Read Heartbreaker Online

Authors: Maryse Meijer


BOOK: Heartbreaker
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


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Table of Contents

A Note About the Author

Copyright Page


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In the truck she sits straight, her hands flat on the seat. At a stoplight, seeing that his head is turned away, she opens the door and thrusts one shoulder out into the night air before he catches her arm. He doesn't pull, just holds her still until she leans in again, slamming the door shut. When the light turns green he lets her go.

I live just down that street, she says.

Maybe on the way back I'll drop you there, he replies. She rubs her arm.

No, she says. That's all right.

*   *   *

At the restaurant she eats most of the large pizza they order, picking off the mushrooms and scooping the cheese into greasy knobs.

I need to go to the bathroom, she tells him, and he gives her a look like,

Don't eat it all while I'm gone, she says. Laminated wood squeals under her palm as she slides her hand across the table. She looks over her shoulder, to see if he is watching her. He isn't.

In the bathroom she pees half-standing over the toilet, while in the stall next to her a woman coughs.

Do you have any lipstick? the girl calls, leaning toward the woman's ankles. Please?

Sure, the woman says, and a gold tube rolls beneath her stall door.

Thank you, the girl says. At the mirror she traces her mouth bright pink, her hips jutting into the edge of the sink.

You can keep that, honey, the woman says. It's not so great on me.

*   *   *

When she gets back she sees him sweeping crumbs into a napkin. Despite the hard curve of his bicep his skin looks soft, a little loose, which is how she can tell he is older. Let's get some beer, she says, smiling as he looks at her mouth. He lifts his hip for his wallet, licks his finger to peel out a five.

Something light, he tells her.

*   *   *

At the counter a boy in a baseball cap stares at her when she orders a pitcher.

Can I see your I.D.? he asks.

She leans forward, her breasts plumping against her forearm.

No, she says.

Well, I can't just give it to you without one.

Why not?

The boy sighs. Is that guy your dad?

She shrugs. After a moment the boy turns to pull the beer from the tap.

What's your name? he asks her.

Ophelia, she lies.


Yeah, she says. And I need some quarters, too.

She winks when he pours the change into her hand.

*   *   *

At the jukebox she punches in the numbers for a slow song. She dances by herself while men stare at her from their tables, arms curled around their paper plates. He is watching her, too, turned sideways in the booth and sucking foam from the top of his glass. She waves for him to join her and he shuffles to the broken tile of the dance floor.

Don't tell me you don't dance, she says, and puts her chin on his shoulder. At first he doesn't move at all, but eventually she feels his hand at the top of her hip and he shifts from side to side, slower than the music. He smells like clean skin and cotton spread over something sour. She closes her eyes, but before the song is over he stops and says Let's go.

*   *   *

Back in the truck they sit awhile. She picks at the scabs of her nail polish.

Why did you try to jump out like that? he asks.

I don't know. I was just kidding.

When she turns to the window she feels his hand on her neck, and then he starts the truck.

*   *   *

When she sees him for the first time she is wearing a tight sleeveless top, short skirt, and black zip-up sweater, with a pair of flats wrinkled at the heel. Her dirty blond hair and her makeup make her look older than she is but still not old enough to be in a bar.

He is sitting on the stool closest to the door, drinking beer from the bottle.

Shirley Temple, she tells the bartender, who winks at her while topping her glass off with vodka. Three cherries bump optimistically against the ice.

Cheers, she says, turning to him. He nods, tilting his bottle.

I haven't seen you here before.

No, he says. You probably haven't.

Want to buy my next one?

He shakes his head. You shouldn't be having any.

It's only a soda, she says, and he looks away from her, sniffing. He finishes his beer in two long pulls as she watches.

Have a good night, he says, and as he is getting up to leave his eyes rest on her bare thigh. Then he is gone.

*   *   *

The next time they meet he is at the laundromat, fishing change from the machine. Same jeans and gray jacket. Nearly every washer is spinning as she drags her laundry bag over to him and heaves it up onto a sorting table.

Hey, she says. What are you doing here?

He looks at her like, duh.

The hose on my machine is busted, he says.

Oh. Bummer. She dumps her clothes, making a pile for underwear and socks and another for jeans, T-shirts.

How old are you? he asks.

Her head snaps up. What?

You look young.


So what are you doing in bars?

She shrugs, opening a package of detergent with her teeth. She spits out a piece of plastic. I just hang out, she says.

Hang out?

Yeah, she says, slapping some clothes into a machine.

Shouldn't your mom be doing your laundry?

She gives him a hard look before slamming the machine door.

Fuck off.

He puts his hands up.

*   *   *

She goes out to get a burrito and when she comes back he is sitting on a bench, reading. She sits at a table where she can watch him and flips through a magazine, eating chips and pushing at some spilled beans and cheese with her finger.

What are you reading? she asks. He tilts the book forward in his lap, but she only pretends to read the title

I bet
is way better, she says.
How to Please Your Man. 101 Ways.
She yawns. The edge of the plastic seat bites into her thighs and her leg goes numb.

I hate coming here, she says. It takes so long

You got that right, he says, and gets up to check his laundry. He's good-looking, blue eyes and reddish hair, wiry body. They fold their clothes together in silence and she can tell that he is going back and forth in his mind, liking her and not.

You really shouldn't be drinking at that bar, he says, loading his clothes into a bin.

I know, she replies, and for a moment they just stand there.

Well, he says. See you.

Bye! she says, too loud, and an old woman pulling the cotton pills off a pair of socks stares, lips tight as a clothespin.

*   *   *

She knows he will come to the bar that night and she waits for him, holding her bottle of beer between her legs and watching a trio of boys cracking pool balls and smoking. When he comes in and stands behind her she is careful not to look at him. The hair on her neck prickles.

Are you finished with that? he asks.

Yeah. There's some backwash left if you want it, she says, not taking her eyes off the boys. Do you play pool?

No, he says, and then: Come with me.

She runs her finger through the sweat on the beer bottle. He waits.

Okay, she says, and she slips from her stool, pulling her jacket onto her arms.

*   *   *

Outside, they stand in front of his truck. He wipes his mouth with the back of his wrist and she sucks in her cheeks.

You haven't said anything about my outfit, she says.

It's nice. A little impractical.

She squints. You have a strange way of coming on to girls.

I'm not coming on to you.

She kicks at the gravel. Okay.

He puts his hands in his pockets, takes a few steps away from her, then turns and says Do you want to go somewhere?

*   *   *

He opens the door for her and slams it hard once she gets inside. There is no garbage on the floor of the cab, no empty bottles or cans, no food wrappers or old gum stuck to the dash. They drive for a long time; it's late, she's tipsy, and she falls asleep, her head slipping down the window. When she wakes up they are stopped in a steep dirt driveway and he is staring at her.

Oh, she says, wiping saliva from the side of her mouth. Where are we?

My house. Get out, he says, and then adds If you want.

She knows that they are in the foothills about an hour from town, though she doesn't know exactly where. The house has a big porch, but that is all she can make out in the darkness. There are no neighbors.

He unlocks the door and stands aside for her to enter, reaching his hand around the jamb to flip on the light. There's an old brown couch and chair on a balding rug. Shelves filled only with books line the walls, the volumes pulled to the edges in perfect lines. A television rests on the coffee table. In the kitchen there are black pots hanging from the ceiling, a large Formica table. She checks the refrigerator: milk and brimming vegetable bins, big tub of yogurt, a brick of meat in the freezer.

Are you hungry? he asks.


Then go wash your face.


Upstairs. First door is the bathroom. There's an extra toothbrush in the cabinet.

He starts unloading his jacket pocket on the kitchen table. Clatter of keys and coins, the dead thump of his wallet. She stares at him.

I thought you said you weren't coming on to me.

I'm still not.

She chews the inside of her cheek.

Go on, he says.

Without another word she turns and heads up the stairs.

Take off your shoes, he calls after her, and she slips them off and drops them over the railing.

*   *   *

In the tiny bathroom she pees and rinses out her mouth, peeling the cellophane from the new toothbrush but leaving it unused on the rim of the sink. He knocks at the door and when she opens it he hands her a stack of blankets.

You can sleep on the couch, he tells her. It folds out.

She stares at the blankets, then back at his face. This is weird, isn't it?

BOOK: Heartbreaker
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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