Accidents

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On making things better … or worse.

Published October 6, 2016 by mandileighbean

About three weeks ago, I went on a date with some guy I met online. We met on the boardwalk, which I liked. He looked only a little bit like his picture, but I’m sure the same could be said for me – I’ve definitely gained weight since the pictures I posted were taken. None of the mattered, really, because he was INCREDIBLY smart – knew more than a little bit about nearly everything. The conversation was great – enthralling, interesting. We talked for four hours, until the restaurants closed. At one point, he was explaining the scientific reasoning behind why men tend to react with violence while women are more emotional and tend to react with malicious manipulation. He posed a hypothetical question, asking me what I would do if a woman I hated, like really hated, keyed my car. I told him I’d go to the police, and he had to alter the scenario and tell me that wasn’t an option. I think he wanted to prove that eventually I would become violent (although in retrospect, I don’t see how that helps his argument at all, so maybe I misunderstood because he was SO much smarter than me). That inspired the short story below.

But some more about the date: he said “you see” a lot and removed his glasses to pinch and massage the bridge of his nose and pushed air through his nose awkwardly, almost like snorting but not exactly. In hindsight, it seems pretentious and textbook intellectual, but in the moment, it wasn’t so bad. There were even a few moments where I nearly convinced myself he was handsome, sitting on a bench overlooking the beach, calmly explaining the cosmos to the young woman beside him as a chilly wind whipped the finer strands of hair about his face.

But I think it was just the moonlight and me endeavoring to force a fairy tale where there wasn’t one. I haven’t heard from him.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #30: “Let’s just agree that we both hate her, okay?”

“Let’s just agree that we both hate her, okay?” Ashley pleaded. She was sitting in her Chrysler Sebring convertible with her best friend. The engine was running to keep the heat going; it was unseasonably cold, and tiny tremors assaulted Ashley’s body. The cloth top did little to keep the icy wind from seeping in and making the interior cold and uncomfortable. She watched her breath escape her lips in tiny, white puffs, disappearing as soon as they appeared. Despite the heat blasting from the vents, Ashley was shivering. For a moment, but only a moment, Ashley wondered how her best friend was faring, if she was as cold. But Ashley’s concern was fleeting. She wasn’t looking at Danielle, but stayed focus on the lone break in the curbing that served as both the entrance and exit of the parking lot. Neon lights and halogen bulbs lit up the night sky around them, and Ashley used the glare of the harsh and unflattering lights to peer into windshields and survey the colors of incoming cars. Oncoming headlights would blind her momentarily, but she would shut her eyes tight against them for a just a few seconds, all she could spare, and then she’d stare hard and long to make out the figures in the cars, to determine the exact shade of the paint of the exteriors of the cars. Ashley’s eyes shifted restlessly from side to side, scanning and searching for one driver in particular, one woman that was scheduled to meet a man in the diver bar that owned the parking lot. The man in question happened to be the love of Ashley’s life (at the very least, Ashley had convinced herself that was the case), and the woman in question was the current topic of conversation.

“I’m not going to do that,” Danielle refused. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared through the windshield. She forced her breath out of her lungs in short bursts, emphasizing her displeasure. Not unlike Ashley, Danielle wasn’t so eager to make eye contact. Everything had gone too far, much too far, and Danielle was having trouble comprehending that the woman gripping the steering wheel in tight, pulsating waves was the same woman she’d known for years and years, and had claimed as her best friend. Ashley was unrecognizable to Danielle. Sure, she looked the same, but the jealousy and ager that consumed Ashley and simmered somewhere just beneath the surface of her skin had caused her to mutate into something ugly, something horrible.

“Then why are you even here?” Ashley asked. She finally turned to face Danielle. Her tone was sharp so that the question was more of a piercing challenge. In her juvenile rage, Ashley wanted Danielle to leave so that Ashley could feel abandoned and awful, and thereby rationalize her unnerving desire to cause destruction and excuse her cowardly and dastardly behavior.

“To talk sense, Ashley; I need to convince you that this is really dumb, not to mention illegal. We need to leave before you do something stupid.”

There was a beat of silence. It was the calm before the storm; after just a moment more, Ashley slammed her palms against the dashboard and growled. It was a subdued scream that turned animalistic and cold and hard. Danielle felt uneasy but turned toward Ashley, willing to make eye contact and survey if Ashley was even present in the conversation, if she was even listening. “Go to hell,” Ashley sneered. “You don’t know what this feels like, okay? Save your self-righteous bullshit for your students.”

“If you weren’t acting like a child, I wouldn’t have to treat you like one, or talk to you like one,” Danielle retorted. “What is keying her car going to do, honestly?”

Ashley thought for a moment. “It’ll make me feel better.”

Danielle rolled her eyes. “Yeah, maybe, but then what? Will it make Russ suddenly realize he’s been a douche? How will it prove you were the right choice?”

Silence settled upon the pair. The truth was that Ashley couldn’t answer Danielle’s questions because Danielle was right. It was stupid, completely asinine, but for the moment, Ashley didn’t care. She wanted to feel satisfied and to feel justified – she wanted to feel better about the whole messed up situation between her and Russ and their feelings (or lack thereof). “Why can’t you just let me have this?” Ashley demanded of her best friend. Her voice cracked and allowed the tears to finally spring up.

“What kind of friend would I be if I let you be a stupid, awful, petty bitch?” Danielle asked. She extended her arm to rub Ashley’s back as she sat behind the wheel and cried. “You’re better than all of this, and you deserve better than Russ.” Danielle spoke in softened tone, doing her best to soothe Ashley and her broken heart. “Let’s get out of here, okay? We’ll get milkshakes and fries and talk shit.” Danielle laughed to show Ashley that she honestly believed there was a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Danielle needed Ashley to know that eventually, things did get better.

“Fine,” Ashley growled. She wanted to hold onto her anger because she wanted to be in control of something. She couldn’t change how Russ felt and she couldn’t deny Danielle’s logic, but she could decide how she felt, dammit, and she was going to be angry, downright furious. Without giving it much thought, Ashley abruptly changed gears and had every intention of peeling out of the parking lot and leaving the whole aborted revenge plot behind her – in more ways than one – and Ashley would have done just that.

Unfortunately, a young, beautiful woman with bouncy hair, tits that were a cause of envy, and a smile that belonged in toothpaste commercials, came walking up between Ashley’s car and the car beside it. The young, beautiful woman was not paying attention to anything other than her phone, busily composing a text message to let a popular man named Russ that she was walking into the bar, and that she had just parked. Her green Hyundai had pulled in just as Ashley had started crying, and were it not for the tears in her contemptuous eyes, Ashley might have seen the vehicle, recognized it, and done something else, anything else. As fate would have it, neither Ashley nor Danielle saw the young, beautiful woman’s car enter the parking lot, and so neither woman knew she was even there, where she was supposed to be, where they had anticipated and expected her to be. The young, beautiful woman walking between Ashley’s car and another was busy envisioning the entrance she would make and entertaining the endless romantic possibilities her rendezvous offered. She didn’t see Ashley’s car turning and accelerating fast enough to make the tires squeal, so hell bent was Ashley on making an exit the same way the young, beautiful woman was intent on making an entrance that would impress the entire bar. The young, beautiful woman never saw the impact coming.

The left headlight rammed against the young, beautiful woman’s shin, hard enough to break it and hard enough to knock her to the ground. The collision happened just outside of Danielle’s window, just outside of the front passenger door. She thought she saw bouncy hair pass by her field of vision on its way to the pavement, but she couldn’t be sure. It was dark and her attention was elsewhere. But Danielle and Ashley heard flesh and bone smash sickeningly against metal and plastic and rubber. They knew they’d hit something, but the enormity of the tragedy had not landed home yet. The front tires ran up and over the young woman’s body before Ashley could slam on the brakes and screech to a halt. “What the hell was that?” Ashley asked.

Danielle had a sinking, awful, terrible suspicion, but how could she say it aloud? How could she tell Ashley that in trying to avoid a misdemeanor, they had committed a felony? How could she explain that in trying to do the right thing, they had made everything worse, much worse? Pale and trembling, Danielle could only state the obvious. “You hit something,” she said.

“Yeah, but what?” Ashley asked. Danielle shrugged, was too shocked and too stupid to articulate anything meaningful or useful. Ashley threw the car in reverse, unknowingly rolling her tires over the young, beautiful woman a second time. The car jostled its occupants from side to side as it traversed speedily over the body. Ashley thought returning to the parking spot and surveying the scene from that vantage point was the best way to assess the damage and understand what had happened. It wasn’t until the sickening thud of the tires rolling over something soft and alive reached her ears a second time that Ashley understood that it was bad and wrong, all bad and all wrong. She put the car in park and battling nausea, Ashley threw her door open and climbed out of the car and onto legs that were wobbly and weak, and didn’t quite support her weight. Hobbling as if she were the victim instead of the perpetrator, Ashley stumbled to the front of the car, using the vehicle to support her weight. She crossed the front of the vehicle, placing palm over palm as she desperately tried to steady herself and walk, and when the body came into view, she promptly vomited.

pedestrian-accident

On helping best friends.

Published April 2, 2012 by mandileighbean

Most of the time, I wish that I was stronger. I have no problem finding strength in my friends and family members, and I admire so many of them for so many different reasons. When it comes to finding strength within myself, however, I usually come up short. I guess most of us – most of us humans – are like that, though. Self-realization is a scary thing, probably because it is also a very powerful thing. I guess in a way it can be limiting, too. To know your potential essentially defines your limits, and no one wants to be limited. Everyone, or at least mostly everyone (I know it’s dangerous to speak generally and universally), would like to believe they are capable of amazing things, and that they were promised a life of intrigue and wealth – but not just of the monetary kind. No one wants to be mediocre.

I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I really do believe I can be something more than average. What scares me is that I also really believe that my own insecurities and fears could trap me. I worry that I’m not strong enough to overcome those obstacles, and I’ll be complacent for the rest of my life because it’s comfortable.

I don’t know if any of this rambling has anything to do with the prompt. You tell me.

THE PROMPT: “Best Friends Need Your Help”
You receive a phone call from your two best friends. “Hey, we’ve done something terribly wrong and need your help. We can’t talk about it over the phone. Please meet us at the spot where we made our pact back in high school. You know the place.” Nervously, you grab your coat and car keys.

THE PIECE:

Melissa had been sleeping pretty soundly when her ringtone rudely interrupted. Popping one eye open groggily, she reached out a thin arm to the lower shelf of her bookshelf and clutched the phone. She flopped over onto her back and squinted, narrowing her eyes to better discern the name printed across the display screen. Brittany was calling, which was strange because it was so late and like Melissa, Brittany had to be at work in just a few hours. It also struck Melissa as strange because she had just seen Brittany earlier. They had eaten a late lunch together, and made tentative plans for the upcoming weekend. Was everything okay? Sitting up, she answered the phone and called out, “Hello?”

“Melissa?” Brittany responded. She sounded breathless, and was talking louder than was usual.  Melissa’s trepidation rapidly increased.

“Yeah, it’s me. What’s up? Is everything okay?”

There was a pregnant pause, a moment of hesitation that terrified Melissa. Brittany said, “Helen’s with me.” Brittany swallowed hard. “Listen, Melissa; something really bad happened. Helen and I, we did something terribly wrong. We need your help.”

Melissa felt the blood pool in her feet after it drastically departed from every other part of her body. She felt cold and dizzy; like she could fall right back on the mattress and pass out. “Brittany, what’s wrong? What’s happened?”

More silence greeted Melissa and she absolutely hated it. Under normal circumstances, Melissa couldn’t stand being left out and not knowing everything. Under these circumstances, it was torture. Why couldn’t Brittany just explain things? What was so terrible that her best friend had to operate under such secrecy? Melissa could hear Brittany’s voice thicken with emotion as she said, “I can’t talk about it over the phone. We, we can’t talk about it over the phone.” Helen was speaking very fast in the background and when she grew silent, Brittany began speaking again. “Listen, please, please, please meet us at the spot where we made our pact back in high school.”

Melissa was confused, and not just because it was late and she was exhausted.  She placed a head on her forehead, as if that could calm the thoughts racing back and forth and refusing to form an orderly line so that they could be processed and filed appropriately. “Pact? What-“

“Melissa, you know the place. You know exactly where I’m talking about,“ Brittany interrupted, and she sounded like she was quickly losing patience.

“Okay, okay; I’m leaving now.” Melissa hung up the phone and took a moment to stare into the darkness of her room. She honestly did not remember making any kind of pact, and she was worried she wouldn’t show up at the right place. Or worse, she’d be too late and whatever mess her two best friends had gotten themselves into would only escalate and become some horrible, invincible monster that they would fall victim to. She wondered, very briefly, if she was being overdramatic, but she didn’t think so. Brittany’s tone and shady behavior were certainly causes for alarm as they were completely out of character. Back in high school, Melissa had idolized Brittany – Brittany had been smart across the board, and not just in a few subjects like Melissa. Brittany had been pretty in an unexpected way that made it all the more special (Melissa had often compared Brittany to the actress Molly Ringwald, and the two definitely shared a chemistry and appeal that were hard to define). Melissa had been overweight and remarkably lonely. Brittany had navigated the halls of the high school with an easy and enviable confidence that Melissa had always tried to replicate, but her imitation was only an imitation, and came off as lame. Helen was more like Brittany than Melissa, so the two together should have been a dream team of sorts. Together, they could have taken over the world and not one soul would have complained, or worried about the consequences. It seemed unfathomable that these two amazing woman who personified everything Melissa had ever wanted to be, would now be calling Melissa for help. What could she possibly do to help? She was weak, stupid, still overweight and afraid, always afraid. She felt her face flush with embarrassment even now, even years later when she was alone in her darkened bedroom, when she remembered how she had broken down and sobbed in Brittany’s old, red Jeep. They had been sitting in it, exposing themselves in ways that made them most vulnerable, parked at the lake that was one town over. They had spent the majority of more than one summer parked at that lake-

Melissa’s heart leaped into her throat. Helen and Brittany were at the lake. They would be parked by the second dock site when you took the thin, meandering road to the left of the parking lot. The water would be dark, and the moon would reflect off it beautifully, the way it had those summer nights, when the warm air would coax them from the jeep and onto the dock. It didn’t matter that the wood creaked suspiciously beneath their feet, or that the white paint was chipping. When you’re young, you’re immortal – or rather, you believe that you are, even in a place as dangerous as high school. Melissa flung the sheet and blanket far from her, scrambling into boots and a coat. She grabbed her keys from the hook beside the bedroom door, forgot her wallet with her license and everything important, and headed out to her car, barely remembering to shut the front door behind her.

She sped along the highway, thankful it was late so that she could speed and so that she could catch every green light. Melissa had to slow some when she got into the sleepy town that housed the lake within, not wanting to attract any unnecessary attention. As she drove, her nostrils were suddenly filled with the pungent smell of frying oil, and she could almost feel the chunks of salt that would stick to her fingers amid the grease as she ate the French fries. The memory was so clear and so completely filled her senses, but came unexpectedly. Was it because she had passed a McDonald’s, or because she, Helen and Brittany had always stopped there before heading out to the lake? She felt decidedly uncomfortable in her own skin and had a strong desire to just turn around. If Melissa could pretend as if she had never answered the phone, then she’d be infinitely happy. However, that was not a logical choice of action, and she sighed heavily as she turned into the parking lot at the lake’s shore, anxiety building. She stayed to the left, and noticed how creepy the road really was. If someone wanted to kill someone and dump the body somewhere, this would be the place. Oh Lord, what if Helen and Brittany had done that? They weren’t capable of such an atrocity. Were they? Melissa felt nauseous as she came around the bend, and worried she would vomit all over herself when Brittany and Helen came into view. They were parked alongside the trees on the wrong side of the road, standing outside Brittany’s car – which was a new, blue economy car as the jeep did not live through the college years.
Melissa pulled in behind them, killing the headlights and the engine. She felt tears crowd around the edges of her eyes and never before had she felt so helpless. Tremors wracked her body as she slid from behind the driver’s seat. Her door shut loudly behind her, smashing the silence all around them into dangerous shards. Slowly, haltingly, she walked over to her two friends. “Are you guys okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, we’re okay,” Helen said. “We’ve calmed down since we called you. I’m sorry if we scared you, but we were pretty shaken up when we called.”

Melissa’s heart started working double time. “Why? What happened?”

“Look,” Brittany said sadly. Melissa had made her way over to the two young women, who stepped to opposite sides to allow Melissa to see what they had been crowded around. A dog lay dead. A collar hung heavily around its neck. Blood had slowly leaked from the dog’s mouth, and it’s back legs were bent at impossible angles. It was a sad sight to see, and when Melissa looked closer at Helen and Brittany, she could see they had been crying.

“Did you guys hit the dog?”

Brittany nodded, and began crying again. “We were coming to the lake, you know, like we used to, and he came out of nowhere! He darted right out in front of us, and there was nothing we could do.”

“We weren’t going that fast, but by the time we saw him it was too late, and –“ she paused to gulp down the tears that were welling up, and then said, “we hit him pretty hard.”

Melissa knelt down to look a little closer at the dog. She was close to smiling – an accident was no big deal. An accident was easily remedied. She looked up at Brittany and Helen. “The way you two were talking, I thought you had killed someone.”

“But we hit a dog! This was someone’s pet!” Brittany said.

“Why couldn’t you talk about it over the phone?”

Helen shrugged. “We panicked, and just wanted you down here. We needed someone to tell us what to do.”

Melissa laughed, though there was not much humor in it – more a tone of surprise than anything else. “So you called me, to tell you what to do?”

Helen and Brittany didn’t exactly answer Melissa’s inquiry, but they looked to one another, and then dropped their eyes to the pavement. Melissa stepped closer to Helen, who was nearer, and asked for her cell phone. They would call the cops and go from there. It was sad, but it was just an accident. Melissa was about to dial when she paused. “What pact were you talking about?”

Brittany eyed Melissa skeptically. “Are you telling me you don’t remember?”

Helen popped a hip and rested a thin, bony hand upon it. “You don’t remember how we promised to stay friends forever, no matter what? We did that the summer after senior year, before we all went to college.”

Melissa smiled. “I remember. I just considered that more of a promise than a pact.”

Helen and Brittany both smiled softly.

The three girls were different, but all felt very silly.

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