Out of Turn
Kathleen Turner - 4
Thank you for always asking for more. Well, demanding, actually, not asking.
(And for teaching me that sometimes, the only word that will do is the F-word.)
No one had shot at me in weeks, or beat me up. I hadn’t been cut, punched, or slapped. No one threatened me, stalked me, or stabbed me.
It was a nice change.
And that’s what I kept telling myself as I headed to my car. It was mid-afternoon, and the humid heat of late June in Indianapolis made perspiration slide down the middle of my back under the thin T-shirt I wore. The backpack I carried didn’t help matters any.
The air inside my white Toyota Corolla was stifling and sliding into it felt as though I were climbing into an oven. I rolled down the windows as I drove to my apartment, waiting for the AC to kick in. The air gusting through the windows was hot but cooled my sweat-dampened skin.
I thought longingly of the huge Lexus SUV I’d had the brief privilege of driving. It had been a gift, a wonderful gift that I’d have been happy to keep, if it hadn’t cost so much to drive it. Gas was too expensive for me to justify driving the luxury car—especially when I sometimes wondered how I was going to pay my rent—so I’d sold it, using the money to buy a used Toyota and what was left to help pay tuition.
I had just enough time to feed Tigger, my cat, and jump in the shower before I had to leave for work at The Drop, a bar downtown. It was Friday night and with the heat, I was sure we’d be busy.
In the summer, the owner of The Drop and my boss, Romeo, allowed the girls to wear black shorts and white T-shirts for our uniform. That would usually be a good thing, but Romeo believed sex always sells, so the shorts were nearly Daisy Dukes and the T-shirts tight, with plunging necklines. Not that I could be real choosy about it. I needed my bartending job at The Drop to pay the bills, especially since I was now taking classes during the day at the IU campus downtown rather than working for the law firm of Kirk and Trent.
“Hey, Kathleen! Can you give me a hand?”
That’s me. Kathleen Turner, and sometimes I really wished I was that Kathleen Turner. I bet she never had to worry about paying her electric bill. Cursed with the family legacy, I had been the last to be named for a famous Turner. My dad was Ted Turner, my grandma Tina Turner, and my cousin was William Turner, though he went by his middle name, Chance. Wish I’d thought of doing that years ago.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied to Tish, a waitress at The Drop who was juggling one too many plates of food. I shoved my purse under the bar and hurried to help her take the dishes to a table of five.
I was right. The bar was busy tonight and I didn’t have time to even think. I was grateful for that. I didn’t want to think. If I did, I’d remember.
“Another round, please.”
I jerked my attention back to my job, hurrying to fill the order tossed my way. By the time closing neared, I was nearly dead on my feet. Thank God. Maybe I’d get more than three or four hours of sleep tonight.
“Have some cheese fries,” Tish said, sliding onto a stool and placing a laden plate on the bar. “I’m exhausted,” she sighed, picking up a dripping French fry and popping it into her mouth.
I grabbed us each a bottle of beer and leaned against the bar. The cold, bitter liquid felt good going down. My hair had come loose from its ponytail, so I redid it, pulling the long strawberry-blonde strands up and off my neck. I hated when my hair got in the way when I was working but liked it too much to have it cut short. Along with my blue eyes, I thought it was my best feature.
“Have some,” Tish insisted, pushing the plate toward me.
I shook my head. “No thanks. I’m good,” I said, and took another drink.
“Kathleen, you drink too much and eat too little,” she said with a frown.
I snorted, my eyebrows climbing. “Yes, Mom,” I teased.
Tish didn’t smile back. “I’m your friend and I’m worried about you.”
“I’m fine,” I dismissed. To appease her, I picked up a fry and took a bite.
She hesitated. “You know, maybe you could talk to someone. I have this lady I see every once in a while—”
“No, thanks,” I interrupted, taking another swig.
“But it may help…”
Tish stopped talking at the look I gave her, instead heaving a sigh as she ate another cheese fry.
I couldn’t be mad at her, not really. She cared about me and was just trying to help. Once upon a time, I’d have probably said the same thing. Come to think of it, I actually had given the same advice in what felt like a lifetime ago. And the recipient had reacted the same way I had.
Why the fuck would I want to do that?
“It’s just a breakup,” I said to her, feeling bad now that she was worrying about me. “Everybody goes through them.” I shrugged and finished off my beer, tossing the bottle into the trash with a loud clunk.
“It’s just…” She paused and I raised my eyebrows.
“Just what?” I asked.
“You’re… different now,” she said, looking slightly abashed. “Harder, I guess. Colder. And I just really hate to see you that way.”
Her words stung. I couldn’t disagree with her, but it wasn’t something I could fix right now. I needed an emotional distance from everyone, including myself.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I don’t mean to be. I just can’t—”
“I know,” she said, reaching out to rest a hand on my arm. “I know you need to be in this place for now—just don’t let yourself stay there, okay? I miss the old Kathleen.”
I gave Tish a weak smile, but I wondered whether the old Kathleen was gone for good.
“Rough night, eh, ladies?”
I turned to see that Scott, the other bartender for tonight, had grabbed his own beer and leaned against the bar behind me.
“Good tips, though,” I said, stepping away from Tish.
Scott turned the volume up on the television, sipping his beer while he watched. A familiar name froze me in my tracks.
“Gubernatorial candidate Blane Kirk is back in Indy tonight attending a fund-raiser downtown after ten days on campaign stops throughout the state.”
I felt as though someone had sucker punched me. My hands turned to ice. I couldn’t take a deep breath. Even so, I couldn’t stop myself from turning to look up at the television.
I’d avoided all newspapers and the television for three months. This was the first time I’d seen his face since that awful day in March. The day he’d accused me of sleeping with his brother and had broken our engagement.
If I’d thought the passage of time would ease the blow of seeing his face again, I was very, very wrong.
I drank in the news footage, which showed Blane shaking hands with people in a crowd, the sunlight making his dark blond hair shine like gold. He had on a loosely knotted tie and a white shirt with the cuffs rolled back. His smile was gleaming white, dimpled, and perfect. A politician at his best. I noticed his smile still didn’t reach his eyes, but then again, it rarely did.
The scene changed, showing Blane now in a tuxedo and entering the Crowne Plaza downtown. A woman was with him, his hand on her lower back. I watched, unable to tear my eyes away, as she turned and the camera caught her face.
Dressed in a long gown of deep bronze, she exuded elegance and sensuality. Her hair was long and nearly black, her skin a warm olive. I’d once likened her to Penélope Cruz and could see the description was still apt. She was a fellow lawyer in Blane’s firm, and together they made a stunning pair.
I couldn’t breathe.
“I-I’ve… uh—I’ve got to go,” I stammered, making a frantic grab for my purse under the bar.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll close up,” Tish hurriedly added. She frowned at Scott, but he didn’t notice since he was still watching TV. I couldn’t blame him. I’d told only Tish the sordid details of my breakup with Blane.
“Thanks.” I managed a grateful smile before beating a hasty retreat outside. I heard Scott calling a belated good-bye to me as the door swung closed.
Once I reached my car, I leaned against it, my arms cushioning my head.
I drove on autopilot, replaying the images of Blane in my head. It made my chest hurt and my stomach turn into knots. I regretted even the small bite of French fry I’d eaten as nausea clawed my throat.
I thought by now it would have been easier to see him with someone else.
Tigger met me at the door. My two-story apartment building was in a section of Indy where police sirens were a nightly occurrence, but I hadn’t had any problems as long as I’d lived there. At least, no problems that were because of the neighborhood.
I changed into shorts and a tank, opening the windows to give my AC, and my electric bill, a break. Light filtered in from the streetlamps, so I didn’t bother turning on any lights in the apartment. After pouring myself a vodka tonic, I curled up on the couch, absently petting Tigger as I stared into space.
It was late, but I knew that if I went to bed I wouldn’t sleep. And even if I did, nightmares plagued me more often than not. The ordeal I’d endured a few months ago at the hands of human traffickers had left mental scars, though physically I was fine. So I didn’t sleep a whole lot.
My stomach churned and I resolutely took another drink. I did not want to puke, I hated throwing up, but I needed the numbness the vodka was so adept at providing. I needed not to feel anymore.
I thought about what Tish had said and wondered when, if ever, I’d feel like myself again. Normal. When I’d look forward to waking up every morning rather than dreading each new day as something to get through. When the ice inside me would melt.
I was angry with Blane, that much was true. He had believed his uncle’s lies instead of me, his fiancée. He hadn’t trusted me.
But I was devastated, too. Blane had devastated me, and part of me hated him for that, even as I ached to see him, talk to him. The newscast tonight had been bittersweet to watch.
I finished my drink in one long gulp, pushing Tigger aside as I got on the floor and started doing sit-ups. When the liquor didn’t work to quiet my brain, I exercised, trying to get as exhausted as I possibly could. Sit-ups and push-ups when it was dark outside, running for miles when it wasn’t.
I was in great shape. I wish I cared.
Running always made me think of Kade. Kade Dennon. Ex-FBI agent. Assassin-for-hire. Blane’s half brother. I hadn’t heard from him in months, not since the night he’d kissed me and told me I should be with him, not Blane.
I hadn’t counted on how much I’d miss him no longer being in my life.
I glanced at my cell phone as I lay panting on the floor, my abdominal muscles screaming at me. I hadn’t been able to make myself delete their numbers, so Blane and Kade were still listed in my contacts. I should get rid of them, and I would. Just not tonight.
A warm breeze flowed through the open window, bringing with it the familiar scent of a summer’s night. At the moment, no sirens wailed and I could hear the occasional car pass by. I wondered what Blane was doing, and if it included Charlotte.
Sunlight streaming through the window and a marmalade lump of feline woke me up Saturday morning. I’d fallen asleep on the floor and now my back ached. Tigger used my stomach as a pillow, his clawless paws kneading my flesh.
“Give it a rest,” I grumbled at him as I sat up. He meowed a complaint about his loss of pillow and followed me into the kitchen, where I started the coffeemaker. I went for a run and showered before bolting down some caffeine. I had homework to do and had agreed to meet Clarice for lunch today.
A few hours later, I was winding my way behind a hostess as she led me through a local restaurant to the patio tables. I was glad about that. I’d be able to leave my sunglasses on. Lack of sleep left a toll that makeup couldn’t always cover.
Clarice was waiting for me. She stood to give me a hug.
“So good to see you!” she said.
“You, too.” My smile was genuine. I’d missed seeing and talking to her every day.
“You look great,” she added as we sat down.