By Shayla Marie
“Dude.” The voice crashed through the sounds of the waves lapping the shoreline.
“What happened, man?!” Zeph asked, squishing his toes in the warmth of the sand as the vibrant sounds of the beach, cloaked his conversation.
“I don’t know. I thought, I gave her enough of the cookie. That batch of Xanax must be bad,” Troy answered, switching over to a video call, the small screen blooming to life with his bewildered face, his blond hair ruffled, one hand scratching his head in disbelief. “She woke up halfway through. They weren’t even able to get her to the transit van.”
“This is all fucked up now, man,” Zeph sighed. “Do you still plan on flying out?”
“What is the point?” Troy asked, his handsome face crunching in thought. “If I leave now, it will look suspect. My sister covered for me. Made up some bogus story about me having ADHD or something, and “special” cookies for it. They completely fell for it.”
“Ok, that’s good but when am I going to see you?” Zeph missed that face, the feel of his velveteen skin against his own, those tight muscles.
“Babe, why don’t you just come back? The money isn’t going to come through like we thought. What else can you do? And your doting love is all wrapped up with her ex in the hospital and her newly found daughter. We can actually have some time together for once.”
Zeph was numb, he gazed at the sun, listening to Troy’s words. He still remembered the day Troy came bounding into his gym, it was a late afternoon, after his Rugby practice was over, he said he came to get a little pump, yea, he was young, but it was love at first sight and the rest was history, now Zeph was stranded in Mexico, trying to decide the future for him and his teenage lover. The plan had seemed so simple, snatch up Annabelle while she went to visit that pretentious godforsaken school, and collect a hefty ransom of $10 million that he and Troy had agreed upon, not too greedy, but just enough for them to make a new life somewhere else, after he dumped Emerald for “differences”. It seemed easy enough, but then complications always had to happen.
“Ok, I’ll make arrangements to come back. Emerald will be thrilled.”
Annabelle walked down the street, enjoying the brisk cold air on her cheek, the scents of fall shifting past her, refreshing rain and the pungent smell of earth, the colors of the trees around her, life rainbow dappled. Everything felt different to her, since a couple nights before. Everything so alive, everything so bright. She felt a joy, so thick in her chest.
What happened to her? It was like something cracked open inside her. Helen called it “Spirit”, this feeling grabbing her by the hoodie strings. She felt amazing, empowered, in control for the first time in her fifteen years. Not worried about her divorced parents or being shipped off to some stuffy school. The moment in the woods changed something for her. Something big.
The house stood before her, a rotted gingerbread house of blue with white curlicued frosting dripping down. Annabelle stepped up on to the porch, knocking on the bright red door, apprehension sizzling through her body, lightning unleashed.
“Hi,” Helen said, poking her head out. She looked around. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you…About the other night.”
“Oh.” Helen nodded, before opening the door to allow Annabelle in.
The house was a lived-in mess, piles of mail here, stacks of books there, dust, stains, a busy life tossed about, every surface covered and smothered with items, the scent of fresh bread mingled with cinnamon tainting the air. Annabelle’s own home was pristine, the scent of lemon furniture polish, bleach and sandalwood wax melts overwhelming as you entered the house. This felt comfortable to her, cozy. This home felt like family.
Helen motioned for Annabelle to take a seat. “Do you want some tea?”
“No, I’m fine. I came because I want to know what happened the other night.”
“I’m going to make some tea,” Helen said, turning towards the stove. She stood before the stove, watching the blue gas flames flicker against the butt of the teapot. “This may be a lot for you.”
“It’s ok. I just want to know,” Annabelle started, “I just feel so different now. A little sore from being tied up but also transformed. Like I’m on a whole ‘nother realm.”
Probably the mushrooms, Helen thought.
Oaxaca was sublime this time of year, the air a warm breath on your skin, the water gleaming like diamonds, Debra licked the whipped cream from her frothy pina colada. This was the life. She slipped the cherry dancing on the top of the foamy drink to her lips, making a perfect knot with the stem. Her plan was working just as planned. A tall, fit young man strolled in front of her striped towel. A life of paradise, pina coladas and pretty men was going to suit her just fine.
Looking at Debra, you would never imagine where she came from, her bob perfectly coiffed, the layers cut weekly at the trendiest salon in town, light auburn highlights drizzled like caramel in her mahogany locks, her body sculpted from hours with her trainer, the chicest clothes a salary working as a finance director at a snooty institution could afford you. But Debra was used to the gutter, living from car to shelter, bouncing from school to school, sometimes missing school for weeks while her mother tried to escape her abusive stepdad Rocky, yes, his name was Rocky of all things, like that dumb boxer. He left her alone for the most part, besides when he crept into her room on the Sunday nights, her mom would go to Bingo on Jimmy Jo’s Bingo Hall. All this to say, Debra deserved this. This life, this joy, just laying on this amazing beach, drinking in this scent of brine and sea, sipping this foamy fantasy with just enough alcohol to throw a loop in any plans besides laying on this warm fuzzy sun-drenched knitted blanket and working on her tan. Another delectable specimen of a man began walking towards her, all silky tanned skin and chiseled abs, his face sculpted teak, designer sunglasses perched on his regal nose. He caught her staring and nodded in her direction. She crooked a lazy finger at him, coaxing him forth.
“Hey,” He said, coming close, “You by yourself.”
“Sad to say, but yes I am.”
“Sad for who? Sounds like music to my ears,” He winked.
“Oh, really? Then why don’t you sit down and have a drink with me. I have a whole jug of pre-made pina coladas that are melting as we speak.”
“You don’t need to tell me twice.”
He kneeled on the blanket as she poured him a brimming cup of pina colada, complete with whipped cream and double cherries at his request. “So, what’s your name, beautiful?”
“Debra,” She flirted, peeling her glasses down to meet his eyes.
“I’m Zeph, short for Zephyr, and it’s my pleasure to meet you, Debra.”
This time, they got him. He knew they wouldn’t stop. Not after that attack, a couple days ago, he could still the gun gleaming in her hand, shoved towards his chest, the heat when the bullet pierced his flesh, bone and gristle splintering, shredding the sinew of his shoulder. He should have known that bitch would never stop.
Now he lay in a cocoon of starched white sheets and stiff pillows, the scent of disinfectant and bodily fluids staining the air, as she slipped through the hospital room door, a coy smile on her face.
“So, we meet again,” She laughed, running a hand through her neatly coiffed hair. The meds were making it hard for him to lift his eyes to meet hers. “Aww, baby is tired.”
His eyes blinked rapidly as he punched against the exhaustion wrapping him in a tidy package for her. His eyes grew heavy, heavier, thick and slow like molasses to lift. Through slitted eyes, he watched as she slid a syringe from her purse, an orange cap pressed on the top. She yanked the top free with her teeth, before jamming the syringe into his I.V. He tried to speak but his mouth was filled with cotton balls, ash and unspoken lies, where were the goddamn nurses when you needed them. Glee colored her cheeks as she stroked his arm, “Night, night baby.”