What did she mean by that? What the hell is going on?!
These questions pummeled Dillon’s brain, as he tried to maintain focus on the road. He’d driven all night and was driving some more this morning. Yet he’d barely seen an inch of road. His mind was elsewhere. All he could see was the scene he had walked into at Mari’s apartment. It played on loop in his mind, only interrupted by the honking of horns and screeching of tires, jolting him back into the present moment - back between the lines.
“Keep your lane, man!” he scolded himself, aloud. He had narrowly missed sideswiping a sedan in the next lane. A passenger leaned out of a rear window, so as to make certain he could see their middle fingers, both of them, nice and clearly. He hardly noticed; couldn’t care less who he pissed off right now. Not even some cape-wearing fantasy movie super-douche could get in his way now - of pursuing the truth, pursuing his lover. His regular, waking mind couldn’t even manage to smirk at its own image of haughtily smacking the righteous smirk from some incomparably strong and chiseled jaw, should they try to impede him.
No. Not today. No time for jokes or movie references!
When he’d arrived at Mari’s apartment, the evening before, it was quite the suspicious scene, if he’d ever seen one. But he just couldn't make sense of it.
Mari and a few classmates banded together to rent an old colonial gem, off campus; part of one anyways. It had been fully renovated and split into a duplex, with another set of students renting the floor above them. He’d spent plenty of time with her roommates and found them to be mostly pleasant company. They were a curious group of art & history majors. Sure, their arrogance and pretensions sometimes peeked through, like a persistent, pestering little fly after your sweet jam. However, it did not detract too much from their otherwise laid-back, casual friendliness. Even when they’d been on holiday breaks and had taken one too many rips from the gravity bong, and had one too many sugary coffee drinks – giddy and beaming like an electrified version of their dad’s magic dragon of ‘ole, they’d still been more endearing company than many of the folks his age had been.
He’d never had any real reason not to trust Mari, living with two male roommates. Besides that, Jenn was there too and Dillon was sure she would tell him if either Kevin or Eddie tried to turn up the charm towards Mari. So far as he knew, they hadn’t. You never really know, though, with those guitarist types. They just soak up the attention and aren’t exactly known for turning away from the ladies. But these seemed the more introverted guitar nerd types, talking chords, riffs, and tones, and boring the ladies right out of their arms. And, hell, Eddie was a drummer and history nerd. What had he to fear?
Well, nothing. Nothing, that is, until shortly after he walked in Mari’s front door. When he did, he was reminded of the scent of birthday cakes and – wait, it was candles. It smelled like candles had recently been blown out. There were plenty of other candles still lit and set about the house though.
At first, he thought she had somehow learned of his intended surprise visit and cursed himself for mentioning it to Jenn. It was quiet though. Too quiet. If Mari was planning a romantic counter-surprise, she had missed her cue.
He chuckled to himself, walking towards the hallway and then the bedroom. “Mari, beautiful pain! Did Jenn spill the beans? Even so, how did you get this in -- ?”
Her room was dark. He flicked the light switch and saw the room was empty. He turned it off again. That’s when he had noticed the faint flicker of candlelight coming from the attached bathroom. Mari paid an extra hundred bucks a month to snag the master bedroom, and therefore a private bath. Curious, he followed the dim radiance through the darkened room.
There were a couple of lit candles on the counters, and a couple more snuffed out that were on the ledge of the bathtub. He took a step inside the bathroom and felt a splash under his feet. There was water everywhere and another snuffed out candle, lying sideways on the floor. A cool evening breeze wafted in a small, open window. It would not be cool enough to lessen the heat he now felt in his face.
Dillon’s mind immediately went to a place of great suspicion, as it had appeared that Mari already had her romantic bath . . . but not with him.
What the hell?! I guess she wasn’t expecting me, after all!
He could feel his blood beginning to boil and, just then, heard the laughter of a female and male coming from the other room. He stormed towards the sound and, seeing lights coming from under the door of a roommate's room, barged right in, expecting vindication and red, red hands.
* * * * * * * *
to be continued . . .