I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

2-No Regrets

I pressed my foot harder on the accelerator and gunned it. No way was I missing the green light. The car rumbled, the sound coming from below where the battery was stored. And it was a big battery, since gas-emission cars had been illegal for the past two hundred and fifty years when the ozone layer faded away. At least that's what the history books said. The fact that it was making that noise was not good news. I'd have to check it...again. Later.

 After I shoved Brandon face first in a brick wall. To be honest, I was kind of looking forward to it. Our relationship was always a love-hate thing. Man, I was a messed up person. But then again, who wasn't?

The airport parking lot was packed. Five o' clock on a Tuesday and it was jam packed. Great. Of course the forces of fate weren't going to let me get done with this quickly. By the time I found a spot, the sun had set. I all but stormed into the airport and then the gate where Brandon was coming from. People kept a wide berth away from me. I didn't blame them. 

By the time I arrived at his gate, I didn't see him. It had been over an hour since he'd texted that he had landed. 

If he managed to charm his way out of security and left before I had got here, I was really going to bang his face into a brick wall, twice. I had his number, I could just call him. I should've just called him instead of standing here thinking about slamming heads into brick walls. There was no way I was calling him. If he didn't show I'd just go home and give him hell tomorrow. Just as I was about to spin on my heel and walk away I spotted his wavy brown hair and cocky grin that seemed to always be on his face. Oh, I really wanted to wipe that grin right off of his face. His hair was rumpled from the flight, and his shirt was slightly wrinkled. Normally, I would've found it adorable. 

"You have successfully ruined my week," I told him by way of greeting when he got within ear shot. 

His eyes widened. "Cerise..." 

I always hated how my name managed to sound like a nickname. And right now, I hated the sound of it on his lips. 

"And that is a very hard thing to do," I continued, ignoring him. "Especially considering that I successfully finished an invention yesterday and the library downtown reopened this morning." 

He blanched. "I'm sorry. What did I do?" 

Wow, so he was going to pull that card. "Why don't you tell me?" 

I swear I could see him remember every single thing he might've done to get me angry. Wow. So there was a list? I pulled out my phone and went to the picture I took of him with the president's niece. I didn't even know her name. Nor did I care. 

I flipped the screen and showed it to him, tapping my foot against the ground as I waited for him to come up with a response. His face paled further as he glanced between me and the picture. He knew I could be scary when I was angry. 

"How the hell did they get that on TV?" he muttered. 

"That's what you have to say?" I snapped. 

"Cerise, I'm-" 

"If you wanted to cheat on me, you could've done it after you broke up with me, then it wouldn't have been cheating and we wouldn't be having this conversation right now!" 

"But I don't want to break up with you." 

I scoffed. "Well, you should've thought about that before you go sticking your tongue down people's throats!" 

"Listen-" 

I spun on my heel and walked away. When he called my name I gave him a gesture over my shoulder and ran the rest of the way to my car, disappearing in the crowd until I couldn't hear him calling me. I didn't know why I ran. Was it because I was scared I would believe whatever he had to say? 

Back in my car, I stared at the steering wheel. Feeling, well nothing pretty much. I wasn't angry anymore since I was done with him. Even though I should be slightly regretful and upset. Before I caught him, he'd always been a nice boyfriend. But I felt...nothing. Other than the need to crash at my home and work on my projects. Maybe I just didn't do well with people. Most anyhow. Well sitting in a parking lot staring at the steering wheel was a pure waste of time so I turned the key, wincing when the car made that screeching, rumbling noise again and drove out. 

Back at the apartment, I found my aunt standing at the front door, a white box in her hands. I hoped she just came from the bakery because I really wanted a chocolate croissant right now. 

"Hey Auntie Evie," I called, using her nickname. 

She grinned when she saw me. I don't remember my mother's face but from a few pictures I know she looked similar to my aunt. Did her smile look like that too?

"I have something for you," she said, raising the box. 

"I hope it's dessert." 

I pulled out my home card and slid it into the slot above the doorknob. It beeped once and the door unlocked. Opening the door, I flipped the light switch on and my small, homey apartment came to view. 

"Sadly no, but it is a gift." 

"You know I love surprises." 

As usual, my aunt did a double take when she saw my apartment. She never got used to the mess of gadgets and supplies on every table-including the kitchen counter-and the stacks of books. I went to the cabinets and pulled out two mugs while my aunt made herself comfortable on the couch. I put two large spoons of hot cocoa powder in each cup before pouring the milk and warming them as I listened to my aunt. 

"I brought a few things of your maman." 

My hands stilled on the cups. "What's the occasion?" 

"I was actually supposed to give it to you on your eighteenth birthday, but, I'm sorry, when it happened I completely forgot so I figured I'd wait till your next birthday."

I wasn't surprised, nor did I blame her. With her hectic job as a teacher, she was often forgetting things. 

"So why now?" 

"I saw the news, figured you'd need it."

"Oh." 

"Honey-" 

"I'm fine, Auntie Evie. Really, I honestly don't even care," I said, clearing the coffee table and handing her a mug of delicious hot cocoa. 

A lie, when I was in bed tonight, I was totally going to care. 

Her aunt nodded as if that made perfect sense. "Your mom was like that too. Knew a bunch of people but cared-aggressively cared- for very few." She whistled. "But there wasn't a single thing she wouldn't do for them." 

I thought about what she said. I would move heaven and hell for Amanda, Amarantha and my aunt, but other people, even those I knew? It wouldn't make much a difference to me if they died tomorrow. That was probably a very cruel thought. 

"So what'd you bring?" Waiting was never my strong suit. 

Wordlessly, she slid the box over to me. With eager hands, I pulled the lid up. Nestled in the middle of the box was what looked like a photo album book and on top was a ring. It was gorgeous, gold in color with designs around the band and a small diamond set in the center. Immediately I knew that it was la maman wedding ring. Papa used to always keep it in a box in his bedroom but when he passed away it disappeared. I always thought my stepmom got rid of it. 

"Well I'll leave you to it, tomorrow's a school day and I promised my third graders that whoever comes on time gets a red licorice, unfortunately that means also have to be there on time," Auntie Evie said, brushing off non-existent dust or crumbs from her jeans. 

I nodded, thumbing through the picture book as my aunt put her mug in the sink and walked out. I may not have known maman, but I did miss her. A lot. Or maybe I missed the idea of her. The idea of having someone braid my hair or sing me lullabies when I was younger. But there was no point to thinking what could've been if she never died from that car accident.