August turned into September, which turned into a dreary October. Connor and I made his small one-person apartment on the bay into a home. We set a wedding date for early June and planned a romantic honeymoon, sailing from Boston to the Bahamas and back. Alissa was still missing in action.
The day of the wedding dawned with rain, but by mid-afternoon the sun was high in the sky. Connor’s sister, Laura, was my only bridesmaid, a pretty young thing with coppery brown hair and a large smile. My dress was a simple cotton one, off white and loosely gathered. I said my vows on the pier where he had proposed, barefoot as Alissa had predicted, and after the reception, Connor carried me up the gangway onto our new sailboat, the Kraken, for it’s maiden voyage.
“How are we today, wife?” Connor asked me in a low murmur as we pulled away from the dock, the small party of well-wishers cheering and waving us on.
“We are well, husband,” I replied, searching for Alissa’s face among the throng and finding it absent. Connor took his right hand off the wheel and reached for mine.
“Look, he’s right in the back of the photo in the blue shirt,” I said my finger hovering over the glass. Alissa peered over my shoulder.
“Huh,” she mused, “it totally is him. He’s probably been stalking you since graduation.”
“Lis!” I laughed, “That’s so creepy!”
“Hey, he’s your boyfriend, not mine,” she shrugged.
“Connor is not my boyfriend. We’re just dating.”
I shrugged and looked at the photo again, the one of me and Alissa at our college graduation. I’d invited Connor, the boat captain I’d had my eye on, over for dinner the previous night, and he’d pulled the picture down and recognized himself in the background.
“Why was he there, anyways?” Alissa asked, moving back over to the stove to stir her marinara sauce.
“His sister was graduating. He’s two years older then us.”
I rolled my eyes and put the picture back down, joining her in our microscopic kitchen.
We’d been living together in a ramshackle apartment exactly 57 steps away from the canal for 3 years now. The apartment was tucked away on a badly paved road facing the inlet, a street officially named Canal road, but popularly called Bird Shit Alley because of the poor level of maintenance and the flocks of geese and seagulls who liked to gather on the short strip of grass separating the street from the water.
The apartment itself was barely holding it together. The blue paint was peeling off of the splintering wood porch and the floor creaked and shuddered at the tiniest vibration, but it was home.
Right now, home smelled like spices and tomatoes and charred meat. Alissa looked over at my pan of meatballs and wordlessly handed me the tongs. I nodded and stirred.
“Wanna spoon me?” Alissa asked absentmindedly.
“I think that’s your girlfriend’s job,” I quipped, pulling out the silverware drawer and handing her a long handled spoon. She laughed and dipped the spoon into the simmering marinara, tasting it gingerly.
“Hmm,” she mused, re-dipping the spoon and holding out for me to try. I licked the tip and smacked my lips together.
“Hmm,” I said. I grabbed the salt shaker and flicked it liberally over the pot. Alissa stirred and tasted it again, giving me the thumbs up.
“Mangiamo!” she yelled.
Hey y’all! I’m really pushing to finish this story by Sunday. It’s gonna be tight.
Meanwhile, I really want to thank y’all for the MASSIVE outpouring of support I been getting during this little project of mine. I’ve gotten so many likes and views and whatnot – yesterday’s post had 90 viewers! and it’s been so excellent to feel the love!
I LOVE YOU GUYS.
I couldn’t find my damn cap among the massive sea of them littering the emptying rows of seats.
“Shit,” I said, clutching the blue and white tassle in my right hand while restricting the motion of the throng of medals and cords and paraphenalia around my neck with my left.
“Looking for this?” Alissa called, holding up my painstaking decorated PARCELL WUZ HERE cap. I smiled and snatched it from her, putting it back on at a jaunty angle.
“Thanks Barton,” I said, pulling her in for a hug.
“Anything for my roomie,” she replied, giving me an extra squeeze.
“Goodness gracious, four years already,” Penelope interrupted, pulling Alissa away from me. Penelope was Alissa’s latest conquest, a curvy thing with gauged ears and choppy pink hair.
“Would you look at that,” I replied flatly. I looked around for my parents and spotted them talking to Alissa’s mom, a perpetually cheerful woman with graying black hair and a penchant for cooking Italian food.
“Let’s get a roomie picture!” I cried, waving my parents over and throwing my arm around Alissa. Penelope scowled and backed away.
“Marlene and I broke up,” Alissa remarked from the doorway of my room. I looked up from the book I was reading and frowned. Her voice was calm and clear, but she’d evidently been crying.
“Oh, Lis,” I said, moving to get up off the bed. “What happened?”
She made a frantic fluttering movement with her hand and I paused at the edge of the bed.
“Lis?” I asked again. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever seen her this upset over a breakup before. Over the past few years, there’d been at least four, maybe five girls in and out of Alissa’s life.
She took a deep breath.
“She said she couldn’t keep competing with you for my attention, and that whenever you were around she felt like she wasn’t even in the room,” she admitted in a long rush. Her voiced cracked at that, but she took a deep breath and shook her head as if to clear it.
“Well that’s silliness,” I responded immediately, “I’m not competing for your attention. I’m engaged, for Christ’s sake, and to a man at that.”
I’d meant it as a joke, but Alissa looked stricken, and she shook her head again.
“You don’t understand,” she said in a low voice.
“What don’t I understand?” I asked cautiously, frozen in trepidation. She closed her eyes.
“She’s right, Sarah,” Alissa admitted, “she’s right, and I can’t keep doing this. I think I love you. I don’t know, really. I’ve tried and tried not to have feelings for you, but I can’t help it. I just-“
She stopped abruptly and started to cry, framed in the doorway that she’d popped her head in and out of a hundred times before for a hundred different reasons before. I put my hand on the firm, reassuring wall of my bedroom and stared at her as the room went briefly out of focus.
“What do you mean, she’s right?” I demanded, harsher than I intended. “Alissa, I don’t understand.”
“What isn’t clear to you?” she burst out, surprisingly angry. “I just told you I loved you! We’ve been living together for 3 years like a fucking married couple! Is it so unbelievable that I might at least have a crush on you?”
“We’ve been best friends since high school, Alissa, I thought we might be past the crush zone by now. How fucking long has it been?” I asked, succumbing to that particular brutality that comes with an unexpected confrontation. Alissa looked away for a long moment.
“I see,” I said, when she didn’t respond. “All this time and you couldn’t be bothered to say anything?”
She looked down at her bare feet.
“I was afraid this would happen,” she said softly.
“And what did you think would happen?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know, Sarah,” Alissa said, “but I can’t do this anymore.”
Alissa and I curled like cats on the top deck of Connor’s well kept boat, The Lochness, each clutching a travel mug full of cheap sangria. The sunshine was devastating, and I could already feel the hair on the back of my neck start to prickle with sweat. Before us, looking out off the stern, the wide mouth of the bay yawned open, a few candy colored houses dotted amid the vibrant greenery. A large fish arched suddenly out of the deep blue waves and flashed in the light, but besides that, the world was still save the ever present churning of the ocean, and the calm thrumming motor chugging patiently along, pulling us farther out to sea.
Alissa turned towards me, her dark hair spilling out onto the scrubbed white veneer of the deck. She held out her plastic mug and I tapped mine against hers. We sipped in unison.
“God, this is worse then I remember it being,” Alissa remarked, looking down at her mug. “When did we come up with this recipe?”
“Sophomore year, I think?”
“College,” she grumbled, and I smiled, taking another swig.
“I think we have enough money at this point to afford something better than Franzia,” she added.
“It’s more nostalgic with Franzia,” I replied, “Now shut up and drink.”
She took another swig.
“It’s better with a second pass,” Alissa admitted. I nodded, watching the shores recede into the background.
We lay silently for a few long minutes, drinking our lukewarm sangria. Alissa stretched her long bare legs out on the deck and took off her floral beach cover up to reveal her well-worn striped bikini, bought three years ago for a girly vacation to Cancun.
“I’m getting married,” I remarked idly, just to see if I liked the taste of the words. I could feel Connor ever present in the back of my head, just a few steps away in the pilothouse of his beloved cruiser. Alissa rolled onto her stomach and elbowed me in the arm.
“If you go Bridezilla, I will tell Connor explicit details about every relationship you’ve ever had,” Alissa replied.
“And when you get married, I’ll tell your wife about our weekend in Jersey Shore.”
“Touché, Parcell,” Alissa pouted.
“I won’t be Parcell much longer,” I smiled.
“You’ll always be Parcell to me,” she replied.
“Have you started working on your maid-of-honor speech yet?” I asked. She grimaced.
“Jesus, Sarah, you’ve been engaged for a week and a half,” Alissa said grumpily. She pressed her arm against mine. “I get to keep you for a little bit longer.”
“Lis, you’ll always have me,” I said, brushing a lock of her hair off of her back.
She took a swig of her drink, but didn’t reply.
Continued from here.
At some point the dog disappeared.
Marie wasn’t paying attention. The stream of tears and mucus and smeared mascara flowing from her face was coming too fast and too furiously to concentrate on anything other than trying to stem the waterworks. It was never ending. Marie kept trying to find the tissues in her purse, before remembering she no longer had her purse, which made her cry harder. She searched around her and found a large leaf, which she blew her nose into with a loud honking snort.
God, she hadn’t cried this hard since her former high school boyfriend had left prom with her former ex-best friend.
There was a rustling in the bushes. The dog reappeared, leaping from the long underbrush with his mottled tail held high. Marie gave a little shriek of surprise and threw her arms up over her face. It was a useless defense, because the dog managed to lick her face anyways, panting and mashing his huge head againse her chest. He seemed somewhat more exuberant than he’d been earlier, and although the light had change, Marie could have sworn he was less grey around his face.
“Milo, heel!” A gruff voice called, to which the dog immediately responded, bounding over to the side of the grizzled looking woman who had called him. She was leaning against a tree at the edge of the clearing, her tan arms crossed over her chest, which was not ample.
Marie stood up, sniffing.
“Who are you?” she managed in a thin whine.
The woman gave her a once-over, snorted, and jerked her head without speaking.
Marie gave her a long uncomprehending stare.
“Follow me, you halfwitted bimbo,” the woman finally said, “and stop sniffling. You’ll get us both shot.”
Continued from here.
It was hours, or perhaps minutes, or perhaps days later when Marie broke into a clearing and took a few stabilizing breaths. She sank down onto a grassy patch in the shade and put her head between her knees. She had long since left beneath any signs of gunfire, and the only noise that accompanied her own ragged breathing was the occasional flirtatious chattering of the birds in the trees, and the shrill yodeling of a solitary monkey. The sun, which was hard enough to see through the dense foliage of the jungle, was flickering just a few feet from the horizon now, and had little chance of making much headway between the ranks of thick old tree trunks.
Marie took her right foot into her hands and pulled it into her lap. The bottom was cut and bleeding, and for the umpteenth time, she cursed herself for dropping her purse and her extra pair of shoes behind her. In New York, she had prided herself on her baby bottom soft skin, pampered by weekly pedicures and mud baths. Now, she wished she’d made a little less fun of girls who went barefoot habitually and had callused heels.
Out of habit, she reached into her back pocket for her cell phone. Her jewel encrusted iPhone was missing, but she pulled out the forgotten Loubouton heel and turned it over in her hands. She found the reminder of home vaguely satisfying.
At the thought of home, Marie finally confronted her surroundings. She had never been the outdoorsy type, but she distantly remembered watching a survival show on T.V. once, and her family had a vacation house in Puerto Rico.From the location of the sun, she was able to determine that it was almost nighttime. Marie recalled that there were other things she could determine from the sun, but she could not for the life of her remember what those things were.
Marie closed her eyes and leaned back against a palm tree trunk.
Okay, she thought to herself. Nighttime in a tropical jungle. I went from the office to a tropical jungle. How did that happen?
All of the sudden, she felt extremely tired. The adrenaline was finally wearing off, as was the last cup of coffee she’d had with lunch.
She had had a weird lunch with Dakota earlier at a bizarre, hippy cult restaurant.
Perhaps I’m tripping.
The thought struck a satisfactory chord. Marie had never done any hallucinogens, but she knew what they were, and she had eaten a sandwich with mushrooms in it. Besides, she didn’t have a better explanation of how she’d gotten here.
I must be on drugs, Marie thought to herself. I’ll wake up in my office, and my PR team can take care of everything tomorrow.
Reassured, she readjusted her grip on her piece of heel, squirmed down into the bed of wild grasses she was sitting on, and drifted to sleep.