The next installment of The Rose Garden is here! As always, if you’re new to this story, you can start here. If you just need a refresher from last time, you can find Part 4 here
“Thanks for picking me up, Jess.” I open the car door and slowly lower myself in the front passenger seat of my friend’s red Mazda. She wasn’t my first choice for a ride, but at the time I couldn’t recall any other phone number. Curse of the cell phone, I guess. It’s not that I don’t like Jess—she’s one of my closest friends—it’s just that she tends to live in a world devoid of anything but sunshine and rainbows, a world in which she tends to stand in the center of. I’m not sure I can deal with that at this moment, but what choice do I have, really? At least her focus won’t be completely on me.
“Hey, no problem! I can’t believe what happened. O.M.G, you must be so upset!” Jess pulls out of the parking lot when her phone starts to buzz. I groan when she picks it up and starts to read the text message that just came in. That’s all I need: another phone related accident.
“Could you please not look at your phone while you’re driving?”
She looks at me as if she doesn’t recognize me. “What’s wrong with you? Since when does this bother you?”
I decide not to press the issue. What right do I have to lecture her when I’ve always done the same thing?
Jess is her typical bubbly self. She’s carrying on about something, but I can’t focus on what she’s saying. I sit quietly and look out the window, watching as we drive from city roads onto the highway, and the scenes change from city, to suburbs, and then into country. I watch as we speed past cars and buildings and wonder how many people are able to go about their day-to-day life without a care in the world, the way I felt this morning.
I miss that feeling, the feeling of invincibility. My nerves are shot. I’m a wreck. This is so not like me.
“Oh my god! I love this song!” I jump as Jess pulls me away from my thoughts and turns up the radio’s volume. She starts singing at the top of her lungs to “Sue” Me by Sabrina Carpenter. She seems to be having the time of her life behind the wheel. I remember this song; it was playing at the party we just went to Friday night. Jess pulled the three of us, Jasmine, Courtney, and me, off the couch to dance. She said we couldn’t sit and drink while it was playing. We had to dance. That’s also when we met those cute guys, but it was “girl-power” night in our group, and we weren’t going to let guys intrude.
I smile at the thought. Was it really just this weekend that I was out with my friends partying, laughing, drinking, having fun? I don’t feel like partying now. Right now all I want to do is go home, take a hot shower, and curl up in my own bed.
“Hey, Niki, we’re here.” I look up and see that we’re parked in front of my apartment. When did we make it into the village? What should have been a half hour drive seemed much shorter.
I open the door and step out of the car onto the curb. Before closing the door again, I lean in and look at Jess. “Hey, thanks again for driving me home.”
“No problem! I’ll see ya later? A bunch of us are getting together later tonight at Nate’s apartment. Craig made a bet that Austin wouldn’t streak through the village Teen Wolf style. It’s their final stunt to say goodbye to college. My money is on Austin.”
Austin got a hold of his parents’ movie collection from the 1980s, and we all started meeting at Nate’s to watch them. Ferris Beullers’s Day Off, Top Gun, The Breakfast Club, The Karate Kid—the original with that guy who did the voice of the Emperor in Mulan. Ever since then, the guys got the idea to act out iconic moments from the movies to celebrate their final year in college, right up until graduation. I enjoyed watching their antics, but right now I can feel the onslaught of a headache. I’m not sure if it’s from my pain meds wearing off or this latest stunt where Austin would be naked standing atop a moving van hoping not to fall and break his neck while at the same time watching out for the cops. That seemed just a little over the top, even for them.
“Thanks,” I respond, “but I’ll pass.”
She shrugs. “Your choice. See ya.”
“See ya.” I close the door and Jess drives away. Finally, I’m alone.
I walk up the driveway and make my way to the door of my apartment, apartment number two. My building is an old brown Victorian home converted into four apartments, two upstairs, and two down. I unlock my door and make my way up the stairs.