Ace of Hearts
She felt the greedy eyes of early risers burning into her back. They critiqued her every inch; the racoon eyes she wore from tear-ruined makeup, last nights' alcohol stained outfit, the broken heel of her only pair of stiletto's and the way her shoulders, despite it all, stayed strong and confident as she walked awkwardly down the hallway.
It was a college party that caused it. After packing up and leaving home she had stumbled upon a drunken group having a fun night of merriment. After half a bottle of vodka, three beers and a few mixers Skip made her, Kori became Tiffany and Tiffany became Skip's drunken bed-buddy.
Kori regretted it the morning after, like always.
The back of her hand wiped at the blood on the corner of her mouth. Skip had an anger problem. Kori learnt that the morning after.
She kept walking down the hallway, snickers and whispers whining their way to her. They were like little flies hitting her armour; unnoticeable, letting out a little 'Bing' when they smashed into her steel exterior and plummeted to the floor.
Pair of eyes watched her, keen and judgemental. Yeah, that's right, she thought bitterly, wiping the blood clean with her fist once again, soak in my shame. She wouldn't let it shake her. Her solid grey eyes, instead, landed on the window at the end of the corridor. Behind it, she saw the green of nature and a familiar feeling of joy pumped through her veins. She cracked a small smile, visions of birds and trees; the bright blue sky and open fields of her dreams filling her clogged, thumping head. Hung over yet determined, Kori kept on to the end.
The curses and snickers of two girls in a doorway coming up was enough to push Kori's buttons. She would not be judged. She would not be disrespected. It didn't matter what situation she was in.
They smirked as she passed them, raising judgemental eyebrows and snickering to one another. Kori kept her stance strong as she raised her middle finger in their face, her grey eyes still locked on that little window.
They gasped. They tried to rebut her. She just kept walking. It didn't matter.
When she finally made it outside and onto the street the piercing, searing sunlight made her wince and squint. Being hung over was not fun - not at all.
When she got to her car a little yellow slip stuck under her windshield told her she didn't feed the meter. Five hundred dollars for one measly night was her punishment - as well as a defeated heart, broken lip and snapped heel of her favourite shoe.
She plucked the slip from the windshield, scrunched it into a little ball and flicked it into the gutter. It didn't matter. She wasn't coming back. Not ever.
Not after she finally packed up.
Kori knew she shouldn't have drove, but that didn't matter. She was leaving and her current state wouldn't stop that.
Her car was old, rusted, dusty and black. But it was also a convertible. This meant Kori loved it. She didn't care if it was fancy or not. She only wanted a convertible. She loved the fresh air. She loved the wind. It made her feel alive.
The tank was empty. Kori cursed under her breath and headed towards a gas station. Nearly out of gas, she knew she wouldn't get very far if she just kept driving.
But once the tank was full, she wouldn't stop driving. Not until she had to.
She pulled into the station and dragged herself out of the car, slipping off both her broken and non-broken stilettos. She didn't care if she was in bare feet anymore.
Standing out of her car and leaning against the door, she turned her head towards the roof above the forecourt and sucked in a breath of the thick, midday summer air. Her eyes landed on a dull light in the roof; a dying light bulb sealed by glass. She saw it whining and aching; dragged out its' last few scraps of life. She felt bad for that light bulb. She thought about how much potential it once had. Maybe it had dreams to once become another sun. Maybe it could have.
But there it was, dying; it's only witness an already broken girl.
Then she shook her head at her silly thoughts about a light bulb.
Across from Kori's car stood someone she didn't know yet, but soon would. Wearing a stolen employee's vest found in the storeroom that was two sizes too big, the corner of his mouth turned up in a smile. He ran a hand through his shaggy brown hair and whispered words through chapped lips that quoted a piece of literature which he did not name.
"Will no one tell me what she sings?— Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow, for old, unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago..."
He pushed himself off the pump across the way, his weakened converse scuffing against the stained forecourt. His brown socked foot stuck out from the front of his right shoe. They were his favourite pair of shoes; his only pair of shoes. They had been broken for a while then.
He ran another hand through his hair and licked his chapped lips. He stuffed a hand in the pocket of his baggy jeans. His rough, calloused thumb and forefinger grazed against the things that calmed him; that perfectly round pebble he found in the footprint on the sand two years ago, the gleaming penny he found heads up on the street, the page of a book he loved that he ripped out of that copy in the library a year ago, and his newest addition; the Ace of Hearts card he found in the gutter just that morning. He had brushed off the leaves and grime with his glove and revealed something beautiful - something that mystified this wanderer.
He reached the girl across the court soon enough. She was still staring up at something on the roof, wide eyed and mesmerised. He too glanced up to see what was there. He didn't see anything, but she was intrigued nonetheless. He was hesitant to disrupt this girl with the messy clothes, racoon eyes and bare feet. He wanted her to stay in whatever happy little world she was in. But, nonetheless, he had to help.
"Excuse me. Can I help you, ma'am?" He asked in the most polite voice he could muster. It was raspy and rough; the product of a lack of liquid in the summer heat.
She looked shaken, like a possum in headlights. Her wide grey eyes landed on him, startled. She was flustered, her cheeks pink from the summer sun. This made him smile his crooked smile.
When Kori was snapped from her dream and looked to her visitor she was taken aback. Her eyes scanned over his old clothes and employee vest that was at least two sizes too big. His chapped lips were full and looked all too kissable, even being as chapped as they were. He had a long, thin scar on his left cheek. It didn't take away from him. If anything, it made him look more real; the sign of a life lived. The pocket of his jeans were stuffed with the oddest things; paper with writing she could not make out, a metal chain, a feather, a little bible, a spare sock, a piece of colourful tinfoil, an odd piece of material and a playing card; the Ace of Hearts to be exact. She chuckled to herself at this. She didn't know where these things came from, and she thought it quite strange they were in his possession. But that didn't matter. It made him all the more interesting.
His skin was tanned from the bright sun. She guessed he was outside a lot. His shoes were scuffed and holey. Broken, like hers. His jeans were ripped. So were her fishnet tights. She felt a tug at her heart for this link to him. Then, her eyes met his. His were like a jungle; bright green, like a leaf lit by sunlight. Against his tanned skin and shaggy brown hair they stuck out; pierced you, even. They were a jungle; wild and free and untamed. She liked that.
"Stars that shoot along the sky shine brightest as they fall from high."
The mysterious man whispered these words to Kori as she looked into his jungle eyes. They shook her from her trance. Confused and interested, she frowned.
"Sorry. What did you say?" She asked, eager to hear again what his whispers didn't quite make clear.
"I said: Excuse me. Can I help you, ma'am?" He replied, his gaze not faltering on hers.
She blinked. No, I meant what did you whisper? She thought. She was going to press further for the answer, but glancing at his vest, decided not to.
"Yeah," she nodded with a smirk. "Stop with the 'ma'am' stuff. It sounds weird. I'm Kori."
He nodded. "Hello, Kori. Can I help you?"
A crooked smile played on his lips. Kori thought it was beautiful, even with his teeth stained a pale yellow from cigarettes and coffee. He liked caffeine.
She ran a hand through her weak red hair, trying to get herself back on track. Her headache was taking her away from her aims and the current world. Usually, this was wanted. But, because of the urgency of her situation, it wasn't wanted this time.
"Uh... Yeah. Fill it up, please."
He nodded, "Will do."
"Thank you..." Kori began, glancing for his name tag. It wasn't there. "Uh... what's your name?"
"I don't have a name," He replied, quickly and simply.
This confused the hung over Kori again. "How is that possible?"
He shrugged. "I wasn't given one."
He was hiding more. Even the hung over Kori could tell that.
"But it's the first thing you're given when you come into this world."
He shrugged again. "It wasn't for me."
Kori frowned in amazement. "Huh. That's interesting." Then the pump clicked. She glanced to it and then back to Jungle Eyes. "Uh... thanks for the help."
Then she turned and walked towards the counter to pay.
Standing in front of the cashier Kori's eyes danced over the various goods around the counter. Gum, cigarettes, candy, rubber balls and then, as if purposely, a pack of cards for those long car rides. She knew the people in the shop were watching her with either critical or lustful eyes, taking in her appearance. Everyone was... apart from Jungle Eyes. He looked at her differently; like he was her equal. He looked at her in the eyes. His jungle eyes didn't wander.
Her mind flashed back to the Ace of Hearts peaking out of his worn and stained jean pocket. She cracked a smile – a genuine, unstoppable smile – and tossed the pack down to buy. She would need entertainment, after all.
Walking back over to her car, fingering the little pack of cards with a smile on her face, Kori walked straight into him.
"Ugh. Sorry!" She apologised quickly, regaining her balance. She then looked straight into those jungle eyes.
He bowed his head and shook it. "Do not fret, Kori. I'm the one who should be sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going."
Kori's smile grew. He spoke very politely. It was a refreshing change.
"No, no, it was my fault. Sorry." She glanced to her car, and then down to the cards. His eyes followed hers keenly, interested in this blushing, beautiful girl with the alcohol stained mini dress and racoon eyes. "Thanks again for helping me. Your boss should be proud."
Jungle Eyes laughed then; it was a hearty, beautiful laugh; a wholesome sound she hadn't heard in a while. It was so honest. It made her smile. She was smiling a lot.
"I do not work here," Jungle Eyes admitted, pulling at the too big vest with a cheeky smile as they walked back to her car. "I got it from the supply closet."
Kori frowned, amused, and giggled. "Why?" She asked.
He shrugged again. "I thought it would be an interesting way to spend my time. It was."
Kori just laughed again, pulling the trunk open to grab the map from her duffel bag. She wasn't stopping again for a while. "That's... unique."
He smiled. "Thank you, Kori." He then glanced to the trunk. "Do you have plans for the summer?" He asked, raising an eyebrow to the numerous bags with a mischievous smile.
Kori chuckled at this, even considering the depressing events surrounding the trunk full of bags.
"Plans?" She shook her head. "I have a tank full of gas and nowhere to go. That's the closest thing I have to a plan."
Jungle Eyes smiled brightly; proud, interested and inspired by this odd and entrancing girl. He liked her lack of a plan.
"There is madness about thee, and joy divine in that song of thine; lift me, guide me high and high to thy banqueting-place in the sky."
His words didn't make sense. Kori was lost in what he was saying again. It made sense – those whispers – if you listened. It's just that they were so out of context that Kori, in her hung over state, was taken back.
After a few moments, she shook herself back on track. "Oh, these are for you," she said, handing the plastic wrapped cards to Jungle Eyes. "I saw the card in your pocket and thought you needed a complete set."
Those eyes snapped to the cards. Another amused smile cracked on his suntanned face. His bright green eyes went back to Kori. It was the first gift he had ever received. This Kori was someone special; magical even.
"Thank you so much, Kori," he exclaimed, taking the cards in his calloused hand. "This is really great."
Kori nodded, blushing and smiling, and shut the trunk. "You're welcome."
She headed towards the drivers' seat. Jungle Eyes hung back, looking over the pack with admiration. In a second of thought, he snapped his attention back to Kori - that beautiful girl who had made his day.
"Kori!" He called. She stopped and turned to him.
He hesitated for a second, glancing over the car. That set his plan in stone.
"Do you mind if I come along?"
Kori was taken aback by the question. This strange man was as mysterious as the wind; no name, worn clothes and no job. She knew nothing about him. Yet, she felt like she knew everything. The thought of driving away from him sort of hurt. She felt a connection to him; they were both lost souls.
She knew that saying about never talking to strangers. She also never cared for social morals or expectations.
She cracked a smile, swung open her door, leant on it and nodded. "Jump in, Ace. We have some ground to cover."
He smiled, but then stopped. "Ace?" He questioned.
Kori motioned to the Ace of Hearts peeping out of his jean pocket. "Ace of Hearts," she pointed out.
He laughed then, fingering the card in his pocket with a sense of something he couldn't place; gratitude? Appreciation? Comfort? Solace? Home?
All he knew was this:
"I like it."
Kori smiled. Ace laughed. They both jumped into her convertible and left a city and lifetime of pasts behind them.
They had a full tank of gas, one summer and nowhere to go. It was all they ever needed.
"You are mine my darling, and the world, yes the world shall be ours."
Ace whispered to the wind as they drove along the open highway. Kori didn't know what he was quoting, but by then had learnt to accept those special words with an open heart and an open mind.
He liked to whisper words no one understood.
She liked to be free.
Author's Note: I hope you liked it. I was just inspired. It is meant to be a one-shot, but I could continue it. I'm starting to like the idea. Please tell me what you think!