As I pulled up in front of our house, I saw no lights which, hopefully mean, no one was home or at least not still up. Mom would be at work and I was hoping Rachel was not here either. When it came to be nosy and interrogation techniques, Rachel has Mom beat by a mile. I didn't want to tangle with her tonight. I was tired and happy and I knew an altercation with Rachel would quickly ruin my happy buzz. That's it, I thought. Being with Duncan was like a drug, producing a euphoric high that was hard to explain. I just knew that afterward I had a kind of high and it lasted for hours.
I turned my key in the lock and let myself in.
“Where have you been?” I heard Rachel's voice coming from the kitchen table. She was sitting in the dark, in order to spy on me? I guess so because there she was, in the dark, the only light coming in the window from a street light.
“I went to dinner with a friend.” I answered, probably with some surprise in my voice. “Gee-sh, Rachel, sneak around much? You scared the hell out of me. What are you doing sitting in the dark?”
“Don't try to change the subject. I asked you a question. What's that you're driving and where did you get it?”
“I told you I went to dinner with a friend and I'm just borrowing the friend's car is all. It's not mine, I didn't steal it or anything, if that's what you're thinking.”
“This friend wouldn't happen to be a guy would it?”
I shifted from one foot to the other. “Why do you ask that?”
“I just wondered who you had to sleep with to get that nice car is all.”
“Rachel! That's pretty unfair, even for you.” I immediately felt guilty when I said it, but what she just said stung pretty deep too.
I know I wasn't studious like Rachel and I also knew I probably wasn't as compliant as her. In fact, I was probably a bad daughter and sister in a lot of ways. I just wanted to live my life, enjoy my youth. Was that so bad?
“So you weren’t out with a guy then?” Gee, she was being persistent.
“Well, yes I was. But we're just friends. I didn't have to sleep with anyone to get the car. What are you, Mom now?”
“Cheryl, I'm not trying to be mean or anything. I'm just trying to save you some heartache. I don't want you to make the same mistakes some girls make. Some mistakes you pay for the rest of your life. I'm not trying to be a hard ass.”
The way she said some girls made it sound almost personal or something. Maybe she has a friend at school who was having problems, but I brushed that thought out of my head. I had bigger fish to fry, like explaining about this damned car. I felt my elation over the car waning now.
“You ashamed to bring this guy home to meet Mom and I?” She had an accusing tone to her voice when she asked that.
“No, it's just that he's not my boyfriend or anything. We're just friends and he's letting me borrow his car. I didn't see any reason to bring him home is all.”
“We've met Karla, she spends a lot of time here. You usually bring all your friend home for us to meet. You know, most guys are out for one thing in this world.”
“Yeah, yeah, so you always say. Maybe some aren't. Maybe some guys can just be friends with girls is all. Ever think of that, Miss Know it All?” I know I was the one who sounded sarcastic now, but Rachel was beginning to work on my nerves.
“I'll bring him around to meet your approval, if that's what you want.”
“Look, Cheryl, I'm simply looking out for you is all. You're still pretty young and in many ways, pretty naive yet. I'm not trying to piss you off.”
“I can call him on the cell and find out if he could come over tomorrow night when Mom has a night off then.”
I sat down at the kitchen table and hoped he was still up, it was after midnight. He picked up the phone on the second ring.
“Hi, it's me, Cheryl. I hope I didn't wake you up or anything. But I want to ask you something.”
“No, I was up, I told you I'm a night person. What can I do for you? I hope the car isn't giving you any trouble already.”
“Oh no, the car is wonderful. Ran like a top all the way home. I was wondering if you'd like to come meet my mom and my sister, Rachel?”
“Tonight?” He laughed.
“No, not tonight, Silly. But would tomorrow night be good for you? My mom has tomorrow night off. I mean, if it's too short of a notice, we can make it another time.” Rachel kicked me under the table when I said that.
“Sure, tomorrow night will be good. What time?”
“I guess around eight in the evening, if that's good.”
“That's a great time. Should I bring anything?”
“No, just bring yourself is all. Oh, and thanks Duncan for being so understanding.”
“Hey, I'm looking forward to it. Till then. Night, Cheryl.”
“Night Duncan, and thanks again.”
I hung up the phone and thought how when Duncan answered the phone, he sounded kind of breathless or something. Not like he was out of breath, but like he'd been running and was panting just a slight bit. I decided to brush it off and looked at Rachel.
“That wasn't so bad, was it?” She wasn't exactly smiling, but her facial expression had softened a bit, like she was relieved or something.
“I'm going to bed now. It's been a long day and I'm tired.”
“Goodnight, Cheryl. Thanks for being so good about us meeting Duncan and all.”
I smiled as I rose from the table and headed to the stairs. I really was very tired. My phone was vibrating as I laid down, I looked to see if it was Duncan, but it was Karla. I wasn't in any mood to answer her questions, so I turned off my phone. I know I'd been neglecting her a lot lately so I figured I'd call her in the morning. Boy, was she going to be envious of that Mustang. I fell asleep with that smug thought in my mind.
I got up the next morning and headed for the shower. After feeling clean and renewed, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a bagel and sat at the table. Mom was asleep and Rachel must have gone out because the house was quiet.
I decided to check my messages on my cell. One from Duncan: Sleep well and enjoy the car. I'll call you tomorrow.
Four from Karla: Come on, call me, text me, do something at least, I'm dying to know it all. You know me, Love ya, Karla.
Karla: Hey remember me? I'm supposed to be your BFF but you keep ignoring me.
Karla: Text me soon or I'll have to come over tomorrow and see you in person.
Just as I read that one, a knock at the door. Imagine that, so I went to open it.
“Where in hell you been all night? Don't you ever answer your tests or cell phone calls anymore? Who's car is that outside? Inquiring minds, mine, need to know this shit Girl!”
“With Duncan. Yes I answer my texts and cell, usually, but I was busy. The car is mine, as long as I care to use it. Gawd! Anyone ever tell you how nosy you are?”
Rummaging through the cupboard and fridge: “What you got to eat here? What's that you have? A bagel? Come on, give me a ride in that hot car of yours and let's go get something from the dollar menu. Maybe some of our girls will be there. Come on.”
Grabbing the keys, we headed to the Mustang and downtown to get some breakfast from the dollar menu. Karla was right, there were some of our friends there. They came running over, gushing over the car and I think I actually saw some drooling. I was surprised at Karla though. It takes a lot to get her jealous, but this car and my seeing Duncan seemed to do the trick. I have to admit, I loved it. Karla jealous over me for a change, instead of the other way around.
Once back in the car: “So where does this mystery man live anyway?” Karla was looking at the radio as she talked.
“Out of town, on a back road. I was there last night, that's how I got the car.”
“So let's drive by Duncan's house. I want to see it. Is it cool and is he rich or what?”
“It's a big old mansion, Victorian looking place. I suppose his family is well off. He has a fleet of cool cars in his garage.”
“OOOOOOOOH. Let's get going, I gotta see this.”
“I'm not sure I could find it on my own. I was only there once and it was dark outside.”
Karla fiddled with a small box on the windshield. “Hey, this is a GPS system, maybe it's programmed in here.” She turned it on and told me to put in his address. I did and sure enough, the voice repeated the address.
“Let's go. GPS Lady here will tell us how to get there.”
I started the car and off we went. Lots of twists and turns once we got out of the city on our way there. One really winding road and the GPS Lady said: “You have reached your destination.”
“I don't see shit, Girl.” Karla was blinking her eyes. “All I see is a big long drive leading to nowhere. Maybe the GPS is broken.”
“No, this is the address and last night, at the end of the driveway, there was a Victorian house. I was in the underground garage.”
“Well, it's not here now.” Karla had a doubtful tone to her voice. “I, I don't know, it sure seemed like this is the right address.”
“That's OK, maybe you just put in the wrong numbers. You know if you put just one wrong number in there, it'll screw it all up.”
“Yeah, maybe I did.” I wasn't believing it myself though. I was certain I put the right address into the system.
“Who cares? Let's go cruising and maybe to the lake for the day. I'd love to go to the beach, especially now you don't have to work and all.”
“Oh, shoot, work!” I remembered I didn't tell my boss I wouldn't be back. I also needed to pick up the money he owed me. I told Karla we needed to swing by there, right now.
“Where in heck you been? You were supposed to start work a half hour ago. Well, never mind, get your cap and apron on, no harm done.” Mr Clark was cleaning the floor as we walked in.
“About that, Mr. Clark. I'm here to let you know I won't be working here anymore. As you see, I have a car.” I made a sweeping hand gesture towards the Mustang.
“Wow, you rob a bank or something?”
My face turned red. “No, I just was able to score a car is all. I don't suppose I could get my last paycheck while I'm here?”
“Heck, I'm sorry to hear this. You’re a great worker. You might need this job to pay for gas and insurance you know.”
“No, I really don't. That's all taken care of too. About that check.”
“I don't have a check yet, but I can give you cash. Let me check your hours. I'll be right back.”
Karla and I sat at a table until Mr. Clark came out with cash in his hand. “Here ya go, I owe you $100 for last week. Sure I can't talk you into changing your mind?”
“No, but if I know of anyone else who needs a job, I'll let them know. Thanks Mr. Clark. Bye, bye.”
“Let's go out tonight, how about it? We can use our fake ID's to get into that hip new club that just opened.”
“No thanks, I'm probably going to see Duncan tonight.”
“Come on, you can miss seeing him for one damned night. Can't you? Please, pretty please?”
She looked so darn pathetic I told her I'd call him. After all, he was coming over to meet my family tomorrow night.
I dialed his number. He picked up on the second ring as usual. “Hello?”
“It's me, Cheryl.”
“Hi Cheryl, what can I do for you?”
How did he know he could do anything for me? But I loved it when asked that question.
“Did you plan for us to do anything tonight?”
“No, not really, why?”
“Well Karla wants me to go out with her tonight so I just wanted to check first. Before I made plans with her.”
“Sure, she's probably thinking I've been hogging all your time anyway. It's cool. I'll be over to your place tomorrow anyway.”
“Oh and Duncan?”
“Karla and I drove by your house today and we couldn't see it from the road. Don't you find that odd?”
“No, not at all. It sets way behind those big trees and all, maybe you just couldn't see it from there.”
“Yeah, that must be it.” But I knew better, I knew those trees weren't covering it up. I decided to let it drop, at least until we were alone and I could inquire more, without Karla, Miss Nosy, listening in.
“OK then, I'll see you tomorrow night. Thanks, Duncan.”
“Hey, no problem. You ladies have a great time. Bye.”
I told Karla we could go out, but I also told her I really didn't want to use our fake ID's to try and get into some club either. She stuck her lip out in a fake pout.
“Well then, I know of a great party. One of the kids from school is throwing it. It's a ways out in the country, but there will be booze, live music and loads of food. Wanna go there instead?”
I really didn't but I agreed that a party was better than trying to sneak into a club and possibly getting in trouble, or tossed by a bouncer.
“Cool then. Let's go to your place and hang out and we can get dressed there. We can stop by my house and get my clothes and makeup. Lord knows you could use my expertise with your makeup and hair.”
I hated it when she said things like that. But we swung by her house to get her stuff. Her dad was home, in his t-shirt, beer and cigarette in hand. Karla lives in a trailer, her mom works and her dad drinks. Sometimes I think that's why she's kind of brash, she doesn't exactly have a great home life. Actually he's her stepfather, her mom's boyfriend to be exact. They just live together and aren't married. Karla once told me he can't work because he's a felon or something. I know she's kind of scared of him and she said her mom wants to break up with him but he's threatened to kill her if she did. I just know he gives me the creeps. He looks at me like I'm naked or something.
“Let's go get my stuff in my room.”
Her stepfather looked up: “Hi there Cheryl.” He had been drinking probably all morning because he slurred his words when he said my name. I thought it was pretty early in the morning to be drinking already but I guess he does that instead of coffee.
“Hello.” I said as we walked past him to Karla's bedroom.
“I gotta say he gives me the creeps.” It's not like that was the first time I'd said that to her.
“Welcome to the club. He gives everybody the creeps. Including me. Imagine having to live here.”
I couldn't imagine that. I didn't even want to imagine that. As far as I was concerned, she couldn't get her things fast enough. I decided to help her so we could leave quicker.
“You going someplace?” Roy, her stepfather asked as we went past him.
“I'm going to Cheryl's for the night. That's all.”
“Well don't go whoring around with any guys, if ya know what I mean.” He had a nasty smirk on his face. I had an urge to reach out and slap him. He made my skin get goose bumps.
“Let's go, Cheryl.” Karla was trying to ignore him but I could tell she was embarrassed by the way he acted.
We drove to my place and listened to music, played on the computer and called some of the kids to see what time the party was starting. We had a burger for dinner, I fried two up and made french fries for us.
“Let's go fix your hair and makeup.” Karla helped me load the dishwasher and we headed for my room. I let her fix me up, but I didn't like it much. She dressed me in her sexiest outfit, actually all her outfits were sexier than anything I owned. I also let her fix my hair and makeup. I looked in the mirror thinking I looked like a hooker. But Karla smiled and said I looked wonderful.
Soon it was time to go so we headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Shoot, it was Rachel and I hated her seeing me in this outfit. “You going to a costume party?”
“Yes, we are. Some kids are giving a costume party. We're pretending to look like Lady Gaga. You like? Karla twirled for Rachel. Rachel just laughed.
“Well have fun and try to be back before one in the morning.”
The party was further outside the city than I realized, or more to the point, than Karla realized. It felt like we drove for hours but it was actually only one hour but it seemed much longer. Finally we found the place, a cabin on the lake, and by the looks of all the cars, a lot of people had already arrived.
We got out, me feeling totally uncomfortable in this sexy outfit, but Karla, as usual, was the social butterfly of the party. Someone tried to shove a beer in my hand but I refused, saying I'm the designated driver, so just a Coke would be fine. I sipped my Coke watching Karla down drinks and then participate in a drinking game. She was looking tipsy after only an hour and I thought she'd better not lose her stomach in my nice car or I'd have to resort to killing her. Not literally, of course, but I sure would kill her verbally and make her clean it up too.
After a while I was getting tired of just sitting around watching everyone get drunk and I urged Karla to get going. I convinced her we should head home now because it was a long drive. She was reluctant, but too drunk to give me much of an argument, so we left.
Out on the open road I realized I didn't know the exact way back to the city. I couldn't rely on asking Karla because she was so drunk I'm not sure she'd know her own name if I asked her, much less remember directions.
After driving for about twenty minutes, the road was dark and I knew I'd taken a wrong turn somewhere. I opened my cell and it wasn't detecting any service way out here. Suddenly I felt a thump and it got louder as we continued down the road. When the car started to steer violently to the left, I knew it was a flat tire. I'd never changed a tire in my life and I wasn't even sure if there was a jack in the back or even a spare, I had never checked.
I had no choice but to pull over to the side of the road. I decided I'd better get out and check for a spare and a jack and do my best to try and change the flat tire. How hard could it be? I opened the trunk and felt around for something, anything I could use.
I saw car lights in the distance. I was hoping maybe somebody could assist us with changing the tire. Maybe a kind elderly couple or something, I was hoping. The car pulled up beside us and my heart sank, two burly looking guys and the driver had an evil smile on his face.
“Hey, Baby, need some help?”
“That's OK, I think I can handle this by myself. But thanks anyway.” I was hoping by sounding sweet they'd just take off. I didn't want my tone to piss them off.
“Come on, Baby. I can help you out, don't play hard to get.”
I didn't like the tone of his voice at all. I backed up as the driver got out of the car and came towards me. The more I stepped back, the closer he tried to come.
The passenger was shinning a flashlight in the front seat of the Mustang. “Well look what we have here, another little cutie. We could have us a party.”
I was beginning to get scared now. I knew they weren't up to any good and I seriously doubted they were here to help us.
“You guys can go, thanks anyway, we'll be fine.” I hoped I could brush them off.
The flashlight guy opened the door where Karla was sitting. He reached in and grabbed her. I started towards her when the other guy grabbed me from behind.
“Relax, your friend will be just fine. We just plan on having a little fun is all. Don't get excited.”
I was crying and pleading to leave us alone when he placed his hand over my mouth. I could see Karla was fully awake now, on the ground where the other guy was trying to unbutton her shirt.
I thought to myself, this is it. We're in real trouble now. Why oh why did I let Karla talk me into going to that stupid party.
I closed my eyes so as not to see what would happen next when I heard another car approaching. Thank God I thought to myself.
“We better get out of here. Come on.” Flashlight guy was heading for the car.
Suddenly I heard a familiar voice say: “What's the hurry boys? No need to leave on my account.”
It was Duncan and he was looking different than I'd ever seen him before. Flashlight guy swung at him and Duncan grabbed him and tossed him into the ditch like a rag doll. The second guy was heading for the car when Duncan, moving faster than light, stood between him and the car, cutting off his access to the door.
That guy also swung and Duncan grabbed him, tossing him over the roof of his car. He hit the road with a sickening thud.
“What in hell are you girls doing out here this time of night?” Duncan was kneeling by Karla, she was bleeding from her forehead and I saw Duncan turn pale and reel back for a moment. I figured the sight of so much blood must make him woozy.
“We were coming home from a party and had a flat. I was so scared, I'm so glad you came along. How did you know where we were?” He scooped Karla up and ran to the hearse, placing her on the front seat.
“Never mind that. Take the keys to the hearse, Karla has a bad cut on her forehead. Take her to the ER and I'll fix this flat and meet you both there.”
“But what if those two guys come after you again?” I was genuinely scared for Duncan, even though, by the way he tossed those guys around, he obviously could take care of himself.
I heard the guy in the ditch groan. “Go on now, don't dawdle. Get going. I'll be just fine.” Tossing me the keys he turned around to look at the ditch guy. “Go on now.”
I caught the keys and I started the vehicle and gunned it. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I looked in the rear view mirror as I sped off but it was so dark I couldn't see anything.