“Where are we going?” Lacey asked, cooing as she cracked the seal on a Snapple and tucking the cellophane into the ’71 Karmann Ghia’s door pocket. The cool fall mountain air whipped around the windshield and tangled her long auburn hair in knots behind her as she took a gulp of her strawberry-kiwi beverage.
A Foo Fighters song warbled out of the tinny speakers and budget aftermarket tape deck and Lacey’s long-time boyfriend, James turned it up, smirking as he turned the steering wheel to hug the curve in the road. “Remember this song?” he asked over the scratchy din of the music.
“Dude. Where are we going?” she replied, her formerly coy tone morphing into annoyance.
He raised his hand off the wheel and let out a laugh under his breath. “This was our song.” He turned his head, making eye contact for a split second before returning it to the road. “This… do you not remember?”
“Foo Fighters. ‘I’ll Stick Around,’” she replied while wobbling her head back and forth to match her sarcastic tone. “But since when is this ‘our song?’ I didn’t know we had a song.”
“Holy shit, it was our first date,” he said, his voice raised.
Lacey laughed. “It was not our first date,” she said through a clenched smile. “I was at a concert with my girlfriends and you grabbed by ass. Such a charmer!”
He again took a hand off the wheel and chopped it through the air, punctuating his point with each slice. “I didn’t grab your ass! Your ass just happened to end up in my hands. Totally different.”
She sat back in the seat grinning and crossing her arms. “Uh huh.”
“It was a mosh pit,” James said, taking a drag on a nearly depleted clove cigarette before flicking it out of his open window. “Whatever. We’re here.”
The Karmann Ghia’s nearly bald tires rolled of the pavement and onto a dirt road. A moment later, James was opening Lacey’s door and offering her his hand.
“You’re acting weird,” she said, but accepting it anyway. “Where are we?”
“Just trust me.” He helped her out of the car and led her to a rock outcropping a few yards from the side of the road. The shadows of the surrounding forest stretching longer and longer as the sun sunk lower, the sky ablaze in reds, oranges, and pinks. He ventured out onto the ledge first, again pulling her by the hand to join him. She resisted.
“What are we doing?”
“Just come on. Jesus, Lacey.”
She allowed herself to be pulled out onto the outcropping, the vista spreading wide in front of them as the sun touched the horizon and began to melt into the edge of the earth. He pulled her into his arms, his chest against her back, his arms threading under hers as he clasped his hands over her midsection.
“Wow. This is beautiful,” she said, her shoulders relaxing as she laid her arms over his.
“Two years,” he whispered in her ear.
“Two? Has it been two years?” she asked, turning her head slightly, her temple resting on his chin, touching his five o’clock shadow.
“Still have the ticket. Boise. September 1995.”
The two of them started to sway. She closed her eyes and replied, “Bogie’s Nightclub.”
“Yup. You remember.”
“I do,” she replied.
He pulled her tighter into him. His lips dipped closer to her ear. “Remember the food we ate afterward?”
She snuggled into his warmth. “I do. Only because you spent the night in the bathroom,” she said with a chuckle.
He laughed and as they swayed, he inched the two of them forward. “Oh yeah. Also, remember your car we almost died in?”
“It was a shit car,” she said, opening her eyes to see the mountain ridge swallow the remains of the sun.
Another inch. “Remember when you fucked that dude with strawberry rubbers?” he whispered, his teeth practically scraping her ear.
She laughed. “What?” His arms tightened around her neck and torso.
“I know,” he said, a growl entering his voice. His arms clamped around her like a vise, lifting her feet off the ground, her slight frame bucking under his grip. “I know.”
He had found a pair of boxer shorts that wasn’t his in the back of her closet. A ticket stub in her purse from a recent concert he hadn’t taken her to because she claimed she was studying that night. A pack of flavored condoms in her underwear drawer. It didn’t take a genius to connect the dots.
He seethed in her ear. “I can accept a lot of things, Lace. All I asked was that you never cheat on me.”
Her hands wrapped around his wrists, scraping and scratching, desperate to pry them off her. He arched his back using his mass and strength to lift her off the ground. The two of them stumbled toward the edge of the outcropping.
She screamed, “Help me! Somebody help me please!” shrieking at the top of her lungs. She squirmed and threw her head back into him, smashing the back of her skull into his mouth. Pain flashed through his head as his lower lip dribbled blood from the blow.
He lost his grip on her and she tumbled out of his grasp. Her upper body slapped against the edge of the rock and she bounced, her head following suit, leaving behind a bloody flower-shaped splat where she had hit. Then she was gone.
James stood, frozen at the edge of darkness. Blood bubbling between his hands as he held them over his mouth. He dropped to his knees and started to sob. “What have I done?” he whispered to himself. “What have I done? What have I done?”
By the time he caught his breath, the stars had come out and the moon was giving what light it had to the night. He walked back the short distance through the trees and opened the hood of his car, grabbing an old T-shirt. He went to the driver’s side and swiveled the mirror up, peering at himself as he wiped blood and tears from his face.
A branch broke in the night air. He spun around to see who or what it was to find nothing. He turned back around, reached into the car window, and pulled the knob on the Karmann Ghia to turn on the headlights. Still nothing.
A raspy voice. “Help.”
James dropped the T-shirt and ran back toward the rock outcropping. He scanned the area. Nothing. “Lace?” he called. Nothing but an echo in return. He turned to leave again.
“Limp-dick pansy. You’re screwed.”
He spun around. “Where are you?”
The voice came again. “Did you think you’d get away with this?”
His voice shook as he replied, “It was just supposed to scare you. Get you to admit…”
A trembling hand reached up over the edge of the rock, followed by the other. “Say goodbye to your life, James. They’ll find you. They’ll know you tried to kill me.” Lacey pushed herself up on her hands, her torso visible now. “You’ll go to prison and die there.” Her voice seemed to boom through the mountainside.
“No. No. No,” he chanted, surveying the area, his eye finally spying a fallen tree branch. He ran to it and picked it up, holding it above his head as he ran to the edge of the rock but there was nothing there. He started to hyperventilate, dropping his shoulders and lowering his arms. He looked down over the edge, but the darkness obscured his vision. If she was down there, he—
“Boo.” Her voice boomed from behind him, he shrieked and spun around. His chunky shoes lost their grip and then he found himself falling. He fell until he landed next to the body of his lover, snapping his spine and stilling his heart.