(Missed the last chapter? Go to 53: Bad Wifey)
I FOUND MYSELF sprawled on my back, on the hood of the red mustang, staring up at the milky spray of stars above. It was strange. I’d been hit by a car, but neither the initial impact nor the impact of my fall had felt like more than a dull thud.
Maybe I’m in shock, I thought. If so, shock was a rather peaceful state. Time seemed to have slowed down too, because the car was still rolling along with me plastered to the hood, like one of the wooden women who used to adorn ships’ prows. The though struck me a hilarious.
As the car stopped, I slid halfway off, catching myself with my feet. The driver, a stocky man in blue work clothes jumped out. “God! Miss, are you all right?” He had a thick Brooklyn accent and a patch on his shirt that said Humphrey.
As I tested my legs, Humphrey hovered over me, arms outstretched in case I fell. “Maybe you shouldn’t move. I can call an ambulance … should I call an ambulance?”
“I think I’m okay,” I said.
“That’s a miracle! Maybe you’re in shock.” The man threw his hands up dramatically. “I wasn’t going more than ten miles an hour, but I didn’t see you. I didn’t see you!”
“It’s not your fault.” I straightened my spine and looked around for John.
“She ran right out in front of you!” A round-faced teenaged girl with braces popped out of the passenger seat, and regarded me with disdain. “You want me to take pictures?” She held up her smart phone.
“Julie, get back in the car, please.”
“Fine.” Julie sank back into her seat and slammed the door.
I stared at her through the windshield. She seemed so normal that I was hit with the wild urge to weep, to scoop her into my arms—as if normal could rub off. “I’m okay, really.”
“Miss? There’s no way I can leave you here. You could have a delayed reaction. Can I give you a lift?” Humphrey’s hand hovered near my arm, his face mapped with worry.
Humphrey deposited me gently into the back seat of the Mustang. As he walked slowly around to the driver’s side—probably trying to recover from his own shock—I craned my neck looking for John.
“Running from someone?” Julie didn’t miss a beat with her texting.
“Actually, yes. My husband. We … had a fight.”
“Cool. When my boyfriend and I fight, he will not let me go. He just keeps talking and talking. Next time, I am totally taking off running.” Julie swiveled around and eyed me with newfound respect.
I put my finger to my lips as Humphrey got into the driver’s seat and then slammed the door three times, trying to get it shut. “Got to get that fixed,” he muttered.
As we drove, I had to reassure Humphrey half a dozen times that I didn’t need a doctor. He agreed to drop me off at UrgePool only after I lied and said I had friends waiting for me. I must have looked as vulnerable and anxious as I felt, because he kept asking if I was sure they were there, and reminding me not to leave my drink unattended. I felt a dull ache, missing my dad.
Before I got out of the car, Humphrey insisted on writing down his phone number in case I felt some delayed effects or needed a ride home.
“Yeah, you should totally call, as long as it’s before nine o’clock, cuz that’s when he falls asleep on the couch watching TV,” Julie said.
“I do not!” Humphrey shook his finger at her. “It’s after ten now.”
“Ooh, Dad. Better let me drive.”
“Here you go.” Humphrey handed me the phone number written on a fast food receipt. “Now, remember what I said.”
“Okay, thanks!” I snatched it and jumped out of the car. The disconnect between their world and mine had reached a critical mass. I needed to get out of there.
MY SPIRITS SANK further when I saw the long line of people waiting to get in to UrgePool. I scanned the line, hoping to see someone I recognized. Then I laughed ruefully at myself. As if you would remember.
Still, I was desperate to get inside, fast. How stupid would it be to make a dramatic getaway from my husband, then get spotted standing in line to get into the club. I shouldn’t even be there, but I needed to talk to Branson—the only person who could fill in the missing blanks leading up to my breakdown.
As I paced anxiously toward the front of the line, I thought I knew the bouncer, though I couldn’t remember his name quite. Something that reminded me of an old-time Hollywood leading man. Marlon? Cary?
“Hey, Lacy. What’s up?”
“Not much,” I mumbled, hoping I sounded casual rather than confused. I walked past him into the club, like this was any night. Like I belonged here when, in fact, I wasn’t sure there was anywhere that I belonged.
THE BAR AND the dance pool were packed, awash in pulsating lights and techno beats. In my memory, UrgePool had an eclectic mix of patrons, but mostly all I saw were young women in skimpy club clothing.
The men were more varied—plenty of beautiful young things, but also lurkers in the shadows. It struck me as sinister—like I’d walked into the middle of the satanic ritual scene from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, naked women with bodies like mannequins and over-privileged creeps in masks. I didn’t see Branson at the bar or near the entrance to InnerPool. His band wasn’t playing, either.
Skirting the packed and pulsing dance pool, I slunk up the terraced risers. I spotted an empty seat at one end of a plush, silver couch, obscured by a giant bird-of-paradise plant. A young man in a white suit sat on the other end, his attention focused on blonde twins, one in satin mini-dress and the other in a sequined one, giggling and drinking blue Mai Tais. None of them had a glance to spare for me, and for that I was grateful.
Ensconced in my corner, I took a shaky breath. I wasn’t sure if I’d come to UrgePool looking for the truth or just looking for Branson. Now, it felt like a mistake. I shouldn’t be here.
“Got it!” A voice cut through the cacophony.
I looked up to see a guy in a black suit, obviously the twin of the guy in white, bounding up the risers. Twins dating twins—all of them buff, doe eyed and unblemished.
Black Suit doled out pills. White Suit and the woman in sequins tossed theirs back and chased them with gulps of their drinks, but the girl in satin stared at hers skeptically. I could see it clearly in her hand—mist blue. “What is it?” she yelled over the thumping base.
“Light!” Black Suit replied. “It makes everything glow. Makes you happy and sexy.”
As she shrugged and took the pill, I remembered the dark swoop of Branson’s hair, his crooked grin, halos around everything. Light.
That pill with the lightening bolt embossed on it. I’d been taking it twice a day for the past month—my so-called antidepressant.
“Liar!” I shouted and jumped to my feet.
“Whoa!” The twin in white held up his hands in surprise, and all four of them stared at me, gap-mouthed.
Black Suit was the first to recover. “This is a private party. We’ve had these couches since eight o’clock.”
“Where did you get that?” I demanded.
Black Suit’s face went shifty and defiant. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I peered through the scrim of tropical foliage, scanning the crowd below for Branson. As it happened, my eyes went straight to him, though it took me a minute to recognize the man. Gone were the black jeans, faded tees and red high-tops. Instead, Branson wore a stylish suit jacket over a white button down shirt and faded designer jeans, his dark hair gelled back. I felt a surge of relief. Branson would help me sort it all out.
Taking the riser steps two at a time, I plunged down and through the crowd, toward Branson. I didn’t think ahead to what would happen when he saw me. I was only aware of my own desperate need for the truth.