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Like an old song with a pulsing rhythm and a gravel voiced singer they moved past the endless approaching headlights, leaving Las Vegas. Friday night and the flock of hopeful from Southern California made the trip to the twenty four hour town with cash in their pockets and escape in their minds. But JP and Mark were going the other way, toward the land of the endless beach and picture perfect bodies making picture perfect movies.
Despite the early hour JP and Mark were sitting quiet, awash in the painful exhaustion of their own despair. Neither wanted to leave the glittering city but with little money Las Vegas is nothing but a sexy sixteen year old virgin with no intention of letting you spoil her.
It had been close to thirty hours since they had slept and now the four hour drive was like a mountain in front of them. They were climbing on their knees to the top of the peak. The promise of the cars going the other way were a painful reminder and a strain on the eyes.
“Damn, that is alot of people.” Mark said with a yawn.
JP didn’t reply, he just nodded. He didn’t have to energy to respond to anything, much less stupid statements. It looked like Mark was going to say something else, he had that look on his face, but it faded as if someone has turned off his lights. JP was happy, he was much to busy having an argument in his own mind.
JP clenched the steering wheel and took a brief moment to look at the muscles flex in his arms. It only served to fuel the fire of the fight in his mind. Afterwards the words are always there, it is as if his brain was teasing him, shutting off during the fight only to turn on now when it did make a damn bit of difference.
JP could still see the twisted face of the bartender who threw him and Mark out after a simple misunderstanding. Mark was hitting on the wrong girl and when her intellect challenged boyfriend returned from the toilet he wasn’t to happy.
Mark could see in the way JP’s jaw was clenching and unclenching what he was thinking about.
“Are you still thinking about the bar? That was like twelve hours ago.”
JP tried to crack his neck “The guy could’ve have just been nice.”
Mark let a snicker sneak out “Come on, I was hitting on his girl.”
“I mean the bartender.”
“He was only stopping the fight.”
JP let his feelings of persecution pepper his next statement “He didn’t throw that guy out, because he was a local. He bounced us because he already had our cash.”
Mark tapped his friend on the shoulder “Dude, you gotta calm down. Our cash is all over that town. The only bad part is we never got to a good party.”
Quiet ruled until they stopped in Primm Nevada. The car slowly rolled into a parking spot in the lot of the convenience store. The place was packed full of others, like scavengers circling, the travelers searched the aisles for that goodie that would sustain them for the remainder of their trip. JP and Mark got out of the car, stretched and staggered into the store.
Mark got in the line for the bathroom, with the other guys smelling of the road and doing the dance of the full. JP wandered around hoping for something that would give him the kick he needed for the rest of the drive. Over near the snack cakes, full of sugar and other stuff that kills, he found it, but is wasn’t something he could buy.
Her face beamed as though the light of some celestial being was originating behind her eyes. JP stood in silent, dumb wonder for a second, until she noticed him looking. She smiled and like a true man, he turned away.
JP was in no way, in no way, a romantic. He was the kind of man who believed in the things men are brought up on, anger and confrontation. The idea of roses and bunnies was not him. But maybe...for someone like her....
Mark noticed him from the piss line and smiled.
JP acted like he wasn’t looking at her as she walked past him, she said “Hi.” with a quiet resonance. He choked out a response but what is was no one will ever know, it came out as a grunt and a clearing of the throat.
She stood in line and JP watched her from the safety of the snack cake area, finally Mark joined him “Smooth.” Mark said, elbow jabbed his friend and started laughing.
She saw from the line and laughed as well.
JP, even in the best of moods, was in no way one taken to playful ridicule. He spun and looked at Mark with the hope that the fire from his eyes would burn a hole in the smug fuckers face.
“JP, go talk to her. She keeps looking over here.” Mark said, without a hole in his face.
JP turned and she was going out the door, she looked over her shoulder and her chestnut hair blocked half her face.
There are times when one must do what is against character...JP went after her. Though it was not a hole Marks face was a clear sign of his own surprise in his excited friend. Mark grabbed some snack cakes and got in line, looking over his own shoulder to see JP and the girl in the parking lot, talking.
She would smile and JP would...SMILE! Mark moved quickly with the cakes and out to join his friend.
“Hey, gonna introduce me?” Mark asked with half of an orange cupcake in his smug face.
JP smiled at him “No.”
Mark held out his hand to the striking girl “I am Mark, his good looking friend.”
She shook his hand and smiled, politely “Hi, my name is Amber.”
“What a lovely name.” Mark said.
Amber looked at JP “So are you coming?”
“Where?” Mark snapped with expectation.
“Maybe, if we can.” JP answered and Ambers face turned down for a moment.
“Well, I hope we see you.” she replied and walked toward a van full of people.
Mark looked at her, then at JP, then again at her, then again at JP...and so on.
JP finally reacted “What?”
“She invited you somewhere and you are not sure if we are going? What the hell is wrong with you?”
JP started toward the car “I am not ruled by my dick.”
Mark took some icing from his chin “Shame, you’d be more relaxed.”
Silence when you are tired on a long drive is worse than a presidential speech. Mark, in order to combat his own fatigue and keep JP awake, was singing along with the radio which JP had placed on some oldies channel.
Mark was patient, he let the girl from the store work her way deep into JP’s mind. Her soft beauty and long legs, her long hair and devastating smile. After about fifteen miles or so he stopped singing and started talking.
“What a town. I mean I know we lost most of our cash, got kicked out of that bar but what a town. Chance man, gambling. Sometimes you just gotta roll the dice. Life is like that you know what I mean? Even if the odds are stacked against you, at least you sacked up and took your shot.”
JP let a cynical smile crack his face “Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Is that one of those rhetorical questions?”
“You are talking about Amber.”
“Cause I don’t do well with those rhetoricals.”
“You are just looking to get fucked.”
“They would always trip me up in school.”
JP shouted “I don’t know her.”
“Well no! And you know how we get to know people? When they invite us somewhere we go and talk to them.” Mark answered. “Come on JP, where did she invite us to, our we even going the right way?”
JP looked like a tiger in the grass “Yes.”
Mark started laughing “Dude, you had me. So we are going? Is it a party? Where is it?”
“I don’t know.” JP answered.
Mark let his excitement fall “You don’t know?” he asked slowly.
“She, Amber, said to listen to 89.7 and follow the directions.”
“So these hundred year old songs will lead us to some kind of party?” Mark did not try to hide his misery. “You got dumped and we are listening to bad music!”
Mark reached over and clicked off the radio.
“Do you think?” JP said.
“Yes! I mean damn, that is like the all time blow off.” Mark leaned against the window of the car “Wake me when we get home.”
It sounded strange to JP but deep inside himself, he felt like she was trustworthy but as he thought it over in the cold harshness of the open road it did seem like she was just getting rid of him.
He was overwhelmed by the urge to turn the radio back on. As pointless as it seemed he was drawn to do it. He switched the speakers, to not wake Mark who would only make fun of him, and turned the station on softly.
Still old music from the late forties.
But in some kind of reckless anticipation JP was waiting for some kind of sign. The miles past as did the swing tunes and big band numbers. But still his heart was pumping, his emotions running him and up and down some kind of cruel hill.
Then it happened.
The subtle clue he was looking for, the station began to fade. On the side of road up ahead he saw where another car had pulled off, where many cars had pulled off. JP did.
“Are we home?” Mark said without moving or opening his eyes.
JP was embarrassed “No, just pulled off.” He turned up the radio, which was still all white noise.
“Is something wrong?” Mark asked opening one eye.
“Could you find a station?” Mark asked and sat up.
JP had resigned himself that this was all some kind of delusion in his own mind and placed his hand on the tuner and the signal came clear.
It was her, Amber “Take the Zzyzx Exit and make a right, go about four miles and the answers will be seen from there.”
Mark looked at JP who was letting his victory show through on his hard face. Mark laughed “Well kiss my ass, I guess we are going to a party.”
JP answered as he began to pull back onto the highway “Yes we are.”
“How did you know?” Mark asked as the car moved up the Zzyzx Exit ramp.
JP shrugged “Just a feeling, kinda weird.”
“Who cares, as long as the place is hot.”
The song that moved them along the highway was not the same as the one they could hear when they parked the car. A super pulsing motion inducing trance that was drawing both of them to the lights flashing down in the valley.
Mark started to run as if called by some unseen force, and JP twisted his face and started after his friend.
Finally they came upon a small collection of vans, cars and tents. A tribe that gathered in this empty place and had filled it with the power and beauty of a full force outdoor party.
“Rave?” Mark shouted to JP over the music coming from the back of a van in the center of the action.
JP just shrugged, not really sure what a rave was. Mark was beginning to bubble over with excitement, his eyes darting around the group of dancers, taking in the girls and their sexual and sublime movements.
“I am going to mingle.” Mark said and started into the sweaty throng.
JP stood there in his own sad ignorance. He searched for Amber. He wasn’t interested in one night of fucking like Mark, he was looking for something more and JP was sure Amber had what he was looking for.
JP turned to find a man offering him a pill of some kind. “Ah, no thanks.”
The way the man moved around him made JP nervous, looking JP up and down and letting some noises of whimsy escape his ugly face “My name is Raz.”
“Not my real name but my name here. You guys are new.” Raz pointed to Mark making a fool of himself trying to dance.
“New?” JP replied letting his nervousness find its way into his voice.
“Who invited you?” Raz asked.
JP’s throat was tight “Amber.”
Raz began to laugh, out loud and in the face of the confused JP. “No way. Amber doesn’t invite anyone, I mean she is in the inner circle.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” JP snapped and caused the smaller Raz to take a cautious step back.
“Calm dowm. It is just rare for a member of the inner circle to invite someone.” Raz motioned for JP to follow him “Here, I’ll show you.”
Raz lead JP through the dancers, posers and other freaks to a place where five vans were parked in a circle. JP knew one of the vans, it was the one Amber left the convenience store in, the dark black one.
“That is the inner circle of the Cult.”
JP shook his head and began to rethink this adventure “Cult?”
Raz shrugged “Not like a bad thing. We are just of people who meet out here to dance and have a good time, listen to some good music, get high, you know. But the inner circle are the inventors, the leaders.”
“Amber invited me to come.” JP said flatly. “Can I see her?”
“When she comes out.”
“Can I go in?” JP asked but started toward the vans as if the answer to the question meant nothing.
“No!” Raz shouted and ran up and got in front of JP. “If you go inside the circle the party is over! Please don’t.” Raz pointed “They will leave, and the music will leave and everyone will leave. Please don’t go in there, she’ll come out. They always do, and when she does I will find you, okay.”
JP was struck how sincere the little guy was, how desperate he was to not have the party stopped, and who was JP to end the party for the hundred or so others. “Promise.” JP said to Raz who shook his head.
So JP walked back to the main party and started to look for his friend. But Mark was lost somewhere on the dance floor of dirt and sand and JP did not have the resolve to go in and find him.
JP sat down on some rocks and simply watched the dance. He was not familiar with the music but the bass drum was in steady thump and the others parts were like people having a great animated conversation, giving and taking and repeating.
A girl came up and gave him a hug, then continued on, hugging everyone in her path. JP mumbled “Druggies.” under his breath. He would look over to the ‘circle’ of vans to see if anything was happening. The only thing he could see were people inside the circle dancing. Why independent from the others? Who the hell were these people he began to think and why was he so infatuated with her if she was part of this exclusionary group. Still, he never considered leaving, he simply waited.
A few revelers would come up, ask him if he needed anything but he would politely wave them away and sat there as an hour past.
Mark came out of the mass of humanity, dripping with sweat, not just his own, and with a smile that had been painted on by a happy clown. “This is wonderful.” he shouted and embraced his friend.
JP knew Mark had been taking the pills that were floating around the party. “I take it you’re having fun.”
Mark started jumping up and down in place “This is the best! Vegas is nothing compared to this.” Mark sang the last three words.
JP couldn’t help but laugh at his adrenaline rushed companion. Mark, still jumping but no longer singing spoke “So where is that girl?”
JP used to head to point to the vans.
“She is one of the inner circle.” Mark replied.
“How do you know about that?”
Mark used his head to point to a girl waiting at the edge of the dancers “She clued me in. See the inner circle invented this party and you have to be invited here by someone who knows about it, but the inner circle hardly ever invites anyone. So you must be pretty damn special.”
“I have to wait for her to come out?”
“Oh yeah, this is all over if anyone invades the inner circle.” Mark added a faux spookiness to his voice. “Look, if you want to go we can.”
“No, I’ll wait.”
Mark was taken back by JP’s answer thinking he would want to leave. Mark then asked not wanting an true answer “Do you want me to hang out with you?”
“No. Go ahead. I’ll catch up to you when she comes out of the ‘inner circle’. JP used the same faux spookiness in his tone.
Mark wandered back to his new girlfriend and vanished into the undulating bodies kicking up the desert sand.
JP sat there.
A girl with long blonde hair, wearing a tank top that said “Bitch” walked up to him, JP saw her and prepared for some kind of trouble, he could see it on her face. “Are you JP?” she asked.
JP nodded and wondered what Mark had done.
The angry looking girl pointed to the vans “Amber said to tell you that she will be out in about ten minutes.”
JP nodded again.
“Not much of a smooth talker are you?”
Just to be a smart ass JP shrugged.
The girl put her face close to his , he could smell her breath “If you hurt her, I will personally bury you out here.” and with that she turned and strutted back to the vans and walked in the inner circle.
JP questioned why he was staying, what was so special about Amber? And would all this be worth it for what was most likely one night?
His questions were answered as Amber and a few others came out of the inner circle. As fast as they appeared they disappeared as the other partiers swarmed them as though they were gods.
Amber smiled and danced her way toward JP.
“The Inner Circle has arrived!” the DJ shouted and began to spin a hyperactive mix of songs.
The party was whipped into a frenzy, except JP who was sitting waiting for Amber to come to him.
He stood and sheepishly waved, as if she hadn’t noticed him yet. Her eyes beamed and her mouth lifted and she continued toward him.
“I knew you would come.” she shouted.
“I wasn’t sure, I am still not sure.” he replied. “What is up with the vans?” he asked.
“Nothing, dumb.” she said and took his hand. “Come dance with me.”
JP was physically in good shape, but was in no way a dancer. And unlike Mark JP was afflicted with inhibitions. But he could not stop himself from following Amber. The crowd parted and she began to dance around him as he moved like a non-dancer in one spot.
As if he were the object of worship she moved around him, her arms coming so close to him but not touching, her hips moving like a childs tops. Innocent and somehow destructive at the same time. JP was hooked.
Amber continued her celebration and the others moved in around them. The angry girl in the “Bitch” t-shirt came up behind Amber and placed her hands on her hips and pursed her lips and blew JP a kiss. Amber smiled and put her head on the Bitchs shoulder as they explored each other with their hands. JP just stared at Bitch.
“I think this is my dance.” he shouted.
“This is everyones dance, we are not individuals, we are the pieces of one puzzle.” Amber answered but at the same time gave Bitch a look that made her go away.
Amber took JP’s hand and took him out of the mass.
Sitting down on the non-dance side of a SUV she looked deep into his eyes “I don’t often tell people about this.”
“I know, you don’t invite people.”
Her face was so open, so welcoming “I thought with you I’d make an exception.”
“Thanks.” JP answered trying to be as open with his face as her.
“I feel connected to you somehow. I can’t explain it, like we’ve known each other forever.”
JP nodded “I know, it is weird. I mean none of this is in my personality.”
“I think there are times in life when some other force moves you and no matter what you think or rationally feel you must be moved.”
With any other girl in any other place JP would have laughed at the mystical shit she was pushing but he was enraptured and not by his penis. Though is was playing its typical part.
He leaned in to kiss her.
She pulled back with a playful smile “Catch me?” she said and jumped up and ran off into the dark.
JP, like a fifth grader took off after her. He could only see her silhouette as they traversed the rough landscape. She stopped and turned, suddenly and he ran into her. She kissed him.
“Wasn’t that better? Your sweaty, pumped up. Better than some schoolboy kiss.”
JP could only agree by returning her passion in a kiss of his own.
They played games with their feet as they continued to kiss, finally causing each other to topple onto the ground. JP made a noise of some kind, pain....pleasure...he had opened a wound on his elbow during the fall. Blood was warm. The raw passion of the sweat and blood was driving JP wild. Amber leaned over and licked at the blood on his arm, it was primal like apes in the jungle with no inhibitions and no false pretensions that ruin ‘dates’. Amber and JP fucked, simple as that.
Two twisted bodies, half naked covered in sweat, sand and traces of blood they lay with the brilliant wide open sky over them. JP was still....recovering.
“I don’t just do that with everyone.” Amber said.
“How could you? That was amazing.” JP replied with a playfulness he hadn’t felt in a long time.
In the distance the party was still going strong, the music still filling the night with pulse, with life.
“Should we go back?” Amber asked.
“I could stay here in your arms all night.” JP replied.
Amber put her head on his chest and he began to stroke her hair. “I think that would be nice.” she replied but it was clear in the words that it could not happen.
So as if the world was not in existence they lay there in syncopation of breath, pulse and life. He was her and she was him and if someone had walked upon them that is what they would have seen. Not two spent lovers but one being pulsing with quintessence.
All good things come to an end.
Amber stood up and pulled up her shorts. “Let’s go back.”
“Will you come with me?” JP asked.
“Back to the party?”
“No, come with me. I am so overwhelmed by you, I want to spend all my time with you, I want to learn all about you then relearn it all again.”
Her face washed over with the tenderness of his words “But...” she paused and he took her hand “Will you come with me?” she finally asked.
“Yes.” JP replied.
“Come on and we’ll ask Ian.” she pulled at his arm.
He ran along with her toward the vans, the inner circle “Who is Ian?”
“He is the Inner Circle.” she replied as they stepped into the inner circle.
The scene was the same as the other dancers, just smaller numbers. Amber and JP walked among the group. Amber was looking around and asking some of the others “Ian? Where is Ian?” but no one seemed to know.
The Bitch walked up to them “Why did you bring him in here?” she snapped at Amber.
“Calm down. I want to bring him along.”
The Bitch laughed “You want him to be a member of the inner circle? To travel with us?”
“Yes.” Amber said and pushed past Bitch with JP in tow.
The Bitch followed them “Well if you are so fired up about it..”
Amber interrupted her “I am, I feel the connection with him. How often does that happen? It is like we are cosmic.”
The Bitch pointed “Ian is over there.”
Ian was dancing alone near the solid black van. Amber and JP walked up to him, this leader.
“Amber!” he shouted and embraced her and then gave JP a hug as well “Who is your friend?”
“This is JP.” Amber said.
Ian looked him up and down “He is nice, delicious I’ll bet.” and winked at Amber.
“Ian, can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” he said still moving to the music pounding all around them.
“Can JP come with us when we go?”
Ians whole demeanor changed, the smile and the openness were gone. He took Amber by the wrist and lead her into the black van, JP was not allowed to follow.
“Does he know?” Ian asked.
Ian shook his head “And what do you suppose he will say when he does, yes. Do you suppose he will give it all up? Is this what you want to ask of him?”
The truth slammed into Amber and sucked out all the powerful goodness she had been feeling since she met JP. Ian was right, to ask him to come along was to ask much more than JP realized.
Amber kissed Ian on the cheek and Ian seemed to feel the deepness of her pain, he opened the door “JP, I am sorry there just isn’t room for you to come along.” Ian said playing the bad guy.
JP looked into Ambers eyes “Then you can come with me?” He didn’t need her to say a thing to know the answer. “How long do I have with you?”
JP took her by the hand and they walked back to his car and got inside. Amber leaned over and placed her head on his shoulder, he sucked in her smell and looked out to the sky. “Can’t I just follow you?” he asked.
She did not answer.
“Who is going to stop me?” he added.
She looked up at him and they connected with their eyes, he saw she didn’t want to talk about it. Sometimes there are things which cannot be fought, cannot be changed by pleading or by will, those are the things that cause us pain.
He let his head tilt to touch hers and soon his eyes closed.
“Get up!” the voice was loud and not at all friendly, neither was the tap on the window. JP opened his eyes, Amber was gone and a California Highway Patrol Officer was standing at his window. “Move it out pal! Can’t sleep here.” the officer snapped.
JP got out of the car. “What the hell is going on?” he said.
“Look pal, you can’t sleep here. Get yourself together and get back on the road, get a motel in Barstow or Hesperia.” and with that the officer got back in his car and pulled away.
The party was over.
JP looked in the car and there was Mark sleeping like a baby. JP rushed over the passenger side of the car and opened the door “Mark! Mark! Get up! What happened to Amber?”
Mark shook off his sleep or hangover or both “Quiet PJ, PP, JP.”
JP was pacing around “Where did everyone go?”
Mark got out of the car “Home I guess.”
“What about Amber?”
JP stormed up to his friend “Amber, the reason we came here.”
Mark giggled “I don’t remember much about last night.”
JP held his head in his hands. Mark got back in the car “If you got some and are holding back on the story...”
“Talk about her like that again and I will rip out your lips.” JP thumped on the hood of the car to pound home his point.
Mark lifted his shoulders and winced and nodded as if he knew what was going on with JP.
JP started the car and headed back toward I-15.
“I can’t wait to get home and take a shower.” Mark said as the highway came in view.
“We aren’t going home.” JP said and got on the highway northbound.
“Where are we going?”
JP turned the radio to 89.7.
Mark reached over and turned it off “What is up with you? We have no money, we have to go home.”
“I can’t.” JP said and began racing down the highway.
JP’s features were stone as the car came to a place to turn around. JP whipped the car through the turn-around reserved for police.
“Now are we going home?” Mark inquired since they were now moving in the right direction.
JP did not answer. He just kept looking off the side of the road and had turned the radio station back on.
When he saw the tracks he slammed on the brakes.
“Jesus!!” Mark yelled as the car came to a stop.
JP placed his hand on the dial but it continued to play old big band music. JP looked over to Mark “You don’t remember any of this?”
“No.” Mark said with more than a tinge of fear.
“Getting the message over the radio, the party, the inner circle?”
Mark just shook his head “How about you let me drive?”
“No!” JP shouted and sat there waiting for something to happen. Mark looked out the window and started to think about how to tell JP’s family he had gone crazy, and how he was going to get home. Finally a police car pulled up behind them. The officer walked up to the car.
“Having problems?” he asked.
JP was snapped back to reality “No, just pulled off for a sec.”
The officer seemed convinced and JP was forced to pull out. Mark allowed the silence to fester in JP.
“I must have been high.” JP finally said.
Mark laughed “I guess. What in the hell were you talking about?”
“There was this girl, she was awesome. And she asked me to come with her and this inner circle, the people who threw the party.”
“I should have had what you had.”
They both laughed but JP was deeply disturbed by the visions of his night, he wanted so much for it to have been real. For her to have been real. And even if it was what good was that now, she was gone, a memory.
JP dropped off Mark at his house and JP glided in the driveway of his house. He sat there and gazed at the nice middle class house, Mom and Dad were inside and would want to know where he had been and if he had found a job and if he was planning on finishing college and alot of other stuff that is prevalent when you are twenty-three. As he turned the door knob he more deeply than ever wished Amber was real and he was with her.
Dad was still at work and Mom must have been out so he took advantage of it and crept into bed and fell asleep.
A few hours later he was awakened by the television and the smell of mashed potatoes and meat loaf.
He stumbled down to the dinner table.
“Look at this.” his father said sitting at the head of the table still dressed from his day at work as a construction worker. “Where have you been?”
JP didn’t answer. His mother placed a plate in front of him “Good to have you, it has been a few days.” she said the way only a mother can.
“After dinner you need to help your mother clean out some of the stuff in the attic.” the man of the house said and shoved in a hunk of meat.
“Why?” JP asked.
“They are having a sale at the church and I want to get rid of some of that old stuff up there.” she said still using the mother tone.
JP was to tired, to spent to help but he had no choice. Despite the fact he was like Mark, a loser, he didn’t want to be but he wasn’t sure how not to be. Helping Mom was the right thing to do and it would keep Dad quiet so he agreed.
After meat loaf and potatoes he went to the attic with his mother.
“I know you are tired, so just go through those boxes over there and if it looks like junk we sell it for the needy.”
JP slunk over the a few boxes in the corner, sat on the floor and began to dig through them.
Old posters. A coffee maker. Some books that didn’t even have the spine broken. Then he found a shoebox, it was full of pictures.
“What about these?” he asked.
“We keep those, who would want to buy old pictures of us?”
“The people who sell frames need those pictures you get when you buy the frame.” JP said, he could always make his mother laugh.
“None of those would be good enough.” she replied giggling.
JP began to look through them, out of partial interest and partial time killing. “Look at this! Is this me?” he said.
His mother came over and blew dust off her hands “Yes that is, you are about six there.” She held it up to her face “And do you see that?” She pointed at a corner of the picture.
JP strained and could see what looked like someones leg.
“That is a girl you had a crush on that lived in the neighborhood, the two of you were always together. I’m surprised Amber isn’t in the picture.”
“Amber?” JP said and felt a familiar electricity down his spine.
“Yeah, Amber. If you were there she was there and the other way around. The two of you were always holding hands and playing, it was cute.”
JP stood up “She lives here in the neighborhood?”
“No she did. Her and her folks moved when you were ..... I think eight or so. You were crushed, you didn’t eat for days. You told me that you and her made a promise that one day you would find each other.”
“Where did they go? Where did they move to?” the questions were becoming more intense.
“I think they moved to San Diego. Yeah, San Diego.”
“What was her last name?”
“Olsen. Her folks were Sandy and Paul, Olsen.”
JP looked passionately into his mothers eyes “I need to find her.” Mom was a push over when it came to JP. She reached in her pocket and gave him forty dollars, she knew that he was going.
JP pulled up in front of Marks house, Mark was sitting on the porch.
“Wanna go to San Diego?”
Mark jumped up off the porch “Beaches and chicks! Hell yes.” Mark climbed into the car “If you get any of those good drugs let me know this time.” Mark said and patted his friend on the shoulder.
The car moved like lightning toward San Diego as the sun was setting in the horizon beyond them.
Mission Beach was not very busy when they pulled in at around nine in the evening. Mark walked toward a bar that seemed to be cadence call him.
“I’m gonna piss, I’ll be there.” JP said and moved toward the beach restrooms. When Mark was out of sight JP moved to the phones and started flipping through the phone book.
There is was, Sandy Olsen.
He dialed the number.
A female voice answered the phone, JP started talking “You don’t know me but I am calling for Amber, I met her...I mean...is Amber there?”
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
“Hello?” JP asked.
“Is this a joke?” the voice answered.
“I met her last night at a party and I really want to see her again, I don’t do stuff like this but...”
“She died.” the lady said and stopped JP like a truck. “You must have the wrong number because my daughter is dead.”
“Is this Sandy Olsen? Did you live on Alms Street?”
“Yes I did, a long time ago.” the woman was talking very polite under the circumstances “But my daughter died when she was ten. She was hit by a car.”
JP didn’t say a thing.
The phone disconnected.
JP stood there holding the receiver and looking out at the moonlight dancing on the ocean. He felt a sadness he could not bear, it was if he had been taken back to those days after she moved and he didn’t eat.
It surely was just some drug induced dream. Fragments of the past mixed with hope and exhaustion, but it couldn’t have been real. But the pain in his chest was real, it weighed him down.
JP battled the magnitude of anguish and stumbled to the door of the bar Mark had gone in, JP looked but his friend was inside somewhere and JP didn’t yet feel like going inside. He walked to his car, sat down and faced the ocean.
He looked down at the radio and flicked it on and laughed to himself and turned the dial to 89.7. Big band oldies.
He rubbed his face harshly and tried to laugh it all off but some deeper sense was eating at him. Like a worm inside of him it was slowly beating him down, part by part, reducing him to believe that Amber was real. That it was not what it seemed to be.
To escape his own thoughts he walked back to the bar, not to go in but to buy a six-pack. Alone in the car he drank.
Six-pack after six-pack until he was much more than drunk.
Over and over again he replayed the events of that night.
Mark came over to the car with a girl in his arm “JP! Bud!”
JP got out of the car “I finally figured it out.”
Mark and his new girl laughed as JP stumbled to the ground “What is that?”
“It doesn’t matter what world she is in, I want to be in that world with her.”
“That is sweet.” Marks girl said.
“What are you talking about? The Inner Circle girl?”
JP nodded “She came back to me. It was a promise.”
Mark tried to help his drunken friend back to his feet but JP wanted to stay on his knees. JP licked his lips “I have to go and find her.”
JP stood up and brushed himself off and looked at Mark “Here.” JP gave him the keys “I gotta go.”
“Let me drive you.” Mark said.
JP turned and started walking toward the beach. “Hey! Where are you going?” Mark called after him but JP didn’t turn.
“Maybe he is going swimming.” Marks girl said with a titter.
Marks face died “JP! No!” Mark started after him.
JP started running toward the water, even drunk he was faster and in better shape than Mark.
Water splashed around him and he started to swim out.
Mark stood in knee deep water calling for him, and then calling for help.
Raz was standing in the desert. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
JP walked up to him, beaming with the kind of happiness that only truth knows. A dust cloud blew up in the distance and JP and Raz watched as the cloud moved toward them.
The black van stopped in front of JP.
Ian stepped out of the van “We have room for you now.”
JP got inside the back of the van and fell into Ambers arms.