The golden glow of the whiskey refracted
in the lighted mirror, the sweet smoky scent perfumed the air, beckoning her to
taste. Rae held the tumbler of Jack on ice, the ice having long since melted
and blended with the whiskey. The memory of the sweet burn filled her mouth. Rae
sat the glass back on the bar, shifting the coaster to square up with the
glass. The edge of the glass lined up with the logo, fitting into the circle
with the same amount left around the edge. Tracing her finger through the
condensation, she fought the memories that threatened her sobriety.
“Congratulations,” Rae hugged each of the
twins, so proud of them.
“We didn’t win,”
DJ grumbled accepting the embrace with cool disinterest.
The beauty pageant
was hardly her thing but still, she looked beautiful and Rae told her so. She
left Logan talking to his sisters, she wanted to speak to Dana, to congratulate
her on a job well done.
intercepted by Jake. “Rae, I need to speak to you and Billy.”
The tone in his
voice warned her this wasn’t going to be a friendly chat. She could hear the
official SBI agent though he looked at her with the eyes of a friend.
She stopped in the
middle of the auditorium, wishing she could run. Logan came up behind her, his
strength a fortress. Rae leaned into him, foreboding whispering she would need
him. She was unaware of her father and brother joining them. Her focus was so intent
upon the agent.
“Perhaps we should
go somewhere more private,” Jake suggested.
“Whatever you need to say, say it. We’re all here.”
Jake’s sad eyes
met hers and she knew, even before he said the words. “I’m sorry to tell you
that Marisol Grimes was found dead in her apartment. It is believed she took
her own life.”
“Marisol would not
have killed herself,” her father insisted. “Not when she was this close to
meeting Rae and Billy again.”
Jake agreed, “I
find it difficult to believe as well but the evidence…”
“Could be tampered
with…” Billy said.
Jake nodded. “But
the official ruling is suicide unless you can get them to change it to
Billy and her dad
started asking questions.
Rae turned to
Logan, burying her face against his chest. “I should have met with her when I
had the chance.”
His arms banded
around her, holding her upright though she felt like crumbling.
Billy cursed and
stormed out the community center.
many of those have you had?” Billy asked easing onto the stool beside her. His
cologne filled the air, dulling the aroma of the whiskey.
glanced up at the mirror, her eyes meeting his in the silver surface. She
shrugged. “I’m drinking a toast to Mom.”
nodded the bartender over and ordered a beer.
watched his reflection in the mirror. Billy raised an eyebrow and gave nod to
the bartender, motioning towards her and the glass in front of her.
held up one finger and shrugged. He pulled a bottle for the cooler and popped
the top setting it and a coaster in front of Billy.
took a sip and turned to her. “What are you doing here, Rae.” The smell of hops
and yeast scented his breath, mingling with the minty mouthwash. “You’ve been
on the wagon for months now. Why would you want to screw that up?”
picked up the glass and smelled the whiskey, wanting desperately to taste it
and hating herself for her weakness. Slamming the glass to the bar, she turned
to her brother and hissed, “Because I’m a screw up. That’s what I do.”
yet you’ve managed to stay sober for months, save granddad’s fishing camp and
fall in love. If you want to talk about screw ups, I believe I have more claim
to that than you do.”
Rae asked seeing the loneliness in his eyes. She’d seen that same look in the
mirror until recently. Finding Logan and sobriety had given her something she’d
not known in years, a sense of self. She stared at the whiskey, knowing she’d
be giving up more than her achieved sobriety if she succumbed to the weakness
now. Billy was right, she’d come so far, she couldn’t throw it all away on one
drink. She sighed knowing it wouldn’t be just one drink.
shouldn’t have let her go.” Billy’s words brought her out of her own thoughts.
shouldn’t have messed with her to start with,” she was angry that he’d toyed
with her best friend’s affection.
winced. “It’s difficult not to when someone treats you like you’re some kind of
Rae rolled her eyes. “You’re not in love with
do you know what I am?” Billy demanded balling his fist onto the bar rattling
their drinks and causing the other patrons to glare in their direction.
narrowed her eyes daring one of them to say something. Her reputation lingered
and the other patrons turned away not wanting to start something with the crazy
girl. She hid her smile with the lift of her glass. Pressing the cool, hard
surface to her lips until the sweet, pungent scent of the whiskey reached her
nose and she slammed the glass back to the bar. “If you were in love with her,
you wouldn’t have been tempted by every other girl that walked by.”
flushed a dull red and sipped his beer. “So, you going to drink that whiskey or
just stare at it?”
shrugged and turned the glass around and around. “I’ve paid for it. I guess I
can do whatever I want with it.”
sighed. “You don’t want it.”
sighed and scooted the to the far edge of the bar. “Charlie, can I have a
bottle of water?”
bartender returned and handed her an ice-cold bottle of water. He opened it and
set it in front of her. He started to take the glass of whiskey away. Rae put
her hand on it, then nodded, allowing him to remove the temptation.
took off the cap and drank greedily from the bottle. Her thirst satisfied, she
set the near-empty bottle on the bar and heaved a sigh. “I’ll never have the
chance to ask her why?”
she left?” Billy asked studying his bottle of beer as if it had the answers to
the universe. The pale gold absorbed the faint glow from the lights encircling
the mirror. Like most bars, the Hard Hat was dimly lit except over the pool
tables where a pool of light illuminated the Kelly green felt.
picked at the label on the water bottle. “Why everything? Why she left? Why she
and daddy fought? Why she didn’t come back? Why we weren’t enough for her…” her
put his hand on his sister’s and gave hers a little squeeze. “Rae, it doesn’t
matter. It wouldn’t change anything.”
if I’m like her?” She whispered, unshed tears making her voice thick.
shook his head. “You’re not.”
do you know?”
stuck out with me and dad even when we didn’t make it easy for you,” Billy
said. “You’ve been friends with Dana and Jenna since middle school and the
three of you are still tight.”
doesn’t mean anything.”
does. I’m not friends with the same guys I was friends with in high school. I’m
close to the squad, but most of those guys I’ve only known a few years.”
pregnant,” Rae whispered.
nodded. “Yeah, I heard.”
blinked back tears. “I don’t know how to be a good parent.”
know what not to do,” he laughed.
blinked. “I’m terrified.”
draped his arm awkwardly about her shoulders. “You have Logan. You have me and
dad and the girls. We’ll be there for you. You might even teach me how to be a
decent human being.”
snorted and shoved his arm off her shoulders. “I don’t do miracles.”
can do this, sis.”
sighed and pushed back her stool. “I guess we should plan some kind of memorial
closed his eyes. “I don’t know what to say. I barely remember her.”
took in a deep breath and stood. “Maybe we’ll just have our close family and
friends. Ms. Sandy and who was her other friend?”
don’t remember, we’ll have to ask dad.”
we could do something down at the water?”
turned around on his stool. “Yeah, that sounds good.” He tapped his foot on the
bottom rung of the stool. “I-uh bought a grave site up at that park in
let out a shaky breath. “Have they told you when they’re going to release the
shook his head. “The FBI won’t release her body until they are sure they’ve
gotten all the evidence they can.”
think she was murdered?” They’d managed to get the state bureau to investigate
their mother’s death. They found evidence that she may not have committed
suicide but so far, they were ruling it an unexplained death. She sighed.
looked past her not meeting her eyes. “It would be too compact, too neat if
she’d killed herself now.” He shook his head brought his eyes up to meet hers.
“No, I don’t believe it was an accident. Either Malcolm or her mysterious
boyfriend are responsible.”
you think Malcolm hired the boyfriend?”
pursed his lips, his forehead wrinkling. “It’s a possibility.”
pulled a five from her pocket and set it on the bar and leaned in and brushed
her lips against his cheek. The scent of his aftershave filled her nose. “Thanks
Billy. You know, you’re not a bad big brother.”
snorted. “Such praise, it’ll go to my head.”
knew Billy watched her as she headed out of the bar. He’d come to rescue her.
Charlie probably called him, but he’d come. It was nice to know her big brother
was looking out for her.
dark-haired man she’d never met brushed past her as Rae started out the door.
An eerie feeling tickled her spine and she leaped back, giving him room. A
familiar scent teased her memory, making her palms sweat. Her eyes followed him
as her memory sought to recall him.
walked purposefully towards the pool tables. Feeling her eyes on him, he turned
his head and smiled. The smile didn’t reach his eyes.
shivered and turned away. Feeling the need to run she forced her steps to slow.
She would not cower. Out in the parking lot she was relieved to see the pink
Harley parked under a street light. The nights were starting to get cool, but
she didn’t have far to ride. A glance back at the bar showed Billy standing in
the doorway, watching her. She threw her hand up and waved.
started the bike and headed home. The image of the older man lingered in her
thoughts. His behavior had been rude. Most southern men stepped back to allow a
female to pass. He’d made a point of crowding her space. He’d wanted her to
notice him. Why? She shivered but it
wasn’t the cold wind in her face that had her skin prickling. She needed to
talk to Jake, she wanted to see the photos of her mother’s boyfriend. I’ll wager it’s him.