Twisting Fate: Ch. 6

Tuesday, July 02, 2019



LuLo has a reputation for two reasons: good music and underpriced drinks. It’s the kind of place where college-bound, rich boys come to get laid. 

It’s the kind of place I’d end up in even if I weren’t living with the owner.

It’s not yet prime drinking time when I show up a few days after I’m released from the hospital. Though the bar opens at nine, most patrons don’t show up until after eleven. The band of the night doesn’t start playing until close to midnight. 

I’m the only one here.

“What are you doing here?” Ben asks when I walk into the bar.

“Ben, it’s me,” I say, rolling my eyes.

He raises his eyebrows. “And?” he asks. “I told you to stay in bed.”

“What are you, my dad?”

Ben’s eyes narrow, and he crosses his arms over his chest. “I’m trying to help you, Jasmine. You almost…you almost died. I know you don’t want to believe it, but I actually fucking care about you. The thought of losing you…” He inhales sharply, and grabs the rag from the counter in front of him, turning his attention to scrubbing down the bar.

I don’t know how to respond. We’ve had variations of this conversation many times in the past few days. I had no choice but to listen to Ben try to work through his complicated feelings about this whole messed up situation.

I was tied to the bed, after all.

Apparently, it was for my own good.

Ben sighs. “You want to work tonight?”

“What?” I ask.

“I’m letting you work tonight,” he says. Ben uncrosses his arms and leans across the bar, his eyes searching mine. “If that’s what you want.”

“If that’s what I want? Since when does what I want matter?”

Ben shakes his head and goes back to wiping down the bar. “Do what you want. I’m done fighting with you.”

He flings the rag over his shoulder--a signal I recognize as him being done talking--and pushes through the swinging back door behind him into his office before I can respond. 

I take a seat at the bar with a sigh. The bar is silent, empty. 

I should've come later.

I kneel on the barstool and reach over the bar to collect a glass and the bottle of bourbon Ben left on the counter. I pour myself a shot, drink in down, and am pouring myself another one when the front door suddenly opens.

 I turn around to see who could possibly be coming in this early. The detectives, probably, returning for another round of questions I won’t be able to answer. 

Or maybe some tourist, lost and looking for directions to their actual destination.

But I’m wrong.

It’s Sweet Breath.
***

“What do you think?” he asks. “Was it worth it?”

They’re lying in the bed of his truck on top of a blanket he pulled from his backseat. Jennifer’s never seen the stars shine so brightly before. She feels like she could reach up and scoop them into her arms, bring them close enough to kiss.

When she was little, she wanted to be an astronaut. 

Until her father convinced her science was too dangerous for a girl.

“Absolutely,” she answers, turning to smile at the stranger beside her.

She feels the tips of his fingers as they trace a line down the inside of her wrist, pausing at her pulse point. 

Her heart races at the touch, the feeling as electrified as the starlight.

****

I don’t know how to react.

Do I scream? Call for Ben? Smile and pretend I have no idea who he is?

“Pardon me, Miss,” Sweet Breath says, his lips curling into a blinding white smile. “Do you know where I can find Benjamin Barlow?”

“I—"

I don’t get to complete my sentence. Suddenly, I have a flash of a memory. His muscles rippling as he moved over me, the tattoo of a lion roaring across his chest, his large hands cupping the curves of my body…

And stars. So many stars winking at us from the sky. The sky so close I think I could reach my hand up and touch it…

“Jasmine!” I feel something wet on my face. I blink. I’m lying on the floor of the bar, Ben’s worried face hovering over me. 

“Ben?” I say, pushing myself up to sit. “What the hell?”

Ben crushes me to his chest, breathing heavily. “I told you not to scare me like that.”

I push away Ben’s smothering embrace. “Where’s Sweet Breath?”

“What?”

“Sweet Breath! You know? The guy I went home with the night I died? He was just here. He was asking for you.”

Ben looks around the bar. It’s empty. 

We’re the only ones here.

****

Blue eyes blink back tears in the mirror as she rinses the blood from her hands. Her mother’s reflection appears behind her in the doorway.

“He didn’t mean to, you know,” her mother says. “Your father loves you, Jennifer.”

Jennifer presses her lips together and nods, watching her blood and the tiny shards of glass swirl together in the sink. She should have known this is what would be waiting for her when she returned home. She should’ve stayed in the desert.

“It’s the war. He’s seen things, you know. Terrible things. I think it’s scared him. He just wants to keep you safe,” her mother continues. Jennifer clenches her jaw. “You believe that right, darling? Tell me you believe that.”

She turns off the faucet and flicks her hands. Pinpricks of blood splatter onto the sink, the counter, and over her reflection in the mirror. She turns around, and looks at her mother.

“Am I safe enough yet?” she asks.

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