A Week Later, I Caught Her In Bed With My Good Friend Scott by Zach Kastens
I didn‟t know it then, but people fucked all the time up at the dam. On any given Friday night a lazy cop could find five or six parked trucks blaring country music through windows grayed over with heat and sweat. If it hadn‟t been Halloween and Trevor Bernstein hadn‟t been throwing a huge kegger at his grandparents‟ house, that night would have been no exception. As it was, all the cool kids were vomiting inside their costumes and I was alone with Erin. “Christ, you look scary like that. Wipe it off.” Erin wrinkled her nose and fished a handkerchief out of the glove box. I grinned and stuck my tongue out at her. She rolled her eyes. “You‟re just jealous,” I said. “What are you supposed to be again?” “I‟m a ghost. How do you not get that?” I tilted the rearview mirror so I could see my face better. In the dim glow of the Buick‟s dashboard, the white grease paint on my skin had become green. “I mean, I‟m all pale and stuff.” “Yeah, but where are your chains?” “What chains?” I asked, wiping a big chunk of paint off my face. Some of the residue clung tenaciously to the wispy hairs on my chin. Erin pulled off the jet black Elvira wig she‟d been wearing all day, revealing a mop of damp auburn hair. She reached for her purse in the back seat and began digging through it. “In every good ghost story, the ghost has chains,” she grunted, narrowing her eyes. “John Marley had chains.” “In A Christmas Carol, sure, but those chains were metaphors.”
“For what?” she asked. The last of the paint came away in a big smear from my forehead. She finally found the compact and checked her makeup. She brushed the hair out of her eyes, apparently decided she looked fine, and tossed both the purse and wig into the back of the car. They landed on the rest of her costume: her cheerleading uniform, to which she had liberally applied studs and filigree chains. “I forget,” I lied. The truth was that I knew quite a bit about Jacob Marley‟s chains. I could have spoken at length about Jacob Marley. “It‟s not important.” I rolled down the window and tossed the rag out. “You wanna sit on the hood?” “It‟s like no degrees out. I‟d rather not freeze my nipples off, thank you very much.” “Why‟d you change into that, then?” I smirked, pointing at her jean jacket and denim skirt. “I thought you were taking me to Trevor‟s party,” she grumbled, pulling the jacket tighter around her vintage Pat Benatar tee and staring out the window. “I didn‟t think you‟d bring me up here yet.” “Why not? This is where we first kissed,” I said. She looked over at me and pursed her lips. The expression was identical to my grandmother‟s when she caught my cousin Jonathon and I trying on her jewelry, like she was trying to decide whether to be amused or upset. I wondered if I had missed a spot, and tried to catch sight of my reflection without breaking eye contact. She finally dropped her gaze. “That‟s so gay,” she said, and scooted across the bench seat to rest next to me. Without waiting for me to do it, she pulled my arm over her shoulder and nuzzled up against my side. “I thought maybe we could make this thing official.” She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head.
“Official?” “Yeah. Be my girlfriend.” She rested her head on my shoulder and sighed. The lake stretched out in front of us and, despite the full moon, I couldn‟t see the other side. “I thought I already was,” she finally said. “I thought that was the whole point of dating.” “Not necessarily. If we‟re just dating, then things can fizzle out and we can go our separate ways, no harm, no foul,” I explained. “But if we‟re boyfriend and girlfriend, then there has to be a big messy breakup. We have to hang on to the relationship and fight over it until it‟s practically worthless, then divide our friends into camps and spend the rest of our senior year trying to avoid each other.” “You make it sound so glamorous.” “Knowing all that, do you still want to be my girlfriend?” “Yes,” she replied without hesitation. “I think I might be totally into you.” “That‟s a relief,” I said. I hugged her as best I could from the side. She wrapped her arms around my stomach and pressed her face into my shoulder. For a moment I worried that her liberally applied eyeliner and lipstick would come off on my shirt. “Wanna do it?” she asked, her voice muffled against the flannel. “Do what?” “What do you think?” I let go of her and pulled my arm away. She sat up and furrowed her brow. “Are you serious?” I asked. “Like 9/11,” she said, grabbing my hand. “I want to do this with you.”
Up until that point, sex with Erin had been the farthest thing from my mind. Sure, I knew we‟d date, we‟d go to college, we‟d get married and have kids, but I never actually believed she‟d want to make love to me. Yet there she was, on the most romantic night of the year, offering herself to me. Only an idiot would have said no. “No,” I said. I pulled away, putting some space between us. The door handle jutted into my back. “We can‟t, no, no way.” “Why are you acting like this?” “Why are you acting like this? We can‟t just do it! There are rules,” I said. “We have to be in love.” “And you don‟t love me?” She crossed her arms and leaned forward. With the way her legs were positioned, I could see straight up her skirt. “Then what has the last year and a half been about?” Her panties were blue. “You‟re my best friend, Jack. That has to count for something. I‟ve never felt like this before. I want to be with you. I need you.” Cotton? Maybe. “You‟re the one. I know it, and you know it. Why should we put this off any longer?” I forced my eyes shut, counted to five, then opened them again to find her shedding the jacket. A thin layer of condensation crept up the window behind her. She reached for the lapels of my coat and, before I could protest, crushed her lips against mine. I died then. My heart hammered against my rib cage so hard that I thought, for a moment, that it might break out of my chest entirely and take up residence inside hers. She swung one leg over my waist and wrapped her arms around my neck. The sudden shift in weight forced me to slide down even further underneath her. During the awkward repositioning of our bodies, my elbow hit the center of the steering wheel. The horn blared, so loud that I thought for a second someone was playing a joke on me.
Erin jerked upwards, tearing her lips from mine and twisted her body around in surprise. Her head smacked against the ceiling and she swore, letting out a stream of incoherent profanity. I froze, unsure whether I should get up and help or lie there waiting for her to get back to business. She rubbed the back of her head for a moment, bottom lip quivering, then started laughing. At first they were tiny little snickers and giggles that she tried to suppress with her hands, but soon loud guffaws were slipping past her fingers and her entire body was shaking. She planted a quick kiss on my cheek and I felt her hand go fishing beneath the seat. “What are you doing?” “Looking for your CDs.” “Now?” “I want to set the mood,” she said, drawing out the last word lecherously. “Underneath the passenger side,” I replied, pointing at the cushion beneath my feet, “by the jack.” She contorted her body around and reached for the case, making her shirt ride up and expose her midriff. She turned back around a moment later holding a cardboard box full of cassette tapes. “What are these?” “Tapes. Duh.” “Where are your CD‟s?” “I don‟t have a CD player. Just the tape deck,” I said. She grinned. “My boyfriend has cassette tapes. That‟s so cool,” she whispered, pawing through the box. The gravity of the situation suddenly hit me. I was about to have sex. I was about to have sex.
Sex. I was about to have it. I would never forget this moment. This would be something I would tell my kids about. When my son asked me where babies come from, I knew I would sit him down and explain that I had totally nailed his mother in the front seat of my Buick at the tender age of seventeen. I was overcome with the desire to suck on her neck, forcing her to set the box on the dashboard and browse through its contents with one arm. “Do you have anything that isn‟t AC/DC or Led Zeppelin?” “There‟s some Rush in there. Also Foghat,” I offered, pushing her shirt up further. I followed the swell of her bra around to her back and felt the clasp resting on her spine. I examined it as a blind man would, mapping every interlocking piece with my fingertips. “Grab the one that says „Prima Volta.‟” “Is this it?” she asked, holding up tape. “I can‟t read it.” “No idea,” I mumbled. I debated whether to bring my other hand in on the bra situation or leave it tracing circles on her thigh. “Just put it in.” “Wait, I can see it now,” she said, then after a moment, “Yeah. What‟s „Prima Volta?‟” “Put it on.” “What‟s it mean?” “First time,” I replied, distracted by the clasp giving way beneath my fingers. I was ready to yank the garment open when she shoved me away. I looked down at the delicate fingers of her hand spread out like a stop sign in the center of my chest, each nail coated with two layers of black polish.
“You made a mix tape for your first time?” she asked. Her voice wavered in pitch, like it couldn‟t decide whether to be loud or soft. “Yeah,” I replied. “So?” “And you kept it?” “Yeah, of course. Can we get back to the kissing?” “Why?” “Because I like your tongue. It‟s one of my favorite things about your mouth.” “I mean why‟d you keep it? How long have you had it?” “I don‟t know. A few months,” I told her. “I didn‟t think I‟d get to use it yet.” She dropped her arm and sat back, resting her weight on my thighs. She held the tape between her thumbs and forefingers like it was made out of glass. Her gaze drifted from it to me, then back to it. When she spoke, I had to strain to hear her. “You‟re a virgin?” “Well, yeah.” I tried to sit up, but with her position it was difficult. “I thought you knew. I thought everyone knew.” “Yeah, but I didn‟t know it was true.” The expression on her face began to worry me. “We‟ve known each other since we were kids. How many girls have you seen me date?” I asked. I wasn‟t sure what was happening. I reached for her hand, but she curled it up against her chest like she‟d touched something hot. “I‟ve had other boyfriends,” she said. “I‟ve dated Nathan and Arthur.” “I know,” I replied, still confused. “What does that have to do with anything?” She didn‟t respond. Instead, she rubbed her cheek with her palm, smudging her mascara. She looked
defeated. Realizing she‟d destroyed her makeup, she moved to tilt the mirror in her direction but I grabbed her wrist. She stared at my hand like it was a spider. “You waited for me,” she said. “You waited for me, and you didn‟t even know we‟d end up together.” “Hey,” I said, cupping her chin. I tried to meet her gaze, but she still wouldn‟t look me in the eyes. “I don‟t care if you slept with those guys. It‟s in the past.” “But you didn‟t do it with anyone else.” “Not to alarm you, but it‟s not like I had a lot of options. The only girl I‟ve ever wanted to be with is you, so I just had to wait until you were ready to be with me.” Her gaze finally met mine. “I‟m glad I waited. It doesn‟t bother me that you didn‟t.” I wouldn‟t be able to identify the emotion I saw in those eyes until years later, but there, in the car, with our hormones going nuts and her bra half off and the taste of her cinnamon gun fresh on my lips, I‟d let myself believe it was love. Love, relief, lust, gratitude…it was all the same to me in that moment. She put the tape in the deck and pressed play. The opening notes of Tiny Dancer drifted through the speakers. She cocked her head, listening to the piano music filling the car. “Elton John?” she raised an eyebrow. “Sir Elton John,” I corrected her. She glanced back at the tape display and seemed surprised by the time. “It‟s nearly midnight. What are your parents going to say?” she teased. “They‟ll probably ground me for a week or two. Small price to pay for the greatest Halloween of all time.” Her hands drifted over my belt buckle. “Too bad it‟s nearly over.”
“Doesn‟t matter,” she said. She stopped playing with my belt and put her hands back around my neck. We kissed again and she began unbuttoning my shirt. “We can pretend like it‟s still October tomorrow.” “Easy for you to say. You didn‟t dress up,” I joked. She pulled her top over her head and tossed it in the back seat, and for the first time that night I saw the entire costume. She had written “Louise” in red lipstick on the left side of her bra and “Thelma” on the right. “I don‟t get it,” I said. “That‟s ok. They‟re just boobs.”
A short story about sex, Halloween, and loss.