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Cora deftly weaved in and out of the morning traffic, throwing off her normally even-tempered defensive driving in favor of slicing seconds off her trip to the hospital where her boyfriend Jamie lay in an unknown condition. “Why did he have to do this on a Monday,” she thought, finding the congestion of the road frustrating, turning up the heat of her already boiling anger. Her hands clamped the steering wheel in a grip that could shatter granite, and the car rocked back and forth, up and down, to the hasty acceleration and deceleration of her two-foot driving style. She cursed herself for not being more understanding of his somber situation. He was, after all, the one that was in real pain --in danger of having continuing life-changing complications. Though at the same time, the way her boss had screamed at her on the phone this morning felt as if it had done physical harm to her ears. As much as it pained Cora, it did make a sick sort of sense, because the other opener at her job, Laura, hadn’t showed up this morning. Perhaps it was just a wave of emotion she rode from the crest of the idyllic weekend she had spent with Jamie, to the trough now where she worried desperately about his condition and future health. But she couldn’t help wondering at the same time, what was her Jamie doing last night?

Rodney James inched his hand from the shifter of his ‘68 Barracuda over to the thigh of his passenger, Laura, exchanging the cold, rough, leather knob for her leg. The brisk Autumn night had gone well for him and his new date, but the leaky antique vehicle allowed air to rush in through pinholes that cooled the spark between them. She recoiled at the touch, not so much at the audacity of Rodney’s move, but at the feeling of his freezing fingers. Rodney turned his head to look at her and brought the steering wheel off-center, initiating a crash into the guardrail whizzing by at highway speed. Had it been a contemporary vehicle they would have walked away, but the lack of airbags and modern engineering left the car cascading into a tumble, showering debris centripetally, ending with it flipped over in the grassy median, both Laura and Rodney knocked unconscious, bleeding, hanging upside down in their seats. 

He woke to his pet name, issued forth from the mouth of Cora. “Jamie!” she whispered, imploring a response. She wanted a sign from him that he was okay, and that everything would go back to normal someday. Cora had spoken to a nurse briefly and learned that nothing was broken, but that Rodney had been jostled around and had hit his head. The nurse’s words had alleviated her concerns about his bodily issues, but she still wanted to know about his mind --and who this other patient who had been with him in the crash was. 

“I hate it, when you call me that,” he mumbled back to her as a playful smile danced across his mostly bandaged physiognomy. Cora’s heart melted, the significance of Rodney’s otherwise snarky remark being that he was still in good enough shape mentally to banter with her. Their plans for an apartment together were secured, she thought. It would just take time. Though looking at the female form in the other bed piqued her interest, and a pinprick of jealousy. 

“Who’s your friend?” Cora questioned. She maintained neutrality as best she could, what with the multiple conflicting thoughts racing through her head, destined to crash and swamp her in emotion. 

Rodney’s eyes widened an almost imperceptible amount, and he slowly, gingerly, turned to see Laura across the room in another bed, bandaged much tighter than he, and restrained in various manners. Laura had been watching the two though, and a fire raged in her eyes that was now trained on Rodney’s dumbstruck face. 

“She’s a childhood friend,” Rodney offered, “I was driving her home.”

“Funny, I don’t think I’ve met her before!” said Cora. “Can you introduce us?”

“Ah, yeah. Cora, this is Laura. Laura, meet my friend, Cora,” said Rodney, gesturing between them. 

Laura’s gaze from the other bed that had been locked on Rodney unlatched and became outwardly calm, but inwardly horrified. Laura knew Cora. She was another opener at the retail store she worked in. Though they worked in different departments, she had seen her enough in passing and gossiped enough in the break room to know that Cora was in a committed relationship with someone, and had been for some time. Now she knew who with. 

At the same moment the realization hit Cora too. The fear of infidelity, lurking under the guise of jealousy, had manifested itself in front of her. Worse yet, it had come as one of her coworkers. 

“Nice to meet you,” greeted Cora, “though perhaps not under these circumstances.”

It was all she could do to prevent herself from shaking with a rising tide of jealousy, resentment, anger, and confusion welling within her. She targeted Rodney.

“I’m sorry to have woken you, I just wanted to make sure you were OK!” she said, feigning apology. “I’ve got to get to work now though, and I’m sure you need rest after smashing yesterday!” She let her words hang in the air before correcting herself, “I mean, crashing, sorry!” 

“Nah, thanks for coming, Cora,” returned Rodney, a little on edge after getting a peek of something dark coming through Cora's saccharine demeanor. Oblivious to their knowledge of him playing them, he began scheming a way out from the mess he had made where he could continue to see both of them. He did like both of them after all, but was not sure whether Cora or Laura was ‘the one’ for him. 

Laura looked at Cora, now getting up, and beamed honest regret and remorse. The tears she wept were hidden; sucked into her bandages which became soggy and weighted. She desired that whatever vengeance Cora was to reap would spare her, being oblivious to the import of her previous flirtations with Rodney, and moreover, defenseless, unable to speak and move from her debilitating injuries.  

Cora walked out of the door ready to fall down under the weight of the grievances committed by her boyfriend and coworker, but bolstered herself with the thought of revenge already making itself clear in her mind.

August 27, 2020 01:35

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1 comment

Adrian Stolecki
21:11 Sep 02, 2020

I wish I could like twice. The language and writing style is really beautiful here. It really let's the emotion bleed through. Good job!


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