Flash Fiction: Warning Shots – Part 8

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the Flash Fiction: Warning Shots

Written in 64 minutes.  Would you believe I originally thought I could fit all of these scenes and the last part into one update? I must have been crazy.


February 2000

Elizabeth made it back to her room almost in a daze, mechanically returning to the entrance of the dorms opening the door, boarding the elevator, pressing the right button—she didn’t remember any of it, but found herself standing outside the room, staring blindly at the closed door as if she’d never seen it before.

Had that just happened? Had it been a walking nightmare from beginning to end?

Elizabeth wrapped her hands around the knob, twisted, then pushed the door open. Inside, Emily was lounging on one of the single beds, stretched out on her stomach, her feet up by the headboard. She bounded to her feet at Elizabeth’s entrance. “Hey! I was wondering how long you were going—” She stopped. “What happened?”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly, then closed the door, and perched on the edge of her bed, planting her hands flat against the mattress on either side of her thighs. “I broke up with Lucky.”

“Shut up.” Emily dropped onto the bed, her brown eyes wide. “No way. Did you call him as soon as Jason told you—”

“He was waiting—” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Jason came to the dorms. You knew that. Didn’t you?”

“I did. I figured you were out with him, but—” her friend tipped her head. “Lucky was waiting when you got back? I didn’t see him when I came in, but maybe he wasn’t here long.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know.” Elizabeth licked her lips. “Jason told me that Lucky knew. He knew, Em.” She closed her eyes, dipped her down until her chin rested against her chest. “He knew and he did it on purpose. On Valentine’s Day.”

“I’m so sorry. I’m so so so sorry—”

“I was going to let him get away with it, Em. I was going to forgive him. I knew he did it on purpose, but I wanted him to love me—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Was he always this way and I just…I didn’t see it?”

“What do you mean?”

“I just—” Elizabeth rose to her feet, crossed to her desk and the picture frame resting at the corner — from a night at Kelly’s, sitting at one of the tables, arms around each other, grinning. She traced their faces. “It was perfect, Em. Wasn’t it? Did I imagine that?”

“No, I don’t think you did. You loved each other, and it was real. But—” Emily toyed with the cuff of her sleeve. “I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I realized things weren’t right, and maybe it was perfect because you guys made each other your whole worlds. Everything was about Lucky for you, and everything was about you for him. And maybe if that had stayed true, it would have been fine.”

“I know I changed my mind about living together. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal for him—but I just—I didn’t want to. I liked this. Sharing a room with you. Being normal.” Elizabeth looked at her friend. “I spent so much of high school not being normal. Not doing what the other girls did. I was too obsessed with Sarah, and then too scared of my own shadow. I wanted something else for myself, you know? Was that so awful?”

“No. No, it wasn’t. You know that it wasn’t. Lucky didn’t have to make it such a deal breaker. Didn’t have to take it personally.”

Elizabeth opened the drawer and put the photo inside of it. “You told Jason to tell me, didn’t you?”

“Don’t be mad at him. He just likes to let people make their own choices, but I just knew you didn’t have all the information—”

“I had it, I just didn’t know what to do with it.” Elizabeth met her friend’s eyes. “But when he confronted me with it, I guess I couldn’t ignore it. Still, maybe I could have…maybe I could have rationalized it. Let it go. But Lucky accused me of cheating on him. He saw Jason bring me back on the bike, and I was smiling at him.” She pressed her fingers to lips. “That’s all. I smiled at him, and maybe I looked happy. Because it was amazing, you know? Have you ever been on the bike?”

“He goes the speed limit when he has me on the bike,” Emily said glumly. “Brothers, man. But I know he’s a speed demon. So, Lucky saw you smiling and figured you were interested?”

“Worse. He asked me what Jason and I did after Valentine’s when he drove me home.” Elizabeth sat back down, stared at her hands. “He asked me if I wanted someone with more experience. If Jason was the reason I wasn’t sleeping with him, if I wanted someone to make sure I liked it this time.”

“If you—” Emily’s eyes went flat, her lips thinned as she pressed them together. “Excuse me?”

“He tried to take back and I’m sure he’s sorry — and maybe I could buy he hadn’t believed it even when he said it, but I just—I heard it and it was like—it was like everything went cold. And I was back in that moment. In the park.” She stared straight ahead, her vision blurring. “It was so cold, the snow and the rocks scraping against my back, but then I couldn’t feel any of that because then it was just pain and being ripped apart and held down—”

Emily was at her side, pulling Elizabeth into her arms. “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s over. It was over two years ago—”

“I didn’t like it, I didn’t want it—” Her chest burned as the sobs rose in her throat, spilled out her lips. “I stood there and it was happening again, and he threw it at me because he was angry, and I don’t understand, I don’t understand, he saw me crawling out of the bushes, he took me home, Em. He was so sweet a-and g-gentle—how could he use that—”

“I’m so sorry, Liz. I’m so sorry and so angry, and I just—” Emily rubbed Elizabeth’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. He’s vicious when he’s hurt and he’s angry. I’ve seen him with his mother, and you know, he’s talked about his dad. But I never, ever thought he’d be like that with you.”

“He wanted to hurt me the other night. To hurt me and remember why I needed him. Why I loved him. Do you know why? Do you know what horrible crime I committed?” Elizabeth sat up, dragged her hands over her cheeks, rubbing away the tears. “I smiled at your brother when I told him about the art project. My smiles, Em. I smiled at another man, so he stood me up on Valentine’s Day, the day he thinks he gave back to me, and I guess the day he thinks he can take away again. And then I smiled at Jason again, and for that, I got accused of being a whore.”

“I hope you knocked him senseless,” Emily muttered. “Knocked his teeth right down his throat.”

Elizabeth smiled now, though it was just the faintest curve of her lips. “No. I told him your brother rocked my world and warmed me up for Lucky, and asked if he wanted details.”

Emily stared at her for a long moment, her lips quivering then she snorted, and they both broke into giggles. “Oh, that’s almost as good. I wish I could have seen his face.”

“He was pretty angry about that, but I just—” Elizabeth sighed. “He’s been like this for months, hasn’t he? Months of punishing me.”

Emily made a face, returned to her side of the room. “A little bit, yeah. I was thinking about it after Valentine’s Day, because I thought — it’s absolutely wild how crazy he went. Like, to set that up just to humiliate you? But he’s sort of been doing it all along. You decided to room with me for the year. Who helped us move into the room?”

“Jason,” Elizabeth said. “Lucky had some emergency, but I bet if I asked his mother, Laura wouldn’t know anything. And—” Her mouth pinched. “Thanksgiving. He was angry with me for using his car to drop you at the airport. He refused to loan it to me. I called Jason.”

“And you said you saw Jason before Christmas at the garage about the art project because Lucky wasn’t there. Didn’t you and Lucky have a fight before that day, too?”

“I’m sure we did. Every time I disagreed with him…it must have drove him crazy that Jason seemed to be there every time. I guess that’s better than him plucking some other guy out of the air to accuse me of cheating.” Elizabeth drew her legs up on the bed, sat cross-legged. “Was it always going to be  this way? If we’d gone to New York, and I’d disagreed with him, who I would have talked to? I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I’m glad I got rejected from that school.”

“Me, too. I’m sorry Lucky upset you tonight. It kills me that he did this,” Emily added. “He’ll come back, he’ll apologize. He’s good at apologies, you know. Don’t let it go. What happened tonight? He’ll just do it again.”

“I know. I know. Thanks for telling Jason to tell me the truth. I needed that wakeup call.”

“I knew if anyone could get through to you, it’d be him.” Emily wrinkled her nose. “Just don’t ever joke about my brother and sex again, okay? Because there are limits to what a sister can put up with. Ew.”

“I can’t imagine a single circumstance in which I’ll ever have to think of Jason and sex again.” Elizabeth lifted her brows. “Then again, having ridden on the bike with him with my arms around—”

“Shut up!” Emily squealed, throwing the pillow at her. Elizabeth threw it back, and a minute later they’d started a pillow fight, and the horror of her night had faded.

The next morning, Elizabeth had the lunch shift after her morning classes, and was hoping that Lucky would avoid her like the plague at least for a few days. She’d gone to bed the night before, feeling a bit lighter after her conversation with Emily, but this morning —

This morning, it had all flooded back, and it lingered now, like a thin layer around her shoulders pressing her down. Had it been real? Or had she just been fooling herself all this time? Had Lucky loved her or the mess she’d been? Had he just been good at rescuing the damsel in distress, and not so interested when the damsel had healed herself?

She lost herself in the monotony of the job, in taking orders, delivering them, making small talk with her regulars, refilling drinks, pocketing her tips — and didn’t notice when Nikolas slid onto one of the stools by the counter.

“Hey, do you have a minute?”

Elizabeth eyed him warily, went for the water pitcher to fill a glass for him. “That depends.”

“I was having breakfast with my mother and Lulu this morning, and imagine my surprise when my brother came down the stairs in a rotten mood.” Nikolas accepted the glass, popped a straw inside.

“So I guess you’ve heard then.”

“I heard his side, but I’m thinking maybe he’s an unreliable narrator.” He lifted his brows. “Unless you’re having a raging affair with the local gangster and that’s why Lucky’s out of a job and apartment—”

“Wait. What?” Elizabeth stared. “What?”

“Which part is the surprise? All of it? Or the living arrangements?”

“The living arrangements—the first part is Lucky’s fantasy. Apparently, if you smile at a man who’s given you a few rides at home, that means you’re screwing him in the backseat,” Elizabeth muttered. “Then again, there’s not really a backseat of a motorcycle, is there?”

Nikolas furrowed his brow. “You’ve lost me.”

“I’m not sleeping with Jason,” Elizabeth hissed, then glanced around furtively. Good, no one was listening. “Of course I’m not. It’s ludicrous for about a million reasons. For one, until last night, I was in a committed relationship. For two, Jason wouldn’t look at me in a million years.”

“And three, you’re not interested,” Nikolas prompted. She rolled her eyes, grabbed a tub to bus a few of the tables, then dumped them in the kitchen. “I’m not judging, you know that. I don’t exactly have the greatest history—”

“Yeah, I can see why you’re be questioning my morals since you were sleeping your uncle’s fiancee at Emily’s birthday party—”

“Hey. Low blow.” He paused. “And she wasn’t my uncle’s fiancee anymore. Or my father’s—damn it.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry—” Elizabeth pressed her hands to her face. “This is the stupidest conversation I’ve ever had. And we’re way off topic. Lucky set me up on Valentine’s Day to be stood up and humiliated because I had the audacity to smile at Jason, and he drove me home that night. That’s his entire evidence for this affair, by the way, in case that’s important.”

“I don’t believe him, Liz. I just thought you might want to know the side of the story he’s spreading. Did you know Jason was going to fire him and give him notice?”

“No, I didn’t. But I can’t say I blame him if Lucky’s saying that kind of thing to anyone who will listen. This is ridiculous, Nikolas. Why do I have to defend myself—”

“I’m not asking you to. I guess maybe I thought it was as insane as you did, and I was trying to have a little fun with it. I see that wasn’t the right tactic. I’m sorry.”

“It’s—it’s fine. I can’t believe after all this time he went home. He never acted like it was an option before.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Jason fired him and gave notice? Last night?”

“He said he had thirty days but didn’t want to deal with Jason anymore. You really didn’t know he was going to do that?”

No, she hadn’t, and she didn’t know why it surprised her. Maybe because Jason had known for almost a week what Lucky had done and hadn’t shown any hint of wanting to fire him or throw him out the night before—

After her shift was over, she walked the few blocks to the garage, twisting her fingers together as she stepped inside the customer’s entrance and headed for the garage bay. “Hello?”

Jason peered out from around the raised hood of a red sedan, his white shirt smeared with grease. He reached into his back pocket for a rag, wiped his hands. “Elizabeth?”

“Hey. I’m sorry if I’m interrupting something—”

“No. No.” He cleared his throat. “Lucky’s not here if you’re looking for him—”

“I’m not.” Elizabeth folded her arms, looked down at the concrete floor briefly before raising her eyes to his again. “Um, Nikolas told me that you fired Lucky. And kicked him out.”

Jason pressed his lips together, looked away. “I’m not changing my mind if that’s what you’re here to do—”

“No,” Elizabeth said quickly. “No, I’m not. I—I saw him last night. He was waiting at the dorms when you dropped me off.”

Jason nodded, exhaled on a huff. “He mentioned that. Did he—” He hesitated, made a face, as if he was annoyed with himself. “He didn’t say anything that made it worse, did he?”

“Um, well, I guess that depends on your perspective on what could make it worse, you know—anyway, it’s not important—”

“What did he do?” Jason demanded, coming around the side of the car, his eyes flattening. “He was ticked off when he got back, but if he put a hand on you—”

“He wouldn’t do—” Elizabeth’s throat closed and she looked away. “I’d like to think that’s not something he’d do, but I’m not sure I can say that anymore. It’s like I never really knew him. Or maybe I never—anyway, I don’t want to talk about it. He said—he said something awful, and it was the last straw, and I broke up with him. And I’m not changing my mind. But I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then we won’t. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make any of this worse for you—”

“You didn’t. Um, just the opposite really.” She smiled at him, a bit shyly. “He was there with roses. White ones. And I—I think maybe if you hadn’t come by first, no—I know it for sure. If you hadn’t been there, I would have just let him go. I would have forgiven him and maybe down the road, it would have been worse, and I would have months of being unhappy and miserable instead of just a few weeks. So…thank you. I know you didn’t want to get involved, and I’m officially absolving you from having to be a part of this, okay? Whatever Lucky says, it’s not about you.”

Jason stared at her for a long moment, then tilted his head to the side. “He’s saying something that’s going to piss me off, isn’t he?”

“No, I mean, probably. But it’s also ridiculous, and no one is going to believe him or take it seriously. Okay? So don’t worry about it. It’s just—he saw me smiling at you last night, and he thought—but it’s stupid, and he knows that. He just needs a reason to tell people why I broke up with him, and he can’t ever give the real one.”

Jason sighed, then closed the hood on the car he’d been working on. “You smiled at me,” he repeated. “Yeah, I know what he’s saying. Don’t worry about it.”

“Good. Good. I just wanted to tell you that, and to thank you for last night. You and then Emily — well, it could have been a really bad night, and it wasn’t all the way, so thanks.”

“Yeah, sure.” Jason paused, then lifted his brows. “If you give me ten minutes to wash up, I’ll give you a ride back to the dorms.”

“A ride?” Elizabeth’s eyes lit up. “On the bike? Sure.”

“No arguing that you don’t need one? What happened to the bus?” But he was grinning when he said it, already heading for the sinks.

“See, you should have just offered the motorcycle months ago,” she called after him. “I’m never saying no to that.”

Comments

  • I’m really enjoying Emily in this one. Sometimes I don’t think she was a very good friend to Elizabeth; she definitely prioritized Lucky on the show. It’s nice to read a story in which Emily is Team Elizabeth first for once.

    According to LilaB on May 8, 2024
  • I’m so glad that Emily is being such a good friend to Elizabeth. She needs someone to always be in her corner. Lucky’s gonna be a little shit and spread rumors, isn’t he? She should have punched him. Hope Nik takes him to task for what he’s done. Wonder if we’ll get any of the Elm Street Pier conversations. That’s always where peak Liason happened

    According to Beth on May 8, 2024
  • I suppose whatever it takes Lucky to sleep at night, but I do wonder how many people will believe him and give Elizabeth grief over it. I really like that Em is on Elizabeth’s side and hope she doesn’t get bent out of shape when J and E eventually do get together. As always Jason and Elizabeth’s interactions are the icing on an already great cake.

    According to nanci on May 8, 2024
  • I’m thinking that Lucky is going to be a bigger problem. He has no issue ruining Elizabeth or Jason’s reputation. Jason won’t care. I think Elizabeth is so done with Lucky.

    According to arcoiris0502 on May 8, 2024
  • I love how Jason and Emily are helping Elizabeth with Lucky. I don’t think Lucky is going to give up on Elizabeth and he is going to hurt her.

    According to Carla P on May 8, 2024
  • Lucky has always been insecure in most of the stories and sometimes just plain nuts. He can never seem to take responsibility for his actions. And no I wouldn’t refuse a ride on the bike either.

    According to leasmom on May 8, 2024
  • I am happy that Emily and Liz talked about Lucky and the way he treats Liz. Great update.

    According to Shelly Samuel on May 9, 2024
  • Lucky has no sense of boundaries so he will be back to give her a hard time. He will probably involve Carly, Bobbie, Sonny, Luke the whole town including Audrey.
    I hope they are up for a rough ride

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on May 11, 2024
  • Great update! Lucky is definitely going to be a problem, the little creep.

    According to Sarah R on May 13, 2024