The car sputtered, coughed, and then with one final gasp, died. I coasted it to the side of the dark, country road and slammed it into park. Now what do I do? I asked myself. It was almost midnight, and I was stranded all alone, surrounded by nothing but soybean fields. Darkness abounded, and there were no lights on the horizon. There was only the star-filled sky and I, feeling foolish and afraid.
I popped the hood, wiggled a few wires, whispered a prayer, and hopped back into the car to give it another try. I held my breath, fighting back tears, while I turned the key. Come on, baby, I begged. Start! It sputtered and promptly died. Just my luck.
My options were few. My cell was dead, so I could either walk in the dark and risk being eaten by wild animals, or I could wait until help came down the lonely road. The coward in me chose the latter. Clint wasn’t expecting me until the next afternoon, so at least he wouldn’t be worried.
My visit to my parents’ home was cut short when I decided to return home a day early. Even after a year, there was still too much tension between my sister and me. Although Shannon is engaged to Nathan, she still blames me for stealing Clint away from her. When the jabs got too sharp, I lashed back. “Maybe if you weren’t such a bitch to him, he wouldn’t have come my way!”
I was tired of defending Clint. Clint and I were having disagreements lately, but he was still my boyfriend. I threw my bags in my old Junker and said my goodbyes. “Sorry, Mom,” I apologized. “I really do have a lot of things to do at home. How about you and Dad visiting us? We do have that sofa that folds out to a bed,” I reminded her.
I was glad to get away. That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with my spoiled, rotted, diva-of-a-sister, who acts like she still wants Clint back. Actually, it was Shannon who cooled the romance. She wanted to keep her options open. One option in particular was Nathan, now her fiancé. What really hurts is that I suspect that Clint is still harboring feelings for Shannon, even though we’ve been together for a year.
I can remember that fateful night, when Clint stopped by to pick up my older and much prettier sister. Shannon left no more than ten minutes earlier. “If Clint calls, tell him I’m working late,” she told me. “I’ll be home at ten; I’ll call him back then.” Then she hopped into Nathan’s new car and headed out for dinner.
There was no way that I was going to lie to Clint, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his girlfriend is a cheat. “Gosh, I just got here myself.” I boldly flirted with him when he called. “Why don’t we grab a bite and check and see if she’s still at work?”
“Sure; I’m starved,” he quickly replied.
“Let’s go to Mario’s,” I suggested. In my one-horse town, there’s only one real place to have a good meal. I knew that Shannon was there with Nathan, and I couldn’t wait for Clint to see for himself what a cheat Shannon is. I smiled to myself as we pulled into the parking lot. Sure enough, there was Nathan’s car.
As we waited to be seated, I casually took hold of Clint’s arm. I caught Shannon’s eye from across the room. She looked like she couldn’t make up her mind whether to kill me on the spot or slide under the table with shame.
Clint also saw Shannon sitting there with Nathan. That is the moment that any feeling he had for her died, he told me later. I could feel his icy demeanor as we walked to our table. Her name was not spoken once that night. Clint acted as if I were the only woman on the planet. Holding my chair as I sat down and reaching across the table to hold my hand, Clint made me feel special. I knew it was all a show for Shannon, but I didn’t care. It was about time that I got some attention.
He asked me back to his apartment and I went willingly. He poured some wine and lit candles. I kicked off my shoes and curled up on the couch as Clint put on soft music.
“You are so sweet,” he whispered, his fingers trailing down my neck. Dizzy from the wine, I seductively leaned back, allowing him to slowly unbutton my blouse and fondle my breasts. He kissed me fiercely and I responded likewise. I slipped my hands under his shirt, caressing his toned abs. I unzipped his jeans, releasing his strong erection. He moaned as I went down on him.
Fighting for control, Clint pulled me to my feet and led me to the bedroom. Our clothes dropped to the floor. His hands sought out my body, his fingers dipping into my wetness. His lips felt hot as he sucked my breasts. His mouth over mine muffled my cries of pleasure as he thrust deep into me. You belong to me now, I thought as he exploded in me.
Two weeks later, he got a job in the city and asked me to go with him. I never hesitated. Even though he made no promises or pledged his love, I packed my bags and went willingly.
I estimated that I was about forty miles from the city. I made it halfway at least, I thought. If I can just get to a phone, Clint can come for me. Ahh, my knight in shinning armor, save me!
About an hour later, I spotted headlights. What appeared to be a car turned out to be two motorcycles. They roared up beside me and stopped when they saw the hood of my car up.
“You need help?” the bearded biker gruffly asked.
Cautiously, I rolled the window partly down. “It died on me,” I told him.
The two guys poked under the hood while their leather clad girlfriends leaned against the bikes, smoking. “Turn it over,” the biker barked. The car made a feeble attempt, but would not start. “You out of gas?” he growled.
“No, I have half a tank,” I answered through the window crack.
“Then it must be the fuel pump. Nothing I can do. You need a tow truck. I’ll call when I get home.”
“Thank you,” I said timidly.
“Don’t thank me. I’ll call, but don’t expect anyone before morning. You going to be alright?” he asked, his tone softening slightly.
“I’ll be okay.”
They roared off and I was relieved to be alone again. I locked the door and settled back, pulling my jacket tight around me. I guess I’m going to be here awhile. The starry sky was spectacular. I picked out a lucky star and made a wish. Please help Clint and me work out our problems. And then I added, or give me the courage to move on.
A bit later, I saw a single headlight as it came over the knoll toward me. Don’t panic, I told myself, double-checking the door locks.
It was the younger, silent biker; he showed up alone. “I don’t feel right about leaving you here alone,” he started.
“Oh, I’m okay,” I tried to assure him.
“There’s a truck stop on the main highway. You can wait for the tow truck there.”
It made sense, but still I hesitated.
“I promise I won’t hurt you,” he said with a roll of his eyes.
I climbed out of my car and glanced warily at the motorcycle. It looked intimidating. The moon illuminated the polished chrome while masking the color. I guessed it was black, maybe blue. “I never rode on a motorcycle before,” I stammered.
He laughed. “All you have to do is hang on.”
He handed me a helmet. My fingers fumbled with the strap.
The young biker stepped close and pulled the strap tight under my chin. His eyes were as dark as the night and ebony stubble covered his strong jaw. He mounted the bike, reaching around to pull down the foot pegs. “Just like riding a horse.” He smiled for the first time.
I tentatively put my left foot on the peg and swung my leg over the seat. My arms encircled his slim hips. The potent smell of his leather jacket filled my senses as I took deep breaths to calm myself.
“All set?” he asked. I nodded and with a push of a button, the bike roared to life. I didn’t have a clue if my body was trembling or if it was just the vibrations from the bike. There was no doubt, though, about the racing of my heart. “Hang on,” he called over the rumblings as he put the bike in motion.
He started off slow, but then he hit the next gear, and I was thrust backward. That’s when I wrapped my arms even tighter around him and hung on for dear life. I peeked over his shoulder and saw the lines on the highway flash by in the headlights. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to stay calm. I concentrated on the wind as it tunneled around his body, whipping my long hair.
Much to my surprise, I was beginning to enjoy this wild ride. I leaned into his slim body and let the vibrations surge through me and the cool, night air flow around me. I was tingling all over with excitement. All too soon, we were turning at a neon sign that flashed OPEN ALL NIGHT.
“Wooo!” I exclaimed. “That was fun!” Under the glare of the parking lot’s lights, I could finally take a good look at the beautiful bike that I just rode. It was midnight blue with delicate, silver flames flowing wildly over the tank. The black, leather saddlebags were adored with silver conches. “Your bike is gorgeous,” I gushed.
“Thanks,” was all he said, but he smiled. I liked the way the corners of his dark eyes crinkled when he did. “Let’s get some coffee. You can make your calls, too.”
The solitary waitress motioned us to a booth. Knowingly, she brought us two cups of steaming coffee when she dropped off the menus. I took a sip of coffee and excused myself to go to the ladies’ room. “I’ll be right back.”
I dragged my fingers though my long, mousy hair. Hopeless, I thought. I pulled it up into a quick chignon. That’s one way to deal with the tangles. I dug some change from my pocket and dialed my home number on the payphone. One-thirty in the morning; I bet Clint is sleeping. It rang six times, and then the machine picked up. I hung up. I dropped another quarter in the slot and redialed. “Pick up, Clint,” I whispered under my breath. The phone was on the nightstand—no way could he sleep through it. I’ll try again later.
I slid into the booth, suddenly embarrassed. “I’m sorry. You’ve been so kind and I don’t even know your name.” I blushed. “I’m Sonya.”
He took the hand that I offered, giving it a two-handed squeeze over the table. “They call me Dice.”
“Is that your name?” I asked, puzzled.
“It’s more a warning than a name.” He laughed. “With me, it’s always a gamble. By the way, I went ahead and ordered. You looked hungry.”
Dice looks like a man who naturally takes charge. He has a bold tattoo of tribal feathers around his bicep that told me he’s unconventional. “Thanks, Dice.”
The waitress winked at Dice as she set down bowls of vegetable soup. A delicious aroma filled the air. Suddenly, I was famished. Cheeseburgers followed, the plates heaped with golden French fries.
Dice listened quietly as I nervously rambled. “I don’t know why Clint’s not answering the phone. I’ll try again in a few minutes.” Chances were, he was out with his friends again. Whenever I asked about his whereabouts lately, he got defensive. I quit asking and caring, but I still wondered where and how he was spending his time.
“I called the local garage,” he told me. “The message said they don’t tow on Sundays. And a tow from the city will cost more than that car is worth.”
He had a point there. “What should I do?” I asked.
“I can take you home tonight and your boyfriend can figure that out,” he bluntly stated.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Personally, I didn’t mind another ride, but Clint isn’t very handy mechanically and would likely be angry to have to take care of my car troubles.
“It’s no problem,” Dice said. “I live in the city. I’m headed back.”
“I’m sorry about messing up your weekend. Will your girlfriend be mad?” I asked thoughtfully.
He shook his head and I saw a hint of sadness in his eyes. “Tracey’s not my girlfriend,” he protested. He paused and then admitted, “At best, our relationship is toxic. For Tracey, the road goes on forever and the party never ends. I can’t live like that.”
I nodded my head sadly. Toxic, harmful, destructive, poison—those words can describe my relationship with Clint these days. Where is he tonight? I asked myself for the hundredth time.
Changing the subject, I asked, “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a drug and alcohol counselor. I work mostly on the reservation,” he said.
“You must find that very rewarding.”
“Not when you can’t help the ones you love the most,” he whispered sadly.
I waited until the waitress walked away after refilling our coffee, and then asked, “You want to talk about it?”
“I grew up on the reservation. My mother is Native American, and my father’s white. She died last month from liver failure caused by alcoholism.”
“I’m sorry,” was all the comfort that I could give. I could sense the helplessness of the situation, but I was at a loss for words.
“Let’s move on to a happier subject,” he said. “What do you do in the city?”
I smiled. “I work for a neurotic artist. I’m her office manager slash assistant. Mostly, I make herb tea for her. Caffeine makes her crazier.”
He laughed in a genuine, warm manner. “What were you doing in the middle of nowhere?”
“I had to escape the insanity for a few days,” I lied. I was really running from Clint. The bickering had become unbearable. “I went home to visit my family. It got sort of crazy there, too, so I started home a day early. That road cuts fifteen miles off the trip, I’ll have you know!”
“You have a big family?” he asked.
“Just my mom, dad, and one sister,” I told him. “Shannon and I don’t get along that well.” I went on to tell him briefly of the rift caused by Clint. There I was, pouring my heart out to a perfect stranger; you would think that I was one of Dice’s clients by the way I opened up to him.
“That’s too bad. Nothing should come between family,” he said. Then, in a nonjudgmental tone, he said, “Clint used you as much as you used him. No one wins in those situations.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” I agreed. The one thing that Clint and I have in common is the drive to get even with Shannon. That’s what kept us together. I admit that I do have a lot of guilt for the way that I went after him in the first place.
“Listen to your heart. You can’t change the past, but you don’t have to live with mistakes,” he told me with conviction.
I smiled, a burden lifted. Dice, letting me talk, let me come to my own conclusion. I needed to resolve my differences with my sister. If that means dissolving my relationship with Clint, so be it.
“Ready for another ride?” Dice asked, giving my hand a squeeze.
“Sure.” I grinned back at him. “I live off Jackson Avenue,” I told Dice as we walked to the bike.
“I know the area; just let me know when to turn,” he said.
I shook my hair out as Dice handed me the helmet. He tightened the strap, and then, cupping my chin in his hand, he lightly kissed me. This time, I didn’t hesitate climbing behind Dice. It felt so right. I wrapped my arms confidently around his slim waist as we set off down the highway.
The normally bustling city appeared to be asleep in the Sunday A.M. hours. The streets belonged to only us as we turned down my street. I tapped his shoulder and pointed to my apartment building. Dice pulled in and cut the engine. I scanned the parking lot for Clint’s car; it wasn’t there.
I removed the helmet, shaking out my hair. Dice’s eyes met mine as he took the helmet. “Are you going to be all right?” he asked.
“Clint’s not here,” I told him.
Dice took hold of my arm. “I’ll walk you in.”
Silently, Dice followed me inside the building and waited as I fumbled with the key. Protectively, he stepped into the darkened apartment and switched on the light. Glancing around, I noticed a few items missing. Then I spotted the note, lying on the coffee table. My hands shook as I opened it.
I’m sorry, but I can’t go on living this lie. We were never meant to be together. I used you and I’m sorry. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. I will be by later this week for the rest of my stuff.
I handed the note to Dice and sank slowly to the couch. He read the note and handed it back to me. “I’m sorry. Do you want to be alone or should I stay?” he asked, reaching out to me.
Like a moth to a flame, I went to his arms. “Tonight, I made a wish on a lucky star.”