Sunday, March 06, 2005

Flame Out


t's been a few days, and I'm still under the weather, but here is the next (second to the last) installment. I hope it isn't too anti-climactic. I can't help think that... well, I'll let you decide. Click here to [re]-read the first four parts if you wanna...


his time, I was truly speechless. But before I could gather myself, she opened the door, got out and skipped up the concrete steps. The porch light immediately turned on and she waved at me. I waved back, and when the door opened and I knew she was safe at home, I left.

She kissed me. I squeezed the steering wheel firmly with both hands as I drove down First Street. She kissed me! My heart raced. I could feel it thumping at my temples, on my fingertips. How old was I? I had just turned seventeen, an age where many others have already experienced kissing, petting, geez, even sex. But not me. This was a brand new sensation.

When I got home, my parents friends had already left. Mom asked if I had a good time, and I told her it was "okay". I went to my bedroom, turned of the night and laid down on my bed, staring up at the dark ceiling.

Now what should I do? I can't keep this hidden. Who do I tell? Cary? Tomahawk? Nah, What would they say? I had betrayed Angel.

I was wary of being judged by my peers. What made it worse was that it seems like I was being so secretive about it. I had to open up, falsely believing that if was honest and up front about it, things would mellow out.

I'll tell Angel next week at school, I thought. But the right opportunity never arose. There were just too many other people around, too many eyes to judge me. Then on Thursday, Angel dropped by the confectionary.

It was nearing the winter solstice and by 5:00 in the afternoon the sky was already black. It had been a drizzling, miserable day in LA, even for December. But Angel walked in rather perkily asking me what I was going to do this weekend.

"Got any plans?" he asked.


"Well, I was gonna ask DKLA if she wanted to go out," he said as he straddled one of the stools at the counter.

"Actually, um, she's going to be sorta... busy this weekend," I sputtered, trying to express this as frankly and reasonably as possible.

Angel just laughed. "How would YOU know?"

"Well..." and I told him what happened the previous Saturday, except for that little detail of her kissing me. Angel kept looking down at the floor as I talked, spinning quarter circles on the stool.

"And that's what happened," I concluded, preparing for God knows what.

After a few moments, Angle looked up and laughed, "Hey, that's alright! Good for you! She's quite a catch, mind you." He stood to leave. "Be good to her," he said in an unexpectedly gay tone, as he turned and left.

I wasn't sure what I had just experienced. Was he really happy for me? Was I worried for nothing? I wasn't sure, but eventually I concluded that he was putting up a front. He really had a crush on DKLA and it couldn't have gone down that easily. I mean, no way, right? He'd have to be superhuman. Still, pretty sure that he was torn up inside and just too proud to admit it, Angel seemed pretty magnanimous about the whole thing.

That Saturday, I spent the afternoon at DKLA's house. It was just before Christmas and her brother had gone to Vegas while her parents were out shopping. The shades were drawn and we were alone. We cuddled on the sofa in front of the Christmas tree. The TV set was on when I arrived, but DKLA turned it off and turned on the radio. This particular winter, it seemed that every station played one song. Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones".

Me and Mrs. Jones
We got a thing goin' on
We both know that it's wrong
But it's much too strong
To let it go now

On the sofa, I had my arms around her shoulder as she rested her head against my chest. I breathed in the scent of her freshly washed hair and enjoyed the warmth she generated.

"Did you tell Angel about us?"

"Yeah. I mean, we are friends, sort of, and I couldn't not tell him, you know?"

"I guess," she replied rather lazily.

We gotta be extra careful
That we don't build our hopes up too high
Because she's got her own obligations
And so, and so, do I

"Do you still work with Billie?" she asked unexpectedly.

What an odd question, I thought. Here we are, spending a quiet afternoon alone and she brings up a name that has no place in our conversation, the name of a girl I still... used to have a crush on.

"Um, yeah, well, we used to work together for a month and she quit. I see her around sometimes but that's about it." You are such a fucking liar. Why? What's up?" I tried to sound so calm.

"Oh nothing. I go to school with her brother and he mentioned that she worked at the same confectionary as you."

"Oh, is that all?" I felt temporarily relieved.

"Why? Is there more?" she asked, almost seductively.

"Oh, no, no, no, " Shit, is this some kind of trick?

Well, it's time for us to be leaving
It hurts so much, it hurts so much inside
Now she'll go her way and I'll go mine
Tomorrow we'll meet
The same place, the same time

Suddenly, the phone rang. DKLA got up to answer it, as I contemplated what was going on. Why would she ask about Billie? Did she hear something? But what? And There actually is nothing between us, Billie made sure of that. My uneasiness grew as DKLA handed me the phone. "It's for you."

"Who the..." I took the phone cautiously as DKLA simply turned her back on me and walked to the kitchen. "Hello?" I said slowly as I stood up, no longer comfortable on the sofa

"O-man, is that you? We've been calling all over looking for you."

"How'd you know I was here?" It was a girl who worked weekends at the confectionary.

"I called Angel and he told me to try this number," she was almost screaming. "Anyway, Billie's had an attack of kidney stones and had to go to the hospital. And we're shorthanded. You have to come down right away."

"Is she alright?" I couldn't mask my concern. "Which hospital did they take her?"

"Nevermind that, we need you here at the shop, so come right away."

"But, but," but the line went dead.

I turned around to hang up the phone and DKLA was standing there with her hand extended to receive it.

"What was that all about?"

"Um, Billie, you know, the one you asked about? She's sick or something and I have to go to the shop right away. They're short-handed and I have to fill in. It's kind of an emergency."

"I thought you said she quit."

"No, I mean, yes, I said that, and she did, but K asked her to come back for the weekends during Christmas and New Years, that's all," I tried to explain tripping over my tongue.

"Which hospital is she at?"

"I didn't get the..." I stopped in mid-sentence and looked at DKLA as she stared right back at me with her arms crossed in front of her. Why did she ask that? Was she going to visit her? Of course not. Then, why ask? What fuck does she know that she's not telling me? But before I could sort out these various questions, she showed me the door.

"Well, I think you'd better go. Sounds like they're pretty busy at the shop." And she virtually shooed me out. I walked down the steps and turned around only to get a glimpse of her as she shut the door.

It was the last glimpse in 8 years. What had developed in a blink of an eye, disappeared just as quickly...

Next: Epilogue: What goes around comes around...

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