Authors: Raen Smith
I passed the dance floor that had
been cleared, my boots treading carefully along the alcohol-splashed wood.
Streams of rainbow-colored beams flashed before my eyes, the strobe jarring my
movements as I moved toward the hallway where the crowd had disappeared. I hit
the hallway, stopping at the crowd before I pushed forward into the shadowed
A sea of neon glow-in-the-dark necklaces illuminated
in the cloud of black as I slid past a girl with spiked hair and a silver ring
in her eyebrow.
Her beady eyes glowed in the light of the necklace
bouncing on her chest. She flashed her tongue out, licking it out like a
lizard, to reveal two small pink pills not yet dissolved.
Where the hell was I?
She flipped her tongue back in
before letting out a high-pitched cackle. I tucked underneath the man to my
right, his huge arms lifting up as I maneuvered through before he brought them
back down. The clearing to the right was close, only a few steps away.
“Molly,” a woman’s voice dripped in
I paused, not responding to the
name or to her fervent stare, but I knew she was talking to me. Molly? I’ve
been called a lot of things, but never Molly. It took me a second to realize
that she was referring to the drug. I shook my head and pushed forward, weaving
through the last two people to lean against the outer wall.
I was in a rave.
The dark room flashed at once to
the bass, a loud thump resounding against the walls, until it was black again.
Hundreds of neon rings glowed throughout the space while the crowd shrieked as
another beat bounced, the light flashing again. And that’s when I saw the
crowd, a sea of hundreds of people in a wide-open gymnasium-type room.
Where had all these people come
I felt a bump against my shoulder
as the third beat sounded with the accompanying flash of light; a man in a
white t-shirt appeared beside me with a cup in his hand. I felt a cool splash
of liquid trickle down my leg, his cup overflowing as he raised it in the air.
I clenched my fists and curled my fingernails deep into my palms to refrain
from punching him.
I yelled between the beats and the flashes. He pointed across the floor through
the hundreds of heads to the opposite side of the room then went back to
nodding his head with his eyes closed.
I scanned the rest of the room when
another light flashed. The beats were coming now in rapid succession and the
rainbow lights flashed almost continuously, but there were no doors that I
could see. I was better off going back where I had come from. Ryan would see me,
but he wasn’t going to stop me. He couldn’t, not now.
The music suddenly flared open as
the crowd screamed. I looked up to see the DJ on a stage at the front of the
crowd. He lifted his hand in the air, pulled his headphones over his ears and
nodded his head before moving his attention back to his turntable. The crowd
pulsed to the beats like a breathing room at the same time the neon rings
bounced and moved to the frantic pace of the music.
I crept along to the right, the
alcohol now buzzing through my veins at a rapid rate, but I kept my feet steady
beneath me as I moved along the wall in search of another door.
I needed out.
That’s when I saw her. A pink
stream flashed across her face before her eyes disappeared into the darkness. I
saw another silhouette beside her, close, hovering over her. He was hunched,
ready to attack. I closed my own eyes, feeling my heart thrash in my chest, the
adrenaline spiking through my body. It caught in my throat, like it always did,
making me stop.
I didn’t want to believe what I
saw, and I didn’t want to feel what I felt, but I knew it was there, lurking
and calling for me. I waited for another flash of light to see her face again,
but it never came. I had never seen the woman before, however I have seen the
look on her face. It was an expression of pain and a twisted look of fear.
I darted toward the spot where the
woman was, but her body was gone. I shook my head, trying to release the image
from my head, yet it was real, I saw it.
Damn it, I saw it.
I moved along the wall again, the
point of my knife tipping into my thigh when I hit the metal casing of a door.
A cool breeze still lingered in the air before it vanished into the thick heat
of the crowd. She was out there. I slipped my hand beneath my skirt, gripping
the handle firmly as my skin stretched over my knuckles. I pulled out the blade
Ryan had given me, holding it tight against my chest.
My back slid against the metal of
the bar, opening the steel door only inches so I could slip through. A muffled
scream sounded in the alley as I squinted, my eyes adjusting to the dark, cool
air of the night. The alley was a narrow passage of maybe fifteen feet with
garbage containers flanking both sides. I crouched along the wall and scanned
the scene ahead of me. There was only one way out, and it was thirty feet in
front of me.
I had moved a step out when I felt
a throbbing thud in the middle of my back. I sprawled to the ground, still
gripping my knife, registering the kick of a boot that knocked the wind out of
me. I gasped for air, feeling my chest constrict into a tiny ball incapable of
consuming any oxygen. My throat convulsed anyway, trying to suck in any sign of
The burn overcame me as a cowboy
boot appeared in front of my face. Next to it, the woman’s red flats dangled
just an inch off the ground. Her shoes mildly kicked against my shoulder before
she let out another muffled scream. The kicking stopped, and the red flats went
slack. I wouldn’t let her go down like this. My mouth sputtered against the
pavement as I dragged the knife from beneath me with a slow, deliberate pull.
The sound of a struggle was no
longer evident in the woman’s body next to me as he moved forward. His boots
stopped two feet in front of me as he contemplated whether or not he should
leave me. The knife was close, up to my chest now, but my body felt incredibly
heavy above it. Impossibly heavy, yet it was now or never.
I yanked my arm out and stabbed the
blade into the boot in front of me. It connected, sinking through the leather
and into his flesh. I pulled up and thrashed at his calf, connecting twice
before the woman’s red flats planted on the ground and staggered away from me.
The man yelled out, grabbing at the wound in his leg, the red stains squirting
through his fingers.
I thrust my body into an upright
position from the ground; the burn in my lungs still festered as I lunged at
him again. His arm grabbed my wrist, twisting my arm until the knife clattered
to the ground. I let out a small groan as he kicked it away and wound my body
around. I followed his lead and broke out of his weak grip until the man in the
cowboy hat stood a few feet in front of me.
“You bitch. What are you going to
do?” the man asked in clear, unaccented English. His stoic face broke into a
I was right, American.
“What do you want me to do?” I
asked, my eyes burning into him.
“Snivel and cry like all the other
women do,” he answered as he finally pulled his hand up from his bleeding leg
then wiped it on his jacket.
“I don’t cry.” I shrugged my
shoulders, knowing this would piss him off.
“You haven’t met me before,” he
I swallowed the laugh that was
bubbling in my throat. He didn’t know who was standing in front of him. “Must
be my lucky night,” I answered instead.
“You’ve got a mouth on you. You’re
ruining my fun for the evening,” he warned.
I shrugged my shoulders again,
eyeing the blade four feet to my right before moving my stare back on him. He
had to be just over six feet, maybe one-hundred-eighty pounds. His eyes were
set in a shadowed, hard face, his skin pulled tight except for the slight sag
under his eyes. He tipped the cowboy hat down with a flick of his hand before
his arms shot at me.
I lunged underneath him, rolling to
my blade to snag it up in one quick swoop. I sprung back up to my feet and
swiped through the air again, but missed. Shit. I never missed. I kicked my leg
forward and connected with his groin, making him stagger back for a few steps,
giving me room. I glanced to the right, the only way out, before I looked back
to see him raise his hands in the air.
A white flag of
I gripped my knife tighter, ready to attack, ready to slice
through his neck.
“All right, all
I’m done,” the cowboy sputtered with a cough. “Just go before I
change my mind, you little bitch.”
The words rang in my ears, my head
cocking to the side as I studied the cowboy. Change
mind? It wasn’t about him; he was lucky that I was going to
mind. I hesitated, the
sound of laughter ringing on the other side of the alley. I counted to five, my
mantra slow and steady, as I took one last look at the cowboy, now holding his
leg and tending to his foot, before I disappeared down the alley and jogged to
the street. I tucked the knife inside my jacket sleeve as I met the small group
of four women glowing and chattering in the night, oblivious to the danger only
thirty feet away.
“There’s some asshole drunk in the
alley. I’d watch out for him. Looks a little
you ask me,” I said as I walked past them. I heard their footsteps continue and
one of the girls say “what” in Norwegian. I had fallen into English so quick
with the cowboy that I slipped up with the women.
I glanced down the street, my eyes
scanning for the red flats of the woman from the alley, but I didn’t find the
red flats or the woman. She was gone. Good, at least she made it out. I turned
on the street, headed back to the lot where Ryan’s truck was parked.
Leaned up against the door, Ryan
stood with his legs crossed in front of him and his hands stuffed inside his
pockets. His truck sat directly beneath a light post, the glare shining down on
his face that softened when he saw me.
Seeing his face made me realize
that I shouldn’t have come back. I should’ve run the other way. He was better
off without me. Most people were. Elizabeth… Ethan… The list could go on and
“We should go,” I said as I walked
up to him. The cowboy was just down the road, and I didn’t want to take any
chances. I needed to get Ryan out of here.
“Where did you go?” Ryan scrambled
to his feet.
“The bathroom,” I lied as I grabbed
the handle of the passenger side door. His hand caught mine, turning me toward
“So going to the bathroom equates
to us leaving?” Ryan searched my face.
There it was again.
“Yes,” I lied again, knowing that I
was hurting him. This time, the lie stung. I cared, but I didn’t want to. I was
Parker. I took a deep breath and repeated
calmly, “We should go.”
Ryan gave me a look that I knew,
the look that I hated seeing and had already seen once earlier tonight.
He broke my gaze, jogged around the fender
and jumped into the truck. I glanced behind my shoulder one last time before I
slid onto the seat and slammed the door shut. The cowboy was gone. I exhaled,
letting my head fall onto the seat.
“Why were you out here anyway?” I
asked as Ryan threw the truck in reverse and skidded out the parking lot. I
rolled the window down and let the cool air brush against my face. I felt a
tacky liquid begin to adhere and dry to the skin on my arm.
“I figured you were leaving. I
thought you might take my truck,” Ryan replied flatly.
“I wouldn’t do that.” My voice
sounded smaller than I wanted it to be.
“Leave or take my truck?”
“Take your truck,” I answered,
knowing that he wasn’t going to like what came out of my mouth, but it was the
truth, and it stung us both.
Ryan nodded his head and rolled
down his own window. “You’re a bomb waiting to explode,
I thought it was just all about your dad before. That Holston Parker being
alive was making you so obsessed, so driven. But he’s gone now. It’s been a
year. And you’re different now, I will give you that, but just not who I
remember you as. Not like when you were a teenager, when you were friends with
Elizabeth. You’re just not the same person I used to know.”
“That was more than ten years ago,”
I replied, ignoring the bomb reference. “Time changes everyone. Are you the
same person you were ten year ago?”
“I don’t know. I’d like to think
so. At least
I am on the inside
is the same.” He thumped his hand against his chest. “This inside, this is the
same Ryan that you’ve always known, but in there,” he pointed to my chest, “I
don’t know what’s there anymore,
. It’s filled
with so much hate and rage.”
“I’ve been through a lot in ten
years.” I looked at the town disappearing in the side mirror. The lights of the
buildings finally faded into the darkness. I couldn’t argue with his point, I
felt the rage deep inside, too, but I had thought I had it under control. I had
thought removing the toxicity of Holston Parker would make me whole again, but
I had been wrong, dead wrong. My heart was filled with black.
“I never said you haven’t been
through a lot. But it’s over now. Elizabeth is long gone. My dad is gone. Ethan
is gone. And your
, he’s gone.
There’s nothing tying you to him anymore. You can be whoever you want to be.
Freedom, as long
as we’re careful about it.”
Ryan slowed his words, as he chose his next
ones with more calculation, “We can live wherever we want to live. We can be
whoever we want to be. As long as you promise to start working on you, the real
you, I’ll be here to help you along the way. If you try to mend the broken
pieces and get rid of the rage you still hold on to, I’ll be here forever. I’m
only asking you to