“It’s your shift, Olivia.”
A droopy-eyed Olivia got out of the back seat of the car. Stretching slightly as she made her way to the driver’s seat, she took a deep breath of fresh air. Streams of fog dissipated from her mouth. Her hands rubbed against each other to keep warm as she started the car. Changing the gear out of park, she ignited the accelerator with her foot. Her hands maneuvered the car from the shoulder of the road and continued the journey at hand.
Yawns escaped her dried lips ever so often as she drove the long, winding road. She hummed along with the rushing wind and bumps of the road. Lush trees and bushes danced through the wind on her right to the music coming from her mouth. Her view of the ocean kissing the tops of the rocky cliffs entertained her each time she glanced to the left.
Her eyes peeked to the passenger seat, to the sleeping stranger. He was quite odd looking. He was short in stature with a little chub, but only in the face. His nose was prominent as his small glasses laid upon it. Stubble covered his face, whilst his balding blonde head leaned against the passenger door. Sleeping. His arms crossed over his chest, covering the dirty blue tee shirt he had on. The cold ruled this fall night, but his body adorned khaki shorts. No jacket present.
“John.” Her dainty hand made its way to his shoulder with a slight push. “Wake up.” Olivia’s push came with force.
His eyes opened wide as he looked at the culprit of this intrusion. Dull brown eyes met Olivia’s as he adjusted himself in his seat. A small yawn escaped his lips as his eyes adjusted to his surroundings.
“Can you grab me that white cord by your feet?” John’s eyes fixated below him, spotting the cord that contrasted the black, carpeted floor. His calloused fingers grabbed it and handed it to Olivia.
“Didn’t catch your name earlier, sweetie.” John broke the silence hovering the moving car.
“Olivia. But all my friends call me Livvi.” Another silence fell over the car. Olivia’s fingers began to tap anxiously against the leather steering wheel.
“Do I make you nervous or som’thin?” Olivia stopped her erratic actions.
“No?” Her statement came out more as a question, verifying John’s suspicion. A small chuckle erupted from his chest as he grabbed a small white box from his back pocket. An image of a camel adorned the box. His hand returned to his pocket, retrieving a small white lighter. A flicker of flame ignited the cigarette at his lips. Smoke soon filled the compact car.
“Do you mind putting that out? It’s a rental.” He looked smugly over at her, taking one last hit.
“Sure thing, sweetheart.” There was pain, light, and a little more pain.
Regina regained consciousness. An annoying beep sounded as she tried to familiarize her surroundings. Thick sweat engulfed her small body, restraining her movement. A voice came next; a woman crowded her ears as she talked about different oils and wrapping techniques, with another voice following.
“How long is the usual healing process for such severe burns?” Regina was instantly struck by the question. Healing process?
“Well, with the severity of scar tissue, there is no set timeline for such extensive burns. It could be anywhere from two months to two years. Good question, Jeremiah.” The voices seemed to have drowned out, as the obnoxious beep returned. Its consistency and demanding glare bothered her and made her head ache. But it was constant, just like Richard.
Her eyes begged to open, but her pleas were ignored. Panic began to flush. Her voice began to call out for help, but her lips felt trapped.
The beeping quickened, the voice from earlier began to talk again. Nothing decipherable. Soon her unconscious state resided over her mind once again. Richard, I love you.
“Regina, I’m going to ask one more time. What happened the night of November seventeenth?”
She didn’t flinch. She couldn’t if she wanted to, it hurt too much.
“Regina, the faster you tell me what happened, the faster you get out of here and back home.” It had only been forty minutes since Officer Veltman first pressed record, but four hours that Regina had spent in the small, white room. Switching out different interrogators per her request.
“I don’t think you did it, Regina.”
“I didn’t.” Her voice came out softer than a whisper.
“This is your opportunity to tell everyone.” A small nod of cooperation was given in reply.
“Okay, Regina. So, what happened November seventeenth?” Silence prolonged. Richard, I need you.
“It was the monster. This is all its fault.” Though she didn’t specify what this was, everyone watching knew she referred to the bandages covering her head and arms.
“Who’s this monster?”
“I was dreaming of Richard actually, just before smoke filled the car. He had just proposed.” Officer Veltman looked intently at the young woman.
“We were so happy. But he’s gone now. And the monster is still prowling.” Her voice held a boldness now.
“Who is this monster, Regina?”
“Death, of course.” She knew she was being ambiguous; it made things interesting. Regina looked up slightly, her eyes no longer fixated on the bandages on her arms but now on Officer Veltman’s eyes. He wanted answers.
“Where were you going?”
“Big Sur, my favorite place in the world.” She paused, thinking of the beautiful piece of earth.
“Richard and I wanted to get married there one day, y’know. Along the shoreline or something.” A small smile made its way to her face for the first time in months. It left as soon as it came.
“Why the trip up there? Special occasion?”
“Alone time, I suppose. Just Richard and me. And then she found the monster.”
“Who found the monster?”
“Olivia, of course.”
“Olivia is my friend. She was my friend, but we’re no longer friends. She’s bad.”
“Your friend Olivia was with you during the accident?” Officer Veltman looked down at the file in his hands, diligently searching for the unknown name.
“We were driving through Cambria; it was around six. The sun was setting along the horizon of the ocean.” She paused slightly, beginning to play with her fingers. “Olivia insisted we pull over and watch. Richard didn’t want to though. He said, ‘No, Olivia. It’s too dangerous to drive at night.’ But she insisted, she’s very persuasive, y’know.”
Officer Veltman’s eyes widened as he read the final page of Regina’s file. “Then what happened?”
“Well, then we watched the sunset. It was quite pleasant. Though Olivia kept staring at Richard; I always suspected she was jealous of our relationship.” Regina paused once more, thinking.
“Then what happened, Miss Porter?”
“Well, that’s when I saw John. He was a bit ahead of us, sitting on the side of the road with his thumb out. He looked quite cold. I pulled over and offered him to ride with us to get some food.”
“I thought Olivia found him?”
“That’s what I said.”
“No, Regina. You said you did.”
“You’re a liar, you’re twisting my words!” Regina was now on her feet, her finger in Officer Veltman’s face. The pain that shot through her body felt good, electrifying.
“Regina, calm down, I’m sorry.” Regina’s chest was moving heavily up and down, her body shaking erratically.
“Just sit down, Regina. We’re almost done. Let’s continue, okay?” Regina obliged and sat back down. Her body still shaking.
“What happened after Olivia picked up John?”
“Well, we grabbed some food. I don’t remember exactly, but we left soon after. Then it was Olivia’s shift to drive, I fell asleep in the back seat. Then I remember there was smoke everywhere. That’s it.”
Officer Veltman set down all his notes, Regina’s file included. Then he removed his eyeglasses from the bridge of his nose.
“Regina, can I ask you one last question?” Regina nodded.
“Can I speak to Olivia or John?”
“Of course, but you won’t be able to hear what they are saying.”
“Why is that?”
“Because they can only talk to me, silly.”
Lauren Monsivais is a college freshman at the University of La Verne where she is studying to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in Communications. Her poetry has been featured in several literary magazines, such as The Cape Rock. She is a native of Southern California, where she spends her free time admiring nature, taking pictures and, of course, writing.