seemed to have rolled into the back of her head. She had no choice but to watch the horror. If only someone had taken her and covered her eyes. Then she wouldn’t have had to see the beast chase down her pets, its teeth gnashing and blood spraying across the grass, the same grass she used to play in.

The rest of that horrible day she spent crying in bed. Her mom and then her brother came to her and said “it will be okay,” and finally they made her aunt apologize. None of them got it though, none of them understood that, sure, her bunnies were dead, but worse than that, no one had been there for her. So she insisted that it was because of dogs that she couldn’t be alone, or more specifically, that dog. She longed to go back and tell them all, “No, it won’t be okay, so stop saying so.”

She probably wouldn’t have been with Triston otherwise. He had his redeeming qualities. He was the first man she dated from a real University. While his cheeks were chubby, his arms were thick and she suspected muscles hid under his long jacket. She even had a slight urge to caress them and find out.

At one point his arm somehow drifted from her hip and hung lazily at his side so she reached over and wrapped it around her waist. She noted that his arms were indeed solid and she smiled at the shiver this thought sent across her skin. He could lift her and toss her around the bed like his little play thing. With that small change in thought, his big nose reminded her of a Roman god. “Give them all a chance,” her one female friend Chelsea always said. “They might surprise you.” But Chelsea was a slut.

Gabe paused as he pulled a tray of jello shots from the fridge, glancing at the two. She winked and he smiled, but shook his head and walked away. Always judging.

“Saw some guys playing beer pong out back,” Triston finally said.

Kim nodded and followed him past the idiots spilling their drinks and sharing stories of different professors or scandals in the ‘dorm.’ It wasn’t really a dorm – unlike Triston and the friends he likely had, Gabe and Kim went to community college as did the majority of the people at Gabe’s party. Their dorm consisted of a run-down apartment building near Seattle Community College that many of them lived in.

She wondered what Triston would think if he knew how fake they all were, how they all pretended to be in a real college. He was somewhat of a snob, and throughout brunch had debated about what sort of God could let all of Pompei be taken out by a volcano. He ended with the plausibility of Daniel surviving the lion’s den. He had been trying to make some sort of impression, she supposed, but since when had showing one is smarter than God impressed girls? She would’ve rather he asked what sort of piano music she played, or from what age her parents had forced her to learn. But first he would have had to ask if she played the piano, or ask anything about her for that matter.

He had offered to pick up the tab at least, although she naturally didn’t let him, not on the first date. The messages that would have sent! And the alternative was finding someone else and at the moment she still wasn’t sure it was worth the trouble. She followed him through the Olympics of wannabe-frat-boys in the back yard, with their beer pong, flip cup, boys doing keg stands and attempting to convince girls to get in on the action. The whole hurrah.

“I’ll watch from the sidelines,” she said when Triston asked if she wanted to be his partner in beer pong. She almost wanted to see if he really knew how to play.

He taught them how it’s done but his eyes kept shooting between Kim, as if she should be proud, and–but he must not have noticed that she saw where his eyes went every other second that they weren’t on her–Miss Cleavage ’s breasts. Sure it was August, but it was Seattle and only sixty-five degrees. Who shows so much skin in Seattle? The part that made Kim wonder was weather the goose-pimples covering the girl’s skin made the boys more or less turned on.

The girl caught Kim looking and Kim decided it was time to take a walk through the house. Maybe see if Gabe had a sweatshirt she could borrow. She was wearing a shirt that went up to her collar bone, but still had the urge to cover her own perky little breasts. Her phone rang and she was quite surprised to see it was Todd. Wow. Okay, so she never officially dated Todd, but no one would’ve known that by looking at them in their hay-day. They were all over each other, in the room, on the side of the road on a cool autumn day, it didn’t matter. But after a couple of months he had left for boot camp. Had it been three months already?

“Hello?” she answered.

“I missed you,” Todd’s raspy but sexy voice said without pause. “I’m back.”

“Oh…” Was she glad? She glanced at Triston through the window and he looked back with a goofy grin – the jello had purpled his lips. She waved and smiled before turning and holding the phone tight. “For good?”

Todd laughed. “I wish. Thirty days leave, well, some leave and some recruiter’s assistance.”

“Working for Uncle Sam, huh? You’re gonna try to steal more boys away from their lovers?”

“Wait…. Were we lovers?”

She held the phone away and hit herself in the forehead with her other hand. “That’s not what I meant.”

There was a long pause and she wondered if he had hung up, if she would ever hear from him again. Then he coughed.

“I’d like to see you,” he said.

“I know.”

Gabe walked past and looked around as if Kim were missing something. She nodded toward the back door and flipped him off.

She retreated to kitchen then ducked behind the fridge door, pretending to look for more orange juice. “So, are you in Seattle?”

“No, Olympia, at my mom’s,” Todd said. “I could borrow the car, be up there in an hour or two?”

“Yeah?” She scratched her eyelid and wondered how that would work, but before she could bother to think she told him she would love to see him and they agreed to meet at her place that evening.

“Forget something?” Gabe asked as she headed for the front door. He sat alone in the living room, fidgeting with his phone. The rest of the guests had migrated to join the others in the back yard from where the aroma of charcoal and barbequed meat almost pulled her back. Through the windows she could see the smoke rising above the fence, slowly darkening the blue sky.

“Hey, I just… I gotta meet a friend.”

“Oh?” He stared at her stupidly for a moment.

“What?”

Gabe raised his eyebrows. “Seriously, you do remember that pudgy kid you came with right?”

“Yeah… him. He’s not pudgy. Can you do me a huge favor and tell him I’ll call him later?”

“We’ll be here all night,” he said. “You haven’t changed at all, have you?”

Kim laughed it off and headed to hail a cab, slightly giddy at the thought of feeling Todd’s soft lips against the back of her neck, the prickles of his five o’clock shadow against her cheek. She found herself wondering if he had beefed up in boot camp. The image of his thin face on top of Jean Claude’s body popped into her mind and was enough to make her laugh out loud as she drove off. Todd was always in good shape. His abs were firm and he at least had a chest, unlike her ex before him who had a dip beneath his collar bone like a broken ping pong table.

She ran into her house with thoughts of Todd’s cool-mint breath filling her mouth with his warm tongue. The thought of the barbecue brought her to memories of sitting beside a camp fire, and all the times she had gone camping with Todd. They had spent hours rolling in sleeping bags, that cool-mint scent filling the tent. The sweet chocolaty goo of S’mores, smoke from the fire overpowering any insecurity from the lack of showering, and hands massaging her ass as crickets provided the romantic soundtrack – how could she not remember him fondly?

She spun the knob for hot water then filled the tub with jasmine scented bath salts. He had always liked that. But as she removed her clothes and lowered herself into the steaming bath water, she started to think. He left. He was only back for thirty days or so, and then what? Was she just throwing a perfectly satisfactory—or at least slightly above mediocre—guy, who goes to college, aside for a short fling with a guy she couldn’t even really call her ex? And then, when he left, it would be like last time all over again: surrounded by boxes, cheeks drenched in tears, and the sense that she belonged on the racks at Good Will.

The heat of the bath took her and the steam danced its way into her brain. The water caressed the underside of her breasts gently as she lowered herself into its embrace and she imagined Todd’s hands cupping them. She took her luffa from above the faucet and scrubbed her arms, her legs, then across her belly. She imagined Todd walking into the bathroom and pulling her rose-patterned shower curtain aside, his clothes already on the floor and a towel hanging loosely around his waist.

But no, not again. The way he had left, with the cursing and name calling, she couldn’t go through all that a second time. What had he said when she had run after him, begging him to stay? “What does it matter, I’m just another of your many guys.” And then he had grabbed his crotch and told her she would find another cock, so stop crying. Forget that! How had she let all the good times block out that memory?

She stood, fumbled for her towel, and then began to dry herself, not even bothering to rinse the soap bubbles. What could have possessed her to just leave Triston at the party? She wrapped the towel around herself and walked into her studio apartment, looking for her phone. She had to cancel. When she found it under a pile of clothes on the table she first called Triston and apologized. She told him it was a good idea to meet back up that night. She told him she was sorry and that she wanted to see him, she had just spaced out for a minute. She made up something about her mom calling her to help. Her mom did that sometimes, she needed help with gardening, or cleaning because her joints didn’t allow her to bend like they used to. That was believable enough, right? He said he would join up after he ran an errand for his dad, and she wondered for a moment if he really would be running an errand or if he too was making it up.

Hoping she could cancel on Todd she called him right after hanging up with Triston, but his phone went straight to voicemail. He must have been in that part of Tacoma where Sprint never worked, too close for her to cancel. She fell back on her bed, towel still wrapped around her body, and stared at the ceiling. She thought of pinching herself until she screamed, for being so stupid, and for getting herself into this situation. She sighed and resigned herself to an awkward evening.

When Todd arrived he smiled up at her from inside his car, and everything from their last summer surged back – the long nights with her head on his chest listening to the reverberations of his voice, the hours spent in lip-lock, the overwhelming sense of comfort and joy that accompanied the scent of fresh pumpkin bread (which he used to make all the time). His red hair looked different, shaved at the sides, but everything else was the same. She couldn’t keep herself away. He came to her and she ran to him, her cheeks already hurting from the width of her smile. She jumped into his arms and he laughed.

“Hey there,” he said. He moved in for a kiss and threw her against the car, grabbing her thigh and pushing himself tight against her. Their hands caressed each other’s arms and stomachs and wrapped around to grab each other’s asses, right there on the sidewalk beside his car.

But then she turned her face so his lips mushed into her cheek. He looked at her awkwardly, then took a step back. “Okay, what’s up?”

“I’m kinda seeing someone,” she said, remembering herself.

“Oh.” He and ran his hand through his hair, his perfect blue eyes looking at his car.

“But I’m happy you came.” She tried to force the smile to stay, in spite of the awkwardness. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Let’s have some fun, we can go to Gabe’s. I think they plan on partying all day.”

“The guy with the cats and the….”

“Yeah.” She knew what he was talking about, though most people didn’t. The scars. Gabe was burned when he was little, cooking oil. They covered his arms and legs. That’s why he usually wore long sleeves, so no one could see. Luckily for him, they lived where it was cool and rained ninety-percent of the year so he fit right in.

“I was kinda hoping we could chill here.”

“Well, it’s actually his older sister’s birthday I think, but we don’t have to stay there all day. I just told him I’d come back later since I left early.” She hadn’t told Gabe any such thing, but now that she had said it, she supposed she did feel bad about leaving earlier in such a hurry.

“Your brother gonna be there?”

“No.” She had forgotten about him and Todd. She forgot how she told her brother about Todd’s comment, when he had made her feel like a whore, and how her brother had called Todd and said “You’re gonna get fucked up!” But everyone knew Todd was going to boot camp, so it was just empty threats. “He’s off in Japan, teaching English for a year or so.”

“Yeah? Okay, sure.” Todd motioned to his car. “I’ll drive.”

She got in the passenger seat and Todd stared at her. She could only imagine he was experiencing the lust and nostalgia she had been fighting since he called. But where had it gone? She felt none of it now.

“Will he be there?” Todd asked.

“Who?”

“This guy, the one you’re seeing.”

“Oh.” She almost forgot. “Yeah, I think he’ll be meeting up again there later.”

“Okay, I see.” Todd revved the motor and peeled out, lucky no other cars were around.

Kim couldn’t get him to say another word the whole drive over. He just stared at the road ahead, his hands clenching the steering wheel so hard his fingers turned red and his knuckles white. She tried to watch the trees for birds, anything to appear relaxed. The most she saw that day was a hawk or something circling far away.

They pulled up to the driveway and saw Gabe sitting on the front porch with a beer in his hand. He waved and she waved back.

“Maybe I should go,” Todd said when he stopped the car, looking in the rearview mirror.

“What? You drove all that way.”

“Yeah well….”

“Come on.” She took his hand and squeezed. “I really wanted to see you.”

He looked down at her hand on his, then up at her and said he would come in. By the time they reached the porch, Gabe had finished his beer.

“Guess I shouldn’t be surprised.” Gabe stood to shake Todd’s hand. “Need a beer?”

“Hell yes,” Todd said, his eyes fully narrowed now, his cheeks flushed to match his hair.

“So….” Gabe looked at Kim and she realized she had been staring at Todd. “This is why you left?”

“You left for me?” Todd asked.

“I wouldn’t say that, exactly.”

“She ran out of here when you called,” Gabe said. “Left some dude here.”

“Yeah?” Todd asked. “Why’s that?”

She frowned at Gabe who sneered back.

Todd leaned in, close. “You smell great,” he whispered, then turned back to Gabe as if he forgot Kim was there. “So about that beer?”

They laughed and walked inside, leaving her on the doorstep. Her watch said it was six P.M. by that point, and she wondered if Triston would be arriving soon. What would she do then? She figured she would go with the flow, improv right? She had always been told she was the best in her community college acting class, and if that stuff couldn’t be applied to situations like this, then what’s the use?

But as the sun began to descend behind the white box-houses over the hill, Triston still hadn’t arrived. Kim sat on the porch watching the rotation of the earth and debating whether she would be happy to see Triston, or whether she should be inside with Todd. What snide comment would Gabe would have for her when this was all over? The door creaked and Todd walked past with the girl from earlier hanging on his arm. The girl with the low hanging shirt and overly large breasts, now pressed against his shoulder. Todd’s eyes smiled mischievously.

“Everyone’s going skinny dipping,” he said, the girl at his side pretending not to notice Kim. He looked like the perfect soldier at that moment—hard and uncaring. “You coming?”

“Triston’s not here yet.”

“Suit yourself, we can meet up later,” Todd said and took a step toward the stairs.

“Wait,” Kim said. “I’ll tell him to meet us there. Um, where we going?”

“Sally here says there’s a lake five minutes down the road, isn’t that right Sally?”

“Sure is,” she said, her eyes off in the distance. She batted her eyelashes and Kim thought how they reminded her of long spider legs.

Kim had nothing to worry about, she told herself. But just to be sure she stood and tucked her hair behind her ear like Todd always liked. He had always said the way her fingers caressed the soft of her ear was the most sensual act he had ever witnessed. But that night he just turned to leave.

“He’ll figure it out,” Todd said over his shoulder.

Kim watched Todd and Sally walk down the front steps, confused over the sense that he was cheating on her right before her eyes, even though she knew the truth of it. If he was trying to make her jealous, she figured she would call his bluff. She called Triston and gave him the specifics, ready to put on a show.

They arrived at the lake in the four car procession. Gabe hopped out of his red Sedan and Kim’s heart sank. They had been friends for so long, she didn’t want him to see her in such a state of confusion. His judging would only make it worse. She somehow hadn’t thought of the fact that, if she went in the water, he would see her naked. Or maybe she didn’t care. They had known each other that long.

Gabe half smiled and tilted his head as if to say ‘Really, you came?’, then motioned at the sky as he approached. “It’ll be dark soon anyway, right?” he said. The clouds streaked across the dark sky in purple and red, and Mt. Rainier in the distance faded into a blue fog. “Won’t be able to see much.”

Sally stood with Todd beside his car and she giggled at something. “It’s a bit cold too, there really won’t be much too see!” She busted up laughing, but Kim was too annoyed to give her the satisfaction. She did have a point though, it was a bit chilly.

“I’m not sure I’m going in,” Kim said as she walked toward the water. She heard the others following.

“Don’t be a dud,” Gabe said. “Your buddy just drove up here to go skinny dipping with you, you can at least show him your boobies.”

“Shut up.” Kim turned and kicked sand at him. “So you’re going in then?”

“Me?” Gabe looked away while rubbing his arm. “I—”

“We’re all going in,” Sally said with a pinch of Todd’s rear. “No observers allowed.”

Kim wanted to slam that pretty face of hers into the lake and hold it under. She realized her nails were digging into her palms. This girl was getting to her and she couldn’t let her. Who was Todd to her anyway, right?

But the girl noticed.

“Calm down bitch,” she said, not quite under her breath.

And then Kim lost it. She ran at the girl with her fist ready, not accounting for the dip in the sand or her clumsiness, not ready for the sand to smack her in the face or the eruption of laughter. By the time Kim sat up, others had arrived and she realized they had seen her fall because they were all laughing too. Her anger at the girl faded into overwhelming humiliation.

Then Todd saved her by beginning to undress. He undid his belt and several heads turned. “Let’s do it,” he said as he lifted his shirt to reveal those tight abs Kim remembered so well.

The others followed and soon almost a dozen nude forms danced in the dark waters of twilight, all of them shrieking about the cold. Meanwhile, Kim sat nearby like a chump. Sand crunched and she looked up to see Triston standing where the crowd had been moments before. Behind him Gabe was walking toward the woods, with a look over his shoulder before vanishing into the shadows. She should’ve known he wouldn’t have gone in, not with those scars.

“Did you see?” she asked Triston.

“I wouldn’t go pro, not just yet. Well, not if MMA’s on the beach anyway.”

“Life’s over.”

“What’d she do that pissed you off? I saw you run at her from my car when I pulled up, but…. Man, I didn’t know you had it in you.”

“Forget it.” Kim stood and brushed the sand from her jeans and sweatshirt. “Sorry about, you know, earlier.”

“Like I said on the phone, don’t worry about it.”

“Yeah, well….”

“We joining them?”

In the water one of the boys stood with the lake almost to his balls, shrieking as he tried to go an inch deeper. The rest stood back, pointing and laughing hysterically.

“With those idiots?” she said, unsure of what she really did want. Todd stood at the edge with the water up to his ankles and looked back. His pale flesh seemed to glow in the dark, a ghostly image of a man’s nude body. The sun was long gone and most of the people were only visible in their reliefs against the skyline, but not him. Kim could make out the curves of his arms and chest, of his cute little butt. He hadn’t changed but for a small tattoo on his left shoulder—a ball or globe or something, she couldn’t make it out. But somehow it repulsed her, this self-destruction of his smooth skin, this scar that he had decided should mark his body for life.

And Triston stood beside Kim like a stranger, earning only the slightest desire, but holding the promise of not going back to the military any time soon.

“So you’re the guy, huh?” Todd said as he approached. He strode up as unashamed as always.

“Put some pants on man,” Triston said. “Be respectful, right?”

Todd laughed, a deep laugh that brought a sense of nostalgia like a snowy Thanksgiving day – it happened once and became a distant memory, almost forgotten. Triston was the present, but also long gone. Kim felt the sensation she knew so well, the feeling of suddenly not caring, the realization that neither were for her.

Todd stopped uncomfortably close to Triston. “I just want to get to know the man of the minute that Kim here’s decided to have some fun with, that’s all.”

“Watch it buddy,” Triston said.

“That’s right,” Todd said. “Defend your slut.”

Kim didn’t have to listen to this, not from him. She stepped toward the car, but then there was a thud and she turned to see Triston’s fist extended, Todd holding his cheek in surprise. Todd recovered and tried to kick but missed. He dodged a second punch and landed a knee to Triston’s gut. Triston turned and shoved him back, and Kim almost laughed at the comical sight of Todd’s pale flesh flopping in the purple night. Out of nowhere she was exhilarated, excited at the prospect of two boys fighting over her, enticed by the fact that one was nude.

Todd regained his footing and charged. Kim’s exhilaration turned to panic as she realized this could get dangerous. The two rolled in the dark sand. Triston had Todd pinned on his back and was raining down punches, meaty fist after meaty fist into Todd’s face. Kim was screaming. Todd flung Triston over his head and rolled back, sand flying everywhere, and he elbowed Triston in the nose and something popped. A knee crunched in Todd’s exposed groin and then Triston had him face down in the sand, pummeling his kidneys, and Kim was screaming louder. She didn’t want to look but her head wouldn’t turn. And everyone was watching, and someone was laughing.

She saw rabbits, and remembered a lone spurt of blood painting the straw of the rabbit cage. And that damn dog, and more blood, the blood was everywhere. And her rabbits, the baby bunnies, they lay dead before her. And the damn dog seemed to smile at her with its tongue hanging out, saliva covering that tongue as it moved up and down with the dog’s panting. Blood dripped down the folds of its skin and her aunt continued to laugh.

And then it was all gone. Thick arms had her, carrying her across the beach toward the cars. Her eyes were shielded, they were wet and she thought that maybe she had been weeping. Soft leather surrounded her, she felt it cool against her skin and smelled it. And the scent of Old Spice, sweet, lingering, Old Spice. She opened her eyes and Gabe was leaning over her, caressing her face, soothing her with calm words, his large brown eyes closer than ever before. She had never noticed how comforting those eyes were. She took his hand and held it against her chest and until the tears stopped.

“Don’t worry about them,” he said. “Boy’s doing their thing. Are you gonna be okay?”

She nodded and then he moved to the driver seat and started the car. Moments later they were winding through the dark roads, trees over them blocking out the night sky and the pale moon. She didn’t care where they were going, and didn’t think they had a destination in mind. His favorite Rachmaninoff echoed through the night. Neither of them broke the spell of the music.

At some point all she heard was the low hum of the motor and the keys of the piano echoing in her mind. She found herself glancing at Gabe more than once. She considered him, his long eyelashes, the way his rose lips contrasted against his dark stubble. She thought about all he had been to her over the years. She craved the scent of him again. He rotated the steering wheel and his sleeve pulled back to reveal his scars, but it didn’t bother her. For the first time she didn’t even notice.

All she could think was, “Yeah, I’m gonna be okay.”

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Justin Sloan is a writer at Telltale Games, as well as a screenwriter and novelist. Justin holds an MA in writing from the Johns Hopkins University and a certificate in screenwriting from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Theater, Film, and Television. He interned with Folio Literary Management and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, and has published short stories and poetry in Separate Worlds, Viral Cat, Coalesce, O-Dark Thirty, and other literary publications. His screenplays have won or placed well in such contests as ScriptVampt, The-Greenlight, Page, and Austin.

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For further writing by Justin, check out Telltale Games and specifically Tales from the Borderlands. Future books in the creative mentor series are coming soon, as are fiction books to include middle grad novels titled Bringer of Light, Back by Sunrise, and Teddy in Monsterland. His literary novel, Mohira, should be available on Amazon within the year.

 

If you would like to follow Justin:

[1] www.JustinMSloan.com for information on other projects past and future.

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