Lizzie ran. She wasn’t sure if she should be running away. That was her instinct. Run and get away from whatever was going on. The screaming wasn’t good, and she’d heard enough of it in the last month…
But she thought she had recognized that screamed and ‘oh god,’ she knew it was Jess. Deep in her gut, Lizzie just knew it and there was no way she could run away and leave her friend to die. She’d done too much of that lately, she was not going to let down another one of her friends.
And if she had run away, she knew what was coming. She knew that soon she would see her friend. That Jess would be joining her for lunch and every other lunch soon thereafter. She would be with her eternally as one of the dead that surrounded her.
That sinking feeling in her stomach had already stolen any thoughts of an appetite. That couldn’t stop her, and she didn’t let it.
So, Lizzie was running, but against all her desire, she ran towards the screaming. It didn’t take her long. Within fifty feet she rounded the corner, and at the lower edge of the ramp she saw where there was a car stopped, its hazards flashing and the driver’s side door open.
Lizzie had somehow known what she would see. She knew there would be a car stopped, the driver out to examine a body, shock already clutching their rational mind as they stood over the dead or dying while they were immobile as they watched.
She was so sure of it, that she already had tears wetting her cheek when she rounded the corner and saw the stopped vehicle in the middle of the car path. The driver stood outside of his car; the door open. It was almost just how she had imagined it… but it wasn’t. What Lizzie hadn’t expected was, Jess, standing there yelling at the driver and occasionally punctuating words with slamming her large, oversized purse down on the man’s hood.
“-you need to get your eyes checked. How do you pull out here and not see me? Pay attention.” She was yelling at the man. The man stood there and as Lizzie approached, she could see his mouth opening and closing, never allowed to get a word in. He looked like a fish as he would just open and close, open and close, never given that moment to speak out and defend himself.
Jess was a professional talker. At least she should be. She could talk forever and not let anyone else get a word in. Lizzie had learned never to argue with her as it was impossible to win. The woman just browbeated you into submission.
Lizzie almost felt sorry for the man. He towered over Jess, but as Lizzie approached, she could tell that Jess was dominating him. He was already backpedaling to his car, occasionally looking over his shoulder to assure himself the door was still open, and he’d be able to make his getaway.
“Watch it, watch it, watch it.” Jess continued to slam her purse down, already there was a dent from previous purse attacks.
“Leave the pour man alone.” Lizzie felt her heart relaxing and she took a deep breath as she slowed her walk up to her. Her friend was still alive, and she was A-okay with that.
“I didn’t see you; you came out of nowhere.” The man insisted, taking the chance to finally speak when Jess had turned her head away.
“And you still think you don’t need glasses? I mean really, how can you not see this.” She ran her hands up and down her bright orange dress as though presenting it to him, though her face you could tell this was no offer. She was still red, her face burning with anger as Lizzie came up to her.
“So, who’s your new friend?” Lizzie asked.
“Some blind man who somehow convinced the DMV to give him a license. I should get your plate number and report you. You were driving like a maniac through here.”
“Hey!” He tried to get more out but Jess had turned back to him and was bringing her full attention down on him.
“What’s your name again? Bobby what? I want your license number and your address. Who’s your insurance provider?”
“Jess, let him go. You hungry? I’m ready for lunch.” Lizzie said. Behind her, she heard Josh whispering to someone.
“Who the hell is this girl?”
“That’s Jess. We’ve all been friends since freshman year. Trust me, you do not want to get on her bad side. She can use that tongue like a green beret can use a knife” Sarah said.
“This little…jerk… almost killed me. He came speeding around this corner, and I just barely got out of the way. He’d have gotten me if I hadn’t jump so yeah, I feel he needs to be … I don’t know, something.” Jess through her hands up in frustration and let out a long sigh before turning back to the bewildered man.
“I didn’t see you; you just came out of nowhere. I came around the corner and there was nothing, then a big flash of light and I saw you there jumping to the side. I jerked the wheel, or I still would have clipped you. I stopped and there you were.” He was talking in a rush. He probably never noticed Lizzie’s open mouth as she turned to look at her friend. There, just barely reflecting from the light above was the cross Jess always worn around her neck.
Lizzie didn’t have time to think about it as Jess was already approaching the man. He was rushing to get into his car, he must have seen it too, the fire burning in her eyes.
“Jess, come on.” Lizzie said, reaching for her.
“Damn this is getting good. Cat fight!” Josh yelled from behind her.
“Cat fighting is two women going at it. She’s going to tear that man apart.” Chuck said quietly.
“Nah, that man’s enough of a pussy to qualify.”
“I’d like to see you try to go up against her.” Sarah said, rushing to keep up with Lizzie. The man had made it back into his car, closed the door and to his credit, had locked himself in.
Jess, however, wasn’t letting him get away that easily. When she had pulled on the door handle and found it wasn’t going to open, she started kicking the door. Though there wasn’t much to the kick as she was wearing open toed heels and after one kick, had pulled her foot back howling. Which only fueled her anger as she started hitting the window.
Lizzie felt sorry for the man. He looked so scared in his car.
“I’m calling the police,” he said, holding up his phone to show Jess the screen. ‘911’ was already keyed in and all he would need to do is click the round red button to initiate the call.
“I’m hoping he calls them. Can you imagine the cop when he shows up? I mean, he knows that’s only for emergencies, right?” Josh said. Lizzie looked over and saw him leaning against a Ford pickup parked a stall down.
She was surprised that they were being good, so to speak. Maybe they were all just enjoying the show, but not Sarah. She was right there with her, and that made sense. Sarah was Jess’ friend too. There had been many times Sarah had to hold Jess back. She was small, talked a lot and came off as being nice, but Jess had one hell of a temper once you set her off.
“Get out of there you little twat.”
“Jess, when did you eat this morning? Jess…” She wasn’t listening and gingerly Lizzie touched her shoulder. Jess turned and looked at her in surprise and Lizzie’s next words stuck to her tongue.
Jess didn’t look right. Her eyes were open wide to where Lizzie could see red forming around them. It wasn’t like her eyes were bloodshot, but a ring of dark red ran the rim and were they stared at her, it didn’t feel like Jess saw her.
She was breathing heavily. Her whole upper body was quivering. Lizzie thought she was having a seizure as her body was spasming. The eyes rolled up into her head and only the whites remained. Drool dripped down the side of her mouth. She was convulsing and Lizzie was left standing there not sure what to do or how to help.
Then Jess closed her eyes and Lizzie had just enough time to see her body go limp to reach out and catch her. She couldn’t keep her up, Lizzie was nowhere near strong enough, but she could hold her and ease her down to the cold hard cement.
“Is she going to be, okay?” Lizzie heard the man ask. She didn’t turn to face him but looked at Sarah instead who was also kneeling. Sarah looked just as scared as Lizzie felt.
“Did you see her eyes?” Sarah asked.
Lizzie nodded, then looked over her shoulder at the man. He was still in his car probably with the doors locked but he had rolled down his window.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
He nodded, then looked to the lowering slope of the parking garage and then into his rearview mirror. No one was there. They were alone. “Look, I didn’t see her, she just came out of nowhere.”
Lizzie nodded and then looked around, noticing for the first time that she didn’t see Jessica’s car, which was odd if she had just parked there and was coming towards Lizzie. Which how did she know where exactly to find her? That was some dumb luck of Jessica’s part as Lizzie had only told her the name of the lawyer and where his office was located. She hadn’t told her anything about what parking garage or where she had parked.
“You should get out of here.” Lizzie said, and she didn’t have to look at Sarah to know she was drilling her eyes into her. “She’ll be fine.”
“Here,” he opened his door and handed her a business card, she didn’t look at it as she slipped it into her jeans pocket. “If you need to contact me.”
She didn’t watch him but heard the door close. Moments later the car was pulling away.
“Did you see her eyes,” Lizzie said to Sarah as she sat there with her friend.
“There was something wrong. They were red. I mean, like well part of them were. It was weird.”
“Hey, What’s going on?” Josh said, pushing himself off the truck to walk over to them.
“You ever seen anything like that?” Lizzie turned to Elisabeth who had been standing back. Chuck had his arm around her, and they were keeping a distance from everyone. Had she been crying? Something was up with those two, but Lizzie didn’t think now was the time to pressure them.
“I didn’t see. What happened?”
“Her eyes were red.” Lizzie said.
“Like blood shot?”
“No, like she had a ring of red around her normal blue eyes.”
“Shit, who cares? What does any of this have to do with us. Nothing, unlike that envelope you conveniently forgot and slid into your back pocket.” Josh said, already losing interest.
“That’s odd. No, I’ve never heard of a red ring. Bloodshot or red eyes are burst blood vessels that can look and turn the pupils red. Just a red ring, that’s just very… well odd.” Elisabeth raised her arms in frustration and Lizzie turned back to Sarah. Jess sighed, and her headed rolled back and forth as she vaguely started to come around.
“Lizzie? Sarah?” Jess whispered; her eyes still shut. Lizzie’s eyes shot straight to Sarah, who’s own eyes had gone wide. Around them, everyone else grew still and it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the parking garage, everyone afraid to breathe.
“We’re here. I’m here Jess.” Lizzie said, holding her hand. Jessica’s eyes fluttered then open and at first, she just stared at the cement ceiling. Thank God, her eyes were normal, the red ring was gone. Then those eyes fell to Lizzie and focused on her.
“We’re here?” She said, “Who else is with you?”