From the backseat, Tehanie leans in Lux’s ear. “So excited about this. We missed you so much.”
“Huh?” Lux chuckles. “Missed me?”
Tehanie looks up to West. His eyes flick to the rearview at Tehanie.
“What’s… going on?” Lux asks. Tehanie keeps smiling. Neither she nor West speak. The dash reads 105 miles per hour, 106, 107… 110. Lux’s heart pounds. Something isn’t right. “No one’s gonna answer?”
“It’s okay, Lux.” Tehanie whispers. “You don’t have to fear us.”
“That’s enough, Tee.”
“Us? Wait, you two know each other?”
“Yes, and we know you!”
“Tehanie!” West snapped.
“She needs to know!” She grabs Lux’s arm. “West found me right after the accident, but we couldn’t find your soul anywhere… because you were reborn.”
Lux pulls away, staring out her window. “I um—I’m so confused. Where are we going?”
“Our home.” West said quietly.
In her lap, Lux reaches inside her clutch purse; the blade isn’t there. “And… where is home, exactly?”
“Where you’re gonna remember what we had.” West says. His gaze is magnetic.
Lux shut her eyes. Her wild side wants to keep going, the other wants to escape. “What is this?” Lux asks Tehanie. “I… I saw you take a photo of his license plate! You were lying all this time? Pretending?”
“I just wanted to make you comfortable. I know how you are, Lux. We’re not here to hurt you. You wanted to come! You chose! And you chose correct because deep down you know you belong with me and West.”
Lux jiggles the door handle. “Let me out!”
“No.” West commands. The steering wheel creaks under his one-handed grip. The other seizes her hand. “I can’t lose you again.”
Why does his touch feel so good? Just like Tehanie’s, Lux thinks. They split her mind. Who are they?
“We love you, Lux!” Tehanie squealed.
“Oh my God. I don’t know you. Let me out!”
“No West! Don’t stop!”
“Let me out!” Lux screams. She reaches across West for the wheel, fighting him for control. Her nails dig into his hands. She pulls hard, the truck swerves and tips…
Lux shoots up from bed with her hand on her heart. She gazes around, confused. She’s at home, four and a half hours away from Vegas. “No, we crashed…” Her head pounds remembering getting in a white pickup truck. She remembers it on its side in lonely desert beneath moonlight. The white truck color changes to red as the sun rises…
Shaking it off, she covers her naked body with a robe and runs downstairs. She checks the garage. Her car is there, backed in.
“There’s no way I parked that.” Lux couldn’t back into the garage or parking spot to save her life. She goes back in; the luggage she brought to Vegas sits by the front door. “What the holy fuck? How did I get home?” Careful in step, she looks around. “Who’s here? I-I have…” She runs into the kitchen and grabs a knife. “A GUN!”
Her phone chimes on the kitchen counter. Lux reads the text:
Vee: Where’d you go?
Alright, now I know I’m not crazy. I was there. Lux thinks.
Lux: I’m home! Is Tehanie with you?
Vee: Who’s Tehanie?
Her fingers pierce each letter with murderous frustration.
Lux: Tight aqua dress. She was getting everyone riled up, yelling bitches when I was in the shower last night.
Vee: Who?? That was you yelling. It was so funny too cuz you never say that. Glad you had fun and ur ok, you didn’t have to leave so fast though!
The doorbell rings.
Lux screams and drops her phone.
The door pounds. “Lux! It’s Jackson! Are you okay?”
“What the hell, man! What is happening this morning?” She stomps to the front door ripping it open. “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
Jackson leaps backward. He’s dressed up in his sharp suit and tie with perfect hair, holding his leather work bag. “Jesus Lux! What are you wearing? Get inside!” He shoos her in, quickly closing the door. They head into the kitchen. “Is this what you do at home? Scream in your grandma’s robe every morning?” He pauses, looking her up and down. “What’s up? Rough night?”
She turns away.
“Hey… You good? It’s not really a grandma robe, it just reminds me of a quilt and when I think of quilts, I think of grandmothers…”
“Shut up!” She scoffs, shakily ripping out tissues from a box. It felt empowering to tell a boss that.
“What happened?” Jackson whispers. “Can I help?”
“I don’t know…” She blows her nose.
Lux sees the red truck again, flipping down a lonely desert highway on a sunny day.
Breathe in… breathe out. She couldn’t have a panic attack, not now. Breathe in… breathe out. Because panic attacks don’t exist. Breathe in… Breathe out… Fuck them. Not today, Lux thinks. Feel brave, feel strong. Breathe in… breathe out… The breathing exercises kick in. She closes her teary eyes, blocking out the red truck.
“Why are you here, Jackson?”
She opens her eyes, a little recovered.
“Are you okay?”
“What do you want!”
“Okay, okay, jeez, all I want you to do is open, er, unlock the file.”
“Great. You and your stupid file! Why should I do that?”
“Because I’m trying to save you!”
Lux frowns. “What?”
“There’s going to be layoffs, so I’m making moves. And I know you can do all that computer sorcery.” Lux groans. “Listen, just hear me out.” He drops to his knees. “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I knew you’d be at risk. If it makes you feel better, I’m using a burner laptop, brand new. See?” He holds it up. “Untraceable.”
“What happens after I unlock the file?”
“I modify it, save and submit.”
“That’s it? And this is because of layoffs?” Jackson nods. “So, you’re trying to save jobs? What if there’s other files with the same names on them somewhere else?”
“There is only one file, this one. Mind you, I was sleeping with the head of Human Resources for a reason. That’s how I know what I know, including where you live, and what’s inside that file. I just couldn’t unlock it to edit.”
“Wow, you went through hoops to save your job.”
“My job didn’t need saving. But yours does, and other hard workers who don’t deserve to be let go because an algorithm decided.”
They smile at each other. And suddenly, Jackson Scotch didn’t seem so bad.
Lux unlocks the file in three seconds.
Jackson deletes her name and the others on their floor, saving their jobs. It’s unbelievable she would be let go after thirteen years. Although, with her tenure, a severance package would equate to a full year’s salary. She could live it up and continue adding to her savings without tapping into it.
“Put it back, Jackson. Keep my name on there.”
“What? Why? You’re the best employee I’ve had when you’re not bleeding.” He smirks, nudging her shoulder.
“No, I’ll take my severance. I’m tired of working for the man, it’s killing me. I need to do my own thing, be my own boss.”
“Are you sure, though? If so, you can’t prove what happened today if you’re planning on ratting me out later.”
“I won’t say anything.” She drags her hand down her face. “I got enough drama.”
“Well, you’re always welcome back if you reconsider. Or, since I wouldn’t be your boss anymore, we could go… get a coffee together.”
“Are you asking me out?”
“Just testing the waters.”
The bizarre ask is surprising and likeable. Lux laughs and plays along.
“If we go out, I expect a heartfelt apology for your rudeness to me as your employee. And a copy of a recent STD test, in case things were to progress between us. I don’t trust HR.”
They laugh, and in that moment, West and Tehanie flash in her mind, waiting for her beside a red truck on a sunny day. Her heart aches, like she was missing out not being there. Why?
Jackson takes off. “Thanks for your help. So, we’ll talk soon?” Lux nods. “I’ll have my test results sent with my written apology and your severance package information.” He grins and waves goodbye.
After a long shower, Lux crawls into bed refreshed and exhausted.
On her nightstand sits a photo, a single red rose, and a black piece of paper. Lux stares at it for a moment.
“No…” In the photo, a tall man in a cowboy hat stands in between two dark-haired women. All have bright smiles standing in front of an old red pickup truck. “Wait, what…” Lux looks at the women again, then flips it over. The cursive on the back reads:
My Ladies Tehanie & Lux—Vegas, 1973.
“I wasn’t born yet. How could that be?” Lux grabs the black paper. It’s a note, written with white ink in the same elegant cursive as the photo.
Here’s to our past, present, and future.
Love you Lux
See you soon
Weston & Tehanie
At her bedroom door, there’s a knock.