Chris stood up, his face shading red. “This is because of that guy? Really?”
“No, Chris. This is because you cheated on tests in school. This is because I don’t trust you and Hannah. This is because your job in the summer is killing defenseless deer.” The list she’d spent so long carefully ignoring now blared in her head.
“I work on a deer farm,” Chris said, selecting only this for response. “It’s a legitimate business.”
Livia nodded. “Yes, I know. But there’s something wrong with walking out to a paddock full of deer and shooting one. I mean, shouldn’t they at least get to run?”
“I only shoot the ones that don’t run.”
Chris seemed to think this made it better, but it only made it worse. The train approached, and Livia willed Chris to leave so she could drop Blake’s breakfast safely.
“Go home, Chris. Return the ring and get your money back. I’m not dating you anymore. It’s as simple as that.” Livia tried to avoid looking at Blake’s spot.
“So does he have, like, a really monster dick or something?” Chris still couldn’t accept his failure.
Livia didn’t want to stoop to his level, but she needed him to leave. “Yeah, it’s fantastic—so big it’s almost a medical condition.”
Chris tossed the roses in the closest garbage can and pocketed the ring box. “You’re a filthy, cock-loving whore, Livia McHugh.”
She watched him stalk up the stairs. Livia dropped the brown bag where it belonged and shuffle-ran to the train before it closed its doors. Forced to stand, she leaned her head against the smudged silver pole that served as a handhold and thought of…Chris? His eyes had shown such hurt. Livia knew he was a narcissistic, small-minded boob, but he’d really seemed to believe she’d say yes if he bought a real ring and forgave her indiscretions. He really thought she’d come back. His hurt look took a while to fade from Livia’s memory. She had no idea why a knot of fear had formed in her stomach.
After her day of both teaching and attending classes—all the while feeling a little like a clown in her sister’s dramatic makeup—Livia changed into her Kyle-prescribed getup in the ladies’ bathroom at school. In spite of it, she spent the whole train ride hoping.
He’ll be there in his shade spot, out of the rain, she told herself.
Carefully following Kyle’s instructions, Livia waited until the White Plains stop before reapplying her makeup. Kyle had used some serious beauty-pageant-strength stuff, so Livia just followed the lines that still existed. She packed everything back in the polka-dot bag and looked out the window as the train pulled into Poughkeepsie, but the rain prevented a clear view. No Blake?
Livia tried to look again, but the lights came on in the train and she could only see her reflection. She knit her eyebrows in frustration. Was the breakfast bag still there? Had he been there today? Livia stood in the doorway of the train and opened the red umbrella Kyle had uncannily predicted she would need. It matched her hooker heels perfectly. She took a few steps forward and stood for a moment, watching the other passengers run like drowning rats from the platform. There was no bag, but there was a man. Oh dear God. There’s a man.
Livia stepped further forward, and the train pulled away behind her. The rain was ice cold and so loud it sounded like sizzling bacon. It pounded on the umbrella and she couldn’t hear anything else, but there he was. He’d come back for her. Blake.
His silhouette was blurry through the angry, sheeting rain, but she could see his hands were two fists. Was he angry? Livia walked toward him, leaving her heels behind after two steps. She let the umbrella tumble off her shoulder shortly after that.
The cold rain made her gasp. It poured over all of Kyle’s handiwork. Livia kept moving until she stood before him. She closed her eyes against the burning of Kyle’s hairspray as it ran down her face.
Livia reached out to touch his arms. She felt her way down to his fists and gently unfurled them with her fingers. She leaned forward on her tiptoes until her cheek touched his jaw. She sighed as his ice-cold face met her still-warm one.
Livia’s hands followed his arms back up to his chest. She frowned at the bandage on his forearm. When she found his chest, she used it as an anchor as she walked carefully around him. She settled her face on his broad back and hugged him.
She felt and heard him breathe. “Livia.” But he did not move.
She rubbed her face on the back of his wet black T-shirt to wipe her eyes. When she could see clearly again, she peeked over his shoulder and saw the red heels waiting patiently. The rain had filled them like little ponds. The umbrella lay on its side, catching water like a bucket.
Livia leaned up to his ear and said, “Face me,” in a husky voice she’d never used before.
Blake turned achingly slowly until the platform light finally revealed his face. Despite the rain everywhere, Livia knew she’d been dying of thirst, and the sight of him was water.
He finally reached for her with his cold fingers and tilted her face to the emptying sky. “Were you meeting someone?” he asked as the rain and his fingers wiped the last of the makeup from her skin. “You’re all dressed up. You’re dressed…differently.” Finally, his hands were still, and the rain slowed, as if its job was completed.
Livia blinked her now clean eyes open and was relieved to see him again. “No, of course not! Why would you—oh! This crazy outfit. I’m supposed to go out with my sister. She picked this for me.”
Something flickered in Blake’s eyes for a moment—relief?—but then he charged forward, his words tumbling out. “Livia, I’m here to say it’s okay. It’s okay if you want to leave, live a normal life, have a husband with a great job and beautiful children with your gray eyes.” His breath caught a little as he finished.
Livia, just a gut feeling, but let him come to you…Listen to him. Livia stayed silent instead of rushing in with words.
“I’m asking permission to watch you from a distance, just to make sure you’re safe,” Blake continued. “You won’t even know I’m there. I promise.” Blake removed his hands from her face.
“Are you done?” Livia wanted to make sure.
Blake stepped back and nodded as if they’d just completed a painful business transaction, like buying a coffin. Livia shook her head and launched herself at him. He caught her as she wrapped her legs around his waist. She held his face like he’d just held hers. His green eyes were unsure, but a tiny spark danced within them.
“Blake Hartt, I choose you. I deserve you. I want you.” Livia proved it by kissing his cold lips until they were warm.
Blake laughed and pulled away to look at her with tears and rain in his eyes. “Really? Really. Really!”
Livia nodded. “Absolutely.”
Blake kissed Livia this time. He started out gently and then became more serious. He carried her over to the station’s brick wall and pressed her back against it. He put her feet on the ground as he grabbed a fistful of her soaking wet hair. Livia reached under his T-shirt to feel his stomach and then his chest. Blake moaned and pushed her harder against the building. But again he pulled back to look at her.
“Me? I want you to be sure,” he said.
“You,” Livia whispered.
“Me.” His eyes were full of intent.
“Always you.” Livia gave him her biggest, heartfelt smile.
“Five hundred.” Blake touched her face as if she might be a mirage and smiled back only when she didn’t disappear.
Livia was content to prove right here how much she’d missed him. She was finally grateful there was so little of her outfit to get in the way. Blake leaned in for another kiss, but he stopped. His eyes cut to the parking lot. Livia followed his gaze to a set of headlights pointed straight at them.
“Oh, that must be Kyle—my sister. She’s picking me up.” Livia tried not to feel annoyed about this.
Blake kept his eyes on the headlights. “What does she drive?”
“A sporty little convertible.” Livia arranged he
“That’s a truck. Maybe an F-250 from the size of it.” Blake’s whole body tensed.
“Chris drives that kind of truck—”
Before the words were completely out of Livia’s mouth, Blake had pushed her around the corner of the building.
He kept her pressed against the wall, his eyes scanning their surroundings. Livia and Blake hugged in the cold and wet. Their clothes felt like they weighed a thousand pounds. She opened her mouth to ask a question, and Blake put his finger on her lips, shaking his head no.
He seemed to brace for something and pulled Livia closer to his chest. An instant later, she heard the very definite sound of one car smashing into another.
Blake peeked around the corner of the building. “Someone just crashed into that truck. Looks like a little car.”
Kyle’s angry words echoed in the little valley of the platform. “Chris Simmer, you stupid fuck!”
“Kyle!” Livia screamed.
Blake took off running toward the accident. Livia followed, but he was much faster than she was in her bare feet and restrictive skirt. By the time she got there, Blake had planted himself next to Kyle’s convertible, the front of which was lodged underneath the running board on Chris’s truck. Kyle stood on her car’s now slightly bowed hood and whacked the truck with the Mag light their father insisted both girls keep in their cars.
Chris keeps his guns in the truck bed. Livia knew he was fastidious about keeping his guns protected. She prayed they were locked in the truck box.
Blake tried to reason Kyle down. “Ms. McHugh, I’m afraid you’ll need to remove yourself from this situation.”
Kyle ignored him and started whaling on Chris’s window with the flashlight. “You stalking, drooling dickhead! I will cut you. Leave my sister alone!”
Chris’s driver’s side window was beginning to crack under the pressure. Chris looked right at Blake, who returned the gaze with terrifying calm. Blake did not seem afraid of Chris or his truck.
Livia tried to reach her sister over the twisted metal of the convertible’s bumper. “Are you hurt? Get the hell down here!”
Chris broke eye contact with Blake and turned to sneer at Kyle, his mean smile echoed in his eyes. Chris put the truck in reverse and turned the wheel hard. Blake sprang into action. He grasped Kyle around the waist and lifted her like a child throwing a tantrum. He grabbed Livia’s hand and put the girls behind the cement road divider that kept cars from overshooting the parking spot. Livia held her sister in place as Kyle strained to go after Chris and his truck again. Blake climbed up and stood on the divider to get a better look.
“Blake, please get down,” Livia urged. “Chris’s not right tonight. Something’s off in him.” Livia grabbed the back of Blake’s T-shirt.
Chris reversed with such force that he actually repositioned Kyle’s whole car. The harsh sound of moving-but-unwilling metal filled the parking lot. Chris rocked and swerved until his truck was free, then he stopped. Blake remained where he stood, eyes locked on Chris. Livia tugged harder on his shirt.
“Could we please just go?” Livia asked, swallowing back her panic. She had no idea what Chris might do—or Kyle, for that matter.
Blake hopped down without turning around and helped Livia corral Kyle, who seemed to be made of dynamite and forty arms. Together they got her down the stairs and behind the train station building.
“What the hell were you doing?” Livia grabbed Kyle’s angry little face.
“I was killing Chris Simmer until you friggin’ stopped me!”
“You were going to kill Chris with a flashlight? Did you think he was going to hold still for that?”
Livia watched Blake’s face as he kept his eyes on the threat.
“No. I was going to rip his tiny little sack off and choke him with his pathetic-ass undescended balls. Then I was going to brain him with Dad’s flashlight.” Kyle seemed to be calming, but Livia kept one hand on her arm.
“He’s pulling out of the lot,” Blake said, speaking for the first time since the altercation began. His eyes squinted. “Is he possessive about that truck?”
Livia ran a hand through her wet hair. “Yes, he’s insane about it. He calls it The Beast.” She thought of the time Chris had lost his shit when she’d let the passenger door touch the side of a shopping cart.
Blake took the information with a nod.
“Oh, look at you,” Kyle said, really looking at Livia for the first time. “You ruined yourself. Damn it, Livia. Couldn’t you just leave it on?”
Blake stepped forward and introduced himself. “Ms. Kyle McHugh, I assume. It’s my pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Blake Hartt, and I’m entirely to blame for Livia’s clean face. I let the rain wash everything away. Please accept my apology.”
Kyle looked at Blake as if he was a tap-dancing cricket. She held one pointy finger close to his nose. “You grabbed my tit a little, Mr. Old Timey Talker.”
Blake seemed to swallow a smile. “Manhandling a lady is inexcusable. I would only do so if said woman was too stubborn to remove herself from a dangerous situation.” He took Kyle’s hand and kissed the top of it lightly.
“Aw, crap. Well, aren’t you too fucking charming for words?” Kyle smiled despite her best efforts to look tough. “All right, Mr. Old Timey, I’ll let you get away with the boob palming this time.”
“That’s fortunate because I hate ingesting my own testicles.” He gave her a devilish grin with naughty eyes to match.
Kyle looked at Livia. “He’s adorable.”
Livia saw happiness on Kyle’s face and sadness in her eyes. “Hey, let’s get you to the ER. You were just in a car accident.” Livia tried to feel Kyle for any injuries.
“That wasn’t an accident. I did it on purpose. I saw fuck-knob Chris staring at you two like it was a peep show. I don’t put up with that shit. You two are over, and he needs to move the fuck on. I was braced for it. I feel fine. The airbag didn’t even deploy. We’re going out. I have to get some party on.”
Kyle stopped her monologue abruptly and looked from Livia to Blake. “If you still want to, that is. I mean it’s fine if you don’t.”
Livia nodded to assure her sister. “Kyle, I’m still coming. We’ll both come!”
Blake nodded and smiled, although his eyes darted around a bit anxiously.
“All right, then,” Kyle announced. “We’ve got to get home to change into some fuck-awesomely hot outfits.”
Livia took Blake’s arm. She doubted any amount of partying could erase the sadness from Kyle’s eyes.
The Blue Dress
BLAKE WAS THE FIRST to remember Livia’s borrowed shoes, and he led her back to where she’d discarded them. He knelt as he poured the water out of the right one and held out a hand for her foot. He slid the shoe on, careful to let his hand brush over her whole foot. He repeated the motion with the left high heel and kept his eyes on hers as he ran his hand up her leg. Then he poured the rain out of the waterlogged umbrella, which swelled the tiny rivers the shoe runoff had created. He held out his elbow and led Livia up the stairs to Kyle’s car.
Getting home was going to be a challenge. Kyle’s zippy pride and joy was a little mangled. While Kyle and Livia discussed their options, which did not include calling the police because of the instant alert it would give their father, Blake circled the car with a slow saunter. Just when Livia had decided to investigate whether or not her cell phone still had a roadside emergency plan, Blake gave the convertible a swift kick in the bumper, which clattered to the ground.
“The fuck?” Kyle spun around, eyes wide at the sound of the latest injustice to her vehicle.
Blake nodded politely and used the disembodied fender like a baseball bat to smack a piece of wayward metal out of the wheel well.
“Don’t you think it’s been through enough?” Kyle looked ready to go ballistic, alternately wringing her hands and clenching them into fists.
Blake got down on all fours and peeked at the undercarriage. “May I borrow the Chris-basher for a moment, please?”
Kyle took a deep breath and put the Maglite in Blake’s extended hand, seeming to trust his new stance as a knowledgeable one.
He rose to deliver a diagnosis. “It looks like the headlights are gone, but I might be able to drive it to your house if I follow Livia’s car closely. It will save you the towing cost.”
Kyle looked less pissed off now, but still unsure. “I don’t know. Pretty much I’m the only authorized driver of the convertible—except Livia when absolutely necessary.”
“I would feel quite uncomfortable allowing either of you lovely ladies to handle this unfortunate task,” Blake explained. “Are you afraid I’ll dent it?” He grinned.
Kyle tossed Blake the keys a little too hard, but he caught them deftly. He put what was left of the convertible’s bumper in the Escort’s trunk and took his place behind the convertible’s wheel. Livia had to push on the driver’s side door to get it closed behind him.
He got the vehicle started and rolling slowly, without any parts dragging on the ground. So began the sluggish, steady funeral procession for Kyle’s favorite car.
Chris pulled into a gas station to assess the damage from Kyle’s unprovoked attack: a bunch of scratches on the bumper, a few dings, a sizable dent in his driver’s side door, and a tiny crack forming on the window. He tried to look underneath without getting himself dirty. Her pansy-ass sports car had better not have bent The Beast’s frame. Stupid slut Kyle. Fuck her shitty bitchiness.
Chris didn’t want to admit to anyone why he’d wanted to see Livia at the train, least of all himself. But Kyle had known. It must have been obvious in his face. Now that Livia wasn’t looking to him as savior, Chris felt like less. His friends looked at him like he was less. And I don’t fucking like it. He had to get her back.
Practically his whole family had made little remarks about how much they missed her. Now that he couldn’t touch her any more, he was obsessed with her. More than that, he wanted to make her stop looking at him the way she had at the station that morning—like he was a worthless piece of trash. I have a job, a fucking pussy-magnet truck, and awesome hair.
Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes