This is something I’ve had for quite a few years, I’ve been tweaking it and re-writing it since 2007. This is the first 15 pages of what I expect will end up nearing 45, closer to a novella than a short story.
“Dammit Lulu hurry up. I’m freezing my nuts off!” Jackson muttered to the icy December air. He looked once more towards the exit of the parking structure; his heart pounding with excitement as he saw Lulu careening towards him in a dark blue 1964 Pontiac GTO. Lulu slowed the car just enough for him to jump in.
“Get in, Harvard. We’ve got to get out of here!” Lulu exclaimed, motioning at him with both hands.
“What the hell took so long? Did you notice it’s winter outside? It’s freezing! You left me out there for four hours! In the snow!”
“Quit your bitching. You’re in the car now! And besides this weather should be nothing compared to the East Coast! What’s a little snow?” Lulu asked with a mischievous glint in her caramel eyes.
Realizing he was not going to win this battle Jackson shut his mouth and just turned his attention to the snow covered highway flashing past the cold window, slowly retreating into his thoughts. The woman was amazing, she really was. It had taken her all of 30 seconds to get into the GTO, get it started and get it out of the parking structure. That was the quick part, figuring out which car was suitable to Lulu’s pedigreed palate is what took four goddamn hours, she was determined to find a classic, even though Jackson thought they’d be less conspicuous in a Honda. The look she’d given him when he suggested a Honda still made him shiver. He still wasn’t sure what he was doing with Lulu, he was a Van Hosen for chrissakes, his family were all old fashioned conservative Republicans; definitely not the type to go traipsing halfway across the country with a car thief, more like the type to run around putting all car thieves in jail. His parents had passive aggressively insisted he go to Harvard, specifically Law School so he could enter into the family business, tax law, and grudgingly he went. He didn’t have a history of standing up to his parents. He just figured this was the way life was when you were born into a wealthy family with a tradition of doing things a specific way. He knew he’d end up hating himself and his parents for forcing him to go. Jackson wasn’t like the rest of his family, for one thing he voted Democrat. He didn’t fit in with them, never did and never would. All his life he’d rubbed his family the wrong way, something about him just wasn’t meant for the upper class east coast life. Somehow since meeting Lulu he’d found the courage and desire to do what he’d always wanted to do: clean out his personal bank account, give his family the finger and cruise off into the unknown.
Lulu had officially been on the run for the last 6 months, unofficially she’d been running since the first moment she stood up. She’d only given him bits and pieces of her story and from what he knew he didn’t blame her for running. She’d been living in New York City and had gotten on the wrong side of the wrong kind of people and her choices were run or face almost certain death from some very unhappy people. She ran. Her brother taught her how to steal cars when she was a child, so the first thing she did was find and steal a pristine jet black 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville, which he found pretty amazing considering the people of New York City aren’t known for their use of fine automobiles. To him, it seemed she had a knack for finding the classics no matter where she was. She hadn’t decided where she was going so she drove to Boston, trying to find some friends. The friends she had hoped to find were long gone, either dead or running like her. So, she decided to head west, hoping to outrun the people chasing her. Before leaving, she had gone into a grocery store for supplies and when she came out the Caddy was gone, leaving her to find another car. That’s how they met; she was in the process of stealing Jackson’s car. He’d been walking out to his car from Neiman Marcus, with a birthday gift for his mother when he saw a stunning redhead standing next to his gunmetal grey BMW M5. As he walked closer he realized what she was doing.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He yelled, not really as angry as he managed to sound, really he was more intrigued but thought indignation was the proper reaction for the situation.
“What does it look like? I’m stealing your car Harvard. I’m a big fan of BMW, though this isn’t the cream of Beemer’s crop. Still, thought I’d add it to my collection.” She responded with a sarcastic smile on her plump heart shaped lips as she continued working the slim jim into the window.
He decided that anyone who could just stand there and nonchalantly discuss stealing cars like they were discussing the digestion habits of slugs was someone he’d like to get to know. Initially, all he thought was that it would be a good way to piss off his parents. He had no idea what he was getting himself into. He offered her the keys on the condition she take him with her, wherever she was going. She agreed and it wasn’t until later that night she confessed who she was and why she was running.
“I think I ought to tell you something, Harvard.” She said, not taking her eyes off the road.
“You know, my name is Jackson.” He said quickly.
“I like Harvard–”
“Well how bout you tell me your name.” Jackson said, cutting her off.
“Lulu. Now can I finish was I was planning to tell you?”
“Sure. What’s on your mind?”
“I’m a, uh, fugitive I guess is the best word. Not from the law. From bad people, really bad people.” She said quietly
“What kind of bad people?
“The kind you shouldn’t ever want to fuck with. The kind who’ll kill you for screwing up. When I was in New York I stole cars for a chop shop, yeah I know, not too smart. These people I stole cars for were much worse than I thought they were, I thought I was living Gone In 60 Seconds but it was really The Godfather. I screwed up, I stole a police bait vehicle and ended up leading the cops right to the shop, there was a gun fight with the cops and a lot of people ended up dead or hurt. When the shooting started I ran, someone else who survived and wasn’t arrested told me that the guy in charge was looking for me and I was in deep shit for leading the cops to the chop shop so I decided to keep running.”
“Did they follow you? How did you get away from the cops?” Jackson asked trying to quell the urge to look behind them and make sure they weren’t being followed.
“As far as I know my former employers think I’m dead, the person who gave me the heads up told everyone else I was dead which if they ever found out he lied would cost him his life. They never knew my real name so I guess that’s a good thing, but I’d rather get somewhere far away from their center of control. As far as the cops, I’ve always kept my identity concealed, disguises and fake names, so I don’t think the police ever knew who I was.” Lulu responded trying to gauge Jackson’s reaction.
“Well, I may not have the mob on my ass but my parents would probably have me murdered if I came back so, I think I’ll stick with you if you’ll let me that is.” Jackson said quietly. He thought he saw Lulu smile out of the corner of his eye.
“Yeah, you can stay. You could have called the cops on me but you didn’t. You’ve got a brain in there somewhere.” She responded sarcastically.
Lulu turned her attention back to the road and a comfortable silence fell over the car so, Jackson laid his head back and went to sleep. The Beemer had gotten them to Denver, Colorado. Jackson knew he should have changed the oil at least six months ago, now it was like sludge in the engine, the car wouldn’t start and for obvious reasons they couldn’t just head into the nearest mechanic shop. Jackson had endured Lulu’s anger as she considered what they should do.
“Jesus Christ, Harvard! You’re supposed to pay attention to that little sticker from Jiffy Lube, it tells you when to change your goddamn oil! I can’t believe this. Stealing cars is kind of dangerous you know…”
She had bitched him out for about an hour. Luckily, the Beemer had died inside the city of Denver so they were lucky to have a plethora of cars. After Lulu removed the license plate from the BMW, cleaned it for prints or any other identifying information and made sure it looked like it had been stolen and abandoned. They found the GTO in a parking structure, it had taken Lulu four hours to decide on a car. She may have been on the run but she wasn’t about to do it without style, Jackson found her preference for old cars interesting and he spent much of the four hours wondering where she’d developed her affinity.
A sharp stomp on the brakes brought him out of his reverie. Sliding around on the cold white leather seats, he grasped for the oh-shit-handle.
“What the hell are you doing? I’m a big fan of living, I’d like to continue this breathing thing!” He yelled, trying for bravado to hide his immediate fear.
“Ice.” She responded tightly, quickly downshifting from third to second
“Where are we going? We’re headed east. Right?”
“Actually this is south sweetie, how did you get into Harvard? She asked sarcastically.
“Don’t be a smart ass, what’s south?”
“I’ve been considering Mexico, although my Spanish sucks.”
“So you still don’t know where we’re going, amigo?” He asked sarcastically.
“Well, I think I’ve settled on Mexico, still coming?”
“As long as we head to a beach and I can get one of those drinks with the umbrella in them.” Jackson answered with a smile.
“I think that can be arranged.” Lulu responded with a smile
She risked a glance in his direction taking in his dark hair and nerdy good looks. She had only taken her eyes off the road for an instant, but as she studied the gentle blue of his eyes she noticed them widen with terror, she whipped her head back to the road in time to feel the car begin to slide out of her control as it hit the ice patch.
“Oh shit!” Lulu said determination filled her face, she jerked the wheel in the opposite direction and pumped the brakes hoping the tires would stop. It was too late, the car slid into the guardrail at 30 miles an hour. Thankfully those old GTO’s were built to last and they weren’t hurt, just tossed around a little. The car’s front end was no longer an aggressive mask of chrome and lights; instead it was a mangled disaster area, none of the original attitude discernible. It was also no longer drivable.
“Sonofabitch. This car would have gotten us all the way. Goddamnit!” Lulu muttered, the defeat in her voice caused dark clouds to settle over the mood in the crippled GTO.
“We can find another one,” Jackson said cautiously. Hoping the prospect of a new car would cheer her up. He didn’t like seeing her upset.
They climbed out of the heap, looking around the deserted freeway knowing it was going to be a long trek to anywhere with cars. Jackson had no bags so after exiting the car he watched as Lulu struggled with her backpack and stumbled around the car motioning at Jackson to follow her. They headed in the direction of the next exit ramp. Lulu looked up to the sky, dismayed to see nothing but a decadent swirling of snow and clouds.
“Well this is just fucking wonderful. I don’t even know where the hell we are!” She yelled to no one in particular. Angry at herself for losing control of her temper in front of Jackson.
“We’re about one exit away from Durango, that’s what this sign says… Is that still in Colorado?” Jackson called back to her, hoping his geographical ignorance would cheer her up enough to call him an idiot.
Lulu turned to face Jackson, her pretty mouth had formed a small shocked smile and her golden brown almond shaped eyes were wide open.
“Harvard, you better be kidding me. Don’t they teach you geography in that big ol’ school? Yes, Durango is in Colorado!” She exclaimed.
Lulu grabbed Jackson’s hand, using his strength for balance on the ice they made their way through the wet sticky snow to the exit ramp.
“ I hate this weather.” Jackson grumbled as he slid five feet down, his feet flew out from underneath him and his back thudded on the hard ice.
Lulu began laughing uncontrollably and went over to help him up. She tried to pull him up and ended up on the ground herself.
“We’re never gonna get down this hill” she laughed.
“Well,” Jackson said with a smile, “we could just slide the rest of the way down”
Lulu turned to look at him and laughed as she started to slide down the hill, after reaching the bottom they climbed to their feet and began walking, following the signs toward the city of Durango. They reached the city in about two hours, after taking a small break and getting some food at a gas station they headed toward the nearest big building, it was some kind of bank and right next to it stood a large parking structure.
“Alright, lets see what we can find, there should be a decent amount of cars in there, it’s Tuesday and let’s see…it’s uh 2:34.” Lulu said, her eyes glittering with excitement.
“Hey, uh let’s not take all afternoon ok?” Jackson called after her, smiling to himself and wondering, not for the last time what he was getting himself into.
Lulu walked into the parking structure ignoring Jackson’s taunt. The air inside was dry, still cold, but blessedly dry. The building was three stories tall and built out of that smooth grey concrete that all parking structures seem to be built out of. Glancing around Lulu quickly assessed that there were no worthwhile cars on the ground level. She continued looking around, making sure there were no security cameras, also realizing there was no elevator to the upper levels. Groaning, she made her way towards the stairs.
The air became warmer as she made her way up the stairs, once on the second level she saw it, a 1970 Buick GSX, bright yellow with a black racing stripe and black side detailing. She didn’t need to go any further this was THE car.
“Oh thank god for 1970.” She whispered to no one.
Reaching into her purse she grabbed out her slim jim and walked over to the car. Glancing into the window Lulu saw the keys sitting on the smooth black leather seat as if they were waiting for her. A generous smile spread across her face. After checking the doors and finding them locked Lulu wedged her slim Jim between the weather stripping and the window and aligning it with the door handle she jammed downward. Hearing that telltale click she pulled the door open, slid into the black leather driver’s seat and started the car. The purr was amazing. She pulled out of the parking spot and went to pick up Jackson.
“Cold, Jesus Christ it’s cold. I hope the car has a heater, a big fricking heater. The kind of heater that’ll melt your skin off. God it’s cold.” Jackson babbled to the icy air.
He heard the car before he saw it. His heart leaped into his throat and for just a moment he was speechless.
“The woman’s got taste.” He thought as his brain kicked back into gear.
She screeched to a halt and motioned at him to get in quickly. Jackson pulled open the bright yellow door and sighed audibly when he felt the dry heat from the heater kiss his face.
“Oh thank god for heaters.” He murmured.
“You know, you’re such a wuss. I thought all you Harvard types went skiing during the winter.” Lulu said sarcastically.
Jackson ignored her, thankful to be inside the heated car. Lulu shifted the car from first to second and the GSX flew forward. They crossed the New Mexico State line in only a few short hours Jackson spent most of it staring out the frosty window mesmerized by the flashes of snow covered trees and icy desert cliffs. As they entered northern New Mexico Lulu slowed the car rolled her window down and smelled the frigid New Mexico mountain air, feeling the emptiness in her heart fill up. She was home. Jackson watched her, intrigued by the change in her demeanor. Her normally tight, tense shoulders sagged in relaxation and a small relieved smile lit up her face
She figured that at this time of year they were probably going to end up having to hole up somewhere, the roads would be closed and the ones that weren’t were far to dangerous to drive on in a car like this. Luckily she knew just the place to go, she only hoped she’d be welcome there.
“This may shock you, but I have absolutely no idea where we are or where we’re going.” Jackson said as they pulled off the main road and headed down a narrow bumpy mountain road.
“At this point, Harvard, there isn’t much you could say that’ll shock me.” She responded sarcastically.
Oh, and so you know this is northern New Mexico, near Shiprock, as if you know where that is. Just trust me. I’m getting us out of harms way, hopefully.” Lulu responded her voice tightening as they drove further down the road.
The narrow road ended at a large stone house with two stories and a wrap around porch. Parked in the driveway were a school bus yellow 1971 Mustang II Fastback with a black hard top and a battered white 1985 Ford F-150. Lulu stopped the car and laid her head on the steering wheel. When she raised her head Jackson thought he saw two small tears snaking their way down her cheek.
Turning to Jackson she said, “Stay in the car, I’ll be back. Hopefully we can stay here.”
“Where are we?” Jackson asked her gently.
“This is the house I grew up in, my brother lives here now. We haven’t spoken in a long time.” She responded her voice cracking. Jackson wondering what had caused this sudden crack in her emotional wall. He reached over and grabbed her hand, her head shot up in shock. He squeezed gently and she squeezed back, smiled and opened the door of the GSX.
Lulu got out of the car and felt the past swirl around her like the blowing snow. As she walked toward the house the memories she had worked so hard to run from came falling down on her, they weren’t happy. She’d grown up in this house with her parents and older brother. Her father had been an angry, abusive man who had beat her mother, literally to death. Her mother had committed suicide when she was thirteen years-old. Lulu’s brother had tried to protect her after their mother’s death but there wasn’t much a sixteen-year-old could do against the brute force of drunk construction worker. Eventually, her brother left, promising to come back for her but by the time he did Lulu had already run away on her own, full of resentment and anger towards her brother for leaving her at the mercy of their father. They hadn’t spoken much over the years. Only a few terse conversations when their grandparents died and a a weekend of loud arguing when their father died. They hadn’t spoken since that weekend when Lulu called out her brother for abandoning her to the malicious abuse and degradations of their father. Before she reached the porch steps the door opened and a tall auburn haired man stood in the doorway.
“Lulu, is that you?” the man asked
“Yeah, it’s me Santi.” Lulu answered.
“What are you doing here? I thought you hated me.” He said a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“I don’t hate you Santi. I never hated you. I hated that you left me with Dad, that you got away and I didn’t. I don’t want to have this fight again. I got over that stuff a long time ago, you should too.” She responded, tired from the years of hurt hidden in the small amount of words between them.
“Why are you here?” He countered, a tired sadness slipping into his tone.
“I need a place to stay, just until the roads are safe to drive on then I’ll be gone.”
“Is that your car?” Santi asked, a grin forming.
“Um. Sort of. I uh, borrowed it.” Lulu answered cautiously.
“Borrowed, yeah right, I never should have taught you to steal cars.” He said laughing. “Who’s the guy?” he asked more seriously.
“He’s a friend. And before you ask, no he’s not a criminal.” She responded, glad to see him smile.
“He doesn’t look like a criminal, what’d you do corrupt him?” he said with a grin.
“I suppose you could say that.” Lulu said with a laugh.
“Well come inside, you can stay as long as you need. There’s someone I want you to meet.” He turned and walked back inside before she could respond. Turning back towards the car Lulu motioned for Jackson to come inside. As she stood waiting for Jackson she felt a strange sense of calm, she was almost afraid to go inside and risk ruining the small peace her and Santi had just achieved. Lulu and Jackson walked in silence up the steps and into the house. It was different from the way she remembered; The dark hardwood floors were still there but the drab and depressing decor was gone, in it’s place were bright colored Indian rugs and shelves full of candles and knickknacks. The place had a woman’s touch and suddenly Lulu realized they weren’t alone with her brother. This would be more complicated than she imagined.
She walked into the living room, taking in the tan microfiber couch and love seat and the rough hewn coffee table. The wall above the love seat was decorated with framed photos of her brother and a tall, thin dark haired woman Lulu had never seen. She shouldn’t have been surprised her brother had settled down, he was the normal one after all. Jackson watched the play of emotions on Lulu’s normally guarded face, she cycled through sorrow, shock and a sad sort of resignation. She turned back to face her brother, he took in her expressionless face and wondered where to start.
“Her name is Alison.” He said quietly.
“Are you married?”
“No, not yet. In the spring.”
“Let me guess, she’s got no idea you’ve got a sister, let alone one like me.” Lulu said, a cold sarcasm in her voice.
“She knows I’ve got a sister, I just never talked much about you. Can you blame me, you said you never wanted to see me again. I’m sure you didn’t tell college boy here about me or anything about your past at all.” He countered, his voice raising.
“Well, considered Harvard and I aren’t engaged I think the situation is a little different. Is she going to flip a bitch when she sees me”
“So what are you then?” He asked pointing at Jackson.
“Don’t answer him Jackson. He’s a friend, he caught me stealing his car and opted to join me on my adventures.”
“You got caught? You never get caught.” Santi answered incredulously.
“Yeah I got caught. I was lazy about it. So about this woman, am I going to be a problem?”
“Well lets keep all talk of car theft out of the conversation, she’s a county prosecutor.” He said cautiously, waiting for the blow up from Lulu.
“A what?” She asked, sitting down on the couch laughing hysterically. Jackson looked over at Lulu wondering why this was so funny.
“So let me get this right. You, the man who stole cars, sold drugs and had his own personal cell in the county jail is going to marry a lawyer. This is too good for irony. Does she know about your less than stellar past? What about Daddy dearest, she know about him? Or how about why there’s no carpet in the living room?” She asked venomously.
“She knows.” Santi answered quietly.
“Oh, well then this should be fun. Allow me to let you in on our dirty family secrets Harvard. My dad beat the shit out of my mom, she killed herself. Cut her wrists and made quite the mess in this room. I ended up all alone with Daddy and I’ve got the scars to prove it.” She yelled, dissolving into tears. Jackson moved over to the couch, sat next to her and let her cry on his chest. Santi watched his sister fall apart and felt the weight of the guilt he’d carried around for the last twelve years. He walked over to the couch and pulled his sister from Jackson’s embrace. She looked at him, mascara tears streaming down her face.
“Gina, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for leaving you here with him. I hate myself for it. I never should have left.”
“I hate when you call me Gina.” She said quietly.
“I know. Can we try to move on? I want you in my life. I’ll even tell Alison you’ve stolen cars.” He said with a smile.
“Don’t call me Gina and you’ve got a deal.” Lulu wiped her tears and smiled at her brother.
“I better call her and let her know we’ve got company.” He said as he walked out of the room. Jackson looked over at Lulu and found her staring intently at a spot in the middle of the room.
“I’m sorry you had to see that.” She said not taking her eyes off the floor.
“This is going to come out wrong, but I’m not.” He said following her gaze. She turned and looked up at him, wondering whether he’d leave or stay.
“I’m not going anywhere.” He said in answer to her unasked question. Saying nothing she leaned her head on his shoulder.
“You’re not so bad, Jackson.” She said with a smile.