I swear, when he gets here, I’m going to kill him. No. I’m going to kill him, revive him and then kill him again.
Carrie stood outside Nicky’s, the local greasy spoon where she worked most days, a cigarette in hand, cursing the fact that her ride home hadn’t shown up yet and Nicky’s had closed a half hour before, so she was stuck out in the pouring rain – waiting. She’d turned down co-workers’ offers of drives home, mainly because Mike was never late. In fact he was usually early to pick her up, spending time with the regulars (and irregulars, she liked to joke) savoring a coffee. Today, the one day where rain poured down like someone had turned on the faucet, he was late. Not just late. Very late.
She took a drag off the cigarette, held it for a few moments, savoring it, then blew the smoke out through her nose in what she hoped was an irritated snort. It was a bad habit, she knew that, and for the most part she didn’t indulge – unless she was pissed off, which she was in spades right now. She’d walk, but Nicky’s was about two miles from home, and in the rain she didn’t treasure the thought of slogging through puddles and mud in the gloom and dark. As if sharing a three-bedroom apartment with four guys wasn’t fun enough, adding the torture of soaked, wet feet and drenched clothing to that wouldn’t make her mood any better.
Carrie leaned back against the frigid metal of the door, closing her eyes. The sound of the night – the clank of metal pots as people made late suppers, the televisions turned too loud – game-shows blasting into the dark, parents tucking children in to bed – all overlaid with the patter of rain in the puddles that formed in the gutters and tinkled melodically on cars and rooftops.
Through this soothing backdrop, she heard the familiar rumble of Mike’s motorcycle. A lopsided growl that she always expected to backfire and stall, but never did. She opened her eyes as it made its way closer to her, the familiar tall, lanky figure on the motorcycle that almost seemed too small for him made her smile through her irritation.
Carrie and Mike had known each other forever it seemed. They’d both met when they were freshmen in high school. Carrie remembered when Mike hadn’t been the handsome, fit man he’d grown into, but a pimply geek, obsessed with computers. Both of them were misfits – and they’d found each other by accident in their music classes.
The bike stopped in front of her, and the rider turned and proffered a helmet for her, easing the machine into a bubbling idle.
Carrie cocked her head, dropping the cigarette onto the gray, wet pavement and crushing the orange ember to nothing beneath her boot.
The figure shrugged. I couldn’t help it.
She shook her head. Sure.
He tossed the helmet at her. Let’s go home.
She caught it and put it on in one movement that had been honed through repetition over the years. Climbing onto the back of the bike, she was thankful for the fact she’d come straight from her yoga class to work, and had put on her leggings after her shift – riding a motorbike home in a skirt was not high on the list of what she wanted to do tonight.
Slipping her arms around Mike, she leaned her head against his back, breathing in the smell of the beaten old leather jacket, the grease and oil smells from the bike, the rough, gritty smell of the city and beneath it all the warm familiar smell of Mike.
Closing her eyes, holding him closer and letting the wind whip by her as they raced through the city to the apartment, she let the cocktail of scents and the warmth of his body radiating through to her soothe her irritation and anger. By the time they arrived at the reddish brick building they called home for now, the bubbling anger had simmered into frustration.
Climbing down from the back of the bike, Carrie removed her helmet and tossed it back, before running quickly up the stairs. Mike wouldn’t be far behind her, and right now, the call of dry clothing and warm food was stronger than staying and talking.
Trotting up the stairs with worn and ragged carpeting, Carrie dug her keys out of her backpack, her footsteps echoing hollowly in the stairwell. Opening the creaky old door to their place with a groan and a thud, she stepped in and took in the apartment.
The place was a controlled mess, as usual. With five musicians, that meant instruments strewn random places, sheets of loose-leaf and staff notation littering most horizontal surfaces. The odd plate or glass some still with food in them added to the messiness – the dangers of living with four guys she guessed.
Making her way through the room and down the hall, she cracked open the door to her room, and stepped inside. The room was the largest one in the apartment, and Carrie was the only occupant. It was barely furnished – a desk, a dresser, chair, the box spring and mattress in the corner with a small lamp beside it. But it was hers and that’s what mattered.
Carrie tossed down her backpack with a resounding “thunk” and rummaged through her closet for a towel. Stripping out of the rag-tag assortment of clothing from both work and her exercise, she pulled on a worn t-shirt and pajama pants – comfortable and just treading the edge of falling apart. Drying her hair absentmindedly with the towel, she turned off the overhead light and flicked on the lamp beside the bed. The warm yellow glow of the small single light bulb barely cut through the gloom of the room, but its light reached far enough to touch the pictures that she’d taped up for when things got lonely – her mother and father, sisters and friends from back home, along with the sketch of StormChild – a comic that Mike had drawn back in their high school days that had become both the logo and name of their band.
Tracing the outline of the logo with a finger, Carrie’s mind wandered, and she let the towel drop into her lap. What some of her friends wouldn’t give to be where she was. StormChild had paid its dues and after years of working clubs and dives for just enough money to get to the next gig usually, they’d been spotted by an A&R rep and signed to a three album contract. Now came the harder part – getting that album made and done while trying to keep up both playing and working.
A gentle knock sounded at the door, breaking her from her reverie. She looked up as the door opened enough to admit the blond hair and smiling face of Mike Lutz.
“Sorry for being late Car, dealing with getting us booked for some new clubs took longer than I’d hoped.”
Carrie sighed and laid back onto the pillow, watching Mike as he crossed the room to sit on the edge of her bed.
“S’okay. I’ll live.”
He snorted. “If you’d give in and actually get a cell phone…”
It was her turn to snort, and she let her eyes wander back over to the slightly ragged drawing.
“Heading to bed?” she nodded in response.
“Well, night Pancake, rest well.” He planted a gentle kiss on her forehead and looked back fondly over his shoulder as he left the room.
Pancake had been her nickname since they’d met – he’d called her “short stack” as she barely topped five foot five in shoes – and it had morphed into Pancake.
“Good night McGruffin.” she whispered to the walls, turning off the light and pulling the blankets up over herself.