Get rid of the girl and get the fuck out as soon as possible.
The three-story stilt home to my right was the main house, but that’s not where I was going. Passing the fire pit in the backyard made me want to throw up, but I shook that image from my head and instead chose to remember the time Preppy was so high he convinced everyone he could walk over the burning coals.
We were all on board. His feet though?
King stood outside his newly rebuilt garage with his arms crossed over his chest. He was a man of few words and never spoke before he thought it out, which was the opposite of his girl, who was always spouting out the first thing that came to mind. King was always a big motherfucker, but when he was released from prison last year he’d come out even bigger, like he’d skipped being someone’s bitch in exchange for doing non-stop sit ups. His hair was short and dark and he had an even darker look in his eyes.
He looked the same as he always had, but there was something about him that seemed …different, although I couldn’t figure out what it was.
King lifted the cover off of a key panel on the side of the garage that wasn’t there before I’d left, and punched in a code. The right side of his neck was covered with gauze. The garage door opened automatically, disappearing overhead. King waved me inside and I drove into the darkened space. As my eyes adjusted I was careful not to hit any of the classic bikes and cars in different stages of repair that I knew were hidden under the multitude of dusty tarps.
I killed the engine and hopped out.
“Do you own anything besides black t-shirts and dark jeans?” I asked, trying to lighten the mood and avoid any heavy conversation he might feel like having.
“This coming from the guy who doesn’t own a fucking shirt.”
“That’s what’s been bugging me.” I said, pulling the black tank top over my head and tossing it back into the truck. “Much fucking better.”
King rolled his eyes but I could see the hint of a smile. Not on his lips but in his everything. He was a hard man to read but I’d figured his ass out. Just took me almost fifteen years.
“Garage looks better than last time I saw it,” I said, following King to the back. The actual main garage area was twice as big as it was before Eli crumbled it to the ground. “You get in a fight with a vampire?” I asked, pointing to the gauze on his neck.
“New tat,” he said, opening a door that was in the same place my former crash pad used to be.
“Who did it?” I asked. King had done all of mine and they ranged from chicken scratch looking bullshit from when he first started, to my right sleeve which was not a picture, but a portrait of the causeway during sunset, a bike on the top of the bridge.
“Ray,” he said and that time he did smile.
“Holy shit you let your bitch tat you?” I asked reaching for the gauze.
“Fuck off. You call her a bitch again I’m drowning you in the fucking bay.”
We entered an apartment but it didn’t look like the makeshift area I’d used before as my apartment. This was a legit living space. The Beach Bastards decor I had pinned to the walls were gone and those walls were now bare. The smell of fresh paint lingered in the air.
A newer looking couch and TV made up the living room area. A small kitchenette sat to my left. And unlike the studio I had before, this area had an additional door which I realized probably lead to an actual bedroom when it opened and Doe came out.
A small smile crept onto her face. “Bear,” she said, her eyes sparkling, her white blonde hair a lot longer than I remembered.
“Doe,” I said, unsure of how to greet her anymore. It felt awkward. She was the only girl who I ever thought I could make mine. It wasn’t that I was in love with her, it was that she was the only girl I’d even considered spending more time with than the time it took to come. For me? That was a lot.
Doe looked like Doe but also different. Where King’s change was something I couldn’t put my finger on, Doe’s was much easier to spot. She wore bright colored shorts and a black tank and flip flops, her signature style, but this top was looser around the middle than what I was used to seeing her wear and flowed as she walked toward me. When she wrapped around my neck to bring me in for a hug I couldn’t help but look down at her ample cleavage. Cleavage that certainly wasn’t there before.
“She goes by Ray,” King said. I was such a fucking idiot. I’d heard King say Ray but it hadn’t registered.
“Ray,” I corrected. I wasn’t as perceptive as King when he caught me staring at her.
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