Chapter 1: Initiation
A brisk cool breeze filtered in through the open window, birds had already begun to rouse and chirp as they welcomed the rising dawn but Gracielle Watson could only be heard snoring loudly. It had only been a few years since Graci had fallen asleep, after having spent the better part of the night pouring of her anatomy books for the exam that was to take place on this very day, in four hours’ time to be exact. Elen, having risen to take a walk down to Dutch Brothers, had decided to be a dear of a bestie and picked up a huge Caramelizer coffee for each of them. Graci and Elen had been best friends since the tender age of ten, when Ellie’s mother had died of breast cancer, and Elen had moved to Dexter Lake with her grandparents. Both girls had been thrust into the school year with the loss of a parent, or in Elen’s case parents, but this commonality made it possible for an amazingly tight sisterly bond to flourish between them. So strongly that they both planned to go into nursing to help other kids maintain having parents. In fact, Elen and Graci were so inseparable that for many years during their high school season some classmates made up a terrible rumor regarding their sexualities. Now, the two were room-mating comfortably in a dormitory in Titan Tower, right smack in the center of a place totally unlike Dexter; Eugene, Oregon. It was close enough to home but just far enough from Elen’s meddling and devout Baptist grandparents and Graci’s constantly working logger father, allowing for both girls to continue to perform with their choir at Mount Olive Baptist Church and participate in the chamber choir competitions across the state. All in all, it was a great gig because Graci was with the one person she trusted most but Elen had obtained the one thing she had not: a boyfriend, and when Staff Sergeant Jonathan Reese Michaels sat his sights on Elen Martas, Graci came to the sobering realization that Elen wouldn’t always be around and would need to live her own life someday. That day was coming faster than Graci had bargained for and it prompted her to do something drastic and completely out of character, something that up until this point Elen had no clue about. She came rushing through the door with both Caramelizers in hand and bellowed at the top of her lungs, dark black locks bouncing with her walk as she jogged over to Graci’s bedside, “Wake up, Graci!!” she shrieked. Ellie immediately jumped up in her bed, waving her arms in the air as she brought one hand down to slap against her heart.
“Oh, my God, Elen!” Graci’s eyes widened as she looked up at her and realized what she was holding out in her right hand.
“Look what I got us!” Elen winked with a bright grin. Graci leaned forward and took the coffee drink and sat back exhaling loudly as she lifted her head to the ceiling.
“You scared the crap out of me. You’ve really got to stop doing that.” Graci said, drawing the straw up to her lips and inhaling a greedy gulp, “Oh, that is forgiveness in a cup though. Thank you.” She smiled to her as she patted the mattress. Elen took the signal as an offer and happily sat beside the heap of notebooks and textbooks, along with Graci’s laptop and smartphone, which so happened to light up to an opened app. As the screen lit up and drew Elen’s attention her lips widened to form a shocked o-expression as she realized what it was, “You signed up for Singe!” she exclaimed, as she leaned forward and gave Graci a light and playful push to the shoulder, “I thought you said those kinds of apps are for desperate idiots with no other alternative?” Elen smirked as she took a gulp of her own drink. Graci gave a light shrug and pointed at herself
“Guilty, as charged.” She said with a chuckle and a lift of her glass.
“Cheers to that!” Elen said, chuckling as the plastic cups clunked together, “So, have you found any good candidates yet?” She asked somewhat over-enthusiastically.
“Well, there was one guy not too far away. Looks like he lives in the City View area.” Graci admitted.
“Oh, and what does City View dude look like?” Elen asked curiously. It was a well-known fact that people from the City View area of Eugene typically were of the upper middle-class stature and traditionally belonged to families who had been influential to the city. This made Elen even more curious to find out about the single dude Graci had swiped and liked on Singe; a dating app where you could swipe from left to right and select and find people in your area to date or hook up with. Graci had often ridiculed people for downloading it and thought it to be a complete and utter waste of time or at least that is what she had been maintaining.
“He’s attractive. I guess his father’s a detective.” Graci said, it was becoming obvious to Elen that she didn’t want to discuss it much and she got the feeling Ellie was embarrassed by the discovery she had made.
“Oh, he’s attractive and his daddy’s a cop but what does he do?” Elen asked, pushing the issue. It wasn’t common for Graci to find anyone who even made the list of attractive let alone had the opportunity to actually intrigue her enough to admit she found someone remotely interesting enough to pay attention to for that long.
“He’s a rally racer. He competes at Dirtfish Rally in Washington.” Graci said.
“Wow, yeah he could definitely use a nurse for a girlfriend then!” Elen said, as her own eyes grew as large as sockets.
“I never said I was going to meet him.” Graci stated leaning her head back with a sigh. As if clued to do so, Elen quickly picked up Graci’s smartphone and swiped to the right to see who popped up next in the feed. Sure enough, it flickered right over to the last viewed and liked screen and Elen grinned as she looked upon the face of Mr. Attractive.
“Oh, so you’re not going to meet Mr. Raycen Bentley? Wow, what a name and what a face!” Elen began chuckling as she continued to swipe screens to absorb as much information about Raycen Bentley before Ellie stole the device right out of her hands. Sure enough, Ellie immediately lunged forward in attempt to grab the device but like a gazelle, Elen leapt up from the bed and continued to read the About Me on his profile out loud:
“Twenty-three years old, originally from Medford, Oregon. Born in Oregon; raised in Tacoma, Washington. I love to rally, I live for it. I live, breathe, and work for it. I’m looking for a partner to ride alongside me on this winding road we call life who has the flexibility to fly on her own and handle the curves I’ll be swinging. Raised by my single dad, a detective, relocated to Eugene at age 15 where dad took on new duties for the city. City View area resident. Open to meeting at local breweries or meeting up at the wine tastings, but we’re taking my ride or I’ll meet you with friends. Not interested in hook-ups, barflies, or mud crickets. Basically, no skanks, gold diggers, or tweaks. Any questions, HMU.” Upon reading the last acronym Elen busted into laughter, “H-M-U, hit me UP? Do people still say that even?” She asked, pacing over and around her own bed to put as much space between herself and Graci as possible. She chuckled once more when a picture of Raycen and his dad popped up in his photos, “His dad’s name is Rhett Concord Bentley. I think the fancy names run in the family.” Elen stated matter-of-factly.
“Ugh, give me my phone back, El, please?” Graci asked in frustration.
“So, when are we going to meet Raycen Bentley?” Elen asked, still holding the phone away from Ellie.
“We’re not going to meet anyone.” Graci stated, ripping her phone from Elen’s fingers.
“Oh, please. You signed up for Singe and now I am making you meet this guy.” Elen stated firmly.
“You were not ever supposed to know I signed up for Singe, Elen.” Graci said as she lowered herself to sit on the edge of her mattress.
“Psht, like you could ever keep anything a secret from me, Gracielle Liee Watson. I’ve known you for nearly twelve years.” Elen gave a sigh and took a swig off her coffee again, “Besides, he says he will meet you with friends for a wine tasting or at any of the breweries. Let’s invite him to Falling Sky when Jon comes to visit next week!” Elen exclaimed enthusiastically, her eyebrows rising in unison as her face emanated her excitement.
“I don’t know about that. Jon may want to go out with just you.” Graci replied.
“He will be here for two weeks, he can salvage one night on a double date. It won’t kill him. Besides, it’s best to meet someone from online in a public place and with friends. There are weirdos out there, you know.” Elen finished, adding emphasis on the word friends.
“I’m not completely idiotic, Elen. I know that. It’s kind of why I don’t really want to meet him. I mean, meeting people online; it’s still sketchy business.” Graci replied.
“Oh, gosh. Get over yourself. You want to meet this guy, so let’s make a damn plan. Jon will be here and I want to go out with you to the brewery anyway so let’s kill two birds with one stone!” Elen said. Gracielle groaned and took another greedy gulp of her coffee.
“I’m assuming you’ve already began that process since you still have my phone.” She retorted. Elen smiled an impish and coy sort of smile that gave away her intentions before her mouth ever indicated them. Ellie watched as Elen’s fingers tapped at the screen and she began to read out loud what she had written, “Hi there Racen, my name is Gracielle Watson. I came across your profile and I’d love to hang out sometime. Could you meet me and my friends at Falling Sky, if you have any free time this Saturday? Looking forward to hearing back from you – Graci.” She smiled enthusiastically as she looked back at Ellie’s face, “So, what do you think? Should I hit send?” Before Graci could answer Elen hit the button and began to giggle, “Too late, it’s a done deal now!” she announced as she tossed Graci’s phone back toward her lap. Graci reached for the device with a scowl.
“You made me sound entirely too desperate and that’s not the image I wanted to convey.” She groaned as she glanced down at the screen.
“Oh, relax. It will be fun. I bet he will message right back.” As if by some divine intervention, that was exactly what happened. A familiar dinging sound alerted Graci that she had a notification from Singe and from the sound of it, it was the message alert tone. Sure enough, as Graci glanced down at the screen a chat head popped up with a red flag over Raycen’s face. Graci bit into her lip nervously as she flicked her finger over the bubble image of Raycen’s face. Graci hesitated before she read his response aloud, “Hi Gracielle, that’s a pretty but long name. You got a shorter version? I’m not usually too keen about meeting people online but Singe looked like it might be fun. Falling Sky your ideal brewery? I happen to really love their clover mead, it’s a seasonal special though. I’d love to drink a couple with you. How about seven-ish Saturday? – Race.”
Elen’s face lit up instantly and though the words didn’t need to be said she blurted them out anyway, “I told you so! Seven o’clock this Saturday and you have a date! Woot-woot!” she lifted one arm up and flattened her palms as she pretended to raise the roof of their dormitory. Graci scoffed at her friend’s behavior and picked up a small pillow, and tossed it into her face.
“Okay, you win. Yes, I have a…” Graci trailed her words as if having the word pass her lips brought a sour flavor to her taste buds, “date.” She finished. Elen began to laugh as the pillow hit her shoulder and slid to the ground with a light thumping sound.