No Turning Back (The Traveler)Omar Tyree
No Turning Back
by Omar Tyree
© Copyright 2013 by Omar Tyree
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other – except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The names, incidents, dialogue, and opinions expressed are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
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About the Author
Gary Stevens arched his chiseled arms above his head to shoot a balled up piece of printer paper. He narrowed his sparkling green eyes and tightened his smooth hairless face, accentuating a tiny scar below his left eye from a lacrosse game. He sat in a black leather swivel chair, wearing a multicolored, tie-dyed T-shirt with Psychedelic Records printed across the front in a playful white font. With a flip of his right wrist, the wad sailed in a high rainbow arc across the room and rattled around the rim of a small red and white University of Louisville trash can in the far corner before toppling in.
“YES! Stevens does it again!” he bragged.
Taylor Hutchinson shook his head and grinned, standing a few feet beside him. He was similarly dressed in blue jeans and a lime-green tennis shirt. Lean and dark-haired, Taylor was a polished business graduate from the University of Louisville. He had returned to school to work on his MBA, and he was not impressed with his friend’s trash-can jump shot.
“All right, it’s your turn. Shoot one for Kentucky,” Gary challenged.
There was a matching blue and white University of Kentucky trash can in the opposite left corner of the room.
Taylor refused to play. “First of all, I didn’t go to Kentucky. Where’s your trash can from Duke? And dude, look at this place. It looks like a Friday night frat party.”
Gary had missed more than a few shots at the opposing university trash cans that Saturday morning. Pieces of balled-up printer paper littered his apartment floor, accompanied by an empty pizza box and plates of half-eaten food, a trail of dirty clothes, video game controllers, empty game boxes, a chess board, music CDs, Manga comic books, and electric game wires that connected to a flatscreen television that was high on the wall.
“I’ll hire a maid to clean it all up,” Gary joked. “And I told you, I don’t care about Duke anymore.”
Taylor grinned. “Yeah, you screwed that up, big time. I guess that photographic memory you bragged about so much in high school didn’t work for you at Duke. You had to do some real studying.”
Gary sighed and ignored him. He checked his iPhone messages and manipulated the glass screen excitedly with his right index finger.
“This phone is awesome! Look at this.”
Taylor looked over at the black, handheld iPhone with envy. He still had a basic Verizon phone. “It looks you’ve found yourself another new toy,” he said “But you’re always first on the new techy shit. You set up your first Facebook page before most of us knew what Facebook was. I hear these new iPhones are giving thousands of people headaches with repairs though.”
Gary shrugged. “Yeah, you know, it’s still brand new. They haven’t worked out all of the kinks yet, but it’s still pretty cool.”
Taylor grimaced. “For five hundred bucks it better be cool—and it should work. But people camping out and standing in line all night to get one was just ridiculous.”
Gary ignored him and continued to work his new cell phone screen, feverishly.
“I’m planning to master this thing.”
A framed photo of his mother, Gabrielle, sat on a work desk behind him. She was an attractive public servant in her early forties, wearing a light gray business suit. She had the same sandy-brown hair and green eyes as her son.
Taylor looked at the picture and commented, “Don’t worry, Gabby. He’ll pull it all together soon. Remember, he’s still only twenty-six.”
Gary looked up from his cell phone, irked, and said, “Asshole.”
Taylor smirked and was pleased by his timely sarcasm. Then he fanned the antagonism. “Once you stop making so many excuses for yourself, you’ll be just fine.”
Gary had heard enough. He slid his cell phone back into his shorts pocket and stood from his chair in flip-flips. He was noticeably taller and thicker than Taylor. “You guys need to understand that perfection takes time,” he said. “It doesn’t just happen overnight. But in ten more years, you will all be proud of me.” He pointed at Taylor and told him, “You write that down.”
Taylor smiled and shook his head again. “Oh, now it’s ten more years.”
Gary’s aimlessness had been tolerated, albeit begrudgingly, particularly by his mother. Gabrielle was an enabler, overlooking plenty of her son’s downfalls, while continuing to support him emotionally and financially. With her prominent connections, she had gotten her boy into Duke University on a lacrosse scholarship. Failing to maintain enough focus and good study habits to uphold his scholarship, Gary flunked out. He later transferred back home to Louisville, at his mother’s urging, but fell into the same cavalier pattern of partying instead of studying. Yet again, his mom came to the rescue, acquiring a property downtown for a record store while paying rent for his loft. Gary’s budding record shop barely broke even, but that didn’t seem to bother Gabrielle. Gary was her pride and joy—her baby.
“In ten more years I’ll be a millionaire,” Gary boasted.
Taylor looked back at Gabrielle’s picture and said, “Your son is full of shit. You know that, right?”
“Hey, you watch your mouth,” Gary warned. “You’re talking to my mom.” He was at least three inches taller and thirty pounds thicker than Taylor. Gary had the rugged build and good looks of a rookie quarterback. In lacrosse, he played a quick-footed and agile striker who scored in bunches and intimidated opponents with force, speed and uncanny anticipation. Gary seemed two steps ahead on every move.
Taylor refused to back down from Gary or give him adulation. His friend had a big enough ego already.
“You know what I said is true,” Taylor insisted. “You’re a fuckup, Gary. Talent wasting.”
Gary quickly grabbed him into a headlock, rendering his friend defenseless.
“What was that?”
“You’re full of shit!” Taylor barked.
“I’m what?” Gary tightened his grip around his neck. “Come again.”
“Your underarms smell like ass, Gary.”
Gary flexed his biceps and broad shoulders, imitating an anaconda squeezing the life out of its
“Okay, okay, okay. I’m about to faint,” Taylor gasped.
Gary let him go and grinned. “So, I’m full of what now?”
Taylor keeled over and sucked in air to recover. He repeated, “You’re still full of shit. And you fucked up my hair.”
Gary held his grin. “You need to work out, dude. I didn’t even try that hard.”
“Yeah, well, I spend the majority of my time at work in class and not in the weight room all day,” Taylor argued.
“Weightlifting is a class. And I have my record store now, so I’m not even at school as much.”
“Yeah, because you’re at the store pussy-chasing all day. You just go from one infatuation to another.”
Gary chuckled. “You need to enroll in that class yourself. I’ve been trying to give you pointers now for free. I usually charge people for advice about pussy.”
“Well, if that’s the case, it’s too bad you can’t get a degree in it,” Taylor quipped.
Gary paused and had a thought. “Hey, that would be something I could major in. But what would I tell my mom at graduation? ‘Mom, I got straight A’s in pussy?’”
Taylor shook his head and said, “Unbelievable.”
“Anyway, if you’re going to help me out at my shop this morning, I told you to wear my company T-shirt,” Gary reminded him. He tossed Taylor a tie-dyed T-shirt with his company name printed across it.
Taylor examined the Psychedelic Records T-shirt and sneered. “I keep telling you, dude, if you really want this record store to be taken seriously, you need to come up with something better than this.”
He extended the T-shirt away from his body as if it would contaminate him.
“And I keep telling you, you have to do something different from everyone else. Now put the shirt on.”
Taylor grinned and pulled off his lime-green tennis shirt for his buddy’s colorful, tie-dyed tee.
“So, what’s up, man? You want to move in and share the rent with me or what?” Gary asked.
Taylor looked over at his friend’s unmade bed toward the far right of the room and cringed. He could only imagine what had gone on there. On the floor beside the bed was a spilled deck of poker cards.
“Nah, that’s all right. I need to be able to sleep at night,” Taylor hinted.
Gary looked over at the bed and chuckled. “You could wear a blindfold and a pair of earplugs when I have company over if it bothers you that much. And I’d put your bed on the other side of the room.”
“Yeah, as if that would change anything,” Taylor retorted. “And I would want more privacy with my company.”
“What company?” Gary quipped. He shrugged and said, “So we buy a divider or put some curtains up.”
Taylor remained firm. “It’s not happening.”
“Anyway, you’d never guess who I had over here for pizza last night,” Gary hinted.
“I don’t want to know.”
“Come on, just guess. Think about the last person in this world you would ever imagine me being with.”
Taylor began to think about it as Gary’s iPhone buzzed in his pocket. He couldn’t imagine a woman that Gary couldn’t have, at least not locally. The women of Louisville tended to gravitate to him—young, old, married and singled. Gary had experienced them all.
He pulled his iPhone out to see who was calling. He froze.
“Okay, it’s her, it’s her,” he said excitedly. “Now don’t say anything. I want to put her on speaker.”
He immediately clicked on the speaker mode, while placing his index finger to his lips to remind Taylor to remain silent.
“Hey, good morning, beautiful. I see you made it back home all right.”
“Yeah, after you kicked me out like the cat this morning,” a young woman’s scratchy voice complained. She sounded exhausted.
Gary smiled at Taylor, who stood there listening in silent concentration. He wanted to see if he could recognize the voice.
Gary said, “Yeah, my business partner was coming over this morning and we have to get ready to open up my shop. My bad.”
“Well, you’re not ashamed of me are you?” the woman asked him. “What does your business partner have to do with me leaving so early? Is it a woman? And why is there an echo? Do you have me on speaker? I hate that, especially with my morning voice.”
“Oh, I’m cleaning up right now. And I love this new iPhone,” Gary told her. “It’s so clear. And by the way, who would be ashamed of you over. You’re hot … gorgeous.”
Taylor rolled his eyes, flipping Gary the bird.
“I just thought you would want to protect your privacy this morning, that’s all,” Gary told the woman.
Taylor heard that and grumbled, “Please,” sticking his fingers in his mouth as if to make himself vomit.
Gary implored him to remain silent with his index finger to his lips again.
“Oh, well, thank you … I guess,” the woman responded with a hint of sarcasm.
Taylor continued to study her raspy voice, attempting to connect it with a face and a name.
Gary said, “And who would ever think that you, of all people, would ever stop by to visit me.”
She laughed and said, “Yeah, you were just like, so crazy in school. Then you just stopped coming to class. But I was going out with Kevin back then anyway.”
Once Taylor heard that, his brown eyes stretched wide in shock. He looked into Gary’s bright greens and whispered, “Melissa?”
Gary nodded furiously and signaled again for silence.
He said, “So, Melissa, if you’d like to come back over tonight for round two, you won’t have to leave so early tomorrow morning. We could even go out and do breakfast.”
“Or we could stay in and make breakfast ourselves,” she chided.
Taylor looked at Gary, stunned. He knew all about Melissa Weddington. She was so popular that she could have run for the Louisville Cardinal Homecoming queen title and won it in a landslide.
“But you know what? To be honest with you, last night was something I don’t normally do,” she confessed. “So, I don’t want to give you like, the wrong impression of me, because I don’t do a lot of sleeping around.”
Gary frowned at his friend and thrust his hips into an imaginary woman while grabbing her hair from behind. Taylor had to stop himself from laughing out loud with a balled fist to his mouth.
“No, I understand,” Gary responded to her. “How do you think that would make me feel? I wouldn’t want a girl who sleeps around a lot either. You just needed someone for the moment. We all do sometimes. And I was happy to be there for you.”
“Thank you. And you were incredible,” she told him. “I would have never expected that from you.”
Taylor bit down hard on his fist, trying not to laugh out loud. Melissa had inadvertently massaged Gary’s ego while simultaneously slighting him. And Taylor knew that his friend would not take the jest lying down.
Gary responded accordingly. “What? You didn’t expect that from me? Well, what did you expect?”
“Gary, you’re always joking around. You seem like you’re hardly ever serious about anything. You were sincere last night.”
“Yeah, well, never underestimate a guy just because he has jokes. You didn’t think I could play poker well either,” he mentioned.
Taylor’s eyes stretched wide again as he mouthed, “Strip poker? You didn’t.”
Gary Stevens was a poker master. He cleaned up at local card games with buddies and college friends. He was so good his victims prodded him to go out to Las Vegas to play for the big money.
Melissa chuckled. “Please don’t remind me of that. You probably cheated.”
He said, “Well, if you come back over tonight, I’ll let you cheat me. I don’t mind losing.”
“Oh, so you did cheat me in poker.”
“No, but if it’ll make you feel any better, I’ll let you cheat me anyway.”
“Yeah, I bet you would, just to get naked in fro
nt of me again.”
Gary laughed. “Yeah,” he admitted. “And if I had you over again, I would know that I wasn’t dreaming it all up.”
Melissa giggled and cooed, “Awww, you weren’t dreaming. It was all real. I felt really comfortable at your place. You have a really nice loft,” she told him. “And Main Street is a great location—an easy walk from downtown.”
“Speaking of which, I need to take that walk back downtown to my record shop. It’s almost time to open,” Gary mentioned.
“Okay, well, I’ll think about it. I mean, I’ll probably come over. I just have to see what else I have to do today.”
“All right, just call me around eight to let me know. Better yet, if you stop by the store later, I could flirt with you over the counter and act like we don’t know each other,” he joked.
Melissa laughed again. “Well, in that case, I may not wear a bra. We could set up secret cameras in the back room and make a hot movie out of it.”
Her kinky suggestion surprised them both. Gary looked at Taylor with his own wide eyes and told Melissa, “You’re on.”
“We’ll see,” she teased him. “How late do you stay open tonight?”
“Fridays and Saturdays, I close at eight, like last night. Mondays through Thursdays, I close at seven.”
“Oh, okay, well … we’ll see.”
“Yeah, and wear pink,” he told her.
When Gary hung up the call, Taylor looked at his friend and said, “Dude, I hate your guts, I swear to God!”
With so much good fortune, Taylor considered his friend to be blessed by angels. And he hadn’t even worked hard for it.
“So … how was she?” he asked.
Gary stopped laughing and reflected on his Friday night. “Man, she’s loud as hell,” he answered. “Oh, Gary! Oh, Gary! The noise was throwing off my concentration. I don’t know if it was just her or the acoustics in the room, but it sounded like an echo chamber in here.”
Taylor chuckled and said, “And you want me to live here and have to deal with that? No way, bro.”
Gary joked, “But it’ll inspire you to learn from a pro. So if she comes back over tonight, I’ll record it so you can hear what I’m talking about. I’ll try to do it with my iPhone.”