Chapter Two: Hurricane
“Class has been canceled for the rest of the week,” Ryan says ten minutes later, lowering the music he’d been blasting since we got in the truck.
“What? Why?” I look at him as he switches lanes.
“The hurricane, idiot.” Oh, right.
“Forgot. It’s been a long day.”
“It’s still small – hasn’t changed since Dad mentioned it at dinner.”
“Well, that’s not too bad. We can hunker down at home and binge Friends.” We pass by a gas station where the pumps are full and the line of cars waiting to get inside is on the road.
“A lot can change in a few days, Celine. We might have to leave.”
Peeking at his gas meter, I notice he has only half a tank. “You might want to pull in for some gas. The lines are only going to get longer.”
“You know, this isn’t my first hurricane.” Nonetheless, Ryan puts his indicator on when we near the next gas station.
“And your asshole friend, what about him? Surely, campus will be sending everyone home?”
“Mom said he can stay with us.” He shrugs like it’s simple. “And he has his own apartment, by the way.”
“Why can’t he just stay there then?”
“It’s his first hurricane. Mom said he shouldn’t be alone in case we lose power. Why do I have to explain everything to you? You aren’t a child anymore.”
“How could you do this to me?”
“What do you mean, do this to you? He’s my friend, Celine.”
“He’s an asshole, Ryan. And now you want him to stay in our house!”
“Exactly, Celine, our house, not yours. Stop being a bitch for once in your life and be nice. He has nowhere else to go! He has no family!” We’re at the pump now, and Mr. Asshole is pulling up next to us on his red bike with that goddamn green Mohawk helmet.
“What do you mean, no family?” I turn back to Ryan as he gets out the truck quickly, slamming the door to end the conversation.
I turn the music up as he fills the truck up while talking to Ace, the two leaning against the tailgate. Ace goes into the store a minute later and comes out holding two red gas cans. Ryan fills those, too and puts them in the back.
He gets in the cab, lowering the music with an eye roll. “You’re going to blow my speakers like that.” He puts the car in gear and pulls out of the gas station, Ace following closely behind.
“What did you mean by no family, Ryan?”
“I didn’t mean to say that. Don’t you dare say a word, Celine.” He throws me one last glare before turning up the music again.
“What’s the update on the storm?” I ask the next day, yawning after a long day of work with Dad, Ryan, and Asshole. I take a bite of the spaghetti with a loud slurp, and Mom shakes her head with a scowl.
“They’re estimating in a day or two, plenty of time, Hun. I’m waiting for the eleven P.M. advisory to decide if we’re staying or going to Georgia.” Ryan and Ace have stopped talking and are listening to our conversation.
“You think we’ll need to leave? It’s only a category three right now.” I ask looking at my parents. Mom is sitting next to Dad, and they share a look before turning to the three of us.
“They’re predicting it will become a category four by the time it hits the Bahamas. It might lessen before it hits us after making landfall, but that’s unlikely,” Dad says.
Oh. It’s bad.
I take a sip of my soda, processing the information. I glance in Asshole’s direction, finding he’s gone deathly pale.
“Don’t worry, man. You can come with us. We’ll put your bike in the garage, and we’ll go in my truck,” Ryan says, assuring Ace he won’t be left behind, but he still looks shaken.
Ace nods and eats the rest of his food and doesn’t say much the rest of the evening.
“Celine, can you go to the beach house today and check that everything has been brought inside? Oh, and see if we have any food and water. I remember leaving a couple cases of water in the pantry,” my mother tells me as I walk into the kitchen the next morning, still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
“Did you and Dad decide about leaving?” I ask, making myself a cup of coffee.
“No, not yet. The advisory hasn’t changed much. We’ll decide in an hour or so; you need to hurry.”
“Okay, I’ll be quick. I just have to shower and fill the Jeep with gas.”
“Oh, that reminds me, please fill up the extra bottles. I bought another two yesterday.” She smiles softly when I grimace and nod.
“Guess I’ll be at the gas station all day.” Mom laughs, shaking her head as Ryan stumbles into the kitchen with Asshole in tow, both looking like walking zombies.
After showering and going through my usual makeup routine, I’m in my car on my way to the gas station.
As expected, the line is onto the main road, so I take my place behind a red truck, the tailgate filled with empty gas bottles. People like this guy are the reason gas runs out so quickly during storm prep. Gray clouds fill the sky, and it starts to drizzle when there are only four cars ahead of me.
While filling up the tank, I see the eleven A.M. advisory has been released, and as my mom predicted, the storm is growing. It’s now a category four. Seconds later, my phone dings with confirmation from my mom that we’ll be going to Georgia tonight.
Mom wants to leave by six tonight, which means between driving and checking the beach house, I’ll have little time to pack.
I finish filling up the two gas bottles and quickly make my way back onto the main road where people are flying by in panicked chaos.
I make it to our beach house forty-five minutes later and park down the long drive. I see some of the outdoor furniture has been left outside and a few other small things haven’t been packed away into the two-car garage.
By the time I finish moving everything, sweat is dripping down my face. I see the sky is getting darker, and the water along the coast is getting choppy. I run around checking that every window is closed.
Rushing into the pantry, I find the water and a few nonperishable food items. I put them on the counter and start loading the Jeep just as it starts to pour outside. After locking up and running to avoid getting soaked, I start to creep out of the driveway.
I hear a thump and feel the Jeep start to pull to the right. “Oh god, no!” Jumping out into the pouring rain, I find I have a punctured tire.
My phone starts ringing in my pocket, and I answer, thanking god it’s my mother, then regretting it.
“Where are you?!” She’s already screaming.
“Still at the house, Mom! I got a puncture in my tire!”
“We’re getting ready to leave, Celine! What the fuck was taking you so long? Change the fucking tire and get home before we get trapped here!” I can hear her desperation through the phone.
“I don’t know how, Mom!” I cry out, feeling helpless. I can hear Ryan talking in the background, asking for the phone, and my mother is arguing with him.
“Celine, Ace is in the area. Do you want him to come help you?” Ryan asks.
“Not that asshole. I’d rather walk!”
“Celine, it’s either him or do it yourself!”
“You ass! Call him.”
“Whatever. Stop being a bitch.” Ryan hangs up, and I get back into the Jeep, putting the heater on. I’m shivering in my now soaked clothes.
My phone dings a minute later with a text from Ryan.
Ryan:Ace will be there in 10. Don’t be a bitch!
Mr. Asshole, in all his glory, shows up ten minutes later, on his bike in the pouring rain. He parks next to the Jeep and taps on the window. I open the door, pushing him in the process and knocking him to the side.
He rips his helmet off, an angry scowl covering his face. “I’m doing you a favor. You didn’t have to knock me off my feet.”
“You’re still standing, aren’t you?” Ace rolls his eyes and walks around to the back of the Jeep to get the spare.
“Are you just going to watch me?” he mocks while I stand there, makeup running into my eyes and burning them.
“I was planning on it,” I shoot back, smirking when he slips on the driveway, almost losing his balance.
“Get your ass over here and help before I leave.”
My phone starts ringing again. It’s my mom again. Shocker.
“Can’t talk, Mom!”
“We’re leaving, Celine!”
“What the fuck?”
“Watch your language, young lady!”
“You can’t leave me behind, Mom!”
“We aren’t leaving you behind. I just bought you and Ace plane tickets for eight P.M. at the West Palm Beach airport. We’re going to drive there. I have a bag for you, so don’t worry about going home. There’s been another update, and the storm will be here later tonight. It’s moving faster now. Hurry, baby! Text me when you leave the house.” She hangs up before I can utter another word.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” I kick the tire near me and instantly regret it when my toe starts to throb.
“What now?” Ace asks while looking in the trunk of the Jeep.
“My family is leaving without us to Georgia, and we have to catch a flight in two hours.”
“Aw, boo-hoo. What a terrible life you live.” His sarcasm is annoying. I turn away from him, trying to keep my anger at bay.
“Can you please hurry, Asshole.” Thankfully, the rain breaks, and we are left in the humidity.
“Trying to, honey bun. Where are the tools?” I turn back to him, seeing he’s taken everything out of the trunk.
“What do you mean, tools?”
“Well, shit.” He runs his hands through his wet, black locks, his blue eyes fixed on mine.
“Are there tools in the garage?”
I shake my head. “Nothing.”
“We can go to the airport on my bike.” I start shaking my head before he finishes that sentence.
“No, no, hell no.” He doesn’t know, I remind myself. He can’t know. He doesn’t need to know.
“Calm down, it’s not that bad. I can get us there in thirty minutes.” I’m not ready to get back on a bike. I’m not ready to have that fear again.
“It’s okay. I’ll just Uber and meet you there.” He looks relieved. Asshole.
“Let’s put the Jeep into the garage.” The sky rumbles in agreement, and I nod, helping him put the wheel back and then hopping into the driver’s seat, slowly moving the car back up the driveway of the house.
We have to make room for the Jeep in the garage, and by the time we’re done, it’s six P.M. It’s raining again, and the wind is picking up. I turn to him, taking every ounce of my will to be kind.
“Thank you for trying to help me.” He looks at me differently, like he’s shocked. Fortunately for him, I’m just as shocked.
“Anytime.” He coughs, uncomfortable.
I’m scrolling through my phone, now looking for the Uber app, when a bolt lights up the sky, making me jump. Sensing the urgency, I quickly find the app, but after putting in my request, I get denied.
He’s still standing there, watching me. “Everything okay?” He’s shifting from leg to leg now, uneasy.
“The app isn’t working. I’ll just call for a taxi. You can go. So long. Don’t worry about me.”
“I’m not worried about you. I don’t want to ride in this weather.” He crosses his arms over his chest, and I nod my head, rolling my eyes.
I dial the taxi service but get an automated message: Hurricane Dorian is here. We are currently out of service. Please call back once the storm has cleared.
“No!” I throw my phone to the floor and pace.
“Closed?” His question grates on my last nerve.
“Yes, it’s fucking closed because the hurricane is here, and I’m trapped here with you!” And then my phone dings. I bend down and read the glowing screen.
A text from my mother: Flight’s been canceled.
My phone dings again. We’re stuck in traffic.
Ace is looking at me and then to my phone still laying on the floor.
It dings again. They won’t let us come back.
His phone rings then. “What’s up, man?” His eyes shoot to mine, and he’s nodding his head, saying nothing. “Yes, nothing will happen to her. We’ll stay here tonight and leave in the morning.” He hangs up and places the phone in his pocket.
“No,” I whisper when he opens his mouth.
“I hope you have booze inside. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long night.”
“We can’t stay here!” I’m pulling at my hair, screaming.
“We can’t go on the roads. It’s too late. This is the safest place for us.” I’m shaking my head again, and he grabs my hands. “Calm down. I promised Ryan you would be okay. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“We’re going to die here.”
“We’ll die on the roads if we try to go out there now. Every single person out there is panicking, and I’m not willing to put both of our lives in danger. Especially mine. Here is one hundred percent safer than out there. Your family is driving to Georgia; they’ll be safe. We’ll stay here until we can move somewhere better, but I promise you, I’ll keep you safe.”
His hands are on my arms, holding me in place. Water drips into his eyes from his hair. He stares into my eyes, and I hate to admit that I feel safe with the asshole, but only because I know Ryan wouldn’t leave me here with someone he didn’t trust.
“Okay,” I sigh in defeat. He’s right, but I have no intentions of telling him so.
“What kind of condition is the house in?” He lets go of my arms and runs one hand through his wet locks, pushing them out of his eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“Is there food, water?” he elaborates, and I nod, watching the rain fall harder. His bike is still outside.
“You might want to bring your bike in before it gets taken away with the rain.”
“Shit, I forgot!” His face drops, and he runs.
I wait for him to roll his bike into safety. Squinting through the heavy rain, I can barely make him out until he’s right in front of me. He’s properly soaked now, water dripping from him everywhere. He must be so cold.
“I’m sorry.” I look down at my dirty, wet Converse, unable to look into his eyes.
“Don’t worry; she’s been through worse.” He laughs, taking his jacket off.
He reminds me so much of Aidan and the way he was with his bike before the accident. And yet, he’s the complete opposite of him. Ace is kinder than my Aidan ever was, and he didn’t pressure me to get on his bike. He isn’t self-absorbed.
“I’m sure we have some towels inside you can use to wipe her down.” He smiles at me, a genuine smile, and I feel a little lighter.
“Thanks, that would be great. When was the last time you guys used this place?” He follows me into the house, closing the garage door on our way in.
“Probably a month ago. We usually leave some water here, and some canned food. Worst case, there’s some goods in the freezer. I just hope we don’t lose power. There isn’t a generator here.”
“I’ve been watching the news and there’s a big possibility that the storm might miss us here, so a generator might not even be necessary. I’m more concerned about flooding, but shit, that view is spectacular.” He’s looking out the big windows in the lounge, where the view is out of this world. It’s the main reason my parents bought this house two years ago, and we came here often for weekend getaways.
“It better not flood. I can’t lose my Jeep – I just finished paying her off.” He looks at me with amusement and shock in his eyes.
“You paid for the Jeep? No help from your parents?” Of course, he would think that; everyone did, but my parents were firm believers in making us pay our own way as much as possible.
“No, I bought her crashed. I paid my dad’s workshop to fix her up and then slowly started adding the upgrades. It’s been a long journey, but every penny was worth it. I can sell her now for a pretty penny and buy something newer, something faster. I’ve been thinking about a BMW.”
“If you weren’t such a pain in the ass, I would say you were perfect for me.” He laughs, using the kitchen dish towel to dry his hair and face. My cheeks warmed instantly, surprised at his comment.
“Too bad I’m not interested, Asshole.” He laughs even louder this time.
“Calm down; I’m not looking for a relationship.” I leave him in the kitchen to find a towel for his bike. I can hear him rummaging through the kitchen, opening doors and drawers, making loud noise.
I find the linen cupboard with an abundance of towels and grab two for him. When I come back into the kitchen, he’s peering into the fridge.
“See anything good?” He jumps in surprise.
“Some pizza, bread, and ice cream. Sounds like the essentials to me.” It’s my turn to laugh.
“I hope we have peanut butter and jam for the bread. Here’s two towels – one for you and one for your girlfriend.” He rolls eyes but mutters a quiet thank you before heading back to the garage. “I’ll be upstairs if you need anything,” I holler before the garage door slams behind him.
This house may appear big, but in reality, it’s not quite as big as it looks. For starters, there’s only three bedrooms upstairs – a master for my parents, and a Jack and Jill set-up for Ryan and me. Sharing a bathroom with my messy brother had to be the worst part about this house, but we’d done it for almost my whole life.
Finding an old pair of sweats and a shirt from high school, I couldn’t be happier to have a hot shower. Peeling my wet clothes off was a relief in its own, but I hadn’t realized just how cold I was until I got into the steaming hot water.
Ten minutes later, I’m dressed in my old, worn-out clothes with my wet hair piled on top of my head in a sloppy bun. I muffle a scream when I open my bedroom door to see Ace standing there, fist in midair.
“Hey, sorry to scare you, but can I have a shower, too?”
“Shit, yeah, of course. Ryan should have some clothes in his room, and I can wash our clothes from today and start making one of those pizzas.” He smiles.
“Thanks, Celine. I’m starving.” He walks into Ryan’s room and closes the door behind him.
The rain hadn’t stopped since I’d been in the shower. Instead, it had gotten worse. Looking through the window, I could see the ocean waves crashing angrily against the shore. A chill went up my spine at the thought of those waves crashing through my home.
Shaking the thought away, I head for the kitchen and set the oven to four-fifty. By the time the oven had reached the right temperature and I’d gotten the pizza on a tray, Ace was bounding down the stairs.
“While you were showering, I found some Cokes and rum. You up for a drink?” Ace asks as he points toward the dining room table where a bottle of Captain Morgan and two glasses sit. I haven’t had a drink since the night of the accident, and tonight seems like the best night to have one. I need to stop worrying.
“I’d love one. Don’t forget some ice. There’s a cup in the cupboard next to the fridge.” He nods, a small smile touching his lips.
“Is this your dad’s? Will he mind if we drink it all?” He’s handing me a glass now, and I bring it to my lips. I forgot how much I loved the smell of my favorite rum. Taking a sip, the cold liquid runs down my throat, warming me from the inside out.
“No, it’s mine.” I look into his blue eyes, seeing the shock. The timer for the pizza goes off, and he looks away.
“Pass me the oven mitts,” he orders. Placing the pepperoni pizza on the counter, I hand him the pizza cutter, and he transfers the pizza to a wood board, cutting it into eight pieces for us to share.
“I’m not sure how hungry you are, but I only need three slices.”
“Fine by me,” he says. “I’ll have the rest. I wouldn’t want to lose any weight during this storm.” He’s smiling, and it touches his eyes, making him look younger and nicer.
“Please, losing some weight would do you some good. You are a little on the big side.” His eyes grow big again, amusement flickering in them.
“I’ll have you know I’m pure muscle, sweetheart,” he laughs, digging into his pizza.
“Don’t worry, you can get back to working out in a few days when the hurricane is over.” I don’t receive an answer, and we sit in silence, eating quietly.
“Another drink, Celine?” He lifts his empty glass, raising an eyebrow. I nod, giving him mine. I put our dishes into the dishwasher, quickly wiping the counters, then wait for him in the lounge.
My phone rings as he sits beside me on the leather couch, immediately flicking the TV on.
“Hey, Mom, did you guys make it out of Florida yet?”
“Hello, my love. No, we still have another three hours until we reach the state line, and then another four until we reach the Airbnb.” I can hear Ryan snoring in the car and my father’s obnoxious music blaring through the speakers. I wish I were with them.
“Dad and Ryan can take turns driving, and you can stop for dinner and a little rest. I miss you guys already.” I hear my dad agree to some food, which wakes Ryan, who starts to moan and groan.
“Have you and Ace eaten? Was there any food and water in the house? I can’t remember what I left when we were last there.”
“Yes, we’ve eaten, and there’s enough food for two or three days. Hopefully, the storm is over before we run out of food.”
“That’s good, Honey. I’m worried about you two being there by yourselves. How does the water look? Has it risen?” I hear my dad shouting questions at my mom, and Ryan butts in as well.
“The rain hasn’t stopped since we got here, so it’s risen, but the waves haven’t touched the wall yet. Any more questions, Mom?”
“Dad wants to know if you checked about sandbags. There might be risk of flooding sometime tomorrow. He says he left a stack of them in the garage in case of an emergency. Oh, Hun, can we stop at Outback for dinner? I just saw a sign.” She asks my father.
“I’ll look into those sandbags. Get something to eat and call me when you get back on the road. I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, my darling.” The line drops, and I see that Ace has found a movie for us to watch.
“You must be joking. The Game Plan?”
“What do you have against the Rock? Are his muscles too big for you, princess?” Rolling my eyes, I get up to check the sandbags like I’d been instructed. “I didn’t mean to upset you; please come back.”
“Please. As if you could actually upset me, Asshole. I’m checking the sandbags you have to put out tomorrow morning.”
“Shouldn’t I do them tonight?” He pauses the TV and looks at me.
Shaking my head, I sit beside him again, bringing the drink to my lips again and downing half of it. “You have to actually see what you’re doing.”
“You do know that’s not my name, right? I know they both start with an A.” He resumes the movie, and I choose to leave his question unanswered. I like the nickname I’d given him. I find it rather suits him.
We watch the movie without conversation. Halfway through, I receive another phone call from my mother, who claims they’re going to drive for two more hours, then call it a night at the first hotel they see. I can hear how tired and worried she is.
Ace fell asleep toward the end of the movie, so it’s now my turn to pick something to watch. Settling on old Friends reruns, I grab a blanket from the chest in the corner of the room and curl up on the other side of the couch.
An hour later, Ace stirs, mumbling something about needing the bathroom as he stumbles up the stairs. He comes back, grabs our empty cups, and fills them again, then plops down on the couch, closer to me this time.
His eyes are red, and his hair is sticking up in the back. For once, he doesn’t look like a total asshole, at least until he opens his mouth.
“I’ve never cared for this show. There’s no point to it really. It’s not like Arrow or Game of Thrones, where the order of episodes actually matters.”
“That’s the whole point, Asshole. It’s a twenty-minute episode filled with humor.”
“Whatever. How long was I sleeping?” He sips his drink and chokes, laughing at Ross screaming about being on a break—quite possibly the most famous line of all time.
“I think an hour. I wasn’t really paying attention. You did miss the ending of the last movie.”
“I’ve seen that movie at least a dozen times. It was my favorite growing up.”
“Be quiet; you’re ruining my favorite show.” He rolls his eyes and sips slowly at his drink. Our laughter is interrupted by my phone ringing, and he grabs it before I have a chance.
“Celine’s phone. She’s currently too busy being a bitch to answer.” He snorts loudly, and I can’t help the giggle that escapes me. His face drops, and he stops laughing, getting up from the couch to go stand in the kitchen. He finishes the rest of his drink in one gulp.
“I’ll keep her safe, Ryan, and I won’t go near her either. You have nothing to worry about. She’s not my type anyway.” It’s my turn to finish my drink. Walking into the kitchen, I put my hand out for my phone. Ace looks at me, guilt flashing in his blue eyes before he passes me the phone.
“Goodnight, Ryan. Tell Mom and Dad I love them.” I hang up, handing Ace my empty glass and heading upstairs.
“Going to bed, Celine?” he calls through the empty house.
“Not that you would care, but yes, I am.”
“Goodnight, Celine.” He’s at the bottom of the stairs now.