by Nicole Mabry
(Read Part 1 here.)
Though the lighting was dim, I could tell the inside of the bar did not match its outside: grimy, scuffed linoleum, ripped red leather booths, a long C-shaped bar surrounded by mismatched rickety stools, a lighted St. Pauli’s Girl sign held together with black electric tape dangling off-kilter on the wall. A cloud of cigarette smoke hung from the ceiling like an early morning fog and Steely Dan on the jukebox purred just below the hum of drunken conversations. I heard a shout and through the haze, I saw our fellow art clubbers had staked claim on a large round booth that bordered the right side of the bar. They must have gotten here early. The place was so full some people had to stand. Jo plunked down across from her current crush, Danny, and pulled me in next to her. Danny resembled Kevin Bacon in Footloose with spiky feathered hair and crystal blue eyes that lit up when he saw Jo. But his smile faltered when those eyes landed on me, Jo’s sidekick.
“We’re playing quarters. Have you played before?” he asked Jo.
“Duh, of course I have. But I don’t think Maggie has. Can you show her?” Jo replied with a flip of her hair as she swiveled her head in my direction.
Her eyes shot quickly to mine and I knew with that one look that she’d never played but didn’t want Danny to know.
I nodded and said, “Yeah, can you show me?”
I glanced down at the laminated wood table, cigarette burns marring the surface in a star shape, someone’s idea of an art project. My heart sank. Placed in the center of the star was a row of shot glasses filled with light brown liquid. I’d been hoping to nurse a beer throughout the night.
Danny pulled one shot closer and picked up a wet quarter from the table. “You wanna bounce the quarter off the table like this.” He held the quarter between his thumb and forefinger, parallel to the table, and slammed the quarter down. It bounced off the table, ricocheted off the rim of the shot glass and landed several inches to its left. Danny’s cheeks flushed.
“I swear I just made one! Ask Dylan if you don’t believe me,” he said, his chest puffed up.
Jo’s high-pitched laugh rang out next to me. “I believe you,” she said, one eyebrow arched, a flirty smile aimed at Danny.
His face turned even redder and he fumbled his words before moving on. “So, if you make it into the shot glass, you get to pick someone to take the shot.”
“I think I’ll just watch,” I interrupted.
Groans erupted around the table. Jo’s head whipped around, her mouth hanging open, her annoyed expression instantly dashing my hopes. “No way! Maggie, come on, you promised we’d have fun tonight. Please?”
Without waiting for my response, she picked up the quarter and bounced it into a shot glass on her first try. Her arms shot into the air and everyone clapped their admiration at her quarter bouncing ability.
She grabbed the shot glass with the quarter still at the bottom and pushed it into my face. “I pick Maggie.”
I opened my mouth to protest but no words came. With one glance at Jo’s beatific smile, I knew it was useless to argue. Next to Mom, Jo was the most relentless person I knew. I took the glass from her fingertips and peered to the bottom. I could have sworn George Washington winked at me. Everyone began pounding their fists on the table and chanting, “Drink, drink, drink!” I looked at Jo and she widened her eyes, her smile becoming strained as she silently pleaded with me to play along. I took a deep breath and tossed it back. The tequila burned as it made its way down my esophagus, followed by a metallic aftertaste, the coin’s extra seasoning. The table exploded in cheers as I pulled the quarter out of my mouth and aimed it at the next shot glass.
Four hours later, I was hugging the chipped, stained toilet with both hands in the single bathroom at the rear of the bar. That stolen glass of wine hadn’t prepared me for the effects of four shots of tequila. Danny kept choosing me and I suspected he was trying to get me out of the way so he could have Jo to himself. The room swam before my eyes. I pulled myself up to the sink and turned the knob, guzzling water from the rusty tap. I grabbed Jo’s pink satin bomber from where it had fallen on the floor and draped it over my shoulders.
When I pulled the bathroom door open, angry faces glared at me for taking so long. I slurred, “Sorry,” as I wobbled down the dark hallway. Just before I reached the bar, I stumbled and caught myself on the edge of the counter. Taking a second to steady myself, I searched for Jo. My eyes stopped cold when I saw Casey Bachman sitting at the bar, his neon yellow polo with popped collar glaring like a caution sign in a sea of blues and browns. What was he doing here? He’d graduated two years ago. His light brown hair was cut short and spiky on the top and sides, left longer in the back. He’d gained some weight and his voice boomed louder than I remembered.
“Another round for my buddies, and one for this pretty lady,” he yelled, his arm slung over an older woman’s shoulder. I squinted my eyes and realized the woman was Colleen, a checker at the grocery store where Mom worked. People called her a floozy because she was still single in her thirties and had a reputation for sleeping around.
“So, what’s your major, pretty boy?” Colleen drawled, leaning in closer to Casey.
“Political Science. I’m gonna be your next Senator!” Casey roared. His friends whistled and slapped him on the back.
I took a deep breath and made my way around the bar. As I passed his group, Casey slammed his glass down, making me jump. The jacket slipped off my shoulders. He turned around, picked it up and handed it back with a sloppy smile. I felt myself smiling in return. His eyes were glazed and he looked through me rather than at me. I mumbled, “Thanks,” and hurried away. I shouldn’t have smiled back, what was I thinking?
At our table, Jo was telling everyone how she was going to decorate her dorm room at NYU with Depeche Mode posters and Christmas lights strung around her bed. I glanced back at the bar. Casey was still chatting with his friends, his arm again around Colleen. I exhaled. He’d barely noticed me. There were advantages to being invisible.
I dropped down next to Jo and whispered, “I need to go. I don’t feel well.”
She threw an arm roughly around my shoulders and laughed, “What a lightweight! Come on, I don’t have to be home for another hour!” Her tequila breath made my stomach turn again.
“I puked in the bathroom,” I whispered in her ear.
Jo made a face and retracted her arm. “Eww, grody!” She looked back at the group and sighed. “Ok, I’ll find Emily.” Her obvious disappointment made me feel bad. I knew how hard she’d fought for these extra two hours.
“No, wait. S’ok I can take the bus. Stop’s just up the gravel walkway on Macmillan.”
“Are you sure?” She looked longingly back at Danny.
“Sure I’m sure. I’ll be fine.”
“Wait, I’ll walk with you,” she said as she rose from the booth.
Jo opened the heavy door, but before we walked out, Danny yelled, “Jo! I bet Dylan $5 he couldn’t fit as many olives in his mouth as you can. Jo, you know you can beat him!” We knew Danny was right. Jo could fit her whole fist in her mouth, a rare talent she liked to show off.
“Go on,” I said, nudging her back toward the table. “You totally want to flirt with him.” I pointed up the path, “Stop’s right there.”
She hesitated and her eyebrows came together. “Are you sure you’re ok to take the bus? You had more shots than I did. You’re a little wobbly.”
“I’m fine, I take the bus every day. I could do it in my sleep. Now go!”
She hugged me and said, “Call me tomorrow. Drink lots of water! That’s what Emily told me.”
She reluctantly walked away as I stepped outside. The cool, smoke-free air smacked me in the face, clearing my vision. The throbbing in my head dulled when I inhaled deeply. I glanced at my watch. The bus would come by in ten minutes. Bert, our nighttime bus driver, would no doubt be a few minutes late per usual. The gravel path bordered Mt. Hood National Forest on one side and the parking lot on the other, hidden behind tall evergreen shrubs. As I walked down the narrow path, a cricket melody hiccupped all around me. I yanked a long blade of grass and tried to whistle through it between my thumbs like Jo and I had done when we were kids. The streetlight at the bus stop loomed ahead, a swarm of moths dancing in its light.
Half way down the path, a twig snapped behind me and I whipped around. Casey was striding toward me, the tight smirk on his face illuminated by the moon. That arrogant smile, so very different from the one he’d given in the bar, scared me the most. It said, ‘I’ll take what I want and I won’t get caught.’ It sent my heart racing and made the hairs rise on the back of my neck. Quickly, I zipped up Jo’s jacket and backed away.
“Hey, hey, don’t zip that up. Your tits look great in that dress. I don’t remember you from school.”
“I’m no one,” I whispered as I slowly stepped back.
“You shouldn’t be walking out here alone.”
“I’m fine, really.”
I turned away and took two steps, but Casey closed the distance and grabbed my hand. I jerked my hand free and broke into a run, my jellies slipping in the loose gravel. Ten yards ahead the scarred bus stop bench called out like a beacon, the moths beckoning. Casey’s steps crunched louder and closer. I was almost to the road when he grabbed the hood of Jo’s jacket and yanked me back. My body flew through the air and landed on a thousand shards of slate and limestone. My backside erupted in painful pinpricks. The air pushed out of my lungs. Casey jumped on top of me, straddling my body. I bucked underneath him, but he forced my arms down by my sides, tucking them under his legs. I tried to scream when his knees ground into my wrist bones, but all that came out was a raspy moan, my throat still raw from throwing up. Fear spiked up through my stomach. I glanced around wildly, hoping someone was coming to my rescue. The dark path was empty.
At the sound of his descending zipper, I bucked again and managed to pull my arms free. He clamped his whole body down the length of mine. He was too close to jab him in the throat or knee him in the balls, like my mom had shown me. I punched and scratched instead until he grabbed my wrists and pinned them by my ears. He had the advantage. He’d done this before. He knew the drill. His weight crushed my lungs. His face was just inches away. The overpowering stench of whiskey and Drakkar, too heavily applied, filled the air. My stomach lurched.
“Don’t fight, it’ll just make it worse,” he sneered. “For you.”
His leg pushed hard against my clenched thighs. Keep your knees glued together, Maggie! All those years subconsciously clamping them shut had given me strong thighs and calves and my legs remained closed. His knee moved to the soft flesh just above my knee and dug in. I yelped and my legs broke apart. He released one of my arms and reached down below. My one free arm struggled to push him off. He was too strong, too big. I felt his penis pushing against me as it slid further and further inside. A sharp pain erupted between my legs, worse than the time I’d hit the curb on my bike and landed spread-eagle on the bar underneath the seat. I screamed, and this time it was louder, echoing off the mountains.
Casey sputtered, “Fuck!”
He clamped one hand over my mouth, covering my nose, too. I tried to suck in air through his fingers. It was no use. Nothing came in. My eyes bulged. My terror had been lured away from his penis pushing in and out by the air that was no longer reaching my lungs, by his fingers cemented over my airways. I smacked my free hand on the gravel and threw fistfuls of pebbles at him. Blackness crept into the corners of my vision. I had to do something, I couldn’t pass out. Work harder than the person next to you, Maggie! My fingers found something larger than a pebble and I wiggled it back and forth until it dislodged from the dirt. As I lifted my arm and swung it through the air, Casey’s eyes locked onto mine, a smile still on his lips like an evil quarter moon. And I thought, he knows he’s suffocating me.
In the second before stone met skin, my arm felt strengthened with the rage of every victim that came before me. The rock slammed into his temple. His head snapped to the side. Dark red blood sprayed across my cheeks and trickled down the side of his face. His grip on my mouth slackened. His eyes widened into perfect circles. A bubble of saliva fell from his bottom lip and landed on my forehead. I pulled my arm back and slammed the rock into his head again. Casey fell to the side. I gulped in air and yanked my legs out from under his dead weight. I scrambled to a seated position, scooting away from him. A waft of cold air hit the blood on my inner thighs. I shivered and bumps rose on my skin. My panties were gone. I tugged my dress down and spotted the ripped scrap of cotton to my left. I snatched it up and stuffed it into my fanny pack. The engine from the bus roared loudly up ahead. It slowed near the stop and I jumped up to run toward it. Since no one was at the stop, the bus sped up and kept going.
“Wait, come back,” I whispered through tears.
Nicole is an award-winning photographer, retoucher, and writer who now lives in New York City after growing up in Northern California. She manages photography post-production at NBCUniversal, working on USA Network, SYFY, and Bravo. Nicole’s photography has graced the covers of books internationally and has been featured in shows throughout the city. Nicole is an animal lover, avid book reader, and horror movie junkie. Her love of the macabre led her to write The Remnants, an apocalyptic women’s fiction novel coming out in 2019 with Red Adept Publishing.