A veil of charcoal blackened the sky, suffocating the sun behind it. Brisk winds invaded the warm spring air and it struck Ezra’s body with a shiver. Petrichor permeated the air and every other minute or so, a drop of water would land on her face. Rain was a rare occurrence in the small town of Charlemagne, Arizona. The promise of a storm was viewed as a miracle in such a place, despite the season. It caused an odd fear to bubble in the pit of Ezra’s stomach. A sense of dreadful danger that felt almost inevitable, inescapable. The gentle drizzle became an aggravated rainfall, violent winds whipped her hair in all directions. She wrapped her wool cardigan tighter around herself, begging it for comfort and warmth. Yet it was soon soaked and only chilled her more. She quickened her pace along the damp dirt road that led her to her temporary home.
A neon red sign blinked in the distance—Mix Motel. Thunder roared when she finally reached the bright blue door of room 46B. Ezra quickly pulled her key out from the back pocket of her drenched jeans, but her shaky hands struggled to unlock it. When she finally entered, hair dripping and teeth chattering, the acrid smell of smoke filled her lungs. The room was dimly lit as it was and the toxic smog only further obscured it into darkness. She coughed into her cardigan, searching through squinted hazel eyes for the polluter.
“Alice? That you?” Ezra locked the door behind her and stepped further into the cloud. A woman’s figure sat in the corner of the small room, beside a bed that took up most of the space. “Why’d you let it get so dark in here, Ally? I mean, it isn’t very sunny out but regardless—” She tugged on a string and the curtains parted, allowing the slightest bit of clarity to seep in. The woman was finally visible, even more so when lightning flashed and for a moment, her empty expression could be seen. “You okay, love?”
The only response was the sound of rain beating against the window. Ezra gave up on the attempt at conversation and marched into the bathroom. Alice remained expressionless, tapping her cigarette against the ashtray. Blood stained its body like lipstick, where her hands and her mouth touched. Would anyone else notice? Who would assume it was anything but the mark of her lips? The human mind preferred to mask the distasteful truth with a slight of pure fiction, so she didn’t worry too much. She loved the taste, the sharp silvery tang of iron that overpowered the intake of bitter poison. Smoke escaped from her nostrils in an exhale, her insides dulled to the burning sensation that her bad habit was accompanied with.
Alice’s mind wandered in deep thought. Note to self: men will only make you bleed. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Crimson smeared her warm beige skin. In an irritated manner, she collected as much blood and saliva as she could before she spat it out into the ashtray beside her. The taste lingered, but so did the rotting in her lungs.
The sun had already begun its descent before the storm subsided to a slowing drizzle. Silhouettes of trees, boulders, and shrubs illustrated in the distance. As if they were painted against the picture perfect star-smothered sky. Ezra leaned against the door of the bathroom, watching Alice’s dazed expression as she looked out at the landscape. Her sharp facial features were deepened by the shadows, highlighted by the neon red and purple hues that emitted from the bright lights of the motel signs.
“You’re beautiful, you know that?” Ezra sighed, breathtaken by woman before her. She walked over, dressed in a silky white slip with her dark hair dripping wet from the shower. She kneeled in front of Alice, looking up at her in awe. “Please speak to me, Ally. I’m sorry about earlier, I know I wasn’t careful. But they haven’t found us yet and they never will. I know that because we’ve been running for days. You think they’ll be looking for us here?” Her eyes wandered to the abandoned cigarette in the ashtray, the traces of blood glinting. She quickly looked back toward Alice’s face, examining further. Her hand reached up and she gently touched the silent woman’s lips with the tip of her fingers. They came away wet and red.
“Fuck, Alice, you’re bleeding! The hell did you do while I was gone?”
Alice began to feel the ache in her body. The adrenaline had worn off and it left her with a craving for aspirin. The busted lip and bruised jaw weren’t the only aching wounds she had to deal with. It took her a moment to find her voice, to regain the strength in her lungs.
“Some… douchebag from the gas station,” Alice’s voice was deep, raspy with pain. “The one who’s always smoking a fat one outside the church. As if we don’t fucking smell it from across the street,” she finally looked down at Ezra, who looked at her with such a worried expression that it made her own soften. “Anyway, I should have expected he would be an asshole. Big man like him picking on girls half his size. Where’s the religion in that?”
Ezra chuckled, rising from her spot on the floor and returning to the bathroom. She soaked a small towel in water and came back to clean the blood off Ally’s mouth and hands.
“On a scale from one to dead, how badly did you hurt him?” Ezra inquired with much interest, a pride growing in her. “I hope it’s dead—serves him right for being terrible.”
“He deserved it, babygirl. You can stop now, it’s alright… I forgive you,” Alice took the rag from Ezra’s hands, placing it on the table she leaned on. “That pig caught us off guard, I know you were scared. Don’t let the gun and badge intimidate you next time. Don’t say a word to any of them, okay?”
Ezra beamed, nodding her head as she leaned closer towards Alice’s. She placed a hand onto her cheek, stroking comfort into her before planting a gentle kiss on her soft lips. The uneasy feeling still remained in the back of Ezra’s mind but she ignored it, as she ignored the slight reluctance in her lover’s kiss. The passion grew until they both fell into bed together, doused in the neon color of the lights outside.
Ezra awoke to the sound of sirens and flashes of red and blue outside her window. The shock of being startled awake still had the world spinning around her. She immediately searched for Alice, wildly swerving her head in panic. Her naked body covered in a sheet from the bed, she wrapped it tightly around herself before running into the bathroom and locking the door. Alice was gone. Had they taken her? How did they find them? Her mind reeled with confusion and fright.
Her phone was still connected to the outlet on the bathroom counter, it flashed fervently. She looked at the screen and she filled with hope at the sight of Alice’s name. Yet the words crashed her down from the high, merciless, like gravity.
I’m sorry, Ezra. I had to tell them it was you.