Authors: Stephanie Weiford
I have no tangible memory of what happened. I can only recall the sensations that washed over me as we touched. His mouth was warm and inviting, his lips felt like lightening, tracing tingling patterns over the curve of my neck.
It was like we had been engulfed in a lusty haze, and there was nothing else in the world except us. I couldn’t say how long we had remained connected. Things were just starting to come back to me in flashes. The jacket had fallen from us, exposing my hot skin to the chilly air and my nipples went hard, making me moan and Luke’s response was to run his hands down my spine. He was soft and fierce. But he hesitated before exploring a new part of my body, but once silent permission was given there was no taking it back.
We were slowly coming out of the fog, blinking at each like it hurt to wake up from too real a dream. My chest heaved, working to catch my breath.
hat was that
?! My mind raced to put reason and words to this new sensation. Whatever
was, it wasn’t normal. I sat up, and realized were atop the picnic table now. My hands brushed across the hard expanse of Luke’s exposed abs, he was
me! I had
him beneath me! I panicked and flailed wildly to move, stumbling backwards. I would have cracked my head on the ground but Luke’s reflexes were quick and he caught me around the waist.
“Oh… I’m sorry… I don’t,” my voice was breathless. He was holding me tightly, like he didn’t want to let go.
“Don’t be… I don’t…” he was just as breathless and wide eyed.
“Are you two for real?” came a snarky female voice and we both jumped. I would have fallen, but he still had a secure hold on me. Priscilla walked a little closer to us and she was very clearly pissed. I shifted uncomfortably. There was a new tension in the air and it was a lot less sexual.
“What.Do.You.Want?” Luke growled from between his teeth. One perfectly manicured eyebrow rose on her face. Their eyes were locked on one another; the contempt was palatable. I didn’t understand what was happening here, they had been perfectly civil to one another earlier outside the tent.
“Resorting to townie trash now Luke? What are you going to stick your dick into next?” she spat at him.
Ah, that’s what’s happening here. Was Luke cheating on her with me right now? That thought made me nervous, but it helped to clear the last of the haze from my head. What had just happened between us was something I had never experienced before in my life, but I wasn’t going to be the other girl to anybody.
“I should go,” I made to move but Luke wasn’t letting me go. He turned his face from her to mine and it softened at once.
“Just give me a moment Daphne, this isn’t what it looks like,” his voice was sad, like he knew I was already thinking the worst of him.
“I…” I wasn’t sure what I was going to say but Priscilla stopped me.
“Oh yes, please come and shoo me away Luke,” she was really digging her heels in for a fight. She had changed clothes, now wearing yoga pants and a tank top. She looked like a normal girl now, but there was still no denying she was beautiful. Well except the expression on her face which made her look like a junk yard dog ready to fight.
“Shut up Priscilla,” he growled. Wow, there was a lot of animosity between these two. Luke finally let me go. I slide off him and the table top, my legs felt shaky beneath me and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. So I just stood there, I wrapped my arms around my chest and waited to see how this was going to play out, but I also prepared myself to take off if this got too ugly.
“Here,” Luke picked up the forgotten jacket from the ground and shook the dirt from it. He draped it over my shoulders protectively before I could protest. Priscilla swore under her breath. He turned to her, “You, with me,” and he stormed off. He brushed past her into the darkened woods and she turned and followed him. I was left standing alone, waiting.
My phone showed
20 minutes has passed. I had shot off a text to Carolyn to check in but she hadn’t replied yet. I was getting tired of waiting. What if they were, like hooking up? It was a stupid thought, but I didn’t know her or Luke, maybe this was how they got their rocks off. I’d seen enough stuff passed around on Facebook to know that people were weird these days. I mean, they are circus people after all, what if this was all just an act? Maybe at this moment he was pressing her up against a tree, and she was running her hands over his hard… I had to stop thinking like this.
Luke isn’t mine,
I reminded myself. This was just a hook up, one that has already gotten out of hand. I was resolving myself to be done with this, to walk away. I felt stupid, standing here in the dark waiting on a stranger to come back… and what? What did I expect Luke to
when or if he returned? My phone beeped.
Do you believe in love at first fuck? HRU? ;)
Carolyn was at least having a good time. HRU, how are you, I didn’t know what to say. I’m standing in the woods waiting for my hookup to come back after running off with another woman… yeah right.
Good. U stayn the night?
I replied, ‘Good’ was all she was getting for now, she could demand details later.
Only good? Yes!
So she was going to stay the night. I was on my own to find a way home. I shrugged off the jacket and dropped it on the table. It wasn’t a far walk from where the tents were all setup, I could find my way back, and then call a cab from the front gate. Using my phone as a light I started off in the direction Luke and I had come in from.
I jumped. The scream wasn’t mine and it had come from pretty close by. It was also very obviously Pricilla who had done it. I hesitated, I could keep walking and leave like I planned or I could go check it out.
“GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME!”
I started moving towards the yelling without realizing I had decided to. I felt apprehensive about what I would find, I couldn’t hear Luke yelling. A large, dead fallen branch was caught up next to a tree trunk. I picked it up and swung it over my shoulder like a club. I stocked around a large honey dew bush and came to a stop.
In front of me was the scene I had been playing out in my head. Priscilla was backed up to a tree with Luke pressing against her. Except, instead of being caught in the middle of some lusty kissing, he was bent double holding her leg and she was smacking his back repeatedly.
“Daphne! Watch out!” Luke yelled, I snapped back to the real world and saw what he was trying to jester at, a snake. In the dark I couldn’t see much about it, but I wasn’t about to take any chances. Using my new found club I brought it down on its head. If it hadn’t been more preoccupied with Luke and Priscilla struggling nearby, it would have turned on me faster, as it was I had the upper hand, and a decent club.
“Get OFF me!” Priscilla yelled again, but she was starting to lose some of her angry energy.
“Was she bitten?” I asked, leaving the branch and dead snake behind to see what I could do to help.
“Yes, and the damn bitch won’t let me see it,” he growled. With him holding her pinned against the tree I dropped to my knees and forced up her pants leg. It had bitten her, there were two small puncher holes with blood running down from them and it was already swollen and purple.
“It got her, she needs a Doctor, now.” I said straitening back up. Luke met my eye, and I could see the concern he had in his.
“Can you call 911?” He asked. I nodded.
“Yes, but the hospital is
close to here, if you have a car, it would be faster than waiting on an ambulance,” I didn’t know much about snake bites, but she had stopped yelling and looked as if she was ready to vomit.
“Ok,” and with that he swung her up into his arms, her head came to rest on his shoulder.
They make a cute couple
, I thought for one bitter second. Collecting myself I started back down the hill with the lovers following behind me.
We made good time back to where the circus was setup. No one was out this late, but I could hear voices and music from many of the campers. He stopped outside a RV that looked brand new, there was a lawn chair beside the door and he gently lowered Priscilla into it.
“I’m just getting the keys,” he said and ducked inside. Priscilla looked like a wilted flower, still beautiful but sickly. I didn’t like her, but I still hoped she would be alright. Luke bounced back outside; he had pulled on a dark blue, long sleeve shirt and tossed me the keys. He took her back into his arms and we were off again, this time I followed him.
There were less than a handful of cars left in the parking lot. Luke made for a black Honda and I hit the remote lock on the keys he’d thrown to me. It beeped and blinked to life. I opened the back door and he half crawled inside to lay her down. Once he had the door shut behind him, I gave him back the keys.
“Will you come with me? I don’t know where the hospital is,” he asked sadly. I could see how tense he was and nodded. Carolyn was staying the night with his brother after all, so I had no one waiting on me.
“You can wait here, the Doctor will meet with you once he knows more,” the nurse left us on our own. When we had pulled up I had jumped out and got a wheelchair. Luke was able to park pretty close to the emergency room doors, so it was quick work getting her inside. They took her straight back as soon as we mentioned the snake bite.
Riverside Hospital wasn’t the fanciest medical facility around, but they were staffed with nice people and competent Doctors. They had taken Priscilla back at once and left us in a private waiting room. Well, it was only private because no one else happened to be there. The chairs and benches were way too hard, and the first one I tried to sit in was covered in some kind of sticky residue. I side stepped it and took the bench instead. Luke was hovering in the doorway looking anxious.
“She’ll be alright,” I meant to sound reassuring but it came out bitter.
What the hell am I still doing here
, I wondered to myself. Luke turned and I could feel his eyes searching my face for answers. I didn’t have any for him, and his gaze was burning my checks. I picked up the closest thing at hand, a very outdated parenting magazine, and blocked him from sight.
“I know,” he said softly.
I felt him sit next to me on the bench, uninvited and unwelcome. I already played his whore, I wasn’t about to be his grief counselor either, besides the bitch would be fine.
“You think a lot inside you own head,” he said lightly. I dropped the magazine on the end table and turned to face him.
“That’s what heads are for, luckily mine’s pretty smart, I know when to listen to it,” I shot back.
“Daphne let me explain…” I held up a hand to stop him.
“Don’t. I don’t want to hear it Luke, because your either going to tell me the truth, but I bet I have already guessed what that is,
you’re going to lie to me, which is just insulating.” I took my hand down and crossed my arms over my chest.
“You would be smart… to
be a betting woman,” he spoke low, between his teeth.
“You’re right. I took a gamble going with you, and look how that worked out. I’m outta here Luke,” I got to my feet.
“Wait, please,” he jumped to his feet but I was already pushing open the door, which pushed back. A tall man in a Doctors white jacket opened the door.
“Oh excuse me,” he said startled.
“No worries, I was just leaving,” I pushed past him and left. I didn’t care how Luke’s girlfriend was.
My apartment was
quite. I had left the air conditioner running full blast and it was chilly inside. I turned on a side table lamp preferring to keep the clam, darkness inside. It was a relief after the night I had.
I called a cab from the front of the hospital and had to apologize when I threw the money at the unexpecting driver. Carolyn’s barrowed shoes were already forgotten at the door, and I wasted no time stripping out of the clothes she had dressed me up in as well.
It was probably some kind of record on how fast I had undressed. I went straight to the shower, turned it to its hottest setting, which in this cheap building wasn’t nearly hot enough, and began the slow process of scrubbing away the feeling of the first man to touch me in months.
I turned my face towards the steamy stream of water and let it flood all my senses. I held my breath and tried to feel like I was drowning. There was no way of knowing exactly how much time had passed but the burning in my chest was telling me it was time to breathe again. I turned away and sucked in a deep breath, the burning subsided, but I still felt like drowning.
Why? What is so wrong with me?
I wasn’t really the girl who did one night stands, that was more Carolynn’s thing. Maybe meeting Luke was a sign to remember that. Not that my last relationship was anything to write home about. He had been epic jerk. One I had almost been naïve enough to marry.
He had no problems with one night stands, or stealing, or drugs. He was the perfect trifecta of fucked up. It took him going to jail for me to get away. I had told Luke I was pretty smart, what I hadn’t told him was the cost of that knowledge, in this case it was five years of my life I would never get back.
I took my loofa off the hook and picked up the soap, I wanted to scrub my skin until it was pink and fresh. I had been safe, since then. Sure I still want to meet Mr. Right, but I am so afraid of Mr. Right Now that I wasn’t doing much searching. Carolynn hard tried to setup a date for me two weeks after I moved into this apartment on my own. I made all the textbook excuses; I wanted to focus on starting my career… I wanted to just do me for a while… In reality what I was really doing was grieving. He was completely underserving, but he was my first real love, and that’s just not easily forgotten.
I dropped the loofa and started in on my hair filling the tiny space with the scent of lavender. I mean I had sort of gone looking for trouble tonight. I let Carolynn talk me into going to a sex crazed circus show, and then tracking Luke down afterwards. I could have insisted we just leave. She wouldn’t have been easily convinced; still she was my best friend. She would have cared if I had bothered to open my fat mouth and tell her I was uncomfortable.
I think maybe I just wanted to try and end my grieving. Luke was an ass hat, but he was sex candy on a stick, and ready to lick. He had kind eyes too. There was also something endearing about how he looked so arrogantly hot, but was still so easy going.
I pushed the soap back from my eyes. I must not have gotten all of it because my eyes started to water. I felt myself cracking, it was all just too much.
Damn it why?! Why can’t I handle this?
I sunk to my knees and let the tears mix with the shower spray. If I couldn’t feel them fall, then, maybe I could convince myself I wasn’t really crying.
I stayed in
the shower well after the water turned cold. I didn’t want to turn it off until my shoulders stopped shaking and my eyes dried up. Even after the water stopped flowing I sat there, letting the numbness in my fingers and toes warm slowly. By the time I stepped out I was mostly dry. I wrapped my hair in a towel, took my oversized t-shirt from the floor and dropped into bed. It didn’t take long for sleep to come.
I have never worn ballet slippers in my life. But there they were, pink as a freshly picked flower whose petals had been draped across my feet. Maybe ‘draped’ wasn’t the word. I could feel them, the satin material bound to me like a second skin.
Suddenly, I felt like they were very painful. They were much too small! I could feel my toes ache from the lack of blood flow. I reached down to remove them but the laces wrapped up my legs and across my entire body! They were wrapping around my throat and squeezing the air from my lungs! I clawed at my throat, digging into my flesh with my nails trying to get a grasp on the ribbon! It wouldn’t come free and my vision was blackening at the edges.
Was this how death comes for you? Like an erosion of your spirit, slowly darkening that which you are. An idea came to me… I could stop. I could let my hands fall away and wait for the darkness to consume me. The need to fight was strong, I felt my mind panic at the idea, but I also felt my heart sigh at the thought of relief.
I could choose, I had that one power, to let go or keep fighting. I tried to think of something worth fighting for, something that made the effort worth it… Nothing came to mind, and the darkness advanced a little more.
I took my hands from my throat and looked at them through the darkening haze. My nails had never been manicured but they were still neatly trimmed. I could see I had not painted them in a while but they shone red with my blood. It was splattered across my nails and dripped down my fingers. The sight was a testament that I had tried to fight. I closed my eyes, giving in to the dark.
Daphne! My name echoed in the dark, but it wasn’t my voice that called it.
Daphne! I opened my eyes. Nearly all my vision was gone now, but I could see a rope stretched out before me. I saw what I had not before, or perhaps it hadn’t been there til now. I stood atop platform high in the air, a tight rope was extended in front of my like a very thin bridge.
Daphne! He seemed impossibly far away. Luke stood atop another platform, across the rope from me. He looked sad; like he had when I left him at the hospital. He was gesturing for me to cross the rope to him. I had never been afraid of heights before, but crossing that rope looked like suicide.
What’s the difference if I just stood here?
I was dying either way.
It was a new choice. I could stand here and die, alone, or I could take a risk and try walking the rope. Standing still was certain death, but on the slim chance I survived walking the tightrope, Luke could save me. He could cut away the laces strangling me. I took a step forward to where the rope was anchored to the platform.
My vision was only a pinprick of sight now; I had almost waited too long. My heart hammered in my ears; I stepped out onto the rope.