Winchester. Blake has driven us to the city of Winchester.
I don’t know much about Winchester, other than the fact that it has the prettiest colored skies in the morning and that it’s cool breezes keep me afloat. We’re currently parked at a gas station so Blake can fill up and hit the road again. He seemed rigid and fragile so I didn’t bother going in the store with him to help probe his senses or get him talking to me. I’m stationary in the car with a faraway Valerie and Antonio, both wilted like dead plants and detached from reality around them.
We’re all pretty much detached, even Blake himself.
It’s not until I realize that my phone is on thirty-one percent that I need to buy a portable charger and a universal charger for my phone. This prompts me to have to get out of the car and see Blake in the gas station anyway.
“I’ll be right back guys. I gotta go buy a charger.”
My feet drag me along the concrete like bricks, unnerving and unwilling to cooperate with me. I’ve been sitting for hours. Walking again feels like a hard thing to do.
Once I’m in the little gas station store, I immediately spot Blake paying for gas on tank five and purchasing some water as well. When we make eye contact, it’s more serious than usual. We both know that our friend is dead. We both know that we’re practically on the run. Comfortability has been abandoned and replaced by something much more strained and unbearable.
I break our trance first by searching for some overpriced chargers usually set on display in the front. When I can’t find any, I smack my lips and look down at the time on my cell-phone.
Saturday mornings are for late rises and marathons on TV and enjoyment of other activities other than school. For the first time in forever, I don’t get to indulge in such a luxury. I’m exhausted and mourning in silence. School doesn’t exist for me anymore. My life has completely changed in a matter of hours.
Quite frankly, it’s hard to swallow but I’m okay with finally breaking out of my slumber.
I touch Blake softly when he tries to walk past me without saying a word. He stops, clenches his arm out of frustration, then pulls me close to kiss my temple.
“You need anything?” he asks, voice small and meek.
“I don’t think they have chargers here.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll stop by a real store for that.”
I breath against his chest, feeling the hollowness within me spread like wildfire. I keep my head up high though. I have no other choice.
We greet the other members and the Chevrolet again, still embracing one another. Blake only pulls away from me when he has to put the gas pump in the car tank. I watch him, studying his stiff movements and worn expressions. Red is still hidden beneath his face. His eyes are bloodshot and as pink as his lips. The way he crosses his arms over his chest and stares off into the pink sky lets me know that he is in a very distant and dark place right now. He refuses to look at me even when I’m pleading for him to look at me.
God, I want to hold you so bad. I can tell you need to be held.
Antonio pops out of the car to light a cigarette. I didn’t even know that Antonio smoked cancer sticks. It looked quite odd on someone as nonchalant and carefree as him. A guy like Antonio looked as if his escape consisted of the finest selections of marijuana, as chill as he usually is. I guess maybe his demeanor has altered a little but? Nasty stress equals nasty nicotine.
Antonio locks eyes with me and cracks the most pathetic smile. He tries to be his calm self, but it doesn’t work. It comes off as forced and even more sad. He blows his smoke and inhales his burn and turns away to stare off into the sky as well. Valerie stays stationary in the car.
While gazing off into space, there’s this beautiful moment that happens between all of us. It strikes out of nowhere. It happens when all three of us on the outside of the car just start crying. Soft, silent tears. Antonio ends up sobbing like a little boy and can’t maintain his cigarette anymore. Blake silently cries while still looking tense and angry in the face. I sadly cry because Barbara is really gone and we’re really out in Winchester leaving our lives and problems in the heart of Springfield.
Valerie exits the car and for the first time, shows a vulnerable and soft-sided edge to herself. She actually wraps her arms around me. I give into her warmth and let my guard down.
“We gotta do this for Barbara,” she says, voice catching in her throat. She takes a moment to regain her composure. “we gotta do this for ourselves.”
“Those bastards,” Antonio curses, face an alarming red while still smoking his cigarette. “Dammit I had quit smoking cigarettes and those hoes made me start my habit again.”
This brings a chuckle through Blake’s lips. He scans all of us, his bright and shining armor wearing thin as the seconds pass by. He lowers his head then picks it up again. I watch him form deep words with his mouth.
“We’ll be alright from here on out. We’re gonna stop at the store later for clothes, food, and toiletries. We’re gonna come up with a game plan and set these bitch ass Saints straight and we’re gonna win this war that these mothafucka’s started.”
His eyes are now reflecting something dark and dangerous. His tears have vanished. All that remains is his determination and his authority.
“I’m not the best leader in the world. I’m far from perfect. But if there’s one thing I can promise you all and myself is that we will wear the blood of the Chicago Saint’s with pride and dignity. We will eat them alive. We will make sure they severely pay for their consequences.”
We lock eyes. It’s even more serious now. I nod to him against Valerie’s chest and Blake looks towards the sky one last time. The sun is slowly shining again.
“I know you up there Barbara. We got you baby girl. I promise...”