Life on Short NoticebyMSTarot©
"Ready to go? Wow! You look good." Her smile brightened the late afternoon by two full shades.
"Thanks. You look beautiful."
And that was no lie at all. She was in a dress that looked like lace on top of white frosting. Slim spaghetti straps left her shoulders bare and gave her cleavage free play to make her look awesome from my eye level. By this point, as I put my camera bag over my shoulder and followed her to her car--a Prius for pity sake -- I was honestly beginning to look forward to this night.
Too bad I don't remember anything past this point.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
"Oh, dear God, man when will you remember to not drink so much."
Getting to my feet proved to be too much of an effort, so I crawled. I really need to find someone to carry me. "Mal. Mal."
Gorramit. Where is Nathan Fillion when a little person needs him? Hell, I would take Jayne Cobb right now. At least he understands drunks.
"Oh, thank you toilet bowl. Thank you for being cold." The piss smell I could do without, but cold porcelain is a blessing from Bacchus and Dionysus. With my pounding head in the bowl, I said a prayer to the hangover god ... Ralph. Then another. "Christ, what was I drinking?"
Punch? Was there punch involved at the prom?
Was I involved at the prom? Standing up, I realized all I had on were my boxers. I stepped out of those and stumbled into the shower. Feeling like mad miners were sinking a coal mine into my temple, I stood leaning against the tile till the water warmed a bit then tried to drown myself. Who ever invented a hand held shower massager should be nominated for sainthood. He probably would be if not for all the ladies who take hour long showers.
Yes I did run out the hot water but I wasn't doing it to have fun. It was honestly a matter of survival.
Shivering. Naked. I grabbed a towel and was about to go fall into bed when my phone rang.
"Jesus Christ in a fucking taxi cab! SHUT UP!"
Okay, yelling is a bad idea.
Bare-chested, with my gold and tan patterned towel making me looking like a short version of Imhotep ... but with hair ... I walked dripping water across my apartment floor to the phone. Which was not where it was supposed to be. Wonderful, I was so drunk I didn't put it on its charger. Finding the ringing thing, I keyed it open just to hear the missed call tone. Fucking lovely. Well, let see ... what the fuck?
I have forty-three text messages? Fuck that, for now. Who called?
I keyed his number to return the call. Standing there, trying to keep water off my couch as the phone rang, I saw my tux tossed over the chair by the door. You dumb drunk bastard, Gordon.
"You called and woke my hungover ass up?"
"Ah, yeah. Dude, why did you leave the prom so early? Mrs. Hacket is pissed at you something fierce, man. Her and Mom are friends and she lit up my mom's phone last night and again this morning. Said she paid you for photos and you never took them. She's livid and calling everyone she knows to tell them that she is."
Looking around, I didn't see my Nikon case. That was when the floor fell out from under me.
"Let me ... let me ... ah, let me call you call you back, David."
Sitting down on the couch, regardless if I got it wet or not, I tried to think of what had happened last night. I could remember the car ride there in Gracie's stupid Prius. And then I ... and then I ...
Looking down, I saw I had a text message. Thumbing that open, I saw that it, and apparently all the others, were from my sisters. In alternating order. This one was Marcy.
*Text US Bk. NOW!*
I hate texting, my thumbs and phone keyboards are not friends.
*What?* I typed.
*WTF? U R BONED! *
*What the fuck are you talking about?* Damn, I hate text talk crap. *Type it out, I'm hungover*
*You Are Boned, Brother *
Oh, fuck a bunch of this crap. I hit her number and put the phone to my ear.
"Now what are you talking about, Marcy?"
"Not so loud, I'm in class. Have you not read my texts?'
"No, I just woke up."
"Big brother you are so screwed. Gracie boned you hard." My sister giggled. "Filleted with a spoon, hard." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I've got to go. Go read my texts."
"MARCY EVERETT! Are you on the phone in my class?"
Wonderful. Now I'm going to get chewed out for getting Marcy in trouble at school. Oh, well.
Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll
Well, alright Darcy sent me a picture. Joy. Up-fucking-load already.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
"WHAT THE FUCK!"
I'm fairly sure I've never taken naked photos of myself and posted them to a porn site's amateur photo section. In fact, I guarantee I've never taken naked photos of myself and posted them to a porn site's amateur photo section. So why are there naked photos of myself ... posted on a porn site's amateur photo section? WHY?
Shaking with quiet rage and humiliation, my hands hardly could manage my laptop as I opened it up and went to the site. And there I was, nothing left to the imagination, with all kinds of stupid comments being made by the pervs on the site. To add insult to injury there were bright pink dots of rouge on my cheeks. I looked up in the mirror and could just make out their ghosts. I must have washed them mostly away in the shower.
It was as I was looking with a hammered steer look on my face that I began to realize something. The quality of these images. No crappy cellphone images, these fuckers were taken with my Nikon camera. A slow tear rolled down my face. I wiped it away.
The last picture was Gracie taking a "selfie" with my unconscious rouged-up face beside her.
The site had zero picture security. None. It took nothing for me to copy all of those photos and make a file. I figured someone might take them down, and I'm sure my lawyer was going to be wanting a copy.
Time to go murder a girl.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
I suppose to anyone not aware just how angry I was I must have looked ludicrous when I stalked down to the manager's office. Four foot of boiling rage doesn't have quite the same effect visually as a normal person, but then I was well past the point of giving a damn. I hammered on the office door. No answer. I hammered some more. Still no answer.
Yanking my phone out my pocket, I dialed the never-to-be-used-except-in-an-emergency number.
"Woodland Village Apartments. Amelia Carmichaels, speaking. How can I help you?"
"You have one hour to get your daughter to return my camera and to take down the photos she posted or I will have that cunt arrested!"
"Yes, god damned, Mr. Everett! I want my camera back and those fucking pictures taken down. I swear to God, I will not hold back the law at all. Kidnapping. Felony theft -- that is a fifteen-hundred-dollar camera! Sexual assault and add non-consent pornographic photography to the list, and your daughter might get out of jail before she's fifty."
"Mr. Everett, what are you talking about?"
"Your daughter roofied me! She drugged me, took me somewhere, stripped me naked and took photos of me. Then Gracie stole my fucking camera!"
"I'm quite sure you're mistaken, Mr. Everett."
I was spitting mad by then. I kicked the office door just because.
"Want to see the pictures she took? The ones with her in them? Me passed out, sex toys all around me? I'm at the apartment office, come take a damn look!"
She hung up on me.
I was still there ten minutes later when she roared up in her Nissan Leaf. What's with these two and fucking hybrid-eco crap cars? She stormed out the car all avenging mother ready to defend her daughter.
I had the "selfie" picture of Gracie and me already pulled up on my phone, with a lovely one of me by myself posed like a passed out Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Of all of them, it was the least offensive on the site. The close up of my cock and balls with a ruler -- and a Post-It note smiley face next to my junk -- was the most offensive, just in case you're wondering.
Amelia Carmichaels was enraged till she saw that picture, then her expression turned the color of soured milk.
"I'm ... sure this is some kind of mistake."
My phone rang. I took it from her and looked at it. Darcy.
"You're going to end up on Facebook and Twitter if you don't get those pictures down, big brother. It's like some kind of insane viral rumor here are school." I could hear the sound of dozens of voices in the background and figured she was in the hall between classes. The amount of laughter mixed in was insulting. "It's all everyone is talking about. I've been asked a dozen times if that's what you really look like!"
"Thanks." I hung up the phone. With my eyes leaking fire, I looked up at Gracie's mother trembling with suppressed rage. I pointed a shaking finger at her tits. "This is about to explode all over the goddamn place and once it does I won't have any recourse but to file charges. Get your fucking daughter on the phone and get those damn pictures off the Internet. Now!"
I'll give her this, Amelia Carmichaels didn't waste time. She whipped out her phone like a gunslinger and dialed her daughter even as she was opening the office door. She dropped her purse on the desk and took a seat.
Arms crossed over my chest ... well, as much as I can do that anyway ... with great geysers of steam coming out my ears and waves of heat pouring off my head, I stood to one side and kept silent as Gracie answered and her mother lit into her.
There were all five stages of teen logical argument. Denial, denial, denial, denial ... then guilt-ridden anger and depression at having been caught and made to undo the heinously funny thing they had done, that the rest of the adult world didn't understand was only meant as a joke. Then came the second stage teen logic with the statement "What do you mean it's a crime? That's silly, it was just a joke."
I was beyond livid. That I kept my mouth shut was a fucking miracle from on high. Walking over by the door I swept a stack of pamphlets about the apartment off the table and punched the top hard. Driving my knuckles over and over into the fake wood.
"Mr. Everett? Gordon?"
Massaging my hand, I looked over at Amelia Carmichaels.
"I'm terribly sorry. She said it was just meant as an April Fool's joke. She's bringing your camera; she said she forgot that it was still in her car after she ...."
"Uploaded the naked pictures of me? Yeah, I always forget to return the stolen thousand dollar camera when I play felony-level pranks on people, for no reason. Other than it will be funny, that is." Turning away I looked out the glass door panels. "Like my life doesn't suck enough already, now half the school, including my twin sisters, have seen my dick in high-def photography."
"I'll do whatever I have to ... to make this right, Gordon."
I spun back to look at her. "I can't even begin to fucking think how! Do you have any idea how badly this has hurt me? I've spent years trying to be a photographer, to build my reputation as a professional. I got paid for a photo shoot, which I never took a single photo at. And I don't even have the money for it. That was taken as well!" I grabbed my phone and went to the porn site. My photos were still there but Gracie's "selfie" had been taken down. Lovely. I pulled up the photo that had a male arm, not mine, in the frame. I shoved the phone at Amelia. "Who the fuck is this? Who was there with her?"
She looked at the phone, blushed at my naked body on display then looked again. "I don't know."
"Well, let's call him the accomplice who's also going to prison."
"Gordon, please. Gracie just got a scholarship to Duke University. If this kind of thing gets out."
"Gets out? Half the high school is already talking about it. If my dick doesn't end up on Twitter before the hour is out, it will be a damn miracle. No! No! You wait a moment. Turn it around. What if I had roofied her last night? Took her somewhere? Stripped her? Took nude photos and posted them to a porn site? I would already be under the jail. I would be in handcuffs and hoping to not play hide the sausage with a guy named Axel tonight. Bullshit, Amelia!"
Outside, a nearly silent car pulled up.
I moved away from the door, not trusting myself to not strangle her when she walked in the door. Seeing that she had my camera bag was at least a bit of a rein on my temper. That feeling, however, didn't last much beyond her first words.
Stalking into the room, she all but shoved the bag at me.
"Here. Sorry. I didn't know that you couldn't take a joke."
Her mother's sharp reprimand washed past her, ignored. Gracie gave me a look that was half smirk. "Honestly, it was just an April Fool's prank. You're acting like we murdered your cat or something important."
Oh, hell to the no.
"Am I laughing? Is your mother laughing? I don't imagine the police or the judge is going to be laughing either."
"Judge? Police? Nonsense, I've not broken any real laws. Besides, I'm still in high school that counts as me being a minor."
Having checked my Nikon, I placed the bag over my shoulder. "Kidnapping? Sexual assault? Those aren't crimes? How about defamation of character? Cyberbullying? Non-consensual distribution of intimate images?" I stuck my finger in her cute face. "No Gracie, what you did was not a joke. And the way you went about it, planning it out, will prove yourself an adult in the eyes of the Law. Now get out of my way; I have a lawyer to go contact. If I was you, I would do the same."
"Mr. Everett! Gordon?"
I walked out with Amelia Carmichaels calling after me. Ignoring her and her daughter as completely as I could, I stalked -- as only an angry little person can stalk -- to my apartment. I wanted to give my camera a thorough going over. If so much as a single thing was messed up there was going to be murder on the news tonight. Gordon Everett, the Butcher of Woodland Village Apartments had such a nice ring to it, right?
Standing at my kitchen table, too pissed to sit down, I had the camera broken down to its various components when there came a soft knock on my door. I ignored it for a moment then huffed when it came against, and I went to it. I didn't bother with my stepladder. I knew who it was and, when I popped the door open like a cork out a champagne bottle, I was proven right.
Gracie and her mother.
I looked up at the girl I was to have taken to the prom. For a moment a wash of emotions took me back to how excited and nervous I had felt when I saw her in that frosty white dress. How beautiful I had thought her to be. Now she was as repugnant to me as a pool of maggots eating rotten meat. That was what stood before me in human shape. She wasn't sorry for what she had done only for the fact that it had blown up in her face in a way she had never thought of it doing.
"Mr. Everett?" My eyes flicked to Amelia and the pleading look on her face. "Can we come in and discuss this with you, please? Please, Gordon?"
Leaving the door open, I went back to the pieces of my most prized possession. It was a lot like myself at the moment. Broken down to basics and useless till it was put back together. And while with the Nikon I knew how to do that, where to start in my own life I didn't even have a clue.
Amelia closed the door behind herself and gave her daughter a push toward me. "Go on."
"Gordon? I'm sorry."
I cut my eyes up at her but didn't answer the plea for forgiveness I saw her asking of me.
"You're fucking sorry you go in trouble, Gracie!" Oh, I wanted to throw something at her, but all I had close by was my camera, and I wasn't that far gone. "What a great fucking idea this must have been. Hey, let's pull the ultimate prank at the prom. I'll ask that ... 'midget' ... Gordon Everett out to the prom and then I'll roofie him. What a laugh that will be, huh? What the hell did you put into my punch?"
She didn't answer.
"Gracie!" Her mother's voice was like a whip behind her making her jump.
"I don't know, alright. Grant gave me the pills." She shrugged it off. "They were little and green."
"Grant Desman? The boy you dated a month ago?" Her mom was looking at her like she was a complete fool. "Doesn't it strike you as strange that a boy you have dated has access to roofies?"
I was curious to the answer of that but I had my phone out and was doing I quick search when I found what I wanted I shoved the phone under Gracie's nose. "These?"
"Yeah, they looked like that." She nodded happily. Apparently, my finding the answer was a good thing to her.
"So you gave me Rohypnol? In alcohol? Was there alcohol in the punch I drank? I don't remember anything after we left here, so I don't know what I drank." At her embarrassed nod, my fingers were flying on my phone but stopped with a suddenness when I found what I was looking for. "Thought so. You could have fucking killed me, you stupid bitch. I take Elavil for God's sake! That prescription and Rohypnol together are deadly. I'm lucky to be alive."
"How was I supposed to know that?" she asked, her whole attitude like I was at fault for not telling her what medications I was on before she drugged me unconscious.
"Oh, I ought to knock that fucking smirk off your face." The urge to throw something got much worse then. "You shouldn't have had to care what your date was taking for depression! Most people don't try to drug their date!"
"Gracie, shut up. You're making this worse with every word." Amelia moved forward and with a hand moved her daughter behind her. "Gordon ... what can we do to make this right? To keep this out of the courts? To not involve the law? Gracie is about to go to college ... if this comes out she will lose her scholarship."
I looked at my prom date. The shock plastered across her face. Apparently, that thought had never crossed her mind. Oh, I wanted to smirk but, for once, I got to be the bigger man.
"Yes, you twit!" Her mom rounded on her. "He controls your future now. Not you, not me. Him."
Leaving them to argue I had moved back to the table and began to assemble my Nikon "And you may have completely wrecked mine. I've spent years trying to gain a reputation as a professional photographer." I wasn't looking at them my hands were working mechanically. "Reputation is everything for a photographer. It's what he uses to get commissions, to make his sales, to chase one photographer's dream jobs. My dream since I was a kid, and you, Gracie, may have kicked it to shreds for a joke that was never funny."
"How did I do that?"
"Mrs. Hacket," I said simply then looked away from her face. I had to.
Holding the assembled camera, I didn't want to see the wet spots hitting the gunmetal blue finish. I didn't want to cry in front of anyone but here I was in tears.
"She has helped me move forward since I was a freshman. She called the owner and got me the job at the mall. She knows the owners of several local art galleries; she said she could get some of my picture shown soon. That woman has been on my side from day one, and now, she is so mad at me she won't even answer a phone call from me." I looked up at Gracie, my teeth clenched. "Do you have any idea how much I hate you right now? The embarrassment I could have taken. Hell knows, I've lived with that crap since I was a kid, but to have you hurt me here ..." I shook the Nikon in her direction. "Here where I go to get away from fuckers like you that think a midget should be a clown and not do anything but work in a chocolate factory and sing oompa loompa doompety da! DON'T YOU FUCKING LAUGH!"