Jay sat on the edge of his bed after tying his basketball shoes. He only wore them for one reason and the pounding of their rubber soles against the court tonight would cleanse his tumbling mind. More than that, he longed for the exertion to erase the tinge of pain in his soul. Alex's trip, the things she wasn't saying, he'd been fooling himself into believing it was his 'best friend' status making the ache impossible to ignore.
The silent face of his cell phone blinked the time as he glared. Willing it to respond to the heaviness in his heart,his knuckles turned white as his fingers closed around it. The phone refused to acknowledge the tightening in his chest with anything more than the flashing screen.
When the case began to protest with a crack, Jay tossed it onto the bed.he stood up stretching his arms over his head and pulling his elbows behind his neck.
Glancing around his drab one-bedroom apartment.he mentally ran through his commitments for tonight. He could always hope it would help him keep his mind off the growing panic creeping through his blood stream.
As lightening flashed from beyond the narrow blinds hanging over the window, Jay tried to think.
Game with the guys
Meeting with Jorge’s
Tell her everything.
The last betraying thoughts halted his hesitant feet. he stopped in front of the bed, his eyes only skittering across the bare beige walls to where his phone still mocked him with its silence. He threw one of his pillows over the face of the beast before forcing sanity into his thoughts.
He was supposed to meet the guys at the school for their weekly basketball game.
Focus on the game, moron. He chided.
Her image pushed the scolding from his thoughts. Alex hadn’t called yet and he was worried to distraction. She had been in Vegas for more than two hours. He was afraid of what that meant. The thunderstorm raging beyond his apartment door blew it’s brutal breath across the threshold. imagining her in a ditch somewhere, He dug for the phone for the fifteenth time in as many minutes to call her number again. Like every other time he threw it back on to his bed. She was twenty three years old she could handle this. Why hadn’t he been able to shake the heaviness crushing his chest since she’d driven away that afternoon. He knew the answer. He knew why he was so desperate to talk to her.
Jay scrubbed his fists over his eyes. “How could you have let this happen When she’s in love with this other guy.” The lecture only made his misery worse.
He had to keep moving if he was going to make the game, he needed to leave. The pull of possibility from his silent phone shackled his ankles.
Jay forced himself to pace the few steps between the bedroom door and his phone. Fighting his instinct to just go find her, he balled his hands into fists at his sides. he was supposed to go to his father’s restaurant at nine to meet with Jorge Senior for a staff meeting. Jay rolled his eyes and ran his fingers through his still damp hair. It would be like every other ‘staff meeting’. Jorge I telling him he was proud of the work he was doing at his Grandfather’s old body shop. Jorge II telling him he was wasting his life because he wasn’t in college.
Jay had gotten his love of old cars from his grandfather but his stubborn tenacity from his father. Unfortunately, they were currently clashing in his choice of careers.
When his father found out that Jay was apprenticing with his Grandfather to eventually take over the business, he had insisted that Jay go to technical school
Jay hadn’t argued, He needed the training to learn all the updated information for modern vehicles. There was no way to keep up with all of it except to work on the cars.
After getting everything he could for his ASE certification it was all hands on and practice. A foreign concept to his father who could learn anything by simply reading about it.
Jay growled under his breath, the sting of the old battle cementing his decision to skip the meeting and drive to Las Vegas. He picked up his phone one last time willing it to ring in his hand. Groaning and tossing it back on to his bed. He had to go. He needed to blow off some steam after today and he couldn’t wait for her any longer.
“Call me, Lex.” He said, pointing at the phone. “I can’t afford to pay for another ticket to New York to fix this.”
Alex pressed her speed dial with a shuddered breath. The flashing of stormy windows drew her eyes back out the face of unrelenting glass just beyond her unfocused sight. Thunder echoed across the desert sand, sending a shiver down her spine as the fury of the night began to splash down onto the darkened glass. She put the phone against her ear, listening to the ring tone while mentally reminding herself to stick with her explanation. She would tell Jay that she was going to New York to find an apartment until Charles could come up with the ring he promised her when he called. She would find a job, make back her plane fare and then come pay him when she returned home to plan the wedding. It was all logical enough, even though not particularly specific and she hoped, having somewhat of a plan, would chase away the dread churning in her heart.
“Hey, its Jay, I’ll try to call you back.
” Alex let out her imprisoned breath in a sigh and smiled. This was going to be much easier than she thought. The unsettled feeling in her stomach still pulsed an ache with every beat of her heart, but she could at least make it sound like her flight was her only problem. Despite the tormented protests of both the weather and her nerves, she swallowed the burn of tears behind her eyes.
“Jay, its Alex. I made it to my gate but there’s storms all across the rocky mountains tonight, my flight has been delayed. I don’t know how long I’ll be stuck here but I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know when I’m in New York.” She paused, chewing on her lip again. “Thanks for worrying and…everything else. I’ll call you later tomorrow, I promise.
” Alex hung up the call, rotating her churning stomach over the fire of doubt burning in her mind. She hadn’t told him enough and yet she was sure her voice had said too much. He would hear her fears beyond her words. he’d always had a sixth sense when it came to her not saying enough.
When her freshman year in college had started as an icy wave of loneliness crashing over her. He had known. She’d felt like a single grain of sand being sucked into the ocean of academia. Terrified that she would never be able to absorb it all, she'd holed up in her room after the first chaotic day of class.
Jay had called her that evening, eager to find out about the new batch of co-eds. He was attending night school at the local junior college, it would be their only chance to connect between work and classes.
“so, girl genius, did you blow them all away?”
Alex laughed, hoping the shudder in her voice wouldn’t poke at his instincts.
“What’s the matter Lex, did something go wrong?”
When Alex reassured him it was all fine and she was just tired, he hadn’t said anything else about it.
An hour later the Nomad rattled to a stop in front of her house. Her unspoken doubts had pulled the hunk of metal to her as if she were a magnet. The roar of its ancient muffler drew her to the window only to see Jay standing outside her door, dusting the night’s outpouring of moisture from his dark hair.
Throwing open the door, startling him, she tried to glare.
“I thought tonight was your night to work on the Nomad."
Betsy and I have been together for 4 years, one more night isn’t going to kill her.”
He’d scrapped that car together from miscellaneous parts from his grandfather’s shop. It barely managed to get him around. No matter how many times the two of them pushed it up or down some hill though, he stuck with ‘her, whispering prodding reassurance for the car to give him one more trip.
Alex smiled again watching the rain through the gateways windows. They had gone for French fries and coke’s that night, losing all serious thought, until after two a.m.
She’d forgotten her sense of alienation from earlier. Her most potent memory from that night was their scavenger hunt for a gas station. He couldn’t drive her home in the storm without rain repellant for his windshield. He had windshield wipers but, they only worked when the car was in the mood.
By the time he pulled into her driveway, they were both soaked from hanging their heads out the side windows to try to see through the driving rain. She still wasn’t sure which had obscured their sight more, the tears from the storm or the one’s from their fits of laughter.
An unconscious giggle escaped her mouth with the memory tonight. Alex stifled the sound with her hand as she glanced back at the departure board. She could still see the water dripping from his black hair as he left her in front of her house.
“The world is a much happier place when all you have to worry about is rain.”
He assured her that night. “No worries.”
Alex breathed deeply, as her eyes caught sight of the departure times. Her flight was set to board in forty minutes.
“Finally.”” She muttered, feeling tethered to her seat with cold iron chains.
Jay kicked his shoes off as he came through the door of his apartment. He’d been useless on the court tonight: missing passes overshooting the backboard and generally feeling out of step. The electric energy of failed basketball only burned brighter in his thoughts surrounding Alex’s absence. His mind automatically wanted him to go to her house, or meet her somewhere to give her a replay of the game.
His hands itched with the effort not to grab his keys and follow his instincts.
Stalking down the hall to the bathroom instead, he grabbed a five minute soak of sore muscles and a quick scrub with the bar of soap.. Before going back to his room, he made up his mind. He’d drive to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, there wasn’t any other way for him to get relief.
Jay pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt before sitting on the end of the bed.. While putting his socks on, the vibration of his cell phone shuddered against his thigh. Fumbling for the phone, he blew out a heavy breath. Alex’s number on the screen cut the cords wrenching air from his lungs.
Dialing her number with shaking fingers, Jay listened to its monotonous ring in his ear until he heard her voice.
“Hi, It’s Alex. Leave me a message…”
. Jay moaned and disconnected the call accessing his voice mail instead. The muscles in his neck and shoulders relaxed as he listened to her complaints about flight delays. He sighed, chuckling with the knowledge that at least God was trying to stop her from running off with this guy. Her parting comments stung at the adrenalin rushing through his blood as she suddenly sounded like a frightened little girl. His jaw tightened until he heard the grind of his teeth. He knew it was more than the flying that was bothering her. He knew she needed to talk, but He was too far away from her to help tonight. He couldn’t do anything else for at least twenty four hours.
Jay glanced at the clock on his phone. He still had ten minutes to make it to his father’s interrogation. putting his socks and shoes on, he stuffed the phone into his pocket. His father would lecture him on the evils of smart phones, but tonight she was invisible somewhere over the Midwest. His phone was the only tie he still had to her.
I wanted to leave everyone a Thanksgiving message and say how thankful I am for friends, family, and fans who support me in my writing. I was able to finish my 50 K words for NaNoWriMo a week early thanks to encouragement and love from y'all. Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving.