32 (rough draft)
Amaretto didn’t dislike Kyle. She found him charming in a simple way, like an imagined farm boy, innocent though he fucks the sheep behind the barn. Kyle’s face was more boy than man. He was not smart and he was not educated, both of which Amaretto found unattractive, even repulsive.
She wanted his touch to feel like something. He was a clumsy lover. “I wouldn’t say lover,” Amaretto said to the sun just coming up from the ocean as she sat in the shadow under the boardwalk, drawing on her pot. “He was a clumsy fuck.”
Somewhere between the bourbon and sexual arousal, Kyle left the room. His body was there, face distorted, humping away, but his mind left the room.
“Like fucking sheep behind the barn.” She drew hard on the pot. “Just like fucking sheep, he’ll never tell anyone about it.”
Kyle was put off when Amaretto pulled the condom out, opening the package. “I thought he’d lose the hard on right there,” she said to the sidewalk, looking for an egg and coffee. “Men want to fuck everyone, but want to think who they fuck has never been fucked.”
“Couple eggs, coffee,” Amaretto said to the man behind the counter at the small diner, Harry’s. She wanted the place to feel like Hunter’s but it didn’t.
“I didn’t order this,” she pointed to the milk.
The elderly man waved a hand in the air. “On me, on me. Good for you. You drink, I cook.”
She drank, then ate, the old man telling a couple silly stories, harmlessly flirting.
Paying, she said, “Really, thank you.” Just when she thought she hated every man on the planet, she was given a sweet gift.
The library was a small affair, single story. “I was hoping to find an old news story,” she told the frail woman behind the desk. Having done the math, she gave a ninety-day spread, figuring she should start there, expanding outward. “I don’t have much to go on. “Guy by the name of Lenny was shot in the face through a pillow in one of the casinos. I did all the keyword searches on the ‘net.”
The librarian smiled. “So young to be so smart, or did someone direct you here?”
“I just figured you have like a file of the old local newspapers?”
“Yes. I doubt you’re going to like it.”
Just under four hours later, Amaretto pushed the chair back from the booth. “Can I leave this like this while I get lunch? I’ll put everything away when I’m done.”
“Sure thing. Maybe I’ll help you this afternoon,” the hovering librarian said.
Out in the sun, Amaretto sat on the decorative wall, lit a cigarette and checked her phone. “Thirty-six messages?” all from the same person.
“Where the fuck are you?”
“Whoa, Kyle. I have some stuff to do.”
“I’m looking some stuff up.”
“You could have left a note. I was worried.”
“Couldn’t find a pen. I left my duffle there, so you know I didn’t run off.”
“Maybe I had plans.”
“I’ll be back to the room a little after four.”
“What am I supposed to do until then?”
“Miss me?” Sniff my undies and jerk off? “We’ll get some real dinner. I know you hated the downtown sandwiches and movie.”
“I didn’t hate it. We can watch another movie tonight.”
Jillian Lauferty wandered onto the path just beyond the road. “Hey, Brian.”
“You look better,” Brian Rat Fowler answered, accepting money with one hand, palming over pot with the other to a passerby. “What did they find?”
“Nothing, as usual. Mom had them run three tox screens, sure I’m using drugs.”
“Have you been injecting marijuana again?”
“Yeah, right. Funny thing though.”
“Couple guys said it was funny seeing you flopping around in the hallway.” He made another exchange.
“You’re all heart, asshole.”
“Hey, I didn’t say it. They said it.”
“I hope you didn’t hurt yourself laughing. Anyway, my brother said that circus act was by the hospital the day I went down, to see if I was okay. I guess you’ve been busy.”
“The circus act, the Goth girl, black hair, wears her makeup like she thinks she’s a vampire or something.”
“Oh, Circus Act comes by on her way to the hill behind the park. Seems she’s added Baby Huey to her show. She asked about you on her way by. How does she know you?”
“That’s the girl that –”
“It was funny, you know, they walk by, Circus Act and Baby Huey, and John, you know John, he started in with Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong, stomping his feet behind Baby Huey. Get this. Circus Act tells Baby Huey to hit John in the face and he does. Isn’t that funny?”
“So funny I might have another seizure.” She rolled her eyes. “That’s the girl, new in school, you told me to tell to stop selling pot.”
“Really? She’s kind of cute, obviously a minor. Maybe she can mule for me.”
“I’m ready to retire, after that embarrassing incident in Philly. Shit got real, you know?”
“But I need you to –”
“You’ve never paid me, not a dime.”
“I’ve bought you anything you’ve asked for.”
“Hardly the same. I thought we really had something going on here, that we were careful and no one really knew, but to find out we’re getting a pass, rather you are getting a pass because of your mother, that’s a bit unnerving. She goes down, we’ll go down.”
“What exactly are you saying?”
“That girl, Circus Act, I told her she can’t sell pot. To make what I meant perfectly clear, I hit her in the nose.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“Because you told me you heard she was a new player in school and I should make it perfectly clear she shouldn’t be selling pot around here.”
“I didn’t say to hit her, though that must have been pretty funny.”
“Again, I laughed so hard I could have had a seizure.”
“What the doctors say? Are we okay, to you know?”
“What? Really? That’s your concern?”
“Although, it’d be really great if you had a seizure while we were doing it. Can you imagine?”
“Imagine this, asshole,” she said, punching him square in the nose.
The few moments on her knees, having peed her pants, sure she was going to die changed her perspective on life. Jill didn’t know what to do with her new perspective until Amaretto appeared out the crowd, placing a Taser on her chest. “Sure, all I had to do was ask,” she told the night on her way home. Jill had planned to chase Amaretto down, to have a conversation, maybe offer an apology.
Given the fist to the nose, Jill figured she deserved a Taser to the chest. “Still, we’ll have a conversation.”
Amaretto sat cross-legged in the hall next to the door, busied with a handful of printouts. She didn’t have all that she wanted, but she had a good place to start, wishing for her Notepad, which she left home. Kyle was out, getting close to 5:00pm. Amaretto smiled to herself, figuring she was being punished.
“Hey,” she said, her phone on her shoulder.”
“Hey, Apple, how’s it?”
“Great, Ockie, you?”
“That good, huh?”
“Things are as expected, my plan is working.”
“Is this plan something I should know about?”
“All in due time. All in due time.”
October breathed heavily into the phone. “When you coming back?”
“What is it?”
“Did I say there was an it to be?”
“You didn’t have to.”
“It’s really nothing that can’t wait.”
“So, there is a something?”
A long silence sat between them.
Again, the silence.
“When I track down Kyle, if he won’t bring me right how, I’ll take a cab.”
“That’ll cost –”
“It’s only money and I have plenty. Tell me without hesitation it’s not that important and I should be doing what I’m doing and that’s what I’ll do.”
“You need to talk to Abby.”
“I don’t know what to do. It’s like her eyes are dead.”
“Mother fucker, Ockie.” She glanced her phone. “Look for me before eight.”
“I’ll go stand by the door and watch up the street.”
Fifteen minutes leaked by when Kyle staggered up the hallway.
“Great, I need to get home and you’re drunk.”
“Well, you abandoned me all day. What’d you expect?” Fumbling with the swipe card, he opened the door, Amaretto pushing by him.
“I want you to get a good night’s sleep. I have something for you to do.”
“I made you copies. A guy got murdered, Leonard Smyth. I want you to go to the local police. Here’s all the news articles I could find.” She put the copies on the table. “Get copies of any of the police files. I’ll reimburse you if there’s a fee, but your badge should get you some consideration.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“It’s all here.” She indicated the articles. “You’ll figure it out.”
“I already told you: I can’t be doing any shit like this for you. What? You do me a little favor and you think I’m your puppy dog?”
She wormed her phone from her pocket, working the menu, then scrolling. “Here’s a selfie from last night. A photo of your dick in my mouth, including your face. I’ll forward you a copy if you want it for your spank bank.”
“I’m pretty sure statutory rape trumps blackmail.”
“Give me that phone.”
“Won’t help. I emailed me a copy. The photo, and others like it, stay in my bank as long as you do as I ask.” She hoisted her duffle over her shoulder. “I will never be unreasonable. I really have to run. Call me in the morning.”
On the street, Amaretto headed toward the casinos, throwing her duffle in the backseat of the first cab in line. “How quick can you get me to Edgewood?”
“Figures I get a comedian on his night off.”
“Sorry, honey. I can do one better, not that I don’t want the juicy fare, I’d be an asshole if I didn’t tell you.”
“Tell you want?”
“I’ll take you ten blocks to the train, runs right through Edgewood. Pretty quick, too. Runs on the half hour.”
“Damn, I knew that,” she said. Amaretto gave the driver a $20 tip.
“Who knows?” Amaretto greeted October as Amaretto came through the door.
“Apple, I –” She reached for Amaretto’s face.
“Ockie. Who knows?” She pushed by, into the house, dropping her duffle and backpack in the entryway.
“Me, Abby and the rapists.”
“Rapists, plural,” she answered through her teeth, moving forward. “Which way?”
“Stay.” Amaretto showed October the back of her head, taking the steps three at a time.
“Now, October, will you tell me what’s going on?” Carol Ferguson asked, leaning on the arch into the kitchen.
“Not yet, Mom. We have to wait and see what Apple has to say.”
Amaretto pushed the bedroom door open, stepping into the dim light, the only source a small lamp on the far dresser.
“October, I said leave me alone,” Candice said, half on the bed, face pushed into the sheet. “Just leave me alone.”
“Get the fuck up and get the fuck up now!” Amaretto bellowed.
“I said get the fuck up! Stand!”
“Apple?” October said from the doorway.
Amaretto reached back, slamming the door, coming over the bed. “Abby! Up! Now!” She took Candice by the elbow, pulling her off the bed and to her feet.
“Apple, I –”
“Shut the fuck up, Abby.” Amaretto took Candice’s face in both hands, turning her head, just a little, placing her lips on Candice’s, gentle, like the touch of a butterfly’s wing. She kneaded Candice’s low lip, Candice hanging like a ragdoll.
“Apple, I –” Candice said around the kiss.
“Shut the fuck up, Abby,” Amaretto whispered, tightening her hold, arching her shoulders, kissing deeper.
Candice’s hands came to Amaretto’s waist.
Two and a third geologic ages passed quietly by in the dim light of the bedroom nestled in the heart of Edgewood, New Jersey.
Candice giggled a little as Amaretto slowly released Candice’s face, stepping back. “I’ve never really kissed a girl before and I just now realize I’ve never really kissed a boy before, either.”
Amaretto put a joint in her mouth. “When a girl gets fucked, she deserves a really good kiss,” she said, lighting the joint, drawing deep, stepping close to Candice again, taking her hand, putting the joint to Candice’s mouth.
“I’ve never –”
Amaretto nodded. “You will, right now, for me, even if it’s just this once.”
Candice nodded back, allowing the joint to her lips, drawing deeply.
“A little more.”
She drew, a little more.
“Now hold it,” Amaretto said, putting her lips over Candice’s, waiting, then drawing the air from Candice’s lungs.
Candice blinked repeatedly, watching Amaretto’s eyes watch her as Amaretto pulled deep on the joint again, Amaretto nodding. Candice emptied her lungs, putting her lips on Amaretto’s, pulling the air from Amaretto’s lungs, her eyes getting wide.
Candice giggled. “Way cool.”
“I’ve always wanted to kiss you.”
“Why didn’t you?”
Amaretto put the joint to Candice’s lips again, nodding.
“For the same reason I’ve always wanted to kiss you. You are too beautiful.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Many things in life don’t make sense, but I don’t think they’re supposed to. How do you feel?”
“Okay, I mean, better than five minutes ago.”
Amaretto gripped the bottom of Candice’s sweatshirt, pulling it up. “October,” she called over her shoulder.
The bedroom door opened. “Apple?”
“Get the shower going. Abby stinks of bad sex. We’re going to do something about it.”
“I smell bad?”
“No, the sex on you smells bad. We’re going to fix it.”
Amaretto dropped the sweatshirt and bra to the floor, undoing Candice’s pants, dropping to a knee, taking the pants down with her. She added the pants, underwear, shoes and socks to the pile.
“Can I get a robe or something?”
“No,” Amaretto answered. “Not until we get this sex off you.”
“I’ll put the clothes in the washer,” October said from behind Amaretto.
“Get a plastic bag, October. Do not touch the clothes. I’ll put the clothes in the bag. When we’re done the shower, we’ll go to the backyard and burn the clothes.”
Without releasing Candice’s hand, Amaretto symbolically led Candice to the bathroom and into the shower, dropping her own clothes to the bathroom floor, joining Candice under the water, lighting another joint, repeating the earlier ritual.
“I was raped,” Candice confessed.
Amaretto put a soapy finger to Candice’s lips. “Sh, for now.”
Lathered, Amaretto scrubbed Candice with her hands.
“I’m a little sore there,” Candice said, her hands on Amaretto’s shoulders.
“I know, Abby. Sorry. I have to do this.”
“No, I’m all right.”
With the caked blood and semen cleansed and rinsed, Amaretto was satisfied Candice wasn’t bleeding. I bled for three days, she remembered. Three very scary days.
More of rite and ritual than of functionality, Amaretto thoroughly dried Candice with a fluffy towel, working from each leg, up her body, out her arms and finally to her hair.
“You look so different without your makeup,” Candice said. “I did not know you’re a redhead.”
“One of my best kept secrets.”
October appeared in the bathroom doorway with two robes.
“Perfect,” Amaretto said, helping Candice into one robe, working into the other.
Amaretto cupped Candice’s face again, gentle like holding a soap bubble, kissing her softly on the lips. “More pot?”
October met them in the hall, huge yellow plastic gloves comically dwarfing her hands, a black plastic bag dangling. “You told me not to touch the clothes, so I didn’t.”
Carol Ferguson climbed the stairs. In the hallway, she demanded, “Now, tell me what’s going on.”
“Not now, Carol,” Amaretto said.
“This is my house, and you are children. You will tell me what’s going on, and tell me now.”
Amaretto approached Carol, taking her face, looking into her eyes. “Carol, there is only one child in this hallway right now.”
“Not now, Carol,” Amaretto told her, breaking, taking the plastic bag from October and Candice’s hand. “What you will be told will not be up to me, or Ockie.” Amaretto and Candice descended the stairs.
“God, Ockie, Apple’s become the dark you.”
“Apple’s always been that, Mom.”
Amaretto arraigned the clothes, a neat pile in what remained of the sandbox, accepting the can of gasoline from October. Amaretto wanted lighter fluid, but gasoline would do.
“That stinks,” October said as Amaretto poured.
“It’s a rape of the earth then insult that we burn it in our machines, and like much rape we experience, no one seems to mind.” She stood, passing matches to Candice.
Candice struck a match, dropping it on the pile, the match fizzling out. The second match was different, flames jumping up a foot, flattening out. Amaretto held her hands out, the three friends joining hands around the fire.
“Those are my favorite sneakers,” Candice said.
“Abby, they are no longer yours, stolen from you.”
“Stolen from me, yes.”
Amaretto looked from the fire to the stars. “We have cleansed your body in water. I have taken your breath into my body, we stand our feet bare to the earth and now, we deliver the corruption into the fire.”
“Apple, you’re scaring me a little,” October said.
“Good. Your fucking problem is you’re not scared enough.”
Amaretto glanced down at October’s feet. “You’re trying to back away. Fire a little too uncomfortable for you? Well, October, let me clue you in. Me and Abby stood in the fucking fire. Now, stand here with us.”
October nodded, stepping forward, standing tall. “I know you’ve protected me. I know this, I can see behind the curtain. I know I’ve never stood in the fire, but I’ve always stood with you.”
“Now that I’ve experienced what you have –” Candice began.
“You haven’t, Abby. Not even fucking close. Everything I’ve done, every-fucking-thing has been my choice. Even the fucking first time when I was a fucking kid. I choose. I knew what my mother wanted me to do. I knew what Uncle-fucking-Jack was going to do. I agreed to it. Ever after, with every fucking slug that squirmed around on top me distorting his fucking face, it was on my fucking terms. No one ever took anything from me I didn’t give fucking willingly. Fucking never.”
“I did not know that,” October said in a breathless whisper.
“Neither did I,” Candice agreed.
“Abby. They stole something from you. They stole something from me. They robbed the world of something so precious, so beautiful, so wonderful.”
“No! No! No! Your fucking innocence! Your childlike wonder when you look at the world. October told me your eyes are dead now. She’s not exactly correct. Your eyes are asleep now, retreated. I’ve reached back into everything I’ve ever read, everything I’ve ever known and everything I feel. Just maybe, with earth, water, air and fire we can ignite that wonder in you again.”
“You’re hurting my hand,” October said.
“You, Abby, could feel something. Like October feels too much of the world around, you do, too. These assholes damaged you. I, Abby, feel nothing. Nothing. The only thing I feel is October. My love for her is deep and all consuming. When I’m not with her, I feel nothing, living in darkness. You cannot become me over this. I will not have that.”
October squirmed, trying to get her hand free. “Apple, please, it hurts.”
Amaretto released the hands, dropping to her knees, watching up on Candice. “This, Abby, I do for you. Choose. Give it to me.” Amaretto reached under the dying fire, lifting the burning clothes as if to present the pyre to Candice. “Tell me, Abby. What would you have me do?”
October screamed, running off.
Tears streamed down Candice’s cheeks. “You’ve done it, Apple. I love you. Would you put the fire down now?”
“So you have said it, so it will be.” She dropped the smoldering clothes, brushed her hands on each other and stood, stepping around the fire, wiping Candice’s tears with blistered hands.
Candice released anxious laughter through her tears. “Do the hands hurt?”
“At least I can feel something. My wounds will heal.”
“So will mine.” Candice put her lips on Amaretto’s.
“I don’t like to lie,” Carol said, taking a chair at the kitchen table.
“Everyone says that, but it’s just one more lie they tell,” Amaretto answered. “Ellen okay?”
“Well, that’s the lie, sure, I told Ellen that Abby was having a great time and would be sleeping over.”
“Maybe we can do each other’s hair.”
“I’ve never seen this side of you.”
“This much of this side, anyway. Pot?”
Carol looked toward the stairs.
“Oh, the kids are asleep. Looks like I’ll be sleeping alone tonight, unless you wish to join me?” Amaretto lit the joint.
“Eh, no, but thanks for asking.”
Amaretto passed the joint. “I wasn’t asking for sex. Just a snuggle partner. Abby was assaulted, but I guess you pretty much guessed that.”
“Abby’s assaulted, but Ockie doesn’t call a doctor or the police, she calls you.”
“I would have been here sooner, but I was in Atlantic City.”
“I wish you’d let me take you to the hospital.”
Amaretto looked at her hands. “It’s worse than it looks. I figure once the blisters break, none of Morgan’s pals are going to be looking for me to give them a hand job.”
“I’m not crashing here because my face got smashed. That’s why Ockie called me. I have the experience.”
“Does your mother know?”
Amaretto shrugged. “You’re not going to get details, because that’s what Abby asked, but she got fucked up pretty good. I did a magic ritual to cleanse her of all the darkness.”
“You can’t possibly believe that –”
“I don’t, really, but it’s some powerful juju. We’ll see. Effectiveness will be the measure of the truth.”
“I still wonder if we shouldn’t be calling the police.”
“I did consider that, but after talking with Abby, I think it would just traumatize her more. That’s why I didn’t go after Fisher when he knocked the shit out of me.”
“Yeah, right. You couldn’t take the trauma.”
“My mother, actually.”
“At least, a doctor, for an examination.”
“She’s not bleeding anymore, she can get tested for sexually transmitted diseases anytime and as for pregnancy, this isn’t her fertile time, so she should be okay.”
“October was the only child in the hallway. Now I get it. Still, I really wish to fall back on age, and me being the adult and responsible.”
“This is something that happened to Abby. Abby chooses to not call the cops. She’s weighted the issue and made that decision. That’s the decision I’ll respect.”
“Still, and I don’t care how mature you and Abby may appear, Abby is just a child and should have an adult oversee those decisions.”
Apple stood, looking down on Carol, her fists knuckling the table, her flesh red from the burns. “Sometimes, Carol, it’s best to allow people their own decisions, even if they are children and even if we know the decisions are wrong. As much as we’d like to, we can’t protect people from bad choices.”
“You may be pretty smart for a child, but you’re still just a child.”
“Are we sharing the bed?”
“I don’t think so, Apple.”
“I’ll make up the sofa.” Just at the kitchen arch, Amaretto turned. “I feel it would be devastating to Abby if anyone were to call the police over this. And, sometime, I feel it may be nice to sit down, you and me, maybe smoke some more pot, and have a long conversation and story exchange about Leonard Smyth.”
Carol jumped from her chair, watching Amaretto disappear into the living room.