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Wings of Wax

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December 22nd 2012  |  2  |  Category: Drama , Fiction  |  Author:  |  1107 views

Night had fallen. Starry blues chased away the pesky pinks and purples of dusk. Low lying fog completed the scene. The time was a little after three in the morning according to the green display on the dashboard, and I was whistling along to Ella Fitz on the radio.
Dungeons and Dragons had gone especially well that night. I’d gotten a book of spells and a new sword. It lit up. On top of that, Monique, the only girl in our campaign and the resident hottie, had come with me for coffee. Well, she had drank coffee. I stuck to some herbal tea. With honey. They hadn’t had any real sugar, and I try to stay away from the fake stuff. Bowel problems and such.
My headlights weren’t doing much in the fog, but it didn’t matter. I was in the slow lane, and while people were rushing by – carelessly charging forward in their lives – I had nowhere to be anytime soon. Besides, tonight I got a point for every car that passed me. I was at twenty-five already.

“It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing! Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-waaaah!” I scatted along jigging in my seat. I bobbed my head to the groove and my ball-cap (of spell holding) almost fell off. I grabbed it with one hand, pulled it free of my large head, and tossed it onto the back seat. “It don’t mean a thing! All you gotta do is sing! Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-wah Du-waaaah!”

That was the beauty of university after a long shitty year of waiting tables: weekends off. I changed to the far right lane, feeling like a detour towards the park. The moon was full, and the caffeine from all the cola I’d been drinking was fizzing through my bloodstream and my intestines. I could already feel the beginning pinch of what would soon be a craptastic agonizing explosion. (Not one of my better ideas.)
The corner was sharp, sharper than I’d thought, and I slammed on the brakes as a dark shape ran out in front of me. The car radelled and jerked as it decelerated. I closed my eyes. Flinched against the inevitable. Waited for the hit. My brakes squealed. The car screeched to a halt. No impact. Not even a bump. I peeked open an eye.
In a black hoodie, one hand tucked into his pockets the other shielding his eyes from my beams, a person stood in front of me. I was hyperventilating. His hood covered his face in black and I was staring into that void. Sweat oozed from my palm and my fingers ached in my grasp on the wheel. “Oh God. Oh dear God. Oh dear God of my Mother.” My hand crawled up my chest and hitchhiked to my throat. My pulse raced beneath my finger like I’d jumped off a cliff – or a mountain. Or a plane. “No Lars.” I had a tendency to talk aloud in stressful circumstances. “Think. What would Mamma do?” I sweep the car for supplies. No cupcakes. No tea. Not even a cookie. “Okay… Okay… No peace offerings. That’s okay. So…so just engage. Talk to him. See if he’s okay. Hope for a high diplomacy roll.” I check my rear-view mirror for the first time since the incident. No one was behind me. I put the car in park.
I rolled down the window. This took a moment as my car only had manual windows, and I stuck my head out into the sticky spring air. “Hi, I’m Lars. Um. I’m sorry I almost hit you? Are you okay?”
The shadow didn’t reply.

I figured at this point I’d followed the proper social protocol and moved on to step two of the conversation. “Well, if you’re okay if you could get out of the way that would be great.” I rolled up the window, and put the car in drive. He didn’t move.
I sighed, put the car back into park, and undid my seat belt. The door creaked as I kicked it open. I stepped out of the Subaru, and remembered my hazard lights weren’t on a few steps from the door. Grumbling, I turned back to the rusty hatchback. It took a second of fumbling around with the switches, buttons, and gizmoes to find the right one. My wipers only went off once. It was a small victory.
Hazard lights on, I pushed myself out of the car, and shut the door again.
Hoodie was still standing there.
I looked at the car. I looked to the guy. I walked up to him. It didn’t occur to me until I was right beside him that he could be an axe murderer. Momma always said I had the life preserving skills of a hamster in a science lab. I always thought it wasn’t a fair comparison though; It wasn’t the hamster’s fault it got picked out for the death subject express instead of the happy hamster harmony land of small children.
Did I say death subject? I meant test subject. Slip of the tongue.
On the other hand it was entirely my fault that I’d gotten out of the car. Too late now.
“You are okay, right?”
I tilted my head at her, and it was a her, I could see that now. Her face was flushed red and she shook as the wind picked up..

“Do you need some help? Do you know how to talk?” Non-player characters always talked to you when you bumped into them. Why couldn’t real life be that simple…
The world was silent except for the pitter-patter of drops on the ground and the roof of my car. Puddles were beginning to form and my homemade cloak (+2 Charisma) was getting wet.
“Okay…” I trailed off. Water dripped in my eyes, and my glasses were covered in drops. I crossed my arms at her silence. The rain worsened. The water was soaking through my cloak. “So, I’m, uh, why don’t you get in the car and warm up?”
Nothing.
I sighed and wondered what the protocol was for picking up strange girls who didn’t talk when you almost ran them over. Did I have to bring her to the hospital or something? I took hold of one of her arms. She resisted and I looked at her. “Do you not want to go in the car? That’s okay, I can just leave. Just give some sort of sign you aren’t uh, dying I guess.”
She silently walked over to the passenger side of the car. I opened the door and helped her inside, then shut the door. As I walked over to my side of the car, I fumbled in my pockets for my keys. The D20 keychain was nowhere to be felt though. I was in the car, still trying my pockets when I remembered they were in the ignition. The car was on. The hazard lights flashing.
I face-palmed; mumbling to myself how I hoped my physics prof. was wrong when he said I was the only hope for humanity in the class.
Hoodie had her hands up to the dashboard. She was holding them right in front of the vent. I cranked the heat, the sound of blowing air filled the car, and the companion cube plush dice secured to my rearview mirror fluttered in the breeze. Hazards off, I put the car in drive.
We were off.

“Where to?” I asked not expecting an answer. I didn’t get one.
We drove around a bit. I had a full tank of gas and nowhere to be. Gradually she took her hands off the heat output and took her hood off. She shook out her long black curl-plagued hair and looked almost alive.
“So do you have name?” I asked.
Nothing.
“My name’s Lars, Lawrence really, but everyone calls me Lars except my great aunt, and nobody likes her anyways.”
She hiccuped in a way that could have been a laugh. I smiled at the response and kept talking.
“Where you from?”
We were at a red light. I looked at her. Her brown eyes were huge. They were the colour of smeared mud. I frowned at the colour. I thought damsels in distress were supposed to have eyes like the starry sky, and hair that flowed like sunshine. In fairness, I wasn’t much of a Prince Charming, I supposed. My body fat percentage was a little high for that, and my eyes, hair, and skin had this pale translucent look like I never saw enough sunlight. Which was true. But a computer screen gives you enough vitamin D to survive, right?
“I’m from the coast,” I told her, “I mean, not really the coast, we’re a few hours away, but it’s all redwoods. Some mountains. Gorgeous really. Haven’t a clue how I ended up out here in the middle of nowhere Alberta.”
She coughed something.
“What was that?”

She mumbled, but it was understandable. “Calgary isn’t nowhere.”
I grinned. “So you can talk!”
The girl ignored me and tapped the CD button on the dashboard. The music switched from jazz to ska. I didn’t mind the change and, from the way she was nodding along to the horns, she seemed to be okay with it too.
“So where are you from?”
The girl shook her head.
I kept my posture proper and began to feel a bit of confidence dribble in. “Come on, what am I gonna do, bring you to the police?” I squinted at her. “How old are you?”
Still no reply.
“Please tell me your name?”
“It’s Carol.” She looked out the side window. I glanced at her for a moment, then returned my eyes to the road with a wirey smile. The lights changed and the traffic pulsed. The fog was lifting, the street lights penetrating the mist making it glow and light up. I started singing along to the CD half way through a song, and for a while we just drove.
“Where are we going?”
I shrugged. “Not sure. Where-ever”
She sounds tired. “Don’t be a dick.”
“A dick? I’m, but.” I frowned. “I just have nowhere in mind!”
We were quiet for a bit. The music played, and we just kept driving and the road kept stretching. Darkened businesses littered both sides of the street like garbage on a highway. Only the odd gas station or restaurant was still lit. I figured that would be the end of our conversation. That it was about time I drop her off on a street corner and go home.
Her stomach growled.
“Hungry? If we were at my place my mom would have insisted I give you seven or eight baked goods by now.”

She nodded. I shuffled around in the dashboard at the next red, but there’s nothing there to eat.
“Can we go there?” She pointed out the window at a restaurant a little ways ahead. The sign was blinking at an irregular frequency and was annoying to look at. All but a flickering “A” was completely black, but the script under it was readable. Breakfast all day long. I turned into the parking lot. The restaurant only had the dimmest of lights on.
“I don’t think they’re open this late.”
She undid her seatbelt and scootched forward in her seat squinting through the rain and around the steady movement of the wipers. “They open at five.”
I gestured to the clock with my thumb, “It’s only four thirty.”
She shrugs. “Then pull back onto the street and keep going.”
“No-no We can wait!” I bite my lip and park the car.
Seconds ticked past both of us twiddling our thumbs and watching the clock. I counted the seconds and got past three hundred some before getting bored. I made noises. Mostly pops and clicks, to pass another minute then gave up on entertaining myself.
I stretched and turned to Carol. “So, what’s your story?”
“My story?” She asked with a trickle of amusement dribbling onto her face.
“Well you want to eat some, uh,” I gesture towards the shops as words fail me, “And we have time to kill and I like stories and, um, yeah.” If there is anything a long time roleplayer can enjoy, it’s a good story. Also being able to articulate one’s thoughts. I was working on the latter.
She blinked at me a couple times then crossed her arms. “My story isn’t anyone’s business.”

I shrugged. “Then tell me someone else’s?”
Carol looked at her lap. Every second or two she would glance up at me, before flinching away. I could just about see the awkwardness oozing from her pores. She had her hands in her lap, and was fidgeting them together. Playing with her hair, scratching her face. Anything that wasn’t telling a story.
“Maybe. Maybe start with once upon a time…” I prompted.
Carol raised an eyebrow at me. “Once upon a time?”
I smiled. “Yeah. Once upon a time there was a princess in a tower.”
“Or not.”
“Oh, well then where is she?”
Carol frowned. “Nowhere.”
I leaned my chair back a bit and clicked the transmission off. “Well that’s kind of boring.”
“Fine. There’s a princes. She’s in a tower. Then she climbs her tower to the highest window, and jumps out. She falls, hits the ground, and dies. The end. Now isn’t that just the most fantastic story?” She glared at me, then turned to look out the window.
“We all fall at some point.” I pointed out feeling all Buddha, or yen, or whatever they call it.
“What are you, my therapist?” she asked, her voice muffled into the glass.
“Nope. I’m buying you breakfast, remember?”
Carol gave a half smile and tucked her hair behind her ears. “Whatever.”
“So let’s say a cleric revives her.”
She peered at me. “Uh-?”
I swallow. “I mean, let’s pretend she didn’t die.”
“She doesn’t die? Then she um, just falls… to the ground. And lands in a heap. Broken.”

Her eyes dodged and darted like a strobe-light.
I straightened up. “Did anyone see her fall?”
She yawned and turned back towards the window, but she answered. “Yeah. Her evil stepmother who had been keeping her caged there in the first place.”
I snickered. “And you said my start was cliche.”
She doesn’t look at me, but her frown deepened into a scowl. “Do you want a story or not?” She asked, folding her arms again.
I lifted my hands in mock surrender and tried to keep the eye rolling to minimum “My apologies, do continue.”
“So the evil step mother saw her fall. But instead of trying to help her like a normal person, she just calls in in the clergy to take her away. They steal away the girl’s soul and make her take pills that keep her numb. They lock her in a tower that’s even worse than the one she was born in. The princess is going insane, but nobody is taking her seriously. She stops eating, she stops talking, she tries to stop breathing. But when she finally manages to pass out they still don’t start listening. No, instead they send her to some bloody hospital in the middle of frigged now here!” She’d spat out the whole rant in one breath and was huffing. Her hair was a crows nest and her eyes a huge dilated mud-pond. I edged back from the intensity filling the car. She started grinning like a schizophrenic who knows more than you do about yourself and continued. “But they can’t keep her. Oh no! She just fades away, vanishes in the night. And the royal jewels disappear too.”


The intensity in the car had escalated to uncomfortable levels, and I was about to ask her to step out of the car when the last sentence caught my attention. “The royal jewels?”
Carol glared at me, but she’d gotten more comfortable as she’d spoke. Her posture had relaxed, her hands were unclenched in her lap, while I was stiff enough to make statues jealous. “She swiped her mom’s credit card. Duh.” She was smiling a bit.
“Oh- Oooh. Right.” I tried to return the smile with limited success.
“Like I was saying,” she glared at me for a second longer her lips pursed then continued at much more reasonable level of volume and excitement. “So the princess vanished. And at first it seemed like everything she’d ever been told was a lie. That things were actually wonderful and beautiful outside. That the flowers were sweeter and the sunsets more beautiful. Her suitors were kinder and more handsome than any her evil step mother would have her with.”
“Hold on. Did your mom seriously try to set you up, too?”
She clicked her tongue in annoyance then sighed. “Yeah. With a guy from church.”
My nose wrinkled automatically at the word ‘church’. “Ew.”
“Wait – too? And what do you mean ew?”
I decided to ignore her first question. “Just church…” I didn’t meet her eyes. The word church had a slimy feeling to it. “So what did the princess do?”
“The princess went into the restaurant and got waffles.”
“What? Oh, yeah.” The clock was reading 5:03, and the sky was even beginning to turn the slightest shade of pink again. “Sure.”
We got out of the car, and I locked up. It was still raining a bit, so Carol ran for the door. I just walked. Didn’t she know that running got you more wet? I guessed that maybe she didn’t watch Myth busters. She was pulling at the door, but it refused to open no matter how hard she tugged it. I waited for a second, then gently pushed it open.
“I didn’t need any help.” She snapped at me ducking under my arm into the warm embrace of the 70’s-style restaurant. The shag carpet was a nice touch. An old Asian woman with an impeccable English accent came up to us and showed us to our seats.
We were both unimaginative with our beverages, so she poured us a glass of water each and left us with menus. Carol started flipping through her’s immediately, I stared around a bit first. The old woman was pacing by the coffee machine trying to look busy, but she kept glancing over at us. She was almost shaking with the desire to please.
I peered at the page Carol had opened. “Know what you’re getting?”
She pointed to a picture on the menu. It showed five pancakes with a grandiose amount of bacon, sausage, and eggs.
“Are you sure you’re going to be able to eat all that?”
“Yup. In fact it should cover me for a meal or three.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “Four or five if you’re careful.”
Carol shrugged. “What are you getting?”
“Porridge, I think.”
Are you seriously going to order porridge at a restaurant?”
I frowned at her interest. “But – but I like porridge.” A small frown sprawled out on my lip.
She shook her head. “I can’t believe a guy who is willing to pick up random chicks off the street is going to eat porridge at a restaurant at five in the morning when he hasn’t even gotten home for the night yet.”
I pushed the menu towards her in defeat. “Fine. You want adventure? You order for me, I’ll order for you.”
She eyed me, suspicious all of a sudden, “No porridge?”
“No porridge.”
“Deal.”
We shook on it, took another moment, and closed our menus. The waitress appeared beside our table.
There was a lot of nodding and smiling as she got her note pad out of her apron. “For you young lady?”
“He’ll have the pancake supreme with extra whipping cream and strawberries. Hash browns on the side with bacon and sausage. Half a portion of each. Eggs scrambled.”
“Hash browns well done.” I coughed.
Both the girls turned to me. “What was that?” the woman asked.
“The hash browns well done.”
She squiggled on her piece of paper. “And what would you like to order?”
“Eggs Benedict with a fruit cup.”
She wrote down the order and gathered up our menus. “Will that be all?”
“Yes.” Carol answered.
The waitress was walking away when I got to my feet. “And a bowl of oat meal.” I called after her feeling very self-conscious even though the restaurant was empty.
Carol hit her palm against her forehead, but the waitress smiled and wrote it down before going into the back through a green door labeled “Staff”.
“Loser.”
I ignored Carol, preferring to inspect the floral pattern of the furniture. “It’s quite amazing really.” I said after a few awkward moments of sipping our water in silence.
“What is?”
“That something can have such amazingly bad decor and it yet somehow all works together to be such an epic fail it’s a win.”
“Whatever.”
We sat in more quiet with more water sipping and more glancing at the neon clock on the wall. It was an hour and seven minutes early. “So where were we?”
“Where were we what?”
“The princess.”
“Oh. Uh. She’d just escaped the hospital.”
I smiled. “That’s right. And she was realizing how beautiful the world is.”
“And that her step mom had lied to her about a lot of stuff.”
“Including boys.”

Her grin was a bit feral and showed too many teeth for my liking. “Especially boys.”
She stretched out like a cat, and, as she rolled her shoulders and tilted her head to each side, I could hear her joints pop. It made me cringe a bit, but I didn’t say anything. When she’d finished stretching and cracking everything to satisfaction. She brought her hand down on the table with a soft bang and started the story just as abruptly. “So the princess was out on her own, no food, no clothing, no place to stay, nothing. Then this sort of prince guy came and sat down beside her when she was loitering at a coffee shop. He had the perfect hair, the perfect amount of cheek, and he was faster, stronger, and smarter than all the other boys. He had his own theme music and introduced himself as Awesome Boy.”
I snickered, but kept my commentary to myself.

“So Awesome Boy and the princess fall in love of course. Or at least the princess thinks they do, because Awesome Boy tells her she’s the most beautiful princess in the world and whisks her away on horseback. He tells her he’ll take care of her forever and she can have whatever she wants. So the Princess wanted to go with him of course.”
“Of course.” I echo as she takes a breath.
“And Awesome Boy was everything she ever imagined. She could lounge around all day, drink and eat whatever she wanted, and all she had to do in exchange was follow Awesome Boy around once a week when he went along his business. She got sparklies, and nice things. Flowers, a roof above her head. The Princess thought she’d never need anyone else. But Awesome Boy had a secret.”
I perked up at her words. “I like secrets.”
“Santa isn’t real.”
I deflated. “Kill joy.”
She winked. “Couldn’t help it.”

I pointed at the kitchen as the swinging door caught my attention. Our waitress was coming out bearing heavy plates all balanced like a boss. “Food’s coming.”
“So it is.”
The waitress put the egg Benedict and porridge in front of me and the whatever supreme in front of Carol. We picked at our food until the old woman wandered off, then we switched plates and dug in. The supreme wasn’t bad, and the hash browns were just over cooked enough. I ate those first getting full before I’d finished a single pancake. Carol vacuumed up her own meal, then moved onto mine talking between bites.
“So it took the Princess a while to realize, but eventually she figured out Awesome Boy was seeing about five other princesses on the side. So, she flipped shit of course. He called her a crazy bitch and threw her out into the storm. And she had nowhere to go, so she just ran.”
“Is that when a passing scholar in a cart came by?”
“I dunno about scholar. I was thinking more peasant.”
“Ouch. Mean!”
“Too bad.”

There was still some food left on my plate, but I’d had enough. I pushed it over to her side of the table and started on my porridge. “So what’s the princess going to do now?”
She hid under bangs at the question, just picking at the last remaining pancake. “Dunno.”
“Go home?”
“They’ll just send me back to the hospital.”
“And here I thought we were talking about the princess not you.”
“Smart-ass.”
I shrugged that off. I could hardly defend myself from that particular accusation.
She sighed. “Isn’t this part of the story where you offer to take me away to your castle and cherish me forever?”
“Sorry princess, but the castle is more of a one bedroom apartment and I only met you an hour ago.”
She sighed again.
I put down my spoon and tried to give her a confident smile. “Why do you need a Prince Charming anyways? Why not just be your own knight? Go on grand adventures, protect the weak, rescue the downtrodden, that sort of thing.”
Carol made a face at the suggestion.
I crossed my arms at her immediate dismissal, and she swept her hood back over head and retreated back into silent mode. She watched the clock from her hideout behind her hair.
I released a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding when the waitress came over to us again. “How is everything?”
“Great. It’s, um, great. Uh.” I turned from Carol to look at the old woman. “Can we get the bill, and that boxed?” I pointed at the maple-syrup-bacon-sausage-scrambled-egg-monstrosity that was left of our breakfast.
“Of course.” The waitress gave me a warm smile and cleared the table. I waited for her to finish and move towards the kitchen once more before I continued.
“Okay. Look Carol, you can stay at my place…” I trailed off as she twisted away from the clock to look me straight in the face.
“Seriously? Are you sure? You’re not going to, like, want me to do anything or something?”
She was apparently going to talk to me again.
“Are you going to let me finish?”
She sat down giving me a sheepish smile but kept quiet.
“Today and maybe tonight. But that’s it. And I want you to call your parents.”
“What?”
“That’s the deal.”
Carol furrowed her brows not saying anything.
“It doesn’t have to be right now. You can call tonight before bed. But you are going to call.”
“What if I refuse?”
“Then I bid you farewell.”
Carol got to her feet. “Watch my stuff. I’m going to the washroom.”
I nodded, and watched her go. When the door swung shut behind her, I pulled a pen from my cloak and scribbled my name and number on a napkin. I put the napkin in her purse, then leaned into the cushy back of my chair.

The waitress came with the bill and some candies in a little black dish. Carol still wasn’t out, so I pulled out my wallet, counting bills and leaving the tip and tab in the plastic tray. I took the candies and pocketed all but one of them. When Carol still hadn’t gotten out of the bathroom, I took the two lingering twenties out of my wallet and tucked those in her purse as well. Then I got to my feet, gathered up our stuff, and went up to the woman’s bathroom door. I rapped on the door twice. There was no reply, so I pushed it open. Carol was sitting on the counter.
“I was just going to wait until you left.” She confessed.
“Uh huh.” I handed her the purse, and she took it without comment.
“I guess this is goodbye then.” She said, refusing to meet my eyes.
“I guess so.”
“Bye then.” She slid from the counter onto her feet and tried to avoid touching me as she exited the bathroom.
“Good luck, Carol.”
“You too, Lars.”
We gave each other a single nod. Then she walked out of the restaurant and I watched her go. The fog and rain embraced her in their darkness and she disappeared from sight within a block. I just kept staring after her in the direction she’d gone. Then I walked out to my car and drove home.

The sun had truly risen by the time I pulled into the parking lot. The rain had cleared up, and the sky was pastel pink, purple, and blue. I stood outside of my car for a bit just watching the sky and listening to the birds sing. Then I grabbed my set of dice and character sheet out of the back seat, locked up, and went inside.
When I got to my apartment, the light on my answering machine was blinking. My heartbeat quickened, and I crossed the room without even stripping off my damp cloak. I pressed the button and in my excitement fumbled over the keys of my pass code. The answering machine made me put up with its stupid automatic voice going through the menu of items that one through six would provide me. When the voice was finished I pressed six.
“One new message. To hear message press…”
I clicked one before the first syllable touched the voice’s tongue.
“New message playing.”
It was just static. I sighed, and collapsed over the side of my couch in exhaustion. I couldn’t even bother to turn the answering machine off, just listening to the static of the recording. Then when I was sure there was nothing left to hear, and I’d dragged myself to my feet; there was a single syllable uttered. Six letters. Five constants. One vowel.
“Thanks.”

 

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