What Happens When The Stars Go Out
“If you don't stop lookin’ at that goddamn door, I'm gonna push you out it.” Marla grouses, snapping Ali out of her haze.
They sit at the staff booth, smoking and drinking their pre-shift beer. It had been a week since Daryl took her out to the river. Ali pours over every little thing she had done in her mind, every word, every look, every feeling, searching for a reason for his absence. But she comes up short.
“He's not coming back.” Ali says sadly, knocking a bud of ash off her cigarette into the ashtray.
“Well you weren't exactly clear you're interested. I mean all you did was talk.” Marla argues.
“There are other ways to express interest aside from offering up your body, Marla. Plus, I kinda feel like I shouldn't… be interested. I mean, I know Donnie is gonna get out in a couple months…”
“Stop right there.” Marla interrupts her. “You are NOT going back to that fucker. Jesus! Ali. Be straight with Daryl. Tell him you like him, tell him you wanna fuck him, tell him you touch yourself in the shower while you think about him.”
Ali throws her pack of cigarettes at the red head. “Will you shut the fuck up! I don't need Wilson hearing that shit!” She hisses.
Marla laughs, thoroughly enjoying holding Ali's secret over her head.
“I just know, there ain't no way a man looks at a woman the way he looks at you, when he ain't interested. He just ain't gonna make the first move. He knows you been with that asshole and he’s probably afraid of making things harder on you. I mean, didn't he give you his number?”
“Okay, okay. If I haven't heard from him by the time I'm off work, I'll text him on the way home. You happy now?”
“I'll be happy when you just go ahead and take what you know you want. But this will have to be good enough for now.” Marla answers, narrowing her eyes.
Ali unlocks her phone, before sighing and locking it again, thinking of the man whose tender heart bleeds through the cracks of his composed exterior.
It had been a while since Daryl worked as a mechanic, but he was finding it relatively easy to pick back up. The days were long, and he was leaving the shop greasy and exhausted. But, it was better than moving meth. It sat better on his conscience.
Pulling into his makeshift gravel driveway, he trudges up the tiny path to his front door. He finds his brother inside making use of his television, as he was regularly known to do, with a six pack perched on the arm of the old leather chair.
“Well! Here's the workin’ boy!” Merle calls out as he steps through the door.
Daryl nods and sets his keys down on his card table substitute for a kitchen table.
“You know, I still don't get why you traded the good money, for a nine to five. Don't make much sense.” He says, opening another beer. “Unless. It has something to do with that pretty piece of ass you found at The Kraken.”
“We're just friends.” Daryl argues.
“Uh huh. That why you're lookin’ at your cell phone, and readin’ all them books? Like a little bitch…”
“Get the fuck outta here man. You don't know her!”
“Neither do you! Her boy Donnie is a real prick. He works for the same supplier, little brother. He's got that girl wrapped around his fingers. So you better fuck her quick while you still have the chance. Soon as he's outta jail, she'll go runnin’ on back to him.”
“You don't know her.” Daryl repeats, in an attempt to convince himself.
When Merle returns to his trailer, Daryl begins to pace. He thinks about her sad smile, and the way the moonlight off the river made her glow. He's never wanted anyone before. Not like this. A quick fuck is one thing, but she makes him wish he shared his bed and his life with her. She is different.
He looks at the clock on his TV. 1:30am.
He grabs his keys, and takes off into the night.
Ali leans against the bar, composing and deleting texts. Everything she thinks of to say, sounds desperate or aggressive. She remembers the quiet conversations they had overlooking a sparkling and peaceful river. She thinks of his shirt, and how she wears it at night because it comforts her. Deleting another text in frustration, she struggles to find a way to ask him for his time.
Locking her phone for the twentieth time, she turns to arrange the liquor bottles, and wipe up any drips on the counter.
The door opens, but she doesn't turn around.
“So few want to be rebels anymore. and out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily.” Hearing the quote, and his voice, she turns around with a smile so bright, it breaks his heart to see it. She is the most beautiful woman he's ever seen.
“You finish the book?” She asks.
He nods, taking a seat at the bar, and she pushes her phone into her pocket. They cautiously regard each other.
“I'm glad you're back.” She says.
He answers with a half smile that lights her insides on fire.
“Give me a little time to clean up, then… will you walk me home?”
She walks over to the ancient jukebox in the corner selecting Led Zeppelin, and Since I Been Loving You fills the empty bar. Pushing in chairs on her way back to the counter, he can't help but stare as she moves about her closing rituals with the bluesy music in the background. She opens a beer for him, and slides it across the counter, her fingertips brushing his as he takes it.
She wipes a couple of tables, sweeps up a small mess, and shuts all of the lights out except for the one behind the counter. All the while he watches the way she floats around the bar, her routine second nature.
“I got a new job.” He says quietly. “That's why I ain't been back.”
“Oh yeah?” She says, throwing her cleaning rag into the hamper.
“Just workin’ with cars. Ain't nothin’ special.”
“But, do you like it?”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
“Then I'm happy for you. I mean… maybe you can take a look at my hundred year old Corolla. It's seen better days, but somehow it's still alive.”
“Ain't no hope for an old ass Corolla. It ain't gonna die on you outta nowhere, if that's what you're worried about. But I'll look at it for you.” He says with a smirk.
Taking his empty bottle, she rests her hand on his shoulder.
“Lets get out of here.” She says, as she gently slips her fingertips down his arm.
It is the first time she's ever reached out to touch him, and he relishes the feeling, realizing it is an out of character gesture.
She leads him out the door and they walk side by side down the short path to her apartment. She soaks in every moment they walk together, wishing the walk was longer. Wishing for more time.
“How was work?” He asks awkwardly.
“It was okay. You?”
“Okay. Better now though.” He responds, causing her stomach to flip with excitement.
They approach the row of small town-homes and she gestures to a 1995 Corolla in sea foam green.
“Here she is, in all her glory." She says, with a laugh."
"I'll make sure she'll still get you where you need to go."
She smiles as they take the steps up to her front door. When she opens it, the first thing he notices is it smells like her. Like jasmine, roses, and sandalwood. A glittery lava lamp provides warm, dim lighting as they walk in. And a small television, navy futon, coffee table, and a sizable bookshelf are the only furniture in the living room. He takes solace in the fact there is no evidence another man ever lived here.
“It isn't much…” She says shyly.
“It's better than my place, that's for sure.”
They stand there awkwardly a moment, unsure of what to say or do. Sexual tension overwhelming both their thoughts. She wants to kiss him, to take him to bed and offer herself. But some small part of her mind whispers that is always her downfall.
She offers all of herself until there's nothing left but ashes.
“Um, make yourself at home, I'm just going to go change. Can I get you anything?” She asks.
“You ain't gotta wait on me Ali.” He says, his voice is low and gravely. Hearing him say her name sends blood rushing to the parts of her she only awakens when she is alone. The parts of her she would give him if he'd only ask.
She retreats to her bedroom, her face flushed and heart pounding, as he looks around the small living room. A picture of her as a child sits casually on the bookshelf and it makes him smile. Flipping it over he reads the cursive handwriting on the back Aliana age 7 and he wonders why she doesn't share her full name.
“My foster parents at the time took that. It's one of the only ones I have of me as a kid.” She appears behind him, dressed in blue striped pajama pants and a tank top. He turns the picture over in his hands with care, before replacing it.
She sits down on one end of the couch, and he sits in he middle. They keep distance between them, but not too much. It is enough to make him excited and nervous and afraid.
She shares more about the foster family. The dad who taught her to hunt, the mom who made sure she had clean clothes and enough to eat, such trivial things were the most valuable to her. Trivial things are still the most valuable to her.
Her face falls, and the atmosphere changes between them.
“I want to tell you why I'm in Roswell.”
“I was involved in my moms death… I um, I didn't kill her, but I helped get her the drugs that did.” Her voice cracks with her last word, and she looks up at him with teary eyes. She breathes a nervous laugh as she wrings her hands.
She is silent a moment, unsure if she can continue, and he decides to take a chance. To help her relate to him. To pull the broken pieces of her back together, all the while making himself vulnerable. The thought of doing so is new and terrifying.
“My mom, she liked her wine. And she liked to smoke in bed. Virginia Slims. I was playin’ out with the kids in the neighborhood. I could do that with Merle gone. They had bikes, I didn't.” He looks down, picking at his nails, then back up at her. She stares, offering her undivided attention.
“We heard sirens gettin’ louder. They jumped on their bikes, ran after it, you know, hoping to see something worth seeing. I ran after them but, I couldn't keep up. I ran around a corner and saw my friends lookin’ at me. Hell, I saw everybody lookin’ at me.”
“Daryl…” She says quietly, bringing her hand to cover her mouth. Her heart, aching for that little boy.
“Fire trucks everywhere. People from the neighborhood. It was my house they were there for. It was my mom in bed, burnt down to nothin. That was the hard part. You know, she was just gone. Erased. Nothin left of her. People said it was better that way.” He takes a breath. “I don't know. Just made it seem like it wasn't real, you know?”
“I found my mom. She OD-ed in the bathtub. She had vomited everywhere. I just sat there on the floor next to her for about an hour, before I could do anything. Sat there thinking, ‘who is going to clean up this mess’.”
“You were in shock.”
“I had never seen a dead body before. But I still hated her. She spent my entire life chasing a fix. She didn't care where I was or what happened to me. I knew Donnie had what she was looking for, so, I hooked her up. But. She couldn't handle the kind of shit Donnie had. She couldn't handle it.”
“He gave her the drugs?”
“I called 911. The police took me in, questioned me, but they knew she was a junkie. They had dealt with her before. So they let me go. I wanted out of the city. So the foster dad who took that picture called a friend of his who owned a bar. He and his wife took me in, and here I am. After a while Donnie followed me. Begged me to take him back after I left him to come here.”
They are quiet for a long while, both wanting to offer the other comfort, but they are unsure how.
“I'm sorry about your mom.” She whispers to the ground.
“I'm sorry about yours.” He looks down to catch her gaze. “C’mere.”
He opens his arms, inviting her to him. She tucks herself under his right arm, resting her head on his shoulder and burrowing into the crook of his neck. The rhythmic pumping of his pulse comforts her, and she breathes him in. He gently rubs his fingertips up and down her upper arm, and she takes his free hand into hers, tracing circles in his palm with her thumb. Daryl rests his cheek on the top of her head, and she closes her eyes.
He feels needed. He feels wanted. It's as though his entire life leading up to the moment he saw her sad smile in the bar, was insignificant. He's never held someone in his arms. He's never chased away painful memories with something as simple as his touch. He wonders if this is what it's like to feel invincible
This feels safe. This feels okay. This is okay.
He wakes hours later with his head leaned back against the futon. The warmth and weight of her against his body causes him to look down. She sleeps tucked into his side, exhausted, but peaceful.
Taking a deep breath, he gently stands, helping her to lie down. She doesn't stir, and after a moment, he gently covers her with the blanket folded up beside her.
Ali wakes in the morning on the and it takes her a moment to remember why she's in the living room. She looks around and discovers a note, scrawled on an old receipt, on her coffee table.
Had to go to work, sorry. Your car needs a new drive belt. I'll bring one by later on. X
And she smiles to herself, clutching the note to her chest.
She is not sure what they have together, but she values it. Whatever it is.
It is something new. Something real.