I’m three bites into my enchilada when Ava hurls herself towards me, cartwheeling between and over tables, landing in my lap. Before I can react she’s got my face in her hands. My waitress/dream girl pulls me close, her breaths warm and her dark eyes swimming in mine.
I attempt to speak when she whips around, to the kitchen guys huddled at the door, all with matching black eyes, mouths open in amused terror. She shrieks at them, “We only have six minutes until he dies!”
Just minutes ago she was refilling tea, making small talk. This is crazy.
“What?” I manage to mumble, “I’m fine.”
People are crowding us. Someone suggests the Heimlich. This has to be a prank. Or some lunch theater deal. A hidden camera…I fall to a knee, humiliated. The room is spinning.
Two powerful smacks, expertly delivered to my face. “Magenta. Hang in there, we’ll get you to base.” This is followed by a blast of ice water to my head. I fumble about as she takes me to the floor. I’m trying to locate words for this situation but Ava hovers over me. Maybe I am sick, floating. I focus on the curve of her neck. My stomach folds.
Someone lifts me to my feet, ice cubes crunching under our steps as she drags me back to the kitchen where a mariachi band in a tunnel. The world is so far away.
A shot hits my neck. More slapping. A prayer. I get my eyelids cracked to see that we’re outside. It smells like a dumpster. Then I’m gone.
I wake up in a bed. Shades glowing with day. Again the hair, the eyes. My mind is groggy, but it’s her, my favorite waitress. Her face comes into focus. Bags beneath her eyes. She’s still in her waitressing clothes. She smells of food and flowers.
“I am. Thanks to you.”
“Me?” Ava laughs. Her voice is weak and desperate. “I could have killed you.”
I try to sit up, the room wobbles so I lean back. She rubs warmth into my hand, wakes my heart in my chest. Flashes of lunch return.
“Back there, at the restaurant, you called me, Agent?”
A sad smile. “You had food poisoning.” Then, shaking her head. “I’m not a very good waitress.”
“No, wait. I remember. You called me Magenta. Said I had six minutes…”
A finger to my lips. “Shh. It’s okay. You should relax.”
Food poisoning. Magenta. Agent. Base. I’m dizzy with confusion when a nurse comes in to check on me. “Well, everything checks out. We need to get some fluids in you and—”
Ava hurls her chair at the nurse, leaping over my bed before I can blink. She pins the nurse—a man who must have her by fifty pounds—and folds his hand behind his back. When she turns back to me, her voice is direct, sharp. “Magenta, go!”
“There are more, you have to go. Now.”
I give up lunch for the next month. I lose weight. My dreams of Ava are more nightmares now. Her mental structure, her acrobatics in the hospital. The nurse she pinned to the floor. Those eyes of hers.
I fall into a funk. I drink. At a downtown club I see her in the crowd. Dancing like she’s fighting. She looks different, shorn hair, tight pants, but it’s her, no one else moves like that. My mouth goes dry. I’m sweating. Ice water in my groin. Then she’s gone. Only she isn’t. At the bar she finds me.
“Magenta. We have to get out of here.”
“I’m not…this is…” My heart is in a panic. This beautiful nut in the dark. She slides closer, her lips on my ear. She smells of drink and flowers. “Follow me.”
This is where I should turn and run the other way. But it’s impossible. In her gaze, I’m locked in place. It’s hard to tell who’s crazier, me about her or the demons in her head. I take her hand, pull her close. She tilts her head, her eyes big with her smile just before she kisses me ignorant. Music pounds my ears. She takes my hand, knowing that I’ll play whatever game she wants to play.
“Okay agent. Let’s move.”