a/n: sorry for the wait folks... short but sweet, inspiration is slowly coming back to me.
The next two days were a blur in my mind. I hadn't seen Liz since kicking her out of my apartment, but my phone had been going non-stop. Most of the calls were Liz. Calls every couple hours starting the morning after she left, voice-mail alerts and unread texts filled the void left by her absence. I couldn't answer. I couldn't bring myself to talk to her yet, or listen to the many voicemails she left. I didn't want to hear what she had to say. Not yet. I still needed time to process this.
Even Jackson tried to call me and, while I was itching to hear how he was doing, I just knew the topic of his call would be Liz. He was the Velvet Rope's unofficial mediator. He wanted to see everyone happy. Unfortunately, I wasn't ready to accept what I had learned and I couldn't just tell Jackson why I was so upset. Who would believe me?
I could only imagine the explanation Liz was giving everyone for our little spat.
I went back to work and she was nowhere to be seen. I was able to glean from the other girls that she had called in for the next few days; family problems or something like that. I knew her family lived out of state, not sure where, but I also knew that she was estranged. If it was really family trouble then it would have to be very serious to get her to go back. If it was really family trouble.
I found myself trying to remember what the moon looked like the past couple of nights. Was she calling off because of the moon? Maybe it was that time of month for her. A phrase which took on a whole new meaning now. Or maybe she called off because of me.
It wasn't until I was cashing out that I remembered that the night the wolf attacked me the moon had been just past it's first quarter. The waxing gibbous, as science buffs or us people with no life might know. There would still be another week or so before the full moon which means that Liz either really did go see her estranged family… or she really was avoiding me at all costs now.
Why did that thought make the tears start to flow, suddenly?
"Harley, is everything okay?"
Jackson appeared behind me. I must have been really out of it to not have heard him approach. You would think a man that large would be heard long before you saw him.
I turned in my stool and wrapped my arms around him, as far as they would go, and pressed my face into his chest squeezing tight. I could feel him still under me, could feel the tension in his muscles before I remembered myself.
"Oh my God, Jackson! I'm sorry your still hurt!" I released him instantly.
A soft chuckle escaped him as he relaxed at my release, shaking his head and making the large hoop earrings lined up his earlobe clang against one another.
"I can take it, angel. You don't pack that much of a punch."
He gave me a wry grin before it fell again. His large hand moved to my cheeks and knuckles wiped at the wetness on my cheeks.
"You should call her," he said with that mysterious understanding he always managed to have. I could protest that it wasn't about Liz, but then what else would it be? It had been a hard, stressful week sure but not having your best friend around to relax with, to cry with… It was unbearable.
I turned away from him, wiping my tears away as I collected my tips for the night and put them into my wallet. I had been the one avoiding her calls for the last two days. Why, then, was I so upset that she skipped work to avoid me?
"I can't. Not yet."
"It's complicated Jackson. I know that's a poor excuse but it's true. I can't even begin to explain it to you."
His hand rested between my shoulder blades, making me look back to him. He was just smiling down at me.
"You would be surprised what I can understand, angel. If you would just trust me."
I stared up at his towering form for a few heartbeats trying to process what he meant. His face was impassive. Kind, but impassive. His words nagged at me for a while but he simply squeezed my shoulder and moved away, disappearing behind the bar.
What about this situation could he possibly understand?
There was nothing else said for the rest of the night. Jackson busied himself with his closing tasks and I finished cleaning up my locker in the back. I bid the rest of the ladies goodnight, leaving them to their after parties and hook ups, and made my way outside. It was straight home and to bed for me.
The parking lot was pretty bare by the time I left the club. There were a few of the employees' cars in the back lot with mine, Andre's Navigator included, even an abandoned car in the front lot which typically meant either it was broken down or they were too drunk to drive themselves home. Most likely, it would be gone by tomorrow.
I unlocked my driver side door and threw my oversized tote bag into the passenger seat. A series of short honks sounded and I saw a glimpse of one of the other girls' hands waving at me as she left the lot and pulled onto the street. I waved back and ducked into my car, ready to head out myself.
I pulled from the space slowly but something instantly did not feel right. I lightly pressed the brake and stopped mid-turn. The parking lot was still, eerily so, without a sig of life in sight and still something was nagging me at the back of my mind. Deciding I was losing my mind, I shifted the car into drive and made for the road but as I accelerated more and more I felt the back end of my car begin to wobble from side to side. I hit the brakes again, cursing under my breath as my back end protested against the sudden stop.
A flat tire? I had just gotten all four replaced two months before. I was not happy.
I got out and walked around to the back of the car. The tire on the driver's side was just fine so I moved across the back to check the other side. The tire wasn't just flat, it was decimated. It looked like someone had gone to town on it with a knife, slashing and ripping it over and over.
"Fuck!" I screamed, feeling my blood begin to boil. Who the Hell would do something like this? Even Frank wasn't the type to just slash someone's tires. He was more creative than that.
My foot connected with the fender of my Toyota, both putting a small, foot-sized dent into the side and snapping my heel clean off my shoe. A sound born of pure rage and frustration growled from by throat as I hobbled on my uneven shoes and bent over to grab the heel from the pavement.
As I crouched near the back corner of my car a small dark puddle caught my eye. At first I think I thought it was motor oil, left behind by another car but this was even thicker than that. Something inside me told me to touch it, to see what it was. My hand moved towards the dark liquid but before I could swipe my fingertips into it another drop dripped down into it. It was coming from my car.
My eyes followed the source of the dripping, my feet shuffling in my crouched position to move around to the back of the car. The dark substance was sliding down the bumper of my car from the seal of the trunk above.
My heart went to my throat and I stood up, looking down at the trunk. I tried to swallow but couldn't manage. My mouth was dry, my heart beating in a rapid cadence of fear. I moved, slowly, to grasp the handle and before I could talk myself out of it I pulled it open.
I jumped as my eyes met with a sea of red. Not the deep crimson of blood but bright and vibrant cloth I had no recollection of being back there. My trunk was filled with the strange fabric and it was covering something. I didn't want to lift the cloth, to peek under it and find out what Pandora's Box was hiding underneath but my body was on autopilot. Oh God, Liz… she had called in today. Oh God, no. Please, no.
"Harley, is everything okay?"
Jackson's voice was distant, foggy even, as I lifted the red fabric. My voice was strangled in the back of my throat, my hand letting the fabric drop back down into the trunk but I had uncovered enough. I swooned backwards only to fall against something solid… something warm.
Jackson's hands wrapped around the tops of my arms, holding me steady. His breath hitched slightly and as I stared at the poor deer, its throat a glistening shredded mess of sinew and blood, I felt my stomach twist and contort with the urge to vomit. Jackson's grip tightened on me as he stared down over my head at the animal bleeding out in my trunk.
"….the fuck?" he said, moments before I hurled forward and lost the entire contents of my stomach to the asphalt.