Home > Ash: Devil's Crucifix MC(2)

Ash: Devil's Crucifix MC(2)
Author: Carmen Faye


“Well, I can’t exactly prescribe you anything. What I’d give you would totally be between you and me.” His voice lowers to a whisper, just out of earshot of Aaron, who is preoccupied listening to thunderous metal music blaring through his headphones while he goes for mile twenty on the spin bike. “But I won’t tell if you don’t tell,” Nate adds, giving me a cocksure smile.


“Stop harassing her, Nate. It’s not cool.” Out of nowhere, Jamie steps in between the two of us, his arms outstretched as if he is protecting me from some unwanted advances. He turns his head back to me, and I notice how he can’t help but study my body just above the bubbling water.


My hands wrap around myself to cover my exposed waist and panties.


“Dude. Chill. I was just seeing if she needed a painkiller. I’m not hitting on her or anything. She’s all yours.”


I practically moan as he turns and walks back to the weight bench. There goes the one little bit of happiness I could expect to get out of the rest of the night.


Jamie watches him leave, a watchdog still on his mark. When he’s out of sight he turns back to me, his eyes lingering on my hard nipples that pop through the thin fabric. I pull myself out of the tub and down to the ground. He hands me a white towel from the fresh stack, which I grab from his grubby hands without a word of thanks. He can sense my anger as he sheepishly says, “Sorry about that. I thought he was pulling something fast on you. You know how guys can get around here.”


“I certainly know all about that.” I shoot back as I grab his eye. If I could toss daggers, I know exactly where my target is. “But he wasn’t. He was being sweet. I’m in too much pain to even walk after that. Thanks for your help.”


I’m being a bit of a sarcastic bitch here, but I can’t help it. Something about Jamie always comes across as overbearing. He’s like my ex who constantly had to be up in my business. And when he was involved, all he could do was drag me down or make me question my worth. After we broke up a year ago, I swore off men for good. They only served to treat me just like Jamie does -- like a something that has to be tamed or a roaring fire that needs to be put out. I am none of those.


Actually, that’s why I’m here at the station. It was just about six months ago when I found a flier at a coffee shop asking for fire department recruits. My one female friend, Eva, practically laughed me out of the restaurant when I told her I might be interested. “Do you know what you have to do to get in?” she giggled. “C’mon, girl. You just don’t have the physical strength for that. You can’t even lift your couch without calling my dad over to help!”


I sat there, seething, my face flushed with anger. I mean, what the fuck? I couldn’t believe she was questioning me like that. She was supposed to be my closest friend.


But as I sat there, my mind racing a mile a minute, I found myself grudgingly admitting that she had a point. Even though I had gotten out of that relationship, I was still relying on everyone to get me through. And my job as a waitress at the sports bar just meant I was floundering on by, begging and flirting with men for tips.


I quit the next day and signed up for the academy. I knew nothing about fire-fighting except that it was a man’s job. At each turn, Captain Quinn and even some of the guys pressured me to quit or to give in and admit I wasn’t going to pass the physical exams. But I just got stronger, faster, tougher. I learned to drown them out. I learned to push out people like Jamie who still made me feel like I had to validate his sexism.


But not tonight. After getting through the pull obstacle task just in the cut off time, he wasn’t going to diminish my shine. I grab my gym bag, ignoring the stinging pain shooting through my wrists and arm, and walk past him confidently. He doesn’t bother following as I trail behind Nate who takes the lead to the parked ambulance.


“Don’t let him bother you, Dani. He’s just some innocent kid. Doesn’t know how to talk to ladies. I hate to admit that I was just like him when I was in my twenties.” He laughs as he opens the back door and jumps in. In just a few moments, he tosses me down a bottle of a white pill bottle.


I just barely catch it, my arms waving in the wind wildly.


Nate wasn’t lying as I instantly regret not waiting till I was back in bed to take a dose. The ocean and the trees seem to combine in a brown-green-blue swirl as I try to keep my eyes straight ahead on the yellow lines guiding me back towards my condo building at the outskirts of town. My hands practically wrap themselves into the interior of the steering wheel as I try to keep my distance from a man on the motorcycle who eyes me cautiously as he passes me by.


Luckily, I make it home without any real incident besides running into the door without even bothering to think if it was locked or not. My muddled brain can’t even bring myself to make dinner. I just stare at the boiling pot of water until I decide it isn’t worth it and walk back towards the bedroom, tossing my still damp clothing onto the floor as I go.


My black and white satin sheets call out to me as I tumble headfirst into the sheets, like a dive into a cool swimming pool on a sticky summer’s day. In moments, my eyes grow tight and close. The rest of my body stills and steadies and I’m transported to somewhere new far away from my condo.


I find myself in the same dream I’m always in. I’m standing in a field alone, my hands reaching out to touch the sunflowers and lilac that grow tall beside one another. The moist earth cringles under my toes while the wind blows against my face. It’s cool and calming, a safe space that protects me from all the bull that’s happening in the real world.


However, today is different. As soon as I begin walking toward the line of trees, the ground around me seems to dry and crack. The flowers and grass wither and brown. And the smell is so familiar but hard to place. My mouth dries instantly as I place it. It’s smoke. Billowing, black, puffy smoke that overtakes all of my senses. Drops of tears fill my eyes. And my ears prick and tingle as I listen closely to the sounds around me.


And suddenly, I’m not dreaming anymore. I’m not in my safe space. The fire in my mind is the fire surrounding my apartment. My eyes burst open to heat like I’ve never felt before. I can practically feel my skin expand and bubble. I try to focus on the ceiling above me, but the drugs Nate gave me haven’t worn off yet and the adrenaline I know I should be feeling is fighting its way through my veins.

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