Friday, January 04, 2008
Rain and wind whipped through the City without mercy and tore down signs and fences with no sign of stopping. It was cold, gray and miserable. Above all, it summed up Kerri Sparks’ emotional state to a T. She wasn’t doing so well in this post-Christmas without a job world she had created for herself.
Kerri slid her fingers over the tops of the glistening cases absently as she thought about what an absolute wreck her life had become – pathetic. She flipped through the CDs and glanced at the covers, but nothing really registered in her mind. Music thumped around her as she wandered through the CD shop without a clue as to what her brother would like for Christmas. Hell, it wasn’t like she had money for a gift anyway and it was almost two weeks after the lame holiday was over. What was the point?
“Help you find something?”
Kerri turned to face the young man before her with a blank stare. She slid a hand over her wet hair and shook her head. “No, thanks. Unless you have some sort of buy none, get one free thing going today?” She didn’t smile and it was obvious that her joke fell into the same gray area the day occupied.
The young guy smiled an awkward, sorry smile and shook his head no. “Sorry, that was yesterday.” He smirked and moved off towards the counter.
Kerri glared at the CDs before her, looked towards the rows of movies in the back of the store, then moved towards the door and out into the cold.
The rain had stopped, but the wind still battered her when she hit the street. A shiver ran through her as the wind slid over and around her legs and back and made the damp even colder than it already was. Her umbrella was useless in this gust, so she had just resigned herself to power through and take a hot shower at home. Hell of a Monday.
“Merry Christmas my ass,” she growled. “God damn nightmare, the whole of it.” She pulled her jacket tighter and made her way down the street.
Behind her, a lone bicyclist followed. Not to close, but obviously interested in her. He peddled slowly and moved his mountain bike down and off the sidewalk.
The dim light of midday in the clouds made Kerri even more depressed. She was broke and forced to live at home. She was the laughing stock of the family now – everyone tossing veiled thoughts of “I told you so” her way whenever they could. What made it worse was their being right. She had made a few bad calls and when she looked back on them, she could remember words of warning before each one.
She turned and moved down the alley towards the Muni Bus stop. She’d resume the hunt for her brother’s gift later, for whatever that was worth.
“Hey Baby.” The man that followed Kerri slid from his seat and began to walk along behind her.
Kerri glanced back with her game face on then continued to move down the alley keeping her pace.
“Need a lift?” The man patted his bike seat and laughed.
Kerri focused on the end of the alley and ignored the comments.
“What are you doing out of school? Playing hooky?” He touched her shoulder and gripped it tight and Kerri’s heart leapt into her throat. She spun around and pushed his chest with both hands.
“DO NOT touch me!” She tried sounding bigger than her five foot two inch frame was. “I will fucking HURT you.”
“Baby girl’s got a chip on her shoulder. Just talking to you.” He slipped the bike around the back of her and grinned a dirty grin. He was around her age, but he obviously thought she was younger than she was. She didn’t look 28 and right now she didn’t feel it either. She felt like a scared kid. “Be nice.” His clothes weren’t dirty, so she didn’t think he was homeless. He was just an asshole.
Kerri’s mind blanked. She stared for a moment and sized things up, then struck before she had time to talk herself out of it. Years of classes flooded her head.
She grabbed the man’s soaked hair and pulled his head forward and down as she brought her knee up hard and fast. She was aiming for his nose, but she missed and connected with his cheek instead. Evidently, this was also effective.
The man wailed and gripped his face after a loud snap-pop signaled the breaking of his eye socket. He went down like a stone and the street bicycle clattered to the ground.
Kerri’s foot rose up and came down hard on the man’s groin. Again, close but not directly what she wanted. Again, very effective.
The man rolled onto his side and vomited onto the wet ground.
Kerri didn’t wait around. She turned and limped off down the alley. Something clicked in her head and she stopped. She winced, her knee aching, then looked back. She limped back to the man, yanked his bike to its wheels, then moved off down the alley towards the busy street.
“BITCH!” the man cried out to no one as he struggled to get to his feet with one hand to his face and the other to his groin.
Kerri’s knee throbbed as she steered towards the street and off down the glistening street.
John Sparks looked up when the buzzer rang and frowned. No one visited him. He wondered who would be dropping in now seeing as it was 9pm on a Wednesday. He pursed his lips and moved towards the door. When he opened it, he smiled wide. “Kerri? You lost?” He looked down. “You’re riding a bike now?” Then he noticed her knee brace and his smile faded.
“Hey, Johnny.” Kerri noted his look of concern. She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “I’m ok. Stop frowning.” She pushed past him and wheeled the bike inside. “Careful, the paint’s a little tacky still. Just finished it up and the rain and all is making the drying hard.”
John closed the door and took in the scene. He moved around his sister and tried not to sound too concerned when he asked about her knee. “THIS was no BOATING accident!” He chuckled.
Kerri laughed and shoved him. “Just fucked up my knee a bit. Have to wear the brace for a few weeks.” She presented the bicycle. “Merry Christmas from your looser sister.” She mustered a smile.
“You’re not a looser.” He looked over the bike. “Red and black. Nice. But, I can’t take your bike, Kerri.”
“Not mine. It’s yours. I had to do a quickie paint job on it. When I got it, it wasn’t looking too good.” She pushed it towards him and limped back. Pointing, she called out the bike’s upgrades. “I oiled up the chain, adjusted the breaks and tossed on my spare slicks. They’re almost new, so they should be fine. You should be able to get a different set of peddles later if you don’t dig the baskets.” She looked over her handy work. “I think it turned out pretty good.”
He nodded. “It’s really nice, but Kerri, how did you manage this? I thought things were tight right now.” He almost touched the paint, but pulled his hand back quickly before his fingers touched the glossy black metal.
“Speaking of, thanks for the check. It was nice of you. The card was cute.” Kerri smiled wide. “Bailing me out again.”
“Hey,” John said as he pushed the bike to the wall and leaned it on it’s handlebars, “you’re not a loser or any of that. People go through stuff. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. It’s not a big deal. If you focus, you’ll be back on your feet in a month or so, right?” He dragged his fingers over her head and messed up her hair.
Kerri ducked to the right and winced as the pain of her forgotten knee shot up to her hip. “Damn it.” She sucked in air and dropped herself onto the sofa.
John dropped to his knee in front of her and lightly touched the brace. “You cool?”
“Yeah….just forgot about it.” Kerri closed her eyes for a minute and let the tears subside, then she sighed and opened them. “I hate Christmas.” She grinned.
“Well, good thing it’s over then.” He stood. “Coffee?”
“Please.” Kerri watched him move into the kitchen, then she looked around the apartment. Two bedrooms – one converted into a study, John’s girlfriend Monica’s stuff neatly laid out on the hall table, and the air fresh and warm. It was so unlike her old room at her parents place. Everything was new and clean. IKEA furniture fresh from the box. She grinned at her thought and blurted out, “So, still struggling with this old two bedroom place? It’s so….small and cramped.” She grinned at her obvious sarcasm. The place was huge with a glorious view in a great neighborhood. She coveted it.
John returned and laughed. “Funny.”
“Really nice place.” Kerri adjusted her leg and settled in.
“Yeah. Yeah, it is. Good size for us.” He looked out the window. “Thanks Mom and Dad.”
“They gave me the cash to get in here when I was broke. You knew that.” He smiled. “Helped a lot. That and the trip to get furniture. Still need to pay them back for all that.”
“I didn’t know they helped.” She perked up.
“Yeah, when you were at school and I was trying to get the Telnet gig.” He nodded. “Not the only one who needs help, Spider Baby.”
Kerri waved him off. She didn’t like to remember her “call me Spider Baby” days. It seemed so ridiculous now. “Kerri will do just fine, thanks.”
“Just when I got used to the whole Spider Baby persona. It was like having a super hero for a sister. Someone who I knew the secret identity of.” He chuckled.
This kind of ribbing was missed and loved. Kerri stuck out her tongue.
“Nice having you over. You should come over more often. We’ll get your resume done and get you working again.” He pointed at her and stood when he heard the kettle start it’s wailing.
Kerri called over her shoulder. “And give all THIS up? Living with Mom and Dad and stealing Christmas presents? No way.”
John laughed, not understanding that she wasn’t joking about the bike. He surfaced a moment later with two cups of steaming coffee and handed one to Kerri. “Still a cream and sugar overload girl?”
“Hell yeah,” she said as she slipped her hands around the cup.
John tapped his cup against hers. “To your busted up knee.”
Kerri smiled and sipped. “To my knee.” She smiled wide.