Fiction: Viki LaFleur

By Hans Joseph Fellmann

I had my first crush when I was five. Her name was Viki, and she sat next to me in kindergarten. She had hair the color of cherry juice. I liked to trace her profile, running my eyes from her mouth to her nose to her forehead then into all that cherry. She raised her chin when the teacher spoke. She knew all our class songs. The one she liked best was the “International Peace Song.” She sang every bit, even the part where Peace was in foreign languages. I could never get that part right. I wanted to put my lips on hers so she could kiss me those strange words.
One day during song time, I tried to copy her. I was able to say Paz, but other than that I was lost. I coughed out the words like hairballs. Viki looked at me and smiled.
“You want help?” she asked.
She scooted her chair next to mine and showed me her notebook. Peace was written in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Swedish. She ran me through the list. It was tough at first, but I caught on. I was able to mouth a few of the words; they were clunky but formed. I put my hand on her knee. A bigger hand ripped it off.
“Get away from her, poo-face,” a boy said.
I looked up and saw two black dots staring back at me. They were lodged in a face with orange freckles and a knobby chin. The face belonged to a boy called Norman. He wasn’t the most handsome, but what he lacked in looks, he made up for in meanness. He leaned in and put his arm around Viki. She shrugged and glanced at me sidelong. I wanted to grab my crayon and jab it in Norman’s eye. The bell rang before I got the chance.
I was fuming when I got home for lunch. I stomped past the ham sandwich my mom had made and into the backyard. Our dog Tommy pranced up to me with a stick in his mouth. I kicked it from his jaws.
“Screw you,” I said.
He whimpered and walked away. I sat in the garden dirt. The lilies were blooming. I stood and took a closer look. I rummaged around and found a lily I liked. I brushed the snails off the stalk and wrapped my hands around it. I leaned back and pulled. The lily popped from the soil with a rubbery sucking noise. I lifted it high. It was bruised and bent where I’d gripped it. Its spathe bore a tiny hole. But other than that, it was perfect. I smiled and took it inside. I riffled through my mom’s stationary drawer and found a blue ribbon. I tied it gently around the lily’s neck. I cut a paper square and taped it to the ribbon. I wrote a note with a Magic Marker.
to Viki. i lov u.
I put the lily in my backpack and brought it to class. I hummed as I walked through the door. Viki sat at her desk with her notebook open. I sat beside her.
“Hi,” she said.
I took the lily from my backpack and gave it to her. She grinned.
“Thank you. Now, I have two flowers.”
Norman walked out of the boys’ room. His lips tightened into an asshole. He sat on Viki’s other side. She held the cheap carnation he’d given her against her chest with my lily. She closed her eyes and rocked the flowers. Norman and I glared at each other over her nose. The air around us swelled and splintered. A nerve in my head burst.
“She’s my girlfriend,” I screamed.
“Nuh-uh. She’s mine.”
We went back and forth. Viki crinkled her brow.
“C’mon guys. Can’t I have two boyfriends?”
The thought was unsettling. We found it in our hearts to compromise.
A month later she changed schools and left us both. Her memory slowly faded. To keep it from disappearing, I wrote a short story. It was about a knight who lived with his redheaded wife and daughter in a small village. Their lives were perfect except for one thing—the stupid dragon with the orange freckles who snuck into the village at night and ate people while they slept. The knight eventually slayed the dragon and chopped off his head. He was hailed a hero, and he and his family lived happily ever after.  
I saved the story in a special folder. The years rolled by. I grew older and taller and more angsty. I had a few crushes, even a girlfriend, but they went poof after high school. I was alone in junior college. I replaced women with angry music. One evening, I was storming around L-Town, listening to Horrorcore. As I made evil faces and spit flows, I crashed into someone.
“Dude, watch it,” a voice said.
I looked up and saw my buddy, Mikey. His eyes were ringed with purple. He was massaging his shoulder.
“Shit man, you okay?” I asked.
“Haha. Yeah. This ain’t your doing.”
“What happened?”
“I was partying all night at a strip club in the City. I know the owner, so they let me in.”
“Which place?”
“Pink Velvet. The girls there are fuckin’ banging, especially this one chick that was dancing last night. She had long legs and crazy red hair. When I got a lappy from her I realized she went to kindergarten with us.”
“What was her name?”
“She said it was Candy, but I knew she was lying. I got her a drink and she told me.”
“Was it Viki LaFleur?”
“How the fuck did you know?”
“Lucky guess.”
“Bullshit. Tell me.”
“She was my first crush.”
“Haha. She was everybody’s first crush.”
“You wanna see her again?”
“I’m not going to that strip club.”
“No, she’s a waitress at Cindi’s.”
“Yeah, I’m going there on Friday to get an application. You should meet me and say what’s up to her.”
Thursday night was torture. I knew Viki would look beautiful and that terrified me. Not that I was so bad-looking myself. But my hair was thinning and my wardrobe needed a serious update. I agonized over what to wear, finally settling on black jeans, a black and white plaid, and a black visor. I dressed and faced the mirror. I looked like a goth lumberjack with the top of his hat scissored off. I couldn’t go to the diner like that. I needed something that would make Viki realize what a stunning specimen I was. I sat at my desk and thought. An idea came. I rifled through my drawers and found the short story I’d written. I stuffed it in my backpack and went to bed. I drove to Cindi’s after class, sweating the whole way. Mikey was outside smoking a cigarette.
“Why do you have your backpack on?” he asked.
“’Cuz I don’t want someone to steal it.”
“This ain’t Detroit, bro.”
“Whatever. Is Viki here?”
“Yeah, she’s in the back getting changed. I told her I’d grab a table.”
“Did you mention I was coming?”
“Nah man, I thought you could surprise her.”
I took a deep breath and walked inside. Mikey snubbed his cigarette and followed me. We picked a table in back and ordered Cokes. I sucked mine down and ordered another. Mikey sipped his and squinted at me.
“When was the last time you got laid?” he asked.
“You heard me.”
“I don’t know, a few months ago.”
“My ass.”
I ignored him and finished my Coke. I felt the urge to piss. I scooted from my seat. Mikey snapped his fingers.
“Oh, there you are,” a woman said.
I crossed my legs and gripped my crotch. I heard the tock-tock-tock of high heels. The room suddenly smelled of hibiscus.
“Hey you,” Viki said.
She leaned over and hugged Mikey. The zippers of her leather jacket ticked on the counter. Her hair shone like waves of rubies. She tossed it over her shoulder and stood back.
“Who’s your friend?” she asked, clicking her nails.
“I don’t know,” Mikey said. “Who are you, friend?”
I raised my chin.
“Hey Viki. You remember me?”  
She squinted. Something in her eyes softened.
Oh yeah, you’re that, uh, kid from kindergarten.”
Blood rushed to my face. She reached in her purse and grabbed her keys.
“I’d love to stay and chat, but I have a second job. Anyways, it was crazy seeing you after all these years.”
She waved and left. She crossed the lot and pressed her key fob. A shiny black Mustang beeped. She slipped inside it, revved the engine, and peeled out.
“I guess she’s makin’ good money shakin’ that ass,” Mikey said.
“Shut up, dude.”
I spent the weekend in my room. The smell of eggs and chorizo brought me out. I found my folks in the kitchen. My mother was at the stove cooking breakfast, and my father was at the table reading the paper. I said hi and sat down. No one responded.
“Why are y’all so damn quiet?”
“You didn’t hear what happened?” my mother asked.
“No. I’ve been asleep all weekend.”
“There was an accident across town. Four people were killed.”
“A group of kids your age was out drinking at a bar that served them illegally,” my father said. “They got in the car afterward and drove off. As they sped around the corner, the driver lost control and slammed into a phone pole.”
My throat tightened. “Did the report mention any names?”
“Yes, but I didn’t recognize any.”
I grabbed the Alameda County paper the next morning. Nothing about the accident was on the front page. I turned to the back. I found a photo of a mass of black metal crunched against a bent telephone pole. Glass and blood littered the street. An EMT was loading a sheeted body onto a stretcher. The headline read “Fatal Crash Kills Four in Livermore.” I dug into the story for names. I recognized none. Then I saw “Viki LaFleur.”
My stomach caved in. I ran to the bathroom and retched.
Back in the kitchen, my mother waited with knitted brow.
“Sweetie, did you know one of those kids who died?”  
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Which one was it?”
“That Viki girl.”
She grabbed the paper. She scanned the article and pointed.
“Little Viki isn’t dead.”
“She was drunk and beat up, but she survived the crash.”
“It says she was the only one wearing a seatbelt.”
A month later, I found another article: “Drunk Driver gets 6 Years for Manslaughter.” A photo of Viki was underneath. She was at the stand, giving her statement from a wheelchair. Her clothes were pressed and muted. Her face was red and broken. It looked like she was crying her hair through her eyes. I buried my face and cried with her.

Hans Joseph Fellmann is a writer from Livermore, California. He has visited ninety countries and lived in Spain, Turkmenistan, the Czech Republic, and Oman. A graduate of the University of California at San Diego, his writing has appeared in the UCSD Guardian, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and The Prague Revue. He has published two novels: Chuck Life’s a Trip, based on a journey he took around the world with his childhood buddies in 2006, and Saving Jahan, which is anchored by his wild experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Central Asia. He has also published a collection of poems, The Heart That Beats, inspired by his life as a writer in Prague, and a collection of short stories, Goodnight Suzy, based on his youth and early travels.