It had been exactly one week since Carla had seen Ridian. Exactly one week that her mind had been filled with the memory of a voice like hot cocoa on Christmas Eve and eyes like the calm within a storm. In spite of herself she had caught her own eyes wandering near the bleachers during chemistry only to be filled with a pang of disappointment when they were met with empty grass.
She now kept her head up when she walked through the halls in order to crane her neck better as she looked for the mop of dark chocolate brown hair that belonged to the boy who’d enraptured her thoughts. She wasn’t even curious about why he’d been outside that day and why’d he’d been staring at her, she was more curious about who he was.
Yes she knew that he was her best friends step brother but she wanted to know who he was before that, who he wanted to be. And for once in her life she wanted someone to know her as well. But time after time her heart stung as she was met with millions of familiar faces; not one of them the one she was looking for.
The street lamp light flickered casting an orange glow that danced across Carla’s face bathing one side in light and the other in shadow as she scurried down the sidewalk. It was Sunday night and she was returning home from her part time job at the animal shelter her Uncle ran, a job she’d had since the seventh grade and she’d stupidly refused a ride home.
Wanting to avoid the awkward silence and forced small talk that was sure to follow in the car ride, she had insisted she would be fine without one. So now she was quickly walking the ten blocks home. The heels of her combat boots clacked against the concrete with each hurried step she took; a loud disturbance to the quiet of the night.
Carla wasn’t particularly scared of the dark or the night. At the age of 17 she’d walked home alone at night countless times and had no problem with it. It was the thought of being alone with her own mind that scared her. With nothing to distract her the grim shadow that sometimes enveloped her brain in a haze of cold would have the perfect opportunity to pay a visit.
Quickly scrolling through her playlists on her iPod she selected one of her favorite songs, ‘Volcano’ by U2. She could never resist singing along to the music and it would be a welcome distraction from her thoughts. Bobbing her head to the beat Carla’s hair bobbed with her while her pace slowed to a more relaxed but still brisk stroll as she turned the corner onto her street.
She immediately walked straight into something rock solid but soft at the same time; a person. A very fit person. Mumbling quick apologies she tried to side step them without looking up at what must be an annoyed or angry face and make her escape but a certain voice stopped her.
Slowly Carla turned on her heel one hand lifting up to remove the earbuds still blasting U2 from her ears as she was met with a familiar set of stormy gray eyes. Frozen where she stood it was all Carla could do to force herself to breath as she locked eyes with Ridian. He was grinning at her facial expression, which she figured probably looked similar to a bug eyed baboon as she was wide eyed and flushing a beet red all the way to the roots of her hair. Eventually she regained composure and after turning off her iPod a thick silence she hadn’t known was there, surrounded them.
“Hey what’s up?” Carla asked while tucking some loose strands of hair behind her ear with a gloved hand. Suddenly the frigid fall air didn’t seem so cold anymore as her body was filled with intense heat under Ridian’s gaze. As she fidgeted with her coat cuffs he smiled warmly down at her, the smug smirk now replaced with a charming expression of open friendliness. It instantly made her relax and she stopped fidgeting, letting her hands come to a rest at her sides.
“What are you doing out here so late?” Ridian asked. He’d tucked his hands into the pockets of his black trench coat and hunched his shoulders which made him appear taller and older. His breath left a misty white fog in the air as if he’d just blown out the smoke of a cigarette.
“I’m heading home from work. What are you doing out here so late? I never even see you at school anymore.” Immediately Carla bit her lip and mentally face palmed herself for letting it be known that she’d been looking for him, and noticed his absence. Cursing over and over in her head she smiled at him. To her surprise it came naturally and easily, although it still didn’t quite reach her eyes.
At her little outburst Ridian had started to smirk again but when she smiled it faded away to an expression of intense longing and sadness. Carla didn’t understand it’s origin but quickly pushed her budding curiosity aside as he began talking again.
“Where do you work?” he asked curiously. Carla cocked her head slightly to the side.
“Avoiding my questions I see,” she responded an eyebrow raised in amusement. Then quickly after as if she’d just realized what she’d done she lowered her gaze and bowed her head as a small blush rose to her already fall kissed cheeks.
A deep throaty sound that reminded her of the changing seasons rang out into the night air and Carla looked up in surprise to see Ridian laughing at her. Before she could help herself she was laughing too because it was infectious. After they both caught their breath and wiped the tears from their eyes Ridian’s face took on a very serious expression.
“You want to do something crazy?” He asked. His voice matched his eyes, nervous, earnest and mischievous all at the same time. Carla checked her wrist watch.
“It’s midnight. What kind of crazy are we talking here?” Her tone was filled with delight, suspicion, and curiosity. She had school tomorrow and the one thing she prided herself on was excelling in her studies and her attendance. Her wrinkled brow cleared, her eyebrows rose in shock and she let out a gasp as Ridian suddenly grabbed her hand in his.
“Do you trust me?” He asked looking her dead in the eye, stormy gray on vibrant green.
Who are you? Aladdin? she thought with amusement.
Carla stared at him for a long time and if you asked her to do this day she wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what she was looking for, or if she even found it. All she knew was from that point on her life changed significantly and rapidly. Might as well finish the scene, she thought.
“Yes,” she slowly responded but before the last syllable could leave her lips Ridian had already begun pulling her in the opposite direction, away from her street, down the sidewalk and into the dimly lit night.
It was past seven in the morning when Carla slowly opened her front door, cringing at the loud creak the squeaky hinges made in the deafening silence that enveloped her home. The house was deserted. Letting out a sigh of relief, happy to be alone for once Carla hurried upstairs to her bathroom to get ready school. As the warm water washed away the sweat and dirt of the night she let her mind drift to the memories of the past seven hours. They were a blur.
When Ridian had asked if she wanted to do something crazy she had no idea just how serious he was. Without warning she somehow found herself sneaking into his dad’s cattle ranch and cow tipping livestock. At 17 years old she was cow tipping in San Diego, California. Before she could wrap her mind around that she was dancing her heart out at an all ages dance club on the edge of the city.
The DJ played everything from the Jackson 5 to Metallica to Stevie Wonder and Taylor Swift to Milky Chance and Eminem, and Carla and Ridian rocked out to it all. Lastly before she could catch her breath she was watching the sun rise over the ocean on the beach while drinking tomato juice from a cooler in a little shack hidden behind some trees on the outskirts of where the beach met forest.
If that wasn’t surreal enough, doing it all with a boy she had just met made it even crazier. Never one to do wild things Carla felt exhilarated, thirsty for adventure and excited for life. Emotions ran through her she hadn’t experienced since she was an innocent child. To top it all off, she couldn’t stop smiling.
Carla laughed at herself while she got dressed. Sliding into a pair of blue skinny’s and a black checkered shirt paired with a white tee she couldn’t help but think about how much she wanted more of whatever this was. Whatever was between her and Ridian she liked it and didn’t want it stop. She liked what it was doing to her. She muddled over these thoughts as she slipped on her combat boots and jacket. Right when she grabbed her messenger bag she heard the click of a key unlocking the door and froze in her steps.
Her mother was home.
Carla’s hands shook as she clutched her bag closer to her quaking body. Slowly she tried to sneak silently down the stairs to the ground floor with the hope for going out the back door. Her heart was pounding like a drum in her ears and her breath came in quick and short pants of panic. A bead of sweat dripped down her face as she approached her means of escape and a cold shiver ran down her spine.
Almost there, she thought with her hand on the door handle. Without warning a sharp blow was delivered to back of her head.
Immediately she crumpled and fell to the floor the sting of tears appearing in her eyes and the dull throb of a bruise forming at the base of her skull. Carla remained motionless. Experience had taught her well what to do in these situations.
“Where have you been?” A low and menacing voice sounded behind her. Gulping quickly Carla remained silent. “I asked you a question!” it boomed. A sharp blow to her side knocked the wind out of her lungs making her gasp and prompted her to answer.
“Out,” Carla wheezed as tears streamed down her face. “With a friend.” She clutched her side in pain and winced when she touched what felt like a bruised rib.
“And you don’t think you should call people?Huh?! What,” Kick.
“You?!” Shove. A different blow was delivered after each enunciated word to drive the point home. At the end of the sentence Carla was dry heaving from pain in the corner and spitting up blood which she wearily wiped from the corner of her mouth.
“I’m sorry mom,” she whispered. The whole time her eyes had been focused on the ground, tears steadily streaming out of them, never daring to lift and meet the glazed and drunken irises of her mother.
A hand grasped the her hair from the back of her head and yanked dragging her up on her knees and pulling her head back so her eyes looked at the ceiling. She cried out at the pain and automatically lifted her hands to where her hair was being pulled. They were instantly slapped away and she received a knee to her side right under her arm pit at the top of her ribs.
“You dare lift you hands to me?!” her mother shrieked.
“No mom I’m sorry I didn’t mean it!” she cried out as fresh tears ran down her cheeks. Her shoulders shook with pain as she spoke again.
“I didn’t mean it,” she whispered. Her mother glared at her in disgust and released her hair throwing her head at the door but Carla twisted in time so it just hit the side of her head, underneath her hair.
“I’m sorry,” she said again this time to the floor, her eyes wide in terror as her lower lip quivered. The tears had finally stopped.
“Get your worthless self to school. I can’t deal with this foolishness so early in the morning. I need to sleep,” was the reply she got. Carla nodded her head weakly and the sound of feet shuffling away and eventually up the stairs filled her ears. When the slam of a door closing rang throughout the house she let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding and slowly rose to her feet using the wall for support. She limped to the hallway bathroom to check her appearance.
From the outside she looked fine. Not a scratch could be seen and not a hair was out of place accept for a little mussing in the back. Since she never wore makeup there was no running mascara streaks down her cheeks and her eyes were only slightly puffy red but she could pass that off as the effect of an all-nighter.
It was only after lifting up her hair and her shirt did you see the patchwork of old and new, yellowing and blue black bruises that had formed and were starting to form on her skin. She had long scars from the times her mother had burned her with the fire poker and gashes from being thrown into the sharp edges of table.
Carla gave a small and pathetic smile as she thought, One of the bonuses of having an abusive mother who’s a nurse is that she know’s where to beat you so that others won’t notice and so that you’ll still live.
Opening the medicine cabinet she took out some healing patches for sore muscles and started placing them on the more new bruises. She placed some band aids on some of the cuts and scrapes she’d gained and checked the stitches on her side.
One time her mother had gotten a little too rough and had accidentally sliced her side open with a knife and she’d had to go to the hospital. They passed it off by saying Carla had been too careless when cooking but she still had to see a therapist for a whole week since the doctors suspected self harm. They stitches had thankfully not opened up again.
Once she was finished treating her wounds she pulled her tank top back down and fixed her shirt before arranging her hair so that it covered the small bruise near the nape of her neck. Glancing one last time in the mirror and fiddling with her outfit until she was satisfied with her appearance she turned off the light and exited the bathroom.
This time she walked to the front door seeing no need to go out the back. Her reason for doing it had already happened. Re shouldering her bag she opened the door after looking over her shoulder and up stairs once with sad eyes before heading out the door to school.