The Ride

 

The Ride
by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2017 Melanie Brown

Sean just wanted a ride home.

 


 

“Hey! You need a ride?”

I looked over to see a royal blue late model Dodge Challenger Hellcat with a supercharger sticking out from the hood rumbling next to me. I recognized the driver, Scott O’Reilly from school. His dad always bought him these cool toys. Next year we’d both be seniors in school.

I doubt he recognized me. I sighed as I was sure why he was offering me a ride. It happens often and I don’t know what I can do about it. He’s mistaking me for a girl. I’m small framed, shorter than most guys, skinny and while my hair isn’t all that long, it’s longer than the way most guys wear their hair these days. I admit that sometimes I wear my sister’s clothes when I’m alone and maybe even play with her make-up. But I never leave the house or try to fool anyone. And today, all I was wearing was black jeans and a slightly over-sized black t-shirt. Considering the temperature was still hovering around one hundred at around seven p.m., black might have been a bad choice.

A few of hours before, my dad had dropped me off at the mall so I could go to a movie. Along the way, he grumbled that it was past time I get a driver’s license, while also grumbling about how his car insurance will go up when I do. So, even though I don’t live all that close to the mall, I decided to just walk home. Well, I also left my cell phone at home.

I looked at Scott’s expectant grin. Screw it. It’s hot and I really don’t want to get covered in sweat from the long walk. I smiled at Scott. “Sure! Thanks.” I’ve always wanted to drive a Hellcat, but there’s no way Dad could afford one for me, especially throwing in the supercharger package. So riding in the passenger seat would be the next best thing.

As I climbed into the passenger seat, Scott grinned, “Hi. I’m Scott.”

I smiled back at him. “I know. I’m Sean. We go to the same school.”

He wrinkled up his brow inquisitively. I continued, “Sean Evans? I don’t think we’ve ever had a class together.”

Looking crestfallen, Scott asked, “Oh. You’re a guy, right?”

I smiled at him, “Well yeah. And thanks for giving me a lift. It’s really hot today.” Call me evil, but I was taking some perverse pleasure in his sudden discomfort.

He leaned back in his seat. “No problem. On your way home?”

I nodded and gave him my address. “But no rush. This is an awesome car!” I ran my fingers across the dashboard.

Scott’s grin spread wide. “Awesome ain’t the half of it!” He revved the engine and the car rocked slightly as the engine fought against the motor mounts. “With the supercharger I can get to almost eight hundred horses!”

He slid the manual gearshift into first and the car rumbled back into the street.

We didn’t get far before we were stopped at a traffic light. A black Mustang Cobra pulled alongside us and the driver motioned for Scott to roll down his window. I think I recognized the driver, but I didn’t know him. I was never invited to hang out with the cool kids.

“Hey man! Just to let you know, Tony’s looking for you. Right now I think he’s at the mall.” the driver of the Mustang called out.

Scott leaned forward slightly so he could yell past me at the other car. “What does he want?”

The driver just shrugged. “Don’t know. He’s got a new set of wheels though.” The light turned green and the driver turned away from us and his car blasted away, his tires burning away in smoke and loud screeching.

Scott just slowly let out his clutch and we started to roll through the intersection. Scott looked over at me, “Mind if we swing by the mall for a minute?”

I shrugged. “I’m in no hurry.” That was true enough. Plus I was enjoying the thought of being allowed, even if peripherally, into a new world of jocks and cool people. One corner of the mall’s parking lot would be the gathering spot for the local teens with the hot and tricked out cars as well as trucks with over-sized wheels and jacked-up bodies. Oddly, there was always a police cruiser parked close by.

“When we get there, I’ll go see what Tony wants.” said Scott without looking at me. “Just stay in the car, okay?”

Not hiding the disappointment in my voice, “I don’t get to mingle? You’re not my boss, you know.”

Scott frowned at me, “My car. My rules. Do you want to walk home?”

“Fine,” I said as I folded my arms and looked fiercely out the windshield. I guess I’m to be permanently excluded from the cool kid clique. I glanced over at Scott. What an asshole.

A few minutes later, we started slowly cruising through the mall parking lot headed towards the gathering of cars and high school kids. There were a couple dozen tricked out cars and trucks and even more kids milling around. Mostly boys with their girlfriends. There were a few girls there with their own hot cars and despite the heat were dressed in leather jackets and boots.

Scott parked his car. “Just stay here, okay? This should only take a few minutes.” After he got out of the car, I noticed he’d taken the keys so I couldn’t even listen to the radio.

After sitting in Scott’s car for about a minute, watching as the kids seemed to be gathering at one end of the group, three girls came walking by. One looked over at me.

“Are you with Scott?”

I nodded. “He said for me to wait here.”

The girl frowned. “He’s such an asshole at times. Come with us. If you’re with him, you probably should be in on this too.”

Now my curiosity was totally piqued. What was going on? It looked as if everyone was converging to one location. I got out of the car and followed the three girls.

Scott was standing by himself just outside of the group gathered around. He glanced over at the girls as they arrived and looked annoyed when he saw me. He was about to say something when a bright red Camaro ZL1 rolled inside the half circle of people. The car rumbled to a stop and the driver’s door opened. Tony Marino stepped out and dramatically removed his sunglasses, despite it being almost dark. A couple more girls walked up and stood next to Tony’s car.

In a loud whisper, Scott turned to me again. “I thought I said to wait in the car.”

I just shrugged.

One of the newly arrived girls’ eyes went wide. She pointed and glared at me. “You’re riding with Scott? You fucking bitch! He’s mine!” She took a step forward. Maybe I should have stayed in the car.

Tony shouted, “Forget that loser, Cindy!” And in a more normal tone, he added, “You’re riding with me tonight. So let’s get down to business.” He walked closer to where Scott was standing.

Scott finished scowling at me and turned to face Tony. “What’s up man? New car?”

Looking smug, Tony said, “Yep. And I got three C notes that says my car can smoke your Hell-pussy.” He then very deliberately pulled three one hundred dollar bills out of his pocket.

Scott laughed. “You can’t be serious.”

Tony pointed at Scott and waved the three bills in the air. “See? I told you he was too big of a pussy to take me up on it.”

Scott just grinned. “I don’t want to take your money unless you were putting up a real car against mine.”

Tony just grinned back, holding the money in the air. “Pussy.”

Scott frowned and reached into his back pocket and removed his wallet. Opening it, he pulled four one hundred dollar bills from it. “Here’s four hundred that says you can’t beat me.”

Tony’s grin got wider. “You’re on, dude. I’ll match you.” He pulled another hundred dollar bill out of his pocket. What’s the deal? I had to beg my dad for movie money and these guys are pulling out hundreds like it’s nothing.

Cindy stepped over to Tony and grabbed his arm and flashed an evil grin at me. “You’re going down, bitch!”

Still frowning, Scott said, “Who’s going to hold the money until I win?”

I’ve never seen so much money in one place before. I shrugged and said, “I can hold it.”

Tony looked at me and laughed. “You’re Scott’s chick, so that’s a no on that.”

How did I become Scott’s chick? I’m not even a girl. And why does that other girl keep calling me a bitch?

Tony looked at Scott. “You okay with Bill holding the money?”

Scott shrugged. “Sure.”

The guy named Bill walked up and took the money from both Scott and Tony.

Addressing Bill, Tony said, “Go on over to Taco Bell and wait. And Scott, I’ll even let you pick where and when.”

Without hesitation, Scott said, “Telephone Road in one hour.” Telephone Road got its name back in the city’s antiquity when I guessed it was the road where the first telephone lines into the city were built. It’s also outside the city limits and from one intersection to the next is a lonely straight stretch of road about a quarter mile between two traffic lights. The traffic light at the far end is usually used as a starting light.

Tony grinned. “Let’s do this! See you in a hour, pussy.”

The girl named Cindy looked at me and then Scott and just laughed.

Scott looked at me grim faced and nodded back to the direction of where his car was parked. “Coming?”

As we walked the short distance, I said, “I think you have time to take me home before your race.”

Scott stopped walking and turned to me frowning. “You’re not going to ride with me? After fucking things up between me and Cindy?”

“You want me to ride with you?” I asked genuinely surprised. “And Cindy’s not my fault. She jumped ship pretty fast if you ask me.” I was actually shocked that Scott expected me to ride in his car during the upcoming race. These guys that do all this racing usually have their girlfriends sitting in the passenger seat of their car when they race. And despite what Tony said, I’m not Scott’s girl. Or anybody’s.

“Well, she was becoming a real bitch anyway. I’ve known for a while that she likes Tony better,” said Scott as he started walking to his car again. “And yes, I would really like for you to ride with me.”

“While it would be totally awesome to ride in a race, I’m sure one of those girls back there would love to ride with you,” I said sincerely. I’ve watched a few of these street races from the side, but of course I’ve never been in one of the cars. I’ve always wanted to be in a race.

We arrived at Scott’s car. He popped the hood and without really looking at me said, “I need the girl I arrived with to ride with me. That’s you.”

“I’m not a girl,” I reminded him.

“I keep forgetting you’re not a girl. But you know what I mean,” Scott said as he started looking his engine over. “How would it look if even ‘my chick’ as Tony said, wouldn’t ride with me?”

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to ride with you,” I said trying not to sound excited about riding in a race. “I just thought you’d want one of your girlfriends to go with you.”

Scott smirked at me. “With Cindy out, that just leaves you.”

I smiled hesitantly not quite sure how to react to that. “Okay. Thanks for inviting me along.” I started to lean on the front fender.

With a shocked expression, Scott looked up at me. “Don’t touch the paint.” He walked around the front of his car to where I was standing, took a soft cloth from his back pocket and gently rubbed the spot where I had put my hand.

For the next half hour, Scott went into full man-splaining mode telling me about all the cool features of his car and how they worked. I already knew most of what he was telling me, but I didn’t interrupt him. I think it was mostly just nerves and talking about his car to ‘his girl’ helped quell them.

Finally, Scott closed his car’s hood. “We should go. It’ll take about ten minutes to get there.”

Earlier, though we could have been stopped for it, I hadn’t bothered with his car’s seat belt. Mainly because I wasn’t sure how to put it on. It’s a five point belt system. Scott leaned over from the driver’s seat and helped me put it on.

His hand brushed slightly across my chest and I saw his face flush a little. That amused me because as a guy, I have nothing there. He only touched my loose fitting shirt. I smiled because I thought his reaction was funny. He saw my smile and smiled nervously back. Well crap. I think he misinterpreted my smile.

We drove in silence to Telephone Road. It took us a little over the ten minutes due to traffic and such. Tony was already there with Cindy hanging on his arm and several girls surrounding him. From the talk I heard around school, all the girls had a crush on Tony. His good looks, good physique and daddy’s money made him very attractive. Not that Scott didn’t share those same attributes -- Tony just had that girl magnet quality as well.

We parked along side of the empty street. There were a couple of other cars there, but most don’t show up because it would attract the attention of the cops.

Tony walked up to us. “I was beginning to think you were going to chicken out.”

Expressionless, Scott said, “Not a chance, Tony. Let’s get this over with.”

Cindy, still clutching Tony’s arm, looked me up and down. She then looked over at Scott and asked, “What do you see in her?”

Scott just smirked, “She’s not a bitch.” He turned and started walking to his car.

Though I don’t really have enough hair to do so, I tossed my head back as if I was tossing my hair over my shoulder and followed Scott.

Cindy said, “Bitch!”

I just laughed. I had to admit I was having fun being annoying to Cindy, though I’d never said a word to her until tonight.

Two of the spectators that both Tony and Scott trusted, drove their car to the far end of the street to the other traffic light so they could determine who arrived first. We had to wait a few moments for an old lady in her Buick to clear the street and then Scott and Tony lined their cars up at the intersection.

The light at the far intersection was green when they lined up. Scott shouted across to Tony as the light went to yellow, “Next green light.” Tony just nodded his acknowledgement.

And to my shock, Scott suddenly leaned over and kissed me. “For Luck.” With my mind already racing, I didn’t have time to process that.

The light at the far intersection seemed to hang on red forever. To say I was excited would be the understatement of the year. Listening to the roaring engines, the car rocking from the torque of the engine revving, knowing this was highly illegal all helped build my nervous excitement to a crescendo. Just a moment before the light turned green and the tires of both cars began to scream from tortured rubber, I wondered what my Dad would think of this.

I was pushed back into my seat. My vision blurred for a moment. I could see the stern expression on Tony’s face as we raced side-by-side. It was quite a thrill with the odd mix of everything seeming to go in slow motion mixed with the raw acceleration in front of me.

Scott suddenly muttered, “Shit!” as we hit some loose gravel in our lane. One tire lost traction for just an instant and caused us to start to slide, costing precious time. Scott just shifted and pushed the accelerator to the floor and we fish-tailed a couple of times and then miraculously started to pull ahead just before hitting the intersection.

Both our cars blew through the intersection and broad slid to a stop. I saw Tony bash his head against the steering wheel.

Scott shouted, “We won! We won!”

I leaned out of my window and flipped off Cindy with both hands and shouted, “Suck it, Bitch!” I fell back into the car with a “Whoop!” and laughed. “What a rush!” I cried out.

Without warning, I felt Scott’s lips pressing against mine in a long, hard kiss. He pulled back laughing. “You brought me luck, girl. I thought we were dead for a moment there when we started to slide.”

I just sat there for a few moments, shocked and stunned. Slowly I said, “I’m glad I could help.”

Then we heard someone shout, “The cops are coming!”

I felt a cold shaft bolt down my spine and through gritted teeth, Scott growled, “Shit! Shit! Shit! We gotta get out of here!”

“Don’t go that way!” I shouted to Scott. They’ll be expecting everyone to try to leave the area. Go a block that way…” I pointed, “… and pull into that liquor store parking lot and turn off your lights. We’ll wait there a few minutes.”

Scott looked over his shoulder before peeling out. “I hope you’re right.” We sped down the street and he turned at the next block, went about a half block to a seedy looking liquor store, parked and Scott turned off the lights and engine. And then we waited in the darkness, breathing hard.

We could see the police car lights just down the street and heard a few more sirens. Two police cars buzzed down the street right in front of us. We couldn’t see far enough down the street to know what was going on. We both jumped when Scott’s cell phone rang.

After a brief conversation, Scott put his phone down and looked at me. “The cops picked up Tony. His car is being impounded now.”

I frowned. “Great. He’s just going to turn us in. There was no point in hiding.”

Scott shook his head. “Tony’s a lot of things, but he ain’t no squealer. Neither is Cindy even if she now hates me. Don’t worry about that.”

After waiting about fifteen minutes, I said, “Okay. Drive out slowly and head back to Telephone Road.”

Scott frowned, “There are still cops there.”

“They’re not going to expect anyone racing to go back. They never saw us. They caught Tony trying to run. But we’ll just be traffic passing through.”

Scott turned the engine back on. “I think you’re full of shit, but I’ll try it. They’ll for sure will be looking for cars leaving, not going to them.”

As we approached the intersection, a police officer flagged us to stop. The cop recognized Scott. That’s rarely a good sign. “Well good evening Mr. O’Reilly. What do you know about a little street racing tonight?”

Scott looked incredulous, “Street racing, officer? Isn’t that illegal?”

The police officer said, “I think you already know the answer to that. What brings you out this way, Mr. O’Reilly? And you needn’t remind me it’s a public street.”

Scott smiled at the officer. “We’re just out for a drive on this beautiful summer night, Officer Jenkins. Have you noticed the full moon tonight?” Scott pointed at the sky. “Isn’t it just gorgeous?”

Officer Jenkins looked up and down the length of Scott’s car. “That’s quite a car you have for just an evening cruise.”

Scott grinned and nodded back towards me. “What can I say? It really impresses the ladies.” I just smiled toothily.

Officer Jenkins sighed. “Well, we didn’t see you racing and nobody we’ve rounded up will say they saw you either. Enjoy your drive, Mr. O’Reilly.” He looked into the car at me and touched the brim of his hat and said simply, “Miss.” He then waved Scott on through the intersection.

We got a block away and then broke out into laughter. We high-fived each other.

Scott grinned, “Oh babe! You are definitely my good luck charm!” He squeezed my hand. Well, at least he didn’t kiss me.

We drove around for half an hour, Scott bragging about his driving skills and prowess behind the wheel before we headed to the Taco Bell where we hoped Bill was still waiting.

Bill looked relieved when we walked into Taco Bell. He stood up and knuckled bumped Scott, “Dude! I was beginning to worry you’d been arrested like Tony.” He pulled a wad of bills from his pocket after we’d sat down at his table. He looked around to make sure we weren’t being observed and handed the money over to Scott.

Scott counted the eight bills and grinned as he pocketed them. “Thanks Bill. Hey, me and the lady need to go. See you on the strip.”

Bill nodded at us as we stood. “Take it easy, man.”

As we got back into Scott’s car he said, “I guess I should take you home. It’s almost midnight.”

I leaned back in the leather seat and sighed. “Yeah. I’m sure Dad is wondering where I am. I left my cell phone on my dresser.”

As he turned the engine of his car on, Scott said, “I’m glad you came along.”

“Thanks for inviting me. It was a blast! And again, I’m sorry about Cindy. I mean I…”

Shaking his head, Scott said, “Don’t be.”

Again we drove mostly in silence back to my house. Scott drove his car up to the curb by my house. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a single hundred dollar bill and held it out to me. “Take it.”

I just looked at him. “That’s your money. Not mine. I didn’t do anything.”

Scott shook his head. “You’re my good luck charm, babe. Take it. You earned it tonight.”

I grinned as I pulled the bill from his fingers. “Well, if you insist. But I really didn’t do anything.”

Scott smiled at me. “Would you like to ride with me tomorrow?”

I frowned, “Another race?”

Scott laughed. “I doubt there’ll be another race for a few weeks. No. Just cruising around town. Maybe stop by the mall parking lot for a bit. Maybe hit the drive-in for a burger or something.”

I frowned at him. “That sounds an awful lot like a date. Maybe we can just go cruising around for a while. I really love riding in your car.”

With a toothy grin, Scott said, “Great. I’ll pick you up around six.”

I looked down at my hands for a moment. “Sure. I’ll just need to…” And suddenly his lips were pressing against mine. His kiss was long this time and much softer. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and sigh.

As he pulled away, I said breathlessly, “You need to stop doing that.” I opened the car door and stepped out. “See you tomorrow.”

Scott said through the window, “You really should be a girl.” He then waved and drove away.

I sighed as I turned to face my house. I have a date tomorrow. With a boy. No! I’m meeting a friend tomorrow. Just a…friend.

As I walked into the house, Dad, who was sitting sprawled on the couch, looked up from the TV. “About time you got home, Sean. How was the movie?”

I plopped down next to Dad on the couch. “It was good. Lots of action and blood. You should have gone too. You would have liked it.”

Still looking at the TV, Dad asked, “Where have you been all this time? I figured you were walking home since you didn’t take your cell phone. But I thought you’d be back before now.”

I shrugged. “You know. The usual stuff. I stopped by the arcade a while. And it was such a nice night out, I just took the long way home. Oh, and I stopped at Taco Bell.”

Dad patted my leg as he stood up. “That’s good. You know, I’m glad you don’t drive. On the news tonight they had a story about another one of those stupid street races. The police caught a few of those assholes. I’m glad you don’t hang around with that crowd. Well, good night, son.”

“Night Dad,” I said as he started down the hall. I just sat on the couch a few minutes, not really looking at the TV. I laughed to myself as I thought, “No Dad. I’m not hanging out with them. I’m dating one of them.”

I slapped myself, stood up and turned off the TV. It’s not a date. I’m meeting a friend is all. I’m just meeting a friend.

*          *          *

The End



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