Excerpt From The Playlist Diaries- Part 2
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
When Stacie and I burst out onto the back deck of the house, it felt like breaking to the surface of a pool after being held under water for too long. A myriad of smells punched me in the gut as I gasped in the summer air. Newly shorn grass, spiced with sweet clover; wet dank mud, swirled with cow manure; tangy smoke so faint it seemed to have traveled some great distance, then dissolved right at our feet. The smells of a farm. The smells of a life that used to be mine, back before my mom decided she wanted to take an art class at Indiana University to ‘do something for herself for once’ and met Karen; then ended up doing way more for herself than my dad and I ever expected she could. Funny how one seemingly simple decision ended up changing all of our lives forever.
I wanted to stand on that deck staring out at the shadowed pastures and just suck it all in; let myself be taken back to my old life for just a little while longer. But then a guy brushed by my shoulder and headed down the stairs.
Stacie and I looked at each other and shouted, “Scott!” at exactly the same time. She and I were obviously thinking the same thing about how I was going to get away from Jimmy.
We caught up with him as he headed toward the driveway.
“Scott! Wait a minute!” I called out.
Scott whirled around. His thick shock of brown hair fell over one eyebrow. Seeing us, he broke into an enormous smile. “Hey, ladies, what can I do for you?”
“Are you leaving? Can I go with you?” I begged, looking up at him. Scott was a senior, just like Jimmy; wore a letter jacket like him too, although Scott had earned his varsity letters for tennis, not basketball, which didn’t really count for much around here.
He looked surprised, but reached out for my hand. “Shit yeah, Red… I’d love that.”
“Ugh, Scott, not like that!”
He let go of my hand, looking disappointed. “Well, like what then?”
Scott was my best friend next to Stacie, so I wasn’t really that worried about pissing him off. We were both used to this dance. We’d go along as normal friends, then he’d ask me out on a date. I’d say, “that’s incestuous Scott… you’re like my brother!” and he’d act offended and I’d have to force myself to say something nice to him. Then we’d be friends until he tried to ask me out again. Repetitive, but in a sweet, kind of reassuring way.
“She needs to get out of here,” Stacie said. A door slammed behind us. When I looked back at the house, Jimmy was leaning on the deck railing above us, pointing at me and mouthing the word later so exaggeratedly it looked like his lips were made of Silly Putty.
“That’s why she has to get out of here.” Stacie nodded at the deck. “Do you have your car?”
“No, my cousin’s coming to get me.”
“Which one?” I asked. “Frank? J.B.? Butch?” Around here, people had so many cousins they couldn’t keep track of them all. Which, for some reason, they all seemed to think was a good thing.
“No, my cousin Will.”
Stacie and I must have looked confused, because he went on. “He’s in college. Maybe you don’t know him?” Scott seemed surprised by that possibility.
As if cued by a hidden movie director, a white car roared up the dirt road and skidded to a stop beside us, churning up a cloud of dust worthy of the General Lee on the Dukes of Hazzard show. Music blared from the speakers. Loud, familiar, but something I still couldn’t quite name.
“That’s him now,” Scott said, reaching for the door handle that was somehow perfectly aligned with where he stood on the grass.
“C’mon, you guys can go with us,” Scott said, climbing into the back seat.
I took a step to leave, relieved to finally have a way out of there, but Stacie hesitated. “Actually, you go… I’m going to stay here.”
“Really? You’re going to stay here? By yourself?” I suddenly wasn’t so sure about my plan. Stacie and I always did everything together.
“Michelle’s here. I won’t be alone. And I uh, kinda wanted to see if…” she trailed off.
“See if you could run into Mark?” Mark was Stacie’s latest crush, the reason we were even at the party for the basketball players in the first place. It seemed there were some of the unwashed masses that Stacie had developed a bit of a tolerance for.
“Well, yeah.. maybe… He asked if I’d come tonight.”
“Hey you!” A voice barked at me from inside the waiting car. “You going with us or not?”
When I turned, the driver was leaning over the guy in the passenger seat. His face was in shadows, but the outline of him looked really cute. Dark hair, waving and dipping almost too perfectly, kind of like John Travolta’s.
“I’m coming. Just give me a minute already!” I yelled back at him.
When I turned back to Stacie, she raised her eyebrows, nodding at the car. “Shit. He looks cute.” I swear to God, the two of us possessed the exact same brain.
I grilled Stacie to make sure she really wanted to stay without me. But before I could make completely sure she was okay, Scott’s cousin barked, “Get in the car already!” sounding really annoyed now.
I rolled my eyes. Gave Stacie a hug and whispered in her ear. “Why do all the cute ones have to be assholes?”
Stacie pushed me toward the back seat. I laughed as I climbed in the car, thinking of how funny my asshole comment was. I was glad to be getting away from Jimmy, at least for now. I couldn’t believe I’d been searching for a way out and then poof, out of nowhere, I’d found it. At least the Universe had finally gotten one thing right tonight.
There was no way I could have known then, the magnitude of that moment. Of how that open car door was about to reveal to me way more than just a red leather back seat and a cooler full of free beer. It was such a simple decision to get in that car that night. But little did I know, it was about to change my life.