All the rage, p.6
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       All the Rage, p.6

           T. M. Frazier
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  I shifted my bag from one shoulder to the other and told myself that this wasn’t the same thing and that this fake friendship wouldn’t be anything like how things were with Cody.

  For one thing, I wasn’t having sex with this guy. Like ever. Or anyone else for that matter. Secondly, regardless of what happened in the interim, I was going into this job knowing exactly how things were going to end.

  Smoke had plucked me out of a life I hated and handed me the life I’d always wanted. We’d been through so much and he was right, I did owe him. I wasn’t going to let him down.

  Moving forward, the only thing Nolan Archer would need saving from…was me.

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  Hope

  Sixteen years old

  It was my sixteenth birthday. All I’d wanted was to hang out with Cody and not have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t for a few hours. Instead, my parents paraded every relative I sort of knew through the house, and much to my horror, invited the entire junior class over. They meant well. They wanted a daughter who liked surprise parties and who had friends and who could join group activities, so that’s how they treated me.

  Dress for the job you want, not the job you have and all that.

  When I walked in the door to the shouts of SURPRISE! and stared into a dozens faces of people I’d barely every spoken a word to…I felt the burn spark to life. The onslaught was sudden; like a free-fall I wasn’t expecting. There wasn’t much I could do but stand there in complete horror as my mom shuffled me proudly through the crowd.

  “Moe,” I said, trying to grab her attention as she talked over me, introducing me to “Uncle Yan from the old country who I hadn’t seen since I was in diapers,” and “Aunt Marianne, who sent you that children’s bible when you were three, don’t you remember?” And Lee, “your genius cousin who just got back from a year of traipsing around the world.”

  The front door burst open, slamming against the wall and almost coming undone from the hinges. The crowd turned toward Cody as he dashed into the room, cutting through the party-goers on his way to me. When he reached me he spun me around by my shoulders. With one look understanding of what was happening inside me flashed across his face. He led me away from my mother, parting the crowd and pushing me forward toward the stars. “GO!” Cody screamed over the music. I bolted, leaving behind my parents who called out to me as I escaped, and Cody who’d acted as a human barricade, stopping them before they could come after me.

  They still couldn’t see the signs. They still didn’t understand.

  No one did.

  No one but Cody.

  It didn’t need to be a party. Or a crowd. Or anything, really. Sometimes the anger came on like an attack and sometimes it simmered under the surface until it exploded. That’s when I did things like push a desk at a teacher, or throw a rock through my gymnastics coach’s windshield. The worst was when I attacked the quarterback of the football team after he’d made some sort of comment toward me about being a frigid bitch, which resulted in me choking him out until his coach had to pry me off of him.

  Surprisingly, that particular incident one was handled in private because apparently, the coach didn’t want news getting around that the reason for the bruises around his star player’s neck and the popped blood vessels in his eyes were caused by a girl half his weight, who he couldn’t shake off. I didn’t get kicked out of school, but instead got put under a forty-eight-hour mental evaluation hold at the hospital and afterwards was ordered to cross the hall when I saw Donnie coming my way.

  Once I was up in my room with the door closed, I tried to take a deep breath but I couldn’t pull in enough air. The pink flowery walls mocked me. The noise from the party floated up the stairs and seeped under the crack in my door and that’s when it happened.

  It started at the base of my spine, growing like a red-hot poker until it was so hot, it was like my every breath was fanning the internal flames causing them to grow bigger, hotter, and higher. I paced back and forth in my room, wringing out my hands and pulling at my hair while adding to the already worn path on the light blue carpet.

  Depending on the severity of my mood, some nights when I felt the heat start, I could escape up to my room and pace the floor until it died out. Sometimes that took hours. Sometimes minutes.

  Sometimes it didn’t work at all.

  The embers of my anger grew until it invaded my nerves, muscles, limbs and mind, taking over like an alien possession. At that point none of Cody’s written rules, no positive thinking, no deep breath could rein me in.

  I paced over to the window as the heat reached my ears, burning with the need to unleash the demon beckoning to me. I flung open the window, pushed at the screen until it popped free of the frame, and then leapt. My feet hit the wet grass and I took off into the night, hopping the back fence and running out into the dense woods behind our house. There was no light to guide my way, but I didn’t need light. Cody and I had explored every inch of the woods, creating forts and hideaways since we were barely out of diapers.

  I ran until my lungs burned and then I only ran faster, needing to push, to feel the pain, to feel anything other than the bubbling anger exploding inside of me like fireworks. Needing to expel the anger from my system.

  When I reached my destination, I felt around the base of the tree for where I’d kept a switchblade between the overgrown roots. I was breathing hard when my hand connected with the metal handle. I pulled it from its hiding place with a roar and with both hands on the blade, I plunged it into the trunk of the tree over and over again, screaming through my anger. Wood chips sprayed out all around me, sap dripping from where I’d wounded the tree.

  Scars in the bark from prior trips to the same tree on similar nights peppered the trunk. Nights when I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening to me. When all rational thought left and all that was left was the urge. The need.

  The Rage.

  Male voices in the distance caught my attention, snapping me from my tirade. A branch snapped. I tightened my grip on the knife and crouched down beside some brush, snaking my way closer to where the voices were coming from. I lay on my stomach, peering through a gap in the leaves where the dense brush gave way to a small clearing. The absence of trees overhead allowed the moonlight in. I could clearly see the scene playing out in front of me.

  Two men in black leather vests and dark jeans were standing across from one another. The shorter man with greasy blonde hair had a big smile on his face as he chewed on a toothpick. He held a shovel casually across his shoulders, which was what led me to notice the large hole in the ground in the far corner of the clearing. The other much larger man with black hair to his shoulders and matching beard, was glaring hatred at a third man who was on his knees with his wrists tied behind his back. His mouth was duct taped shut. A dark wet stain formed on the front of his pants.

  A gun to his head.

  My heartbeat raced. My anger turned to adrenaline, surging through me.

  The larger man, the one holding the gun, spoke, his voice deep, and rough, spreading over me like a thick blanket of darkness. “You thought you could fuck with us and get away with it, Jerry?” His nostrils flared. The air shifted as well as something inside of me and instantly, I wished it was my hand holding the gun. Pulling the trigger. Goosebumps broke out on my arms and down my spine. I shivered.

  He cocked the gun and I gasped. Not out of surprise, but out of sheer awe.

  “No…no, Smoke. Don’t do this. I promise, I didn’t mean to hurt her,” Jerry sputtered.

  Smoke chuckled, low and throaty. “You didn’t mean to hurt her? She was a kid motherfucker. You raped her, sliced up her virgin cunt, and gave her a fucking concussion. So don’t fucking tell me you didn’t mean to fucking hurt her just so you can spare your own life you weak piece of shit! It’s too late for that now.” Smoke raised his gun and brought it down, smashing the side of it against Jerry’s head, sending him falling sideways onto the dirt floor. “Mugs, pick th
is shit-bag off the fucking floor. I want him upright when I blow his fucking brains out.”

  I was no longer in control of my movements. Of my thoughts. It was like I was hovering above my own body, watching myself down below. Without thinking I raised up to my knees to get a better view over the brush. The two men in leather dragged Jerry over to the hole and kicked him inside. I’m not sure if Jerry was on his knees or standing, but I could only see him from the neck up.

  I swallowed hard, unable to tear my eyes away from the men. Just like when I felt the anger start, I felt cloudy, consumed, except it wasn’t anger that was consuming me.

  It was WANT.

  NEED.

  Pure and primal.

  I didn’t realize I’d stood up, or that I’d stepped out over the brush, or that I’d walked directly into the center of the clearing until it was too late.

  Jerry noticed me first, watching me as I approached and stopped directly behind the two men. When they noticed Jerry staring behind them they turned around abruptly. Mugs dropped the shovel and drew a gun from under his vest. Smoke turned his gun from Jerry to me. I leaned to the side, looking past the men and trying to get a better look into the hole where Jerry was bleeding from his right eye. He looked up at me and with his eyes, he made a silent plea for my help.

  “Who the fuck are you?” Smoke demanded, closing the gap between us in two strides. His beard long enough to brush against his broad chest, which was naked under his vest. Artful tattoos with bold lines and beautiful shading covered the entire right side of his well developed torso and arm, the colorful designs snaking up to the front of his throat to the side of his neck and behind his ear. His eyes were dark brown, appearing almost black when he glared down at me with a look of confusion and anger.

  Motorcycle Clubs weren’t something new to me. Lilly Heights was a cut through to Logan’s Beach and Harper’s Ridge where two of the biggest MC’s in the state had their headquarters. I was used to seeing bikers ride through town on the weekends, but Smoke’s cut was blank, void any patches, whereas Mugs clearly had a large one across the back that read “Beach Bastards” as well as several smaller ones on the front with writing I couldn’t make out in the dark.

  My gaze flitted quickly between Jerry, to Mugs, to the gun in Smoke’s hand…which he’d raised and was now pointed at my head.

  I smiled, mostly because I couldn’t not smile. I pointed to Smoke’s gun and clapped my hands together, unable to form the exact words I wanted to say. I cleared my throat and tried again, attempting not to sound giddy, but it didn’t work. “Can I? Please?” I asked in a shouty whisper.

  “Can you what?” Smoke barked. “What exactly are you asking, girl?” He growled, although his face said ‘anger’ and ‘annoyance’ I also saw a trace of understanding.

  “Why the fuck are you smiling, girl?” Mugs asked, shaking his gun.

  I didn’t acknowledge Mugs, sensing that Smoke was the only one who could help me. I looked and him and then pointed to the hole in the ground where Jerry was moaning and holding the side of his head.

  Smoke peered down at me through the long dark hair that had fallen into his face and something between us clicked. Something life changing. Not love, or anything so ridiculous, but something important nonetheless. I knew he felt it too when he smiled, the corner of his mouth turning upwards in a wicked grin. He scratched his head with the barrel of his gun. “How old are you, girl?”

  “Fifteen,” I answered, sounding as eager as a little kid on Santa’s lap, like I was about to tell him what I wanted for Christmas. “No, sixteen. Today’s my birthday.”

  “Well happy fucking birthday, girl. Smoke, what the fuck are you doing?” Mugs whined. “Let’s take this fucker out and then take her out. She’s a witness now. We can’t let her just walk.” He started to walk toward us but Smoke held up a hand to stop him, waving him back before he could take another step. “Just hurry the fuck up, man. And just know that you’re not getting out of helping me dig another fucking hole.”

  I leaned to the side on one foot, stretching my neck to see past the wall of muscle that was Smoke. “I won’t be a witness if…I’m the one who does it,” I offered, standing up straight and bouncing on the balls of my feet.

  “You’re not afraid are you?” Smoke asked although I don’t think he was asking to get an answer because he already knew the answer. He crouched down and studied my face, searching my eyes. I knew what he was looking for but I also knew he wasn’t going to find it. Any of it. Fear, hesitation, sympathy, blah-blah-blah.

  I bit my lip and linked my hands behind my back, swinging my entire body along with my head as I shook it from side to side.

  “You high or something?” Smoke asked, quirking an eyebrow and ignoring another call from Mugs to hurry up and kill me already.

  “No,” I whispered, although I was intoxicated. So drunk on excitement that I could practically smell it seeping from my pores.

  Smoke raised his gun, again aiming it at my head. He took another step toward me, closing the gap between us and roughly pressing the barrel of the gun against my forehead.

  I didn’t budge.

  I also didn’t stop smiling. In reality I couldn’t have ripped it off my face if I tried prying it down with my own fingers.

  Gun to my head or not, I felt alive.

  I felt free.

  Smoke’s shoulders shook with a sudden burst of laughter. He holstered his gun and again looked deep into my eyes. The understanding I’d caught a glimpse of earlier flashed across his dark gaze. “I recognize that look,” he said, scratching at his forearm. “Never seen it in a chick before, though. Especially not one so fucking young. Only ever seen it in guys. Guys like me.”

  “Guys like you?” I asked, scrunching my forehead. I was curious as to what category he was including me in.

  “Yeah, guys like me. The bad guys.” The muscles in his forearms flexed as he cracked his knuckles.

  “Please,” I begged, feeling not just that I wanted to be the one to do this, but I needed to be. “Bad, good…” I shook my head fiercely, slapping the side of my face with my ponytail. “I just have to.”

  Smoke didn’t take his eyes off me when he called back to Mugs, “The girl’s right. She ain’t a witness if she does it herself.” He moved to my side and turned back around to Mugs so we were both facing him. Mugs huffed again and checked his watch. He lit a cigarette.

  Mugs’ skin was a lot paler than Smoke’s. His hair appeared virtually white under the light of the full moon. “Wow, I knew you like some fucked up shit, Smoke, but a sixteen-year-old who begs strangers to let her kill motherfuckers?” Mugs rolled his eyes and flicked the burning ash off the end of his cigarette. “I hope you two deviants will be really fucking happy together.”

  “No, that’s not what…” I started to argue with Mugs who mistook blood lust for another kind of lust.

  “You don’t gotta explain shit to him,” Smoke interrupted. Lowering his voice, he whispered, “Mugs is a fucking moron. He doesn’t get it.”

  “I heard that,” Mugs said, “and what I get is that the longer we’re out here the higher the chances are of getting caught. I mean, I hate to kill and run, but we gotta fucking go.” Mugs turned his gun on Jerry and without warning he pulled the trigger, sending a spray of dirt raining down into the hole.

  “What the fuck?” Smoke roared.

  I fell to the ground and wrapped my arms around my knees, unprepared for the wave of disappointment that crashed into me like a tsunami. I blinked several times, an odd prickling feeling started behind my eyes, reminding me of the way your foot feels when you’ve been sitting funny for too long.

  Smoke knelt down beside me “You okay, kid?” He tipped my chin up to meet his and oddly enough his touch didn’t send me running. Only Cody has ever managed to accomplish that, yet here was this stranger, able to do something it took me years to get comfortable, even with my best friend. When Smoke’s eyes met mine, I lost it.

  For the fi
rst time in all my sixteen years of life…I cried.

  Smoke wrapped his strong arms around me, pulling me against his chest. “I’ll take care of you,” Smoke said, whispering into my hair. “I’ll help you. Would you like that?” he asked and through my tears I nodded, unsure of what I was really agreeing to, but knowing that I needed whatever it was he was offering.

  Then I cried some more.

  That night my anger sent me running right into the arms of Smoke, and little did I know then, right onto the beginning of a new path I knew I had to take.

  “Just kidding,” Mugs said suddenly. He stabbed his shovel into the ground and walked over to where we were crouched on the ground. “Look for yourself. He’s still alive. Just had to know you were serious.”

  Again my heart picked up speed.

  “You’re a fucking prick, Mugs,” Smoke spat.

  “Yeah, I know. Now let’s hurry the fuck up and get out of here. I got shit to do.”

  “What’s your name, kid?” Smoke asked, keeping me wrapped up in his strong arms. I didn’t answer right away. I couldn’t. Hope didn’t feel right anymore. It never had. The only name that came to mind was the only name that had ever felt right to me. The one Cody called from time to time.

  “Rage.” I swallowed hard. “My name is Rage.”

  “Rage. I like it.” Smoke held his gun in the palm of his hand, offering it up to me as Mugs trained his own directly at me. “Ever shoot one of these before?” he asked, releasing me from his hulky embrace, lifting me off my feet by my elbow.

  “No,” I admitted.

 
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