“Awesome. So, Troy should go first, because your position is naturally a defensive one…”
Rihanna keeps talking, but her voice becomes little more than a hum in my ears.
The sun has set, and it feels as if invisible lines have been lashed around me, that the ocean is reeling me in. My feet begin to tap impatiently against the fancy hardwood floors, eager to leave this place and walk across the dunes, just like the last time I ever swam in the ocean.
Rihanna keeps droning on, and my irritation grows. This is a debate, not rocket science. I grit my teeth and force myself to listen to her, ignoring the sea, but it’s nearly impssible.
It takes us another twenty minutes to run through how the debate will work, and then, finally, we’re done. I want out of here. I want to get to my lake and jump straight in. I won’t even stop to strip my clothes off.
I want it. I want it right now.
Troy walks Rihanna and me to the door, and I taste the freedom. I mutter goodbye as Rihanna gives Troy a hug that lingers a bit too long. Then we both step across the threshold and part ways, not bothering to say goodbye to each other.
I’m just sitting down in my seat when Rihanna’s tires squeal and she rips out of the driveway, disappearing through the iron gates.
I shiver against the cold as I turn the key, the car sputtering.
But it doesn’t catch. It tries, turning over and over and over, but it doesn’t fire up. A lump seems to form in my throat in an instant.
No, please, this can’t happen...
I close my eyes and turn the key again, holding my breath, but nothing.
I need my car. I have to get up into the mountains. I have to get to my lake.
Why does a broken car have to be this, to me? Why does the mere idea of being stranded like this have to mean life or death?
I hate this, I hate everything, I hate my life.
What will happen if I can’t get my fix?
Can I last more than one day?
Tears spring forward and I can’t stop them.
If I can’t get to the lake… if I can’t swim and it gets worse and worse… would I buckle? Would I swim in the ocean?
No, no, that won’t happen. I’ll get the car fixed if I have to sell a kidney to do it.
Or maybe I’m overreacting and I just need a jump start or something.
But no matter what I tell myself, the panic growing in my chest just keeps building, and the tears spring forward and fall, faster than I can blink them away.
My life is a deck of cards, and this is the tiny breeze that’s going to knock it all down.
I want to be anyone but myself right now.
I put both hands on the wheel and then I lean over and bury my face in my arms and let the sobs take over.
The tears come faster and faster, spilling over my eyes and trailing down my cheeks, dropping off my chin. My body racks with the sobs, shakes with it, and it becomes hard to breathe.
I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to think about it. I just want to cry.
A tapping on the window makes me jump, and I look up at the window to see Troy standing there. I can’t make out his expression through the tears, but I can see his outline, and it can’t be anyone but him.
I close my eyes and will my body back under control, but it doesn’t seem to work. Not this time. The tears won’t leave.
“Go away,” I say, my voice bloated and raspy.
He tries the door, but it’s locked. I close my eyes and rest my forehead on the steering wheel and hope he just disappears. I can’t handle this right now. I wish he’d just go inside and pretend like he never saw me like this.
For a second, I think I got my wish, because he stops tapping on the window, stops pulling on the handle to my door.
But then I hear the passenger door squeak open and I hear him slide into the seat beside me.
I close my eyes tighter, wishing this wasn’t happening, wishing this wasn’t my life.
“Please, just go away,” I say, my voice gurgling through the tears.
I feel his hand on my arm, and I jerk away.
I don’t deserve comfort. I’m a murderer. I should be wallowing in my tears, drowning in them, just like I drowned Steven.