While they weren’t exactly the Montagues and Capulets, it was fair to say Melody Rogers and her fiancé, Randall Parsons were facing difficulties with their families over their impending nuptials. Both were 22, virile, inquisitive, passionate and deeply in love with each other. A fact that deeply troubled the mother of the future groom.
To be fair, no girl was ever going to be good enough for Grace Parson’s only son, Randall. The fact that Melody came from the wrong side of the tracks only intensified her distaste for the manipulative, young hussy.
Randall and Melody had met a year and a half earlier when they were both hired as seasonal help at the local Home Depot, and started dating soon after. When Grace found out her son had proposed a few months earlier, her natural inclination was to assume Randall had knocked her up. Randall denied it, even offering to bring his mother a vial of Melody’s piss for Grace to test to verify his point.
Grace held out hope the two would find something else shiny to focus their youthful hormones on, but as time went by, the young lovebirds didn’t show any signs of tiring of each other. Grace eventually accepted the direction of things when Randall made it known they’d talked to the preacher, rented out a hall for the reception, even put a deposit down on an apartment to move into.
Grace made one last ditch effort to get her estranged Husband, Cliff, to talk some sense into their son, but he just told her not to let her bitterness towards the institution of marriage keep Randall from finding happiness.
Normally, is the responsibility of the bride’s family to handle many of the wedding plans. Therein lied one of the chief misgivings Grace Parsons had about her son’s choice of a spouse. To say Melody Rogers came from a broken home would have been a understatement. Her father had been gunned down when she was two, a victim of a very agitated home owner who woke up to find her strung out father burglarizing his place.
One of the reasons the man was robbing homes was to support his and Melody’s mom’s drug habit, and it wasn’t long after his death that she was arrested as well, beginning quite a long and sad list of brushes with the law.
Little Melody was shuffled from relative to relative for most of her formative years. Unfortunately, the seed from such dysfunctional soil even landed her with two separate stints in juvenile detention as a teenager. Having grown up near Grand Rapids, once Melody endured that second 18 month incarceration, she moved to Saginaw to live with her grandparents where she finished high school and started to re-build her life. That’s when she met Randall.
“Why would you want a girl who’s Momma is a junkie and who’s Daddy died trying to score her fix. Why would you want a girl who’s been in and out of jail herself?” Grace asked her son once after finding out snippets of Melody’s background.
It took all Randall had not to slap his mother.
“People aren’t destined to be slaves to their upbringing,” he tried to rationalize with her, only as a love-struck young man could about the object of his affection.
“It wasn’t like we were the Cleavers growing up,” Randall added that last jab which caused his mother to swallow hard before she fended off the urge to reach out and smack him in return.
While Melody certainly wasn’t the monster her future mother-in-law was so desperate to paint her to be, she wasn’t exactly the bastion of reformed purity Randall saw her as either. The truth, like so many things, was somewhere in between.
Perhaps Melody Rogers was looking for the stability and calm Randall provided to protect her from the whirlwind quagmire her life had been to that point. She loved Randall, and he was the first guy she’d ever known that genuinely loved her back. That’s not to say the slings and arrows, some silent and others not, that Grace Parsons had hurled her way since the announcement of the engagement hadn’t hurt.
There were times she wished she’d never shared some of the elements of her background with Randall, but secrets are quicksand for the foundation of a relationship. Besides, given the amount of ‘moral re-enforcement’ she’d been given during her two stints in juvie and one in rehab, Melody had learned the hard way to be proud of who she was. She was a survivor.
That’s why when Melody looked you in the eye, you should believe anything she would say. On the other hand, there was something burning so deeply inside her, something that she was still quite scared of, unless you looked really hard, you’d never see the inferno of that malevolent glow.
Even though Grace had made peace with the idea of Melody being her daughter-in-law, the truce between the two was tenable at best. At some point, Randall made the suggestion that the two women take off one afternoon on a shopping trip together, thinking if the two couldn’t bond over some retail therapy, there wouldn’t be casino şirketleri any hope for them to ever get along. Begrudgingly, both mother and fiancé accepted.
There was a mall about 45 minutes from home that Grace always enjoyed visiting, and the pair took off late one Saturday afternoon after Melody got off from work to look for a few things for the wedding.
Traveling up an interstate, locked in a car with someone you can’t stand is never an easy proposition. There wasn’t a radio station the two could readily agree on, there really wasn’t a comfort level between the two to talk about the ‘big issues’ facing them, and any attempt at small talk was pained and awkward. Other than an occasional comment about a passing car or something odd dotting the landscape, silence pretty much ruled the trip up.
With Grace’s inability to see well after dark, they’d taken Melody’s car. Between the young girl’s erratic driving, and the lack of leg room, Grace’s feet were asleep and her knuckles were white by the time they reached the mall.
They spent the better part of two hours walking the mall, and even though they bought a couple of things, it was clear their tastes in fashion and style were as diametrically opposed as most everything else. Grace made a point to show Melody several kitchen utensils and equipment, making a not so subtle dig at the girl’s indifference at learning how to cook. At some point a little later, Melody pointed out some rather revealing lingerie then bought it, loving the sickened look on Grace’s face knowing she might be wearing it on the wedding night with the woman’s beloved son.
The two women wound up buying enough stuff to fill the trunk of Melody’s car before they pulled out of the parking lot and started heading back to Saginaw, a little after 6pm, that early December evening.
The lack of legroom and Melody’s questionable musical preferences weren’t the only things that made a trip that long unbearable. Grace’s thimble sized bladder didn’t help much either. They’d stopped at a rest area about halfway up, and even without asking, Melody pulled into the same one on the drive back.
Giving the younger girl a gruff but appreciative ‘thanks’ for pulling over without having to ask, Grace got out to stretch her legs, grab a smoke and pee. By then darkness had settled fully over central Michigan, but even if it had been the brightest day of summer at high noon, Grace likely would have never noticed the beat-up van that was idling six spaces away. The same van that had been following their every move since they left the mall in Bay City.
Grace spent a good ten minutes in the restroom then smoked another cigarette before getting back inside the car with Melody to make the final trudge home. Knowing it would be both petty and redundant for them both to call Randall to tell him they were on their way back, Grace dismissively deferred, allowing Melody to have the honors before they pulled out of the rest stop and entered a notorious digital dead zone over the next 20 miles or so.
Five minutes after they headed back on the road however, Melody’s car began to lurch and overheat. Disgustedly ringing her hands together and biting her tongue, Grace Parson’s used every ounce of decorum she had not to curse out loud as Melody steered her wheezing vehicle into the breakdown lane.
“I’ve been coming up here for as long as I can remember and I’ve never had any issues with a car,” the vitriol finally seeped from Grace’s lips before she could stop herself.
“I think a belt might have broken,” Melody offered as the scent of singed rubber and overheated coolant filtered through the console.
Another bout of silence engulfed the two women as the unsettling motion of the cars and trucks passing them on the highway rocked the broken down bucket of bolts beneath them.
“No service,'” they both almost said in unison when they looked down at their cellphones.
“How far of a walk back to the rest stop…or til we can at least get a line to make a call?” Grace asked with sullen disgust.
“Too far on a crowded road like this after dark,” Melody replied. “Might just be safer to sit here and wait until someone stops to help.”
“Shit,” Grace tapped the side of her head against the passenger side window a few times and spat, the vulgarity sounding oddly comical coming from her lips.
“I’d much rather take my chance out there than be a sitting duck for whoever might stop to ‘help’!” Grace added a few breaths later, ever the control freak, her deepest and darkest fears of helplessness now nipping at her heels.
The women shared another glare of uneasiness when an especially large tractor trailer sped by, causing the entire lifeless car to sway.
“Didn’t happen to wear hose, did you?” Melody chirped. “Somebody told me once you can use a pair in a pinch to substitute for a broken fan belt.”
“I didn’t know my son was marrying MacGyver,” Grace cracked, leaving casino firmaları a blank look on the much younger girl’s face from the dated reference.
A foreboding calm settled like a fog on the inside of the car as the chilly air from outside gradually seeped in. The headlights continued to whizz by as one vehicle after another sped south, leaving the two women sitting pensively waiting for the other to come up with an idea. Two tow tracks actually passed in the first 10 minutes they sat there, but both already had breakdowns hitched to them.
“Maybe a state trooper will show up,” Melody offered, more to fill the silence than anything.
“Not with the budget cutbacks, they wont,” Grace couldn’t help but add to the negativity.
Before they could drift any deeper into their stranded malaise however, the cab of Melody’s car filled with the red glow of brake lights pulling over directly in front of them. Each leaning forward in their seat, they saw a full sized blue and white van come to a stop 50 yards or so ahead before starting to slowly back up towards them in the breakdown lane.
An initial jolt of giddiness played out until something primal tripped inside Grace.
“I don’t like this,” she mouthed.
Melody simply sat with her hands perched on the steering wheel, staring forward, waiting for the doors of the van to open.
If trepidation was already wafting from Grace’s pores before those doors opened, the aroma of her fear became pungent when she saw two men step out and begin walking towards Melody’s hobbled car.
“Lock the doors,” she blathered over to the girl sitting with stoic calm in the driver’s seat.
Even with her glasses on, given the dizzying cavalcade of headlights racing up and down the highway, the two approaching men were nothing but blurry blobs for Grace as she coiled backwards in her seat. As much as she hated being afraid, feeling the seemingly serenity coming from Melody only made Grace unravel that much more.
Considering the rural area they were stuck, Grace’s natural inclination was to assume it was a couple of good ol’ boys who’d stopped to help. Even though they may have smelt a little and would perhaps leer at her and Melody a little too long, their heart was most likely pure. Heartened somewhat by the amount of traffic flowing up and down the highway, Grace was thankful there were still plenty of witnesses in case their plight took a turn for the worse.
“Like you’d really pay attention to anything going on, on the side of the road after dark,” Grace’s conscience snipped sarcastically. “Unless there was a wreck there for you to rubberneck at, you’d just hit to gas and keep trucking. You wouldn’t even look over and all those drivers out there probably wont either.”
It wasn’t until the man who’d gotten out of the driver’s side of the van came directly up to Melody’s side of the car that Grace realized the men who’d stopped weren’t exactly ‘good ol’ boys’.
“You ladies need some help?” the 20 something man, of what looked to be Mediterranean descent, asked through the window Melody had cracked.
So focused on the interplay between them, Grace nearly jumped in her seat when the second man, this one a taller guy who appeared to be Hispanic of some variety, suddenly emerged right outside her door.
The man, who also looked to be in his early 20’s, reflexively put his hands up, palms out, as if to say he didn’t mean to startle Grace. Doing her best to keep one eye on the man talking to Melody and the other on the man now hovering beside her, Grace was starting to get a headache.
Trying some of the breathing techniques she’d learned from an exercise DVD she’d ordered off of late night tv years ago, Grace defiantly trained her gaze straight forward, trying to think of a subtle way to reach down into the floorboard and grab the bottle of mace a church friend had given her as a gift a few birthdays back.
“You’ll just wind up spraying yourself with it,” Grace’s conscience snidely mocked, knowing in a rush she might just wind up pointing the thing in the wrong direction, if she could find a way of firing it at all.
Lost in her own self reflection for what seemed like no longer than a heartbeat, Grace was jolted back to reality when she sensed Melody agreeing to something the creepy man leaning down by her window had said.
“What are you doing, Melody?” Grace hissed in a curt whisper, nearly reaching over to grab the girl’s right arm before she stopped herself.
“This guy here offered to drive me up always to a spot where we can get some cell reception,” Melody calmly told her future mother-in-law.
“And you’re just gonna jump in the van with them,” Grace just shook her head and spat, trying to keep it quiet enough the two guys flanking Melody’s car wouldn’t hear.
“Do you have any better ideas?” Melody shot back. “We can sit here all night and be popsicles by sunrise.”
“You’re not going alone with them,” Grace grinded her teeth together, knowing güvenilir casino their options were few. “I’m going too. I’m not going to let you go… with…them…all by yourself.”
“Fine,” Melody’s rolled her eyes and agreed. “Who knows if I’ll even have a car to come back to if we leave it abandoned by the highway, but suit yourself. He said the spot is only about five miles up.”
The inside of the van was worse than Grace imagined. If there was such a thing, the interior of the van was a mobile man-cave that wretched of one part boys locker room and one part reggae concert.
A smoker herself, even Grace nearly choked on the thick herbal stench hitting her lungs each time she breathed as she took the seat behind the driver’s. If she wasn’t already thinking this was a bad idea, Grace’s stomach absolutely rolled when the guy who’d been talking to Melody followed her into the backseat instead of taking his place up front.
“Why is he…?” Grace internally croaked before the shrill sound of the guy closing the side door raked down her spine.
Twenty-two year old Deron Torres was sitting in the driver’s seat of his grandfather’s beat up Econoline van, key in the ignition as the traffic whizzed by on I-75. There were three people seated in the row behind him, his childhood friend Ronny Kostas and two women in distress they’d picked up along the highway.
Reclined back in his seat, silently taking it all in as he stared in the rearview mirror, for someone as risk inclined as Deron, even he had butterflies in his belly knowing full well what was about to happen.
“No,” he heard the younger girl snap then giggle nervously as Ronny brazenly tucked his hand between her thighs.
Tapping his left hand on the steering wheel, waiting for the cue to turn the ignition as Ronny continued to flirt with the girl they’d just picked up, Deron couldn’t help but smile. Of all the crazy things he’d ever done, nothing compared to this. As hard as he tried, Deron couldn’t see the older woman who’d been with the girl sitting beside Ronny, but the fear and apprehension she was giving off was quite palpable in the cramped space.
Meeting eyes with Ronny in the rear view a few moments later, Deron turned over the engine and mumbled, “Here we go”, under his breath before putting the van into gear.
A disbelieving gurgle of shock belched from Grace’s lungs the first time she looked over and saw the man put his hands between Melody’s thighs. To Grace’s ever lasting horror, Melody seemed to be taking it in stride. Even though she put her hands out and fended off the guy’s first few attempts, it didn’t seem to be deterring him in the least.
Despite her words being lodged in her throat, the expression on Grace’s face clearly showed her disgust.
“We should have left your mom back at the car,” Ronny whispered into Melody’s ear, loud enough for Grace to clearly hear.
“Uhhh..she’s not my mom,” Melody sighed back, squirming slightly but still keeping an amazing aura of calm.
“She’s gonna be my mother-in-law,” Melody added dryly. “I’m engaged to her son.”
“Oh,” the well built young man nodded dismissively before tucking his right hand back down to the smooth denim thigh of Melody’s jeans.
Having the van lurch to life beneath her only added to Grace’s discontent.
“STOP,” she wanted to scream but couldn’t.
They had, after all, agreed to drive her and Melody up the highway a little until she could get a line out. “…Or just leave you two bludgeoned to death in a culvert,” the snide voice of Grace’s inner reason merrily reminded.
Looking down at the face of her cellphone, there were still no bars. The emptiness of that image only intensified when she felt the tires of the van slip back up on the pavement as the kid driving merged back into traffic. Raising her head as the van accelerated, Grace looked up just in time to see the man beside Melody once again try picking her locks.
“Her knees are a little further apart than they were the first time he tried,” she drearily noted, even though on the surface it still appeared Melody was rebuking his efforts.
“You’ve still got the mace in your purse,” Grace told herself re-assuredly, but what was she going to do, spray a guy who was driving 70mph up the highway or blind a guy who was clearly high and trying to get a little frisky with an openly flirtatious girl.
A couple more miles up and Grace could call 911 if she had to. With every subsequent roll of the tires however, Grace began to feel she’d never get the chance.
“Just open the door and fling yourself out,” she thought for the briefest of moments, knowing a few broken bones would heal in time. A slit throat wouldn’t. Then a tractor-trailer sped by to Grace’s left, causing her to aimlessly drop her hands back down to her lap.
Swiveling her gaze back towards Melody, the urge to hurl herself from the van quickly returned. It was as if the girl was transforming into something inhuman before her very eyes. It was clear Melody’s knees were drifting further apart, and now the girl had shifted her posture until she was openly facing the creep beside her.