Thunderbird- An Exerpt
My chest is hurting and the bottom of my twenty-thousand-dollar wedding dress fringes more and more each time I stumble and fall over every rock. The grass belonging to the hills all around me are yellowing with the summer’s intense breath and I can smell the smoke from the fire that now engulfs the church where my wedding was supposed to be held. I had been admiring a heart-shaped wooden wedding gift that was delivered to my room just before the pastor pounded on my door, ordering me to exit the building as smoke began to fill the room. I had taken only myself and little wooden box as the flames consumed the building.
The dying of the day is beginning to stain the sky a soft purple and blue. I always loved the rolling hills of northern California whenever my family would drive up the I-5 freeway to San Francisco when I was younger. The windmills against the rolling yellow hills in the Altamont pass were always so peaceful and I knew I would find myself walking around them one day. Little did I know Tucker and I would get married here. That is, until the fire.
Six years later, I am running away from the remains of our wedding with streams of mascara-stained tears down to the chest of my dress and a stomach so knotted I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat again. The pain in my chest is claustrophobic. I sit down in the grass to catch my breath and scavenge for a rock that could tear the bottom half of my dress off so I can run to the highway faster. The earth is dry and the grass like straw and it wouldn’t be long before a brushfire erupts from the building and catches up with me. I grab a jagged rock with hints of granite in its markings, clasping it in my hands. I instead drop my forehead to my thumbs, crying. It was not all supposed to end up like this.
I regain composure and attempt to tear the rest of the lower half of the dress. It looked so gorgeous in the store I had first tried it on in, with its rich pearl white sweetheart neckline and mermaid-like fit that extends into a small train behind me. My petite figure looked so powerful in it. I hold up the rock closer to my face to examine its sharpness. The little white crystals lightly gleam in the last bit of sunshine left in the day. The careful stitching proves to hold its value because the rock makes very little progress.
“Never going to work,” I mutter, throwing the rock as far as I can and releasing a bit of tension I had bottled up. “Damn good stitching to a damn near-perfect piece of clothing.” I lift up the lower half into a ball and tie it into a makeshift knot with a hair tie.
The warm, dusty smell of fire fills my nostrils, and the firetrucks fall within earshot. Right now would be a great time for Tucker to find me and ask me if I am okay. Those were his first words to me the day we met. We were both backing out of our parking spots at the Oxnard State Beach when his Silverado lightly bumped the back of my Prius. He insisted on buying me lunch and we ended up talking in my bakery’s loft until the sun rose again.
I hear a boom of thunder and immediately look up. The sky is naked, dressed only by a gentle evening’s breeze. Raindrops lightly touch my forehead and the tips of my fingers as I raise them up. I search the east behind me for clouds but there are none there too. I know she must be safe now. There is only the shape of her beautiful wings flying towards the sea. I do not think I will ever have the honor of truly knowing her. She circles back around, letting out a high-pitched shriek as she gets closer to me. I wave back, my heart full of so many emotions.
I have no idea where the highway is.
Defeated, I sit down and examine the wooden box, hoping that Tucker or someone else from the wedding party will come find me in the meantime. The cherry wood looks similar to the other two that mysteriously found their way into my life. There is a little keyhole keeping it closed. My name is engraved on top of it in a special cursive writing. I use my fingers, attempting to pry open the box without success.
“I bet it’s the key Tucker insisted on keeping,” I mutter in frustration, setting the box down to my side. The sunset feels warm, soothing even. It slowly dips against the hills, threatening to expel me into a twilight of darkness in a place I am barely familiar with.
Like an answered prayer, I see Tucker’s figure appearing in the distance as he runs in my direction. When he comes nearer, I can tell he is still wearing his tuxedo. It, too, looks relatively unscathed.
I suddenly freeze, holding hostage the breath inside of me. I am not ready to tell him I found a third box.