So I'd just like to start by saying I WILL be continuing HOME. I promise. This story just crept up on me and demanded to be written. I honestly couldn't stop thinking about it until I typed it up at 4 am. I'd also like to thank my new editor, Nehkara, for being super awesome and helping me out.I'm forever grateful.
As always, constructive feedback is welcome.
When I was 7 years old, I took my first swim class. My dad hadn't thought I'd ever really need a class up until then, seeing as how we lived in a land-locked state. No very good logic if you ask me, but I was 7 and way too excited to give a hoot. Don't ask me what prompted him to wake me up that summer Saturday and take me to the local rec center. He just did. And I was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Most, if not all of my friends could swim by then. My lacking in that area was one of many shortcomings I overcame as a kid. But then again, everyone goes through that sort of sad shit, right? Anyway, when we got to the indoor pool, everything sort of hit me at once. The smell of chlorine water, the whooping sounds of other children at play, the bodies swiftly bouncing about in the crystalline blue water. My head was moving back and forth, trying to take it all in at once. I looked over my shoulder and saw my father strolling in behind me, his dark shades still on indoors, his beer keg belly bulging out in front of him. His presence alone was enough of an okay for me to go sprinting into the crowd. And I did. I did a quick scan of the water and saw an area that was oddly scarce , compared to the other places where the kids were warming up. And because I was such a bad ass little rebel, I choose that area to make my grand entrance into swim class. I gathered all my wits about me and went bounding in, feet first into the deep end.
Those first few moments in the water were the best of my life. The cool crisp water engulfed me, sucking me into a new world, a different world, full of joys and wonders. It was overwhelming and exhilarating and fantastic all at once. I opened my eyes to slits and saw the distorted image of the world I'd left behind. It was nothing more than a glassy mirage to me then. Something traded in for something else, a better else. I opened my mouth to express my utter joy at that moment and all at once, my new watery wonderland changed into terrifying tundra.
The lack of air was so startling then. Like I'd assumed that the air, the comfort for which I survived on, would follow me into the water. That no matter what, I'd have the air to fall back on. But now, thrashing in the pool, I had nothing but my terror. My arms and legs fought the water hell, trying to push it away and escape back to the world I'd abandoned. But it was like the water was refusing to let me go. Like I'd made the choice to enter this new and uncharted place and there was no turning back, no way to escape. I would drown that day. For being a stupid cocky child, I would die. I would be joining my mother, which I would have loved back then, but while in the water that peace hadn't occurred to me. Nothing really occurred to me except fear. A deep rooted and paralyzing fear.
A lifeguard did eventually fished me out and I did have to face my father's fists for humiliating him in public with my first, but not last, near-death experience. The whole thing probably only lasted a few seconds, but those few seconds were etched into me that afternoon, as many such experiences are in children.
You'll never forget your first kiss and the first time you're face to face with death. Although, people don't really talk about the latter.
That swim, my first swim, feels now like God's way of foreshadowing the sweet hell I'd be facing in my adulthood. It was a warning. Like, "Hey, prepare yourself bud. Cuz' you ain't seen nothin' yet."
God was right. I had only a taste of what was to come.
It all crashed in on me when I met Avery Carter.
As I sit here now, with blood slowly making its way out of my body, I can't help but feel like I should have seen this coming.
Scratch that. A blind man would have seen this coming.
And what's my excuse for allowing myself to be in a situation where I've been shot, there's a warrant out for my arrest, and there are mob members after me?
A pretty fucking girl.
Ain't that some shit.
I know my dad is rolling around in his grave right now, cursing that he'd ever had such a pathetic dumb ass for a son. I honestly can't blame him. She had beautiful eyes, so I ignored what I saw. She had a cute smile, so I quelled my suspicions. She had a great pair of tits, so I pretended not to notice certain things. Jesus, when had I become so pussy whipped?! It was a rhetorical question, of course, because I was whipped from the moment I met her. I will, for the rest of my life, (which may only be a few more minutes, it would seem) forever curse that night.
I try to sit up, but the pain too god damn stifling. Fuck. This is bad. This is really fuckin' bad. What's even more paralyzing than the pain, is the sound of running footsteps. They are getting closer and louder. There are lots of them, coming from above and below. I didn't know which were which, the cops or the mob guys, and it really didn't matter. They both wanted me and they both would spell my death if they got me. And then there was the guy I'd shot staring at me from the other side of the room. His eyes were dead, most definitely, and yet were laughing at me at the same time.
"You've done it now, you stupid little shit," they seemed to say, in their cold dead laughing way, "You fucked with the wrong people. You killed the wrong fuckin' guy, and now you're gonna join me in hell you son of a bitch."
I closed my eyes and began to heave in breaths, trying like hell to slow down my heart so it'd be easier to think. I was tempted to put my hands over my ears to block out the dead man's words, but I remembered then that he wasn't really speaking.
It was in my head. All of it.
It's funny how madness seems to set in so quickly after a horrible incident. Perhaps I was always a madman and never truly realized my potential until I'd gotten involved with Avery. I sure as hell had been acting like my mind train had derailed, but it took looking into the face of the man I'd killed to make that one hundred percent clear to me. But none of it was going to help me out now.
C'mon Parker. You gotta think. THINK dammit! You've gotta get outta here. You can't go up and you can't go down. Where can you go?
The fire escape.
This was a bad idea. Neither side was lacking in man power. There could be guys out there on the escape now, trying to get in. I opened my eyes and tried to stand. The pain shot through me again and I had to suppress a yelp. I grabbed the backpack and slowly walked over to the window. Miracle of all miracles, there was no one making their way up it. I heard a crash from overhead. Panic threatened to swallow up my mind again, but I kept it at bay. I needed to stay calm and sharp if I was going to get out of this alive.
I slung the backpack over my shoulders and propped open the window. It took a lot out of me, but the hoots of the approaching men scared me out of any creeping exhaustion. I gave one more glance to my dead compadre slumped over in the corner. His eyes were speaking again, but they didn't say too much. Just one more sentence that I'd probably hear in my sleep for a while (assuming I'd be waking up afterwards).
"I'll be seeing you again," his eyes said. They were probably right.
"Hurry up boys! That twiggy faggot is on the 6th floor!" I heard some macho son of a bitch holler from below. It was hard to hear, but the fact that I could make it out at all was a bad sign of their closeness.
"7th floor, you bastard," I mumbled before crawling out of the window and onto the fire escape platform. I kept myself crouched and looked down below. No one had parked in this alley, oddly enough. I felt myself frown and made a mental note of it. Why wouldn't anyone park back here for cover? I had to assume both the cops and robbers were parked in the street then. So openly? Fuck it, I could think on this later. I gingerly, but quickly, began descending. I kept my head down and made sure to peer in before passing each window, lest someone catch me making my escape. I'd reach the 4th floor when a gunshot rang out above my head. I was so shocked I almost let go of the ladder.
Uh oh. This was REALLY bad.
The cops had probably finally met up with the mobsters and with me nowhere in sight, all hell was about to break lose. I was frantic now, practically jumping down, my feet almost skidding on the rungs. More gunshots rang out above me. I didn't even think when I pushed forward with my hands and the soles of my feet and sent myself flying off the ladder and down to the ground. It was a stupid move because I whacked the back of my head on some unseen metal and went crashing to the ground in a heap.
If pain had a color, it would be white. A blinding white, so bright it bursts in your eyes and you can't see anything else for that one moment. It hurt so bad I began to retch and gag right then, all too happy that it'd been awhile since my last full meal. However, I didn't have time to assess the damage. All hell had broken free in the warehouse. There were bullets flying and shouts being thrown out.
"This is the police!"
"What the hell it going on?!"
"Drop your weapon!"
"It's the fuckin' pigs!"
"Where's the goddamn bag?!"
"Where the fuck is Parker?!"
The last sentence galvanized my legs and I was up and running before I could hear any more. There were sirens blazing and car horns wailing and screaming, lots of screaming. It was too much and all around and so disorienting. I was bleeding, with every second and every step, I was getting weaker. But I didn't dare slow down. I didn't dare look back. I just ran.
I hadn't really known which way I was running until I got to 2nd Ave. Being able to move my legs at all was nothing short of a miraculous. Adrenaline is one hell of a life saver.
I'd gone north. Way north. I was panting hard, breaths getting harder to take in. I leaned against the wall and allowed myself a peek back. So far no one had come after me. I was far from the warehouse now. I could see the flashing red and blue lights and the scurry of little people, but I knew that if I could see them, they could probably see me. Who knows who could be looking this way this time of night. Avery had told me once that I couldn't trust anyone. I just thought she was being dramatic. But now, the lesson was finally sinking in. I was fucked, royally, and because I had trusted the wrong people.
I ran my fingers through the back of my hair and felt a wave of dread fall over me. It was hot and wet back there.
I was bleeding like a stuck pig and it was honestly starting to piss me off. I couldn't even go to the hospital, thanks to my recent shenanigans. I looked up and realized I didn't have to go too far, but I didn't know how much walking I should be doing at the moment. I ran down 2nd'Ave and kept going a few blocks until I hit an intersection. I crossed the street over to a bus station, saying a little prayer for what I hoped would be there.
Not ever in my life had I been so goddamn happy to see the yellow chariots. I flipped my hood over my head walked quickly over to the first cab I saw. The guy in the front looked worn and meek. This was good. I was all too tired of bruiser looking bastards. I waved at him and he eyed me suspiciously before nodding. I hopped in the back and thanked him immediately.
"You alright buddy?" he asked, still eyeing me in his rear-view.
"Peachy pal. Just fuckin' peachy," I rasped out.
I couldn't recognize my own scratchy voice. "Can you take me to 18947 Oakland Drive? It's on Mississippi and Waters."
"Yeah, yeah. Sure buddy. Just don't pass out or throw up or nothin'. Alright? I gotta clean that shit out."
He entered the address into his GPS and nodded. He started off and I wished like hell he would drive fast. I mean it was a lot better than walking but he still could have upped the speed. I sat back and relaxed. Besides the intense throbbing pain and the slight dizziness, I didn't think my head injury was that bad. My gunshot wound was. I looked down and grimaced and the large maroon stain growing in size. I was bleeding slowly, which was good I guess. I'm a glass half full kind of guy.
The cab pulled up to Avery's house and I was glad. If I was going to die, it wouldn't be without facing her first. I yanked a few bills from my pocket and chucked it at the cab driver. I'm sure my blood must have been smeared on a few of them, but I could give half a rat's ass at that moment. The cab driver wasted no time speeding away, so I guess he didn't mind either. I slowly walked up her walkway to her door. I knocked, just loud enough as not to frighten her. I didn't want Avery to be afraid of my knock. I wanted her to be afraid of the Colt revolver I was removing from my waistband and holding behind my back. I needed to talk and I needed her to listen.
She opened the door and the look on her face confused me.
She looked... relieved. Happy even.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you'd set someone up to die, wouldn't you be horrified if they showed up on your doorstep, not dead?
"Parker!" she cried happily and stepped towards me.
It's a trick. It's a goddamn fuckin' lie. It's more of her bullshit. Don't fall for it Parker.
Before she could come any closer, I lifted the gun and pointed it between her eyes. Her face fell and fear washed over her expression. Good. I wanted her afraid for once.
"Back the fuck up Avery. Now!" I growled.
She looked surprised, but she complied. I followed her inside and kicked the door shut with my foot. She had her hands up in surrender and she was looking at me cautiously.
"Shut up!" I shouted, "just shut the fuck up, you bitch."
She pressed her lips together, staring at me intently. I wished then that I wasn't so attracted to her because damn if she didn't look hot to me. Her robe was open at the top and her bra was bright red and eye catching. The swell of her chocolate tits was something I would be appreciating more right now, had I not just been shot because of her. I reminded myself of how I must look to her now; busted lip, the side of my face swelling, dirty all over, with blood and mud tracking onto her carpet. Her eyes left mine and roamed over me, taking this all in. I was glad at this. I wanted her to see her handiwork.
"Sit down Avery," I instructed. She did without another word.
"Parker, you've been shot. You need to go to a hospital."
I scoffed at her cruelly, "Don't act like you give a shit about me. As far as you're concerned, I could die on this Mr. Clean brightened hardwood and you'd be glad of it."
"Not true," she responded quickly.
"Bullshit Avery!" I screamed. I couldn't help it. She'd done this to me. I did nothing but love her, and she'd turned me into a monster, and now she just expected to be rid of me like I was nothing?!
"I loved you Avery! I loved you and you sent me in there to die!"
I was closer to her now, the gun almost touching between her eyes. She looked terrified. She was quivering and her upheld hands were trembling.
"Parker I swear on my life, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You might not want to swear on your life sweetheart," I chuckled ruefully. "You might not have it much longer."
"Parker please. You're hurt. Let me help you."
"Hell no. I see where your help gets me."
"I shot Calvin."
And there it was. It came out like a breath.
"W-what?!" she cried out, her terror mounting. I think she just realized then what I'm capable of.
"Calvin. I shot him in the face, and a few times in the chest. This was after he shot me first, not like it really matters."
"Oh god Parker, what have you done?!"
"Don't act like you didn't know what was going to happen Avery. You sent me in there with him. You sent me knowing what was going to happen, knowing what he was going to do."
"No Parker! I swear to you I had no idea. Parker please, you have to trust me!"
"NO!" I yelled. The gun was shaking in my hand and I couldn't tell if it was from rage or because I was bleeding out more. Then, almost all at once, my strength left me and I collapsed on the floor in front of Avery. She acted swiftly, removing the revolver from my hand and kicking it away.
I was wheezing now, the coppery taste of my own blood filling my mouth. My eyelids were heavy and the room was darkening around me. The world pivoted and I was on my back, looking up into Avery's pretty pretty face.
"Parker, baby, tell me what happened."
"It was bloody fuckin' Sunday in there Avery," I mumbled. I suppressed the urge to laugh at her grimace. Bitch sure knew how to act.
"It's going to be ok Parker. I promise you. I won't let you go."
She looked and sounded sincere then and for a second, I hate her for it. I did hate her. I hated her for making me fall for her. I hated her for involving me in her mess. But mostly I hated myself, because right here, sprawled out on her floor seemingly dying, I don't think there is anywhere else I'd rather be. Except, perhaps, in a hospital.
"I loved you, Avery," I sighed. My eyes had lost the struggle and I closed them, no longer willing to fight.
"I know Parker. It's going to be ok. You're going to be ok."
And with the soft coo of her voice as my parting gift, I blacked out.