"A Little Lime and a Lie"
The faint scent of black coffee and cigarettes wafted throughout the bedroom. Disheveled blue silk sheets and tossed pillows cascaded over the floor. Seagulls cried over crashing waves. Light from the window peeked from behind the curtains filling the bedroom as it illuminated the dust and lingering crumbs of sand. The door creaked open and a woman with cropped brown hair that was crudely cut stepped through. She ran one hand through her sticky hair to disrupt the clumps and took a half dead cigarette to dry lips. She passed over the clutter of her room and looked for her phone. Her cat Lancelot had left an awful surprise on her favorite pair of jeans. She began to shift through more clothing on the floor until she lifted a pair of blue jeans with a dried red taco stain and lots of cat hair all over the pocket. Yet another reminder that her furry cat just rolled through her room. A flash of light came from within the pocket, and she picked out her phone. Seventeen unread messages. A missed call and a voicemail from Jasmine begged Violet to call her friend back. The details from last night had a funny way of staying longer than it should.
The sounds of steel drums echo in the fresh summer air. Laughter and conversation are a soft undertone to the rhythm of the music. Writhing bodies move against one another. The mellow metallic tone meshes with the moon guided waves. The bonfire and salty ocean build the aroma of summer. Violet and Jasmine smile as they peek over their drinks at the gathered dancers. “I shouldn’t be drinking these, the limes will make my mouth dry,” Jasmine says. The woman guzzles drinks like water at these parties. Violet looks at her best friend and watches as she continues to gulp down her Lime Bomber. “If the lime makes your mouth dry why is this your third drink?” Violet asks. This beachy mix is Violets first glass and probably her last for the night. Playful green eyes smile up at her and Jasmine giggles. “It’s the vodka and sherbet mix! Tastes like a fun frozen dessert with extra adult in it!” Jasmine shouts. Her hands are already eagerly moving with the music. Jasmine’s alcoholic lime breath starts singing with the band. Violet smiles and takes another slow sip. The lime of her drink barely covers the taste of vodka. It tastes more like iced hand sanitizer than a frozen adult drink. Jasmine finishes her drink and sets it down on a nearby table. “Come on Violet let’s go out and dance! I’m tired of being a half-tipsy wallflower, and a freckled man is catching my eye.” Jasmine starts her sultry hip sway and tugs on Violet to join her antics. The music tempts the women into the sway of a bohemian summer.
Hips sway. Hands reach out to the stars. Eyes go half-mast under the seduction of the beach and low light of the moon. Drums set the beat. Loose hair dances out of place. Violet and Jasmine cannot resist smiling; the atmosphere is intoxicating. The scent of paprika-dusted corn and succulent kabobs drift past the sweat of the dancers. Warm hands cling to bare skin and sway with strings of cut up crop tops. Some hands pull. Some hands caress. Some hands touch more than they should. Sometimes the hands are welcome, but only if she was willing.
Violet was pickier in her partners, but Jasmine could dance the night meeting new hips and gyrating bodies each song. “Mind if I join?” A voice asks from behind her. Violet looks back to see sharp brown eyes looking down at her. She smiles in encouragement and lets him step closer and dance with her. Jasmine winks as two men dual with their hips to gain her attention and grind. Violet focuses on the man she dances and teases under the guide of the music.
They leave to take a break from the heat of the dancers. His sweaty hand wraps around her waist to guide her to a secluded seating area.“Kain,” He says introducing himself after several songs have passed. Violet smiles at his late introduction. Did names really matter after the close proximity of their dancing? “Violet” She shouts. Her eyes trail over his short black hair, beach shorts, and ends at his gladiator brown sandals. “I haven’t seen you at these parties before; your friend frequents this den of sin often, though.” He says as he sits down a little too close. An almond musk and the scent of smoke and barbeque drift from his imitation Hawaiian shirt. “You know Jasmine?” Violet asks. Her eyes sweep the dance floor looking for her friend. Closer to the drummers Violet sees her friend dancing and laughing with a new crowd of people. The tall man she is dancing with can barely reach her. People gravitate to Jasmines natural magnetism. Her friend begs for the attention of her partners through her hips and her cheeky grins. Even now Violet can see her friend has forgotten her as she dances so wantonly within the strange crowd.
Kain half smiles and nods over indicating the group surrounding Jasmine. “She’s turned me down in the past; I think she prefers one of the drummers.” His voice has a slight tinge of bitter as he watches Jasmine from a distance. She watches his eyes staring away from her. “Want me to grab you another drink or some tacos?” He asks barely looking at her anymore. A quick smile and nod and he walks off to the bar. She watches him walk to the long line of bar hungry bodies needing to replenish the energy they used dancing. Violet checks her phone, wishing for something, but seeing no messages. She didn’t think Kain would come back any time soon, so she stands and makes her way to the center of the dancers that hid Jasmine. Jasmine would be happy to see her meet someone new for a change.
She squeezes through the dancers, ignoring the occasional pull and tug to her bare skin. Her head collides with a sweaty back, and the man turns around. Short blonde hair, a light dust of freckles, and eyebrows that still had the scar from when Jasmine had thrown scissors at him look down at her. “Drew?” She asks. The man smiles and pulls her into a tight hug before her surprise fully registers. “Violet! Wow, I never expected to see you here” Drew says. He looks around nervous and uncertain. Some dancers bump them closer together, and Violet laughs into his chest. “It’s good to see you, Drew. What has it been five or six years?” She says. His wary smile reminds her of the past.
Drew grabs her hand and pulls her through the crowd and stops under a poorly decorated palm tree. His eyes dart seeking someone in the crowd even though they are alone. He sits down pushing a bottle away. Many empty bottles litter the sand, but not all were full of juice. “Try seven years. I haven’t seen you since we graduated high school.” He responds. They sit on the warm sand and look at the party. “What happened to you?” Violet asks. Drew looks around, and his fingers tap his knee nervously. His tapping is out of beat with the not so distant music. “Jasmine forced me to leave,” He says.
Violet paced her room. The cigarette ashes floated down from her finger, and she pushed it into the ashtray. She glanced at her phone and the unopened messages from Jasmine. The apologies and the excuses flooded the screen. She looked through the photos of the party and the men that surrounded Jasmine. Each picture captured her in some corner of the camera's lens. The smiles and lust surrounded Jasmine and isolated Violet. Another text tone and she sees another message from Jasmine. She tossed the phone on a pile of dirty clothes and sat on the bed. “Damn it,” She whispered to herself. All she had was a leftover taste of lime and the ring on the dresser.
Violet pulled her hair into a short ponytail and walked to the bathroom. She looked at the mirror seeing the smudged eye makeup that made her look like a raccoon gone wrong. She grabbed a hand towel and began to pat away the leftover makeup. A small purr startles her as a black cat jumped out of her bathtub. “Lancelot why can’t you sleep in the bed I bought you,” Violet mumbled. She picked up the chubby cat and held him close. The cat purred for a moment before it struggled for freedom. A knock on the door and Violet grabbed her robe rushing downstairs to get the door. Through the peephole, she saw a familiar head of dark hair. She opened the door, and Kain smiled holding up a brown bag painted with grease stains. “I thought a couple of burgers would help after last night’s fiasco, didn’t mean to leave so early,” Kain said chuckling. He didn’t wait for her to let him in, he just strolled in on his own and chose to settle down on one of her many wooden chairs. His half smile encouraged Violet to open the bag and pull out a thinly wrapped burger that dripped grease and sauce. Violet took a bite out of the burger, the savory beef, and smothered onions were a mercy on her empty stomach. “Kain…you didn’t have to check on me. I'm all right.” Violet said after an uncomfortable silence. What was expected of her? She wasn’t a woman like Jasmine. She never took a man home.
Violet smiled slowly and set her burger down. “Let me get you something to drink, I’m out of coffee, but I’m sure there is something in the fridge,” Violet suggested. She stood up and walked to her messy kitchen littered with empty takeout boxes. The scent of onions and grease followed her. She looked for a clean glass among the piled dishes and opened the fridge. “I’ve only got lime juice and milk. I’m guessing those two things don’t make a good drink.” Violet closed the fridge as Kain laughed, the raspy sound was low and gritty. “I bring you the best burgers from the boardwalk, and you offer me lime juice or milk?” Kain teased. Lancelot jumped up onto the counter and mewled loudly. “Correction lime juice, milk, and a handsome cat,” Kain said. Lancelot purred under his caresses. “Cats are more fun than burgers.” Violet retorted as she poured him a glass of tap water and dropped in two ice cubes. He smiled in encouragement as he took the glass. “You put more ice in than the bartender from last night,” Kain remarked. She chuckled and took a sip of water to her parched mouth. The dry taste in the morning, after a night drinking isn’t a flavor one wished to walk around with all day.
Under the palm tree, Drew and Violet talk about the last time they were together. He speaks with a whimsical tone, as if the time they had together was a dream and Jasmine was the reality check that woke him up. She tries to wrap her head around the knowledge her friend played a part in her first relationship ending. Drew pulls a necklace from beneath his shirt with a tiny ring hanging. “I was still actually working up the courage to marry you. Buying the ring I thought would be a good start.” Drew says. He hands her the ring after he pulls it away from the woven chain around his neck. Violet looks at the ring; its tiny diamond holds her gaze. “There was something about her that night after graduation. I followed her home, and everything was wild.” Drew continues. His tapping never stops.
Violet looks back at the dancers and the crowd. She finds her little friend reaching for the stage and talking with one of the drummers. Jasmine still laughs, and her playful green eyes catch Violets. Then she sees Drew, and all of a sudden Jasmine stops smiling. Her hand trembles nervously and no longer with confidence. Her eyes plead, begging for understanding. The summer air feels stiff and constraining. The breeze briefly wraps around her like a promise of marriage. Only to disappear and drift over the dark waters of the ocean. Carrying the water in small waves. The drums pound in sync to her heartbeat. She closes her eyes to fade from the world for a moment. A reprieve.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Violet yells. The music is louder. He looks lost in a daze, his voice is softer, like the secret of his illicit acts with Jasmine were a sin. “I joined the Navy; I felt I couldn’t say anything to you.” Drew shrugs, and picks up a broken palm leaf. Violet looks at his lively eyes, eyes begging for her to wait for his story. Jasmine’s voice carries over the wind making Violet look at her friend leaving the crowd of her admirers. The bonfire light has died down, but mason jars filled with candles still illuminate the beach. Some of the hanging tree lights begin to dim as the colors change. Purple lights turn to faint white lights. A few hoots and rowdy howls echo in the night. Drew looks shameful. “I could never sell it back, and it was already sized for your hand. It was my lucky charm overseas.” He says. The cool metal was cold against her skin and bits of sand dims the shine of the diamond.
Violet stands up and grabs a bottle of rum that lay in the sand half empty and opens it. The first toss back and the warm taste slowly works its magic. Drew looks confused when she laughs at the small ring and begins to stumble away as she shouts. “You both should have left me together!” Her steps are slow but building up with the weight of realization. Jasmine’s words from seven years ago about Drew sleeping with some vixen become a clearer picture. Jasmine’s frequent questions in the past built up doubt about her navy wife dreams. Over the years Jasmine’s constant hounding to find another man and move on forced her into these beach parties and sandy nightmares. Was everything all the result of Jasmines guilt and jealousy? So many nights were wasted on double dates. So many men who spoke with her but only wanted Jasmine in the end. All the pictures of parties and late night adventures were just reminders of Violet’s plain physique and lack luster brilliance under Jasmines permanent shadow. Why was she here? All she had was Drew. All she had wanted was Drew. There would be no more of that after tonight.
Shouts from Jasmine and Drew calling her name fade as the rum begins to make her head buzz. Violet looks back to see Jasmine whisper at Drew, who shakes his head. A man bumps into as she continues to walk away and his taco slips out of his hand and hits her pocket. The red sauce drips over, and he apologizes. Violet just continues to walk away. She sees Kain, who still waits at the bar. He is waiting to finally order her drink. So he would have come back for her after all. Violet smiles, thinking that perhaps his half-smile wasn’t so bad. The rum was courage enough. Violet walks to the man with the almond musk and the sharp eyes that were so different from the bright ones she had wanted to make hers forever. The summer air felt colder when the rum felt warm.
Violet looked at the man who devoured the other greasy burger. His presence was odd, and Lancelot kept nudging his leg towards the door or begging for pets. The red marks on his neck popped from behind the Hawaiian shirt. The night she spent with him did show she had her own charm. Another bite into her sandwich and Violet felt her nausea subside. Kain reached to kiss some mustard from her cracked lips, and she turned away letting his lips hit her cheek instead. His eyebrows raised in confusion. She looks at him and smiles to dissuade his questions.
Kain had confidence that was staggering in light of everything. He looked so at ease sitting in her home. Lancelot begged louder for attention. He reached down to pet Lancelot’s arched back smiling at his purrs. His eyes caught hers and locked. Memories from the previous night surfaced but only briefly. He had an interesting effect on her. Did she have a similar effect on him she wondered? Would he look at her and question the same thing? She took another bite out of her burger. The seasonings burst over her tongue. Greasy scent helped calm her head.
Lancelot scratched the door. His claw marks scuffed the white paint and revealed a darker color. Violet scolded Lancelot, shocked he marked her door. His talons needed trimming. Her phone lacked worthy notifications from last night. Only the excuses from someone she once thought was a friend. There were no apologies from either Drew or Jasmine. Those words wouldn’t have met much. Nor would that familiar phrase change the fact that Drew had left and that Jasmine had lied. Violet choose to waste no more time staying her friends shadow. Nor waste time pining after the memory of her first real relationship. From here on her summer would be hers alone, but there was possibility in the man with the almond musk, and Violet was liking the idea of it. She smiled at Kain and leaned closer.