27 (rough draft)
Amaretto entered through the Emergency Room as if she belonged, the nature of her dress drawing attention anyway.
“Hold it right there, young lady,” a man in a white jacket said, approaching, applying fingers to her cheekbones. “Healing nicely. How are you, Apple?”
“Nice to be upright coming through the doors.”
He chuckled. “You here for a follow up? That’s upstairs.”
“No, but thanks. A friend from school was wheeled in. Jillian Lauferty? Cute little red head?”
“I’d heard cute girls run in packs.”
“We do, we do.”
“If I were to give you, and her, advice, I’d suggest you throttle back on the drugs.”
“But, you’re not really offering me, or her, any advice, Doctor Taylor.”
“I’m not actually a doctor.”
“You said. I’m sure you ran a screen on me, so you know I don’t do drugs.”
“At least not in the twenty-four to forty-eight hours of you getting beat up.”
“Jill going to be okay?”
“Sure. Why don’t you go upstairs? They won’t be keeping her, I don’t think.”
Amaretto took the stairs, four flights up, holding her breath, pushing the door open expecting to see cops everywhere.
“Apple!” a young voice called out.
Great, Amaretto thought, forcing a smile. “Hey, Mason. How you been?”
“Better for seeing you!”
She rolled her eyes.
“Face looks great! So, where do you want to go this weekend?”
“Down, boy. How’s your sister?”
“Awl, she’s fine. Looks like her electrolytes went south. She’s got like this eating disorder, so it’s not her first rodeo.”
“What’s she say?”
“She doesn’t say much that makes sense when she gets like this. She doesn’t even remember going to school. Come to think of it, I’m pretty messed up myself, all worried and all. I could use some comforting.”
“I will! I will!”
Amaretto backed into the elevator when it opened. “See you around, Mason.”
“See!” He winked. “You remembered my name!”
The door closed, leaving Amaretto with her thoughts and strangers. I wanted to make a point, but she doesn’t remember, she thought. But, if she did remember, I’d be having a conversation with Fowler, blowing my date with Kyle.
“It’s almost October,” October said aloud, clouds blocking the sun, the air hinting a chill.
“There you are,” Brigantine greeted, exiting the school. “I thought I’d missed you.”
“Waiting for Casey. He’s running late, something to do with science class.”
Brigantine glanced over her shoulder. “I wanted to talk to you anyway. Alone.”
“We’re losing something. We used to all meet after school, walk home together and hang.”
“We used to all be in the same classroom all day. We knew this would happen.”
“I guess. What about Nard?”
With a shrug, Brigantine answered, “What about Nard?”
“I thought, you know, you two were, I don’t know, going to hang or something.”
“He’s flirted with me. I’ve watched Apple flirt. I’m not comfortable doing it, I guess.” She rolled her eyes. “Nard keeps saying he’s going to ask me out, but he never does. He pushed me against a wall and kissed me, once.”
“Yes. Pretty serious, too. I guess I didn’t kiss back good enough.”
“Do you like him?”
“He’s Nard. Sure, I like him.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Do I want to marry him and have his babies? Probably not.” She bit her lower lip, watching October’s eyes. “I’m not all that big on men, I guess, living with so many of them. I like hanging with you, Abby and Apple, always have, my safe place from a world that’s not so comfortable to be in.” Drawing a breath, she added, “I only wish I could look at you or Abby like Apple looks at you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I really like hanging with Abby.”
“You guys are always holding hands.”
“Easier to walk together without bumping into each other. I like being close to her, always have. She’s all girl where I’m not. I don’t want to be her. I just want to be close to her.”
“I don’t think being a girl is defined by what we wear.”
“Said the chameleon.”
“That’s not what I meant, anyway.”
“I actually do know what you mean.”
Again, Brigantine took a long breath. “Dad went sideways on me the other night.”
“I’m not supposed to tell anyone what he said.”
“I don’t even know why people bother saying that.”
“Me, neither. Dad asked me if I wanted to take Fisher camping.”
“He didn’t spell it out.”
“Spell it out.”
“I think Dad asked me if I wanted to kill Fisher.”
“Well, I think, maybe he meant kidnap with a bag over his head and keep him in the woods like they did me.”
“I thought about it.”
“In no universe is such a thing right to do.”
“That’s beside the point. I was thinking that the experience was supposed to be this great spiritual awaking for me, a Rubicon, a milestone in my life where I go from being a child to being an adult, my father and brothers risking getting charged with kidnapping and child endangerment. Then, on the other hand, the exact same experience is suggested as a punishment for being an asshole?”
“I get what you’re getting at.”
“They were fucking with me and the saddest part is, they don’t even know it.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Your dad having the van loaded and ready for the weekend.”
“As much as I’d love to give Fisher a beat-down for what he did to Apple, I’m going to tell Dad that I feel the right thing to do is man-up and fight my own battles.”
“I’d like to see you give up fighting altogether.”
“I have no intention of fighting Fisher. I want to call off the dogs in a way Dad backs off. If they take Fisher in the woods and kill him or just bag-and-beat him, it’s coming right back to Dad.”
“Because somewhere there’s a file sitting in a drawer that states what they did to you.”
“They’re assholes. My goal in life is to not be them. I wish I could look at you like Apple does.”
“Again, Brig, what’s that supposed to mean!”
“Apple loves you.”
“I love her, too, and you, and Abby.”
“That’s not how I mean the word.”
“Where’s Apple,” Candice greeted, coming up, taking Brigantine’s hand.
“She left at lunchtime with some new girl. I haven’t heard,” October answered.
“Come back to the house?” Candice asked October.
“I have some place to be, but I want to hang with Casey. Ribs? Want to hang?”
“Brig promised to do my hair.”
“I really have some place I need to be,” October told Casey as they walked hand-in-hand. “But, I wanted to stop the world and spend time with you first. I miss not having you around.”
“I can appreciate that,” Casey answered. “I had some private stuff to take care of.”
“This isn’t private.”
“Does it have to do with Maynard?”
“Of course not. Nard did get a little weird, trying to kiss me. It’s like he had a psychotic break or something.”
“Why would wanting to kiss you be insane?”
“Because I have a boyfriend?”
“You didn’t want to kiss him?”
“No! Why would I?”
“He’s not a freak, for one thing.”
October rolled her eyes, entering Ribs, taking a table near the front. She ordered one chocolate milkshake and two straws.
“I’d never had a milkshake until you,” Casey said.
“I propose, no matter how busy we get, we take time out often to meet here and share a chocolate milkshake.”
“I need to go see Ms. Sconce today.”
“The guidance counselor?”
“Yes.” October fished her phone from dark Hello Kitty. “I’m going to take a cab.”
“Hey, Mom,” October said into her phone. “Apple home yet?”
“No. Where are you?”
“Something happened in school today. Ms. Sconce got fired.”
“I don’t know. I have to talk to her. I’m outside her apartment now. I meant to call earlier, but forgot.”
“You have no sense of proper boundaries.”
“Just one of my many superpowers. Want to come get me when I’m done here?”
“I would, yes. Where?”
“River Drive, West, across from where the sailboats are.”
“How’d you get all the way over there?”
“I could have taken you.”
“If I thought you’d just drop me off or that you’d wait in the car, I would have asked for a ride.”
“This is a surprise,” Sconce said, stepping forward, taking October in for a hug.
“This is a surprise,” October answered.
“One of the many benefits of not being your guidance counselor.”
“You never were.” October pushed back, taking Sconce by the face, going forehead-to-forehead, watching her eyes. “You stepped up on my behalf and got fired. I wanted to come by and tell you I’m sorry.”
“That’s all,” October said, turning.
“Come in, stay awhile.”
“Hi,” Melody Lark said, approaching, offering a hand.
“October, Ockie,” October said, taking the hand.
“I’d have never guessed. Melody Lark, Mel. Did you change your look recently?”
“I did, yes.”
Lark pulled October into the apartment. “This is Lulu DeLite. Lu, Ockie.”
October took her hand. “We met.”
“Really?” Lark asked.
“Seems my best friend is missing, and you’re the last person to see her.”
“There’s a difference between missing and not answering the phone. When I dropped her at her house, she said she was going dark, too much to do.”
“Her house on Elm?”
“Why did she want, need to go there.”
“She had to talk to someone about something.”
“You can say you don’t want to answer.”
“There’s something private between Apple and me,” DeLite said, “that I can’t share.”
October blinked repeatedly, looking from DeLite to Lark. “Lulu DeLite? Do you have Apple doing girl-on-girl porn?”
“No,” Lark answered. “Sit.”
October sat on the sofa, DeLite and Lark taking chairs. “I’ve told Lu she should go back to her given name.” Sconce looked down on October. “Mel went to Texas to get background on Markus. No one would go on the record, but like I told you, he’s got a problem with a type of girl.”
“You went to Texas?”
Lark shrugged. “Some things you can’t do over the phone. I had to look in eyes, see faces.”
“That, I understand. Principal Markus’ type is why I transformed.”
“I really like the look,” DeLite said.
“Are you gay, too?”
“What a question, Ockie!” DeLite answered.
“I wanted to know how to take your statement.”
Lark and Sconce laughed, DeLite giggled. “I’m bi.”
“Sorry,” Apple said into her phone. “Went dark this afternoon, forgot to turn the phone back on.”
“I was worried, you know, getting dragged from the school like that.” October watched the river across the road and down the slope.
“Had some personal stuff, you know. I’m down the park, going to be wrapping up soon.”
“Lulu DeLite told me all about it.”
October smiled to herself. “I know, Apple.”
“She wasn’t going to tell anyone. That video was supposed to be for Uncle Jack’s private use, never, ever shared with anyone.”
With some careful math, October took a guess. “Jack’s an asshole, you know, anything for a couple of bucks.”
“I kept some insurance, a copy with his face in it.”
“That could be embarrassing for him.”
“Embarrassing? I could put him in jail for twenty years.”
A tear crept down October’s cheek. “Sorry, Apple.”
“It’s not your fault. Jack didn’t do it, one of his friends, Beal. I dropped a dime, told Jack to reign in the video or he’ll be in jail. Beal’s going to be dancing with the Jersey Devil.”
“That’s not what I’m sorry about, Apple. Lulu DeLite didn’t say anything to me.”
“Ockie!” Apple closed her eyes. “You want to know details of how I got jammed up and out of the jamming because you love me. I want to keep those details to myself because I love you.”
“Sorry. Talk when we get home?”
“I’m feeling beat up and needy. Can I sleep in your bed tonight?”
“I look forward to it.”
“Richard,” Amaretto said over her shoulder, closing the phone.
“Uh-huh?” he answered from ten feet away.
She worked to her feet, surveying the backside of the park in the darkness. “Time to go.” She offered October’s Rucksack into Bly’s hands. “It’s time I get my Hello Kitty back.”
“I like your Hello Kitty!”
“Sorry. Can I ask you something?”
“When we going to hook up?”
“Never ask me that again.”
“Okay!” Bly said, thinking, I already know the answer! trailing behind Amaretto five paces, clutching her bag to his chest.
Beyond the playground equipment, and up the asphalt path, Amaretto encountered the usual clot of kids, worming her way through, pausing under Brian Fowler. “How’s Jill?”
He narrowed his eyes. “How do you know Jill?”
“She’s okay, I guess.”
“Well, I mean, she seizes all the time.”
“All the time? Really?”
“Three times. This is her third time. I didn’t get your name.”
Amaretto moved off, Bly picking up behind her, maintaining the distance. As Amaretto broke the crowd, a kid called out in a faux deep voice, “Look at me! I’m Donkey Kong! I’m Donkey Kong!”
She turned, narrowing her eyes at the kid in a strange dance behind Bly. “Richard,” she said. “Hit him in the face, hard.”
“Okay, Apple.” Bly pivoted, placing a solid fist in the boy’s face, sending the boy away and on his back to the concrete.
“Thank you, Richard,” she said evenly, resuming.
Bly watched Amaretto’s eyes as she took the Rucksack under the streetlight at the bench. “You don’t have to tell me to sit, Apple.”
“I’m going home. You don’t have to tell me to sit.”
“Sure.” She slung the backpack strap over her shoulder. “See you tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow!” he shouted, jumping back, turning, hurrying off.
Amaretto watched Bly move off into the darkness, running like a misfit toddler. “You do bring Donkey Kong to mind,” she said aloud, looking at her feet. “Fuck you, Ockie. You wanted me to see Bly as a human being and now that I do, I don’t like the way I’ve been seeing him.”
Richard Bly went home and directly to his room, despite his father’s drunken demands to know where he’d been. He was beyond caring what his father or mother said about anything. He knew he was stupid. He knew he was an embarrassment. His parents ran out of different ways to say the same thing years before.
“Donkey Kong,” he said, snickering. “Haven’t heard that in years. Guess his dad got out some old video games.” Like with his parents, Bly was numb to anything any of the kids said. “I bet when that kid saw Donkey Kong, he mocked Kong by calling him Richard Bly!”
Bly removed his handkerchief from his pocket, carefully revealing his prizes. When Amaretto was busy telling fortunes or selling drugs, Bly fished through her bag. He stole two cigarettes and a tissue. Bly did not like to smoke; however, he liked to watch Amaretto take the smoke into her body and release it, just like the women in the porn videos take things into their bodies.
Like communion in church, Bly would take a cigarette and bow, placing the cigarette in his mouth, lighting it as Amaretto would, drawing the smoke into his lungs, as Amaretto would, releasing the smoke, as Amaretto would.
Not just any cigarette, but Amaretto’s cigarette.
He kept his treasures in a shoebox in the back of his sock drawer. Among the treasures was a plastic bag of cigarette butts, the discards of Amaretto, the nubs having been in her mouth. Having smelled deeply of the new discarded tissue and placing his tongue to it, he placed the tissue in the plastic bag with other tissues he gathered.
He stole Amaretto’s Covergirl Fireball lipstick guessing she’d think she lost it. He’d snap the top off, working the wheel like Amaretto’s fingers would work the wheel, then smell the lipstick so he would know what Amaretto’s lips smelled like.
As the years stacked one on another and Bly got lost between the real world and the world of pornography, the thought of taking his father’s .45 from its hiding place in the closet crossed his mind often, randomly walking the school halls shooting kids in the head.
He really, honestly didn’t care enough about other people to bother shooting them. On the path, he was lost watching the roll of Amaretto’s ass dancing one side then the other, imagining that ass naked, his hands spreading her cheeks when the kid was saying something about Donkey Kong. Bly was not aware he was being mocked.
The reason Bly didn’t hesitate to hit the kid in the face was because Amaretto asked him to and Bly knew, once he did enough things for Amaretto, he would get to spread her ass with his hands.
“A pound of pot,” he said aloud, watching in the mirror as he lit one of her cigarettes.
“Color’s coming out already,” Amaretto said, running the brush through October’s hair, watching October in the mirror.
“Apple-ing up is more work than it looks.”
“People don’t appreciate the effort it takes to look like such a freak.”
“I’ve been trying to imagine you with red hair.”
“Fucking orange. Clown orange. I’ve never seen my hair natural. Morgan’s a freak about it.”
“Did you ever ask her why?”
“Because Morgan’s a freak, that’s the answer. Why does shit smell? Because it’s shit.”
“You’re in a mood.”
“I’m still just a little pissed at you.”
“Just a little?”
“I’m holding onto it with every ounce of my will, but it’s so hard to look at your face and be mad at you the same time.” Amaretto rolled her eyes. “I guess I’m mad at me, too, for falling for that. Oh, DeLite told me everything. I’m really not that stupid.”
“I worry about you.”
“I’ve told you that you’ll be my first call if I’m trapped.”
“I want to be your first call even if you break a nail. You’re my best friend, Apple.”
“What if I asked you to choose between me and Casey? How best would I be?”
“I expected at least a little hesitation, and that’s not the answer I’d guess.”
“Losing either one of you would break my heart beyond repair. Either way, might as well put a stake through that heart.”
“Ockie, I –”
“What? You think you own the drama inventory? You, me and Casey will die together in the nursing home our grandkids put us in. Casey – and you – are my happy ever after.”
“I got ripped off,” Amaretto said, brushing, holding October’s eyes.
“I had the pot of spec.”
“What’s that mean?”
“The person I get the pot from doesn’t require payment in advance. Now, I pay as I play.”
“Are you blowing him, too?”
“He must be a very nice man, then.”
“He is. Imagine a man and woman just like Mr. and Mrs. Hunter. Nice, like that.”
“I don’t know them that well.”
“Mrs. Hunter will put chocolate syrup in the milkshake.”
“The guy I got the ounce for just took it.”
“Leaving you on the hook for the money?”
“That’s why you rolled your eyes the other day when you asked if I’d give you $500.00?”
“I’d blush if I did such things. Pretty much.”
“What did you do?”
“I agreed to allow video.”
“Ockie, do you really want to know?”
“No, I don’t want to know, but I need to.”
“Me, blowing Uncle Jack.”
October swallowed hard, watching Amaretto in the mirror.
“Where else could I make $100.00 a minute?”
“DeLite got the video?”
“She saw the video. Want to see it? I have a copy.”
“DeLite tracked me down, to have a conversation. I’m really too young to be doing that stuff, she said, though she did tell me that I’m good at it.”
“I really didn’t need to hear that second part.”
“It’s a gift, I guess. Really, it was Melody Lark who sent DeLite on my trail. Lark has a similar past, and wanted to make sure I’m okay.”
“A question I ask you often.” October held her breath. “Is it on the ‘net?”
“No. Jack said he’d take care of it. I expect never to see Marvin Beal again.”
Amaretto snuggled under the covers, October at her back, snuggling around Amaretto. “You really have sex with all those guys?”
“Not all, Ockie. Most.”
“What’s it like?” October whispered in her ear.
“There’s no words for it, what I go through. I gave DeLite a quiz without her knowing it and from what she says, I can pretty much forget about having any kind of healthy sexual relationship with another human being.”
“Is that why you want to, eh, go out with Nard?”
“You can say it, Ockie. Fuck, and sure. I don’t hate Nard. I wonder what it would be like to have sex with someone I don’t hate.”
“You in a hurry?”
Amaretto snickered. “Yeah, huh? I’d let Bly fuck me, but he’s like the others. He acts like he worships me, but he really hate me.”
“That makes no sense to me.”
“Get angry fucked by a couple of assholes, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I mean that rhetorically. My wish for you is you never get angry fucked.”
“I don’t think I want to know what you’re talking about,” October whispered.
Amaretto snuggled around October’s arm, kissing her hand. “This is all the sex I think I’ll ever need,” she whispered back.