For most of my fifteenth year, I was completely confused about the big deal over being kissed. It seemed important to all the other girls in high school that they be kissed. I, personally, had never given it much thought until Shelly Sergeant called me to tell me someone had kissed her.
The memory of that day is comfortable memory, one I return to like a favorite movie when I need peace from the chaos of existence in a city. It was a beautiful autumn Saturday during my junior year at Littlesville High School, two weeks before my sixteenth birthday. South Central Pennsylvania showed itself off in a peacock-like display of autumnal colors as another Indian summer came to a close. I had never really understood what an Indian summer was until my paternal grandmother, father, and I first moved to the tiny town approximately 10 miles north of Gettysburg six years before. Littlesville consists of nothing but apple orchards, a few family businesses, and a combined junior/senior high school that graduates roughly 90 students a year, and exactly one stoplight.
The trees had almost completely changed into their vibrant colors, and I was giving the grass a good trim before the leaves started falling. If the grass was trimmed short right before the leaves fell, the strong blustery winds that would come days later would blow them across the street, and I wouldn’t have to go through raking and bagging them. Since we had over forty trees on our three-acre property, this was a definite concern. I am proud to say I only had to bag those damn leaves once. God, did I miss the city.
It was hot enough for the sun to be ruthless at midday, which contrasted with the deep red and yellow hues that signaled fall. The sweat was dripping off of me, trailing along my spine. It settled into the stretched elastic of my almost-but-not-quite-too-small bra, threatening to leave nasty red welts that could make my life unbearable for days.
I was just about to retrieve the clippers to touch up around my three favorite trees when I heard my grandmother shout, “Mel, telephone!” from the new back porch (which she likes to call “The Verandah”). She had the old back porch (which I like to call “The Greenhouse”) closed off with glass and annexed to the eighty year old house, and was having a contractor draw up some more plans to do something similar to the new back porch.
I jogged up to grab the cordless phone from my grandmother and sat down on one of “The Verandah” steps. Sitting outside was the best way to get privacy on the telephone, since my father liked to listen to me through the heating vents to see if I had taken up any habits that might make me more like the son he wanted instead of the daughter he got. So far, I had only caved in on smoking cigarettes and, occasionally, weed, but he wouldn’t find out about the weed for another year.
I lit up a Camel Light before saying hello. I was greeted with an earful of squeals and incomprehensible babble that could only mean it was Shelly. I pulled the phone away from my ear and watched as the breeze blew some leaves off the three trees I had just been trimming around. I cursed to myself.
“Mel!” Shelly yelled in the phone to get my attention and I clapped it against my ear obediently.
“Yeah, Shelly.” I sucked in a big mouthful of smoke and forced it deep into my lungs.
“Did you hear anything I just said?
“I heard it, but I couldn’t understand one damn word,” I said. I watched the smoke puff from my mouth with each word.
“I said Greg Brombaugh kissed me!” She squealed in delight.
I was silent for a moment as I thought about Greg Brombaugh’s brother, John, who was a senior. I thought I could remember John mentioning that his older brother Greg had just come back from basic. I took a long drag and exhaled slowly. “Why the hell would you go and do a thing like that?” I could almost hear her face fall.
“Whadoyamean?” she asked.
“I mean, you barely know the guy.”
“He’s ceee-yoot,” she cooed. I rolled my eyes and felt a piece of dust wedge itself firmly underneath my contact lens. ‘Karma,’ I thought to myself as I gently rubbed my eye.
“I wouldn’t know,” I answered.
“You will, he’s coming to the Lincoln Diner tonight. Wanna grab a ride with me?”
The Lincoln Diner was a railroad car that had been converted into a diner. It had been a Saturday night tradition among my friends to eat there ever since Hunter’s older brother Ray had gotten a car two years ago. By the time Ray went off to try and strike it big with his punk band “The Menstrual Vampires,” both Hunter and Drew were driving.
“I told Hunter and Drew I was going to hitch a ride with them.” I could hear her sigh dreamily into the phone. She had a serious-weird-obsessive thing for Drew, even though he wouldn’t acknowledge her presence and would throw tiny bits of paper into her unkempt mass of light brown hair during chorus when I wasn’t around to stop him.
“How perfectly squidgy!” she exclaimed.
“Squidgy?” I butted my smoke against the heel of my shoe and threw it into a flowerpot with its brothers and sisters.
“Yeah, I came up with that.”
“To describe what?”
“You know, that feeling you get when…oh, never mind. You’ll find out.” She giggled and I heard the phone click and the line changed to dead silence.
I sighed and walked into the house, yanking my shoes off before I walked into the kitchen from “The Greenhouse.” The last thing my grandmother wanted on her perfect white linoleum floor was my muddy shoes. She liked to remind me of this every time I walked in the house.
She was in the kitchen with her back to me, stirring a pot of pork barbeque as she said, “Did you take those muddy shoes off? That’s the last thing I want on my linoleum.” My father rolled his eyes and grinned at me. I could tell, even from thirty paces, that he had been drinking a good amount for someone who had just gotten up. His graying brown hair was tousled, and his beer belly looked a little more engorged than usual. The bags under his green eyes looked exceptionally heavy. I knew he was working too much, working the first shift in addition to his usual graveyard shift at the local printer’s shop.
“Yes, gran’mom, I took off my shoes.” I wiggled my toes at her as she turned to check.
She laughed and said, “I always ask you that, don’t I?” as she turned back to the pork. “That was that Shelly girl, wasn’t it?” She knew very well it was Shelly. I had fewer female friends than I could count on one hand that ever called me at home, unless it was for notes. Yet somehow she always recognized the voices of my male friends.
“Yes, gran’mom, it was Shelly.” I knew the question she was dying to ask. I could see my dad grinning behind his coffee mug at me as he raised it to drink.
“So…what did she have to say?” My grandmother smiled to herself. She was always interested in the latest school gossip, even though I censored the interesting parts of it out of necessity. Realistically, she probably had read every word of the extensive journals I kept and knew it all anyway.
“Greg Brombaugh kissed her,” I answered with a shrug. It wasn’t that interesting. Shelly being kissed must have been a lot more interesting to my father’s drunk mind than I realized, because the next thing I saw was the coffee cup shaking, splattering and spewing dark liquid all over the counter and onto the dog that had been lying at my father’s feet.
The dog, a stocky fox-looking Pembroke Corgi named Duchess, looked up at my father angrily until he jerked forward and mopped up the mess, guiltily apologizing to her. Duchess was about twelve then, and had been a member of our family for eleven years. He worshipped that dog. Once, in fact, when he was sober, he told me loved that dog more than me. I had looked him straight in the eyes and knew he wasn’t lying.
He threw the coffee-soaked paper towels out and headed for his basement room saying, “I’m going downstairs,” as he nearly ran past me. A look of panic was etched into his face. Even though my father had a room upstairs, he never used it. He had lived in our basement in Washington, D.C., and he lived in our basement here. My grandmother would often complain to me about how odd it was, but I knew he really stayed down there because he had a filing cabinet full of porn videos he didn’t want her knowing about. That filing cabinet occasionally came in handy as blackmail. My father and I were, in a way, more like a brother and sister than a father and daughter, but he always had the authority to not allow me to go somewhere. I always liked having an ace in the hole.
“Sweet sixteen and never been kissed,” my grandmother clucked softly after my father slammed the basement door shut. I winced at the phrase. “Do I know Greg from church?” My grandmother was a strict Southern Baptist, and she always thought names sounded familiar from church. Mr. Brombaugh was a Quaker, and Mrs. Brombaugh didn’t practice any particular faith.
“No. He just got back from basic training.” She almost dropped her spoon in the pot at that.
“How old is this boy?” she said, putting the spoon down and facing me. I shrugged. “Oh,” she said. “You don’t know him?” I could almost hear her silent prayer that I didn’t.
“No.” I swallowed my laughter as she visibly relaxed. “I gotta go shower before Hunter and Drew come to pick me up to go to the Lincoln Diner,” I said apologetically. She nodded and turned back to the pot. The lines in her forehead stood out more than usual.
When I got to the bathroom, the first thing I did was lock the door as I yanked my long hair out of its ponytail. Locking the door has always been the first thing I do when I am in a bathroom, even though no one has ever tried to walk in on me showering or doing anything else. With the door shut, I was facing myself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. For once, I hesitated and studied myself carefully.
My cheeks and nose were slightly red from the sunburn I had just earned. The angry red streaks would eventually fade back into my pale skin, as they always did. I watched as my straight blonde hair flopped over one of my big hazel eyes. I sighed and pulled it back in my hand, studying gentle curve of my jaw.
The next thing my eyes fell on was my mouth. I knew that a good percentage of the nerves in the human body rested beneath the soft, sensitive skin of the lips. I could see the indentations on my full lower lip from the reed of my clarinet, where the skin was exceptionally soft and sensitive on me.
I knew my lip would be more swollen in a couple of weeks when I would be preparing for auditions and upping my practice time from four hours a day to six. Music was my way out: of the town, of my house, of my life. Who needed the angst-ridden thoughts of suicide when you could dump every waking moment into music? I sighed and turned away from the mirror to undress, cranking the shower as hot as it could get.
After showering and blow-drying my hair, I went into my bedroom and put on a bra that actually fit (I was right about the welts, I was miserable), a light sweater that my grandmother had knitted out of dark brown thread and was not three sizes too big like most of my clothes, and a pair of jeans.
I hummed with the Allegro of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto that danced merrily from my tape deck as I was combing my hair. I heard a knock at my door, and was surprised to be standing face to face with my father when I opened it. Oddly enough (considering my thing with bathroom doors), at that point in time, I had never locked my bedroom door in my life.
“Hey Girl.” My father always called me ‘Girl.’ It was a twisted pet name, always reminding me that I wasn’t the boy he had wanted. I let the door swing open and sat on the chair at the foot of my bed. “So, you’re going to the Diner tonight, huh?” He was staring at his feet as he toed the light green carpet. I knew why he didn’t want me to see his eyes.
“Yeah.” I crossed my arms over my chest and waited.
“I was looking in the basement for something, and I found these. I figured you’d want them.” He produced two worn photographs from his pocket and held them towards me. I stood as I took them and watched as he walked towards the door. “You look like her, Girl,” he said with his back to me. He shut the door behind him.
He had given me two pictures of my mother. I had thought my grandmother had destroyed them all.
The first picture was of her sunning herself on the backyard of the house in Durham that my father now rented out through a lawyer. I could tell, even though the photograph was worn and grainy, that I was just a fairer-haired version of her. The hair that tumbled down her back was deep, dark brown. She was young, only a few years older than I was when she was captured and held still on film.
Her body was shaped exactly like mine. She had amble breasts, light and shadow played across the slight indication of the bottom of her ribcage. Her hips could be described as “childbearing.” Her legs were proportionate, but short, and tapered into strong, fine bone work at the ankles. Her feet were small. I could easily be mistaken as her. The look on her face was neutral and strangely intriguing. I wondered what her smooth-looking skin felt like. I tried to recall hugging her, but couldn’t. They were memories too old for me, from when I was too young, for me to bring them back into focus from the darkness. My eyes rested on her feet, not moving for several moments. I barely heard the powerful ending strains of the fast-moving Allegro, my thoughts were much too turbulent.
I was staring at the feet that had walked out on me. I inhaled deeply, reflexively, for the beginning of the Adagio and exhaled with the first note before I was able to drag the second photograph from behind the first.
The second photograph was a Polaroid of her. It was taken from her right side. She was smiling, laughing as a husky named Czar rested his front paws on her very pregnant stomach. I knew from all of the family stories that she was eighteen, and my father, unseen behind the camera, was thirty-six. The old Polaroid was worn and smudged with fingerprints.
As I looked at it, I wondered if her stomach had ever swelled that way again, and if so, who they were. I could see one small hand as she scratched the side of the dog’s head. His pink tongue lapped at her fingers. I looked down at my own hand and compared the short, muscular fingers to hers – they were small enough to be delicate, yet stocky enough to look useful.
I wondered if she was smiling now, too. If somewhere, she was flashing that 100-watt, never really giving a thought to the daughter that had been resting in her womb in the picture I held. I sighed as I looked at the stitch-work on her clothing, intricate hippy flower designs that she would have embroidered herself. My grandmother marveled at the fact that I had inherited that ability from her.
The angle of the photograph showed the same jaw line I had. I bit on the lower lip that matched hers and closed my eyes. I saw her image burned onto the back of my eyelids and heard the soft strains of the Adagio fill the silence that had flooded over me. I focused on some of the last music that Mozart wrote, music that many scholars say was his true swan song, a hint at what would be heard later in the Lacrymosa of his Requiem mass. I watched as her image faded into the darkness.
I was lost in this amorphous thought when I heard my grandmother yell that Hunter and Drew were there. I shoved the pictures in my back pocket and ran down the steps, the sounds of the Rondo Allegro followed me.
My grandmother called, “You look very nice, Mel.”
I mumbled thanks and told her I’d be back at the usual time as I dashed out the door. The threshold groaned from the quick motion of my foot as I jogged over it. By the time I heard the screen door slam, I was halfway into the backseat of Drew’s car.
The first thing Hunter did was twist himself around in the passenger seat so he could face me. A toothy white grin split his tanned face in half. “Didja hear about Brombaugh and Shelly?” If you think news travels fast among teenagers, you should see how fast it goes between teenagers in a small town.
“What the hell do you think? Of course I did. Apparently he’s going to show up tonight.” Hunter rolled his expressive brown eyes in disgust and made kissing faces. I kicked the back of his seat as hard as I could, and it bucked him forward a few inches before clicking back into place.
“Touchy. You raggin’?”
I could see Drew’s hazel eyes reflected in the rearview mirror as he looked back at me with sympathy. His eyes were a mix of colors that included more blue than my version of hazel.
“So, when’re you gonna pucker up, Mel? I should get you first!” Hunter chided. Hunter, Drew, and I had been close friends for four years, ever since Hunter first called me because he noticed I was well endowed. This was a fact he liked to remind me of continuously, just to embarrass me.
“For you? Never.”
Drew laughed. Hunter turned the corners of his mouth down into a perfect upside down smile as he asked, “Why not?”
“‘Cause your tongue is as hairy as your palms.” Drew pulled the car over and the three of us howled in laughter. Hunter produced a joint and we puffed on it for a while. The advantage to living in the middle of nowhere is the fact no one is ever on the roads, and there’s only one cop. We pulled back on the road and cranked the windows down.
“So did your dad think about what I told him, Drew?” Hunter asked. Several weeks ago, Hunter and Drew’s dad had sat down over a bottle of whisky and talked about using part of the family farm to grow marijuana, a much more lucrative cash crop than anything the Durris family farm currently had. Everyone knew that sending Michael, Drew’s brother, through school was stretching Drew’s family finances thin. Luckily, Drew had been awarded a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania for English, and only had to wait for Michael’s return to take over the family farm next summer and he’d never have to break his back during a harvest again. That intense need to get out of town was something all of us had in common.
“He hasn’t decided yet,” Drew said flatly. Something in his tone caught Hunter, who mumbled his apologies, running his hand through the bright red hair that I had helped him dye. The rest of the ride to the diner was silent except for our breathing and the sound of the tires on the road.
Tourist season was over and the usual crowd had settled back in. The din caused by the jukeboxes on each of the tables was a welcome sound to our ears. Drew grinned down at me, his six-foot tall frame bending towards my smaller one. I managed to smile back, but my mind was drifting to other music, other places, other people. Drew tilted back and furrowed his eyebrows, then shifted his gaze to the windows. I saw Shelly dart up and start waving furiously at us to join her at a booth. Next to her was someone I assumed was Greg Brombaugh.
The prediction Hunter made in the car with his face twisted and kissing at the air was accurate. I was shoved in between Drew and Hunter. I could hear Drew wince when I would accidentally brush the sore muscles of his arm. While the three of us debated about the suffocating aspects of small town life, Shelly and Greg spent their time rubbing noses and smooching. I barely remember what Greg’s face looks like. It’s probably because all I ever really saw was more of a flash of skin that emerged from the mass of Shelly’s hair every once in a while than a face.
Hunter jabbed me hard between the ribs and started French kissing the air in their direction a few times until I found the right angle to hold my hips at so I could kick him hard in the shin to stop. Drew sat, statuesque, with a pained expression chiseled on his face.
Hunter began tossing empty sugar packets aside as soon as our favorite waitress, Betty, served the three of us our usual coffee. I started twisting Hunter’s discarded packets together, watching as the tiny crystals escaped the contorted packets and clung to my fingers. I could feel the shape of the pictures in my back pocket, and I realized that Greg must have gone to the bathroom because Shelly’s idle chatter slowly bled into my consciousness. Drew shifted his weight and I could feel the warmth of his leg press gently against mine. I felt my muscles tighten and relax involuntarily and wondered if he had felt the movement. I threw the packets down and looked up at Shelly.
“…well?” She finally inhaled, and I wondered how long she had been talking. I shrugged and tried to find room under the table to cross my legs. Hunter jabbed me in the ribs again and the little progress I had made was ruined. My leg toppled over and my foot landed squarely on Drew’s. I apologized to Drew as I punched Hunter as hard as I could.
“Bastard,” I muttered under my breath, becoming even more involved in the torture of the emptied sugar packets. I tried to think of the three instruments I would switch between when I played in the pit orchestra for the Nutcracker Suite. Eb Sopranino Clarinet for the opening, Bass Clarinet for the Sugar Plum Fairy, Bb Soprano Clarinet for the Pas De Deux. It was a vain attempt to try and drown everything out. Hunter would not be ignored.
I felt him as he turned to plunk a quarter in our jukebox, and cringed as the song “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon,” started to croon from the crackly speakers. He turned up the volume and started singing the song, his arms open towards me and his face contorting, kissing the air as he inhaled for the next line. I leaned as far away from him as I could get, until my back was halfway across Drew’s lap. Drew froze and I stared up at Hunter in absolute horror. I dimly remember Shelly squawking that she and Greg were leaving such an infantile display.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I whispered, struggling to keep my voice low. I could feel color swimming to my cheeks as Hunter strained to hit each note. Drew jumped out of the booth and dragged me out with him. He pushed me towards the opposite side of the table and stood for a moment, glaring at Hunter who was making the show even more ridiculous, his face coming closer to mine as he struggled to lean completely across the table towards me. Drew slid in next to me. His hand searched for mine beneath the table. He found it clinched into a fist and resting on my thigh, and gave it a gentle squeeze. I didn’t take my eyes off of Hunter.
Hunter wiggled his way out of his seat and ended the song on one knee, his hands outstretched. He let his chin drop to his chest as he finished bellowing the last note. The Diner broke into applause and raucous laughter. I hid my face in one hand and shook my head in disbelief. He kicked me under the table as he worked his way back into his seat. Drew’s hand flew off of mine and I know he felt me kick Hunter back because he dragged me out of the booth again, this time he grabbed me by both of my shoulders and moved behind me to switch seats. I shivered as I felt the heat shift with him across my back. Drew pulled me across the vinyl seat next to him and glared up at Hunter.
Hunter’s face had changed into a look of raw anger as he looked at Drew. Drew looked at him quietly, and Hunter’s face relaxed into his familiar, crooked grin. “Told ya she was raggin’,” he said flatly.
I could still feel the lingering warmth from when Drew had pulled me next to him. It had just begun to fade on my skin, the heat collapsed into a gentle whisper of a tingle. I felt a blush run across my face. I sighed angrily. I started shaking my head and plastered as matching grin to Hunter’s across my own face, thinking of the echoes of my mother.
“You know, Hunter,” I started, “that must be the only thing you know about women. And I can guarantee you that it’s not going to get you very deep into anyone’s pants, either.” He laughed, hesitantly at first, before launching into laughter so hard I thought he might cry. Hunter’s ultra-infectious laugh, so deep and loud and hardy it was almost comical, took a few seconds longer to work its magic. Soon, inevitably, Drew and I were laughing with him.
It took him a few seconds to calm down before he looked at me and deadpanned, “No, Mel, I just want in your pants.”
I looked at him as he screwed his face up once again, his eyes forming starburst patterns of folding skin and his lips puckered outwards, searching.
I slapped him gently right on his lips. “That’s as close as you’ll ever get.” His shocked face was enough to throw the three of us back into more laughter. Hunter started laughing so hard he was snorting, and Drew collapsed onto the table into a heap of shaking shoulders. Hunter clapped him on the back boisterously, making Drew laugh harder.
The laughter the three of us shared was always redeeming. It was complete release. I felt my anger drain back into the hidden recesses, and the pictures that had been burned into my consciousness partially faded from the forefront of my thoughts.
Drew looked at his watch after we had calmed down and sighed loudly. “I gotta get up at four tomorrow, I should really get home.” It was eleven o’clock, and early end to the evening. I was about to point out that Drew usually got to take Sundays off from the farm work, but he was already nudging me towards the end of the booth. Betty made out like a bandit, I had taught quite a few clarinet lessons and had a decent sized wad of fives and ones that I was happy to share with her. I regretted that he hadn’t had a chance to talk with her like we usually did.
The ride back consisted of a joint and the usual conversations about getting out of the town, concerts, writing, dreams. I had just settled in at home and had started practicing scales with a metronome as a warm up when the telephone rang. It was Drew. My grandmother proudly announced who it was as she walked up the stairs to turn in for the evening.
Conversations with Drew on the telephone could be any range of things. More often than not, they would consist of long silences intermittently interrupted by him clearing his throat and asking how I was feeling or what I was auditioning for next. This conversation was different. Drew’s baritone voice greeted me with, “Can you get out?”
“What?” I asked.
“You need to talk.”
“Why do you think that I need to,” I barely had the words out when he interrupted me.
“Can you get out?” It was the fastest response from Drew on the telephone that I had ever heard, and the only time he had ever interrupted me.
“When?” I didn’t question his observation further.
“I can walk there in about five.”
I hesitated for a moment, debating and chewing on my tingling lip. Curiosity got the better of me.
“Okay.” Click. Silence.
I cleaned out my clarinet and set it in its case for the evening, and even used bore oil to make up for the fact I had barely spent three hours practicing that day before I had mowed the lawn. The entire time I polished and treated the wood, I was trying to decipher the conversation with Drew.
I left as soon as I was done. The door opened quietly, but the threshold creaked beneath my feet as I walked out onto the side porch (not “The Verandah”). I could see Drew’s broad shouldered figure silhouetted on the street by the streetlamp as he walked along the double line in the center of the road. I stood with my back propped against one of the trees and waited.
His face seemed serious as he approached, but it was actually Drew’s “neutral face” if you knew him. Sometimes it seemed as though his jaw was going to pop out of joint from him holding it so tightly. At first, he stood enough of a distance away from me that I didn’t have to tilt my head up too much to be able to look him in the eyes.
“Tell me what’s wrong.” He dropped his eyes away from my face, the mixture of the order and the action struck me as odd.
I sighed and took the pictures of my mother out of my back pocket and handed them to him. He walked towards the moonlight that filled the night sky beyond the tops of the majestic trees that bathed us in shadow. I followed him and saw his back stiffen beneath his sweater.
“Yes.” He had been amazed when I had told him I couldn’t remember my mother’s face. He turned to look at me with an expression close to awe. He handed the pictures back and I put them back in my pocket.
“And all this time I thought it was because Greg kissed Shelly.” A gentle, almost knowing smile danced across his mouth.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Why would I care?” I realized how defensive it sounded only after I heard it come out of my mouth.
Drew laughed shortly. “Nothing. I know what it is now.” His face changed, the mirth fell from it. “How did it feel?” he asked. I wrapped my arms around myself.
“When he gave me the pictures?”
“Yeah.” His eyes gazed through me intensely.
“Ever have one of those moments when you know something should snap in you? Where you can feel the pressure building in your every fiber and your skin tingles? You know you should just let yourself snap, but somehow you fight back for control and then because you have control, nothing happens and you just end up feeling empty inside?”
“Yeah. I hate that,” he said. His voice sounded strange, husky. I dropped my arms to my sides and shrugged. I saw his eyes darken in the moonlight.
In one fluid motion, he scooped me up in his arms and gave me a kiss I’ll never forget. His right hand entangled itself in my hair and his left arm was wrapped completely around my waist, pulling me upwards into him and lifting my feet several inches off the ground. He tasted of cigarettes and coffee and something more. In those moments, I forgot everything about mothers who left daughters and bras and welts and fathers and dogs and futures and pasts. I only knew one time, one place, one person. I can still remember the feel of his soft short hair against the palm of my hand, and of the firm muscles of his back. He let me slide down slowly until my feet rested on the ground and then he released me, his darkened eyes were slightly hidden in shadow.
I stood in front of him, my mouth agape and feeling as though it should be red from the passionate amount of force. He reached out and traced my lower lip with his thumb and smiled for a moment before he silently lit two cigarettes. I stood mutely in front of him, taking in air in short breaths. He handed one of the smokes to me and took a long drag off of his, turning his head to look upwards towards the moon.
“So, when’s your next audition?” he asked.
“Soon,” I answered once I found my voice.
He nodded. His profile bobbed up and down. It eclipsed the moon from my vantage point. “I gotta go,” he started. “I’ll see you tomorrow at Hunter’s for the football game.” He brushed his lips lightly against mine before he turned and walked away. I watched him as until he disappeared around the corner, walking in the middle of the road.
I stood watching as the bluish cigarette smoke danced through the still, crisp night air and floated towards the moon. When that one was finished, I took one out of my pack and lit it off of the dying one. I threw the half-lit butt on the driveway and watched as red-orange sparks flew upwards only to disappear in midair. I stood there quietly watching the night air for at least an hour, my thoughts silent.
I walked into the house and my father appeared around the corner as soon as my foot hit the threshold.
“If you say a word to her, Dad, I’ll have a couple of words she might be interested in myself.” I smirked at him as best I could.
He looked at me with drunk and bleary eyes. “That’s my boy!” he grinned. I could hear him chuckling to himself until the sound was cut off by the basement door closing. I sighed and headed for my room to put the pictures of my mother in the drawer of my nightstand and to get some sleep.
After I put the pictures away, I locked the bedroom door and started to undress. Instead of pulling on pajamas, I slid in between the covers completely naked and dropped off into an immediate and heavy sleep.