Authors: Heidi Acosta
“Do it. I just got the new Throat Slasher game and I have been waiting to spank you at it.” Okay, so despite Third’s phrase, that does sound way better than what I am doing now, playing automaton for Katie.
“Oh wait, I think B is at my front door.” I can hear him shuffling around on the other end of the phone.
“Wait. What? She is there?” I ask.
“Yeah, it is her. I can hear her talking to my mom. I think they are talking about you.” Oh shit, if Mrs. Cruz is talking about me, it can’t be good. I don’t know what I ever did to that lady to make her hate me. “Are you still coming over?” Third asks.
“No. I don’t think she wants to see me.” And that sucks.
“All right, I better go and save her from my mom,” he says.
“Kay. Bye. Wait… Third?”
“Keep an eye on her.”
“Yeah sure. Whatever,” he says nonchalantly.
“Dude, I am serious. She has not been herself lately. Don’t let anything happen to her. If you let something happen, I swear I am going to kick your ass,” I threaten him.
“All right. All right.
. Besides, you really can’t touch this. I’ll pull out some of my bad ass ninja moves on you,” he retorts.
“Dude! I am not playing around,” I tell him in a serious tone so he knows I am not kidding with him and then hang up the phone to go back out to Katie.
I get to Third’s house and knock on the door. A few moments later, the door is yanked open and a plump lady in a fluffy pink robe with matching slippers stands in the doorway.
“Barbie!” She gives me a once over. I cross my arms over my chest, wishing I at least had thought of a bra before my great escape act. “What did that boy do to you? You poor thing,” she says, yanking me into a hug and pressing my face to her abundant chest.
“Nothing, he didn’t do anything,” I say, muffled into her cleavage.
“Now you don’t go lying for that boy. I know he is trouble. Always has been. Going around, breaking poor girls’ hearts like yourself and playing with that slutty little red head.” Oh, I love Mrs. Cruz for her ignorance. If she thinks Katie is a slut, then I must be a super slut. However, in her demented world, I wear a capital V on my sweater.
“Why I was just telling Bartty that you should forget that boy ever existed and go out with a nice gentleman like Bartholomew,” she says.
“MOM! Will you let her go! You are going to suffocate her with your giganticous boobs!” Third comes into the kitchen.
“You see what kind of words that boy teaches you. Bartty, don’t you say boobs to your mother, ya hear me? You are not too big to go and pick me a switch! “ She lets me go.
“Bartholomew Norbert the Third, don’t cha’ sass ya’ mother. There best be an apology coming mighty quick.”
“Yes, ma’am. I am sorry, ma’am.” Third hangs his head low and I giggle at the amusing exchange between the two.
“Now it is all right. Why don’t I cook us up some po’ boy sandwiches to settle all this upset and we can forget about all this mess. Besides, I don’t blame you for learning to back talk me.” She starts to shuffle to the kitchen, mumbling under her breath.
“And some of those cookies Barbie loves,” Third calls after her and then winks at me. “Come on.” He takes my hand and pulls me towards his room.
He shuts the door behind us and I flop down on his bed. Oh, I love this bed! I roll over onto my side, sinking into its soft embrace. I slept in this bed when I got sick, that was when my life started to uncoil its tight grip on me. I roll back, wanting to forget about that night that I was blissfully ignorant. That one night cost me everything.
“Spill,” he says, taking a seat at his computer and closing down the screen, but he isn’t fast enough and I see he had Roxie’s Facebook page up. Ugh, why can’t love be simple? I know he is stalking her, obsessing what he’s doing wrong, but the truth is, he’s not doing anything wrong and that is the problem.
Roxie might not say it to me, but I know she is scared that Third can’t really be this nice to her. That, if she lets her guard down with him, he will rear his ugly boy head and become a cheating jerk like her ex. She doesn’t know Third like I do; he couldn’t hurt anyone even if he tried. He is loyal and clueless almost to a fault, but I wouldn’t change him for the world. If he was a dick to her and not the complete sweetheart gentlemen that he is, then she would be interested in him. That is the fucked up truth. People look for the flaws and cannot accept the truth and beauty in the innocent, me included.
“That is it, me and you, we are going out. We are going to forget about those douche bags.” I declare. Third scoots the chair across the distance between us.
“Oh no, what did he do?” He looks at me with those sad, watery, puppy dog eyes of his.
“Nothing, which is the problem. He has done nothing and still he haunts me. Third, I just need to forget. I need to forget everything.” He gets out of the chair and climbs onto the bed next to me. I slide over to where the bed bows under his weight.
“B, if I do anything that gets you into even the littlest bit of trouble, he is going to kick my ass,” he says, smoothing down his hair.
“If you don’t and you let me go out into the cruel, cold world to find trouble all by myself, then he will kick your ass. Besides, he will never know. Come on, you want to forget too, don’t cha’?” I kneel next to him placing my forehead against his temple. “Pretty pleassse.” I pucker out my lip. I am not being a very good friend right now, but I know that if I have Third with me, I will not let myself go too far, or at least, he will not let me go too far.
“You are a wicked, wicked girl. What do you have in mind?” he asks.
“Does your dad have any more of that whiskey left? The stuff he hides under the couch from your momma?”
“Third get up.” I laugh, pulling on his arm. He is lying down in a dirty ditch. Somewhere along our way to find trouble, we drank too much of the whiskey and forgot the way. Now Third is lying in a ditch; his shirt open, exposing his fat belly and who knows where he managed to lose one of his shoes. I crumple up next to him, laughing at the sight of him. He pulls my head down next to his, tangling his fingers in my hair.
“Do you think that our destiny is written in the stars?” He holds his hand up in the air, grasping at the sky like he can catch one of the stars and put it in his pocket.
“I think you are drunk.” I laugh. My head is fuzzy and my body is warm from the liquor.
“Yeah, and this time is way better than the last time. So much more enlightening, like I know why we are put on this earth. What our great purpose is,” he says, dropping his hand down by his side.
“Yeah, what’s that, Aristotle?”
He turns to me, giving a big, goofy smile. “Love. We are all here to love one another and until we can accept that love, we will never be at peace… and wh-is-ky!” He punches the air, then lets
out a belly laugh. “And pizza. Yeah, pizza is good.” My drunken philosopher might be on to something.
“Come on, let’s get you home and see if we can sneak you in without getting caught.”
“I think you might be my best friend.” He smiles. “But shhhh… don’t tell Dylan. Shhhh… “ He puts his finger to my lips. I stand up, pulling him with me. “Hey, why is my foot cold?” We both laugh out loud as we walk together, leaning on each other for support. “You know what? I love her.” Third comes to a halt. I shake my head at his statement and we start walking again. I don’t want him to get hurt, but I don’t think that there is any way to protect him. He is going to feel the pain of a broken heart and there is nothing I can do about it. “I do. I love her.” He stops walking again, jolting me to a halt. We are stand in the middle of a dirt road; trees line either side of us with moss covered limbs. “Come on, B; let’s scream it from the top of our lungs. Let’s put it out in the world for all to hear.” He spins in a wobbly circle. If he falls down again, I don’t know if he is going to get back up.
“Let’s not.” I try to pull on his arm to get him walking again. No luck; the kid is like trying to move a boulder.
“B, you need to start living. Stop thinking about what might happen.” God, he is right. I hate that he is right.
“No one is going to hear us out here, besides the sleeping squirrels.” I point out to him.
“I don’t care. I will scream it for the squirrels. I LOVE HER, SQUIRRLES! DO YOU HEAR THAT? I AM IN LOVE WITH THE WEIRDEST GIRL I KNOW AND SHE IS PERFECT FOR ME!” he bellows into the night before he turns to me. “Come on and let it out. That felt great.” He spins me in a circle. I tilt my head back, letting the moment swallow me. The stars blur against the velvet sky. I’m unsure I can ever let go or stop spinning because when I let go, I might not be able to stop. I’m afraid what might come out when I speak, but he is looking at me with those watery eyes. Dammit, how can I deny him?
I tilt my head back, opening my arms and scream, “I AM IN LOVE WITH A BOY I CANNOT HAVE! I NEED HIM SO BAD THAT IT IS KILLING ME INSIDE. MY MOTHER LEFT ME. SHE NEVER LOVED ME!” Bending at the waist, I scream again and again until I am purged from the poison inside of me. I am clean for now. I want to collapse into the dirt and let the black night swallow me whole, becoming one of the glistening freckles in the night sky. I gave over my truth to the night.
“See, that was not so bad.” He drapes his arm over me. Third is too drunk to understand the wound my confession left. That I released my truth out in the universe for anyone to find and hurt me with. If he only knew what I had just done.
I push against Third’s backside with both hands planted firmly on each one of his cheeks. He hangs half way out of his bedroom window. It seem like a good idea at the time, yet sneaking him in through the painfully too small window is not as easy as the whiskey led me to believe. His feet flay dangerously close to my face. I duck out of the way and give one more shove before he slips through with a loud thunk to the floor below. I can hear his fit of giggles on the other side. At this rate, it would have been easier to go knocking on the front door and announce that we are plastered.
“Hey, help me up!” I call to him. His face appears at the window sill. His eyes are squinty and he is still laughing.
“Will you stop laughing and help me up?”
He sticks his arms out the window lazily. I grab a hold of his hands, placing both my feet firmly on the wall and walk up it like I am Spiderman. See what hanging out with this boy is doing to me? I actually know who Spiderman is. If I start to quote,
… so help me. I manage to get my hips on the window ledge before Third flops to the floor. I shimmy the rest of the way in, falling on top of him. When I roll over so I am lying on the floor next to him, we both begin uncontrollably laughing.
I try to quiet us by placing a hand over his mouth. “Shhhh. Ewww! You just licked me!” I yank my hand back.
“I wanted to see if you tasted like cotton candy. You smell like it, but you don’t. You taste kind of salty, like popcorn.” He scrunches his nose. “Do you think Roxie tastes like frosting? She smells like frosting, like a delicious cupcake.”
I roll over, get to my knees and look down at him. He is still squinty eyed. “Here is a tip, lover boy. Don’t go randomly licking girls. We don’t like it.”
I leave Third sprawled on his bedroom floor and sneak into the kitchen, carefully avoiding the squeaky spots on the floor. I get a glass out of the cupboard and fill it with water. I toss back the glass, down the whole thing and fill it again. My head still feels fuzzy, but the water helps me feel a little clearer. I don’t want to have to climb up that tree drunk. I would probably break my neck. I take the glass of water and a few aspirin that I find in a drawer back to Third. He has managed to, thankfully, get himself into bed. He is sprawled out face down in his whitey-tighties and I can hear a small, muffled snore escaping from under the pillow. I leave the water and pills on his nightstand; he is going to need them in the morning.
I dig his phone out from his discarded jeans. It blinks at me with three missed calls from Dylan. My pulse picks up with the thought of him. He was checking on me. No. That’s not right. Third was his friend long before I came into the picture. I put the cell phone next to his face on the pillow. Pushing his damp hair off his forehead, I kiss Third and slip back out the window. Call it muscle memory or my sadistic side calling to me, but my feet take the worn and familiar path and, before I realize it, they have carried me to an all too familiar place.
My lips feel numb and not in a good way. Not like before when they would be swollen from kissing Barbie. No, now they are swollen from the abuse Katie is putting them through. She bites at my bottom lip before sucking it between her teeth. I didn’t know it was possible, but I think I might have a hickey on my lip.
“Tell me what you are thinking about.” She goes for my neck, biting it like a damn vampire. I slip my hand between her fangs and my tender, vulnerable neck.
“I don’t know. I guess that we never really talk.”
She sits up. “What? Talk?” she says breathless at this new concept.
“Yeah, you know, talk. Like forming words with our mouth. Discussing feeling, thoughts… Current world topics. How about the Middle East? What are your thoughts on that?”
She rolls her eyes. “I know what talking is Dylan. I am not dumb,” she snaps.
“It’s just that we never really get to… talk. We are always with your friends and who can get a single word in with them. Or in your bedroom. I mean, there is more to being in a relationship than making out and listening to you and your friends talk.”
She huffs and then gets off me. “Fine, let’s talk. What do you want to talk about?” She crosses her legs, swinging one of them wildly.
“Hobbies! Do you have any hobbies?” I ask. It’s the first thing that comes to mind.
She rolls her eyes again. “You know my hobbies. I go to school. I am on the debate team, student government and swim team.” I knew all this about her. It was part of the reason why I was so attracted to her.
“Cool, anything else.” I don’t really care. I just need to give my throbbing lips a break.
“Yes, but you know that as well,” I give her a blank look. She sighs through her nose and continues, “I am taking SAT prep class again, I guess that qualifies as a hobby.” she sounds aggravated. Wow, does she do anything else besides study and school? What about just relaxing, watching a movie or something. Let her hair down. “Dylan, I don’t understand. Here I am, making out with you, but you are somewhere far away; not with me and now you want to talk about our hobbies!” Oh great, here comes the water works I have been trying to avoid. “Who are you thinking about when you go someplace else? I am not stupid, you are thinking about her, aren’t you?” she quizzes me.
I don’t answer and we stare at each other in an uncomfortable silence. I feel the truth roll around in my mouth; I play with it, rolling it back and forth with my tongue. I should just tell her and get the inevitable truth out of the way.
I am about to tell her when I am saved by my phone ringing in my pocket. I pull it out and answer. “D.D.D.DYL-AN!” Third yells into the phone to the Batman theme.
“Third, I have been trying to call you. Where are you?” I look over my shoulder at Katie who is eyeing me suspiciously. “How is… um… everything?” I ask, trying not to be too obvious; hoping when I say “everything” he gets that I mean Barbie. Too late, Katie scoots across the bed, sitting behind me she begins to play with the hair that curls at the base of my neck.
“Dylan. Dylan. My friend. My amigo. My BFF,” he slurs into the phone.
“Third!” I cut him off. He is avoiding the subject when I need him to tell me what’s going on with Barbie and he sounds like he is drunk. Either way, it is not good.
“I tried to do what you told me! I really did,” Third whispers very breathy into the phone. I need to strain to make sense of what he is saying. “You’re not going to kick my ass, are you?” he whimpers.
I spin my legs off the bed. “Third, where is she?” I say calmly into the receiver.
“I don’t know. I woke up and she was gone,” he cries. I push Katie’s hand off my neck and start to put on my shoes.
“Where are you going?” Katie asks.
“I am not going to kick your ass. Did she say anything to you before you fell asleep?” I ask Third, needing a hint on where she may have gone. Maybe she went home, but my gut is telling me that is the last place she wants to be at the moment.
Third breathes heavily into the phone. “She said not to lick her.” He giggles into the phone.
“What the hell, dude? You licked her?” I am on my feet, looking for where I put my keys. Shit, where are they.
“Oh, man. You are going to kick my ass now, aren’t you?” Third sobs.
“No. I am not, but I will if you lick her again.” I spin around the room. “I just need to find her.” There they are; on Katie’s dresser. Third is still sobbing into the phone. “Go back to sleep. I will find her.” I hang up. I will deal with him later. Now, my only concern is to find Barbie.
“Katie.” I lean in to kiss her cheek and she pulls away.
“Don’t go,” she says and her eyes swell. “Stay with me.” Her green eyes beg me.
“I have to go find her,” I say simply.
“Why?” Katie’s voice is on the verge of hysteria.
“Because I just do.” It is the truth. It is not something I can explain, I only know that I have to ensure she is okay. I feel unease when I don’t know where she is, or if she is safe.
“I hate this. I hate that she demands your attention. She can take care of herself, Dylan. I know you feel this guilt for what happened to her, but that is not your fault. She is really messed up. Don’t let her bring you into her world and screw up your life, too, Dylan. She is going nowhere.” My cheeks burn with Katie’s words. They piss me off. She doesn’t know how far into her world I actually am or want to be. “I wish your mom never took them in. How do you think it makes me feel, knowing that Phenix City’s biggest whore is sleeping only a few rooms away from my boyfriend?”
I run my hands through my hair. “Katie, you are not making this easy on me.” I grab my keys.
“She is a whore!” she yells at me.
“She is not a whore!” I say, now angry at her.
“She is and you can’t tell me she is not. You heard the rumors about her.” Katie stands up and walks over to me.
“That is why they are called rumors, Katie. They are not true,” I snap, defending my heart.
“Dylan, I don’t want to fight. Just stay with me and let’s see what happens.” She flutters her eyes at me. God. She is baiting me with the possibility of sex and yet she is calling Barbie the whore.
“I have to go,” I say simply and walk out the door.
I make a loop around the park that separates Third’s neighborhood and Barbie’s old one. A storm growls outside, building with my anticipation. I know where she is. I am just wishfully thinking that she wouldn’t taunt the dark memories that follow her like a parasite, however I know my girl and the humming sensation on my skin is never wrong. My heart is like a radar for her; it slams against my chest as I drive closer. I come to life whenever she is near.
I turn down the dark road. It is a different world than the safe, cushiony one that I reside in. A car passes me with its windows down, base rumbling the street. I don’t make eye contact with the driver; instead, I take in the rundown houses that line the streets. The houses here tell a story that no one gives a damn what is happening around them. I turn once more down her old road when the storm no longer holds back and lets out a roar overhead. Moments later, I see her standing perfectly still and I can’t even tell if she is breathing. I stop the car keeping my headlights on her. I want to go and get her, rescue her, but I hold back; I think she needs this. There are emotions crashing into her I cannot explain. This is one storm that I cannot outrun for her. I have a feeling we are both going to get wet. And like the storm over head, something in her snaps and she wages war on the house. I know it must have been filled with horrors. Horrors I cannot even imagine.