I pulled into the one space left in the airport parking lot, and grabbed my bag, stuffing my iPod and headphones back in it. I normally just used my sweatshirt to carry around my necessities, but the weather was getting so nice, a sweatshirt would only be a burden. My hair was ruffled out, falling in uneven cuts down to my shoulder blades. The sunny afternoon reflected on my outfit: a baggy white scoop neck tee, light wash capris rolled up to my knees, and red converse, which I had scribbled black stripes over.
I walked through the automatic doors. People were coming and going everywhere, toting suitcases or making plans on cell phones. A family of four happily reunited with their father in one corner. His business suit was wrinkled and untucked, his rolling suitcase's plastic handle smacking the tile as he opened his arms to them.
"Flight 29 to Aruba leaving in ten minutes at gate A."
Oh shoot. That was Carter's flight. I picked up the pace and jumped on the escalator upwards.
They were on the second level. Mrs. Burwell was picking up a cheetah print suitcase and swinging it on her shoulder. One hand was running through her bobbed, straw blonde hair, while the other straightened out her white designer suit. Mr. Burwell was talking to Carter. They looked surprisingly alike with their medium heights and toned, muscled bodies. The only difference was age, and Mr. Burwell's silver hair. He slung his fingers in his brown belt and chuckled. Carter turned his shoulders, and I saw a highlighted blonde head and a soft, girlish giggle.
Carter caught sight of me and waved, summoning me closer.
"Hi," I said politely when I reached the group.
Both Burwell parents' smiles matched their son's brilliant grin. "Hi, Parker," Mrs. Burwell greeted.
"Ah, yes. Carter's friend." Mr. Burwell held out a hand and shook it heartily. "Good to see you again."
Jenny's smile was more dim, and very much forced. "Hello."
I gave her a small wave of her own. "I just came to say goodbye," I explained.
Me too," she said, a bit too defensively.
"Flight 29 to Gate A. Plane leaves in three minutes," the announcer said again.
Mrs. Burwell looked up. "we'd better go."
"I'm going to head to the bathroom real quick." I pointed a thumb over my shoulder.
"I'll show you where it's at," Carter jumped in, brushing a clingy Jenny away.
We walked in silence, around the corner. The women's sign came in to view. Carter stopped me. He gave me a large kiss, sliding his hands into my pockets, his favorite spot. I tried to wriggle away. He pulled away and looked over his shoulder. We couldn't be seen. He pulled me closer. He fisted his hands in my pockets. "Be good," he warned, looking into my eyes.
'It doesn't matter, because I'm leaving you anyways,' I imagined myself shooting back at him. I couldn't muster the courage. Maybe I just needed the summer to think it out.
I gulped and nodded. He pulled his hands away and wrapped one lightly around my wrist. I took a step back, but he didn't notice. "Don't do anything stupid, because I'll hear about it. And we don't want that, do we?" His grip was getting tighter and tighter. He never referred to his advantage over me, his bullying, but now he was going to use it.
My hand had a pulse of its own, growing extremely uncomfortable, but I just kept nodding like a scared puppy.
"We've got to keep you in line," he chided, just as a new, tingling pain shot up my arm.
I gulped. The fluorescent airport lights seemed to be getting brighter and blurrier.
His rage ended just as quickly as it had started. He let go of my wrist, and turned. "I'll call you."
It wasn't a pleasant goodbye. It was a warning.
Ronnie and I had finished marking all the clearance items this morning after we had gotten off our lazy butts. Now, I was unloading the two boxes and placing everything on the counter. There were piles for every instrument. They would go into the proper bins on the clearance rack, and if anyone needed any odds or ends for their instrument, they knew where to look.
Parker walked in, twenty minutes into my shift. I looked up from placing a mismatched drumstick in it's pile. She threw her bag over me, right behind the counter. "What can I do?" she called out.
"Clearance, then finish up those vocal books." Abigail came out in a foamy black skirt.
"Where's Jonathan?" Parker asked.
Abigail rolled her eyes, picking up her folder and singing workbook for the younger kids. "The man's always out and about. I think he's at a convention."
She continued talking over her shoulder, with a look of sympathy. "Poor man needs a break," she said somberly, before disappearing again. "Take care of the front," she directed, before ducking into a lesson.
Parker joined me at the counter. I left the stool open for her to sit, but she stood on straight legs, making it an evident decline to my offer. I sat down. She walked away, and I wondered where she was going, before she came back with the clearance bins stacked in her arms. She dropped them on the counter and mumbled, "It makes it easier."
I nodded, and dropped the supplies inside each one, glancing at the labels as I did so. I was surprised she was even talking to me. Maybe that was a good sign. She looked better today. The melancholy that usually darkened her steel eyes was gone, making her eyes seem more of a dull silver. They could be so pretty if she let herself go.
She worked quickly but carefully. Not one mistake. I made sure my work was flawless as well. Every time I put something away, I feared she'd nitpick it, but she didn't.
We worked in silence, but that wasn't new. I listened every time as something hit the bottom of the plastic bins. "How was your date?" I asked. Wow. It sounded so lame and nosy. I wanted to kick myself.
That was it for another hour. It was agonizing, and even she was starting to show it. She stared extra long at every object she touched. The question I had been dying to ask pushed past my lips. "So are you going to tell me what that was about yesterday?"
She looked up. I had felt a lot braver talking to the crown of her head. "What was what about?" Her voice was dangerously low.
fainted, or whatever." I put down a mini tangerine and looked her square in the eye. "You were talking ab"
"Why do you care?"
Her words came at me like knives. She was squinting at my throat as if she actually
wanted blades lodged in there.
"You don't know anything," she said coldly. Her breathing was frigid; probably twenty degrees below.
"So I've heard," I remarked under my own breath.
"You don't know anything. Do you really need to know everything? Will it make you feel superior?!" She was screaming.
I tried to calm her down, shushing her, a hand on her shoulder.
"No." She pulled away.
"You've got it so easy."
I shook my head. "Who the hell do you think you are? You're not the only one with problems."
She was snarling in my face. "You're so goddamn nosy! I never begged for your help, or your sympathy."
I didn't appreciate the way she was waving her hands in my face. I wasn't going to take the abuse again. I grabbed her wrists in one smooth motion. My grip was a little too tight, but I figured she could take it.
I was wrong. She breathed heavily, but her eyes were watering. She squirmed her right wrist in my hand. "Don't touch me!" she shrieked, pulling away. She couldn't. She was completely spent. And I was too strong now that I was on my guard.
I raised my hand. She flinched back, closing her eyes and wincing on automatic. I gently brought my hand down and brushed a few waves of pink hair from her face. She opened her eyes slowly and watched me carefully. She didn't pull away from me anymore, now that she knew what I was doing. That I wasn't going to harm her. I plunged my hand deeper into her veil of thick, soft hair.
My grip had loosened, and she seized her chance to take her wrist from me. I caught a set of finger marks before she held it to her chest, cradling it with her other hand. That wasn't from me, was it? I widened my eyes. The alarm left when I realized the bruises weren't fresh. But they were still recent. She moved inwards, and now her wrist was held to my chest. My heart thudded, and I bet she could feel it.
We were just staring at one another. Seconds turned to minutes. I honestly don't know who moved first. Her lips whispered on mine, and I followed her movements carefully. She pressed harder, her lip piercings digging into my skin, but it felt fine.
My fingers twisted in her hair, searching, seeking. Her hands were still pressed between us, but she moved them and rested her palms against my back. She pressed closer, her tiny chest inhaling as I exhaled.
I couldn't believe I was doing this. Holy--I could feel her belt digging into my own hips.
Her lips were surprisingly warm and soft seeing as how the rest of her was ice. She tasted cool, and like something sweet, but I couldn't yet put my finger on it.
Tears fell down my cheeks, and I was tasting salt now, too. Why was I crying? I opened my eyes a little, only to find it was Parker. She opened her eyes too, feeling me pause and stare. I started to pull away. "No," she begged. "Don't leave me."
I quickly had her in my arms and lifted her. She sat on the counter amidst the tangle of junk. She looked confused, but I helped her out by pressing my lips to her cheek, her lips, her neck. I found six wounds total, including a few scary scratches on her throat.
"I do care," I spoke to her, my voice rumbling out.
She bit her lip, then wrapped her legs around my waist, crossing her ankles on the small of my back. "You're too perfect," she murmured, and then we were gone again.