Manchineels in Spring
“How long did you think I would wait?” Alice restlessly examined the bar’s dimly lit parking lot, each frame burning into her mind.
“It’s only been ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes is a long time for us, Sam.”
“There was a lot of traffic.” Sam opened the door of her old Toyota.
“Traffic? It’s three in the morning. It’s too early for traffic.”
“It was a joke. Learn how to take one sometime? Anyways, I’m here now so let’s just do what we need to do.”
“But what are we even doing? You don’t know anything and I don’t know anything and all of this is – ”
“Dammit Alice! You need to calm down,” Sam huffed as she walked towards the white Range Rover. She knocked on the trunk and waited for Alice to open the door.
“Alice are you there?”
“Sorry, it’s open.”
“Can you get into the car now, please? What are you doing outside anyways?”
“I wanted fresh air. I got nauseous.”
“That’s not possible.”
“But I was.”
“Then turn on the AC.” Sam shut the door and walked to the passenger seat.
“You want me to drive?”
“Is that a problem for you?”
“I told you I feel nauseous.” Alice gripped the handle of her car, “but I guess I can drive.”
“Just make a decision.”
“Can you drive?” Sam sighed as she made her way towards the driver seat. She opened the door and watched Alice trudge along through the wide windows.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps pierced the silent night. Sam hopped into the driver seat and attempted to rush Alice inside.
“Hey you! Girl in the pink skirt!” A man yelled from the across the parking lot.
“Shit, Sam! I think he saw me! What do I do?”
“Okay, uh, try to relax. He’s probably just another creep who’s looking for someone to escort him through the night.”
The man teetered towards Alice then slumped against the car.
“Oh two pretty ladies. Hello there!” The drunk man waved grandly to Sam. “Aw why do you two look so serious? Let’s have some fun! Come back to the bar with me, come on! I’ll show you a great time.”
“We’re actually on our way home right now,” Sam spoke up. “This little lady had her fair share of drinks already.” Alice crookedly smiled.
“Suit yourself then.” The man approached Alice and the smell of hard liquor engulfed the two. “Just be careful because there are tons of creeps out there at this hour.” Then the man turned around and staggered back into the bar, singing an unidentifiable tune.
“Well that was interesting.” Sam waited for Alice to get into her seat.
“That’s not funny. What if he remembers my face?”
“It was a joke.”
“I know, but it wasn’t funny,” Alice stirred in her seat. “And it definitely wasn’t interesting.”
“You’re right. How can anything be more interesting than what you did tonight, anyways.”
“Don’t say it like that. It wasn’t all me.”
“You were always like this, you know?”
“You were there too, Sam,” Alice quaked.
“Ever since the third grade, you were like this.”
“You were always seeking adventure. Always looking for the nicest places to visit, the newest trips to take, the biggest challenges to overcome. Now you’re faced with your biggest challenge yet and you don’t want to figure out a solution? You don’t want to overcome this? This is what you wanted. Adventure, right?”
“What are you even saying? I never wanted it like this.”
“Well we’re here now.” Alice rubbed her palms anxiously. “And there are only so many options, Alice. You can either tell someone or we can leave.”
“It wasn’t all me.” Sam started the car.
“Let’s just decide on the road. We’ve been here way too long and that creep basically called us out. Who knows who could have seen.”
“Sam it wasn’t all me.”
“Yes, I heard you the first time.”
“Then acknowledge what I said!” Alice clenched her fists.
Silence filled the air. Only the sound of the car’s steady humming and Alice’s heavy breathing comforted the silent night.
“Look, I’m just trying to fix this,” Sam sighed as she pulled out the car keys and laid them on her lap.
“By blaming me? I have a lot to lose, Sam.”
“You say that yet you’re the one sulking while I’m the one trying to get you out of this.”
Alice stared up at the lampposts. “I don’t know if that’s what I want, Sam. I don’t know if I want to get out of this anymore.”
“What is that supposed to mean? You just said you have a lot to lose. What are you gonna do? You’re just going to give it all up?”
“I-I don’t know.”
“You never do. You always leave a mess then rely on others to clean it up for you.”
“Just stop it. I don’t want to argue anymore.”
“Someone had to tell you.”
Alice slowly unbuckled her seatbelt and began to open the door. “I’m getting nauseous.”
“I didn’t know that these grew out here during the springtime”
“That tree, I think it’s called a Manchineel”
“Manchineel. They’re known for their death apples, but it’s so weird. I remember reading about them. They only grow during the winter. Why is there one here?”
“How would I know, stop worrying about the tree. I’m getting nauseous.”
“How are you nauseous?”
“I can smell it.”
“I told you that’s not possible. Just get back in the car. Who knows how many people have seen by now.”
“Why isn’t it possible?”
“Because it’s only been three hours.”
“I just need some fresh air.”
“You already got fresh air, Alice. We really need to go.”
“I’ll just be a minute. I need something to drink, too.” Alice opened the door and slammed it shut, leaving Sam impatiently waiting for her return.
Sam watched Alice’s retreating figure under the fluorescent lighting of the bar’s parking lot. She watched her disappear into the western style double doors then slumped into her seat. The bar had been blasting old country music and the sound of laughter trapped Sam as she sat by herself in the all too spacious Range Rover. She fell deeper and deeper into her seat then pressed her knees to her face.
Twenty minutes elapsed and Alice was still nowhere to be seen.
“God where is she?” Getting impatient, Sam hastily got out of the car and went towards the bar. She made a beeline to the drinks and searched for the blonde bombshell.
“Alice? ” Sam whispered as she searched the bar, “Alice?”
She moved on to the bathrooms, “Alice, are you in here?”
Sam searched the entire bar yet she could not find Alice. Everywhere she went, she was met with strange faces and no traces. Everywhere she went, she was met with silence from her biggest friend and adversary.