Love is Blind, So is Revenge
by S. Tatalias
An 80,000 word, contemporary YA romance that collides with a fractured fairytale.
Furious abut her mom's new boyfriend and ignoring what killed her dad, Grace gravitates to Calvin's charisma and tequila shots. when his passion turns into abusive jealousy, she's in too deep to speak up. Two spirit guides, Red and Wolf, arrive to help, but old vendettas surface and everyone's stories intertwine. Fortunately, Grace meets Forrest and finds motivation to sober up and fight the craziness.
I pedal hard, using the speed to hop off the curb and cut across oncoming traffic. It earns me a honk. I wave, but don’t slow. I can’t stop now. If I do, I’ll explode. Or implode. Or spontaneously combust. Whatever happens, it won’t be pretty, and it’ll leave a sticky mess in the middle of the intersection.
So what if it’s only winter break? I’m never going back to school.
Of course, Mom has to signs the papers. Dad would’ve.
Whatever. I’m done with school whether she approves or not.
Nearly to the other side of the road, something furry flashes at my calf, something ruddy-colored and too large to be an ordinary dog. A wolf? Impossible in the city. With another car headed toward me, I kick and connect with air, nearly loosing balance. The wolf has vanished.
Skipping the stop sign, I earn another chorus of honks. My legs push, the pedals spin, the chain hums, and the wheels swoosh on wet pavement that glistens a million mirrored raindrops. I pass manicured trees squatting in the puddles of soil they’ve been allotted in the city’s sidewalk. I’m like them—planted and contained in this safe neighborhood.
Safe except for phantom wolves.
With hallucinations like that, who needs a drink? This last semester of school definitely fried my brain. And it had nothing to do with partying I should’ve never returned to last fall, not with my brain slam-dancing words and numbers off the pages, my mosh-pit mind opening my front door over and over and over again to stare at the police.
Zigzagging around pedestrians, strollers, Hummers and hybrids, I finally arrive at the top of the hill, chest heaving. Seattle spreads out below, the grid of streets, the smudge of cars, and people scurrying like ants racing between sugar cube buildings.
I’ve never gone down this hill without braking. Yet.
Why should I follow rules when life doesn’t?
If only I had a fairy godmother, complete with magic wand, dust, and time travel talents…last summer could be reversed. But life’s not a fairytale.
Time to take flight by myself.
The six months until regular graduation stretch to infinity, like a painting with a road disappearing into the horizon, similar to the undulating asphalt in front of me, dipping and dissolving into the city far below.
The rain dripping off my helmet sends a shiver down my back, but does nothing to cool me off. Burning out this fire with a bike ride is better than quenching it with a bottle.
There’s a stoplight halfway down the hill––the only one that could slow my flight. When it changes to red, I start counting. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty seconds…and the light blinks to green. To not brake, timing will be everything.
I wait until the light turns red again and push off. If I got it right, it will be green by the time I reach it.
I will not touch the brakes.
Gravity takes over, and the brick apartment buildings blur to a gray-brown smear in my peripheral vision. Something else grayish-brown is closer, almost at my heel. But I’m locked on the red light, staring down the eye of a demon and don’t dare turn my head even when I hear barking. If a giant dog wants to chase me, good luck to it. We’re both going to need it.
Thirteen seconds left till green if I’m counting right. And wrong? I’ll hit the red and at the speed I’m going, I won’t feel the impact of a car crossing the intersection, crossing into me.
My quads talk, a dull whispering ache, knees bent, legs holding my butt slightly off the seat to absorb the holes in the road where the newer skin of pavement has worn away, exposing the old cobblestone bones underneath.
“Grace!” someone shouts from the sidewalk. Maybe Josie.
My name distorts like the siren of a passing ambulance. I don’t turn my head. Got to stay focused. Stay on course. Mom’s mantra since Dad’s accident.
Six seconds left and the light’s still red. A few cars are waiting, the ones in the right lane are too close to the curb for me to squeeze past.
I swerve and shoot for the space between the stationary cars.
From the cross street, a car speeds left to right. It better be the last one running the yellow.
I pass the white line. The light changes.
On the other side of the intersection, my wheels lift off the flat part of the road, and then I plunge down what now looks like a near-vertical hill. My stomach lurches. Good. I finally feel the opposite of the numbness that settled in after Dad’s death.
Nearly at the bottom, people zoom into life-sized figures. I’m coming in too fast. I test the breaks. Nothing. Just a squeal. Hitting a pothole, I squeal too. My front wheel jerks left. Adrenaline charges to my toes, tingling every nerve. Speed wobbles would be deadly.
So would crashing into the people in the crosswalk.
One thing I learned from counseling is that I shouldn’t take others down with me. Guess I should’ve thought about that at the top of the hill. Better late than never.
I lean right, correcting, then tap, tap, tap the brakes. The intersection’s smack center and a solid red and filled with too many cars.
Squeezing the brake levers until it feels like the metal is melding with the bones of my hands, the rear wheel skids. I put my right leg down to keep from totally dumping. Miraculously, I stop. The thrum of the city rushes in.
Two bicycle couriers waiting for the red light stare. Despite the rain, one is dressed in tight racing shorts and shirt, all bare arms and bulging calves and biceps. He shakes his head and adjusts his bombproof backpack. The other, a girl in knee-length, cut-off army pants, says, “My company needs another fast girl. You want a job?”
“No.” I’m so high it’s all I can say.
Maybe bike riding can replace drinking.
I’m glowing from the inside out and everyone on the street, in shades of black and grey and blue, the somber dress code of Seattle, looks a step away from the zombie apocalypse.
A flash of crimson catches my eye. Standing on the corner is a girl in a long red cape with a hood. She’s wearing a flouncy blue and white checkered dress and fur boots like something from a fairytale. A wicker basket even hangs over her arm.
I wipe the rain from my eyes. The girl in the red cape remains.
Hallucinations that stay.
I like this buzz.
I gulp for breath, stomach in my throat from our sprint down the hill. “Wolf, I think she sees us.” I wave at the girl he just had to chase like a cow-herding dog. She’s staring at us, jaw open, not unlike a cow herself. Not that Wolf can see me wave since we’re stuck back-to-back. “What were you thinking?” I ask him. “If you ever run down a hill like that again, I’ll…I’ll…”
“You’ll what?” Wolf asks.
“You’ll see,” I say as mysteriously as I can, flexing my fingers, feeling my fingernails dig into my palms, knowing they are nothing compared to his claws. I shudder, remembering the feel of them back in Granny’s cabin as they raked down my back, his teeth sinking into my neck.
He growls, or maybe it’s laughing, deep and low in his throat and it tickles my throat, too. This being stuck back-to-back is not only ridiculous, Wolf’s hair is course and prickly and itches worse than a nest of mosquito bites. Not to mention the beastly smell…as if that’s the worst of it. Nothing has made sense since I stepped into Grandma’s cabin with my basket of goodies what with one moment talking to her, or thinking I was and then way too many teeth in all the wrong places. I don’t even want to think about and now here I am stuck to the brute in this strange world of loud noises, wretched smells, and moving metal boxes and told I must learn to get along with him. As if all that ruckus that followed was my fault. How so? I wasn’t the one with sharp, shiny teeth and an insatiable appetite.
The girl is still looking our way. “Wolf, stop moving.” I stand as still as a deer being hunted and caught in the light of the moon, forcing Wolf to stop moving too. I think it’s working to hide us but my heart is beating hard enough it’s probably showing through my dress.
This is crazy. I’ve hardly had a chance to catch my breath since being saved from this beast before being fused to it and thrust into this world, and then a moment later Wolf is mad- dashing down the hill after this girl on a two-wheeled contraption.
“With these big ears you so admire, listening is my specialty.”
“I do not admire them.” I stomp my foot.
“My what big ears you have?” he says in a high pitched voice, imitating me.
“You are infuriating.”
“Yes indeed. In-fur-iating? Get it?” He barks in short yips that might pass for laughter.
The girl looks our way again so I don’t laugh, or try not to anyhow, but I can’t help let a giggle escape. “What I was trying to say is that we’ve got to make sure we have the right person.”
“Of course she’s the right one,” Wolf says, “Long mousy brown hair, pale skin, short and a little plump. A tasty morsel indeed.”
“Wolf, please, we’re here to work, not eat.” I know it’s true, that we are here to complete a mission, yet it’s odd not knowing who did this to us, who stuck us back-to-back. Possible it was an evil enchantress yet unheard of in our world. At least I do know I won’t be released until Wolf and I learn to get along and fulfill our mission to help this girl. Yes, it must be someone evil to create such an impossible simmsion. It is totally unfair. It feels like it’s a punishment and I know I did nothing wrong. As if delivering goodies to Grandma is a crime.
I twist us around so I’m facing the girl on the two wheeled thingamagig and toss my hood backward off my face and onto Wolf’s so I can get a clear view, and just maybe to tease the beast a little. He tosses it back and it lands on my face so I shove it back onto his. He turns and faces the girl, flipping the hood back onto my face and I can’t let him win so we go back and forth, tossing the hood, spinning in a circle, like two crazy dogs chasing their tails.
Dizzy, I give up, and when we come to a rest, the girl is walking towards me. Us.
“Now you’ve done it, you big bad wolf.”
“Don’t call me that,” he barks.
“As if you aren’t?”
“You don’t know half of it.”
“And I probably don’t want to know. Anyway, stay still. She sees us.”
He does, except for whispering, “How could that be? I remember hearing that we would be invisible in this world.”
“If your ears were all you claim they are, then you would have heard the enchantress say it was to help us learn to get along, that if we fight, we become visible.”
“Or whoever created us. I can’t believe you didn’t pay attention to our instructions and the rules. Then again, I can believe it. You’re just a big bad—”
“Eww. You did not do that in my ear.”
“Double eww.” Once upon a time I lived in a little cottage, and the animals lived in the woods. This is so not fair, but all I have to do is follow directions, complete this assignment, and then I’ll get back to my mama and grandma. So I say in as sweet as a voice as possible, “Okay. So we found the girl, and the threat,” I motion to a young man sitting at a table in front of an eatery of some sort.
Wolf turns his head, which turns mine, too. “The one with the dark curly hair?”
I turn back. “Yes and the piercing blue eyes and look at that…” I point to the tall cup in front of him that looks to be made of paper, not that Wolf can see me wave—this is crazy. “What kind of world is this that can use something so precious like paper for a cup? It doesn’t even make any sense. It won’t last long, not like a stout earthenware mug.”
All this turning in circles is kinking up my neck something awful and when I go to rub it, I feel Wolf’s thick fur instead of my smooth skin. “Eww. How do you stand all that hair?”
“It’s fur. I’m a wolf, my dear sweet, Red…yes, so sweet…and tasty, too, might I add—”
“No, Wolfy, you may not add that.”
“But you are.”
“Doesn’t matter. I mean I am not,” I stammer.
“Silly girl. I am a wolf. I know these things. And being a wolf, I know another one when I see it. Let’s get that boy before he can cause the girl trouble.”
Wolf stalks forward.
“No.” I dig my heels in. I’m not letting him break another rule. “We aren’t supposed to interfere directly with the girl’s choices.” Wolf stops. He has to. We share legs. “We’re supposed to help the girl learn to do the right thing. Might I add that if you had learned to do the right thing about your little hunger problem back in the woods, say by hunting a rabbit like a normal wolf, we wouldn’t be in this predicament now?”
“What’s normal? I do what I do,” Wolf barks. “Eat things. Instructions. Rabbits. Grandmas.” He smacks his lips. “And girls.”
“What was that?” His paw scratches my ribs. “In my back?”
“Stop that. It tickles.” I bat his hand away. “You have the attention of a squirrel. We have a job to do.”
Wolf gnashes his teeth. “And I have the tools to do the job.”