Scrambled and Cracked Open
Like any rational adult who sees someone who'd ghosted them after a one-night stand, I freeze and feel my muscles tighten up. Ready to run.
"Masie?" Honestly Darian sounds more surprised than I feel. I still can’t move. He looks like he’s lost for words, shifting the box in his arms, then finally says, “Your hair is different.”
I’d almost forgotten about the pink streak of hair at the front of my head. It hadn’t returned to its regular blonde after a wash–I know I’d thought it was temporary dye that night I’d been drunk, but clearly it’s not. I’m immediately conscious of my physical state. I’ve recently gotten off a plane, which always leaves me kind of dirty-feeling, I’m wearing a matching gray set from Lululemon, which is both basic and drab, and my hair is in a braid that’s probably pretty messy, not that I’ve had time to check. I know he’s seen, well, all of me already, but still. This is not what I’d pictured when I’d imagined seeing him again.
The only person in the room who isn't shocked is Mariana, who comes out from behind her desk. “Darian?”
Darian comes back into the inn’s lobby, despite the fact that a moment ago he’d clearly been heading out. Before he has a chance to do anything like, say, set down the box he’s holding, my hand snaps out and grabs my suitcase, and I practically fly up the inn's stairs, accidentally banging my knee on the wall on the way up. I crash into the Violet room and shut the door, turning the lock for good measure.
There’s no way this is a coincidence.
I slide to the floor, my back against the door, because that's what dramatic people do after slamming a door shut. I pull out my phone. Bram picks up on the first ring. “Masie--god, are you ok? Your mom said you’re not at home, no one has seen you, we--”
“Did you know?” He sounds so sincere, but this feels like an elaborate prank. My eyes are squeezed shut. I can only see the blacks of my eyelids and echoes of color.
“About what? Masie, are you drunk right now?” He has so little faith in me.
I want to be angry--I am angry, but I feel like a blackhole. I can’t talk too loud, it all just gets swallowed back up. “No, Bram. Why is Darian here?” I’m so pitiful; I sound like a child.
There’s hesitation. Rustling. I picture Bram in his office, hair all perfect, standing up and taking a lap around his room. “You're actually in Windthrow Point?” He says the words slowly, like he doesn’t believe they’re coming out of his mouth.
I grab a fistful of my own hair, still in a fetal position, suddenly breathing hard. I’m in Windthrow Point. I’m in a small town I don’t know for no fucking reason at all. I’m a fool. Darian is here. And Mom was right, I can’t do this.
Bram’s repeating himself, asking where I am. “Yes!” I dig my fingers into my scalp. I’m out of the blackhole, clawing and loud. “Yes, and why did you send me here? It’s all a funny little joke to you? Huh? You knew Darian would be here, didn’t you?” When Bram doesn’t immediately answer, I shout, “Didn’t you?!”
“Yes!” he says back at me, barely raising his own voice, sounding defensive. “Yes, ok? I’m sorry, I didn’t--I would have told you, but I didn’t think you were going. And you ran out on me when I gave you the ticket.” I breathe into the phone, not sure whether I want to yell at him more. Not sure if it will make me feel any better. Bram continues, “It’s a nice town, Darian talks about it all the time. I thought you’d like it, what with the river and all. I thought… I was going to tell you that maybe you two could talk or--”
“It was never about me having a vacation.” My voice is flat. Usually that’s his thing.
I can feel Bram’s frustration. “No, that’s not true. I wanted you to get out of California for a while, and I thought--”
“You thought I’d like to see a guy that I royally messed things up with? Yeah, that’s a stroke of genius.” I barely sound like myself. My nails are still in my scalp. I think it hurts. “Fuck you,” I tell Bram. And I hang up.
I don’t know what to do next. I can’t think rationally, I can barely even breathe. Like I’m underwater and I don’t know which way is up. I count the seconds and push my fists against my eyes. At some point I can breathe again.
I know what I need to do next. Darian is, presumably, still downstairs. And I can't reasonably escape this room without going down there, though escaping through the window does sound tempting. I stand and riffle through my suitcase, and pull out a gold patterned bandana-style top and jean shorts. Simple. Beachy. I throw them on, then yank out my braid and restyle my hair into a slicked-back high ponytail. Intentional. Sexy. I wish I didn’t have the pink streak in my hair, but I’ve got to work with it. I grab my phone, which I’d left on the ground, apply mascara, and collect myself. Then, I step out of my room.
This time when I come downstairs, Mariana and Darian are talking lowly to each other, both standing in the center of the room. The conversation dies when I step off the last step. I glance at Mariana first, who looks a little concerned, and Darian next. He looks a little on edge, and his eyes skirt away from mine.
I smile pleasantly at both of them. “Oh, hi Darian. Lovely to see you again.” He does look lovely, in fact, with his wide nose and warm eyes and simple t-shirt and perfectly-fitting jacket.
He looks back at me, a crease now between his brows. “I–”
I’ve moved on to Mariana. “And thank you for the room, it’s perfect. I’ll see you again in the evening, presumably?” I’m already heading for the door, giving a charming smile and wave to both of them. Mariana looks at Darian, and Darian looks at me. And I walk out, nearly tripping on the box of books Darian now has sitting just outside the inn, and walk with very long strides in a direction I’m calling ‘away’.
The surrounding buildings are all businesses, and there’s no one around, at least not visibly. I check my phone, swipe away a missed call from Bram, and note that the time is 2:38 PM. There’s a lot of day left.
I wander down the street, focusing on the fact that all the buildings look different, like they weren’t even all added in the same time period. I'm only a few buildings down when I feel something whiz past my ear and then crack in the ground. I'm looking down at the broken egg, slowly oozing onto the sidewalk next to my Jimmy Choo sandals, when something hits me. A cold, wet feeling spreads from the back of my skull down to behind my left ear.
My head snaps up--up to the second story window of the closest building, where I can see a head of red hair disappearing back inside. I touch the back of my head slowly and look down at my fingers, smeared with egg. I feel a heaviness in the back of my throat, and I can't believe my body's first response to being pelted with a raw egg is to cry. This is disgusting. Fuck this town.
A heat building in my skull, I clench my fists and storm into the building, throwing open the door with enough force that the entry bell makes a cracking noise instead of a ding. "Who the fuck threw a fucking egg--" I start loudly, then suddenly stop.
There are three people staring at me, all wide-eyed. An elderly lady with curly hair, sitting at a table with a half-eaten sandwich, a middle-aged balding man standing at the counter holding a coffee, and a girl in an apron behind the counter, probably college age. This is a café, and I’ve just barged in covered in egg.
I’m saved from trying to come up with something else to say because a door behind the counter opens and a figure runs by me in a flash of red hair, a teenage boy if I saw him right. All the people in the café, me included, turn to watch him run full-force down the street. A crash turns everyone’s attention back to the behind-the-counter door, as yet another person arrives to the scene.
The door flings open, and a man flies out, an apron tied around his waist and his black hair in an aesthetic mess where it falls in waves around his temples. He skirts around the edge of the counter and then skids to a stop in the center of the café, eyes fixed out the front windows. His skin is tanned, his eyes are dark and squinted in frustration, and the muscles in his arms are clearly visible as he flexes his hands. “Goddamn that kid…” he says lowly, but all of us can hear. Everyone is silent.
The man holding a coffee clears his throat and mutters, “I’ll get him,” and then slinks past the tan apron man and out of the café.
“Walker?” hedges the girl behind the counter, clearly addressed to the man still standing in the middle of the room.
The man, Walker, purses his lips but turns. “Sorry, Mrs. Fairfield,” he grunts to the old lady, and she just shakes her head. Then his dark eyes turn to me, his expression still one of pure irritation. I watch his lips part as he takes me in, and then he sighs. “Well. Looks like the kid’s aim isn’t too bad.”