It’s postcard season. The time of year that New England colleges feature on websites and brochures. When she gazes up, Misty can see the sun twinkling through the ever-photogenic leaves. Around her, there may be broken down cars, Dave’s broken bottles, but looking up, sh takes solace in this: Despite all that, she’s still got the same sun and sky as everybody else.
Misty hears her footsteps echo in the aquatic acoustics of the damp, dark tunnel.
She shines her phone flashlight to markings of graffiti that fill the rusted tunnel walls. Two lines of prose catch her eye:
If this world was for us,
There would be nothing left to imagine.
Someone had written this aside spray-painted gang signs and clumsily drawn occult symbols.
Misty stopped, the echo of her shuffle pausing as a slow, eerie drip reverberated behind her. She looked back, temporarily blinded by the sun that had so recently provided her with desperately needed illumination. Spots flashed before her eyes, and she tried to readjust and make her way through the end of the tunnel. She swore someone was behind her. No, she knew. But what could she do? With her leg, she knew she couldn’t beat them. And, she figured, no reason to add fuel to their fire by letting them know she could recognize their face.
On the other side of the old, rusted tunnel, Misty sighed, shading her brow with a tanned hand. Had she figured out how she was going to make it to the retreat this weekend? No. But was the cat out of the bag? No. She still had time. But that time was slowly becoming short.
Misty could feel the bad idea rumbling up inside her before she could fully bring it to fruition in her mind. What other choice was there? She headed to the old bridge, trying not to scuff the ends of her already-torn heads on the densely thorned bushes that framed the unofficial path down to the stream.
She could see the bikes all knocked together by the three boulders that lay before the bridge, and she knew she had come at the right time. Or, the wrong time, depending upon how you liked to look at things. “Hey!” she shouted, as to surprise them before they could accuse her of sneaking up on them. Without examining the bikes, she already knew who was there.
“Now what’s up, Missy?” grinned Justin, the oldest of the Chase boys.“It’s Misty,” she retorted, not returning his leering smile. “Whatever you say, Missy,” he shot back, winking. “I need to borrow your car,” she snapped, rolling her eyes. She didn’t hide her disgust, wrinkling her nose and she stared at the ground and kicked an imaginary pebbles with her old Converse sneaker. She knew it was shitty, putting her mom at risk like this, but this was her future. She’d already calculated the risk in her mind, and her mind, it was made up. And that was that. “What’s in it for us?” said Jimmy, the youngest, stepping forward like the premature punk he was growing into. Keeping her eyes on Justin, Misty kept a stoic, dispassionate expression. “You know Dave, right?” Justin’s face changed from its hybrid sneering flirt into something more serious, more interested. He put his hands in his pockets, giving Misty a real once-over. “Yeah,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “And?” “Give me the car,” Misty said, “And I’ll let you know when he’ll be out. You know you ain’t need a key. And you know where our place is at.” Justin’s expression didn’t change. “That so?” he said, evenly. “That so,” said Misty, not removing her gaze from this nearly translucent green eyes. “Where you headed to that’s so important anyway?” he inquired.
Misty’s eyes fell to the gravel path, her eyes drifting to the always-encroaching weeds. “Going to a weekend thing I got invited to,” she said. “Oh yeah?” his eyes lit up. “Why ain’t I invited then?” “Not the type of thing you’d be into,” she snapped. “You ain’t gettin’ a chance at the car ’til I’m let in on the secret,” he winked. “Fine,” she clipped. “It’s a church thing.” “A church thing!” he roared, clapping a hand against his knee. “Now, that’s good.” As he laughed, Misty could see he was already missing some teeth. She shook her head. She had to get out of this place. “Yeah,” she said boldly, “A Church thing.” He whistled. “Whaddaya know. Little Missy here is a Church girl. Welp,” he sucked some air in through his teeth, “Guess my shot was a little far out anyway.” Reaching in his pocket, Misty heard him jingling some keys. She narrowed her eyes. “So,” he began, clearly enjoying this transient sense of negotiating power. “Here’s the deal. You take the car. But. Only if you take these two (he motioned to his two younger brothers) with you.”
“WHAT?!” the three synonymously exclaimed. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Misty gasped, “No way!” echoed Jimmy. Dean, the middle one, remained silent, eerie in his silent glowering.
Time was running out, and Misty knew that this was likely to be her only option. Sure, she was risking the livelihood of her mom, and bringing two hooligans along, but she would see Tobi, and her new friends. What could possibly go wrong?
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