by C.M. Eaton
Michael reflects on the past.
|This is a rough draft
During the twenty-five minute trip from Michael's home in Millington to Bryn's apartment in downtown Memphis, he couldn't help to think about how things had gotten to this point.
His memory flashed back to a year and a half ago. It was humid and hot on Beale Street that July night. Sweat beaded on Michael's forehead, but the ice cold cup of beer in his right hand kept him comfortable enough to keep enjoying the sights and sounds of downtown Memphis. Bryn and Danny, Bryn's boyfriend at the time, had wandered into one of the gift shops to get a break from the heat. They had asked him to come along, but he waved them off.
Michael was enjoying the blues band that was set up across the way, and the street entertainers doing back-flips and cart wheels. A kid about twelve was jogging up and down the edge of the street with a white plastic bucket taking tips for the performers. Michael dipped down in his pocket and pulled out a five dollar bill and dropped it in the bucket as the kid came by him.
The sun had just gone down. Beale glowed under the vibrant neon signs, and music filled the night. The street had become increasingly crowded with party-goers and tourists snapping pictures, laughing, and pointing at this-and-that. It was then that he felt someone barrel into him, pushing him forward off the sidewalk, causing his beer to be knocked from his hand onto the street. Michael shook the beer from his hand. “Dammit!” he said as he turned expecting an apology from the guy who just wasted his seven dollar beer.
What he wasn't expecting was the pretty chestnut, brown-haired beauty that was standing on the edge of the sidewalk with her hands cupped over her mouth staring at him.
“Oh my God! I am so sorry!” she exclaimed.
Michael had to catch his breath before speaking, “No,no, it's fine, really.” Michael held up his hands to as if show her he was alright.
“I'm usually not this clumsy. I was watching the performers and I really wasn't looking where I was going. Oh, I made you drop your beer,” she said as she eyed the cup laying on it's side at Michael's feet. “Let me buy you another. There's a vendor right over there,” she said pointing across the street.
Michael laughed. “How about I buy us both a beer. Come on,” he said jerking his head in the direction of the vendor.
Michael handed her the clear plastic cup and she took a sip, “Thanks. I'm Lila by the way.”
“Michael,” he said holding out his hand to shake hers. “You from around here?” He had to lean into her and speak up to be heard over the music.
“Actually I just moved here from Louisiana. You are officially the first person I've met here.”
With that, Michael raised an eyebrow. “You mean you aren't here with friends? A pretty girl like you shouldn't be wandering around Beale Street alone. It's just not safe.”
“It seemed safe enough. There are police officers everywhere.” She gestured toward a couple of cops patrolling the street.
“You could hang out with my friends and I if you want. They should be back in a few minutes.” Michael tried to play it cool.
Lila paused before answering as if she were thinking. “How do I know I'd be safe with you?” Lila said with a grin.
“I guess you don't. But remember, you were the one that slammed into me, so I should probably worry about my safety. You look like you have trouble written all over you.” Michael laughed and grabbed her hand to lead her back across the street. “Let's go introduce you to my friends.”
That night was the start of a budding romance between Michael and Lila. Everything seemed great for the first four months and Michael had fallen in love with her. She was perfect in his eyes. Lila enjoyed his friends and wasn't clingy. They relished candlelight dinners, walks in the park, and shows at the Orpheum. He had even taken her home to meet his parents in Nashville, which was something he had never done before.
It was about Mid-November when he first noticed a change in Lila. Her moods had become unpredictable, and she began complaining when he spent time with friends. He had spotted her several times driving by the sites where he was working construction. She quit her job as a receptionist for a local doctor claiming he had made advances toward her. Michael found out later she was fired for missing too many days. She began calling at all hours of the night for random reasons, none of which were important at two in the morning.
The last straw came when Bryn and Danny broke up. Michael remembered how upset she was when she called after finding Danny in bed with his neighbor. Michael and Lila had been eating dinner at his place. When Michael told Lila he had to leave because Bryn needed him, she got irate. Lila violently swept her arms across the table. Plates, food, and wine glasses crashed against the floor. Michael ended their relationship that night. She had said that night it would never be over.
The next month and a half were filled with frustration. The phone calls and text messages didn't stop, neither did the drive-bys at his work. After the tires on his truck were cut, Michael got a restraining order against Lila. He had no way of knowing what she would do next.
It was the sixth of January when two uniformed officers knocked on his door, and informed him that Lila was dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was shocked, saddened, and relieved all at the same time.
“Hey, are you okay? You haven't said a word all the way here,” Bryn questioned as she pulled into the resident parking at her Island Drive apartment.
“Yeah,” Michael said with a sigh. “Just thinkin'.”
“It's starting to snow, we better hurry and get inside,” Bryn remarked as she watched flurries of snow melt against the windshield. She pulled the keys from the ignition switch, then turned toward him, “We are going to figure this out, I promise.”