Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let's Not Call It Quitting...

I’ve decided to convert my fiction blog series into a novel. The idea of a series where the reader is involved in the story line is a great one, however, I have discovered that it requires much better planning than I was prepared for.

I planned in a way similar to how I planned my novel. I knew where I wanted it to go and was prepared to take on the slight differences in plot that would come with voters’ decisions. But one of the most difficult things with this project was ending with a cliff hanger and a decision. And Publishing ‘live’ didn’t allow me the freedom of changing some major issues that I only discovered in hind sight.

So when I try it again (cause I probably will someday), I’ll plan the exact details of each series as well as each decision and how I’ll work it out either way it goes. For now, Going South will be written as a novel.

Thanks to those who have supported me in this project.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Going South: Staying the Night (episode 20)

I give in to Chris and lay back, beginning to plan my escape. As soon as Chris and Ashley are asleep, I'll sneak out. No problem. Chris pulls a thin sheet over me, sits on the edge of the sofa and strokes my face, first with his hand, then the cold cloth. My stomach churns. Does he know anything about my past or am I overreacting? Has he figured out I'm not Mollie, I'm Ana? Will he tell John? Will I lose my job? I force myself to breathe deep, to calm down, but I feel like the moment I close my eyes, Bosley and Damian will come swooping in to capture me.
Impossible, I try to convince myself.
“Are you comfortable?” Chris says.
I nod. As comfortable as I can be under the circumstances.
“I can carry you into the spare room if you think it would be better.”
“No.” God, please, no more carrying.
Chris stops fiddling with the cloth and leans forward on his knees. I'm especially aware of his warm hip against mine. He looks towards the kitchen where Ashley is cleaning up. Then he looks back at me, a thousand questions written on his face. I pray silently he doesn't ask them.
I feel like a child, tucked in, trapped, wanting to play outside when my parents are convinced I'm ill. When did I allow them to have so much power over me? Why can't I just stand up and leave? ...because my head weighs eight tons. Right.
All I can do is lay and wait.
“Do you need help, hun?” Chris asks Ashley without moving.
“Nope. All set.” The water runs for a moment. Shortly after, the light in the kitchen goes out, leaving us in near darkness. “I'm going to bed,” she says, passing by, casting a glance in our direction that piques my nerves. She disappears into the bedroom.
Chris turns towards me. My heart pounds in my chest. He slides his fingers between us, under the sheet and retrieves my hand, hot and shaky in his. He draws it towards his mouth while looking into my eyes. My focus shifts towards the bedroom then back to his lips on my fingers. I resist slightly but he has a good grip.
“I'm sorry I asked about your husband,” he says, his breath hot on my hand.
I feel the sudden urge to vomit.
“Whatever happened must have been big,” he continues.
I look away and try to free my hand. “I don't want to talk about it.” My body is cold now, my face hot.
He uses his free hand to turn lift my chin. I want to shove him off the edge of the sofa yet I feel ...cared for, so I don't. His hand warms one side of my face. I avert my eyes. My heart still pounds against my ribs.
“Sleep well,” he says, then leans over me and plants his lips on mine, soft, slow, desirous.
My eyes well up. As soon as he stands up, I turn on my side, facing into the back of the sofa  to hide my face and streaming tears. The room goes black then the door closes to the bedroom.  I lay sobbing into the pillow for a while, trying hard to disappear into the sofa, to bury myself forever. The hair stands on my arms. What does he expect of me? I’m sure I probably don't want to give it. How could he kiss me in his own house? With his wife in the next room? What does he do with other girls? Just kiss them? Or does he actually have sex with them? What have I gotten myself into?

Consciousness returns to me slowly, my eyes taking in foreign surroundings, trying to figure out if I'm dreaming or awake. Within moments I remember I'm at Chris' house on the sofa ...and I have to use the bathroom bad. I swing my legs off the sofa and sit up. Besides being tired, everything seems stable.
I stand up and shift quietly through the room towards the bathroom, slip in and close the door behind me. When I flip on the light, the ventilation fan comes whirring on and I quickly flip it off again. I'll find my way in the dark.  
Looking towards the window, it appears to be near morning, still dark but signs of light in the distant sky. I cringe at the sound of the flushing toilet, hoping I haven't woken them up. Now is my time to get out of here.
I pull the bathroom door open and see, through the dark, Ashley, standing against the opposite wall, arms crossed over her chest, chin lowered, eyes boring into me.
“I'm sorry,” I whisper. “Did I wake you up?”
“No,” she says shortly. “I think you should leave.”
What? I avert my eyes for a moment to collect my thoughts. “I was planning to actually. I'm sorry if --”
“Just leave.”
I freeze, staring at her, trying to understand. “Okay.” What's the use in arguing? I was planning to leave at this very moment. Still I feel the need to defend myself. But against what? Kissing Chris? Staying the night? What is she upset about?
Seeing that she's not budging and isn't moving out of my way, I force myself by her and head towards the door. Her feet pad along the hardwood and carpet behind me. She really wants me out.
I open the front door, step out and turn to apologize once more but end up facing a closed door. Damn! What's that all about? I can't understand it. Last night she was so nurturing and helpful. What changed?
I descend the steps down to the ground, thankful to discover my bike is still here. The ride home is tiring in the middle of the night. As soon as I reach the motel, I drop fully clothed into bed and fall asleep instantly.

The sun wakes me up, streaming into the room and across my pillow. I squint into it, push my hair back and search for the clock. 9:12 Crud! I was supposed to meet Wesley at 9:00.
I drop my head back down onto the pillow. What was I thinking, planning a date with Wesley? I don’t need to complicate things. When I made the plans, I was so taken by Wesley. But at the moment, spending the morning by the water – alone – sounds much better. And after last night with Chris, I’m not sure I can handle any more romance …or whatever that was.
I get out of bed and catch myself in the mirror – pale, dark circles under my eyes and unshowered. Beautiful. I’m about to call Wesley to cancel but my heart starts beating wildly. I need friends. Not friends like Chris and Ashley. Good friends. Maybe I should give Wesley a chance.
  ~~ Should Ana/Mollie call to cancel or call to tell him she’s running late? ~~

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going South: Panic (episode 19)

The music is playing, the sun has gone down and I am standing at the rail of Chris' second-floor deck, hoping to keep out of the center of activity. Having kept this spot for over an hour, sipping my drink, I feel certain I can manage to stay here for the remainder of the night.
Their open flirtation, hip gyrating and spit swapping is enough to drive me crazy. I've never been with people like this, people so... Hollywood cliché. I feel like I'm in a nighttime soap opera, the OC or some other ridiculous series.
Chris sidles up next to Ashley, drapes his arm across her shoulders and swallows her whole. Jeez. Get a room. He releases her and wraps his arms around one of the single girls, nuzzling into her neck. My eyes go straight to Ashley, and I'm surprised to discover she has moved on too. Then again... no, I'm not surprised. It's just what I expected. It's exactly what I was worried about, coming here.
Having my theory confirmed, I look around for some distraction, something that will help me escape when 'my turn' comes around, since I know I can't really keep out of it all night. I spot a pitcher of water sitting on the table across the deck. Every time the group shifts towards me, I contemplate making a move - away. What am I doing here?
Chris loosens his grip on the girl, and a sick feeling comes over me. I can feel it. I'm next. It occurs to me that he's been waiting all night – weeks maybe – to make his move. I head straight for the water, turning my back to the group to hide my apprehension, my breath hitched in my throat.
Chris' body presses into my back and, instantly, his warm, wet mouth is gently sucking my neck, just below my ear. The cup slips from my hand, clinking as it crashes to the table and spills.
Oh my god, I'm sorry!” I say, flustered, not sure why I'm apologizing. I twist around, push him away and head for the door to get a towel escape.
It's okay. It's just water,” Chris says, stopping me with his hand on my upper arm.
I turn around to meet his smiling face, drink in one hand, me in the other.
Relax,” he says, pulling me closer.
I free myself, glance at the others over his shoulder then back at him. “I should go.”
Don't be stupid. It's still early.” He steps towards me again, reaching for my waist.
I side-step him and back into the table. He grabs my forearm and tugs me forcefully towards him, a bit of irritation showing on his face. The feel of his hand around my arm, the force of his pull, sends me back to my living room, Bosley's hand on my arm, a gun in my face. My heart pounds furiously as fear surges through me. I shove Chris hard. He fumbles backwards into his friends and I make a run for the stairs, heading down to the sand. I keep running a few hundred yards towards the water, sobbing, afraid and embarrassed.
I drop down at the edge of the dry sand and bury my face in my hands, still crying. The last few days I spent at home with Bosley come whirling through my mind like a tornado. For the first time since it happened, I am gripped with fear, shaking internally. The gun in my face, Bosley's forcefulness, imprisoned in my own house, followed to Wethersfield... Denial has vanished. Reality is set in. I am on the run for my life.
Hey,” Chris says, walking up next to where I sit. I hadn't heard him approach over the sound of the waves, and, being on edge, I'm startled to my feet.
Backing away, I wipe the tears from my face. I wish he would just leave me alone.
Relax,” he says, holding up his hands. “I won't touch you.”
This is awful. I don't want him to see me like this. I don't want him to know me like this. I turn away and cry silently while trying to regain my composure.
I didn't know,” Chris said from very close behind me.
I stiffen up, then turn to face him. “You didn't know what?”
I didn't know you'd react like that. I was just ...kissing you.”
I scowl in confusion, Bosley still on my mind. Then I realize he knows nothing about Bosley. He's here about the kiss.
Everyone here is like this,” he explains.
Cheaters?” I say.
It was just a kiss.”
You're married.”
So?” He turns toward the water and sits down, propping his beer up in the sand next to him.
I remain standing, looking down at him, brows still deep in a scowl.
Look, Mollie, -” He looks up at me and sighs. “Will you sit down for a minute?”
I do, facing him to keep a distance between us and to keep my eye on him.
Ashley and I are confident in our marriage. We just like to have a little fun.”
I sit quietly though my heart is still pounding. I don't have time for this. I have a new life to figure out. And, thinking back to Damian and Myra, I know for sure I never would have ...traded. I loved Bosley too much to risk it, even if I was confident he felt the same about me.
A breeze picks up, forming goose bumps on my arms. I dare not rub them or Chris might get closer.
Haven't you ever kissed anyone besides your husband?” he says, looking sideways at me.
No.” Not of my own will anyway.
Are you serious?”
I stare at him. Is he serious?
He stares back for a moment, his brain working on ...something. “Where is your husband anyway?” he says.
What? My pulse explodes once again. Rising tension threatens to blow me to bits. My body stands up of its own accord. I hear myself speak but don't know where it's coming from. “I need to go. It's late.”
The sand seems to fall away from my feet, making it impossible to walk away. I can't get away fast enough. I feel like he knows, like he's aware of my past, knows my real name, knows my husband is after me. My chest tightens, my face tingles and I begin to sink, gasping for air. I'm aware of Chris' hands on me, holding me up at first, then fully supporting me, carrying me in fact. All I can do is hang on.

Beyond the blur, when the world stops spinning, I see Ashley going in and out of silhouette, the kitchen light bright behind her. My face is wet and she's shifting a cloth over my forehead. I feel heavy.
Are you okay?” she says, squatting down next to me.
I realize I'm on the living room sofa.
Chris?” Ashley yells towards the hallway. Chris enters a moment later.
Feeling better?” he says, standing over me. “I've never seen anyone go so pail before.”
What happened?” I manage to say, realizing my throat is extremely dry.
I was going to ask you that,” Chris says. “You scared the crap out of me.”
I've never experienced anything like it. I swing my legs to one side and attempt to sit up. My head feels like there's an elephant sitting on it. It wobbles on my neck until I slouch back, falling to one side.
Whoa,” Ashley says, grabbing my shoulders to steady me.
Just lay down,” Chris says, placing my feet back up on the sofa. “Ashley, get her a pillow from the spare room and a blanket.” He looks back at me, one hand on my thigh. “You're not going anywhere.”
What? No. I can't stay here. I can't. Adrenaline kicks in and I'm upright again in an instant.
I need to go,” I say, though I'm certain I can't ride my bike like this.
No, you need to lay down,” Chris says, pressing my shoulders to keep me from standing up.
No, really, Chris. I need to go.” My pulse is racing again, face tingling like it did before. My eyes can't seem to focus on anything. I'm so weak but I must get out! I feel trapped.
Mollie, relax. You're not going anywhere.”
~~ Should Ana/Mollie stay the night or press him to bring her home? ~~
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The official tally will be taken from the poll which closes midnight Thursday your local time. NOTE: We're back to the old poll again. If you have issues with it, say so along with your vote in a comment.
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At 50 readers, I'll give away a free copy of Livid.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Going South: Party Time (episode 18)

Wesley and I agree on a restaurant. As soon as the plans are made, I already feel guilty. He knows I’m married… I think.
The next day, I search the internet on the age-old dial-up connection in the motel lobby for a bicycle. It’s the next best thing to a car. The nearest one I can find is a vintage banana seat bicycle, pink with a white seat, decorated with retro daisies. I hate pink. The woman asks $100 for it. I offer $75 and we have a deal. I ride my new bike back to the motel, surprised at how smooth the ride is and how comfortable the banana seat is.
Saturday night, I ride my bike to Chris’s house, a tiny home on stilts at the water’s edge. I prop my make-shift vehicle against the garage door which is under the house, straighten my yellow shirt and khaki capri’s and head towards the stairs. I have to walk through the eerie, dark stilts to reach the them. I’m not pleased. I wonder how the house stays up, and I can easily imagine it being knocked over with the force of one wave.
Standing at the front door, I see a distant glow inside and hear the chatter of a small group of people in the distance. Four cars are parked in the driveway so I estimate about eight people. The door bell echoes through the house and sifts out the open windows. Ashley answers the door, looking appropriate for the season in a short cotton summer dress.
“Hi Mollie! Come on in.” She makes room for me to pass her. “Everyone’s out back on the deck. Go ahead out. I’ve just got to get a few more drinks.”
I feel like a fool walking into this crowd even before I’m halfway there. We pass through the small living room towards the kitchen at the back. “Let me help you with the drinks,” I practically beg.
“Oh, sure,” she says with a bright smile. “I need three beers from the fridge, and I’ll grab this pitcher.” With the pitcher in one hand and a stack of fancy plastic cups in the other, she pushes the back door open and lets me pass.
“Hey, you made it,” Chris says, standing up to empty my hands of the three beers then distribute them to the guys.
I stand next to the glass table while Chris introduces me – two couples, a single guy and two single girls. No way I’ll remember their names.
“Do you like pina colada?” Ashley asks me, pouring some of the white fluid from the pitcher into a cup.
“Sure,” I say, looking for a seat without appearing to look for a seat. There aren’t any except for the cooler behind me against the outside wall of the house. I take the drink from Ashley and make a swift move back to sit down.
“Oh, Chris, go get Mollie a chair. I thought I had enough,” Ashley says.
“My fault,” one of the girls says, shrugging. “I crashed. Sorry, Mollie. I took your seat.”
“It’s okay,” Chris says, grinning. “She can sit right here.” He patted his thigh and the guys bellowed with laughter.
“I’m fine here,” I say, tipping the cup up to hide behind its brim.
“Come on, Chris. Go get a chair,” Ashley says, stretching over the gap between them to swat his arm.
“Fine,” he says, getting up. Then points a finger at me and says, “But you owe me,” and laughs.
Ugh. I hate every minute of this. It’s not funny. I don’t like him. I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to be social. I want to go home and slip into Bosley’s arms and –
Crud. I have to stop doing that.
Chris returns with a flimsy chair, opens it roughly and plops it down next to himself at the table.
“Thanks,” I say and transfer seats.
An hour later, after the best grilled brats and sauerkraut I’ve ever eaten, the girls stand together at the far rail of the deck, bobbing slightly to the music playing in the open window. The guys chill out at the table, lighting cigs and tipping back beers. I wonder if it’s safe to leave yet. Have I put in enough time here? If I stay good and long, will it make it okay to decline next time? I don’t exactly fit in with the girls but the guys… ugh. I slip into the house, using the bathroom as an excuse to escape.
Taking my time, I make note of their décor, pics, furniture. Passing through the micro kitchen and towards the hall, I stop to check out the living room. An open frame sofa with cream cushions and light wood sits against the left wall. A flat panel TV hangs on the opposite wall, sleek and almost unnoticeable. The coffee table is expertly decorated with a stack of three books lying on their side, each getting smaller as they go up. An electronics cabinet is tucked into the corner by the sofa and is loaded with equipment. I notice at least five machines. What could they all be for? Here and there on small tables and window sills are average beach decorations; shells, fish, etc. The hardwood floor is mostly covered by a white shag throw rug.
As I head down the short hallway, I peak into each door I pass. A bedroom. Looks like a spare. Light décor just like the living room. Across is … the basement. Yuck. Dark and musty. And the bathroom. I step ahead to peak into the last room, which I assume is their bedroom. I’ve never been more driven to snoop in anyone else’s house. Before I get a peak, I hear the back door creak open, and I scoot quickly into the bathroom.
After leaving what I think is plenty of time to rid the house of its recent guest, I head out towards the back again, but I’m surprised to find Chris waiting in the kitchen, leaning against the counter in the dim light, arms crossed over his chest.
“Hi,” I say with a fake smile, heading for the door.
He meets me midway, throwing his arm around my neck and tugging me into his chest. “How’s it going?” he says. “Enjoying yourself?”
“Yeah,” I say, wondering why he always has to touch me and when he’s going to let go. My gaze shoots toward the back deck to check Ashley’s location.
“Good. I knew you would.”
He keeps me in a headlock hug, holding my gaze. It’s definitely awkward. I’m not sure what he wants. A kiss? Please don’t kiss me, I think.
With his arm still around me, he walks me outside where the guys are now sitting on the railing by the girls, whooping and yelling, laughing and playing. One of them is now in the middle of the girls, shaking his money maker.
“Alright,” Chris says, getting everyone’s attention, and I blush. “Let’s show Mollie how to party.”
Party? What does he mean? I thought we were partying.
He finally releases me, smacking my ass as he whoops and hip butts one of the girls. In shock, I stand still for a moment, trying to determine what will happen next. Is it just a bit of wild dancing? Or is it more?
  ~~ Should Ana/Mollie try to leave or stick it out? ~~

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The official tally will be taken from the poll which closes midnight Thursday your local time. NOTE: We're back to the old poll again. If you have issues with it, say so along with your vote in a comment.
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If you like this story, please share it with your friends.
At 50 readers, I'll give away a free copy of Livid.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Going South: Lonely (episode 17)

Chris and Ashley – I finally discovered his wife's name – drove away with a wave, leaving me standing in front of my shabby motel room door, feeling rather stupid, like High School all over again. Why am I trying so hard to fit in? I don't. And when did I start caring? Myra used to try to make me fit in with her make-up and style lessons, but I never let her get to me. Why am I letting Chris get to me now?
Because I'm lonely.
It takes several hours the next night, working with Chris, to put the beach party out of my mind and act normal. Every time I turn towards the kitchen to call in an order, I'm reminded of it. But Chris acts like it was nothing. So I act that way too. Nothing could ever happen between us whether I wanted it to or not ...which I'm still not sure exactly what I want. It's just simpler if I avoid him.
A few nights later, he invites me to his house for a barbeque, and I decline. The following weekend he invites me out on a friend's boat for the evening, and I decline. The very next day, he corners me in the freezer.
“Hey,” he says casually, pretending to retrieve beef patties. “When do you want to go see that place where the Dave Matthews Band started?”
“Oh,” I say, stretching out my task so as to avoid him. “I don't really like Dave Matthews, but thanks.” There. I said it. I expect him to tackle me to the ground for such heresy.
He stops fiddling with the beef patties and turns to face me head on, blocking the exit even more. “You said you liked them when I -”
“No I didn't.”
I close the box I've just retrieved two ketchup bottles from and walk towards him, head lowered, hoping he'll move out of my way without a fuss.
He doesn't. “What's your problem?” he says.
My heart pounds. Why am I so nervous? I've stood up to worse before.
I stop in front of him, unable to move on until he does. “What do you mean?”
“Did I do something to offend you? Why are you such a bitch lately?”
Ouch. I look him in the eye, a bit shocked. I have been a bitch. “I'm sorry,” I say, letting out a breath. “I'm just... trying to find my place here.”
“Well that's not the way to do it,” he says.
We stand facing each other without a word for a moment. I could almost crawl into his arms. I feel stupid. I need reassurance.
“If you don't like Dave Matthews, you can come to my house instead.”
His house? Hm. “Why are you being so nice to me? You never ask the other girls.”
“They're kids. You're not.”
Oh. I take a deep breath, still trying to define our relationship. I tell myself he just wants to be my friend but my instinct is telling me it's more. “Will you let me out? I'm freezing.”
“Will you come over my house Saturday night?”
“Yes,” I say just to get out.
He shifts slightly, and I slip past him.
“Where were you?” Liz asks when I return to the front. “We had like twenty people come in at once.”
“Sorry. I was getting supplies.” I whisk past her towards the booth to replace the empty ketchup bottles with the full ones. Through the open screen windows, laughter and chatter pour in from the group outside that Liz just mentioned.
The group stays the remaining hour until closing, finally breaking up and hugging their goodbyes under the lone spotlight from the gable. While Liz and the others clean up inside, I head out, stack trays and collect trash. A few of the party still remain.
I use a dry rag to brush crumbs and food off the picnic tables, forcing the morning birds to eat their breakfast off the ground. The last three guests apologize for getting in my way and keeping us open late.
As I give their table a brush down, I say, “Don't worry about it. Enjoy.” Then look up into familiar eyes. My face burns with embarrassment, my pulse racing. Damn, he looks good.
“Hey,” Wesley says. “You're not going to cry, are you?” His face lights up with a grin while I stand, staring at him, unsure what to say.
His two friends say goodbye and head off into the gravel parking lot. He comes around the table to my side. God, he smells good too. Fresh, like soap and shaving cream. I busy myself brushing off the rest of the table.
“Relax,” he says, pauses, then continues. “You look … better.”
I let out a huff, stand up straight and face him. “Yes. I'm sure I look just great.” I smooth my sweaty hair back off my face.
“Actually, you do.”
His compliment surprises me. I hadn't had my guard up, wasn't protecting myself from emotional invasion. My pulse explodes and I feel uglier than before.
He removes his hands from deep in the pockets of his blue and white plaid shorts and flips his key around one finger. I wring my hands a bit. The only thing on my mind now is what it would be like to have his arms around me - What's wrong with me? - and... does he really think I look nice? Impossible. But for some reason, just hearing him say it makes me feel like a touch prettier.
His gaze drops to my hands as he opens his mouth to speak, then hesitates, and I realize he just spotted my ring. I drop my hands to my sides and shift my weight to one foot.
“So -” I begin to say.
“Do you want to go out to breakfast with me sometime?” he says, cutting me off.
“Breakfast?” I say without thinking. Is he asking me out?
“Yeah. Breakfast.”
A moth dives into my forehead, and I swat it away. The silence makes it seem like someone turned up the crickets.
“No pressure. Just a meal.”
Breakfast sounds less formal than dinner. Not like a real date. And there wouldn't be the same expectation for after dinner. It's probably safe. I hesitate to say, “Sure.”
“Great,” he says before it's barely out of my mouth. “Sunday?”
“I'll pick you up,” he says.
“Great cause I don’t have a car yet.” Did I really just say that?
“Where should I pick you up?”
Ugh. Not the motel issue again. I gotta get out of there. “Uh... I live in kind of a strange place. I -”
“So do I.” He drops his head and laughs.
Uh oh. What does that mean? If he doesn't ask me about mine, I can't ask him about his.
“We can meet at a restaurant if you want. …Or I could make you breakfast at my place.”
~~ Which should Ana/Mollie choose, the restaurant or his place? ~~

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The official tally will be taken from the poll which closes midnight Thursday your local time. NOTE: We're back to the old poll again. If you have issues with it, say so along with your vote in a comment.
In addition, leave comments below if you’d like to expand on your vote. Click on the word ‘comments’ below to open the comments form. Watch next Tuesday for the following episode based on your votes.
If you like this story, please share it with your friends.
At 50 readers, I'll give away a free copy of Livid.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Going South: The Line-Up (episode 16)

The walk home in the middle of the night seems daunting. Still I hesitate to accept Chris's invitation.
“Come on,” he says, throwing his arm around my neck playfully.
He leads me back towards the blanket where his wife lay gazing at the night sky.
I stop at the edge of the blanket, his arm still around me. “I'm not quite ready to sleep yet though.”
“Whenever you're ready, darling,” he says, smiling. His arm slides off my shoulders and down my back before he hops onto the blanket and cuddles up to his wife.
This is too weird. I need to walk it off.
I head back down to the water, taking note of how empty the beach is. Only a few people remain, cuddled on blankets like Chris and his girl. I wonder how long they've been married, what kind of marriage they have and if they're happy. Bosley and I were happy ...I think. When I stop to reflect, I miss him. So we must have been happy.
My hand goes to my chest where I feel a physical pain from the memory of him. The uncertainty of our situation is wearing. The scene around me, the distance I've traveled, the home and husband I left all seem so surreal. Will I ever see Bosley again? My right thumb and forefinger twist the wedding ring around my finger as I walk. I stop and sit on the hard, dry sand that separates the beach from the lapping waves.
I have to find a way to let go of my past life. I can't get it back. Even if I could, it wouldn't be the same. Bosley put my life in danger. He was violent with me. I must move on.
I slide the ring off my finger, inspect it in the dark, holding it up to catch the orange lights from the boardwalk far behind me. At the thought of getting rid of it, my stomach knots up and my chest tightens. I can't let go of him. I love him.
I slide the ring back onto my left hand.
Brushing the sand off my shorts, I walk back to the blanket where Chris and … whatever-her-name-is are fast asleep in each others' arms. I sit on the edge and stretch out beside them, wide awake, heart pounding, stuck in limbo ...still.

A bright light wakes me, and I peer into white oblivion against a black sky. Trying to sit up, my body is heavier than usual. I'm completely lost. The warmth of a body along my back and legs registers with my brain, sending my pulse reeling. It's the girl, I think I'm relieved to discover, although both her and his arms are draped over my stomach.
“Let's go,” the man behind the white light says. “Get up.”
I can't see a thing. Chris and his wife stir. I remove their arms from me and attempt to stand up, the soft sand making the task more difficult.
A hand grips my upper arm as I stumble to my feet, heavy with deep sleep. How long was I here? What time is it? What's going on?
The light leaves me for a moment and moves to Chris and the girl. I finally am able to see that it's an officer who has me by the arm and is shoving me around.
“Stand up,” another officer growls at Chris. “In a line. Come on.” He shoves Chris towards me and the girl.
The three of us stand in a row. A gentle kick to the inside of my right leg forces me to spread my feet. Two hands land on my shoulders, pat and frisk every inch of me down to my feet.
I am wide awake.
What are they looking for? What have we done? Are they going to arrest us? I can't do this now. My identity could be blown. They could send me home if there's a search out for me. Then I wonder... is there a search out for me? If Bosley's mixed up in the wrong crowd, he wouldn't be attracting police attention. So... no. There's not a search out for me.
“Have you had any alcohol tonight?” one officer asks Chris.
“Yes,” he answers.
Oh god. I pray Chris is clean.
“What are you doing here then?”
Chris looks at his wife. Please don't get sarcastic. Please.
“Sleeping,” he says to the officer. “Would you rather we drive drunk?”
The officer, who surely would have grabbed him by his shirt if he were wearing one, pokes his finger into Chris's chest.
“Don't be a smart ass. The beaches are closed between 3 and 5.”
“Sorry,” Chris says, not sounding very sorry at all. “We didn't know.”
“Don't give me that bullshit,” the officer says, getting close to Chris. “There's signs every ten feet up there.” His arm points abruptly behind him towards the road.
Chris is quiet. His silence makes me more nervous.
The officer holds his gaze for another minute then shoos us away. “Get out of here!”
Chris's wife gathers the blanket into a ball and ushers him forward with a nudge of his arm. I follow silently.
At the Jeep, I fold myself into the back seat and hug my arms to warm them. As soon as we're on the road, the girl turns around to face me.
“Sorry about that. We usually don't sleep that long.”
“It's okay,” I say, even though it isn't.
“Where do you live?” Chris asks, looking at me in the rear view mirror.
Oh crud. Not only do I not trust him to know, I'm embarrassed that I live in a motel.
~~ Should Ana give him her real address or a fake one? ~~

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Going South: Beach Party

The walk home from the store takes me almost an hour. I am sure, as I sniff the open milk carton, that I've lost half my food to the heat. The sniff proves scentless so I shrug and put the milk in the mini fridge. It's just big enough to hold the milk, yogurt, cold cuts, berries and a couple bottles of water. The rest of the food goes on the counter.
An hour later when I'm finished with my shower and standing before the mirror, I see that the sun has created unsightly tan – or should I say burn - lines across my upper arm and mid thigh. Next time I make a trip to the store, I'll have to remember the sun block.
Grabbing my shorts, I regret to think of the party tonight. If I decide to go, how would I work the outfit issue? I refuse to arrive at my first event wearing my DuneBurger shirt. But where would I change? I could change in the bathrooms at work but then I'd have to bring a bag with me and keep track of it all night. I don't have a swimsuit so at least there's no issue there. I simply won't swim tonight.
A fitted camisole catches my eye – the best solution under the circumstances. I pull it on then cover it with my red DuneBurger tee. I fold a few dollars into my pocket and head out.
Taking orders and reporting them to the kitchen makes it difficult to avoid making eye contact with Chris. Why is it so hard for me to look at him? Is it because he made my heart skip a beat and now I feel guilty? Or maybe that I have him all wrong and that's just embarrassing... Either way, I won't lead him on. I won't even think about him again.
Liz works the register. Clare and Laura, both whom I guess are in their early twenties, bring orders to patrons outside and clear dirty tables when they've gone. The girls don't say much to me but then I don't say much to them either.
“You ready?” Chris says as I return the mop to its place in the back room some time after eleven.
“Yeah.” It's a given that I'm going even though I debated all night up to this moment.
I follow him past the kitchen and around the front counter, ignoring the look I catch Clare and Laura exchanging. I don't care what they're thinking. I don't want to know. I don't even know what to make of it myself, never mind being concerned with them.
Beyond moth territory near the outdoor light and into the dark gravel parking lot, I jump into the wrangler for the second time today. Chris pulls his shirt off and tosses it into the back seat before getting in, leaving him bare-chested in cargo shorts. My pulse explodes and I fret about taking mine off now too or waiting until later when he's not looking. If I wait, it could draw more attention to it. Sitting in the front seat, I lean forward and pull it over my head, casting a glance in his direction when the deed has been accomplished. He watches me, smiles and starts the Jeep, Dave Matthews Band breaking the silence.
My heart races so fast, I feel faint. My hand grips the t-shirt, resting on the seat next to my thigh. I have to remind myself that I do have a camisole on under the t-shirt. I am not sitting bare-chested as he is.
He turns the music down as we approach a stop light.
“They got their start here. Did you know that?” he says, gesturing towards the dashboard.
I assume he's referring to Dave Matthews. “Really? No, I didn't.” I don't really care either. I'm not a fan.
“Yeah, they used to play in a joint down the strip. I'll take you there sometime if you want to see it.”
“Oh, thanks. You don't have to do that.” I move my hands to my lap, taking the shirt with them.
“I wouldn't mind. I go there often.”
He goes there? Not 'we' as in him and his wife? I let it drop without responding.
“You look like you got some sun,” he says, looking at me then back at the road. “Was that from your walk home today?”
I nod. How embarrassing. Yes, I'm a fair-skinned loser without a car. God, help me. I look away from him. If he can see my sunburn, he can probably see me blushing.
“If you need a car, I might be able to help you out.”
“Oh... well eventually. But I don't have the money right now. Thanks anyway.” Why is he being so helpful?
“Alright. Well let me know.”
He turns off the road and pulls up to a wood guardrail along the beach. The glow of bonfires and twinkle of cigarettes butts sets my body on fire. Here goes nothing...
I hadn't thought about my shoes when I got ready earlier. Now I regret it as sand slips into my sneakers. As soon as I'm comfortable here, I'll take them off.
“Hey! Chris!” a girl yells, waving her arm. Three other girls beside her light up with smiles. He advances ahead of me to distribute hugs.
“This is Mollie,” he says, then lists off their names, none of which I will remember. They greet me with a friendly wave of the hand then offer us beer. I decline then regret it. I don't want them to think I'm a priss but I want to keep my senses too. I decide to accept the next offer.
An hour later, I'm sitting on a piece of drift wood by the fire alone. Chris has his arm draped around the shoulder of one of the girls. The others have scattered and two new ones have appeared. I scan the beach. There must be over twenty bonfires on this strip of beach. Several different stereos can he heard, all melding together into some sort of beat and noise. The sweet smell of pot fills the air. I glance at the black ocean and remember my night alone with it longingly.
“Hey, I didn't know you were coming,” I hear from behind me.
I peer up over my shoulder at John. He steps over the driftwood and sits next to me.
“I didn't know you were coming either,” I say. How lame.
“Who'd you come with?” he says, tossing back the remains of his beer.
I hesitate about telling him. Is there something going on that I don't know about? I feel out of place and out of the loop. Is this an invitation-only party and that's why the girls at the shack exchanged the look? Or is Chris a player and I'm falling into his trap?
“Chris,” I finally say, looking across the fire at him. “He just gave me a ride,” I say, sounding quite guilty.
John grins and gives me the honor of looking away.
“His wife is pretty.” Maybe if I show him I'm not jealous, he'll know I'm not into him. Am I into him? I wonder...
John lets out a laugh which causes Chris and the girls to look up. When they've gone back to their chatting, John leans closer.
“That's not his wife. His wife is over there.” He points to a woman sitting on a blanket with a guy and a girl. I'm so confused.
“Oh,” is all I say.
“Let me get you a beer,” John says and stands up. I don't object. I don't even react. I feel as small as the grains of sand beneath my feet – my bare feet now.
He returns a moment later with an open beer, hands it to me as he stands beside where I sit and says, “Enjoy,” before walking away.
I take the beer with me and walk down to the water. The closer I get to the rushing crash of waves, the more the world around me disappears. I chug the bitter beer, happy for the buzz, and walk through the shallow water towards the pier a few hundred feet away. It's dark and eery under it's stalky legs. For some reason, its danger draws me closer and I wonder why I can face this threat but not the threat of a mass of people I don't know just behind me spread across the sand.
The pier stands at least a full story over my head and reaches a few hundred feet out into the ocean. I stand beneath it, watching the water find its way in a rush around the posts and towards me. Hidden in the darkness, I turn to face the beach, scan it slower, watch the people and analyze them. I see Chris on the blanket, making out with his wife now. Interesting. I can't seem to locate John. But it's dark. Faces are hard to make out.
As I watch people stumble around from blanket to driftwood to bonfire to bare sand, I figure each of them is either drunk or high. I am not. I just want to go home.
I have no idea how far I even am from my motel. Thinking back, I estimate it took us about ten or fifteen minutes to get here from the shack. That's maybe six or seven miles – another hour walk at... who knows what time it is? I'll definitely need a ride. But Chris has had too much to drink. I know. I watched him down one after another when I was sitting by the fire. Besides, I'm not much into interrupting a make-out session to ask for a ride home.
By the time I walk back up the beach, Chris's wife is laying alongside him with her head on his chest. I pass the blanket on my way to my shoes.
“Hey. Mollie,” Chris says, sitting up. “Have you met my wife, Alana, yet?”
She props herself up onto her elbows.
“No,” I say, reluctant to stop walking. “Nice to meet you,” I say pleasantly and move on.
“Hey, wait!” Chris yells, catching up with me. “Where you going?” he says, walking next to me.
“Just getting my shoes. I should be heading back now.”
“Oh.” He stops walking. “How are you getting home?”
I stand and look at him. I don't have an answer.
He seems to be as confused as I am. “We can give you a ride but I'm kinda buzzin. We usually sleep it off a bit first.”
Sleep it off? Like sleep... on the beach?
“We've got a big blanket. You can join us if you want.”
“I was going to see if I could find John actually.”
“I think he already left... a while ago.”
I look past Chris to where his wife lies on the blanket, glance back at Chris then up towards the road where I consider the long walk home in the middle of the night. I don't know the area well enough to be sure of my safety and I dread an hour walk.
~~ Should Ana sleep on the beach or walk home? ~~

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