My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 15. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.
Her teal pajama bottoms, Gallo Bros. Construction tee, and black undergarments lie strewn in contrasting corners of the room, somewhere mixed in with my Diesel jeans and Balaam track jacket and Polo shirt and boxer briefs.
“So, I was reading on the plane how breathing in smoke is actually bad for you,” I say.
She sits up in bed and takes the lit cigarette from my mouth. A slight smile slips across her lips like a zipper being zipped. She takes a prolonged pull and punctuates her amusement by blowing smoke in my face.
“Does it, now, Andrew Brown?” she says. “Did you smoke when we went out?”
Shaking my head, I watch the whimsical wisps emanating from the end of her hand. There is something graceful about it like the ribbon in rhythmic gymnastics. She still looks the same as she did three years ago – only older and better now.
“Why did we break up again?”
“You wanted Sally too. Remember?”
I do remember Sally Spriggs. Her name rings in my ear like a mosquito – the nuisance, the succubus, the bloodsucker, the slut. Ant’s different, always has been.
It was late when she woke up to Pete screaming out into the night. She was scared. She wanted to go back to her room. And we left him there by himself on that couch and walked down the hallway and up the stairs I had sprinted up when I came to her after Tommy and I got into that fight.
The door opened.
She pulled me into her, kissing my neck, then my lips, roughly. “Come to bed,” she said dreamily.
“Not tonight; you’re drunk. Another–”
“Now!” She pushed me in.
“What about Charley?” I said, so meekly I could’ve been the virgin she took in her basement. I was running out of excuses. I wanted her more than my first time, our first time.
“She’ll be out till tomorrow. She took a sleeping pill.”
Ant’s face was glowing like a candle in church. Instinctually, my hand gravitated to it, guiding it to mine, uniting our lips. It was the stuff movies were made of – the drawn-out, emotionally cathartic embrace of the star-crossed lovers – missing only the climactic crescendo right as their lips finally touched.
Silhouetted against the shadows, her clothes fell piece by piece. There, that same statuesque figure with the sturdy collarbones and smooth abdomen stood voluptuous, and I fell into her arms, battered and broken, needing to be consoled, needing to feel the love I hadn’t felt since her, needing to feel virile again. And I did, letting her take me as she had, blown that she was even taking me again, forgetting the same past she could forget. We weren’t 15 anymore, could never be, I reminded myself, giving in to the carnal need for companionship.
And when it was done, our panting dog breaths competing with the snoring slob’s in the other room, I rolled off her and lit a cigarette. I didn’t have a qualm about my family, and I’d forgotten my friends; that’s the kind of effect Ant has. Still, I couldn’t forget Pete’s vow – Slit my wrists – or the confessing revelation Ms. Benevo had robbed me of. That was our final chance, probably gone just like him, just like the next UNO kid she was on. And he had no idea. But Bags would. Once we got back, Bags would. And then this will all be over.
Now, here we are, sharing a cigarette and listening to the drone of drops pitter, patter, pitter, patter, plop on the windowsill, making small talk but not really sure what to say or do like we were two years ago. In the other room, I again hear her beast of a roommate Charley snoring louder than a chainsaw. Just her and the rain, that’s all. I want to tell her too: how, before Pete with Ms. Benevo, there was me; how I wanted the teacher at first, then I didn’t but it was too late – that I never wanted to hurt my Ant because she was too good, yet I did anyway with anyone who would have me after Ms. Benevo wouldn’t – how I wanted to die that night after the party when I woke up in the crashed car on the wrecked lawn; how I’ve never been the same since.
But I don’t tell her about what our teacher did to me, I don’t tell her any of it, because I’m scared I’ll lose her again. And I don’t want to be lost anymore. When we get back, I promise myself, I’ll tell her how it started.
She flops her hands down on the ruffled comforter. I turn to her huff. “I think,” she sighs, giving me serious eyes, “I think we made a mistake, Andrew.”
“Sin is in, babe,” I say, which is my attempt to play it off cool even though I have an idea of what’s coming.
“Andrew, don’t. You can’t just come back into my life and expect, what? Everything that happened didn’t? I can’t even remember the last time we spoke, and now you’re laying next to me and you expect it to be like it was when we both know it can’t. You’re doing the same thing to Jess you did to…”
I sit up. “I know that’s how it seems, I do – I really do. And I can’t deny the past, I know all that, but, I guess–”
“You guess what, Andrew?”
To hell with the excuses. To hell with what anyone thinks too. This is what I want.
“Back then, I didn’t know how good I had it; I didn’t get the saying ‘The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.’ I took us for granted. I took you for granted. Until I lost you. And it took me losing you to figure that out, and I don’t want to make the same mistake again.”
She doesn’t say anything. She just looks at me with those endless eyes skewering me like they’re onyx shanks, unsure whether to trust me, believe me, let me back in. Those opaque eyes I’d looked into so many nights when no one was home – those endless pools that plunged into me, that reflected my soul, that I could wish on for better days.
Copyright (C) 2017 Andrew Chapin