I get out into the parking lot and pull on the car door handle. I curse when I discover it’s locked. I pound on the window and I can see I startled Tina who jumps, pulls out her earbuds and unlocks the door. I get into the car and slam it shut.
“Hey, careful! This is a lease!” Tina barked but there must have been something about my expression because she immediately relented. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone change gears that fast.
“Are you are okay?” She looked concerned to the point of being scared.
I have so many emotions swirling in my head I feel like I’m caught up in a whirlwind and it’s sucking the air out of my lungs. I feel anger that Liam is there, jealous that him and Cat are getting along, happy that Cat was glad to see me, sad that I feel like I've disappointed her somehow, concerned that she may take what Liam said to heart even though it's not true, and I'm back to anger again.
“It’s okay,” Tina said trying to reassure me, she puts her hand on my shoulder, “I don’t even like this car. It was just all I could afford.”
Her belief that I’d be so upset because of her reaction to the car caused a maniacal fit of laughter to burst out from me ending with my head falling into my hands and me feeling like I want to pass out. I don’t need to see Tina to know she is probably looking at me right now like she’s watching her first mental breakdown. At least she can be grateful it's mine and not her own.
“Okay now you have me concerned on several levels.”
“Can we just get out of here?” I beg.
“Sure,” she pulls back her hand and starts the car. “Where to?”
“My friend William’s. The stuff I need for my assignments are there,” I said and give her the directions.
“You got it, Boss.”
I wanted to correct her about saying that she works for me but I didn't have the strength. Tina takes us out of the parking lot and when we reach the road I put my seat back a little and close my eyes for a moment. I'm just so damn tired.
I’m walking down the alley. The alley where I found my brother dying but this time the EMT’s are already there. I see them about to zip up a body bag. I start running but the alley just keeps getting longer and longer and I can’t seem to reach him. I call out his name and suddenly I’m being pulled towards him, but it’s like being warped through a fish eye lens.
I'm now standing next to the gurney and push the EMT out to of the way. No, he can’t be dead! It’s just a nightmare! He’s still alive. I unzip the bag and pull it aside only it isn’t Aiden’s face I see but my father’s. “Noooo!” I collapse on top of him and weep. I feel this strong tug on my heart and my body is ripped from him and slammed into a wall.
It takes a moment for my brain to comprehend I’m in a car. Why am I in a car? It takes a second longer to remember it’s Tina’s car. Slowly the wheels start turning and I come back online to see Tina gripping the steering wheel with a death grip, her knuckles are white and her breathing is labored. The light has changed and people are honking and yelling obscenities at her as they drive around us.
“Tina?” I unclick my seatbelt and reach over to hit the hazard light button I find on her dash.
“Tina?” Her head is bowed and she is staring at her legs.
She won't even glance at me but said, “What the hell was that?!” Her voice wavered and broke a little, her eyes met mine and I am hit with the realization of what must have happened.
“Oh, Tina! I’m so sorry!”
“Sorry?! He says he's sorry," she mocks with utter disbelief. "I nearly CRASHED my CAR when you screamed out like that. What the HELL, Alex?!”
I didn’t expect to fall asleep only to rest my eyes and then… the image of my father’s face pale with death sprung to my mind. I reach up to touch my face and I feel it's wet with tears but I push the thought away so I can concentrate on the matter at hand.
“Let me drive,” I offer. “Will you? Let me drive?”
Tina nodded her head and slowly released the grip she had on the steering wheel, her fingers left impressions on the soft foam cover she had on it. I unclick her seat belt and she gets out of the car and so do I and we exchange seats.
When we get back in and buckle up. I glance over at her. She still looks pale and shaken.
“I’m so sorry, Tina," I reiterate turning off the hazard lights and flipping on the turn signal so I can ease us back into traffic.
“You said that.” I noticed she is sitting with her hands folded on her lap. I can tell she is trying to keep them from shaking.
“What happened?” I asked.
Tina looked at me and shakes her head. “You had fallen asleep and I didn’t want to wake you. I was a little turned around. I couldn’t quite remember the directions you gave me. Then you let out this blood-curdling scream. I slammed on my breaks. The person behind me nearly came through the back of my car. They had to swerve to keep from hitting me. Then they almost hit someone else. There was all this screeching and yelling and then you woke up.” Tina recounts and she looks about to burst into tears.
I see a place to stop to eat and pull over. I think we both need a moment to regain some normalcy. I park the car and turn to her, “I’m sorry. I’ve never done that in public before. I’m so grateful you’re okay. I can’t believe I put you in danger. Tina, I am so, so sorry.”
“In public?” Tina takes the tissue I hand her from the box she had in the console in between the seats and dabs at the few tears that managed to escape. Now she looks blotchy and shaken.
“I've been told it’s some form of PTSD.”
“PTSD? Like people in the military experience?"
“My brother, he didn’t just die, Tina. He was murdered."
“Oh, my God,” came her hushed response.
“I’m the one who found him and every once in a while I get these dreams that sometimes causes me to yell out, or thrash around, but I’ve never fallen asleep out in public. I’ve come close but never have I done what I did to you, just now. Are you okay? I’m just so…”