Remember the other week when I asked for writing prompts... and then I said I'd write the next Thursday? Well, the next Thursday was Christmas and I neglected this blog over the holidays. Then the next Thursday was New Years Day and I was still on vacation, for the most part. So. It's Thursday again and I'm doing it, so help me!
Well... since there were five prompts, I've decided I can squeeze them all into one post. Sorry Ginny... I decided randomly to pick all of you even though you were the one that won in the ACTUAL RANDOM number draw! ;)
The smog was thick in this part of the valley. So thick that you could taste it on the back of your tongue, acrid and bitter. My nose twitched as I tried to breath through it, a sneeze threatening to burst out. I held it back. With how aloof he was acting, I didn't dare make a noise.
I looked at him dubiously as he lifted the smoking hood. This was not good. One time in high school I did take shop class, but despite that fact, neither of us knew very much about engines and we were helplessly stranded, that was clear. The highway was crowded with cars, and there were apartments just 100 yards away. I was wondering why no one was stopping or why we weren't walking to a phone, but I wasn't about to ask.
To be honest, he scared me. A lot. Yes, I had been "with" him for more than a year, but I never could anticipate him, and he was getting worse. The last few weeks had brought, at first, brooding. I often watched him with his furrowed brow, and I wondered where his mind was. It was like he was looking through me through some severe memory. He had also started sleeping more and more in the day, but when he was awake, his brooding gradually turned into seething... like a pot of water just before it boils.
It wasn't even eleven and he'd already flipped out twice today. The first one was when he realized he'd forgotten his cell phone. He swore and clenched his teeth, and as he fumed I watched the wiry muscles up and down his arms twitching. I flinched in reaction. I don't know if it was my flinch or the fact that his cell phone was sitting on his nightstand, but he lost it. He bellowed something that seemed like another language and swung his fist, ripping the rear view mirror off the windshield. It flew across the car, hitting my face, and clattered to the floor. Holding my jaw and leaning my forehead against the window, I wished I could ball up some of those snowflakes that were falling outside and cool the throbbing I felt under my sweaty hand. He didn't even notice me crying. The second explosion was less severe, but the look in his eyes made me sure I was going to loose the cold lasagna that I had eaten for breakfast.
A horn on the freeway brought me back to the hissing engine in front of me. My jaw still ached and it was getting harder to move. I was just starting to wonder if it was broken when he shifted his weight and grunted. He stood up and looked at me for what seemed like the first time that day and, as he did, his eyes flicked toward my jaw and a look of horror crossed his face for a brief second, almost too fast to notice. Clearing his throat, he turned away and started pacing, kicking an empty applesauce cup out into the rush of cars.
As I watched him I wondered why he wasn't trying to get some help. Though my heart was pumping like a galloping horse, I finally worked up the courage to say something.
"So, ummmm... what's your plan?" I ventured timidly.
He stopped and glanced first at me and then at the nearby apartments. His eyes looked tight, strained and almost vexed. He didn't say anything. He simply turned around and walked around the car and dropped out of sight. I followed, my breath coming in little puffs as I walked around the car. He was sitting on the ground, staring at nothing.
Irritated and worried, I opened the door and climbed back in the car. I'd never seen him act so distraught. Enraged, yes. Exasperated, yes. Distraught and even confused, no. His confidence was one of the things that drew me to him and kept me here, despite his unpredictability. He felt like a shield between me and the life I second-guessed my way through. He always knew what to do.
My apprehension was getting the better of me as I sat back in my seat. We're totally freezing, but he acted like he had no desire to leave! I didn't get it. It seemed like he was praying that no one would stop or desperately trying to figure out a way to stay away from the apartments and anyone that might emerge from them. I couldn't understand what the problem was. So we were broken down!? Big deal! Let's pick an apartment, knock on a door and use the phone!
Pain flared in my jaw again as I realized I was grinding my teeth. With him safely outside the car, I reached for the rear view mirror to see if there was any visible marks on my face and, seeing the mirror gone, remembered it was on the floor somewhere. After a minute of groping, I found it, held it up to my face. The cold air seared my lungs as I gasped and dropped the mirror. 'That couldn't be right!' I thought wildly.
Gently, I brought my hand up where the mirror had hit me. I couldn't feel much since my hands were getting numb from the cold. But I could feel a lump. There wasn't anything to feel aside from that. Nothing told my fingers about the weird mark I saw there, a half inch across, solid black in the center and gradated into my pink skin at the edges. It was creepy, and I didn't understand how a mirror could leave a mark like that.
When I had seen the mark, I had dropped the mirror so fast I was not sure it was real. Fingers trembling slightly, I picked it back up and turned it over, my face becoming visible once again. Sure enough, the black mark was there, but the first time I looked I had only seen one, and then there were two. I felt panic rise in my chest. I was breathing fast and felt a little dizzy. 'Could I have just missed the second one, or did it show up just now?' I thought to myself. My mind was spinning and I realized I needed to be out of that small car.
I turned to open the door and I screamed as his face loomed in the window. I didn't know how long he had been watching me, but his eyes scrutinized my face, and as he saw the black marks, his face crumpled and he began to cry quietly. I climbed out of the car slowly, unsure of how to react. I had never seen a hint of vulnerability in him before, and here he was crying.
He turned his red rimmed eyes toward me and grabbed me gently by the shoulders. "There's something I should tell you" he whispered.