Until We Break(3)

By: Jamie Howard

As we’re nearing the fire, she shoves my side, hard. Probably trying to keep me from toppling into the flames. But her effort at course correction is a tad overaggressive. I careen off to the left, nearly tripping over my own feet before actually tripping over someone else’s.

I land heavily, my head snapping back so hard that my teeth clack together. Even though I’ve got my eyes squeezed shut, the world continues to tilt around me like someone’s knocked the Earth off its axis. Someone snorts, and muffled laughter drifts its way in my direction.

I pry an eye open to find another pair of eyes hovering a few inches away, a blond ponytail swinging back and forth as she bends toward me. She flicks her gaze over me dismissively, her lips twisting to the side.

“You alright?”

“Fine,” I manage to say.

My redhead reappears, practically shoving the new girl out of the way in her haste to get to me. She reaches out a hand toward me but I ignore it, rolling onto my stomach and pushing up to my feet. I brush the sand off my clothes.

As my pick of the evening wraps an arm around my hips, leading me away, I turn back to the blonde and offer her a wink. With a roll of her eyes, she shakes her head slightly and turns back to her friends.

Ah, well, she’ll come around. They always do.

* * *

Where the hell am I?

I roll up onto my shoulder, surprised to find an arm draped across my waist. I scrub a hand across my face and then through my hair. A headache throbs at my temples in time with every painful heartbeat. The night comes back to me in fragments, like a reel of film that’s had some of its frames burned out. The bonfire, the redhead, the uppity blonde, and then mind-numbing sex. That’s the best kind. No feelings, no attachments, only the haze of pleasure that blocks out all the other bullshit.

I gaze down at the upturned face on the pillow next to me. Last night’s mascara is smeared underneath her eyelids in thick black streaks, and a thin strand of drool leaks from between her lips and marks the pillowcase. It hardly matters. I got what I wanted and so did she.

The hardwood floor is cold beneath my feet as I shrug into my clothes. I don’t even consider waking her. I don’t leave a note or my number. She won’t be expecting one anyway.

Pulling the door closed behind me, the sun pokes hot needles into my eyeballs. I shield my eyes with one hand as I dig with the other in my pocket for my phone. I come up empty on the phone front, but my fingers close around the jagged edges of my keys just as I spot the Wrangler parked at the curb.

I drove last night? Where the hell is my phone?

Squinting in the agonizing sunlight, I head toward my car. I fish my aviators out of the glove box and sigh in relief as they dim the brightness of my surroundings. A thousand cotton balls are stuffed inside my mouth, and someone’s doing construction in my head. I need some damn aspirin.

The wind tugs through my hair as I head back into town, the sun beating another layer of bronze into my already tanned skin. Images of French fries and pancakes dance across my mind, making my mouth water, when the Wrangler gives a groan, shudders, and starts spitting smoke.


I force her over to the side of the road. Slamming my door closed, I stride around the side of the car but don’t even bother to pop the hood. Why bother? I don’t know what I’m looking at anyway.

This day so far is fan-freaking-tastic and I haven’t even been awake an hour.

Without a phone or a car my options are pretty limited. I can walk back to the redhead’s, turn and walk toward town, or I can wait and hope some friendly soul will stop and take pity on me.

Between the heat and the hangover, I’m not sure I’d make it into town, and I’m sure as shit not going back to the redhead’s. Pity it is then.

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