Game On

I dive into the back of the taxi, chest heaving as the scent of fake leather and fast food wraps around my body.

            “Thomas!”

            My heart spikes and I scramble to right myself as I reach for the handle. Just as the door slams closed, a brunette woman collides with it, hands flattening against the window. I swallow as my eyes focus on her talon life nails, painted a baby pink with glistening gemstones on the ends.

            “Drive!” I tell the driver as I watch those manicured hands curl into fists. She reaches for the handle and I flatten my hands over the lock, keeping them there as if some magic force would lift it.

            Knowing this nut job, it wouldn’t surprise me if she had some black magic hidden up her sleeve.

            The driver steps on the gas and the brunette fades into the distance, mouth moving at a frightening pace. I press myself flat against the seat, sinking down. The crinkling sound of wrappers draws my eyes to the floor, to the mountain of McDonald’s paper bags.

            “Bad Valentine’s?” The driver asked, pulling my gaze from his trash stash and to the dark browns that stare at me in his rearview mirror.

            “Oh yeah,” I start, forcing my muscles to relax after the marathon of hide-and-seek I’d just escaped from. “The worst.” I glance out the rear window to make sure miss psycho isn’t following us. She’s nuts, but I don’t know what all her levels of nuts entailed.

            “Clingy girlfriend?”

            “More like satanic enemy.”

            The driver makes a noise and I give him a look before a gleam of silver catches my attention. A cross dangles from his rearview mirror. I clear my throat and try to smile.

            “I mean,” my mind reaches for a save, anything to fix the mistake I’d made. “A clingy ex?” I flinch at the words. “Actually, no, uh, just a prank taken way too far.”

            The driver eyes me, judgement clear on his wrinkled, dark-skinned features. “Whatever you say, kid. Where to?”

            I open my mouth to reply when my phone buzzes with an incoming message.

            “How’d she get my freaking number?” Message after message from someone who could only be the clingy brunette fills my screen. If it weren’t for the telltale blackmail picture of my childhood friend beside one, Kadence’s text would have been lost in the swarm. “Jes-”

            The driver shoots me a look.

            “Jello squares.”

            Jello squares?

            I’m realizing that today just isn’t my day as I open the message, a low growl rumbling in my chest.

            K: how was the date? love at first sight?

            T: oh yeah, already planning the wedding.

            Little bubbles float at the bottom of the screen before disappearing and then reappearing. My stomach turns over at the sight, my foot tapping away on the cab floor.

            K: ooh, I call first speech. people need to know I’m to thank for the couple.

            I click my tongue. Cocky, egotistical little-

            T: what makes you think you’re even invited?

            K: 😦

            “Where am I taking ya, kid?” The question is tinged with impatience.

            “Oh, uh,” a small ding draws my eyes back to the screen.

            K: fine, I see how it is. no respect for your friends.

            My fingers slam out my reply as the taxi driver falls to the back of my thoughts.

            T: I’ll get you back for this Kade. you won’t know what’s hit you until it’s too late.

            The bubbles appear, disappear, reappear. The entire time I picture her, sitting on her plush pink comforter, PlayStation 4 controller beside her, video game paused. Her obsidian waves would be pulled high in a messy bun, a few strands would have come loose, hanging in her crystalline blue eyes. A devilish smile would curl her pink lips as she composes her reply.

            My body shoots to the right as the driver veers to the side of the road, pulling into an empty parking space. The doors unlock and he glares.

            “Look, either tell me where I’m goin’ or get another taxi.”

            “I-” the message comes in and my brows shoot up. My lips twitch, flutters coming to life in my stomach. I shift in my seat as my grip on the phone tightens.

            K: I’d like to see you try. You might be top of the social totem pole at school, but you’re nothing in my world, pretty boy.

            I look up at the driver. His arm rests around the back of the passenger seat, his body careened towards me. The pads of his fingers tap away on his steering wheel. He looks at me with a well? expression.

            “223 West Ave. Lincoln Street.” I said as I type out my reply,

            T: Game on, loser girl.

*****

“Whatcha thinking about, pretty boy?” Small arms wrap around my waist, her body pushing against my back. I blink, surfacing from the memory and focusing on the sizzling breakfast in the pan. The bacon pops and sizzles, grease nipping at my arms. A smile touches my lips as I flip the thin strips of meat.

“Nothing in particular, gamer girl.”

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