"Oh, party room, party room..." He says in a thick Gullah accent, seeing me and two disheveled women waiting for him.
"Yea, wild night, man...," I reply, Melissa working behind me to get her friend up.
"She ok?" The driver asks, noticing the rather limp blonde the brunette was struggling to maneuver.
"Can't handle the Hurricanes," I reply with a nervous chuckle.
"Listen, they need a ride back to their hotel," I continue, moving away from the door and towards Melissa.
"Ok, I wait for you in the car..." The driver nervously exited, something in me certain he was going to leave this bad scene first shot he got. But to my surprise he was waiting go for us once we got Ashley going (her gummy legs moving under pure muscle memory), all of her weight being supported by Melissa as we walked to the car. The two of us strap in Ashley in the back, shutting the door once she was secure.
"Yo, I can't take no half dead girl..." The driver objected, thinking we were sticking him with the dead white girl.
"I'll be along in a second. Wanna say goodbye if that's fine," Melissa replied to him, leading me back to the room. The driver said something else to our backs as we walked back into my room.
"I really had a great time today, Thom." Melissa started, her voice losing her confidence as she went through the phrase; each syllable growing smaller and quieter as she spoke them.
"I did too until..."
"Yea, again, sorry about that. I didn't-"
"Let's not do this again..." I interrupted, not wanting her to kick herself again.
"You had a good time. I had a good time. It didn't work out. That's life. It sucks. Believe me... Think I wanted this evening to end up like is?"
"It doesn't have to," she tried one final time.
"Yes it does. It would be fun and great and wonderful, but it'd be wrong. Sorry."
"I understand. I'm just being selfish." She said, her voice embarrassed and small.
"So don't be sad then. You had a good date. We had fun. I liked you. You liked me. Feel good about this, honey. If you were a year older or me a few younger things might have ended different. But tonight, it ends here..."
The driver honks his horn, growing impatient.
"He ain't gonna wait forever..." I start.
"Well, have a safe trip home," she starts.
"I got your number. Maybe I can give you a call..." She said. I make a face as she says that, Melissa sensing my discomfort.
"Or maybe we could exchange emails? I don't wanna lose touch with you for some reason..." She continues.
"But you're underage..." I say, that being the best reason I could muster to not keep in contact.
"But I won't be forever..." She replies coolly, giving me a playful wink.
I think about it for a minute, thinking it might be better for her to leave here with a friend to protect as opposed to a rejecting asshole she needs to exact revenge upon. I grab the pad and pen off the nightstand and scribble my email on it. She does the same, handing me the paper once finished. I walk her to the cab, giving her a loose hug before she enters, and walk to the driver window.
"I turned the meter on," he says, pissed he was being delayed.
"Of course, of course. I'm sorry we took so long. Here," I say, handing him a few twenties.
"Here's sixty bucks. Take her wherever she needs to go, alright? Keep the rest."
The money changed his mood a little, knowing the fare- even with the meter already ringing away- would come in well under the fare handed to him. I leave him, walking to Melissa's window. She rolls it down, still a little embarrassed as she looked at me.
"It's fine... Again, I really had fun with you tonight. You're a great girl. Give me a call when you get back so I don't worry." I say, nodding over to her incapacitated friend She pushes her head through the three quarters down window, catching me off-guard as she plants a kiss on me.
The cab pulls away, Melissa speeding away from my life. I feel my breath leave as the tail lights fade off down the road. I felt inclined to flee as well, thinking it might be better to be somewhere else once Ashley's parents start asking about who drugged their little angel. But I was too burned out from the day, passing out as I entered the room to gather my things.
I woke up a few hours later in a panic, frantic as I had little idea as to where I was. It took a minute for the memories to fully come together, eventually the clear picture of the events of the evening prior coming shockingly together. I gathered my things quickly as I suddenly felt the grip of law enforcement reaching to grab hold. It took minutes for me to be out of the room and tearing down the highway, the rising sun starting to peak out from the horizon. I drove like a saint until about an hour out of Myrtle, believing myself somehow in the clear of any criminal entanglements. I pull off to a rest area to wash my face and prepare for the long ride.
Scrubbed and evacuated, I head back to my car and roll a few joints to have at the ready with the reminding weed; hoping the seedy brick weed I had bought the night before would help ease my thundering head. It was then I noticed my phone blinking green, alerting me to an awaiting message from Melissa. She told me that they had arrived safely and the driver helped her remove Ashley from the car. She had gotten her into bed no questions asked and was now sitting in bed alone wishing she wasn't. It went on a bit more like that before the machine cut her off.
We learn something from everything... Even pedophilia...
Needless to say, this trip did little to alleviate my worries at the time. If anything, they grew exponentially. For my part, I got more diligent about checking IDs; the chilled feeling of criminality something I had wanted to avoid from this point forward in my sexual adventures.
As for Melissa...
For weeks I kept expecting to come home to be ambushed by disgusted law enforcement agents sicked on me by enraged parents. But nothing ever came of the whole affair beyond a rather engaging email friendship.
We only spoke once more about that weekend during our time corresponding. It was a few years later when she brought it back up to me, once again apologizing for what had happened that night. She blamed it all on youthful stupidity, never once uttering a word of the night to anyone ever (including me). But she then said something that stayed with me...
She said she compared every man that had come since that night to my lingering memory; spending her every day since seeking for someone who made her feel like she had that night. And because of that high bar, she met someone who did that and more. It made me feel better, my gut always harboring a slight pang of guilt on that evening.
We didn't speak much after that, I assume whatever void I was being used to fill now being filled by her new beau.
And while I don't think about her much (the idea of my not wanting to reminisce fondly on the night I almost became a sex offender something that didn't seem odd to me), I'll never forget how she closed her that email to me.
"We never had a yesterday. We never had a tomorrow. But we will always have Myrtle Beach..."
Goddamned, motherfucking Myrtle Beach.
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