The way she was bleeding told me two things; they got her too good for her to be on her feet anymore and I needed someplace to park her that’d buy me some getaway time.
“You think I’m gonna be okay, Trav?” she asked around the wincing and quiet sobs. Tear-streaked and pleading. I looked down to her, saw she’d bled on all that hard-earned money and wanted to say no just because it might be ruined cuz she don’t know how to take a damn hit.
“Yeah. I’m just plottin’ our next move, is all.” I lie and pat her on the head. Feel like I’m petting a loyal dog. Mostly am.
“I could use a cigarette.”
I peek; see I’ve got half a pack. Half a pack was never too many in my book. “Sorry babe. Down to one. Anyway, you shouldn’t be pollutin’ those lungs right this second. You need good ‘ol H-2-O. Okay?”
“You’re probably right.” She said. Tears freshened her cheeks, and if I was the cryin’ kind, I oughta be doin’ the same. She’ll get lucky and drop dead here in just a second. I’m the one they’re gonna be huntin’ for.
We were lost in a maze of cars. Late night theater attached to some outdoor mall. Must’ve been playin’ the summer blockbusters cuz this place was stuffed fuller than the kitty when we finally got our hands on it. Gettin’ it was easy. Gettin’ out, now that was ugly.
“One last score, baby, then it’s you and me livin’ the good life,” was always my line on her. Always. She bought it as much as them church folk bought it when they heard Jesus forgives you. And just as much as they went off to sin again, I went off to dig up a bigger score. Life is a circle. And now she up and ended it.
I could hear them shoutin’ off in the background. It’s my luck the girl gets lead poisonin’ and I get the price on my head. That’s the other circle in my life. I swear. I know how to pick ‘em.
Like daddy said before he’d beat me good, time for the hard choices. At least I got ‘em. She don’t. Not anymore. She looked up to me, said—
“I need a doctor, Trav,” I told him, tucking my bottle blonde hair behind my ears.
“The cops will be watchin’ the hospitals,” he said, scooping a handful of blood-stained dollars from my purse and stuffing them into his shirt.
I hid my face behind my hand and coughed, turning my palm bright red. “Then just leave me in the parking lot. You know I won’t tell the law nothing.”
“Yeah, I know, babe.” His words hung between us like an untaken breath. The rail of coke I’d let him snort off my tits in the motel room earlier still lurked in the whites of his eyes. He could only meet my gaze for a second before turning away. Those eyes now betraying him like I never would. I looked away too and wondered why hard-learned truths were the only kind I had ever known.
Distant sirens played in the streets like sad songs on late night radio. Travis dropped my purse and bent down. “Look I’m sorry, baby,” he said, planting a kiss on my forehead. There was nothing left to say, but he never did know when to quit. I guess that’s why I went with him in the first place. He lit up a cigarette and spoke around it. “I mean, it ain’t like it was love or nothin’.”
Those words hurt as much as getting shot. Maybe more. “I guess not,” I said and clawed at my purse, daubing the fake leather with bloody fingerprints. Seems that fake was just how we rolled.
“Then we’re cool, right?” He cracked that smile of his, the one that only went up one side of his face; the one that used melt me like asphalt in July.
I reached in the purse and pulled out the little .22 he got me for my birthday. Flowers had never been his style. I aimed at the place where his heart should have been and let his crooked smile falter for just a moment before squeezing the trigger and wiping it away.
“Yeah, we’re cool, baby.”