Rustic Red

She sat at the bar on a Tuesday night.

“From the lady at the other end,” the bartender plunked a whiskey sour in front of her. “Fancy,” he grunted.

She was fancy. The only time sequins were seen in this kind of bar was when they were bedazzled on a biker mama’s leather jacket. Rhylan acknowledged her but focused on her beer.

“May I keep you company, honey?” The women invited herself to the bar stool next to hers, dress shrinking up her thighs as she sat back on the seat.

Rhylan shrugged. “If you want but it’s gonna be an early night for me.”

“Can I convince you to stay out a little longer?” the woman asked. She nudged the whiskey sour closer.

Rhylan finished her beer. “I have a long day tomorrow.”

“You work on cars?”

“Yeah. Motor oil is my signature cologne.”

“Chesapeake,” the woman held out an elegant hand, fingernails perfectly shaped and glossy in the bar light. “You can call me Chessie.”

“Rhylan.” She gave the elegant hand a brief squeeze. “You from around here?”

“I’m only passing through. I was hoping for a little company before I go.”

“And you hope to find it here?” The bar was half empty. The rest of the patrons were middle aged men still in work uniforms. Quiet guys who just wanted a place that would allow them to smoke indoors over a beer or two. The owner was more than happy to look the other way if it kept steady traffic coming through the place.

“Because beyond the stale smoke I could smell honey. I’m a bear when it comes to honey.” Chessie licked her lips.

Rhylan pushed away from the bar. “It was nice meeting you, Chess, but I need to turn in.” She pulled on her jacket. “Have a safe ride home.”

“You too, honey.”

~*~

The minute she pulled out of the parking lot the sky crumbled and released a torrential downpour. She turned at a stop sign then slammed on her brakes, veering into the opposite lane to avoid hitting a parked car.

Drawing a shuttering breath to calm her adrenaline rush, she noticed the spare tire leaning against the vehicle. She pulled onto the shoulder and turned on her emergency flashers. Running back to the car, the driver side window rolled down and she recognized a familiar face. “Amily?”

They had been childhood friends. Rhylan crawled into the passenger seat. “Long time no see. When did you get back to town?”

“About a year ago. Oh god, Rhylan. I’ve got to get his car back. He’s going to be so mad.”

“Who?”

Amily wiped her eyes, smearing mascara. “Dane.”

Rhylan had dated Dane in high school. She remembered spending most of her high school days in front of the gas station next door with him smoking cigarettes alongside the kids who fought as much with their parents as they did with their teasing combs and hairspray. The relationship hadn’t ended well.

Amily had stayed indoors, stuffed away in the art lab or library. Looking at her now, soaked through and teary eyed, Rhylan regretted not staying inside with her.

She coaxed Amily into telling her about the last few years since they graduated high school. After her second year of college, she dropped out and moved back to get a phlebotomy certificate. That was how she met up with Dane who was working dietary. He had quit smoking and was more charming than he had been in high school. They went on a date, then another one, then he helped her get her first job at the hospital, and when her car broke down, he had spotted her the cash to get it fix. Rhylan almost didn’t believe it was the same guy.

But it slowly soured after that. He got laid off. He took up smoking again and the hospital wouldn’t hire him back. She tried to be helpful, tried to coax him in the right direction. She moved in with him to help him pay rent but even with the financial support, he became agitated when it came to money, counting the bills in his clip three times a day. He started to control her finances, made her give up her cellphone, forced her to use a landline, then cut the cord. He made her give away her cat then yelled when the shelter wanted a ten dollar surrender fee.

“Why’re you still with him?”

“I don’t know,” she sobbed. “He seemed nice in the beginning then it went down hill.” She pressed her head against the steering wheel.

“Well, it’s good to see you again,” Rhylan ran a hand through her soaked hair. “Your spare got air in it? I can change it. Won’t even charge you for it but you need to get your car onto the shoulder.”

When Rhylan finished, she reached into the driver side to pop the trunk. “I can put them back,” Amily said. “Thank you for changing it.”

“No problem,” Rhylan picked up the jack and the flat tire. “Just remove the mat.”

“I can get it really. I’ve troubled you too much.”

Rhylan sighed. “What’s in the trunk, Amily?”

Amily stood aside. Inside the trunk was a roll of black trash bags, duct tape, and a clean shovel.

“It really went downhill didn’t it?”

“They’re not mine,” Amily said. “They’re Dean’s.”

Rhylan looked at her. “And you’re going back to him?”

Amily bit her lip, a new wave of tears threatening to break. “I can’t go anywhere. He has my debit account and everything.”

“Okay, look. Crash at my place tonight. Tomorrow I’ll go with you to your place. We’ll get your stuff. What shift does he work?”

“Nights.”

“So he’s gonna be there. Nice.” Rhylan rolled her eyes.

“Rhylan…”

“I’ll figure something out.”

“Rhylan…”

“What?”

A car with out of state plates passed them at a crawl. “That car’s passed us three times.”

“Get your things and get in the truck.”

“But I can’t leave the car.”

“Screw the car. I know a guy who’ll tow it, no questions.” Rhylan grabbed the shovel and the roll of black bags and tossed them into the bed of her truck. Amily grabbed her purse and Rhylan started the truck and pulled out.

They didn’t see the car again but Rhylan made sure to take a couple laps around her neighborhood before parking in front of her apartment building.

~*~

When she woke up, Amily was missing from her bed. After a quick shower, she found her sitting on the floor staring at her wall. “Hey, good morning?”

“I love accent walls,” Amily said.

“It was like this when I moved in. Kind of looks like dried blood.”

“Blood reminds me of you,” Amily said.

“Me too.” Rhylan pushed her tongue under her upper lip. “The previous owner left an unopened can of this paint. It gives me an idea.”

“Do you have brushes?”

“Nah, but I’ve got something else.”

~*~

Brrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiip . . . .

Rhylan tore off another plastic bag along its perforated edge. Tossing the roll, she added the bag to the overlapping mosaic of black plastic covering every square inch of carpet in Amily’s living room; in addition to the walls. Amily taped the bag over the baseboard with blue painters tape.

Rhylan picked up the paint can and shook it before prying the lid off with her house key. Pouring it into the tray the paint was more brown than red. She placed the lid over the can and hammered it down with her wrist before flopping onto the covered couch with a crunch. “Now we wait.” She stretched both legs out before her.

They didn’t have to wait long. The door swung open. “Why are you leaving the door unlocked? Do you want us to get robbed?” Dane stopped short when he saw Rhylan and wiped at his nose with his sleeve. “Rhy? What’re you doing here?”

“I took the day off,” Rhylan said. “Decided to help you guys with your wall.”

“The landlord doesn’t let us paint.”

“I don’t think he’ll mind,” Rhylan said. “Might cheer this place up.”

“Why are you wasting money on paint?” Dane slammed the door behind him.

“It’s Amily’s money. She can do whatever she wants, can’t you Amily?” Rhylan asked. “You work hard for your money, don’cha?”

He narrowed in on her. “We’re going to lose two hundred dollars over this.”

Rhylan stirred the paint with a brand new paintbrush. Before Dane could stop her, she christened the wall with rustic red. “Come on. Get a roller. This will go a lot faster with you doing the top.” Dane made a fist and Rhylan shook a roller at him. “I have dental insurance this time, Harper.”

Amily’s jaw dropped.

“I never hit you.”

“So my teeth magically fell out from the impact of your good looks? You knocked the penis envy right out of me.”

“Is that why you look like a dyke?”

“Stop being a bitch and do one nice thing for the girlfriend you don’t deserve,” Rhylan reached out with the handle of a roller. He begrudgingly took it, roughed it through the paint. It splattered as he ran the roller up and down the wall, applying a sloppy, thick coat that dribbled over the white.

His back turned, Rhylan gave Amily a handle that nearly toppled her over. Together they watched Dane slosh through the paint tray and slap on more paint, big globs dripping down below criss-crosses of uneven strokes. Rhylan squeezed Amily’s arm.

She tugged at the handle and stepped up to the paint tray.

He turned in slow motion. Her palms grew clammy, arms seizing, and then Rhylan, smooth as a brushstroke, retrieved the handle and swung the ax in a powerful side arc.

The coverage had been perfect. When they peeled back the painters tape not a single drop of blood had hit the white baseboards.

~*~

Rhylan pulled up to the chained entrance of the marshlands. Her step-father used to take her fishing here when she was in middle school until the property became off limits. She looked both ways before taking out the bolt cutters.

“I doubt anyone will question a work truck in these parts.”

Rhylan dropped the bolt cutters. It was the lady from the bar leaning against the fence, dressed for clubbing rather than a hike. “You break down somewhere?” Rhylan knew she was blinking way to fast to be taken seriously.

Chessie smiled. “I like you Rhylan. I think you’re cool and you’re so sweet.”

“I have a girlfriend.”

“Now that you have her boyfriend in the back? No, no, don’t panic. I think that’s super romantic and I want to help you.” She backed her against the truck. “So how ’bout you give me the body. You’ll be doing me a favor and I know I’ll be doing you one too so we’ll break even.” Chessie nuzzled in close, pushing her knee between her legs, and they were chest to chest. “Hell, you smell so much better than him.” The flick of her tongue was like an electric current to the brain.

“Take it!” Rhylan wrestled out of her embrace. She scrambled to the back of the truck and dropped the door.

They had tried their best to wrap the body so it didn’t looked like a plastic bag mummy, stuffing the extra bags around the head and legs. Chessie grabbed it with both hands and yanked it out onto the ground. “You should go now before I change my mind.”

Rhylan tossed the bolt cutters into her truck and pulled out. She watched Chessie in the rear view mirror before jerking the wheel to avoid colliding with an oncoming truck. When she looked back, Chessie and the body were gone.

~*~

She pulled off at a rest stop to splash water on her face. Her shirt was soaked, her stomach sticky to the touch. She pulled it up to her face then took it off. It reeked like something had drooled on it. Throwing it in the trash, she came out in her sports bra.

“What?” she asked a guy who caught her eye. “I’m covered, sweetheart. Stare at your girlfriend.”

A woman peered around the map display. “You smell that?” she asked him when Rhylan was through the double doors.

“That overripe, fermenting smell?”

“Yeah. She’s close but I wonder how that girl managed to get away.”

~*~

Originally written in 2014, I overhauled and rewrote the story to be a companion piece to Boca Blue. You can read them in whichever order you choose.

If you have a moment, please pop down into the comments to let me know your thoughts.

Sorry, no tasty alcoholic beverages in this one but you can BYOB.

~*~

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Boca Blue

If you have a moment at the end, please let me know your thoughts.

She was preened and on point in a khaki pantsuit, seated between two equally suited men who looked as if they modeled for men’s hair color boxes. He wondered what they were doing in a college bar.

The local game had been interrupted by a special news report. A visiting student had disappeared after last week’s game and police believed the disappearance was connected to another that had taken place during the first week of classes.

In mid conversation, she raised a manicured finger and summoned him to her. They ordered cocktails made with top shelf spirits. When the vodka spilled down the side of her glass he jerked as if he had been stabbed. She was laughing at something one of the men said. He was steadier with the other drinks and presented them upon cocktail napkins.

“Put these on my tab,” one of the men instructed.

He attempted to wipe the bar but she pulled a five from her inner pocket and dipped it into the spilled vodka. “Pour me a shot of blue curacao would you, hun? His tab,” she cocked her head.

He pocketed the five and poured the neon blue shot. She winked at him, maintaining eye contact as she threw it back. He couldn’t look away. The shattering of glasses broke the spell as the game came back on and someone yelled party foul.

When he returned to the bar, they were gone.

~*~

He saw her again the next weekend with a gaggle of sorority girls wearing oversized football jerseys. They squeezed into a booth and a fellow sister who was working served them. She caught his eye over the rim of a shared fish bowl and reeled him in with her school spirited fingers.

“A shot of blue curacao, please,” she stuffed the five into his pocket, fingers pushing it all the way down. “Keep the change.”

He poured the shot but let their server deliver it. Despite the crowd and the cacophony of conversations, her voice reached him from across the room. He inhaled and pressed himself closer to the bar, fingers gripping the edge.

Someone handed him a laminated missing person flyer. “A guy came in and asked if we can post this at the bar.”

He glanced briefly at the picture. Older guy. Hair a matte hue like he dyed it with box color.

~*~

During winter break, when things were slow and their stock was low, she came in alone. Seated in a booth by herself, she waved him over and ordered a shot of blue curacao.

“You’re out?” she asked staring at him over the rim of thickly framed glasses. Her button down was undone on top and he caught a glimpse of the curve of her breasts.

He nodded and returned her five. She sat back in the booth. “Unbelievable.”

He apologized profusely. Any other patron he would have suggested the drink special but his brain was stuck on repeat. She finally waved him away. He returned to the bar and wanted to shoved his head into the ice bath. Before he could a girl with a stack of flyers stepped up to the bar. “Excuse me, but can I post some of these inside.”

“We only post advertisements in the doorway,” he glanced down. It was another missing person flyer – a young woman in an oversized football jersey cropped from a group picture. “It can go by the other ones by the wall.” He was about to tell her she couldn’t miss it. There were already six others like it.

~*~

During the spring semester he took a job at an upscale gastropub off campus. Less ruckus, better hours, and better tips. The only similarity was the wall of missing person posters. The collection had slowed and the local authorities were confident that they were related but the trail had been cooling since the last disappearance a month prior. No bodies had turned up.

One night he turned from the bar and found her seated in a sinfully modest black lace dress with a deliciously open back.

She slid over a ten. “Two shots. Blue curacao. Keep the change.”

He poured the shots. “Is this to make up for the last time?”

She picked up one glass. “No.”

He missed a beat. She sat with the glass raised halfway to her lips. “Oh. I can’t. Not while I’m working.”

“When do you get off?”

“I’m closing so 2 am.”

“I’ll save it for you.” She threw back her shot and took the second with her.

The feeling was back. The nervous, gut twisting feeling that made him feel simultaneously aroused but nauseated.

Later she was waiting in the alleyway when he took out the trash. She held out the shot. “I’m still on the clock.”

“Can’t hold your liquor, boy?” she raised an amused eyebrow. He caved and threw it back. “Don’t be long.”

She was on his arm the minute he clocked out. “I’ve missed you.”

“You have plans,” he lost his grip on his bike lock key and it fell down a sewer grate.

“My place is a block away. You won’t need a bike to get there.” She led the way to a fire escape and up to the top floor of an old brick building. He crawled through her open bedroom window and she closed it, securing the latch.

She turned on a dim lamp on her nightstand and it threw their shadows on the wall. “Please get on your knees.” He did and she raked her fingers through his hair. “You look too good to eat.” She framed his face. “You’re burning up, hun.”

“I’m just…yeah…nervous.”

“Don’t be.” She left him for a desk with a hutch and he heard something being poured into a glass. “Cheers.” He took the shot glass from her and they drank together. Then her hands were back in his hair, tilting his head back and she kissed his mouth.

The nauseous giddiness quieted to a simmer as her tongue pushed past his lips to tour his mouth. Kissing down his neck she pushed him onto the floor unbuttoning his shirt and spreading it open.

“Why aren’t you taking off my dress?” she breathed into his ear.

“Is that alright?”

“Don’t make me do all the work.”

His hand searched along the back of her dress until she guided them under. He felt along her thighs, her bottom as he dragged the dress up over her head, catching her braided bun. “Sorry!”

She undid her hair and swung the braid, the end slapping his face. “You’re too sweet, sugar. Gonna rot my teeth.” She kissed him until he was gasping for breath. “Can’t hold your liquor or a woman?”

He laughed, head foggy, nerves rattling his stomach. She pulled him to his feet and slipped out of her panties, tossing them to him as she lounged across her daybed. “Show me what you got.”

He stared at the silk. “I’ve…never done this before.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty three.”

“You ever been with a girl?”

“Kinda. Like on dates.”

“You into guys?”

“No! I don’t think it’s that.”

She sat up and stretched her toes towards him. “I’ve slept with lots of guys…and girls,” she purred. “I could teach you a thing or two.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She poured him another shot of blue curacao. “Oh yeah.”

~*~

He woke up to something wet sliding up his leg. Again? He thought against the throb in his head. He turned to find her next to him, head propped on her hand.

“Hey,” she said. “Congrats.” The wet, slippery thing squirmed between his thighs.

He swallowed hard. “How are you…?”

She showed him her hands. “No hands,” she grinned. She stuck out her tongue, stained blue. “It’s my boca.”

He mouthed the word. She shimmied up real close, and he felt her leg slid over him under the covers. “You’re so goddamn sweet. Literally had both my gag reflexes going.”

Was he dreaming? A strange post-coital wet dream? He didn’t remember falling asleep.

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

“Why me?”

“Come on, sweetie. Haven’t you been listening?” She knocked on his head. “My sister has a sweet tooth and she’s wrecking havoc. Those…” she waved to the missing person flyers on her ceiling. A dozen or so in total. “I need you to bait her.”

“Then what?” he shivered as whatever was slick and wet wrapped around him.

“Let me worry about that. You just enjoy the ride, sweetness.”

She kissed him afterward and slid out of bed, flashing him a glimpse of a tattooed blue line dashing across her belly. She tossed him his bike lock key. “I’ll give you a call when I get my next lead.”

~*~

This piece is deeply personal to me. I developed the title and concept back in 2013/2014-ish but never put pen to paper. When I finally put pen to paper it was January 2019 and the final two weeks of my mother’s life.

I typed it in February then snipped and pruned off and on until last night when I finally felt it was time to let it go or shelve it.

It has two companion pieces and the break through with Blue may be the key to setting those two pieces straight.

We’ll see.

Thank you for reading. If you have a moment, please leave your thoughts.

~*~

Mood Letter

Current mood is stellar, over-the-moon.
I received a letter written by you.
No return address but I know your scrawl,
and the smell of you, used books and rainfall.

I’m savoring this anticipation
‘though tinged with an edge of trepidation.
Slicing it open, unfolding the thirds,
the paper is heavy with so few words.

“Forget about me,” is all that it said.
Crash landing, my feelings for you are dead.

~*~

The #vss365a word prompt for 6/23/19 was #mood. My original post was lines 1, 2, and 7-10 with line 10 originally stating “Crash landed, your feelings for me are dead”. I expanded it into  a sonnet because I felt there was a little more to be said.

The prompt also brought back memories of another mood themed piece I wrote two years ago for the 2018 A-to-Z Challenge titled “Mood Ballad”; an entirely different set of moods.

Thank you for reading!

~*~

Moments and Musings

I write in ink to practice permanence.
I write in cursive to keep it alive.
I use colors in moments of brilliance
and stormy grays when I don’t have the drive.

Weeks of blues drown my imagination,
sacrificing words for hours of sleep.
Searching for moments of inspiration
in the dark, writing fragments to keep.

Captured on pages for future uses,
I admire the gifts from my muses.

~*~

Haven’t been on the blog for a while. I took up writing #vss365 posts again on Twitter (@sm_saves).

There’s a special #vss365a posting to be considered for the upcoming Very Short Story Anthology. If you are on Twitter be sure to search both hashtags to see what the writers are up to and consider posting yourself. It’s a nice way to practice writing flash fiction when you don’t have much time to dedicate to writing.

Till next time. . .

Give Me a Reason

Give me a reason why
I should allow myself to be fettered by
your dusty beliefs, old man.
Wild and free, even your God would think, “Damn!”
I spit seed that blooms into flowers.
My gushing blood gives me power.
Fist full of clots and the taste of cream,
I fall into hysterics over your foolish wet dream.
You think I’ll call you Master and hand over the reins?
In this kingdom only one queen reigns,
and it’s off with the head
you get off with in bed.
Reach for my rattler if you wish to be bit.
Worshiping what-could-be’s and killing what is makes you a hypocrite.

~*~

Lots of tension in the world this week. It’s bleeding into what I write.

Also posted @sm_saves under #classywrite 177.

~*~20190518_Classywrite177