02. Chivalry for Dummies

I woke up to the sound of nails scratching on glass. Peeling my face off the pillow I threw off the comforter with a sour residue on my tongue. When my jaw lowers to yawn there’s a sound like crushing glass beneath my ear, followed by all the pain packed within a right hook. Every step sent a tiny hammer blow to my knee. The night before plays out before my eyes like a bad dream that I can’t tell myself is over. Making my way to let the morning in, I wonder how things might have been if I hadn’t acted on the missed call.

The call had started with the usual discussion of amount, price, time and a location. When it ended, I went into the night confident and without concern like the mark in a rigged game. Twenty minutes on the road brought me to the back of a Grub Mart and the red BMW. When I get to the window, the girl on the passenger side practically grabs the weed from my hands. I accept the apologetic look from her boyfriend as he passes me the money. Later on I’d learn her name was Samantha and the boyfriend was a Robert.

I had already reached my car, when the girl cried out in pain. The sound stopped me, but not for long. It was time to go. From the driver seat, I watched her take three steps outside before he catches her by the hair.

I look down at the ignition and turn the key when he begins pulling her to the ground. It was time to leave. The car was in drive, when he growled like a rabid dog. Then it happened. Through the rolled up glass and the names he was calling her, I heard her yell that she was sorry. I got out of the car.

The sane and logical side of my brain went silent and, from the numbness, a chill rose up my spine. Robert let her go and took a step towards me. He asked if I had a problem.

I told him he wasn’t a problem.

He didn’t put up the fight I expected. What came at me was a force of rage and flesh. Punches that split knuckles, kicks to places that could leave me a cripple. It was personal, and as desperate as someone trying to make you feel as bad as they did.

I understood the feeling. Except when you made a fight personal like that you’re throwing away the rules. You’re losing yourself in the freedom and forgetting what the rules kept away.  I reminded him until all he could do was beg.

Afterwards, he didn’t hesitate to drive away. Even with the damsel safely sobbing on the curb, when I looked at her I felt like anything but a knight. I felt like a guy who hadn’t wanted to be involved, I felt like I had split her lip and turned her face purple.

The thought of Samantha quickened my heart as it pumped warm blood through the arteries. Somewhere inside my mind, she’s still asleep with a light blue blanket ending at her perfect waist. I cross the living room, with my skin feeling warm and itchy, to open the backyard door.

Outside it was as still as the night with the fog sending icicles through my veins. Steve rushed past my ankles to the warmth of the house without so much as a mew. Closing the door behind me, I let the chill soothe my skin. Breathing in the morning dew, the discontent washed away like dirt in a shower. Steve mewed impatiently for me to come inside from the other side of the glass door.

Ignoring him, I walked barefoot on the frosted grass to open my shed. The air inside had the fruity smell of a wine bar from the six plants of marijuana bathing in warm air and the lights I had installed. Out of habit I check the temperature with the same fear I had felt when they were just seeds in my palm. Hidden from the world on the eve of a harvest and surrounded by young lives come to fruition, I could have stayed there forever.

When I finally returned to the house, it was to find Steve already busy doing his usual Saturday morning inspection of the house. While he made sure I hadn’t changed the fabric of the couch, I put on a pot of coffee. Listening to the water belch as it boiled I pull up Samantha’s one and only text to me.

“Good night.”

Her voice whispered in my mind. The sound of it took me back to her apartment, when she had looked up with a bruised face. When I had pressed my lips to her’s, aching to feel anything other than choking of guilt.

I blinked and returned to the kitchen when Steve began rubbing against my ankle. Sure man, I thought as I crouched to pet him. So he pushed his head and neck into my palms like the hedonist that he was. The guilt disappeared as I watched Steve lose himself in simple unembarrassed pleasure. Steve wasn’t the sort of cat to trouble his pleasures with guilt.

He had arrived a year ago as a puffed-up kitten claiming that my house was his kingdom. Out of charity, however, he allowed me to have dominion over: food, petting, warmth and making sure nothing changed too much. With his skin held together with scar tissue beneath his fur, Steve had fewer illusions about people than I did. And if you were to ask him about chivalry, he’d tell you it was for dummies. Get what you deserve and don’t let it be taken, that was his motto.

I had just poured the coffee, when the door bell rang. I followed Steve to the door with lifted spirits until he moved away with a hiss. A second knock echoed like a nail being hammered and my stomach tightened without a reason.

Opening the door, I came face to face with a man in a black suit and a tan overcoat. He looked middle-aged and with clear eyes that were taking in every detail of my face. My heart jumped when he spoke.

“Hello, I am Detective Redding from Sonata PD. Are you Miles Ellis?” The question came with a badge that he held up. For a moment I stared at it like telling him ‘no’ was an option.

“How can I help you officer?” I asked. He shifted his head, so I add: “yes, I’m Miles.”

“Do you know a miss Samantha Milan?”

“I met her last night.” I told him as Steve mewed behind me.

“You two spend the night?” He asks without missing a beat.

He has a mustache that was as brown as his hair, and his eyes were like pieces of coal. They didn’t hold me in high regard.

“Yeah, I went over.”

“Ok, I need you to come with me to the station. ” The threat he kept out of his voice pierced through my stomach and hooked upwards like an invisible blade.

“Why?” I crossed my arms and he looks at me like he was already tired of my voice.

“She stole a bunch of money from her boyfriend. Then someone kicked the shit out of him for good measure. He says it was you.”

I stared at him with nothing moving inside of me. The detective narrowed his eyes at my expression as Steve began rubbing against my ankle.

This is second fiction story in the “Sonata Knights” short story series. Here’s the first part: “The Wrong Kind of Knight”.

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