Furious Rush


by S.C. Stephens

Chapter 1

I hated getting phone calls in the middle of the night. It was a well-known fact that being unexpectedly awoken before dawn never led to a positive outcome. As the buzzing cell phone loudly vibrating against the glass of water on my nightstand slowly woke me up, I was sure whatever I was about to find out would not be good. Icy pinpricks of fear began waging war with my sleep-induced fatigue, and I reluctantly opened my eyes. What had happened? Was everyone okay?

A part of me wanted to ignore the rising panic and return to the calm warmth of slumber. Surely everything was fine and it was just a wrong number. But I couldn’t shake the concern that something wasn’t right, so with blurred vision and bumbling fingers, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and glanced at the screen. It was my friend Nikki.

“Nik? What’s going on?” I mumbled. My alarm clock proclaimed the extremely early hour in large red numbers. Ugh, somebody’d better be dead. I instantly retracted that callous thought. Please God, don’t let anyone be dead.

A voice far too bubbly for the early hour met my ear. “Kenzie! Oh good, you’re still awake. I have a huge favor to ask.”

Nikki’s relaxed tone instantly melted my worry. If something bad had happened, she wouldn’t sound so casual. Why the hell was she calling at this time of night, though? “I’m not still awake, I’m now awake. Huge difference. What favor?”

There was a long pause before she answered me, and some of my trepidation returned. “Well…” she slowly began. “I was hoping you could drive down to San Diego with five hundred dollars. Cash.” My jaw dropped as her request scrubbed the last remnant of sleep from my brain. Before I could ask her if she was crazy, Nikki filled me in. “See, I kind of lost a bet, and the people I owe money to won’t let me go home until I pay them. They don’t exactly take checks, you know…so I need cash.”

I was so stunned, I sputtered a few times before managing to curse at her. “Goddammit, Nikki. Are you kidding me? San Diego? Now?”

“I know, I know, I suck. But I didn’t expect to lose tonight, so I didn’t bring that much money with me. Come on, Kenzie, your dad is going to kill me if I don’t show up tomorrow because I’m stuck down here…so…can you help me? Please?”

“Ugh! You know what I’m going through right now, Nikki. The pressure I’m under. The season is starting soon. I want to make my father proud, honor the legacy he started…” I sighed as the weight of expectation firmly settled onto my shoulders. It was stifling at times, paralyzing at others. My voice more subdued, I added, “You know Dad is counting on me to do well, since things have been kind of…tight lately.” My gaze flicked to the clock again. It was so freaking early. “And to do my best, I have to be at my best. Getting up at three in the morning is not my best, Nik!”

“I know,” she groaned. “But I didn’t have anyone else to call. It was either you or Myles, and once he’s down and out for the night, nothing short of nuclear war will wake him up.”

That was true. Our friend Myles could sleep soundly through a heavy metal concert. “So you knew I’d be sleeping when you called, but you decided to wake me up anyway…Is that what you’re telling me?” I asked.

“Well, yeah…I could set my watch to your schedule.” That comment made me frown, but it was also true, so I couldn’t really condemn her for saying it. I liked routine; I liked predictable. It helped me race. I wanted to know that no matter where I was or what day it was, when I got on my motorcycle, it was going to do exactly what I wanted it to do. Same with my life. I wanted to know what to expect every morning when I woke up. Just another reason this phone call was irritating me.

“Nikki…”

“Please, Kenzie,” she interrupted. “I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t screwed. You’re my best friend; don’t leave me stranded with a bunch of thugs. I mean, who’s gonna make your bike a lean, mean winning machine if I’m dead?”

Unfortunately she had a point. Nikki was a genius mechanic—my genius mechanic—and I needed her skills to do well this year. She was also my best friend, and I would never abandon her to that fate…even if she had brought it upon herself. “Fine. But you owe me, Nikki.”

She breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “My soul, my firstborn. Whatever you want, it’s yours.” I was about to tell her that I just wanted her to make my Ducati the fastest motorcycle on the planet when she quickly added, “Oh, hey, can you grab another couple hundred from your rainy-day fund? There’s another race starting soon, and I have a really good feeling about this guy.”

I just about threw my phone across the room. “No! That’s stup— Wait…What race? What the hell are you betting on, Nikki?”

“Krrr…ssssssshhhhh…Sorry, Kenzie…crrrrr…you’re breaking up. See you when you get here! Jackson and Maddox Street, under the bridge. Text me if you can’t find it!” She immediately hung up, and I closed my eyes and slowly started counting to ten.

Tossing my covers off, I forced my body out of the comfort of my bed and placed my feet on the chilly hardwood floor. Internally cursing Nikki, I walked over to my closet, where my clothes for the day were already folded in a neat pile, waiting.

While brushing my teeth, I noticed that I looked like I’d been electrocuted in my sleep. I debated whether I should spend the fifteen minutes it would take to tame the mass of unruly waves, then decided I could use the time more efficiently elsewhere in my day. Running my fingers through the worst tangles, I cinched a band around the bottom of the mess, making a low ponytail that would easily fit under my helmet.

Regretting that I’d ever mentioned my emergency cash to Nikki, I riffled through the envelope hidden under my mattress and pulled out five hundred dollars. And that was all I pulled out. Nikki was crazy if she thought I was going to let her lose even more money.

Stuffing the cash into my wallet, I grabbed my jacket and my street bike keys and headed for the garage. My everyday motorcycle was peacefully resting under the fluorescent lights next to my beat-up truck. This bike wasn’t as flashy or as fast as my racing bike, but my Suzuki was beautiful in its own understated way. Opening the garage door of the one-bedroom house I rented, I rolled the bike outside and started the engine purring. Such an enticing sound. It almost made up for the fact that the sun was still hours from rising. Almost.

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