Excerpt from "Not Fade Away"
The strangest gift that Laina got for her twenty-first birthday was a long-stemmed, brilliantly red iris that refused to wither or fade. Whether Laina kept it in a vase with fresh water, laid it out to dry on her dresser, or even stowed it in the attic in a box, it remained fresh as the night she received it. It was as though the iris were reminding her that the unwelcome promise that had accompanied it was also as fresh as the day it was made. Laina didn't keep it in the attic for long. Much as she'd prefer to forget about it, she was terrified to let it out of her sight. * * * It was every outing they'd ever been on all over again, with Rhonda calling the shots and needing to be in charge, and Darling playing along with a compliant smile and no complaints because that's how much she needed to belong. This is why I left town for college, Laina thought ruefully. Laina's role in the group had been the one who could say no. Not enough to get a reputation as a spoil-sport or a goody two-shoes, but not so little as to be known as a push-over either. It was a tricky balance to maintain. Tonight, at the first place they stopped, Laina exercised her prerogative. "Unh-uh. I'm not going in there." "What's wrong with it?" demanded Rhonda. "I just don't like the vibe." It was weak, but Laina tried to strengthen it with folded arms and an implacable tone of voice. Rhonda matched her stance. She knew Laina had been reluctant to go out at all. A refusal at their first stop smelled like sedition and mutiny to her. "How can you not like the vibe? You don't even know the place--when have you ever been here before?" "I haven't, and what's more, I'm not going to." Laina tried to keep her gaze from the entrance. It was like a cave mouth, and the darkness inside seemed to pull at her eyes. Faint pulses of strobe light did little to relieve the effect. The door itself was of wood that looked like it had been soaked and dried in too many rain showers. If allowed to close, it might get stuck that way. "Come on, let's just skip it. What's the next stop on your list?" Rhonda huffed, flipping her bangs up and over. "Well, if you want to spend your birthday waiting outside, you can. We're going in, and we might be a while. Come on, Darling." And of course Darling trailed along in her wake. She cast Laina a brief, apologetic look; then the darkness swallowed her up. Laina cursed again. She couldn't go in now, not after making such a big deal out of it. But she didn't much like the vibe outside the place, either. There was no patio seating, no natural place for the party to spill out onto the sidewalk. There was just a bus stop bench and a cigarette receptacle spewing a plume of smoke like foul-smelling incense. Briefly, she considered hailing a cab and going home. But it was one thing to not be a push-over, and quite another to be a disloyal turncoat sneak. Besides, she felt vaguely responsible for Darling, who needed a diplomatic advocate where Rhonda was involved. So Laina sighed and sat down on the bench. Which was when they got her. ___ The full-length fictionette for March 27, 2015 may be downloaded as a PDF by Patrons pledging from $1/month at https://www.patreon.com/creation?hid=2041462
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