Unhappy endings can be just as cheap as happy endings.— David O. Russell
Highly uncomfortable, after having been hit on and wolf whistled at countless times by men lining the wooded roads with seemingly nowhere to go and nothing better to do than to loiter and drink from dusk till dawn, one attempt cruder and weirder than the next, Ezzy had found some run-down bar, which she had originally mistaken for a food truck. The barkeep, who dressed like the sexy twenty-something she probably had been twentyish years ago had the raspy voice and ways to match the overall impression Ezzy had gotten, the large scar running across her face just completed the cliche.
“What will it be, sweetheart?” she roared at Ezzy, in a voice that would make Rod Stewart jealous, while not even trying to hide the fact she was measuring her up head to toe.
“Ahem … just some soda, please. Like Coke Zero or Diet Pepsi.”
“Hun, we’re not a fancy milk bar, we don’t do the low-calorie stuff here, my patrons don’t need to watch their figures they need all the energy they can get, even with their booze. So, you want a regular soda and what?”
“Just soda. I don’t care, any soda, surprise me. And ice.”
“We use plain club soda to water down booze that would put hair on your chest, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking it plain, it’s nasty. So, what’s your poison, chica? Bet you are a vodka girl.”
Some other patrons laughed harder than necessary.
“Yeah, none of us would want hair in places it doesn’t belong.” one of them said, causing more laughter. Esmée had to force herself to not roll her eyes. How was that funny at all?
“Just … wine then. Do you have that?” she asked the barkeep.
“Red or white?”
“What kind of whites do you have?”
“The kind from a box. This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton, hun. Clearly you are not from ’round here, so are you lost? Need directions?”
“I do actually. Do you know where Michael lives?”
“I know many Michaels. Does yours have a last name?”
Oh! Oops. Never before had it occurred to Ezzy that she didn’t know his last name. Had she forgotten or had he never even told her? She couldn’t say for sure.
“I don’t know. He’s about 6’4″, I’d say, slender, but broad shoulders, very athletic, as in … muscular, he has longer, dark brown, shaggy hair and intense eyes, like green and yellow … ahem … I think. Maybe they’re hazel and yellow.” Holy heck, do I know ANYTHING about that man?! she thought to herself.
“What do you want with that Michael?” the barkeep inquired.
“Do you know him then?” Ezzy answered with a question of her own.
“Like I said, I know many Michaels and half the men I know fit your description, none of them like their whereabouts handed out freely. In case you missed it, this is a working-class town, or was, before all the work dried up, half the men here were lumberjacks, dockworkers or in construction, now they do whatever gets food on the table, the rough type that doesn’t always play nice with everyone and who get twitchy when outsiders come looking for them. You do not look like any of those Michaels’ type. So?”
“I need to talk to him. My Michael, I mean. Well, he’s not really MY Michael, he’s … uh … anyway, I just need to talk to him. He knows me. He and I have some … unfinished personal business.”
Sadly, her inquiries went nowhere, even though she suspected the barkeeper knew more than she let on, including exactly which Michael Esmée was looking for, yet the woman wouldn’t divulge even the slightest hint.
But Ezzy’s luck turned, simply by going to the bathroom, which was basically a rundown building reeking of years’ worth of urine stains, the small front room with the sink barely big enough for one person to turn around in, the separate room containing the toilet not meant for people with claustrophobia.
On her way out, a girl pushed her way in, cornering Ezzy.
“Heard you’re looking for Michael. Try the old trailer park, near the mill. Go down that road you came up by to get to the bar but turn right at the crossroads and then follow the stream. Take a left at the old mill, you’ll see a bridge on the right. Keep going till it dead ends. Can’t miss it.”
Ezzy thanked her, but the girl just walked out without another look.
About 30 minutes later Ezzy was still stumbling down dark dirt roads, utterly lost after having gotten confused with where to take lefts and rights, usually she followed the canned voice from the GPS of her phone, not someone’s rattled down instructions. The sun had already set, it was getting dark around her, the twilight magnified by the tall thick trees. Ezzy had no idea how to get back to find her car, leaving her scared. Naturally, there was no cell phone reception at all. Cursing and frustrated, Ezzy tried to hold the phone up as high as she could reach, standing on her tippy toes, but it made no difference.
What if it got dark and she was all alone here in the forest without any way to call for help, nor able to find her way back to her car? Hopefully her car was even still there and intact, with the shady people around here, no telling.
“Long way from Windenburg, pretty Little Red Riding Hood.” a male voice startled her. A familiar voice.
Ezzy turned around to find him peeling away from a tree he had been leaning up against and was now coming over to her. She sighed a sigh of relief.
“Michael! Thank goodness I found you.”
“You didn’t. I found you. I heard you were looking for me, wish you weren’t. Why are you here?”
“We need to talk. I haven’t heard from you since that night at my home, you haven’t come back in over a week. I was … worried.”
“Worried? I thought I made myself perfectly clear. You chose your side, there is no room in your life for me.”
“I didn’t choose sides! I chose nothing. My sister did! Am I supposed to cut ties with my sister because of whom she loves, whom she’s married to, because of you? Never ever! We are triplets!”
“Triplets? You, Emmy and your alter ego?” Michael let out a brief chuckle.
“Emmy and I have a brother. Ewan. And two younger siblings, twins. We’re a big family and very close.”
“Are they all fang-lovers too?” Michael’s question was almost a snarl.
“No. We tolerate Connell because of Emmy. Once we found out what he was, it was a huge drama for a long time, my dad is still not 100% on board with it, but as long as Connell makes Emmy happy, he is welcome. Ewan’s dating a nice girl with purple hair named Ashley, whom that shithead made his assistant against my wishes. He works at my company too. The other two just graduated high school and are just dating here and there, nothing serious far as I know.”
“YOUR company, Mr. Jamie Cameron. Retirement becomes you. You just can’t help yourself, huh?” Michael teased.
“Fine. My grandpa’s company. Happy? Why do you always hold that over my head? I am running the place, it’s as good as mine.”
“Don’t like the truth?” Michael chuckled.
“I do, which is why I am here. You didn’t come back to talk about everything, like a man, so I chose to be the one with the bigger balls in this relationship and …”
“Whoa whoa whoa … what relationship?” Michael cut her off, clearly affecting Ezzy with his rejection.
“Okay, what would you call what we have. Or had?” she corrected.
“Functional. Beneficial for both sides. Fun while it lasted.” Michael listed his description.
“So, that’s all I was to you then? A friend with benefits.”
“We were never friends, Ezzy.”
“WOW! I really was just a fuck-buddy to you then. Got it. At least now I know for sure where I rank. Sorry to have bothered you. I guess I got my answer.”
Ezzy turned to leave but stumbled, causing her to lose her balance, she knew she’d fall and closed her eyes, flailing her arms, yet before she could hit the ground, she was being held up in Michael’s strong arms, she could feel his muscles flex through his layers of clothing and hers, making her heart jump, despite the bad note they were currently on with each other, as she felt the heat he always seemed to radiate, even on a chilly night as this.
She opened her eyes, meeting his, lingered, turning into a gaze way too long to be casual. Michael reacted first, realizing the moment had turned down a path he didn’t want it to go, frowned, then sat Esmée down and stepped backwards some. Ezzy was still getting her bearings about herself when she wondered out loud.
“How … how did you do this? So fast. Just like when you left my house that last time. I didn’t even see you move and you were gone. Just gone without a trace or telling me goodbye.”
“I think you already know the answer to that. No way did the vamp not tell you everything he thinks he knows about me like a little high school girl would about their crush.” Michael told her, ending it by snorting to make a statement of his disdain.
“So, it’s true. It’s real. You are real.”
Michael smirked in a devilish way.
“I think I have proven to you more than enough how real I am. How quickly they forget.”
“You know what I mean. I am not talking about sex right now, not even jokingly. Not in the mood. This is serious. You are a … a … you … are …”
“Go ahead. Say it. Call me by the name the fang gave you for me.” Michael challenged.
“Okay. Werewolf. You are a lyco-something. I think that’s what Connell called it.”
Michael tilted his head.
“What else did he tell you?”
“That it’s a curse, uncontrollable for the most part. Dangerous.” Ezzy listed what she remembered.
“Yet, here you are. Alone. Did you not believe him? I am surprised he didn’t flesh it all out for you more, plain and factual doesn’t sound like the vamps, they like things melo-dramatic and with lots of pomp and circumstance. Or did you believe him and are here to lure me into some trap? Did you bring him? Are he and his wretched, fanged friends waiting in the wings to strike. Or is this your leverage? I do whatever it is you want from me, or else, you will lead them here.”
“Relax, I came alone. Besides, they already know you are here in Moonwood Mill, how do you think I knew where to look for you in the first place? You gave me nothing to go on, I know absolutely NOTHING about you, not even a last name. Surprised you even gave me your real first name. Your archenemy knows more about you than I do. Really sad, if you think about it.”
“There was no need to exchange details. My first name and my number was all you needed for what we wanted to do with each other. If what you are saying is true, then I still don’t understand what you are doing here, Esmée.”
“I am here because I had to see for myself if it’s true, cos I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe you’d hide something like that from me for so long. I can’t believe I didn’t notice anything. Whatever it was that we had for all those months was really just meaningless to you, wasn’t it?” the pain Esmée felt reflected in her words.
“If roles were reversed, do you think YOU would have told me? Or anyone? And if you made it a habit to tell people, including those who are just distant acquaintances, do you think you’d live long to tell the tale?” Michael challenged.
“Are you threatening me again? Don’t you have any other gear when things get uncomfortable? Connell was right, vampires are more in control than you and your kind, he at least tried to explain things to me, calmly, he didn’t threaten me once, even though I clearly frustrated him a lot.” Ezzy told him defiantly.
“Are you listening to me? I am not threatening you either, Ezzy, you’re smarter than that. I am talking about society. If someone like me were to go around sharing this kind of secret and details about me like cheap candy, I wouldn’t be here standing in front of you now. I’d have died many years ago, hunted down like a rabid dog, God knows they tried. People I used to trust, used to love, had known all my life tried to kill me for what I had become through no fault of my own. I didn’t ask to become THIS. I was scared, confused, all alone and hunted. But I am, what I am, and I have to live with it, shunned by society, always looking over my shoulder. So, pardon me for not welcoming you with open arms, cos I never know whom I can trust, not even if they are like me. I know the fangs like to pride themselves in nearly bringing my kind to extinction, and that’s certainly true, but ironically, the fangs, the witches and my kind share a common enemy, one more dangerous than any single one of us, even though devoid of any special powers and weaker than any of us supernaturals. Regular mortals, those with strong ideas of what’s right and what’s wrong, condemning anything that doesn’t fit their playbook to eradication, always finding ways to eliminate anything that doesn’t fit into their rigid convictions, including women, children and elders, as well as their own if they don’t fit the rules.”
“Well, I am neither here to kill you nor to rat you out to anyone and I think you should know me well enough to know that by now. I wanted to know for sure that it’s true what Connell said about you, and it is. I think everything Connell said about you was true, including the things that have nothing to do with your … condition. Guess I am just a fool. You’re right, coming here was a mistake, but one I can fix. Can you point me to my car? I parked on a small parking lot somewhere near that weird bar and got lost trying to find you.” Ezzy seemed defeated and sad.
“If you were in my shoes, Ezzy, would you let you just leave? Would you take the risk?”
“Yes, I would. Why not? What do you think I am gonna do with all this, Michael? I think you know I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you, despite of everything. I mean, what’s the point? I don’t get anything out of that. I don’t hurt less by hurting you back. You seem to enjoy being cruel. I am not like that, no matter what you think of me and my choices.”
“How have I hurt you, Esmée?” Michael’s question was sincere.
“You said a lot of very cruel things to me the last time we saw each other. Maybe they were true, maybe not, but that doesn’t mean you had the right to say them the way you did and just leave me like that, without being able to react, to defend myself, to explain. You just … left me. All alone, with the pain you caused me. Now I know why. You just don’t care about me. I was a toy, a plaything to you, and I was seeing something that was never real.” Esmée looked at the verge of crying, which made Michael’s facial expression change, as he appeared to be reading in her eyes, then tried to grab her wrist, but she fought him off.
“Don’t touch me!” she snapped and surprisingly, he obliged.
“I will take you to your car, Ezzy, but I need you to promise me a few things. NEVER EVER tell anyone about this place, about me, and never ever come back here. You haven’t the faintest idea how dangerous it was for you to come here alone, how much your life is at risk just standing here. I’ll make sure you get to your car safely and to the main road, but you must promise me to never return here. Can you do that for me?”
This time a tear stole away from her eye, which she quickly wiped off, while averting her face, clearing her throat.
“I don’t need you to take me anywhere, I am not a child. You just need you to point. Just need directions. I can find my own way. Alone. I don’t need you, or anyone.”
“Fair enough, but I have to take you back or will not make it home. Just believe me there and remember my words.”