December 5th, 2011.
University of Fine Arts
Killdeer, Wyoming, United States of America.
Outside, the snow was several feet deep and the drifts came up to her chest. That’s what she speculated anyways. No way was she going to go out and test her theory. The windows were all fogged up from the cold and the icicles were as big as swords. Josh and Felix had had a mock sword fight with them the other day.
Plus, it was sub-zero out there, with wind-chill. In the apartment, the temperature was set at a nice sixty-nine.
Ana looked away from the window and back at her Music History books, then at the clock. 12:35 a.m. She moaned and pulled her blanket over her head. “I don’t want to studyyy,” she complained to it. “I want sleeeep.”
But study she had to, because the end-of-term final for it was in seven hours. She hauled herself to her feet, stared at her music note lampshade, then shook her head and went for the kitchen to grab some chocolate and almond milk. Maybe she’d make some hot chocolate with almond milk instead of normal milk – that sounded good.
She was careful not to make too much noise; Kathy and Hayley were asleep. She was watching the microwave count down the seconds till the hot chocolate was ready and nibbling on a bar when someone started pounding on the door.
Ana frowned. She would have ignored it, but that pounding was going to wake Kathy and Hayley up. So, she went to the door, rapped on it with her knuckles to let whoever it was know they’d been heard, then asked through the wood, “What?”
“Ana, you need to grab your things and meet me and Dom at my car,” Felix’s voice said. He sounded breathless, like he’d been running. “Just pack what’s important, clothes and stuff. And hurry!”
Ana opened the door. “Felix, what-“
“Can you please just do it without being obstinate for once? It’s really important.” He was fully dressed. There was snow in his hair and on his shoulders.
“We can talk about this in the car, okay?” He smiled, but it was strained. “I can answer all of your questions then. I just really need you to do this now, alright?”
The microwave beeped. Ana stared at him. “Uh… Oh…kay? Erm. You realize I have a final tomorrow, right? Well, today actually.”
“Finals don’t matter anymore.”
“Why don’t they matter? Felix, what’s going on?”
“Just pack as much as you can, and only what you need, if possible, and as fast as you can. Move! We don’t have time for this!”
“Not until you tell me why-“
“What’s going on?” Hayley asked blearily from behind her. The microwave’s beeping stopped when she shut it off.
Ana eyed Felix, who breathed a curse, and turned around. Before she could say anything, Felix said, “Ana’s mom’s in trouble; we’re going to go help her.”
Hayley’s sleepy eyes widened. “Oh my goodness, what happened?”
“Car wreck. Bad one. It’s a miracle she’s still alive. She’s in the hospital right now, and Ariadne’s on her way there too. They’re not sure if she’ll live or not.”
Ana shot him a look over her shoulder. Roll with it, he mouthed, then said, “I’ll be waiting for you in the car, Banana.”
With that, he left, at a walk-run.
“Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.” All traces of sleep were gone from Hayley’s voice. “Oh, Ana, that’s awful! She’s in Greece, right? So, you’ll be needing several days worth of clothes. I’ll help you pack.”
Ana closed the door. “Oh, you really don’t have to-“
“Don’t even worry about it.” Hayley’s eyes were fired with purpose and she headed for Ana’s room. “Your mom needs you, and four hands are a lot faster than two. I’ll tell Kathy and your professors and everyone what happened in the morning. I bet they’ll let you take your exams online or something.”
Ana sighed, set her chocolate bar down on the countertop, and followed her. Hayley was already pulling out her backpack and a suitcase. Ana started pulling clothes out of her closet and folding them, somewhat resigned and also worried. Felix didn’t get panicky like that often.
“Thanks for helping me,” Ana said as they both tried their hand with her suitcase’s tricky zipper. It required a special touch to zip properly.
“Don’t mention it. It’s scary when things like this happen. My dad had a heart attack while I was in a ballet once. Except the doctors said that there was no doubt he’d live. But a wreck… Oh, Ana. I really hope she’s okay.”
“I do too.” She is okay, Ana wanted to say, but kept her mouth shut and finally managed to zip the zipper.
Finals don’t matter anymore, Felix’s voice echoed in her head. The look in his eyes as he’d said that, it was as if whatever had happened was bad enough that he didn’t think there would be anymore college.
Wow, Ana. Bleak, much?
Hayley gave her a worried look, then flew out the door, saying, “I’ll be right back, I promise.”
Clothes and such taken care of, Ana wasn’t sure what to put in the backpack. Her headphones, iPod and its charger, obviously, and her phone. But when it came down to moments like this, where she was honestly uncertain of what was going on and how long it would be before she came back, she both wanted to take as much as she could and wanted to leave everything. In the end, she grabbed a few novels, tablets, and schoolbooks, hesitated a beat, then wadded up a small blanket and stuffed that in her backpack too.
She left her pajamas on and just shrugged a hoodie from swim team on over them. A baggy sweater with music notes on it and black sweatpants would be fine, wouldn’t they? It sounded like Felix meant to do a lot of driving.
Hayley came bustling back in right after she’d shrugged the backpack on. She went around behind her and put the ziplock bag in the front pocket of the backpack. “Here. Chocolate. Comfort food for the flight. And something special for you and your mom.”
Ana smiled. “Thank you. You’re sweet.”
Hayley nodded, looked up at her, then hugged her tightly. “I know you don’t believe in God or gods, but I’ll pray to mine that she gets better fast, alright?”
“Of course it is.” Ana hugged her back. Pray that whatever’s making Felix panicky goes away too, okay? ‘specially since Mum’s perfectly fine….
They pulled away at the same time. Ana’s eyes flickered to her bed and the Music History books there, then back to Hayley. “Since it’s looking like I might not be back before winter break starts, have a Merry Christmas, okay? I’d give you your present, but I haven’t gotten it yet.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that.” She glanced at the clock. “You should hurry if you want to catch that flight. Everything will be fine here.”
“Alright.” Ana picked up her suitcase. She felt awkward, leaving like this in the middle of the night, about a lie too. She didn’t really know what to say. “Well… goodbye then. Hopefully, we’ll see each other soon.”
“Oh, I’m sure we will,” Hayley said with conviction. “Bye, Ana. Call me, okay?”
“Naturally. Bye, Hayley.”
She looked back once, when she’d left their apartment. Hayley gave a little wave, then closed the door. Ana blew out a breath and glanced out a window at the end of the hall.
It was snowing outside.
She shivered, wishing she could stay in this warm, homey building forever, but squared her shoulders and headed down the stairs and out into the cold.
The wind sliced at her face and pushed her hood off of her head. Ana squinted her eyes against the snow. Headlights pierced the white in the parking lot outside the dorms and she could make out two tall, lean figures. Dom and Felix.
“Stop it,” she muttered when butterflies started fluttering in her stomach. “Butterflies are supposed to be migrated to South America right now, where it’s warm. Shoo.”
Naturally, they didn’t.
She glared at the snow, but mentally thanked the person who decided to put the apartment complex right next to the campus. It was a pretty short walk to Felix’s car. The trunk was open and both of the guys’ packs were already in there. Ana stuffed hers in too, then closed the door with freezing hands.
Dom was standing outside the driver’s door – good grief, those blasted flutters just wouldn’t leave - and Felix was sitting in that seat. Ana arched an eyebrow at them, pulling her hood back up. “Care to share what’s going on now?”
“Apparently we’re murderers,” Dom said bluntly.
He just nodded. “Eeyup.”
She stared at him, then Felix. She was about to ask if they really thought she’d believe that and tell them to grow up and leave the pranks alone during finals week, but the gravity in their faces stopped her. That wasn’t feigned.
But it was just so out of the blue. And so… bizarre. They didn’t expect her to just believe that, did they? “But- How- And who-“
“Yes, yes, shocking, can we please react while we’re driving away?” Felix asked, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel. “Personally, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. That’s just me.”
“Same,” she said blankly, getting in. Her mind couldn’t wrap itself around the concept and kept spurting out question after question, but she was momentarily speechless.
It had to be a dream. That was it. She’d just roll with it, like Felix had said, and then the police would come or whatever and she’d wake up when they got tossed in jail or something. She’d tell them in the morning and they’d have a laugh about it.
“Goodbye future,” Dom said as he climbed in.
Felix waited until they were both buckled up before started down the road towards the freeway. “Neither of you have your phones, right? They can track those.”
Dom began to shake his head, then stopped and reached into his pocket. “I have mine. Hold on.” He rolled down his window and looked at the cheap touch-screen. “Goodbye to you as well.” With that, he tossed it.
The wind from the window was freezing. She shivered, and it kind of hit her then that this was real. She couldn’t feel temperatures in dreams.
Oh, okay then, she thought with this strange sense of calm.
Ana gazed at her backpack. Her phone, it was in there. She pulled it out and tossed it out the window too. She couldn’t even hear the crack it made against the road over the wind.
The windows were rolled up. It was painfully silent. Suddenly, she could feel laughter bubbling up in her stomach, but she couldn’t laugh. This was serious. She bit her lip, and just as abruptly, she felt sick and dizzy.
Snap out of it, Savalas.
Ana closed her eyes tightly. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then leaned forward. “Okay, Mystery Man. Care to offer a more detailed explanation for this, such as why we’re apparently murderers now?”
“There seems to be a video of us,” Dom said. “Aside from that, I don’t know much.”
“I have an uncle in the police force,” Felix said, not looking back. “He told me that they got a video from a security camera of a store down close to where we were earlier today. It had us killing people for a lark. Twenty-three. My uncle said that they’ve got solid DNA evidence. He also said that he knows we didn’t do it and to get our asses on the road before the police and feds come. I’ve got no idea as to how he knows that.”
Ana sat back. “Whoa.”
“Geez,” Dom muttered.
“But…” She furrowed her brow. “I can come up with an explanation for the DNA, but the video….”
“I don’t know….”
Felix shook his head. “Don’t know. But we can’t exactly say we didn’t do it when there’s that.”
“No….” Ana pressed her hands against her temples. Her head hurt.
“True…,” Dom sighed. “Why must everything be so complicated?”
“C’est la vie,” Felix said. “That’s life.”
“Mummy’s going to be so mad,” she murmured to herself. She sat up straight and clenched her hands together in her lap. “Any idea where to?”
Her voice wasn’t as strong as she would have liked. It sounded small to her ears.
She could hear the grimace in Felix’s voice. “Nope. Just away.”
“Wherever the wind blows, I suppose,” Dom said.
But it wasn’t lovely, not at all.
Her mind took off at a million miles an hour. It hurt, to think that hard. She wasn’t sleepy anymore. She watched the snow fall and the sagebrush and the hills and the far-off specks of wild horses streak past as Felix put his foot down on the accelerator. She couldn’t even see Killdeer anymore.
I left my hot chocolate in the microwave.
And I forgot my guitar. I can’t believe I forgot my guitar.