My Imaginary Boyfriend, Episode One: Trouble

Hello, my lovely readers!  How is your Saturday morning?  I know today ought to be a new DIY Party Diva, but I've gotten bored with that series, and when you're bored then blogging is no fun and your readers can tell.  Instead, I've decided to use Saturdays like I do Tuesdays and Thursdays for now - writing about whatever strikes my fancy rather than starting a new series.  For today, I'd like to share a little something I wrote last week.  It's not your usual short story - in fact, there are no original characters of mine in it, but it's not a fanfiction, either!  (Not technically.)  It's an entry into my friend S.J's writing and art contest.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I strap my helmet on and wrap my hands around his waist.  He grins back at me.  "Ready, ginger?"

I laugh.  "Ready as I'll ever be!"

He revs up the engine and pushes off.  Wind rushes past my face and I laugh, giddy with the speed and excitement of riding a motorcycle for the second time in my life.

* * *

I never would have met him if it weren't for the trip to the convenience store.  I always forget something, every time I pack, whether I'm going somewhere or returning home.  Usually it's nothing big - a necklace, my perfume, an extra pair of socks - but every once in a while I forget something major.

In this case, my deodorant.

When you're on your first ever road trip in the middle of the summer with your best friend, deodorant is not just a modern convenience.  It's not something you're just uncomfortable without.  No, deodorant is a necessity.  That's how I ended up standing in the aisles of Joe's One-Stop Shop, one of the many gas stations with convenience stores that the GPS had led us to.

I hold a different brand of deodorant in each hand, and Mikaela watches me with her arms crossed, blowing her long auburn bangs out of her face.  "Come on, Emily, just pick one!  We have another hour left before we reach Gatlinburg."

I laugh.  "It's only one.  We're going to be there early anyway.  We can't check into the hotel until three."

"Whatever, just pick one!  It's only deodorant."

"Yeah, and I have sensitive skin!  Do you see any unscented?"

She pulls one of every single kind in the store, laying the seven different brands on the floor and sitting Indian-style on the tile.  I set the two I'm holding back on the shelf and run a hand over my long red ponytail, laughing at her there on the floor.  Crazy girl.

"Hm, let's see.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope."  She picks each one up, glances at the label, and slides it to a new pile on her right.

I try to stop laughing and scold her, but fail miserably.  "Mikaela, what are you doing?  Get up off the floor!  It's filthy!"  My words dissolve into giggles.

"Here's one!"  She pops up off the floor with a purple bottle in her hand.  "See?  Unscented.  Now let's put the others away and leave!"

I shake my head, still grinning, and help her return the various containers to the right shelves.  "Here, I'll go pay.  You want to start the car?"  She trades the deodorant for my keys and saunters off towards the door.  I watch her, biting back my envy at how her t-shirt and athletic shorts show off her slim body.  We're all made differently.  God designed Mikaela to be a bombshell with no interest in guys, and me to be a softie who could stand to lose a few pounds here and there.

There are two voluptuous women in shorts and tank tops chattering away in front of the register, something about kids and water bottles and a swimming lesson.  Even the skinny, bleach-blond cashier seems itching to be done, tugging at the piercings sticking out of one ear while she pushes buttons on the register.  I glance around the store while I wait for the women's many, many snack items to be rung up.

I can only see one other person in the store, a wrinkled old man with a cane standing outside the bathroom.  When I hear the bell on the front door ring, I turn to see who else is coming inside.  The door falls shut behind a rather wild-looking young man, who heads directly to the drink section.  I glance away, not wanting to stare, but keep watching him out of the corner of my eye.

The left side of his head is bald, while the other side is covered in thick, kind of long blond hair.  It flops around in front of his eye.  That must be so annoying.  The sleeves of his AC/DC t-shirt have been ripped off; his muscular arms sport a tattoo each - the right side, a bouquet of roses, and the left side, a sort of patterned band.  He's wearing jeans that are hanging low, according to the awful fashion today, and his belt has a chain hanging across it.  There's a beaded necklace, leather bracelet, and those huge circular earrings - plus at least two other piercings in the ear I can see.

That boy is trouble.

He reaches inside the glass refrigerator case and pulls out a Red Bull before getting in line behind me.  I focus on looking straight ahead.  The first woman's purchase is complete, and she stands to the side of her friend, still gabbing while the cashier rings up her food.

I glance at the rack of candy and lighters on the side of the register and notice a box of Mentos.  I'm almost out of those, so I reach over and grab a couple of rolls... and manage to knock down the whole rack in the process.

The rack clatters as it hits the floor and its contents go sliding and rolling in all directions.  The women stop talking to see what's going on, and the cashier bends over the counter.

I lean down and start scooping candy boxes and rolls up to return to their boxes.  "I'm sorry!  I'm so, so sorry!  I'll fix it, I promise!"

The cashier goes back to ringing up purchases, and the women return to their conversation.  I sigh in relief.  At least my little mishap doesn't seem to be a big deal.

Shaved-head guy kneels down to help me.  "Hey, babe, don't sweat it.  Lemme help you."

I look over at him and cock my eyebrows, but I don't say anything.  Babe?  Seriously?

We finish putting the candies and lighters back on the rack.  The guy picks the rack up and slides it back into place on the counter wall.  I brush the knees of my denim capris off, tug on the edge of my green t-shirt, and smile at him.  "Thanks."

He holds out his hand, holding my cell phone.  "No problem.  Name's Rykel.  Here, you dropped this."

"Oh, thank you!  I'm Emily."  My fingers brush his when I take my phone back.  A shock, like I get sometimes closing the minivan door, pulses through my arm.  I pull back and shake it out.

He laughs.  "Sorry.  Sometimes I come across a little... electrifying."  He grins, and I find myself thinking him cute and arrogant in the same moment.

I smile.  "Very funny."  Turning back towards the register, I find the women with the food are picking up their bags and leaving.  I set the bottle of deodorant on the counter and pull out my wallet.  Once I've paid, I grab the bottle and walk to the door.  "Nice to meet you, Rykel."  I nod back at him.  He waves, and I push the door open and jog to the van.

"What took you so long?"  Mikaela taps her fingers impatiently against the steering wheel while I close the passenger door and click my seat belt.

"There was a bit of an incident.  I knocked down a rack and some guy helped me pick everything up."

Mikaela laughs.  "At least it wasn't me!  Was he cute?"

I smile and shake my head.  "What's it matter?  Just drive.  The sooner we get to Gatlinburg, the sooner we can stop at Porkie's for dinner.  Man, their sandwiches are good."

As she pulls out of the parking lot, I look out the window.  Rykel's standing next to an oldish-looking motorcycle, opening his Red Bull and grinning.  Man, that guy must love his energy drinks.  He catches me watching and waves.  I smile and return the gesture before Mikaela pulls out onto the road and we head for the highway and the awesome vacation waiting for us in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

* * *

Three days after returning from my road trip, I need to call a babysitting client and cancel.  I'm scrolling through my phone contacts when I see a familiar name.

Jack Brant Rykel.

It takes me a few minutes to figure out how I know that name.  As soon as I remember, I laugh and shake my head.  "Persistent guy."  I click the menu button to delete it, but with my thumb hovering over the select button, I pause.  Why not?  I exit the menu and hit call instead.  The line rings four times before he picks up.


I grin.  "You're nuts."

He laughs, a scratchy sound that tugs at a spot in my chest.  Looking back, I think that was the moment of no return.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What do you guys think?  In case you can't tell, I'm actually the 'character' speaking.  The best friend is my real best friend, Mikaela P. in Florida.

The piece that inspired this entry:  (That, and the fact that I couldn't get the punk out of my head.)


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