This is a story from the vault. One of the first that I wrote a few years back when I decided to be a professional writer. I hope you enjoy it.
“How much?” I asked.
“I suppose that all depends on what you want.” Her smile left, and we were cast into darkness. “Do you know what you want?”
The Tomb’s only light was cast from candles and lanterns-it really set the mood for a dark bar rumored to be frequented by vampires. What set across from me was as far from a vampire as a girl could be. In fact, I’d dare say she was an angel.
“I want you,” I said.
She smirked, hiding her teeth.
I felt a twinge in my pants and pushed forward, “Can I tell you a story?” I asked without regard to the answer. “Once when I was a kid, I was watching this episode of Charlie Brown — ”
“Do you want to Charlie Brown me?” she cut in, leaning into the shadows of the booth.
Someone kicked the jukebox off its heavy metal guitar and onto a high-pitched crying saxophone. The noise abated from a moment as the door screeched open, allowing the music to soar into the dark, dark night.
“Excuse me? ‘Charlie Brown’? I don’t think I’m familiar with that particular act,” I combed the hair back from my forehead with my fingers and caught a few girls’ eyes, but I ignored them. They weren’t her. “I fear it involves foul waste.”
She laughed at me over the seduction of the song. “Of course, you wouldn’t know.” She reached across the table and took my beer, “No boy with an Iowa haircut — ”
“I’m from Montana,” I said, watching her down the remaining dark bitterness.
“Same difference; you are a foreigner.” She wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her jacket in a manner that would usually bother me.
“I was born here, I can’t be a foreigner.”
Her dark eyes lit up. “You are a foreigner in more ways than one, white boy. But, right here, and now, you are a stranger to the land of cool. Your crappy Iowa shopping mall haircut couldn’t and wouldn’t possibly have any idea what a Charlie Brown is — what it truly is, and yes, it does have to do with shit.”
A cute little blonde came to collect my empty glass. The waitress didn’t look at me but shot the girl an undiscernible eye as she left balancing everything on one arm. A man in black came with a new porter for me and placed it where the old one once stood.
“So, what is a Charlie Brown? I don’t want to do it, I’m just curious.”
“A Charlie Brown is when two people have sex, defecate on each other’s clothes, and then put it all back on. In your case, it’d be an upgrade.”
I coughed. “Could you stop, please?” I asked. My beer centered its foam in my cup.
She waved her black hand at the air around her. I took that as an agreement.
I put us back on track, “When I was a boy, I was watching some episode of Charlie Brown — I can’t remember which one, but that doesn’t matter — Before I finished the episode, the power went out. And so, I did what all kids do when something unexpected happens; I searched for my parents. As I reached the stairwell, a whimper echoed down to me.”
Her face was that of obsidian glass. I gained nothing of myself and nothing of her inner world. Red lined blue lips like some sort of pop star from a far-off century.
“Back then,” I started but paused to take a gulp of beer. “I had a bunch of tiny critters for pets, and they used to get at each other like crazy because most of them were natural enemies and all of them were wild. I figured that maybe a couple of them had taken the sudden darkness as a time to settle some primordial score. But by the time I reached the top, it had grown into a raspy gasping for breath. Far too human to be an animal.
“Coincidently, the sound was coming from the exact place I was heading, my parent’s bedroom. I entered the room and found it a wreck. The mattress thrown over its frame; the sheets lay in a wet heap of piss; my mother’s make-up stand clung to its remaining parts. I called for my mom and then my dad, but neither responded. Still there was that gasping.
“It came from the closet. Its door hung on only two of its three hinges. Making my way to it, I tried to be careful not to step on the glass from the vanity. Perched naked on top of my mother’s clothes sat my father. Except, he didn’t look anything like my father. This man was pale, shivering, and covered in something I couldn’t make out in the dark. I reached out to touch him, but my hand didn’t find my dad, only a warm wetness.
“Blood — he was covered in blood. I tried to run from him, but I ended up tangling my feet in the mess on the floor. I knocked my head on the wood of their bed and passed out.” I rubbed the scar on my right temple.
All the ice melted from her drink, as well as her eyes, and she asked, “What happened next?”
“I came to a few days later in the hospital. My nurses gossiping above me about a man who slit his wrist in front of his son after losing his job. Supposedly, his wife had taken all their money and split town with another woman. Now the cops had to find a relative to take the poor boy.”
“You were the poor boy?” she asked, inclining her head toward me.
Someone took up a bit of the dance floor to show off his moves to anyone who cared to watch. He slid around wiggling his leg and tapping his toes. Shaking along to the hot jazz ascending over the midnight crowd, he let his shoulders take a detour south so his body could glide against the floor like some sex crazed worm. “Jerk,” I muttered under my breath before finishing my beer.
“I spent the next year in a psych ward before my uncle finally came to claim me. He said on the drive back to his apartment that he had better things to do than take care of a nutter who was the son of a failure and a Sapphotic whore.”
She was almost invisible in the dark shadows of our booth. I swear I could hear a sniffling coming from her, but the next moment her voice was hard. “What does that story have to do with what you want from me?”
“Be patient. Here take this and stay with me.” I pulled some twenties out of my pocket and shoved them across the table at her.
She gave me a dirtier look than she gave the money, but took it off the table and settled back into the shadows so I couldn’t read her face. It made the pit in my pants jump to my stomach.
“So why waste my time with that sad mess?” Niki took her cash and put it into her purse.
“I told you that story because before you do what I want you to do — what I’ve wanted you to do since the moment you walked in — I want you to to know me. It’s important that you understand my life.” I dared a hand across the table. “Before you take it.”
After the truth was spoken, nothing changed, except for everything. The bastard on the floor still cut a rug and the jukebox continued jumping from song to song without ever reaching completion.
“I think I misheard you. It sounded like you wanted me to kill you.”
I slid a fifty-dollar bill across the table to her, “Will you walk with me? Just a walk so we can talk.”
“About the killing you stuff?”
She took more convincing to leave, but finally agreed to come with me in the end. I wasn’t proud of myself for using the tactics I did, but I needed her. So, we left the bar hand and hand with only one thing on my mind.
“Aren’t you going to pay?” she asked as I held the door open for her.
“I left my card at the bar; I don’t need it anymore.”
I could see her better now that we were in the night light. She had dyed her short frizzy hair red, and she was more heavy set than I had noticed, but I didn’t mind. I had chosen right in picking this girl. Her hand was rough in my hand. It made her more beautiful, more real.
“I’ll pay. I have money if that’s what you’re worried about. I emptied my bank account earlier, so I have my life’s worth on me.” I slapped my pockets that held all my cash. “I can pay whatever price you ask.” I laughed a little. “My life can’t be worth that much to you.”
She let go of my hand, “If you took all your money out, then the card you left at the bar won’t go through.” She looked up at me, flashing her bewitching eyes. “Did you just drink and dash?”
I smiled down at her, “I’m sorry if I freaked you out earlier with my story and, you know, what I asked.”
She continued staring up at me as we walked further away from the strip of bars lining Raspberry Street. “So, you had a rough childhood, everyone does. Being a kid is awful, you’re at the whims of people who have better things to do then take care of someone who they don’t know. But that doesn’t mean that you should off yourself. It means you should go see someone who specializes in childhood trauma.”
“I don’t want to kill myself. I want you to kill me.”
She shook her head and groaned, but did not walk away.
“All because, what?”
“I have little, I didn’t graduate college, I barely finished high school, I work a minimum wage job, and there isn’t anybody who would care if I didn’t call just to say hi. My life impacts no one, and for a while now I’ve wanted to give something powerful to this world. To impact someone in a way that they would never forget.”
“You want to put some messed up shit in my head because your life doesn’t have meaning?”
We reached the waterfront. The street lamps stood back to encase our shadows. The night by the sea was quiet and cold. Niki and I walked along the wooden boardwalk that walled in the sand and the water.
“My life has meaning, I just don’t like it. I’m Logan the beer drinking, pot smoking, Jack-N-The-Box clerk who can give you sweet deals on burgers and grams of coke. You can make killing me as beautiful or ugly as you want. You’re right, it will stay with you, inside your head — and anyone else’s head who happens to see.”
“I don’t think you know what you’re asking me to do,” she said, walking towards the railing.
Niki cast a look across the water at the mountains that were invisible in the night. I waited, hoping for a gust of wind to come and make her shiver. I wanted to be there in her moment of vulnerability. I needed to see her weak, to offer her strength.
“If I said that I know exactly what I am asking you to do, would you believe me?”
“You’re just some stupid boy, playing some stupid game. You have nothing to be afraid of or any reason to want to die.” She turned around to face me.
I wanted to press myself against her at that moment. To kiss her fussing lips, quick and fast before she could say anything. I took a step towards her, turning the distance of miles between us into mere inches. I loomed over her. She wanted it too, I knew that, but when I went to give myself, she walked away.
“I don’t play games,” I said, following her, a sick pup needing to be put out of his misery. “Despite what you may think about me, I do not hate life or wish to escape from it. I love it all. I exist in the moments when I can feel everyone breathe in at once and know that this is the most beautiful moment to ever exist. Then BOOM, the next moment comes to change everything.
“Before what happened with my parents, I don’t really remember what life was like. I know whatever it was, I didn’t experience it. It was like my brain was clogged, and when I saw my father in the closet dying, everything flushed out. I want to give that to someone — to you!
“I want to be the first thing you see when you wake up to this amazing life.”
I pulled out my wallet, emptied my pockets and shoved it all into her bag. Her eyes shut so fast, you would have thought she was born that way. A blinded bird flying through the sky. As soon as they closed, they opened. She ducked between the spaces in the barrier of the boardwalk and jumped down to the beach. I ran to the stairs that led down to the shore and joined her. She had an armful of rocks by the time I reached her. The wind blowing in made the curls of her hair dance.
“Go get that backpack,” Niki said, tossing her head up to where an abandoned bag lay on the beach, half buried.
I pulled it from the sand and shook it off. “Got it.”
“Put it on,” she yelled back at me over the waves.
Doing as she said, I slung the backpack over my shoulders. It smelt of low tide and vomit, but in a way that added something to the moment I could not explain with words alone. Niki came to me and dumped the rocks into the bag. An ache takes root in my shoulder blades. Once all the rocks are in the bag, she pulls duct tape out of her purse and tosses the oversized bag to the ground.
I laughed like a king on his wedding night. “Is this from another job? Kinky stuff?”
Niki’s hands trembled so bad the tape dropped after only one wrap around; it banged against my body.
She glanced up at me with that same harsh disgust she fixed me with in our booth. “It was for a class project. I bought too much, but I guess now I’m getting my money’s worth,” she said, sputtering out a laugh.
“Hmm, you must be a rare item. A whore with an education.”
She gained control of herself enough to finish up. She bound my hands to my chest, so even if I had the strength to remove the bag, I wouldn’t be able to.
“I’m not an item; I’m a student, an art student at the local college. I’m no one’s whore.”
She ripped the tape from its roll with her teeth. “I got into an argument with my friend. She said I was boring. We had a few, so she convinced me to prove it. I decided to lead some guy on and maybe if I got lucky, I could score some booze or something out of it.”
The truth will no doubt always come rippling through your every reality to show you that you are nothing but a fool.
“I don’t care if you lied. None of that stuff matters. We are about to share something you will never forget.” I leaned down and placed my lips on her curly hair. She shivered from me. “So, should I jump into the water, let the current take me out, and all that drama?”
“No,” she said with something close to an emotion I couldn’t touch. “I’m not done with you yet.”
She produced a bottle from her bag and poured it over me. I tilted my head back, allowing her to christen me in liquor. It burnt my eyes, and I drank it in.
She walked us back up to the boardwalk and toward the heart of downtown. People began to notice us the closer we got to Raspberry Street.
By the time, we turned down an alley, we had a fair number of eyes on us.
Niki took out a Zippo lighter and flicked it a couple of times before turning to me. “My name is Mary.”
I smiled and said my final words, of which only Niki would hear. “I love you.”
She didn’t give herself time to register what I said before she was pushing me against the brick wall of the alley. Liquor slapped my face. I closed my eyes to the sting. In the dark empty space of blindness, a roar of fire came over me.
I give myself to the death that Niki brought.