The Secret of Ella and Micha, Page 21Jessica Sorensen
"So is this what you used to do all the time?" Lila relaxes back in the lawn chair. "Just sit around and watch them work on cars all day? God, that must have been nice. "
I slurp on my Icee, my eyes fastened on Micha and Ethan working on the car on the opposite side of the garage. They're trying to work too fast and it's making me nervous. "No, I used to work on the cars with them. "
She dumps a bag of M&M's into her hand. "Do you want to go help them right now?"
"I can hang out here with you," I say and stick out my hand. "Besides, I'm kind of enjoying myself. "
She dumps some candy into my hand and I pour the chocolate into my mouth.
"I know you are. " She sets the candy on the floor and picks up her soda. "You're practically glowing. "
I rest my face in my hand to hide the alleged glowing. "This makes me nervous. "
"Racing when the car's not running good. "
Lila pulls her hair out of the ponytail and tousles it with her fingers. "Why? Can something go wrong?"
"With racing, anything can go wrong," I say, mad at myself for getting Micha into this mess.
I kick a tool box out of the way and step up onto the bumper, staring down at the engine. "So what do you think?"
Ethan wipes his hands on a rag as he shakes his head. "I have no clue if this quick fix is going to hold up or not and we don't have time to check the tie rods. If you got hit hard enough, they're probably bent and your whole steering is going to be fucked up. "
"I guess we'll find out when we get it going. " I glance over at Ella and Lila, laughing in the corner of the garage.
"You're not going to take her with you when you race, are you?" Ethan rounds the back of the car and starts checking the tire pressure.
"Not with the car running like it is. "
"And what if she gives you a hard time. "
"She won't. " I check the oil. "At least I think she won't. "
Ethan wipes his hands on his jeans. "I think that all depends on which Ella you're dealing with. The nice, polite one or the one who got you into this mess. "
I look over at Ella again as she bends over to get a soda from the cooler behind the chairs. Her short shorts ride up and the bottom of her ass peeks out. After getting a drink, she drops back in her chair and opens it up, laughing at something Lila said. I adjust myself and slam the hood of the car down. "I think she might be a little of both. "
"Why are there so many more people tonight?" Lila asks from the backseat, gaping at the cars parked up and down the road. "It wasn't this bad the last time we were here. "
The girl is scared shitless and I kind of feel bad for her. "Mikey likes to draw a crowd. "
"To watch him lose?" she asks, prodding Ella with her elbow.
"Maybe," I say with a heavy sigh, psyching myself out as I climb out of the car.
The three of them follow me out and Ella takes my hand as we hike through the crowd where Mikey's talking smack to some skater dude who drives a Honda in the middle of the crowd, showing off for everyone. There's a bonfire burning over near The Hitch and people sitting on tailgates, drinking beers, waiting for the race to start.
I push my way through the crowd, keeping a hold of Ella's hand. When we step out into the open, everyone looks at us and gossip starts flowing.
Mikey stops talking and claps his hands loudly. "Holy crap, I didn't think you'd actually show up. "
"Do I ever not show up?" I say. "You're the one that backed out the last time we tried to race. "
He spits on the ground and crosses his arms. "So which one of you's racing? The little one with the big mouth that got you into this mess? Or are you gonna race me yourself?"
Ella starts to move forward. "I'm - "
"I am. " I squeeze her hand, pulling her behind me.
"Micha," she hisses. "This is my thing. I can handle it. "
I shake my head, not looking at her. "Let's line up and get this over with. "
Mikey grins, rubbing his hands together. "What? You eager to get your ass kicked?"
"No, I'm eager for you shut up. " With that I turn away and head back to the car with Ella in tow.
"Micha Scott," she says, tugging on my arm and planting her feet in the dirt, trying to get me to stop walking.
Ethan and Lila are a ways back and Ethan's trying to explain to Lila the rules of racing. I keep walking forward, dragging her along with me, refusing to let her have her way this time - not with this.
"Stop being all noble and just let me drive," she says hotly. "It's much better for me to lose to him then for you to. He'll bug you about it for the rest of your life. "
I stop just in front of the car and turn to her and brush the pad of my thumb across her cheek. "Hey, who said anything about losing?"
She gathers some strands of hair out of her face and stares at the front end of the car. The glow of the fire highlights the worry in her eyes. "I know Ethan and you didn't get everything fixed. You were working too fast and I'm sure you didn't do that great of a job. "
"The car's fine," I assure her. "But you need to sit this one out. "
"No way," she argues, folding her arms over her chest defiantly. "I'm going to at least sit in the passenger seat and ride with you. "
I shake my head. "Not this time, pretty girl. " She starts to fume, so I lean in and kiss her right in front of everyone, cupping the back of her head and grabbing her ass, letting people know she's mine. Her body trembles as she kisses me back, even when someone whistles.
When I pull away, she has this glazed look in her eyes. "Now take Lila and go sit over by the finish line. "
She opens her mouth, then seals her lips shut and nods. Ethan and her trade places and she walks off with Lila over toward the line.
Once they're out of sight, Ethan says, "You sure you want to do this?"
I nod, my gaze tracking the line of the road and the trees next to it. "You sure you want to do this?"
"Absolutely," he says. "I have nothing better to do. "
We bump fists and climb into the car. I rev up the engine a few times, then inch it forward across the dirt and through the crowd toward the lineup area in front of The Hitch.
"How's the steering?" he asks rolling down the window, and letting the night air flow in.
I veer it from side to side, testing it. "It's shaky. "
"Left or right?"
"To the right. "
"Make sure you do your turnaround to the left then. "
I nod as we roll up to the lineup and Mikey's already waiting for us. Ella and Lila are just off to the side, near the trees, sitting on the tailgate of someone's truck. She has her eyes glued to us as Lila talks to her, swinging her legs. I thrum my fingers on the top of the steering wheel, eyeing the end of the road.
"Quit psyching yourself out," Ethan says and snatches up the iPod. "I think it's time for a little tunes. " He scrolls through the music and "The Distance" by Cake flips on. He cranks it up so the base is bumping and we start nodding our heads. When it hits the chorus we start singing and Ethan taps his fingers on the dash, like he's playing the drums. The more the song goes on, the more we get into it. I catch Ella laughing and shaking her head at us, because she knows this is Ethan and mines thing, but usually she's in the car with us.
"Hey, are we going to race?" Mikey shouts, slipping out his window and looking at us from over the roof with his hands in the air. "Or are we going to sit around and listen to music?"
I floor the pedal so loud the sound rumbles through the night and his eyes widen slightly. He gets back into his car and throttles his own pedal. It's half as loud and Ethan and I laugh at him.
"Dude, quit wasting time and get your girl over here to start us off," he calls out over the music.
I turn it down a notch. "Get Chandra to do it.
"No man, you know the rules," he says with a smirk. "The girlfriend of the one being challenged has to start off the race. "
I roll my eyes, knowing Ella's not going to like this, the old or the new version. I slide out of the window, cup my hands around my mouth, and shout over the roof at her. "Ella May, get your beautiful ass over here. "
Lila has her distracted and she jumps. Her eyebrows furrow as I wave her over. She holds up a finger to Lila and hops of the hood, looking at me perplexedly as she makes her way through the crowd and over to me. I sit back in the car as she reaches the window and she lowers her head down, looking into the cab.
"You have to start us off," I tell her and she instantly makes a face. "It's the rules. You know that. "
"Those rules are sexist," she says. "Let Mikey's slutty girlfriend do it. "
"You know he's not going to let that happen. "
"I could make him let it happen. "
I press my lips together as her spitfire personality burns through all her fake politeness. "Can you just do it for me?"
She rolls her eyes, then leans in and kisses my cheek. "But only for you. "
Then she backs out of the car, with an exaggerated sway of her hips, making fun of the ordeal, but still looking hot as hell in her little shorts. Ethan and I bust up laughing as she turns around with a big embellished grin on her face.
"Well, at least she's entertaining," he says, patting the side of the door with his hand to the beat of the music.
I pump the gas a few times, my gaze attached to hers as she elevates her hands above her head. She looks at me as she counts down. When her arms drop, the tires squeal as we peel out.
I walk back through the cloud of dirt and hop on the tailgate with Lila. I spot Grantford through the crowd and when he sees me, he hurries away, ducking into the crowd, knowing Micha's around.
Lila swings her legs, taking in the surroundings. "What was that about?"
"Rules," I sigh, leaning forward so I can get a better view of the road.
It's hard to tell because it's dark, but it looks like Micha is winning. I start to grow restless the farther away the taillights get and I jump off the tailgate and pace the dirt.
"You're nervous," Lila observes. "And you're making me nervous. "
I bite on my fingernails, unable to settle down. "I don't know what my problem is. Usually, I'm not this jumpy. "
But I think deep down, I know exactly what my problem is. My feelings for Micha have been freed and now they consume me, own me, bind me to him. The crowd starts moving, nearly trampling me as they stare down the road, waiting for the turnaround. I hear the scared tones in their voices first before the crash. It's like a train wreck, metal crushing and snapping apart.
Lila's eyes snap wide. "What the hell was that?"
I spin around and shove my way to the front of the crowd. There are a few cars on the side backing up onto the road.
"Shit," someone says. "I think one of them wrecked. "
I feel my heart crumble as I take off down the road.
"Ella!" Lila shouts. "Where are you going?"
I keep running, stumbling through the dark, searching for their lights. My flip flops fall off somewhere, but I keep going, needing to know. Cars are pulling out behind me and headlights shine at my back. Seconds later, Mikey's car zooms by and he shouts something foul at me.
Halfway down the road, the air turns to dirt and the sound of "The Distance" by Cake floods the air, only it's stuck and keeps saying the same line over and over again.
Spotting the outline of the car, I slow down. Suddenly, I'm back to the night my mom died. The Chevelle is smashed against the trunk of a large tree, the windshield smashed to pieces, and two of the tires are blown out. Somehow it must have flipped around and the driver's side took most of the impact.
I know whatever's inside the car is bad, just like when I opened the bathroom door the night I found my mom and I won't be able to do anything about it. I almost turn away and run, not wanting to see it, but the passenger side door swings open and Ethan stumbles out, clutching at his upper arm. There's a path of blood dripping down his arm and his cheek is scraped.
I snap out of my own thoughts and rush to him. "Are you okay?"
"Ella, go get some help. " He coughs, nearly buckling to his knees.
"No. " My voice comes out sharp and high-pitched and vomit burns at the back of my throat. I gently push him aside and climb into the car, which is filled with dirt and the air is muggy.
"Micha. " I cover my mouth and shake my head.
His head is flopped back against the headrest and turned away from me and his arms are slack to the side. Branches are poking in through the window and it looks like one of them might be lodged into his shoulder.
His head turns toward me and his eyes widen. "Fuck. Ethan, get her out of here. "
Ethan reaches in to pull me back, but I climb onto the console, taking in the long, thin stick stabbed in his shoulder. I can't breathe. I can't lose him. I can't do this again.
"Ella May, look at me. " His voice is hoarse as he locks eyes with me. "I'm okay, now back out of the car so Ethan can get me out of here. "
My eyes scan his body, looking for any more wounds that could be hiding from me. "It's just the branch? That's the only place you're hurt?"
He nods lethargically. "A few stitches and I'm as good as new. "
Kissing his forehead, I take a deep breath, hating to leave him as I back out of the car. Ethan's walking up the road toward me with Benny at his side. He's still clutching his arm and there's a little bit of a limp to his walk.
"Someone's got to have two good arms to pull it out," he says to Benny and I see him glance at me with concern in his eyes.
Benny nods and hops into the car, while Ethan and I wait impatiently on the outside. Cars start to pull up, headlights lighting up the accident as people rubberneck. One of the cars is a Camaro and Mikey stands in front of it, laughing with his girlfriend at his side.
"Fucking asshole swerved at us," Ethan tells me as he glares at Mikey.
Rage engulfs me and this time I let it take me over. I march up to him and shove him hard so he stumbles back into the front end of his car.
"You think this is funny?" I shout. "They crash into a tree because of you and you keep driving. What the hell's wrong with you?"
His eyes darken and he steps toward me. "I won and that's all that matters. "
Shaking my head, I lift up my leg and knee him in the balls, hard. He groans, his face reddening as he hunches over and his girlfriend runs to his side to coddle him. I start to leave when he straightens back up. Cradling his injured guy parts, he charges, ready to hit me.
Ethan blocks him and shoves him back with his good arm. "If you touch her, I'll slam my good fist into your face. "
This is not the first time he's had to say that to someone on my behalf.
Mikey backs down from the fight, muttering something about it not being worth it as Benny helps Micha out of the car. The branch is out of his shoulder. Left in its place is a hole, which is bleeding down his arm and shirt, but he's alive and breathing and that's all that matters.
We get him into the front seat of Benny's GTO and then Ethan and Lila get in the back. Micha has me sit on his lap, and he nuzzles his head into my chest. I hold onto him tightly as we speed off into the night.