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Adventure Coming of Age Mystery

This story contains sensitive content

***mentions drinking, gun violence and death occur, implied that a woman is fearful of being attacked in the city***

I slammed the door of the taxi shut. The sky was crying with a hot fever.

"Follow that car." I ordered. The wrinkled, orange man put the car in gear and drove. I couldn't see the silver city through my window. I didn't like how the window was my only escape from the stifled smell of plastic and this man.

I powered on my i-Phone. I didn't have time for the half eaten apple now or ever. I furiously typed in my passcode and drummed on Snapchat until it opened. I foraged for her name and clicked on Snap Map. I followed her bleached blonde hair down 5th avenue. My mom informed me before my trip that it is  better to be safe than sorry, so I turned "sharing location" off. I watched the blue bubble turn to gray.  Maelyn always made fun of me for my earthquake like typing. It all seemed like a decade ago. I've already accepted that this is the way life is going to be from now on. It makes me wonder if all along there were signs.  To avoid speculation, I turned off my phone.

I looked into the glossy window and couldn't distinguish my own face from the faces on the street. The raindrops were round; they came down either slowly or heart- pounding fast. It was almost as if God was crying tears on the window. I would usually admire this, but today it triggered an alarm in my gut. Everything felt off.

I try to go back and relive the past hour because I don't even know if I will leave this taxi until daylight.

I was standing near the DJ in the karaoke club. There were 15 year old girls pretending to be drunk. The closest thing the club sold to alcohol were Shirley Temples. The music switched from an upbeat 2010's Disney pop song to Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like A Woman ''. I hate country music, but I still have an affinity for 90's country music. I still have the lyrics ingrained in my mind to the tune of bluegrass guitars. Maelyn, my closest friend who dated back the braces of 8th grade, was next to me dancing away. I'm not exactly the club type of person, but I am the spur of the moment type of person, which is exactly why I wanted to venture to the city.

You couldn't lose us in our matching white miniskirts, crop tops, and cowgirl boots. I told her we belonged in Nashville, not New York City, but she insisted it was the most modest option that would guarantee our parents approval. I really hated how she bleached her sandy brunette hair. It made her look like every other person, and she was not.

I checked my iPhone 6, reliable and trustworthy, at 9:33. This was when my sister, Maeve, posted a Tik-Tok. This was exactly when Maelyn started to act strange. She walked right past me, nudging the flairs of the skirt, making a B-line toward the bar. Leaning on the ledge of the high top, Maelyn asked him for a drink. She exchanged expectant glances between the crowd and her phone.

I was outraged. It's one thing to leave your friends at prom, but in the middle of New York City in a club was absolutely insane. My boots met the floor with loud punches. It made some lovers look up from their business before returning to each other's eyes.

"Maelyn, what was that? You just left me on the dance floor alone in the middle of a club. Wasn't it a deal to never leave one another?"

Maelyn's mint eyes reflected the multicolored lights, like Christmas trees. I could not sense what I saw in those Christmas tree eyes.  A crappy cover band started to sing "Dancing Queen".

"Mel, you wouldn't understand. Something has happened that is beautiful, but dangerous. You can't be around me."

"Woah, wai..."

"Mel, if you follow me, something dangerous may happen to you or your family. Don't."

It was like I was in a teen movie, but none of that stuff ever happens. No one actually threatens you. No one has to search the city for a friend. Despite old-Mel's better judgment, here I am traveling the city in a yellow Ford.

When I ran out of the teen club, Maelyn entered a black Escalade with the license plate, "MYMONEY".

The taxi driver piped up, "You know we are in New York City, right? Millions of millionaires and feigning millionaires live here. You won't be able to distinguish one of these in the dark. My shift ends at 11. I want to help you till then, but I also want to make sure you get to a safe area before continuing your search."

I nodded and thanked him. I gave him the address of the McDonald's a block down from my hotel. My mom taught me well.

The automatic doors of the Hilton couldn't keep up with me and my skirt's frills. Tracy, a concierge, offered me a conversation and cookie, but the creases of my smile told her I would pass.

When I reached the glass elevator, the nine-year old in me wanted chocolate served in gold foil. Instead I got a woman from South Carolina's whole life story and the details of her divorce from a high school baseball coach.

As I departed for the 13th floor, I removed the sweaty room key from the pocket of my skirt. I flashed the card inscribed "Welcome to New York! Hilton is happy to have you!" until the contactless key made the electronic lock turn green.

It never turned green, but it sure turned red. After 1 million fails, the lock turned gray. Even the dumbest person in the world would know that meant you were locked out. I punched the door like I was Rocky. Then I realized it was the wrong city and it made me even more irate. My boots pounded on the regal carpet as I stormed down the hall to the elevators.

When I arrived in the lobby, I took a deep breath and approached Tracy.

"Hello, what can I help you with today?"

"My name is Melaine Akittirq. My room key isn't working. I just purchased the room last night. Well actually, my friend Maelyn Solace purchased this room last night. We are staying until the 25th."

Tracy's blue light glasses reflected the screen. I saw the employee's handbook through her glasses.

"I am very sorry Ms. Akittirq. I cannot permit you another room key unless Ms. Solace is present. While you are waiting for her you may enjoy our rooftop casino. Are you 18?"

I showed her my license even though I had no plans of going to the rooftop.

"What if I don't see my friend until the end of the trip? I am able to buy another room, but my bags are in room 1356. Would I be allowed to get them?"

Tracy's face appeared to be confused as she answered my question. A little part of me was happy that Tracy's bright eyes had dimed ,and her rehearsed smile had faded.

"Yes, mam. We could retrieve your bags from Ms. Solace's room. Would you mind telling me what brand, color, and size your bag is? I will send a text to our heads of room service, Tiana and Joe. They will bring the bags down to the lobby. If you want to go out on the town, we will store them here until further arrangements are made for the night. I am very sorry, Ms. Akittirq. Good luck!"

Tracy didn't know how much luck I needed.

I checked my phone again to find a surprising text from Maeve.

Hey Mel, why is Maelyn with some dude in Times Square? Where are you? Stay safe for mom, dad, and I

I didn't text back.

Times Square? Guy? I kept repeating the last words I had heard her say when I saw her.

"Mel, if you follow me, something dangerous may happen to you or your family. Don't."

I didn't know what tied these three things together, but something did. My atavistic gut hailed a taxi.

"To Times Square!"

I find it funny how no one in New York City cares what you're doing. If this was Stowe, Vermont, I would've practically been in the news.

As we rounded the corner before Times Square, the thoughts of mountain breeze and farms faded away in the smell of cigarettes and sewage.

I threw the woman a tip and shut the door.

I pulled down my skirt and lowered my head. I headed into the Marriott. My dad was in the apple cider business and was trying to get Vermont Apple national. We had our fair share of Marriott stays here, so I walked right through the lobby and into the elevator.  As I hit floor 8, I started to wonder about Maelyn. She made me so confused and she never did before. One thing I know for sure is that these drunk college kids will know where to go clubbing. 

The skyline of New York was so breathtaking. Among all the cars and honking I wondered where Maelyn was. Did she know how much I miss her?

"Umm... I'm a college kid, right? Do you know where to go for a nice time? Any clubs?" I hated the way I sounded, I sounded like the person I never wanted to be.

A girl shushed a man, probably her boyfriend. 

"Okay, just before Macy's there is a club. I'm pretty sure it's called Swimming in the Snow. It's clean and it's fun. Gotta be 21."

I nodded and smiled.

Just before I could thank her she said, "Be careful. Don't go behind the alleyway of the club. Not even if you have to."

I thanked her again and the group returned to their political conversation.

Politics will always be around, but Maelyn might not.

Swimming in the Snow was like our teen club. The only difference was that they sold more than Shirley Temple's here. No one asked for my ID so I invited myself onto the dance floor. While I pretended to dance to "Blank Space '', I asked Maeve for Maelyn's location on Snap Map.

Is it okay if I screenshot it, Mel?

Yes, Maeve 

It turns out that the club had fast cell service. Probably for all the breakup calls.

My phone beeped. Maeve had sent the screen shot.

My eyes dilated, letting the smokey air burn my iris'. My hands held my phone so hard it almost fell out of them. She was in the alley. 

Then I screamed. I just screamed. No one stared, they kept dancing.

It humbled me more than a preacher on Sunday.

I walked toward the door, dancing at different points so as not to seem suspicious.

The further back I went through the club the atmosphere changed.

It was smoking, drunk arguments, and lots of lovers.

"How much worse can the alley be?" I felt my gut-instinct pulling me back onto the dance floor, with mom, dad, and Maeve shouting words of encouragement like I had just swam the 500 Free. Maelyn tugged my heart the other way. I couldn't let her die on my watch. She saved me from locking myself away in the 8th grade. She gave me a chance for a high school experience. Man, did we get one.

I found myself at the door. A plaque read "Employee's Only".

The people congregating at the door laughed.

I took a deep breath. I made it deep enough to tell my gut to calm down.

I opened the door. I was on another planet. The trash was overflowing from the dumpsters. The potholes were steaming much more than on 5th Avenue. There were no lights in the alley. The light from the remainder of the city seeped into the dim alleyway. Even the traffic was muted. I looked to my left and right. No escape. The  alley was too long. I knew the door behind me was probably locked, but I tried just in case.

I was alone. I was really alone. But maybe I wasn't.

There was Maelyn, wrapped around some guy. Her ivory skin and bleached hair showed a light on the guy's face.

His jawline was a knife and his ebony hair curtained his indigo eyes.

His eyes caught the glimpse of mine.

Still in each other's arms, Maelyn exchanged a look of horror with the guy.

"Valentino! Don't!" Maelyn dropped to the pavement. Vincent was overflowing with angst.

"Babe! It's a part of the plan. Didn't I tell you everything that had happened? It's just." Maelyn became one with the pavement.

A car screeched down the alley. Three men, dressed in suits, came out of the car.

They joined Valentino. It was then that I saw my life flash before my eyes. A silver gun. In a sliver of time it would all be gone. My mom and I watching Hallmarks. My dad and I eating out every time Mom sent us to the grocery store. Maeve and I trash talking teachers on the way to school.

"Maeve. That's why if you're going to ask. You look very inquisitive so I know you'll need the story. Sit."

I couldn't believe I was taking orders from a stranger. 

A gun can do strange things to a person.

A piece of  broken glass cut my leg, but I couldn't even feel it. Valentino sat down beside me. He treated it like a conversation. This told me it wasn't the first time he'd done something like this.

"I bet you're wondering how Maeve Akittirq has anything to do with a gang in New York. While it all ties back to Mrs. Hanna Begay-Akittirq. When Hanna first came to the city from Alaska, she was attending Columbia. One night near the Battery, Hanna needed some help getting out of a situation. Kinda unusual for the Battery, but hey,I mean everything changes after dark. Naturally my father, or all of our fathers," he gestured to the three men. "Father killed the man. He stuck up for women at any chance possible. It was obvious that Hanna hadn't expected it, but was grateful. Little did she know we used guns for more than protection. My father said he needed something in return. He needed her to join us. Hanta had a 4.3 GPA, and was planning on working for Pfizer. She had a life ahead of her. Hanna didn't know what to say and as she was running away from father and into the night she shouted, ‘''I don't know, get my kid to do it!"’. I don't think she even knew what she was saying. Hanna isn't the type of woman, from what I've been told, to offer up her child for the mafia. Hanna didn't think father would take it seriously, but he did. The New York Times did an article on Hanna a few years back, she said she was moving to Vermont. Doing a survey on recycling and the ecosystem. Then I fell in love with Maelyn. On snap.  No, I had no idea of the connection between her and the Begay-Akittirq family. On Mae's story a couple weeks ago, you, Mae, and Hanna were shopping together with her. I invited her here and this brings us to now. Valentino gestured for Maelyn to finish the story.

"Mel, I just fell in love with him. I never wanted this. His father thinks that you should be dead. Hanna never paid her debts. Maeve knew she was supposed to come to New York. Now you have to pay! It isn't fair, Melaine! Mel, I don't know what to do!"

I tasted cold metal on my tongue as the gun drew near. If this was the way I was supposed to die, under the polluted starlight. If this was the way I would be buried, thrown in the back of a plastic- wrapped Escalade and chucked in the river. If this was the way my soul sister would betray me, then I needed to crack my knuckles and take a deep breath.

I punched Valentino as the gun soared in the air and I screamed.

My scream wasn't the only one in that artificially lit alleyway.

It's been a year. I still don't remember what happened. I remember holding her in my arms. Her blood saturated  my clothes. It started to rain again. I couldn't tell the difference between the moon's tear or mine. Maelyn could make the moon cry is what I assure myself of now.

All I can see are blue and red lights burning my eyes. The icy metal gave me a fever. They took me away from her. If I knew his finger was on the trigger, I wouldn't have sucker punched him. The office lights blinded my eyes when I sat down. Valentino or the other men never had to sit and be questioned about murder.  They never will have to. The only one who's really in jail is my heart.

January 22, 2023 02:23

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2 comments

Mary Ann Ford
22:58 Feb 01, 2023

Sometimes I was a little confused about who was who but I'm sure that was my own fault. I definitely have no interest to go to New York after this. :) Good job.

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Wendy Kaminski
02:21 Jan 30, 2023

Great thriller, Autumn! I really enjoyed this combination mystery/action story with lots of ancestral tie-ins. It was very effective! Enjoyable story! Welcome to Reedsy, and good luck this week!

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