Candlelight flickered on the faded pink wallpaper. She fumbled for her eye liner on the clutter of the cracked sink. Cassandra deliberately did not turn on the vanity lights because they would shine under the door and possibly alert her father.
As she listened for the sound of Javid's Honda idling outside her open window, she studied herself in the mirror. Her face looked hollow and smoky in the dim reflection cast by the shadowy light. She could barley recognize herself from a few years ago when she had just begun high school.
Finally, Cassandra heard the beckoning sound of the engine. She took a breath, extinguished the light, and smoke filled the darkness. She stepped up on her childhood stool and climbed out the window. With a soft thud, she landed on the brown summer grass. The sky rumbled as she climbed into the car with Javid. Lightly touching her jeans, she felt the reassuring weight in her pocket.
"Hey, Baby." Javid`s honey-soaked voice welcomed Cassandra into the car. She leaned over and gave him a lingering kiss.
"Do you have the goods?"
"Yes." The corners of her mouth rose and she patted her pocket. Javid drove towards downtown, taking as many side streets as possible. They knew this route well from their many visits. Thick drops fell from the sky and pounded the windshield.
"I really don`t know."
" Cassie, you know that we are out of money. We need this to pay for it."
"Well, you don`t have anything else?"
"OK. Fine I will do anything for it."
The rain came down harder as the car raced toward the inner city. The suburbs with their lawns and mini-vans had long since disappeared. Through the blurry water, Cassandra could see familiar apartments with boarded-up windows. Spray-painted graffiti on overpasses and buildings whirled by in a psychedelic blend.
Without warning, the car swerved out of control. The slick pavement made it almost impossible for Javid to stop the car. The frail tire slid across the slick asphalt and he desperately tried to gain control of the car. He pressed his foot on the brake petal as he fought against the machine. He gained control and swung the car to a halt. "Damn it!," Javid hit the steering wheel with his fist. The horn blasted in the night against the pounding of the rain.
"What is it? What happened?," Cassandra`s wide eyes reflected the lights of the dashboard as she looked at him.
"We got a goddamned flat tire!" Javid flung open the door and stepped outside into the pouring rain. Cassandra shivered. The car shook as Javid kicked the flat. She could hear him cussing outside, pacing back and forth. She had to get away from all of the yelling. She opened her door and stepped outside onto the wet asphalt.
"Where the hell do you think you are going?" Javid screamed at her. His dark eyes flashed angrily in the headlights. Cassandra didn't answer.
She walked with the rain falling onto her uplifted face. It was two in the morning and the street was dead. She trudged down the parallel yellow lines one foot in front of the other. The rain felt so good on her weak body and the deathly cold somehow was welcomed in her bones. She reached a dark bridge. Underneath, she could see the broken light shining from Javid`s car.
"Is somebody there?" a raspy voice came out of the darkness. Cassandra squinted her eyes in the murky blackness.
"Hello?" Her voice sounded so small and weak she wasn't even sure it was hers. Cassandra folded her arms tightly against her chest and rubbed them. Her wet ebony hair was plastered against her hollow face. In the faint broken light, she made out a hunched figure huddled in clothes and squatting by a discarded refrigerator box.
"Honey, why are you out here so late?" The raspy voice had a concerned tone. "It don`t matter Honey. You gonna be here awhile?"
"You remind me a girl that I once knew." A muffled chuckle rose from the shadows followed by a rasping cough. The hacking cough broke the consistent rhythm of the rain.
"Do you know what happened to this girl? No, of course you don`t; a nice sweet girl like you. If only that girl had the sense you do. If only that girl could go back in time and change. Have you ever heard of getting yourself in such a deep hole that you can`t get out?"
Cassandra could hardly make out the scratchy voice against the thudding rain.
"Whoever you are, I don`t know what you are talking about." Cassandra halfheartedly turned away and started walking toward the relentless rain.
"Ahh, to be blissfully ignorant."
The weight of the ring in her pocket seemed heavier, suddenly more demanding. Cassandra stopped. Her back turned toward the figure. The thin slinky cloth of Cassandra's camisole clung to her shoulder blades.
"Ever heard the story of the little girl? She grew up to be a young woman. The young woman didn't care about anyone except herself. She had to pay a high price to numb the pain. She ran out of money. Left the ones she loved. Her only love and desire cost her life. She gave up everything to have some."
Cassandra shook from the obvious chill. She realized how cold it was outside now. "I don`t know what the hell you are talking about, you old bitch." Cassandra spit on the ground and ran out into the harsh rain. She ran along the yellow lines. Her black boots thudded on the soaked asphalt. She focused only on the broken headlights ahead.
"Javid? Javid!" Cassandra screamed against the thunder. Cassandra reached the car and paced around it. "Javid? Javid?" Her body shook with the cold and her chest hacked with sobs.
In the distance, a faint light shone through the sheets of rain.
Her mother`s wedding ring fell out of her pocket, rolled in a tight
circle on the asphalt and fell over quivering like a quarter. Cassandra
reached down to pick it up. She held the gold band in her palm.
Cassandra brushed the water out of her eyes and saw the faint light
was a bus stop. Javid would be back soon. They couldn't be late or
she would have to pay extra for the drugs. She hated when that
happened. The ring was the only thing left. Cassandra glanced
towards the car. She looked at the bus stop. She played with the
idea of taking the bus home, to her dad. She remembered the
hacking cough and the raspy voice. The chill of the air and the ache
of her bones.
© 2002 Dana Coy, all rights reserved
appears here by permission
"The Last Payment" is a small moment in a teenage girl's life but it shows the conflict and struggle she faces.