15 (rough draft)
Amaretto’s heart ached for some quality October time, but she resisted, making herself busy, giving October and Casey time to figure each other out. She was just flirty enough with the men lounging around the house to get a steady supply of pot, staying high, but not so flirty she had to put out. That the men and women, including her mother, would slop around in the vat of body fluids puzzled her. She only exposed herself twice. The first time she didn’t see it coming. The second time, she needed the money.
Applying her shoulder, the door gave way, ringing the bell, the store closed, early Saturday evening.
“Apple!” Ted Hunter greeted, clicking off the TV with the remote, half turning at the counter. “We were worried about you.”
“Sorry, got hung up, had to take care of some responsibilities.”
“Oh, I know how that can be.”
She shrugged. “Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.” Pulling herself on the stool next to his, she placed a fold of bills on the counter. “This makes us even.”
Mrs. Hunter appeared from the back. “Tuna, dear. We have some left over.”
“With coffee, please.”
Ted Hunter lit a joint, toking, passing it. “You got worked over.”
Another shrug. “More like a miscalculation.”
The plate with the sandwich hit the counter, Mrs. Hunter pouring coffee. “Did you get ripped off, dear?” she asked, counting the money, dropping two twenties next to the sandwich.
“I learned. That’s what counts.” She held another wad of bills forward. “Let me have an ounce straight up. I’ll roll and sell.”
Mrs. Hunter counted the money, returning $50.00. “In that case,” she said.
“I need a solid from you guys.”
“A what?” Mrs. Hunter asked.
“A favor,” Ted Hunter answered.
Amaretto unfolded two sheets of paper, printouts. “I assume you guys have Internet?”
“We do,” Ted Hunter answered.
“This one.” Amaretto circled the photo of a pink canister with silver polka dots, shifting papers. “And this one, the Hello Kitty.”
“You do realize, Apple, that Mace and stun guns are illegal in New Jersey?”
Amaretto crooked a smile. “Yeah, I do realize that.” She held the paper up, pointing. “It’s Hello Kitty!”
Ted Hunter chuckled. “It’s hello I’m going to fuck you up.”
Mrs. Hunter laughed. “I’ll get your pot and then order these for you.”
Amaretto counted out more money. “This’ll cover it. Thanks.”
The weather cooling, October decided on her best jeans, a Philadelphia Zoo sweatshirt featuring tigers, sneakers, no makeup and her hair tied back in a high ponytail. She wanted to look respectable, but conservative. She did not have a problem with parents, ever.
Brigantine’s father was difficult at first with his religious edicts and misogyny. “People must be allowed to find their way,” she told herself. Mr. Grant, however, gave October wonderful insight into the beauty that was her friend Brig, making October love her even more.
Amaretto’s mother was at first difficult to understand, always dancing to please any man. Once October realized Morgan didn’t suffer from bad self-esteem, but the exact opposite, narcissism, Morgan and Apple, made sense. One evening, Amaretto told the story of Narcissus from her reading.
“So, this guy is so beautiful but proud, he hates everyone that falls in love with him.”
“That doesn’t make much sense,” October said.
“That’s why it’s a myth. I think Narcie didn’t think anyone was good enough for him, that’s why he hated them for loving him. He saw them as pathetic. Since it’s a myth, that’s not the end of his story. This other guy gets get fed up with Narcie’s ‘tude, takes him to a calm pond, and shows him his reflection.”
“Love at first sight?”
“Yup. Narcie didn’t realize he was seeing his reflection, he thought it was a real person.”
“Must have been smoking hot like Abby.”
“We’ll keep her away from the pool.”
“She’s not proud.”
“No, she’s not.” Amaretto rolled her eyes. “Narcie drowns.”
October thought Morgan was in love with the image of herself she saw reflected in the people she thought loved her.
Having breathed the story in, October walked around the tale for a couple of days and did a gut check, ensuring she wasn’t looking in a similar reflective pool.
“I won’t be late,” October called to the kitchen.
Carol hurried to the door. “What’s that mean?”
“Midnight. It’s Saturday. Casey will walk me home. We’ll be at his house.”
“You can call me for a ride.”
“Or, I can call you for a ride, or ask Mr. Little.”
“There he is. I’m off.” October was out the door, to the sidewalk, going on her toes, kissing Casey.
October’s palms sweated, standing in the dim room illuminated only by the television’s glow. She had never been apprehensive or nervous about meeting anyone, but then, she told herself, she was meeting the parents of the boy she was going to marry. They’re going to be the grandparents of my babies.
“Dad,” Casey said a second time. “Could you please turn the TV off for a little while?” He leaned to October’s ear. “I told you this was a bad idea.”
The remote appeared in his hand as he fumbled with buttons, the TV going mute, staying on. “What?”
“I told you two hours ago I was bringing a friend over to meet you and you said it was okay.”
He grumbled, pulling on his beer, eyeing October. He wore shorts and a sleeveless tee shirt.
October stepped forward without invitation, extending a hand. “October Ferguson, Mr. Little. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
He looked at the hand as if it were dirty. “Why?”
October blinked repeatedly as a woman entered, sitting next to Mr. Little.
October shrugged, offering the smile that would normally melt steel, extending the hand and an assumption. “October Ferguson, Mrs. Little. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Casey and I met last week and –” fell hopelessly in love and we’re going to get married and have a happy ever after “– really hit it off, becoming good friends. I wanted to meet the parents of such a great guy.”
Mrs. Little tentatively took the hand, Mr. Little grumbled again.
“How old are you?” Mrs. Little asked.
“I’ll be thirteen next month.”
“Casey don’t make no friends,” Mr. Little spit.
“And, here I am.”
“You here to make fun of him like all the kids do?” Mr. Little continued.
October twisted her face. “No.”
“Your eyesight bad? Is that it?”
“He’s pretty ugly, you know.”
Deep fucking breath, October.
“Not to me.”
Casey took her by the elbow, pulling her. She resisted.
“Figures he’d bring a blind girl home.”
Mrs. Little leaned forward on the sofa. “Whatever he told you is a lie.”
“I mean, like many Americans, I’ve always had to work, to help put bread on the table, you know.”
October held the woman’s eyes, nodding. “There’s nobility in all work.”
Mr. Little came to his feet, not much taller than October, belting in her face with his hot beer breath, “Sewage treatment plant! What’s noble about that?”
“Wow, you take the human waste and clean it up so it doesn’t destroy the planet? I’d say that’s more than noble. That’s heroic.”
Storming off with a dismissive wave of his hand, he said, “Noble, heroic. Sure. Tell that to the people down the bar.”
I don’t give a fuck what the people down the bar think. She looked down on Mrs. Little. “Lied about what?”
“It wasn’t my fault.”
October nodded. “Of course, it wasn’t. Casey never said it was. Casey said it was an accident, no different from getting hit by lightning. Would you think it your fault if Casey got wacked with lightning?”
She watched her hands. “I guess not.”
I want to put my forehead on yours, maybe next time. “I’m really pleased to meet you. We have a thing.” She glanced back at Casey. “Stay here.”
Making her way to the kitchen, she found Mr. Little slumped over a beer at the table. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“What the fuck for?” He didn’t look up.
“Everything that’s hurt you.”
“What the fuck do you mean by that?”
Glancing over her shoulder, driven by a force well beyond her reach, she rounded the table, placing a leg between his knees, upturning his face with her small hands, putting her forehead to his. “I don’t expect you to understand, but someday you will.” She held his eyes. “I forgive you.”
October didn’t slow her pace toward the front door, Casey catching up at the street, October in near-panic. She walked quickly for ten minutes before dropping to a park bench, putting her face in her hands and cried.
Casey stood helpless over her and waited.
Late Saturday afternoon, Brigantine, with thoughts of October and Casey, smiling, left her house on her way to Candice’s. Brigantine believed in relationships, unspoken agreements between people. She wasn’t sure about love, and she certainly didn’t believe in love at first sight.
She did believe in October and she did believe in October and Casey. Brigantine wanted to suggest to October that she was a victim of puberty, with October’s rational mind leaving on vacation. “Couple that with you always wanting to help out those in need, the damaged among us,” Brigantine said to the sidewalk. “Casey is made to order for you.”
Brigantine accepted Casey into their group because October requested it.
Two blocks from the house, a white van screeched to a stop, the side door rolling back releasing three hooded figures in light blue coveralls. Before Brigantine realized she was being abducted, the three men, screaming, secured Brigantine with a canvas bag over her head to her waist, the child tucked away in the van, the van speeding off.
“Hey, George,” Amaretto greeted Candice’s stepfather.
Candice and Maynard were required to call George Howell Dad, so both choose to call him nothing. October called George Howell Mr. Howell, October making a point about their relationship. Amaretto, however, called him George. When challenged, Amaretto offered a shrug and told Howell, “The way you look at me, I’ll be calling you George.”
Howell didn’t like Amaretto’s blinding candidness. “Hi, Apple. How you been?”
“Can’t complain. Someone smack you in the eye?”
“Walked into a door.”
“If you want to sue the bastard, give me a call.”
She gave him a dismissive look.
“Candice is out by the pool.”
“I wanted to see Nard first.”
“He’s in his room.” Howell winked. “Better knock first.”
Creep, Amaretto thought. Maybe I’ll have Uncle Jack stop by one of these days and give you a howdy.
She found her way, Maynard answering the tap with, “It’s open.”
“Apple. Eye looks better.”
She shrugged. “Need a solid.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“Got it right here.” He pulled the book from a stack on the table beside his bed. “Masturbation material.”
“Should I be wearing gloves?” she asked, taking the book.
Pushing a pile of clothes to the floor, Amaretto dropped on the chair, opening the book. “You never talk like that when anyone else is around.”
“Don’t take this wrong. You’re slutty.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, Nard, how could I ever take that wrong?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I do, actually. If I ever get raped, I’m the girl everyone will say was asking for it.” Flipping pages, she looked up from the book. “Are you trying to check out my underwear?”
“Always. You are sexy, always have been.”
“Yet, you never asked me out.”
“If all I wanted was sex, I might. No offense.”
“You only think I’m easy.”
“I don’t assume anything.”
Amaretto flipped through more pages. “That’s one thing attractive about you.”
“That I don’t assume anything?”
“The sex thing. It’s been just over a week in The Region, and I’ve been trolled by two dozen guys, faces coming out of the crowd.”
“It’s natural to want a girlfriend.”
“If I could have a boyfriend like Ockie found –”
“I’ve known Casey for years. I really feel sorry for the –”
“That wasn’t the word I was looking for.”
She held the book facing Maynard. “Salvador Norton.” She tapped the picture with her finger. “Know him?”
Maynard leaned forward, squinting. “Senior, I think. Football player.”
“Second string, I think, utility. He plays left-out and rear-end.”
“I really don’t know the guy. He plays the bench.”
“The only reason he’s even on my radar is last year he was accused of rape –” Maynard sat back, mouth open. “Did this asshole rape you?”
“No.” Amaretto produced her pocket notebook, scribbling.
“He’s the asshole that worked you over?”
She shrugged. “It was a misunderstanding.”
“Apple! Tell me!”
She locked eyes. “If I’m not going to tell Ockie, Abby and Brig, I’m certainly not going to tell you.”
He fluffed his pillows, reclining, hands locked behind his head, drooping his eyelids, giving Amaretto the slow up-down. “You’re smoking hot and not just because you wear underwear as outer wear, skirts up to your ass and strut around in those three-inch heeled ankle boots. You’re tough as nails. That’s hot.”
“I don’t know how tough nails are, but thank you, I guess.” She narrowed her eyes. “You aren’t putting me in the bank, are you?”
He sat up, his face blazing red. “No!”
She smiled, flipping pages. “How about this one?” She held the book up again. “Jillian Lauferty.”
“You butting heads with all the seniors, and it’s only been a week?”
She shrugged again. “Another misunderstanding.”
“Had to do with drugs or you flirting with her boyfriend. I’d guess drugs, because you wouldn’t cross the street to piss on her boyfriend if he were on fire.”
“Brian Fowler, everyone calls him Rat. I have no idea why. He’s a player, the main seller of drugs in the school.”
Maybe I’ll just wait him out. “You don’t smoke pot.”
“Well, sometimes, not often. Don’t get much out of it.”
“Try mine sometime.”
She shrugged yet again. “My point is that you don’t smoke pot, yet you know Fowler sells big.”
“If he’s so renown, how come he’s not busted?”
“He’s a player. He’s slick. And, his mother is the lead detective in the Edgewood police department. He’s untouchable.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s untouchable. That means when he does fall, it’ll be hard.”
“If I’m not going to tell –”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, Ockie, Abby and Brig.”
Again, Amaretto held the book up. “One more. Richard Bly.”
“Senior, what a surprise. Special needs. We had an entire assembly on him last year.”
“No, not really. He was, however, the poster boy for the special needs kids. It was a sensitivity deal. Don’t make fun of the retards.”
“Nard, you really can be such an asshole sometimes.”
“It’s a gift. What did you do to this kid?”
“He’s my stalker.” She let out a sigh. “He’s scary.”
“I’ll talk to him.”
“I think I have it handled. He asked me out, actually not out, but he asked to have sex with me.”
“Yeah, huh? I told him if he brings me a pound of pot, I’d go with him.”
“He offered me an ounce. I wouldn’t fuck you for an ounce, and I like you. I figured he’ll never be able to get his hands on a pound, and even if he did, he’d get himself arrested waving it around and even if that didn’t happen –” She shrugged “– I’ve fucked worse for less.”
“You make yourself sound like a prostitute.”
“I am a prostitute.”
He produced his wallet, then waved a hand. “Only kidding.”
“I’d do you, Nard, for a mess of reasons you’d not understand. Only Ockie knows what I’ve been through, how I live, Brig and Abby have a good guess, Ockie doesn’t even know details, but I’ve done a lot of guys, none that I’ve even liked.” She stood, replacing the yearbook on the table, coming over Nard, cupping his chin, kissing him on the forehead, her hair washing him in the scent of cigarettes, pot and Amaretto.
“Ask me sometime, Maynard. I’ll say yes.”
“Smoking fucking hot,” Maynard said to the empty air, Amaretto melting into the hallway.
Entering out onto the patio, Amaretto lit a cigarette. “Hey, Abby.”
“You know Howell doesn’t like smoking around the house.”
“I need this. Trust me.” She looked around. “Where’s Brig?”
Candice waved her phone. “Should have been here two hours ago. Calls go to voicemail.”
“That’s never happened before.”
“She called right before she left.”
“Said she was on her way.”
Amaretto considered her cigarette from many angles. “All we can do is wait. October?”
“At least she answered her phone. Said she was all right. She’s with Casey. Sounded like she’d been crying, but she said no.”
“Pot?” Amaretto asked. “Kind of my answer for everything, when I don’t have my October.”
Candice looked toward the interior of the house. “Will it help?”
“It never hurts.”
“Nard and I tried it a few times. Didn’t get much out of it.”
“You haven’t tried mine.”
“How would you feel if I were to do your brother?”
“Do? What do you mean?”
“Fuck him, Abby.”
“Apple!” Candice’s face went red.
“The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but I was up in his room, and we got to talking.”
“About having sex?”
“Came up, but no, not the main topic.”
Candice rested back on her chair. “If you’re serious, please, have a conversation with Brig first. Brig and Nard have been circling each other in a really cute dance.”
“That does answer that.”
Resolve to the inevitable, Brigantine thought, close to suffocating in the burlap, the burlap pulled tight and tied with a rope around her waist, the van racing, stopping, jumping forward, turning hard. After ten minutes, she gave up struggling, which just made breathing more difficult, focused rather on controlled breath, like meditating.
Settled in the rocking sea of the racing van, many male voices shouted, fists contacting her all over. Brigantine screamed, pleaded, made promises she couldn’t keep. The shouting and fists stopped for no reason.
Brigantine fought to breath, relaxing, eyes closed, back to meditation. The shouts and fists came again. She screamed with the shouts, refusing to cry. You’d better kill me, because if you don’t, all you fuckers are dead, she promised.
The van stopped, Brigantine tied in the bag roughly deposited on the dirt ground, shouts and kicks came from heaven for ten minutes, then stopped.
Silence disturbed only by the occasional sound of people moving, vague whispers. Another beating came from the darkness, half-hearted, angry shouts, hinted vague giggles. Brigantine thought of Casey all those years before, balled up in the street, kids kicking away. In the moment of darkness and terror, Brigantine appreciated Casey’s restrain in not killing someone. As the feet knocked against her, Brigantine laughed, remembering the summer in the mall, fistful of shirt, pounding away at the kid’s face, the kid who led the charge at Casey.
“Kick away, assholes,” she said, smirking, the fear melting to white-hot anger. It wasn’t the pain, the kicks not serious, not meant to do harm. It was the fear, the feeling of helplessness. Now, the fear was gone, leaving only anger in its wake.
Silence fell. Again, Brigantine worked on breathing, this time bringing October to her imagination, Octobers’ forehead on hers, eyes locked. Every promise ever made at any time realized. I love you, Brig, October would say, her words that could melt steel. “I love you, too, Ockie.”
The shouts and fists rained down unexpectedly from the darkness, Brigantine shouting out, fear grabbing her like night takes day. “Assholes,” she finally said. “Kick away,” pushing the fear back, replacing the fear with anger.
Brigantine couldn’t find October, reaching her imagination into the darkness. “October,” she whispered. “Ockie.” She waited for the shouts and kicks, trying to breath. She waited.
“Kick me, asshole! Motherfuckers! Why don’t you kick me!” she shouted.
Silence. A geologic age reeled by. Brigantine strained to hear – anything. She thought they left.
The screams, shouts and feet came from the darkness once more.