Headed Nowhere Fast.

Red, irritated lines were starting to form under the plastic straps of her flip-flops as Portia drug her feet through the water. The alley’s concaved cement avenue was overflowing with rushing rainwater that anchored her shoes and strangled her toes as she waded through it.

“Marcus!” she shouted through the rain, “I hate you!”

A rat darted across the street in front of her. Her heart started wildly and she suppressed a scream, clamping a wet hand to her scoopneck. “Very much!”

She’d almost made it to his door, the third one down and laced in chipping graffiti, when it popped open with a jolt and his head poked out.

“Get in here, you’re a half hour late.”

With one last yank of foam through the draining water, she propelled herself inside, aided by Marcus’ familiar grasp on her arm. She shivered as he slammed the door and latched the deadbolt.

“It smells,” she said.

“It’s fine. And temporary,” he responded, leading her up a couple steps and into the carved out hole he was trying to masquerade as an apartment.

“Yeah, I know it’s temporary because you are going home.”

He glanced upwards, shaking his head like she had the life experience of a toddler.  “This is my home and if you are referring to my previous place of residence, sorry that’s never happening. I’m eighteen, I do what I want and nothing you can say will change my mind. Soda?” he held out a can of Coke that had been sitting on a crude wicker end table. She waved him off and tugged at her tee shirt.

He plopped down on a disgusting, muddy-colored couch and motioned for her to sit next to him. There was a sixty-watt flashlight propped up in the corner, casting everything in a harsh, secret clubhouse kind of lighting.

“This conversation is not over,” she said, carefully sitting beside him, cautious not to expose too much of her body to the threadbare fabric.

He held up an envelope.

The nervous energy started in her heart and swiftly fizzled out into her limbs.

“That’s it?” she asked.

Marcus nodded.

She reached for it as a crash of thunder reverberated throughout the room.

Smoothing it out on her thigh, she could see ‘Portia Linleyprinted in cold, block letters over Marcus’ parent’s address. The Foltz Art School logo gleamed, stoic and neutral from its spot in the corner.

Portia slipped a shaking finger under the sealed flap and ripped. Something about the paper made it tear in little spurts and fray unsatisfyingly.

A single piece of paper and a Foltz brochure were tucked inside.

Portia’s clumsy hands scooped them out and almost tore the single sheet from its folds, letting the envelope and colorful brochure flutter to the floor and skid against the cement grain.

The words ‘Dear Ms. Linley, we regret to inform you…’ burned into her eyes hotter than a misplaced pinky on her father’s grill last July.

The sting of rejection was almost immediate.

“I-I…” her throat closed up around the words, folding them down into some deep, lightless place inside.

“Did you-?” asked Marcus.

The bad lighting and the itchy fabric of the couch and the rainwater rings around her ankles and her armpits and the back of her neck spiked the potency of fresh failure. She felt bastions of confidence in her mind waver and spit, proving themselves mirages after months of uncertainty.

Some instinctual shame caused her to stand up and turn away from Marcus, swaddled only in the wet comfort of her own twiggy arms. With only the sliver of light under the door as witness, she started to cry a little.

“I’m sorry Portia.”

She tilted her head back as if trying to keep the tears inside through gravity.

She shrugged and turned back only halfway. “I guess my parents win after all.”

“Maybe it’s for the best,” he said.

She spun to face him directly, feeling raw and pliant in her vulnerable exposure. “What are you saying?”

He dropped eye contact and ran a hand through his dark hair. “Just what I said.”

“You don’t think I’m a good artist, do you?” she asked, feeling sick and suspicious and grabbing at anything to mangle with the force of her frustration.

“No, no. I think you’re a good artist.” His hazel eyes pleaded with her.

“But not good enough to make it?” she slapped her damp hands against her jeans and hooked her thumbs through the belt loops.

Marcus sighed, looking away, “Portia…”

Portia scrunched her face and cried a little more. She felt the snowballing presence of future business degrees and office jobs, reaching for her like the cold hands of the Reaper at her ankles.

“It’s not like that, I just –“

“Go home Marcus! God, just go home,” she said, jumping down the two steps and fumbling with the deadbolt.

“’Cause if you don’t, both our lives are headed absolutely nowhere.”

She pried the door open, and with a fleeting half-second of eye contact, walked out into the storm. The resounding slam shook the walls and tipped over the flashlight, spilling all sixty watts into the molding corner.

 

 

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~ by Jade Elizabeth on July 12, 2011.

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