“Man, I haven’t seen you ages, dude!” was the first thing Tina said to me, as she flung her skinny-ass body at me and proceeded to strangle – I mean hug – me.
Tina Smith was my bestest friend. Besides Max, of course. But with him being indisposed for the last five years, I could possibly be forgiven for getting myself another BFF (for the anachronistically challenged, that stands for 'best friend forever'). She was half-Chinese, half-Norwegian, possessed of a dazed, squinty look, and thought that a plate of microwave bacon and half a box of Nilla wafers was a perfectly acceptable and nutritious dinner. In short, she was a college student. More specifically, she was a college student of the pre-med persuasion who planned on becoming a medical examiner after obtaining her medical degree.
We had met at the same bowling alley we were currently standing at about - yeah, it must've been four years ago. She had been a young impressionable freshman and I had been a heavily mocked young detective. This was before Ethan made detective and also before Adessi had moved to town, so I was stuck in a rather unfriendly workplace, partnered to one of those 'how the hell they ever make patrol, let alone homicide detective' old geezers, and Rivera's partner was even worse. He was harsh enough and an asshole enough to me that even the captain (who despises me with all of his little beady heart) thought it was a bit much. (He, unsurprisingly enough to me got taken down in an Internal Affairs sting a few months later.) I, frustrated after a long week of not getting to shoot either mine or Rivera's partner, had decided to go bowling.
I was seemingly not alone in this desire, as the bowling alley I frequented most often was completely crowded. By the time I got in, only one lane was open. I raced to get it first, and nearly ran smack into Tina and her date, some dork named Kurt who looked entirely bored and very not thrilled to be there (a position on bowling that I had never understood and still, to this day, do not). Me and Tina commenced to screeching at each other until Doug, the guy on shift who was looking nearly as bored as Kurt, suggested we just freakin' share a lane, already!
We had glanced at each other, nodded, and agreed to play one another. I had been wondering exactly how much fun I was going to be having, playing by myself, anyway - I had already pulled into the alley when I remembered that it so wasn't my bowling league night.
Kurt had gotten annoyed with our single-mindedness when it came to bowling and left about halfway through the second frame. Neither of us noticed he had left until it was his turn to bowl and he was nowhere in sight. I had thought that I should pretend to be apologetic about scaring her date off, but she didn't seem to care at all, so we just took turns bowling under his name, making a game out of seeing exactly how bad we could bowl without making a single gutterball. It's funner than it sounds, really!
So, a far too long and far too boring story cut short, we now met as often as we could at the bowling alley, such as we were tonight.
“Yeah, well, you'll see more of me if you could not strangle me to death,” I managed to choke out around her arms. For a skinny ass little girl, she had some arms on her, you know.
“Oh, right.” She dropped from me suddenly – I'm not terribly tall, but she's even shorter than I am, which never fails to make me feel cool and manly, at least until I remember that she uses a thirteen-pounder to bowl with, and I use an eight-pounder. Then I feel all wimpy again and have to go pout in a corner until she comes over and kicks my ass (quite literally; she can kick really damn high and has a puntastic sense of humor). “So, anyway,” she continued, “What took ya so long to get here?” she asked as we exchanged our street shoes (hers were ultra-college-hip bright blue Converses; mine were gray-and-black sneakers that had, at some point in their lives been black, I was sure) for the 'made so you can fall on your ass' bowling shoes and then strolled to our lane for the night. Which, of course, had to be wedged in between a lane of tourists and a lane of high schoolers who were bowling near-constant gutterballs (despite the bumpers being up in their lane) while shouting out “SHOES!” and giggling. We always get the freaks, man.
“Weeeeeell,” I said, drawing out the word for dramatic effect – which was totally lost on Tina, because like I said, pre-med student. She hadn't been getting enough sleep in the last four years to understand anything about drama. “I had a slight case of soap operitis.” I said.
She paused in her typing in of her name on the board. “Huh?”
I smirked. I loved getting 'huh's from people, it makes me feel worthwhile. “I have a three year old son named Zack,” I said entirely bluntly.
In an impressive show of mental gymnastics that also revealed Tina kept far too close track of my love life, she paused a moment and then said, “What, Erin? Are you freaking serious?! You did that crazy bitch?” One of the teens from the next lane overheard her and hollered out, “SHOES, BITCH!”, which led to more hysterical giggling. Christ, freaking crazy teenagers.
“Yes, I did, as you so crudely put it, 'do' her.” I rolled my eyes. “We were in our mid-twenties and dated for three weeks, what the hell did you think would happen?”
She turned a bit red as she moved aside to let me enter my own name into the system, as she'd been dating a guy for the past two years and as far as I could tell, they hadn't even given each other a good groping yet. She was all for saving herself for marriage, which I totally admire, but could never do because nobody in their right mind's going to marry me, and I'm not into the crazies, I don't think.
Anyway, that's when the part of her crazy female brain (the part of my subconscious that's absorbed Rivera's personality smacked me upside the head for that one) that loves everything to do with the midgets of our species caught up with the conversation. “You've got a son?! You should've brought him, I bet he's adorable! Where is he, anyway?”
“Max is watching him.” I'd told her all about Max, of course, and at this point she tended to roll her eyes and go 'Just marry him, already!' whenever I brought up his name. And sure enough, she smirked at me and looked dangerously close to going 'Aw!', so I changed the subject. “Are we gunna bowl already?” I said, gesturing at the waiting game and flipping off two of the teenagers, who were leaning over the chairs that divided our two lanes and were calling out “helpful” suggestions.
“Yeah, let's do it!” she said, brightening instantly.
Needless to say, I got my ass handed to me by Tina, and also nearly kicked the asses of the teenagers next to us, who got kicked out of the place just before we finished our last game.
They were still hanging around when we got outside, albeit in slightly lesser numbers. Out of the haze of smoke fumes and smoldering annoyance, I noticed for the first time that only one of them looked near old enough to drive, and that the others were almost certainly waiting for parents to pick them up. They were thankfully loitering at the far end of the parking lot, making a game of throwing rocks into the street. The cop part of my brain told me I should probably tell them to knock it off, but the rest of me vetoed that as being too much work and too much like being a good citizen and just followed Tina over to her junker of a car (again, college student), chatting about my recent passing out and how I was half-way convinced that Zack didn't exist and this was all just a really fucking weird fever dream.
Suddenly, there was a loud screech of tires and a car screamed out of nowhere, directly at us. I'd like to say that I was the big brave hero and pushed Tina out of the way, but it actually happened more like I tried to dive out of the way and ran into her, knocking her out of the way and leaving me so completely in the path of the dark death machine. Damn me and my survival instincts that suck like hell!
Because yeah, the damn car hit me. And I'll tell you something, it hurt like fucking hell. Burning pain lanced all over my body for the three seconds between the car hitting me and me sinking into darkness that the part of my fractured brain that was still working in anything resembling factory quality was halfway hoping was death. Given the next thing I saw, the rest of fractured me was pretty damn sure that coherent-brain me was indeed correct in its assumptions.