Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Thirty-four:

Jacob Mackenzie (Night of September 10, 1994)

It was fifteen to eight. My palms had been so sweaty, they nearly slid off the steering wheel. My heart felt as if it was about to fall out of my chest as I pulled up to the large, iron gate. I breathed deeply and opened my car door. Stepping out, I noticed a woman, out front, who looked to be trimming some rose bushes. Although her face was mostly hidden in the shadows, when she stepped into the porch’s light, I could see she was a bit older and starting to grey in the hair. “Excuse me?” I called out to her.

She didn’t turn around or at all stop what she was doing. I wondered if she’d even heard me or was just blatantly ignoring me.

“Excuse me?” I called out again. “Is Adeline home?”

The woman stopped trimming, but she had yet to turn and face me. “What do you want with Adeline?”

“We were supposed to hang out tonight.”

At last, she put down the hedge trimmers and walked over to the gate. “Are you her new boy toy?”

“What? No, we’re just friends.”

She flashed a half-smirk as she came back into the light. “You’re that kid who just moved into the old Russo house with his folks and his brother. Jacob, is it?”

“Uh, yeah, how’d you know?”

“She talks about you.”

“She does?” I tried not to get too getty about it.

The woman nodded. “You should get out now, while you still can.”

“I’m sorry? I don’t—”

“You seem like a nice kid. I’d hate to see her break you the same way she broke my son.”

The conversation ended there. No further explanation was given, not even a proper goodbye. The woman just went to cut down her bushes without saying another word.

“You’re early,” I heard Adeline’s voice say behind me.

I turned around to see her getting out of an unfamiliar vehicle. It was too dark to make out the driver’s face and they had driven off too quickly for me to get a license plate. All I knew was that they were male and drove a dark green, almost black, 1980 Fairmont. “Better early than late, right?” I said, walking over to Adeline.

“I suppose so,” she replied, taking a drag from her cigarette. Her crimson lips stained the rim of the filter. She wore a little black dress made of velvet and a pair of laced-up boots. She looked stunning, to say the least. I mean, she always did, but this time, I almost forgot how to breathe. “Shall we, then?”

“Right, of course. My car’s right over here,” I said, frantically, snapping back into focus. I went to open her car door for her; to which, she responded with a somewhat mocking comment about chivalry not being dead. “So where to?” I asked, getting in on the driver’s side and starting it up.

Adeline gave me the address and directions to an old-timey diner, located in the downtown area. She explained to me that her grandma owns the joint, therefore she gets free milkshakes for her and a limited amount of her friends.

“Speaking of your grandma, I think I may have ran into her, just before you arrived.”

“Yeah? And what pleasant things did she have to say about me?”

“Basically, she said that I should be as far away from you as humanly possible.”

“Yet, here you are.”

“What can I say? I’m a rebel,” I said, making her laugh out loud.

Before long, we had pulled up in front of the restaurant. The bright, neon letters above the entrance spelled out: THE HONEY BEE DINER. The giant bee logo next to the words looked to be on its last legs, blinking on and off. As we got out the car, I noticed one of the employees, scrubbing off a bit of graffiti from the window. Due to half of it already being wiped away, I couldn’t quite make anything of it. However, after seeing the expression on Adeline’s face, I had a feeling it was some sort of slander towards her father.

“Come on, let’s go,” I told her, gently taking her by the hand.

She flashed me a broken smile. “Thank you.”

Without another word, we entered the restaurant and sat down at a booth on the far east end. She ordered a standard strawberry shake, while I had what was referred to as a “Marsha” on the menu. It was a mango milkshake with house-made honey drizzled over the top and at the bottom.

“So I’ve been meaning to ask you, who was that who dropped you off earlier?” I questioned her.

“Jealous, are we?”

“No,” I denied, looking down at a spot of soap residue on the table. “Forget it, actually. I was just curious.”

“Well, if you must know, he was an old friend of mine, nothing more. No guy around here wants an actual romantic relationship with me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true.”

“It is, though,” Adeline uttered, fiddling with one of the sugar packets as we waited for our drinks. “They all think I’m scary.”

“You seem like a nice girl to me.”

She smirked at me and before we knew it, we were joined by her friends and our shakes. Two big guys, who went by the names of Chris and Ozzy, sandwiched me on my side of the booth. Chris towered over me by half a foot. However, he was rather small in width and didn’t really seem all that intimidating. In fact, I found out later that his smart mouth has started more fights than he could finish. Quiet Ozzy, on the other hand, was around my height, maybe even shorter, but made up for it in muscle mass. Unlike Chris, he’d only speak if spoken to. Although, when asked about his scuffed up knuckles or scars on his face, he’d go completely mute.

Meanwhile, Adeline had been sitting next to a girl named Jessie. She had a bit of that Courtney Love thing about her look, from the messy blonde bob to the babydoll dress and Doc Martens. Boy, was she a character, too? She changed her mood like she changed tampons: on the dot. I could still see traces of where tears had washed her cover-up. “So are you two lovebirds going to the party tonight?” she inquired, looking back and forth between Adeline and I.

“I’m sorry, party? What party?” I asked, eyeballing Adeline for some enlightenment.

“It’s this big warehouse party on the outskirts of town. It happens once a month,” she explained. “We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”

“Oh, no, I’m totally in,” I replied. “So a warehouse party? What is that, like a rave?”

The rest of the table laughed at me.

“Yeah, kind of like a rave,” Adeline said, mockingly.

“You are cool, aren’t ’ya?” Chris leaned over to me and for the first time, since meeting him, he looked serious.

“Yeah, sure, I’m cool,” I responded. At the time, it felt like the right answer.

“Good,” Chris went back to his goofy grin as he playfully threw his arm around the back of my neck and pulled me closer to him. “I’m beginning to like this kid.”

By the time we had finished our drinks, Jessie informed us that it was time to go outside. I had a feeling it had something to do with why she needed to use the diner’s phone earlier. Adeline grabbed my hand and led me out to the alleyway next to the restaurant. A shiver went down my spine as soon as I stepped out into the night, but it wasn’t the cold air that was giving me chills.

“Looks like Adeline brought us some fresh meat,” I heard a man’s voice say as we got closer to a red Sierra. I’d seen this truck just hours before, parked across the street from my house, and I wondered what it was doing here, in this dark alleyway. What was Adeline dragging me into? Suddenly, a scrawny, inked up guy in wife beater and saggy pants came into the light and gave me a devilish grin. He went by Sammy. “You up for this, Newbie? Because now is your last chance to back out.”

I glanced over at Adeline before making my final decision. “Yeah, let’s do it.”

“Alright, come on around back then,” Sammy said, motioning us to follow him back, towards the tailgate. It was there that I saw a large, black duffle bag, awfully similar to the one I’d seen in that, hours before. Like a ton of bricks, it had finally hit me what was going on here. “Now, to insure that you’re cool.”

A much heavier-set man, who had been leaning against the side of the truck, smoking a joint, had walked in front of us and began to unzip it. My heart started to race with both anticipation and fear. My skin felt hot and my palms were now dripping with sweat. The man slowly stepped out of the way, revealing what had been inside the bag this entire time. Fruit gummies? I immediately thought. That’s it?

“Take two,” the big guy demanded, handing a couple to each member of our group. I found out his name was Carlos.

“What are they, exactly?” I asked, regretfully, knowing I’d probably get a snarky answer. Now, I know how Ma feels, talking to me.

“What do they look like?” Carlos smiled back at Sammy, who had now been sitting next to the duffle. “They’re gummy vitamins.”

“Your daily dose of THC,” Sammy laughed.

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