"God...forgive me for what I'm about to do. It's nothing personal. I've just been a little stressed. You know...the eviction notice. The abusive family. Oh...and the fact that I'm just one of these folks who by age four has long since rejected all humans so...hope you understand."
She sat alone at the top of the roller coaster on a horizontal section of track, overlooking the Southern California bay. 100 feet below her were the remnants of an abandoned theme park: a dilapidated merry-go-round, the skeletal remains of a Ferris Wheel, kiddie rides laden with trash and graffiti. The roller coaster itself was minus its train.
Sprawling before her in a bird's eye view was a dark little pocket of Los Angeles. Infested with crime, violence and disease. The trademark of her existence. She shivered from a windy chill that wracked her rather too unseasonably for so early in autumn as the distant Pacific created a lonely backdrop of smoky, steamy pastels, including the yellow of a wilting sunflower. Like my sallow complexion. Like my life.
She sat atop her windswept perch, rock blaring from a nearby portable boom box. The flashbacks and bloody pictures of memories long since repressed swarmed through her mind, a montage of horror far overwhelming her life. Rain was threatening. It always seemed God's way of begging her not to, of telling her no. "Nice try," she told the roiling clouds. "But not this time."
When Don Henley, her absolute most favorite singer in the world, began belting out All She Wants to Do Is Dance, she groaned. "Well. Maybe after one more song."
She danced on top of the gargantuan steel structure, popping and locking, not caring whoever might be filming this or whoever thought she was crazy. If she was going to commit suicide, she might as well have fun doing so.
She was too preoccupied with the Henley anthem and her dutiful self-pity to hear the scream of an approaching motorcycle rise from the spiraling depths below. She sighed as the rider eventually joined her, whipping off his Wayfarers.
For all his strapping build, he had the face of somebody's little brother, with a perky button nose that gently turned up toward the sun to snatch up its splash of freckles. His expression was a mask of curiosity, and what she could have sworn was admiration about her grit. Indeed, scaling to the top of this monster alone was no easy feat.
The motorcycle growled; it was a 1985 Kawasaki Ninja 900, less than a year old, yet already covered with miles of scarring and road debris. Its headlights angrily glaring.
The wispy knight turned off the ignition and alighted his iron steed.
"You're in my spot," he grunted.
She simpered. "You're in mine too."
The man glowered at her, slouching, shifty-eyed. Clenching his jaw.
"Who are you?" he fairly shouted.
"Cawilan." She gulped. "Cawilan Cease."
The anomaly of that smoke-pluming cigar sticking out of that Baby Jesus face gradually registered in a way that made her new ordeal only more surreal. He pitched it over the railing, much to her relief, as it didn't flatter his rock star good looks.
A storm of sexy beast and infant Cupid, the man swaggered over in his bow-legged, John Wayne-like gait, his entire aura hardcore, gangsterish. Moving with a slight limp. A safety pin glinted in his left earlobe. Baggy torn jeans hung off his nearly emaciated waist. His ribbed wife-beater clinged to his powerful shoulders and prison-chiseled chest like a desperate lover...and yet, he miraculously had the childlike, pristine sort of beauty that seemed to begin from the core of his heart and didn't know when to quit on the way out. An elusive young merman awash with complex dynamics.
He grabbed her by the hair. "Whaddaya doin' here? Where did you come from?"
"My mother," she said. "But seriously, I was just gonna jump off this roller coaster, after this song," she explained cordially; she sighed. "Can't a woman even kill herself in peace?"
He released her hair. "Oh. Well, if that's the case, don't worry. After I take all your money and credit cards, I'll gladly toss you off."
"Why, thank you."
The sunset had advanced into a psychedelic array of colors, the falling sun tracing its final flares over the waves, a quietly angry scarlet sphere on the horizon.
Though she initially had thought the man's shoulder-length mop of curls was blond, she saw it was actually the palest as it was possible for strawberry-blond to be. As he rummaged through her backpack, collecting her valuables, she clocked and assessed him, quietly guaranteeing him to be nearly young enough to be her son, no older than a man slowly entering his mid-20's. She'd never seen a face so incredibly cute. Like a baby cameo's.
"Cawilan." He snorted. "What kinda stupid name is that?"
She shrugged. "Filipina."
"You're half right."
He smirked. "What's the other half?"
He only seemed all that much more in awe of her. Part of him wanted to kill her and part of him didn't. She drank in his sharp, chiseled, high-boned features. His preternaturally blue eyes were downturned, huge and darkly fringed with lush lashes.
He ran his hand over his nearly hairless jawline, which was as sharp as a supermodel's; the kid's curved, Cupid's Bow lips pursed. "Mind if I dance with you before I kill you?"
She took his proffered hand; they danced to the Henley song as a small tremor startled the park, the other rides creaking, swaying, toppling in sickly disarray..yet, the roller coaster held its own. Standing tall. Strong. It all felt strangely bracing.
"Why do ya wanna kill yourself?"
She shrugged, smiled. Admitting nothing. He looked like a cherub doll crafted out of gold, and then dipped in liquid pearls. The cast of his features were feminine, with a flower-like symmetry. His hair and skin were like fresh strawberries and cream with the luscious delicious scents to match.
"What's your interest in me?" Cawilan mumbled. "When I was your age, didn't dinosaurs rule the earth?"
He snorted. "Well...how old are you, Methusela? Like, twenty-four? Twenty-six?"
Her bright hazelnut eyes flew open. "You seriously can't think I'm as young as you."
The fresh-faced little man goggled at her, his perplexed grin carving deep dimples into his apple cheeks. Men typically ignored her, it's why this drop dead gorgeous biker babe baffled her. This tumble of lush, strawberry-blond curls and long athletic limbs falling into her oppressive existence seemed unspeakable. For all that he frightened her, his overwhelming handsomeness rocked her world. And his dancing was off the hook. All dimples and bow legs and sexy hair flips. Never mind his excellent command of breaking, uprock, Hip-Hop and freestyle..the way he held her and moved with her suggested a yearning to get to know her, rather than to get something he wanted from her. Oddly, his niceness frightened her more than his meanness.
"You age properly," he said. "Like name-brand jeans. Softer. More comfortable. Value goes up with time."
His voice was a smooth, silvery bass, as sultry as he was. His accent tinged with Bronx. Its cool resonance had a way of sending a chill sliding up your spine whether you asked for it or not. He fondled her hair, running his fingers through its warm tones of pecan, nutmeg and maple.
They were electric around each other. Whirling through the sky. Free spirits losing control. The death of the theme park's once throbbing kinetic energy seemed to resurrect through him, carrying her through a depth, angle and pacing that drove her wild. He had charisma in his style, a playful attitude all his own. His early adult flightiness seemed to complement her queenly, stately maturity. Her quiet, understated magnificence. Creating a colorful, explosive, altogether pleasant contradiction between them.
Each time she attempted to draw her arms around his waist, he winced and grabbed his side and stomach, doubling over. Grimacing. She'd stop and wait for him to right himself, feeling guilty and worried.
He wouldn't show it, of course, but he needed this as much as she did. Somehow, she knew they had finally found what they needed to heal from their incredibly abusive pasts, a reason for living, a mutual nurturance through which they could love and support each other, replace the sadness with a lifetime of well-deserved laughter, joy and prosperity ahead.
"You never told me your name."
He frowned. That wide-awake, baby doll face was getting the best of her. His pert chin. Those dimples to die for. Those teeth shimmering like millions of moonlit opals. All of it doing funny things to her heart rate.
"Please tell me," she cajoled.
He himself gave her his own low-key appraisal, at this mix of sassy pixie and appealing tomboy. From her denim vest to her sky-blue halter dress. From her shaggy mullet to her Harley Davidson boots.
"You have pretty skin," he purred. "Like yellow roses."
She was certain by now he was kidding, as she'd always hated her skin. She gazed into those eyes. Ancient, smoldering in that baby face. A pair of shattered sapphires on saucers. Hunted, haunted. Wounded and tortured far beyond endurance.
"You're like a Eurasian Barbie," he continued.
They grooved on, releasing pent-up tension and energy. Both of them, without knowing it, trying to fulfill a void in their lives, desperately seeking some piece of normalcy. If only for a moment. Gradually, they relaxed into a slow dance to I Can Dream About You by Dan Hartman; she caressed his bare cheek. Creamy to the touch. Dewy and glowy as a spring morning. He looked chiseled out of marble.
She found bruises and deep thumbnail markings on his throat. His muscle shirt was torn at the left strap, revealing more bruises. And scars. Rounded, raised scars trailing down his collarbones and chest, which was nearly as hairless as his face.
She relished his musky, dewy, daisy-fresh scents of new manhood, mingling with aromas of fresh cotton, baby powder and the residual traces of shattered childhood. His hair was a rose garden she wanted to dive into.
"Are you in some kind of trouble?" she asked gently.
He released her with a jerk; he sat on the coaster track, allowing his legs to dangle over the edge. She followed in suit.
"I know we just met," she said, "but, you can talk to me about anything."
The perplexing boy-man chewed on the softness of his lower lip. Averting his eyes. Deeply ashamed of his actions. The blue glow of his irises seemed to radiate into his eyelids, creating an eerie eye shadow. The skyward sweep of his lashes caught the light of both sun and moon, sending both scattering in flurries of blue diamond dust.
"What's up with all you dumb broads anyway," he bit out, "thinkin' you can always change us bad guys."
"Who said I was trying to change you?"
A smile quirked the corner of his girlish lips. He already had her smitten, and it both embarrassed and eluded him. So alpha, yet so shy.
"I just can't get over why a woman like you is alone."
She looked down. "Guys don't think I'm pretty."
"Well, they're stupid. Or blind."
She started at his words; the air, still twinged with summer's balmy wetness, tickled their faces, lifted their hair in a gentle drizzle. His skin had now taken on a glorious, ghostly glow. An alluring ambiance, as if moonlit from within. Echoing, radiating, pulsing out with the night's quiet lunar power, matching its milky pearlescence.
"Your name," she implored, with more authority.
He scowled. "Oxley Barone." He grabbed her arm. "Do ya got any idea who you're dealin' with?"
She paled; she marveled that a man could be so tall, so muscle-bound, so hypermasculine, and yet so vulnerable and youthful and skinny all at the same time.
I can just fly through the sky of those eyes. Those depths of blue forever.
He looked in the direction of the bay and leaped to his feet. Alarmed.
"Oxley, what's wrong?"
He forced her onto the back of the bike with him, packing up all their items, including the boom box. She caught the look in his eyes...a thousand-mile, fearless-to-the-point-of-lunacy stare. Like sunlight flashing in a riptide. Once again the intense lad displayed to her his dashing smile, and it was her undoing.
The cocky cub launched the bike in the direction opposite of the one he'd looked, of the one she'd climbed.
"Hold on tight!"
What happened next was likely the closest she'd ever know to what it must be like to be caught by a tornado. As she wrapped her arms around his tiny middle, she now saw her life flash before her eyes in a whole different way as they slashed through the coaster's varying dips, swoops and sharp turns, a pair of bare-knuckled brawlers owning the night, soaring through the loop-the-loop as Cawilan's shriek was lost in the wind, the world whooshing passed as the bike's g-force mounted.
As the Ninja ripped up the loop, her body went through its expected range of sensations, the sky replacing the ground, threatening to pull her out of the bike saddle as the overpowering velocity glued her to her seat, heavenward, leaving her feeling as weightless as a bird. Yet, to Cawilan, it wasn't merely an impromptu thrill ride, it was an experience of discovering who she was, what she was capable of, strength she never knew she had, and as they reached the top, seeing no need for a harness for neither of them, she released Oxley's waist, throwing up her arms in a triumphant shout:
The feeling was transcendent. Unbeatable. This new proximity with her dancing doll brought her into new tactile pyrotechnics; he had the body of both a dancer and a warrior. As lethal and battle-hardened as his wise, sweet gaze.
Their hair sprayed out behind them like fireworks as the bike completed its full 360 degree turn and then moved them out of the loop, back onto ground level, where Oxley brought them out of the theme park with a renewed urgency. What is he running from?
A deafening blast exploded from behind them. She felt a wall of intense heat follow them for several blocks as the carnival and its surrounding vicinities fell away behind them into oblivion. Swallowed up in flames.
He skidded to a halt in a small, secluded industrial area near the rock-ribbed shore and an accompanying lighthouse, both of them still shaking. Hyperventilating. The youth turned to look at her, eyebrow raised.
"You really do have a friggin' death wish, huh?"
She shrugged. "Beats doing laundry."
His hair was now a new brand of floppy and sexy. He cupped her cheek, making goosebumps rise on the back of her neck. Turning her heart into paradise.
She now saw what he saw in her. An avid adventurist. An adrenaline junkie. A nocturnal, life-on-the-edge thrill seeker. Just like him. There was lightning in his eyes. He made her feel so...alive.
"How was it?" he asked.
She smiled. "kinda like getting to know you. Only not as fun."
The lighthouse illuminated his curls, giving them the rosy illusion of pink. His eyes were so pretty they rivaled the stars. His fresh buttercup skin was now the translucent gold of champagne. His face so neonatal yet his body so manly. He was dizzyingly gorgeous.
"What happened back there?" she asked. "What did you see?"
"The less you know the better."
His cherry bomb lips snatched hers in a rush of crimson smoke. Kissing Oxley was like burying her nose into a bouquet of newly blossomed geraniums. She felt tingles all over.
He whispered something tender to her in Italian, his locks hugging the swan-like curve of his neck into his shoulder, creating a silky, exquisite marriage between gold and platinum. He was a beautiful disaster, this apple-cheeked pirate. This California merboy with a shark's tail. He took her breath away.
"How come you don't hate me?" he asked.
She took his hand. "Because I don't think this is really you."
"Cawilan...you don't even know what I've done."
"I don't care what you've done. If you really wanted to hurt me, you would have by now...How can I explain to you in just a few minutes, Oxley, that you've given me far more happiness in a short time than anyone in my whole life ever did, probably ever will? Can't you see?" she supplicated. "My life is bad anyway. I have nothing to lose."
"Sorry to hear that, Gorgeous."
He looked at her with sheer admiration and awe, a look she'd rarely received from men, from anyone. He saw her as whole and perfect as she saw him, and she couldn't believe it.
"If you're deluded enough to think you'll ever get me to do a total 360 from bad to good, Cawilan Cease, you got another think comin'."
"In case you didn't realize it, Oxley Barone, you just did a full 360, with that crazy stunt back there. You just proved you can perform the impossible. You made me want to live again. You changed me for the better. It took me so long to find you, and I only came out stronger and closer to God as a result. You were well worth the wait."
He stared at her, spellbound. "And like it or not," she continued, "I did, in some way, change you too. And all for the better."
He blinked at her, speechless, and restarted the bike. Finally finding his voice, the firebrand young buck jauntily asked, "So you really don't care how much trouble I get you in, as long as you're in trouble with me?"
"Well, I might lose my freedom, my safety and maybe even whatever remains of my popularity but...okay."
The Ninja charged through the night, carrying them into the unknown. His hand never relinquishing hers. She clinged to him, resting her head on his muscled back between his shoulderblades. Realizing they might never forget their past trauma, nor invalidate the damage it could cause to a soul; yet, regardless of what others had done, and would continue to do, Cawilan thought, no one, not even Oxley himself, could ever take this away. No matter where this journey would take them, for now, for the first time ever, her life was forever perfect.