The girl with the black jacket clutched tightly to the metal frame of her bike, the brake wire digging into her fingers, as she descended down the train station stairs.
Her mind, swaying from the alcohol in her system, was doing its best to keep focused on the stairs, but there were so many distractions fresh in her mind that were keeping her from giving the descent down the stairs her full focus. She could feel the rug burn on her knees scabbing over, the scratches on her back throbbing, and the lingering effects his lips had left from the kisses down her stomach.
Why couldn’t she just let the impulses of her body run their course without taking action to satisfy her intense hunger? And this was her manager, too, although he told her not to call him that, since the “title was simply a formality.”
The stairs to go down to the platform seemed to stretch on forever, and as she reached the bottom, the memory of his husky voice saying those unrequited three words flashed across her mind like a shooting star. Her face remained expressionless, but her mind was swimming in despair. She wasn’t paying attention to the stairs anymore.
And of course, she missed the last step.
The weight of her bike, backpack, and athletic body all came crashing down onto her left foot in an attempt to catch herself. And with a limp, she continued, her head shaking back and forth, her face still nearly expressionless and unaltered by the fall, save an slight, embarrassed smile. She continued on.
At least the train car wasn’t crowded. The liquid blanket she had been sipping from the flask in her jacket pocket provided her with sufficient warmth, except for her hands, which were always cold.
Music was beating in her ears, and she stared ahead, doing her best to tune out the roar of the wheels racing down the underground track, and the roar of the memories from minutes ago inside the office. Within four songs, the train arrived at her station. She grabbed her bike, and began her journey toward the three steep hills to her home.
After riding steadily on the flat streets towards her home, she arrived at the bottom of the first three hills to her home. She managed to stay on her bike until the end of the first incline, but once the second, steeper hill approached, she dismounted her bike, unclipped her black helmet, and shook out her golden hair.
With a deep breath, and perspiration wetting her brows, she trudged forward, trying to ignore the pain at the top of her left foot from her fall moments earlier.
Approaching the bottom of the third, steepest hill, she noticed an SUV parked on the wrong side of the road, nose down the hill. The sweet smell of green she had learned to love filled her nose, and with a devious smile, and an inability to turn away from this opportunity, she turned to the two boys inside while climbing up the final hill. “What are you two boys up to?”
They inspected her, their eyes scanning up and down, and then from behind the car door, a rolled up, half smoked joint appeared. “Just chillin,” was the response of the one in the driver’s seat. He was smiling at her, and the smile made her feel as if she had some command over him.
With big eyes, and trying not to sound eager, she asked meekly, “Mind if I take a hit?”
He responded generously, “Sure, finish it.”
Thanking him, she pinched her fingers around the base of the roach, brought it up to her lips, still flushed red from the events of her night, and inhaled deeply. Through the smoke, she exhaled, “What are your names?”
“Name’s Luftee, but call me Luf.” the boy in the driver seat was quick to answer.
“Jack,” the second one piped up.
“Jack, Luf, nice to meet you. Thanks for this,” The girl in the black jacket held up the shrinking, smoking gift, then put it between her lips to suck in its magic once again.
Interesting, how something called a joint truly brings people together.
“What’s funny is,” she began, exhaling a second large bout of smoke, “the strain I ordered tonight was called Jack Frost, but the shitty delivery service didn’t follow through, so I had to cancel the order.” A lie to stir conversation.
Jack smiled at the sound of his name.
“Tell me about it,” Luf responded, “we’ve been waiting in here for an hour for our delivery service to show up,” she shook her head, and he continued, “but I bet Friday nights are pretty hectic, what with so many people looking to turn up.”
She laughed, then flipped her golden hair. “I guess you’re right,” she said, “Were you two boys looking to turn up?” She air quoted the last two words with her fingers.
There was a pause, and her words lingered in the cold air.
“Nah,” finally Jack broke the silence, “Luf here is my old friend. We’re just chillin’ tonight, catching up.”
“Wow, that’s special,” she replied authentically, trying her best to avoid sounding sarcastic. “How long have you two known each other?”
“Since we were in fifth grade. We grew up in this neighborhood together, but Luf went down south to Cal Poly, and I stayed up here. I go to the community college.”
“How old are you?” Luf interjected.
She laughs nervously at the question, “I go to State, I’ve been there for a couple years.” The rolled paper in her fingers started to burn her flesh. With a rapid motion, she took a final hit, then threw the gift onto the floor, stamping out any life remaining inside with her black boot. “What a deal, though. I thought I wasn’t going to get to smoke tonight, what with that shitty delivery service, then here I stumble upon two boys as generous as you. Thank you.”
The two boys smiled, “Of course, and we have plenty more,” Luf said, then fished deep into the caverns of his car to pull out a baggie, a quarter of the way filled with little green bulbs. He opened the baggie, and held it out for her; she looked at it confused, and went to grab it, but Luf pulled his hand away before she could grab hold.
“Smell it,” he instructed.
“Smells good, right? This is some dank shit.” Luf boasted.
In all honesty, it smelled like most strains she had come in contact with before, nothing especially potent or unique about it.
“Smells like dank shit,” she lied for a second time.
Luf smiled smugly, then zipped the baggie closed to put it back inside the chasm of his car, exchanging it for a pack of cigarettes. He lit the end of one he shook out, and sucked in audibly. With the exhale of smoke, he squinted his eyes at her, and paused for a moment.
“You know, the craziest shit happened to me the other day. What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t say, what happened the other day?”
“Well, I was filling up with gas the other day, just thinking to myself how expensive this shit must be, and maybe that’s what drew me into this whole mess, but as I was walking back to my pump after paying, a guy comes up to me, asking me if I want to buy a necklace.
“And I’m thinking, a necklace? Fuck that, I don’t got nobody to give a necklace to, much less the desire to buy anything from this guy. But he was persistent, this guy, so I listened as the numbers on the fuel pump kept climbing.
“He was telling me how his Ma makes all these necklaces, melts down the Gold from her old jewelry, and has her son, this guy, sell them because she’s too old or something to get people to buy them. All of this is bullshit, but that word Gold, that’s the word that stuck. I mean, I don’t know too much about the industry, but I know Gold’s an investment, and people drop hella cash for the stuff. So I kept listening.”
Gold was the last name of my manager, she thought, but her mind pushed that thought out quickly.
“He told me that for just a hundred bucks, I could have one of these necklaces, which to my estimate was probably worth at least ten times that. Were the necklaces hot? Is that why he was trying to get rid of them? I don’t know and I don’t care. That word, Gold, it sold me. So I pull out my wallet for the second time in ten minutes, the first being to pay for the gas, and fork over five twenties to this guy.
“’God Bless you,’ he tells me, and I slip the chain into my pocket, feeling its weight sink down my jacket. I’m no Gold expert, but I could tell this chain was at least fourteen karats.”
“That’s a lot,” she chimed in.
“Well, twenty-four karat is the highest, but I could feel the weight of this thing in my pocket, and I knew it was worth something good. So I hold onto it. I shake the guy’s hand, remove the pump from my car, and drive off, and I swear to God there was this smile on my face that just wouldn’t go away. I mean, I literally just struck Gold.
“So I get home, and start looking at Gold rates online, and damn, I felt like God had come down and blessed me.”
“How does this make you feel?” Her question addressed Jack’s reaction.
“First time I’m hearing about this shit,” Jack laughed through his words.
“But get this,” Luf was anxious to continue, “For something 14 karats, I could make, like, at least fifteen hundred, and damn I thought that this was my break. This is what would help start up that company I was telling you about, Jack. So the first day I was free, no work, no school, I drive thirty minutes to a Gold exchange to get an estimate.”
Then he paused for dramatic effect, and licked his lips, shaking his head back and forth, face nearly expressionless, save an embarrassed smile.
“Copper. This shit would have turned my neck green in less than a week.”
“Damn man, that sucks,” Jack sympathized.
“A similar thing happened to me-” Briony started to say, but was cut off.
“I know, right? So I’m out a hundred bucks, which really feels like thousands, and all I can do is just sit and wonder what I did to deserve this.”
“A few weeks ago, I thought I was going to make seventy thou-” she tried again without luck.
“And then I think, maybe this is karma. Maybe this is what I get for all the shitty decisions I’ve made. Or maybe it’s just because there’s no such thing as easy money. I threw that thing out so fast, I was so pissed. I’m still pissed, but I don’t know who to be angry at. Myself? The man who’s hand I shook? God? Damn, all for a necklace that would have turned my neck green.”
“I totally know what you mean-” a third failed attempt.
“So that’s when I decided to come back up here, to the neighborhood I grew up in, just to put shit in perspective.”
“Shit, dude,” was Jack’s input.
All at once, the girl with the black jacket opened her mouth to speak again, and Luf flicked his cigarette.
She shook her head at his inability to notice her, so she scoffed.
“Oh shit, sorry, did I get you?” Luf asked, genuinely concerned.
“No, you’re fine,” she tried not to sound rude.
“Want me to roll you another joint?” Luf asked.
She considered agreeing, but smiled and shook her head instead. She told them, “It was nice meeting you two,” hoping the abrupt goodbye left an impression, then they all said goodnight.
The girl with the golden hair continued up the third, steepest hill to her home, her left foot throbbing at this point, her knees pulsating, and her head in the clouds.