“So why didn’t you sell the tickets?” Lizzie was sitting in the passenger seat of Roland’s car, not sure how she had let herself be talked into letting him drive. She wasn’t even sure how she had let him talk her into going. Sure, she loved Ed Sheeran and up until their breakup, had been looking forward to this getaway weekend they had planned. That had been a month ago. She had completely forgotten about the concert and with everything going on, it just hadn’t seemed like something she’d have to worry about.
This was a terrible idea, what was she doing here?
“I don’t know. I just didn’t.”
“And you couldn’t take someone else?”
“Didn’t seem right. Ya know? These were our tickets.”
“You could have just paid me back my half and taken anyone you’d like.” She was watching what she said. It was too early in the night, and she didn’t want to start it off with a fight. Still, she knew the edge was there and he had to take the meaning of what she was implying…After all, she had dumped him because he had been cheating on her. If he wanted to be with the other girl so bad, why didn’t he just take her. Now there was nothing to stop them from being together. She had done him the favor of letting him go so he could go off and cheat on other woman.
She could feel the anger starting to well up in her again, a rising tide that nudged her to start up the old fights. It wanted the war of words again, as the fire hadn’t faded as much as she thought it had. The wounds were still too fresh.
Get your mind off of it.
She looked in the back seat, noticing again how empty it was, and took a long, deep breath. Her dead friends weren’t with them. She took another breath and looked down at the bump under her sweater where the talisman rested on her chest. It felt cool to her skin, and it was weird but she swore she could feel a faint hum thrumming through her.
She had found the talisman when she had finally opened the letter from her uncle. Jessica had left shortly after chasing away the dick who’d hit his girlfriend. She’d said that she wasn’t feeling to well, and Lizzie agreed with her. Jess had grown extremely pale and dark bags had formed beneath her eyes.
Lizzie had been left in the parking garage, Josh once again hounding her to open the damned envelope. She’d been annoyed at first, but had stood there, looking at it, feeling the bulging contents. She wasn’t sure how long she had stood there looking at it. The garage had felt distant, her dead stalkers were silenced, she had just stood there, caressing that lump in the envelope. Then she had finally opened it, ripping away the yellowed envelope.
It came with a cryptic note, telling her only that she should put on the necklace right away and then go to his house. There, she would find a letter explaining everything in his bedroom. There would be a box she was to go through with pertinent information about the legacy he had left her.
The sane part of her had chuckled in her mind at this and thought, “Money isn’t really a legacy, but if he was referring to his own special kind of lunacy, that was a legacy he had left for her.”
But she hadn’t been able to take comfort in that thought. There was too much of the crazy. It now surrounded her to make her feel that money was not the legacy he was referring too. Yeah, your legacy is the dead people, and they were throwing a party all around her.
Josh had bust out laughing when he read the note over her shoulder. He wailed, screamed, shouted into the air. When that had not been enough, his emotions running him through the gamut, he started crying as he fell back into a nearby car. His legs had given out and he worked himself onto the cold cement.
Lizzie had watched him and had almost felt sorry for him. She had known he was hoping for an answer in the note, something that would tell him why he was there; why they all were. Instead, there was some crappy necklace and instructions to go to his house. What, had the guy been so paranoid that he didn’t trust his own lawyers with whatever his ‘legacy’ was?
She had looked at the odd-looking thing as she pulled it from the envelope. The object was on a strand of cowhide that had been tied into a large loop. She’d seen the type of work before, often when visiting Native American tourist traps and in Indian gift shops. Hanging on it though, looked like something a medicine man might have made. It was a large round ring with string crisscrossing on the inside. Inside the ring and tied to the strings we’re animal teeth. It was impossible to tell what the teeth were from, it was vicious as the teeth were long, fang like, and sharp.
She had held it up to the light, dreading wearing the thing.
“What the hell is that?” Josh asked.
“Liz, the man was nuts. Are you sure you can trust…that?” Sarah asked as she pointed to the necklace. She looked disgusted by it and was glaring at it like a snake getting ready to strike her.
Sarah was right though. Her uncle had obviously been nuts, but what had made him that way?
What the hell?
Lizzie put on the necklace and Josh and Sarah both disappeared. She wasn’t sure but she assumed that Chuck and Elisabeth were also gone. She was free. They were free. Now maybe she could return to some kind of sanity.
“Earth to Liz. Lizzie anyone home?”
Lizzie blinked, bringing her back to the car she was in and the man who sat behind the wheel.
She looked over at him. Roland was watching the road but stealing looks when he could spare them to study her with those bright blue eyes.
“Really? So, what do you say?”
“You weren’t listening.”
“What were you asking.” Lizzie said, getting increasingly annoyed. He used to do this to her all the time. He would talk and drone on about boring crap until she got to the point that she couldn’t take anymore and would zone out. Then he would start asking her about it, like there would be some great quiz on whatever useless nonsense he had told her.
She thought she had become an expert on tuning him out. How had she put up with his useless rambles while they had been dating. Oh yeah, she’d talk over him, not allowing him to get rolling into what conversation he’d started. When she’d talked long enough, he’d shut up.
She hadn’t done it this time because she hadn’t felt like talking to him. It wasn’t that she had nothing to say, as so much was happening in her life. No, she didn’t like to talk because she was afraid of what she would say and who she would say it to. The last thing she needed was to people thinking she was crazy. If she started talking to people who weren’t there, that would be the end of it. She’d be in the padded room and hitting the walls.
It was an effort, but she tried to bring herself back into the conversation.
“I asked a few things.” She said, trying to cover up, but realized she had no clue what he had been talking about? Probably some old cheesy horror franchise that was getting a reboot.
“Huh? No, you didn’t. You’ve sat there for the last half hour stealing glances to the back seat like you’re expecting to see someone back there. What I had been talking about was me asking you if you were okay.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Lizzie said, pulling herself around so she sat straight in her seat. She didn’t know if she was really doing it, but she felt small, like she was making herself disappear into the seat… She made them disappear, why couldn’t she make herself disappear like that?
“Really?” He stole another quick glance at her.
She didn’t look back, keeping her eyes on the road. She guessed they were nearing Madison as she saw the sign for the Cascade Mountain resort that was near Portage. She hoped that wasn’t the case as if it was, they’d only shared the car ride for under an hour. She was already getting antsy and wanting to pull out her own hair.
“Because I see a mess. I can tell you haven’t been sleeping. You look tired as all get out and your skin is getting pale. I mean, you’re always white but this is ghost white. I don’t think you’ve seen the sun in weeks.” He stole another glance over. Lizzie wasn’t sure how she looked and didn’t think it was any of his business. Inside though, she felt a heat in her chest and knew there was wetness forming at the corner of her eyes. Who the hell was this bastard, to think he could tell her she looked like a wreck? “Have you? What have you been doing since Sarah died? We share friends, I know none of them have seen you. We’re all worried about you.”
He finished, and they sat in the car in silence for a mile with her mind racing. They were driving to a concert, hours away so he would have her alone in the car. Jessica asked her out to lunch all in the same day. Jess had acted shocked about them going, but had she faked it? Lizzie wasn’t sure and as she thought about it, she was beginning to feel like she was set up. They all planned this.
But who in hell thought it would be a good idea for Roland to be the one to get her alone? She was going to kill them. Really, who in the hell thought she was going to bare her soul to Roland?
“Who were you originally going to give my ticket too?”
“I told you-“
“No, you told me some excuse to get me to go with you. Was it Natalie?”
“I don’t want to go into that again. I was never with Natalie. Please, let’s not fight.”
“But who were you going to take?”
The car grew to the unsteady quiet again as they drove miles down the interstate listening to only the hum from the road and the occasional car that passed them.
“Sarah said she’d buy your ticket. She was going to buy both tickets and I think she planned to take you. She knew how much you wanted to go.”
Lizzie felt the anger that had been ballooning up inside her deflate, and a single tear found its way to rolling down her cheek. Sarah. Sarah wasn’t with her anymore. With the necklace on, her friend was no longer there and now Lizzie was going to have to start grieving. Her best friend was dead, and one of the last things she had planned was to take her to see her favorite singer.
Lizzie wasn’t sure what to say. This time the silence that stretched until they made it past Madison was broken only by the sniffles as she fought to hold back the flood gate of tears. She couldn’t stop herself from looking into the back seat, this time hoping to see Sarah sitting back there, smiling at her. It would have been a relief just to have her tell her how stupid she was being going to this concert with him. Her friend would scold her, call her out on this bullshit. Her friend who would be there for her.
She felt the pinching between her breast when she shifted in the seat, the rings of pain from the teeth causing her to wince briefly. She had put the necklace on. She had sent her friend away, releasing her. Now Lizzie would be alone.
She couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t haven’t any friends. Sarah had been her bestie since…since… well long enough that she couldn’t remember a time without her.
Now she had no one.
She felt utterly alone, stuck in hell with the lying sack of shit she had allowed herself to listen too. It was fitting really. It suited her, didn’t it? They deserved each other. His lying and her betraying her friend, getting her killed and now sending her away.
You didn’t send her away. You released her. Now she’ll be wherever dead people go, with any luck it was a better place, and Sarah was up in heaven somewhere.
Though as often as she tried to convince herself of that, she didn’t truly believe it.
“So, what’s your favorite Sheeran song?” Roland said. The silence must have stretch to a point that he couldn’t help himself and tried again at the dangerous art of talking.
“What’s your favorite Ed Sheeran song?”
“I like all of them.”
“Sure, but you gotta have a favorite.”
“What is it?”
“It changes. For like, the last month I’ve been listening to ‘Happier.’”
“Just not sure I know that one.”
“You do. It goes ‘Only one month we’ve been apart, you look happier…” Lizzie screeched out. Roland started laughing as he shook his head.
“Please, please stop.”
“Hey now, I can sing,” she said.
“Remember, I heard you Karaoke. No, you can’t.”
“Fine, like you can do any better.”
“You’re right, but I know my limitations.”
“Oh, your karaoke just as bad as the rest of us.”
“I’m not going to argue. Just I know to wait until I’ve had enough to drink that I don’t realize how bad I am.”
Now it was Lizzie who was shaking her head, and an honest laugh that welled from so deep within her, that the painful memories from earlier was momentarily slipping away from her. With any luck, they would stay away for a little. The wetness that still hovered in the corner of her eyes threatened that they weren’t going to be gone for long.
“So, oh wise one, what’s your favorite song?”
“The A-Team,” he said and in such a way that made it sound like he was announcing it proudly, which was odd. She couldn’t imagine him liking any of Eddie’s music that way.
“Really? Why is that your favorite?”
“Oh no, give.” Lizzie was having a hard time repressing the smile she had somehow slipped into her voice. They were doing it, for better or worse, that old patter of returning barbs to one another and everything was mentally hidden under the fog of the last month.
She wasn’t sure she liked that, but it was hard. They’d been dating for a year and much of it had been a lot of fun.
“How can I not love the A-Team?”
“No, just don’t see why I need to explain it. I didn’t make you explain yours.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“Because I want to know why the A-Team?”
“Well… it’s the A-Team. How can’t you love a song referring to an old school 80’s show.”
Lizzie sat there, staring at him, not sure if he was serious or just playing with her. She knew her mouth hung open and she was looking at him dumbfounded, but really, how could anyone blame her. There was just no way he could be this ignorant. Either that or he’d never even listened to the song.
He hadn’t. She should have seen it. Eddie wasn’t his normal stuff. She had known that since she had first started dating him. He liked all that heavy devil music with squealing vocals and where the singer, if you could call them that, was grunting indiscriminately throughout the song.
“What?” He asked, glancing over at her, registering her look of utter amazement at him as she realized something else. He would have never bought these tickets if not for how much she had wanted to go. How had she never seen it before?
“That’s not what the song is about.”
“What do you mean?”
“Eddie’s A-Team. It’s not about some obscure-“
“The A-Team was not an obscure show. It was huge.”
“Whatever. So. The song is not about some show trapped back in the 80’s”
“There’s also a movie.”
“The movie had Bradley Cooper and Liam what’s his name in it. That ‘Taken’ guy, he played Hannibal. It was awesome.”
Lizzie had never before wanted to smack her head into the dashboard as much as she wanted to right then. The pain had to be less than listening to Roland as he tried to explain the song has something to do with whatever show he was talking about. She had never been able to understand his love for ancient television. She knew he also loved to watch old black and white twilight zone episodes on holidays. How lame was that?
“The song… it has nothing to do with the movie… the show, any of it.” She said. She had a hard time not yelling the words at him. He was an idiot, how did she ever put up with him? “It’s about angels. The song is about drug addiction and angels. A young woman who drifts away and because she’s too blind to the path her life is taking, she overdosed and dies. The angel’s die. Get it.”
They sat in silence for awhile as the miles passed by, marked by the white lines and green signs. Finally, he glances over at her. “Na, I still say it’s about the A-team.”
Her mouth dropped open and he sees it, returning her stunned expression with a smile of his own. If he wasn’t driving, she would have hit him right there, putting all her strength and weight into it, because right then, the only thing she wanted to do was to knock that smile right off his lips.
“I’m just kidding with you. Loosen up. Try to have some fun tonight, okay?”