Return to Home by Missy Walker
March 14 - Manhattan
I snuck out of the Karaoke club. I couldn’t be here anymore. They’d understand.
Jasmine and Amber belted out, rather boisterously, Luis Fonsi’s Despacito when I slipped away to find the man I hadn’t seen in five years. My best friends weren’t alone. They had the golden tones of Kit Jones, international rockstar from band Four Fingers and Jasmine’s boyfriend. I glanced over my shoulder as I exited the building. As grateful as I was that Kit flew us over to see Jasmine, watching them together turned my stomach into knots. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy beyond words for Jazzie, but that look he gave her reminded me of my pain. Once upon a time I was the single most important person to Blake Carter. Or so I thought.
The blast chill in the night sky hit me like a slap to the face. I pulled my purple thrift coat tighter around my waist and hailed a taxi with the other hand. Was I really doing this?
“Where to?” The middle-aged man’s accent was thick, his smile unusually warm.
“Corner of Lexington and East 65th Street please.” The address burned a hole in my pocket, but I needn’t look at the crumpled piece of paper that hid in there.
No backing out now Lily.
Years ago, Blake’s dad, Alistar had scribbled his son’s Manhattan address on the notepad beside the house phone. Letting it sit and gather a film of dust like the yellow pages stacked next to it was tempting. But I couldn’t do it. I’d memorised the address before the ink had even dried. As much as Blake had ruined me, he’d saved me too, and I just couldn’t ignore that. Plus, Alistair hadn’t seen his son in five years—he was afraid of flying. So if he couldn’t go and see his son then I’d visit him for the both of us.
I settled in the back seat feeling the cab accelerate toward the destination. Nerves stretched my nervous system so I took a lungful of air to steady myself.
Both Blake and Alistair were the family I never had. They didn’t need to try as hard as my aunt, who became my legal guardian at age fourteen. We jelled, the three of us; me, Blake, sixteen at the time we met, and his dad, Alistair.
The day I arrived in Seaview I remembered running out of my Aunt’s house into the overgrown backyard. Orphaned by a car accident that claimed the lives of my parents, tears streamed down my face. I was grief stricken and broken. I hid in the overgrown backyard where my aunt couldn’t find me. Both anger and sadness coursing through my veins. In that moment, starting a new school and living a life without my parents was just too much to take.
So when a basketball landed over the fence—just missing my head—I immediately sent it back over like a bullet. All my anger and confusion in that single pass.
That’s when Blake, the neighbor with sandy hair and a Kris-Kross singlet popped his head over the fence.
“That’s some arm you got there,”he said without noticing my burning, swollen eyes. “You must be the new neighbor. Wanna come over and shoot hoops with me and my dad?”
Meeting Blake Carter, without putting the C in cliche, twisted my stomach into knots and made me forget, for the time I was with him, about being alone. So naturally, I wanted to spend every waking moment with him… and we did.
He wasn’t like the other boys I knew. I was fourteen; he was sixteen. Tall, lean with muscles, sandy brown hair and green eyes that made my heart flutter. Over time my daily visits through the wonky fence palings grew into something else. I’d zhuzh up my blonde hair, draw on some blue eyeliner to match my baby blues and blot on some lip gloss, before popping over. Then my outfits changed. I’d opt for short shorts I knew would steal his attention or a tank top to show my flat stomach. He’d seek ways to touch me more. A slight finger grazed or hand fell around my hip when we played ball. Fast forward to his Graduation dinner. Followed by the after-party at an oceanfront mansion. He took my V-card in his best-mates bedroom, and then left… the goddamn country.
The cab pulled to an abrupt halt. “We’re here.”
Trying to shake the past I pulled my coat tighter around my waist. Glancing out the window, little veined icicles sprouted on the glass. My warm breath fogged the taxi windows as it stood idling on the upper east side.
“That will be eleven twenty Miss.”
My heart thudded. Fuck, I was actually here. Now what?
The man cleared his throat, causing me to divert my attention to him. He scratched his beard, his worn eyes growing more impatient by the second.
“Yes, sorry.” I unzipped my cornflour blue crossbody bag and pulled out my coin purse.
“Where in Aussie, are you from?”
“A little town called Seaview. You’ve probably never heard of it.”
“It’s between the Gold Coast and Brisbane.”
“Queensland? Sure beats the hell out of our winters.”
“I don’t know how you stand it,” I said, trying to decipher American coins and notes that were mixed with Australian money.
“It’s milder now. Spring has sprung.”
“Here.” I handed over a note rather than bothering to find dimes and nickels amongst Australian coins, especially after the effects of downing three merlots.
“Thanks, mate,” he said in the worst attempt at an Aussie accent I’d ever heard.
I laughed. “Your welcome Ahmed.” His name and picture on the taxi ID card on the car dash distracting me from what was about to happen.
I stared at the front door of the apartment building, ornate lighting lit up the white block facade. Umbrellaed by a massive awning, the main steel door and black arched windows framed the grand entranceway. Crisscrossed with black metal, they led to a foyer, with a chandelier too ostentatious to put into words.
My heart thundered. What should I do now? I hadn’t actually thought it through.
Would I just buzz his apartment? It was after eleven at night. Would he even be home? It was Saturday night in bustling Manhattan.
“Are you getting out now?” Ahmed shifted in his driver’s seat and stared.
Dammit! I hadn’t seen him in five years. I’d probably never see him again. There was no way I could afford a ticket to New York.
“Yes, I should go, shouldn’t I?” I chewed the edge of my nail.
Ahmed’s brows pinched together.
Fuck, he must have thought I was an idiot.
Car lights streamed through the windscreen. I put my hand up to my eyes, shielding the flow of high beams temporarily blinding me.
“Turn off your beamers!” Ahmed yelled out the window, but they wouldn’t hear from that far away. “You alright, sugar?”
I wasn’t sure if he was referring to my temporary blindness or because my ass couldn’t move from the cab.
“You know you certainly don’t fit the criteria of New York cabbies.” I said.
“You obviously haven’t read the Lonely Planet’s guide to Manhattan. Crazy drivers, rude as hell. Moody. You know?”
He laughed. “Ah. Well, I was born in Cairo, I’ve been doing this for only two years. Give it time.” He turned toward the glaring lights. “Actually, this idiot is bothering me. Watch this.”
He lowered the rest of the window and stuck his head out. “Hey you’re blinding us over here.” He yelled to the cab driver opposite.
“Fuck off.” A voice from outside yelled back. The driver opposite pulled out, his high beams no longer streaming in and blinding Ahmed and me.
“Well, there you have it. A bit of New York tailor-made just for you.”
I laughed. “Thanks.”
He regarded me and I realized I still hadn’t moved from my seat. Well, it’s now or never. My focus fell upon the entranceway as I pulled my bag toward me. A man and woman walked toward the double doors. Her hand fell into his trench. The woman draped across him, unsteady on her feet and dressed like she was boarding a flight to Miami.
Under the glow of the foyer lights, she pushed him against the wall. Shoving her tongue down his throat.
“Get a room,” Ahmed yelled then he turned to me. “Hey I’m getting good at this!”
Jez, what have I started! The well-dressed man pulled back from sucking off the woman’s face. Dressed in a woolen trench, scarf and pointy shoes, the man staring toward the cab was familiar. I froze. It was the same cut of his jaw, full lips, and almond-shaped eyes that graced my dreams.
Shit. Blake stared into the taxi. My stomach flipped in two as emotion clogged my throat.
I leaned back, wanting the seat to disintegrate and swallow me.
“Ahmed drive,” I whispered.
“Go just go. Drive!”
My gaze was like glue as I pinned my head back. Blake stared back at me, but I was sure he couldn’t see inside the darkness of the cab.
“Mind your own business.” His voice echoed down the half empty street. His tone dark and more gravelly than I remembered.
“Ahmed, go now.” My voice was shaking.
With a quick glance in the rear mirror, Ahmed took me in. The car lurched forward a few seconds after that.
Tears pricked the backs of my eyes. But there was no way I’d let them spill over. I’d cried too many tears over Blake Carter. That chapter in my life was shut, well and truly.