I know what you’re thinking. And yes, I’m one of those girls. The kind who wakes up in random places with random strangers and how in the hell do I never end up cut up in pieces in some guy’s freezer or chained to the hot water heater in his basement.
I could only be so lucky.
It was late August the last time I thought that about myself. I opened my eyes to a vicious sound, whining and rumbling in disharmonic unison that made images of my grandfather’s chainsaw pass through my whiskey clogged brain.
When I opened my eyes, the ever adorable Raina was standing at the kitchen counter dropping rocks into the bowl of her giant Kitchenaid mixer and glaring at me with eyes that could have set water ablaze.
My hands went to my ears as I shouted, begging her to stop.
She pointed to her ear, shaking her head as her mouth twisted upward at the corners. Raina’s smiles cost me a drop of my soul, every single one. But there was never any complaining on my part. She paid her own penance for being with me.
When I stuffed my thumbs in my ears and wrapped my fingers over my eyes, dropping my head against the back of her fuzzy futon, she threw one of the stones at my stomach and turned off the grievous machine.
“I don’t know why I put up with you, Krista.”
The wilted thorns in her voice told me I’d better get up. As I did, the room spun with waves of heat and black baubles of non-light making me wish I’d just keel over and die on the spot.
“Raina. Baby.” Another stone, smaller than the last, dashed across the coffee table and hit me in the thigh. “You’re gonna break something.”
“If it’s your face, I might be ok with it.” Her lips trembled with the ache of whatever I’d put her through. Don’t ask me what it was, I couldn’t have told you my name just then if she hadn’t said it.
I sighed, putting my hands up to simultaneously steady myself and signal the universal sign of surrender. “Then you really wouldn’t put up with me. My face is the only thing you like about me.”
Another twitch at the edge of her lips made my heart flutter.
There is lots of beauty in the world, but then there is a rare form of it that is so close to magic, you might not be able to distinguish the difference. Raina had the means to make you believe she flitted between the two like a fairy or angel or siren.
Most like a siren. There was just something dark and dangerous in those fiery eyes of hers.
But this time, the darkness bloomed. It took over the crisp sweet pleasure of her smile. With tiny explosions of thought visibly firing inside her mind, her features muddied into demonic fury. She held the large rock in her right hand and I swallowed hard, gazing at the mud that still clung to its surface and wedged deeply beneath the long white tips of her fingernails.
A surge of something cold and penetrating went through my spinal column, sobering me from root to stem as I stopped my quiet advance toward her and let my eyes waft back up to hers.
I knew I’d taken her for granted. I never told her how I loved her or made sure she felt it. I partied hard and plenty, letting myself become seduced by pretty boys and gruff girls in the toilets of bars or hotel hot tubs. I was 26 and I still thought I was invincible.
Raina was just a girl I was fucking. FWB. My last call.
The realization of my mortality that sticky, late summer morning made my life seem so wasted. So worthless. And as her fist rose in the air, I did not see the past flash before my eyes.
I saw every speck of dust sparkling in the late morning sunlight. I saw the drops of sweat on Raina’s forehead and collarbone. I saw kids across the street running through the spray of a lawn sprinkler. I saw Raina’s kitten with eyes wiser than they should have been watching the scene unfold before her as she perched on the top of the sleek silver curtain rod I’d helped to hang a hundred years ago.
I saw every single thing in the world around me, in slow motion, about to go on without me after the sharp, cold ridge of that rock slammed into my face. But I didn’t see the small stone she had thrown a moment ago sitting neatly behind my right foot as I stepped back away from her.
Holding my breath, milliseconds fell between us like those helicopter seeds that sift below the branches of maple trees in the spring. Her eyes widened and my foot fell awkwardly on something round and rough and out of place. I watched as the massive rock glided past my eyes, mere millimeters away and my frame lurched backward nearly parallel to the floor.
But only a breath before the back of my head skimmed over the solid oak edge of her coffee table.
When I opened my eyes to find her kneeling over me, crying and laughing in some superfluous symphony of irony, she was holding the tiny rock I slipped on.
“Only you, Krista. Only you.”
I’m baffled as to why, as it hurt my head when I began to laugh with her, but I did. I sat up, clinging to her as she dissolved in a fit of giggles before me.
“Where is your shoe?”
Through the tears in my eyes and the pain from the depth of my soul, I laughed even harder.
Because she was right.
Only I would lose a shoe and have it save my life.