March 23rd, 2018. 20:50.
La Dolce Vita. Not the fanciest place in town, but Joe liked Italian and he was impressed that he could be so comfortable with the restaurant’s cozy, even intimate atmosphere. Being that it was an unusually quiet evening, it made for a perfectly romantic setting. Around him the walls were a warm red brick. The curved booth, which he and his date had been seated at was a rich mahogany leather. And the white tablecloth draped over his knees. Professor Collins seemed to enjoy it too. Though Joe expected as much since she’d picked the place.
Joe was deep in thought, thinking back just a few hours earlier. His gaze was focused on the lamp at their table, and the red shade.
“Joseph? What are you thinking about?” asked Jamie in earnest. Joe jolted up upon hearing his name.
He eyed Jamie in her little red dress. A dress as red as rosewood. She was leaning forward, her bare arms stretched out over the table so that she was almost touching Joe’s bowl. Her face, perhaps a little pink from the wine, was low enough to the tabletop that her earrings could have dangled into her own food had she not finished eating or pushed her dishes off to the side.
“I was just thinking about earlier today. This afternoon.”
“Ah, when you were lost for words?”
Joe laughed, “As I recall, I managed to get the word dinner out.”
She took Joe’s free hand in hers. “Yes, very clearly. Hmm... Imagine how much time we could have saved if I had just asked you out instead?”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. You weren’t any more eloquent—”
“No no, I mean… well, yeah!”
“Shut up! Don’t you even start!” said Jamie. “I teach geography, not poetry! And besides… the majority of the words that came out of my mouth were actually English. Not gibberish.”
“Okay, fair enough.”
“But you know what I mean. If I had asked you out a month ago. Or even two. I know you had kept people at a distance because of—”
Pushing his dessert aside, and straightening out the cutlery, Joe put his right hand with the others at the centre of the table and leaned in as well.
“I know what you mean,” Joe said solemnly.
For a moment his eyes had fallen on a tiny stain on the tablecloth that had gone unnoticed by the restaurant’s staff. They quickly rolled back up and he smiled again, before he slid around to the other side of the booth. He paused a few seconds more before slowly sidling even closer, pushing Jamie to the edge of her seat and making her chuckle. Now they were alongside one another and still holding hands.
Joe sighed like he was out of breath or exhausted somehow. “Phew.”
When Jamie wiggled away perhaps a fraction of an inch, Joe replied, “Sorry, am I too close?”
Jamie giggled again and scooted even closer this time. She lifted both of their hands off the table and meshed her left in his right ere she placed them on their laps.
“Oh, come here.”
At the exact same time, they tilted their heads together and kissed. What magic. Joe closed his eyes and he saw Jamie in sepia. It made his heart glow and skip a beat. His lips, which tingled, fit perfectly over hers. First one lip then two; plying over them gently. Their lips parted slightly, then briefly, softly, tongue. It was their first kiss since they’d known each other.
“Mmm.” Jamie broke away and smiled. “A German kiss. Classy.”
“You’re not so bad yourself,” Joe said in jest.
“Pfft! You liar! That was the best kiss you’ve ever had.”
Glancing around the restaurant, Joe replied, “Well... maybe we can get out of here and you can try again.”
Jamie laughed, “Sure, I’ll try again… Moron. You get the check. I need to use the ladies’ room.”
“Wait wait wait, Professor! Before you go, there’s something I have to tell you.”
“Yeah. It’s really important.”
“Are you dying?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s funny, ‘cause... there’s something really important that I have to tell you as well, Professor.”
“Do you think we should say it at the same time?”
“Definitely. On three.”
“On three or after three?”
At the same time they counted, “One… two… three!” and then blurted, “I think you’re falling in love with me!” and “You’re actually a woman!”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” said Jamie, stifling laughter.
“If I were a woman, I think I could look even more beautiful than you,” Joe joked. A quip which made his date laugh again, but got him a light elbow to the side. Joe feigned injury and gasped as Jamie left for the lavatory.
“I’ll meet you outside, Joe!”
Owing to the cold weather, Joe had worn his grey tweed jacket from work. Waiting for a taxi he shook stood outside the restaurant. While Professor Collins was shivering like a glacier.
“You chilly?” inquired Joe.
“It’s gotten colder since we got here. Unnaturally cold. It must be forty degrees out.”
That evening, Jamie Collins had only brought a shawl with her. So Joe draped his jacket over her shoulders. She smiled at the gesture, and smelled the carnation in the lapel. Then she took a step forward and smacked her lips on his cheek. It left a garnet imprint. Joe grinned in turn.
The valet stretched out his arm to hail a cab for the couple, when they began to hear car alarms and sirens begin to go off. And not just one; possibly hundreds all at once. The three on the curb looked around and at each other with puzzled expressions.
Seconds later they were watching with fascination as all the vehicles driving along Santa Monica Boulevard, even those at the intersection and beyond, suddenly slowed to a stop. Regardless of traffic signs. And then... the alarms or horns from those cars went off.
“Joseph, what’s going on,” Jamie asked worriedly.
Unfortunately Joe didn’t have any answers.
Grabbing Jamie’s hand tightly, Joe looked from left to right, trying to figure out what was happening. Indeed everyone appeared to be doing that. Maybe not everyone.
Though her head was down a woman, based on her figure, walked quickly along completely uninterested in the clamour all around her. A black scarf obscured her face, and her purse bounced and thumped against her side where… where a gun holster was secured to her waist.
She advanced steadily nearer to the university professors when a man’s voice called out from across the street. “Williams!” he shouted, “End of the line!”
It belonged to a man who had just rounded the corner. As soon as Joe had laid eyes on him he saw the man draw a weapon and point it his way. Turning back he noticed that the woman with the headscarf had pulled out her gun too, not a yard away from him.
Bang, bang! Bang, bang! Both the man and the woman began firing as if they didn’t care about innocent bystanders. The potential casualties. Joe was about to be gunned down in the street. To him it looked like lightning and it sounded very much like death.
Everything happened so quickly, he couldn’t move fast enough. Either to hit the deck or dive out of the way; into the alcove of the bistro entrance or anyplace otherwise. To Joe it felt like all around him, himself included, was moving in slow motion. Everything but the fire. Bang, bang, bang!
All of a sudden the storm of bullets were upon them. The woman was closest to the valet and she pushed him to the ground first, never once taking her finger off the trigger or stopping to reload. Next, to Joe’s relief, Jamie dropped out of the way on her own. But that feeling of relief rapidly disintegrated once he saw the puff in the air and its red shade. Once he realised the force of the gunshot knocked Jamie backward against the wall of the building. Once her hand slipped through his fingers.
The woman finally reached Joe and was probably going to knock him down as as well, when she put a hand on his arm. However, she didn’t have to. Bang, bang!
April 16th, 2018. 03:31.
A deafening ringing deep in Joe’s ears and a blinding, headache-inducing light suddenly struck him. He blinked, but it didn’t help. Joe cried out in pain, “Shit!” but he couldn’t hear himself. A second later, he actually was pushed to the ground, and he tumbled off of what he assumed was the sidewalk into the road.
Joe rolled off his back and onto his hands and knees to get out of the road, but the light and the ringing were debilitating, and had apparently immobilised him. His knees were weak and his arms gave out so he fell onto his side.
Not to mention how sick he felt on the inside. His heart was pounding, he could hardly breath and he stomach roiled. Before long, he felt the bile rising in his throat and he couldn’t keep it down.
“What the fuck is going on!” Joe screamed. And yet again, his tinnitus prevented him from hearing anything.
Worse still, it wasn’t just himself that he was worried about. “Jamie!” He yelled. “Jamie, where are you!?”
Joe vomited once more, and more violently this time, he thought he pulled a muscle in his chest or broke a rib. That he felt like his heart was being stabbed didn’t help. Everything hurt so much, and coupled with the agony in his head, a crippled Joe curled into a ball as he tried to calm his breathing before he hyperventilated. At the same time he rubbed his eyes and his ears and he banged on his head. To no avail.
It was the most intense pain he had ever experience in all his life. He wondered if Jamie heard him. If she was still there, or if she was even still alive. He wondered if his pain was what dying felt like. He began to wonder if he was dead, and if from that moment on, his mind would simply lived on in a state of anguish. Forever. Not long after that he was numb.
Joe tried to call out again, almost pleading this time, “Jamie!” But he remained deaf.
Joe lost track of how long he had been on the ground, but he assumed he had been there for nearly five minutes. His fists and all his muscles were clenched, and he had closed his eyes as tight as he possibly could.
Although the pain didn’t dissipate, eventually he heard something through the high-pitch tone. What sounded like a whisper said “Breathe.”
“Come on guy, try to breathe normally!” the voice said again. “Breathe or you’re going to die!”
Joe wept, “Jamie!… What’s happening!?” He couldn’t tell if there were tears in his eyes, but he suspected there probably were. The pain was only getting worse.
“Well fuck. Hold still!” The voice advised.
A moment later Joe was stabbed in the heart, and he bellowed for perhaps a whole minute before he was knocked unconscious.