Wicked Game (Pt. 2)

Wicked Game (Pt. 2)

A Story by Clifford
"

*Warning: Mild language and adult themes* A college student returns to his hometown and becomes entangled in a diabolical game with only one way to win: survive by any means necessary.

"

Wicked Game

Part 2

 

Josef fought back a yawn as he pulled into the gas station parking lot. He pulled up next to the pumps and sighed, pausing behind the wheel. He blinked to clear the spots from his eyes. He ran his chill hands over his face, closing his eyes and leaning into his palms. He rubbed between his brows and put his hand on the door handle.

            Bzzt

            He sighed as he fished his phone out of his jeans pocket. He entered his password with fumbling fingers. He had one new message from Beau.

 

Come on dude! you arent going to that stupid party are you

 

            That was the fourth message in the past five hours. Josef had to admit one thing: Beau was persistent. Tucking his phone away, Josef shoved open his car door and stepped out into the crisp nighttime Minnesota air and began pumping the gas. He felt goosebumps break out over his skin, but he didn't mind. It was cold, sure, but it a somewhat comforting sensation. He knew he was breathing in the air he’d breathed his whole life.

              He blinked. Wow, yep. Definitely too late when he started having those kinds of thoughts.

            Josef jumped slightly as the nozzle clicked. He glanced around himself again self-consciously and returned the nozzle to the holster. He traipsed to the gas station's doors and pushed through them. A young blonde girl stood behind the counter. She wore a fake but polite smile as she attended to an elderly lady with a slightly stooped back and blue-gray hair. The girl's nametag read Caitlin and had a smiley face in the upper right corner. She glanced at Josef as he walked by, her gaze lingering for just a moment too long, her eyes a little too playful.

            He set his eyes on the coffee machine and went straight for it. He grabbed a cheaply made Styrofoam cup and filled it as full as he dared. He spilled a bit on his fingers as he put a lid on it. He didn't react other than to mumble some choice words under his breath. Once he licked his fingers clean, Josef scanned the isles and picked up a few peanut butter granola bars.

            The old lady was just clearing out as Josef made his way to the checkout. Caitlin gave Josef a smile that was slightly more alive than the one she gave the lady. "Hey," she said in a forcibly casual tone. She twirled a strand of hair around her index finger.

            Josef exhaled as he pulled out his wallet. "Hi. I had gas on . . ." He glanced out the window. “. . . pump three.” He held his coffee with hands, welcoming the warmth slowly seeping into his fingers.

            "Yep, I got it put it."

            "You're efficient," Josef said.

            Caitlin averted her gaze and smiled wider. "How're you doing?" she asked as she scanned the granola bars.

            Josef shrugged. "Could be better. I'm driving across the state at one in the morning, so, you know." He dropped two tens and a twenty onto the counter.

            Caitlin laughed once. "Tell me about it. I'm stuck here by myself until four."

            Josef raised an eyebrow. "Really? That brings me back. When I was about your age, I worked at a gas station. Always hated working the night shift. Though there was sometimes this one girl - Linsey - who worked with me. She was two years older. Pretty, and good company. Made the nights go a lot faster." He rubbed his eyes. "Sorry. Rambling. I 'm just tired." He clicked his tongue. "Now that I think about it, she looked a little like you.”

            Caitlin smiled, and her cheeks reddened slightly. She put Josef's items in a bag and slid it over. “Have a nice . . . morning, I guess. Try not to pass out while driving and crash."

             His lips twitched. “Don’t tempt me.”

            Once in the car, Josef checked the GPS app on his phone. Home Sweet Home was just over two hours away. He would get there with plenty of time to rent a motel room and sleep for around six hours, leaving him with a day before the party started. He wasn't quite sure what he would do with that time, but he would find something. He just needed to get away from everything for a while. Clear his head out. Prevent himself from backing out of the party he so clearly needed to attend. He should probably swing by his parents and say hello. But they're so very. . . unpleasant. There were any number of things a young man could do in a bustling city to avoid seeing his folks. Maybe he could find a new outfit. If Linsey was going to be there, Josef needed to aim to impress.

            Josef thoughtfully drummed his fingers on the wheel as he drove into the night.

 

The door stiffly opened. Josef groped along the wall and flipped a switch. He initially thought the bulbs were burnt out, but after a few seconds the room slowly illuminated. The room was shabby at best, but it would do. He would only be here for a couple hours, anyway.

            Josef shut the door behind him. He leaned against the frame and let out a long, deep sigh. He eyed the grungy bed with longing. He dropped his keys onto the dresser. He checked his phone for the time - 3:21 - and turned it off before setting it next to his keys. He tugged off his clothes and folded them before setting them at the foot of the bed. He eased himself onto the bed and lay back, looking up at the ceiling. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine himself lying on a rock.

 

Josef stood in front of the mirror, a towel draped around his shoulders. He rubbed disapprovingly at the dark stubble covering his jaw line and upper lip. He gently pulled back his eyelids and tilted his head back and forth, leaning in closer to the mirror. He ran his hands through his hair, smoothing and flattening the puffy, tangled black mess. His bangs hung down to just below his thick eyebrows.

            He took a step back. He swiveled his back and pivoted his arms, monitoring the way his muscles moved. He wasn't disappointed, exactly - that was too strong a word - but he certainly regretted dropping his exercise routine upon starting college. Not that it mattered; no one at the party would be paying attention to his muscles.

            Shrugging, Josef exited the bathroom and put his clothes back on. If he hadn't left campus so impulsively, he would have brought an extra set of clothes. It irked him to have to wear the same clothes two days in a row.

            A thought coming to him, Josef looked around the room. The motel room wasn't in pristine condition, but it was much neater than his dorm room. He forgot just how much he missed having a clean room. Beau was great and everything, but the guy could not keep a room clean to save his life.

            He turned on his phone. It was just past noon, and he had four new text messages and one voicemail. He quickly skimmed through the texts. Two were from Beau (asking Josef where he was, what he was doing, how much of an idiot he was), one was from Kat (echoing Beau's messages, albeit with a more concerned tone), and one from Mary (reminding him of the party, missing no chance to make a suggestive comment).

            Walking to the window, Josef started the voicemail and held the phone to his ear

            Hey, Josef. It's Blaine.

            Josef pulled back the curtains and looked out.

            I was calling to let you know that me and a few friends are going to the Coffee Stop. You know, like a celebration that the term is over. I was gonna ask you if you wanted to come with, but Beau says you're busy.

            A young couple walked past Josef's window, cutting across the grass. They held hands and spoke gently to each other. Josef felt a pang in his chest as he watched them.

            We need to get out again some time. It's been, what, three months? I know you keep yourself busy, but you got to a have break every now and then, right? Anyway, man. See you later.

             His stomach rumbled. He rubbed his abdomen. Now was a good a time as any to leave. He picked up his keys and headed to the door. The lock stuck a bit, but a well-placed shove opened it right up.

            Josef walked to the car. He hopped in and exited the parking lot. If he remembered correctly, there was a clothing store a few miles away, right next to his old watering hole. He ran his tongue over his teeth and turned left.

            As much as he longed to leave this place after high school, He had to admit it was refreshing being back in his home city. He caught himself smiling and he watched the waves of people - just an impatient and petulant as always - roll past one another.

            It was as if Josef never left. Every street, every restaurant, every store. . . it was all just as he had left it. He chuckled lightly to himself when he saw the NoNaym Cafe. He used to come here at least four times a month. His friend's family used to own it - Ruby Taylor and her parents and sisters. Ruby was awesome. Sometimes she, Josef, and a few others would come here during lunch. They always got back late, but it was worth it. Josef missed having so few responsibilities.

            He pulled in, cheerfully drumming his fingers on the wheel. He found his old parking spot. He stepped out, eyeing the building. It even smelled the same! The scent of fried eggs and maple syrup wafted through the thick city air. It only intensified as Josef got closer and walked through the front doors, the same way he had a million times before.

            A bell chimed above his head. "Be with you in just a second," a familiar voice called out.

            Josef walked up to the counter and leaned against it, smiling. The girl standing behind it tucked something into a drawer and turned around. She took a step toward Josef, then paused, eye wide. Her mouth opened and closed once. She smiled, a cocky ear-to-ear grin. Her eyes shown like emeralds. "Josef!" she called. She came around to the other side of the counter and tackled Josef in a bear hug, almost knocking him over. He tried to return the gesture, but his elbows were pinned against his sides.

            After a moment, the girl pulled back. She put her hands on his shoulders and looked closely at him. Josef forgot just how tall she was; her eyes were nearly level with Josef's.

            Finally, the girl laughed and shook her head.  She clapped Josef on the shoulder and crossed her arms, shifting her weight to her right leg. "You know, Joey," she said, "you could call once in a while."

            He rubbed at his stubble. "You know, Ruby," he said mimicking her tone, "you could too."

            She smiled and shook her head again. "God, I just. . . How long as it been? Two years?"

            "Yeah." Ruby opened her mouth, but Josef put on an irritated face and held up his hand. "Excuse me, miss, but shouldn't you be doing your job?"

            Ruby slapped the back of his head. "Jackass," she muttered. "I don't suppose you need a menu?" she asked.

            "Nope. I have that thing memorized."

            "Right this way, then, sir." She walked toward the far wall, her curly brown hair bouncing with each step. Josef followed. She stopped at one of the booths and looked down at humorously. "This is the one, right?"

            Josef whistled and sat down. "Yep. Hasn't changed a bit." He laughed. "I can't believe you didn't burn this thing after what Doug and Jessica did on it on prom night."

            Ruby put her hands on the tabletop and leaned in. "Hey, what the people don't know won't hurt them.” She studied Josef for a few seconds. "Hold on, I'll go put in your order. You'll be having your regular, I presume?" He nodded. “Maybe I’ll tell ‘em to give you some extra fries; you’re bonier than I remember.” She made her way to the kitchen. Josef watched her intently as she went.

            Once she disappeared around a corner, Josef leaned back and exhaled. He looked around the interior of the cafe. The jukebox was still stood proudly against the opposite wall. The windows had the same curtains. The tables and booths all had a dessert menu standing in the center (a menu Josef also knew by heart). This was the first time he had been there since high school, but there wasn't a thing that wasn't just as he remembered.

            Ruby appeared and sat across from Josef. "Have we really not seen each other since graduation? That's just crazy."

            "I know. It's hard to believe it was so long ago. This is my first time back since high school."

            Ruby placed her hand on Josef's. "Are you serious? Not even to see your family?"

            He shook his head. "What can I say? I've been busy."

            "You haven't seen your parents in two years?" Her hand tightened painfully.

            "You know I never got along with them." He tugged at his hand. Ruby let it go, and Josef set it in his lap.

            "Yeah, but. . ." She shook her head. "You've always been an odd kid, Joey.

            "So you've said."

            She scrunched her eyebrows. "You've been busy, huh? What have you been up to?"

            "Same old, same old. College, roommates, work. You know how it is."

            She held Josef's gaze unwaveringly. "I sure do. I'm still working here fulltime."

            "You going to school here, too?"

            She nodded. "That was easiest. I didn't have to move across the country, find a new job, or anything. I did get an apartment, though. Didn't want to be that one person who never leaves her parents' place."

            "Yeah, that," Josef said," and you don't have to worry about getting caught sneaking guys in."

            "Oh, can it. They never saw - they didn't know."

            He cocked an eyebrow.

            Ruby smiled and leaned back, looking at the ceiling. "God, senior prom really was awesome, wasn’t it?”

            A bell chimed from somewhere in the kitchen.

            "You gonna get that?" Josef asked.

            Ruby flicked his forehead and stood. She again disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared moments later balancing a tray on her palm. She set it in front of Josef and sat back down. "Bon appétit," she said.

            Josef peeled back the wrapper and bit into his meal, tasting warm cheddar cheese and crunchy toast. He swallowed and nodded sagely. "Goddamn that's good."

            "You still going vegetarian?" Ruby asked.

            "Yeah.”

            She smirked and opened her mouth, but someone called her name. She glanced over her shoulder, toward the counter near the door. A lady wearing an apron stood behind the counter, one hand on her hip. Josef couldn't quite tell, but he thought her nametag said Lisa. Ruby's mother was named Lisa. Was her hair always so gray?

            Ruby looked back at Josef. "Gotta go. Miss Bitchface wants to talk to me." She leaned across and kissed Josef on the cheek. "It was good seeing you again."

            "You too."

            Ruby stood up. "Take care of yourself." She went over to the over lady, and they started talking. Lisa waved for Ruby to follow her back into the kitchen, and Ruby followed after tilting her head back and groaning.

            Josef glanced out the window. He quickly finished off his sandwich and left a generous tip. It was almost two o’clock, and he still needed to go shopping; he couldn't very well go to the party in his shabby, worn out clothes.

 

            His pounding heart rocked his body like a drum. He sat in his car, hands squeezing the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned white. The parking lot was mostly empty, though he did notice a familiar blue Corvette: Mary’s car. He checked the text one last time.

 

Hey, Joey ;) I know you like to be early so feel free to come in and talk before everyone else gets here!

 

            She was optimistic, if nothing else. Josef sighed, shaking his head. One-on-one conversation with Mary wasn’t at the top of his to do list, but if he had to shoot her down again, he would rather do it with as few witnesses as possible.

            He opened his door and got out. Slowly, he closed the door and turned to face the building. This was it. After years of regret and pining, he would finally see her again. He found himself walking forward. A light breeze rustled his hair. He reached the door and grabbed the handle.

     He froze.

            A sense of forbidding washed over him. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t place what. Something in the air, maybe. Some smell or sound he couldn’t quite place. Whatever it was, this building now seemed ominous. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all. What did he have to gain by doing this, anyway? A chance to see some girl he had a crush on a hundred years ago? What was he thinking?

            You were always too afraid to do anything.

            He blinked. Mary’s angry face flashed before his eyes. His grip tightened on the door handle. He was done being a scared child. This was his chance at correcting his mistakes, and he wasn’t going to pass it up.


© 2017 Clifford



Author's Note

Clifford
Part two of this Halloween-inspired tale. Thank you for taking the time to read. I welcome and appreciate any feedback.

Read part 1 here: http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/CliffordFaust/1970703/

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Featured Review

YOWWWW! This ending is so full of suspense, I'm dying to read the next section of your story, but I don't remember seeing it posted yet. I love the way you built up the suspense, but not by being overly dramatic. All along, the vibe is a little aloof & sarcastic, so we are wondering how Josef will act when he sees Mary and/or Lindsey. You've set this up to suggest something wicked is going to happen at this party. Small detail: bon appétit is misspelled . . . *smile* Fondly, Margie

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Clifford

3 Weeks Ago

D****t! I even looked up how to spell bon appetit. Oh well. Yes, the third part should have already .. read more



Reviews

YOWWWW! This ending is so full of suspense, I'm dying to read the next section of your story, but I don't remember seeing it posted yet. I love the way you built up the suspense, but not by being overly dramatic. All along, the vibe is a little aloof & sarcastic, so we are wondering how Josef will act when he sees Mary and/or Lindsey. You've set this up to suggest something wicked is going to happen at this party. Small detail: bon appétit is misspelled . . . *smile* Fondly, Margie

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Clifford

3 Weeks Ago

D****t! I even looked up how to spell bon appetit. Oh well. Yes, the third part should have already .. read more

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Added on October 25, 2017
Last Updated on November 9, 2017

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Clifford
Clifford

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