34 (rough draft)
Amaretto dozed, not awake but then not quite asleep, sitting on the bench across from Rib-it. Officer Kyle Penrose dropped down beside her. “Sorry,” he said. He was showered, groomed and neatly dressed.
“Hey. For what, specifically?”
“I’m a smart girl.”
“I did not plan on having sex with you.”
“I’d think a blind guy driving by fast could have seen that coming three minutes after we met.”
“We met, I really liked you, I thought we could hang, you know.”
Because girls your age, women, find you pathetic? “You’re sweet, some of the time.”
“I know I am.” He rested his hands in his lap, watching the sidewalk. “I don’t like me much when I drink.”
Yet, there you were with a bottle in your bag. “Most people are assholes when they drink. Some are nice assholes and others are mean assholes, anyway: they’re all assholes.”
He looked toward her. “So, you’re saying you did like me, not just to use me to do you a favor?”
“I don’t see getting fucked as a favor, sorry.”
“I’m sorry, I really didn’t plan on having sex. I mean getting the records. You didn’t have to do all that. The records are public. I have them in the car.”
“I’d blush if I did such things.”
“I’ve been thinking all night, well, all morning anyway, and I was hoping we could forget this weekend and start over as if it didn’t happen.”
“I’m not sure that’s reasonable or possible.”
“Well, Kyle, you’re asking me to be your girlfriend, but we can’t hold hands or kiss in public. We shouldn’t even be seen together. Do you like me so much, you’d be willing to lose your job and maybe go to jail just to hang with me? I don’t think I like me that much.”
He stood, looking down. “I really want to be your friend, please know that.”
She followed him up, offering a gloved hand. “As much as we can be.”
They shook hands.
Carol pulled Amaretto into the house, taking her up in an all-consuming hug. “Sorry I went off on you last night. So much had happened.”
Amaretto hugged back. “Does this mean I’m not getting kicked out?”
“You’re just in time for breakfast.”
“It’s almost two in the afternoon.”
Amaretto entered the dining room, nodded to Casey, then Brigantine. “Hey, Ockie,” finally looking hard at Candice. “How you feeling, Abby?”
Abby was almost gleeful. “Great, Apple. Where you been? You look tired.”
October waved a hand. “Sit, eat.”
“I am,” Amaretto answered Abby, turning to October. “I will.” Sitting, she narrowed her eyes at Casey. “Where you been?”
Smiling, he shrugged. “Been around, doing hero stuff.”
“Then it wouldn’t be hero stuff.”
Amaretto looked at October. October shrugged as Carol set a plate of scrambled eggs in front of Amaretto.
“Now that we’re all here,” Candice said, standing, “I have an announcement.”
“I would have been here sooner, if I knew you were waiting for me.”
“Yesterday evening, I had a date to go to a meeting of the Christian Stars Shining Bright. I was treated inappropriately. Boys, you know. Seems they have their ritual hazing, like an initiation, which I found offensive.”
“I’ve always found the eating flesh, drinking blood a bit disturbing myself,” Casey interjected.
Amaretto narrowed her eyes at Brigantine, Brigantine waving her off with a shake of the head.
“Christian Caroline struck me as an asshole,” Amaretto said.
“Language, Apple,” Carol warned.
“Sorry. Fucking asshole.”
“Apple, really?” Carol said.
“This is it, then?” Amaretto asked the ceiling. “This is what we’re going to do?”
“What do you mean?” Casey asked.
“Yes, Apple,” Candice answered, her tone abnormally sharp, retaking her chair.
Amaretto held Candice’s eyes, removing her gloves. “Okay. Fine by me.”
“My god, Apple,” Casey said with wide eyes. “What happened to your hands?”
“Nothing, Case.” She looked to Brigantine. “Nothing at all.”
“But –” Casey began.
“I still wish to find out about God,” Candice cut in. “I’m not going to allow one bad experience influence what I think.”
Amaretto bit her lip, counting to ten. “Assuming, Abby, that God is some sort or animated, cognitive, self-aware entity living just outside our normal awareness, what makes you think a group of mostly boys and a few girls can tell you about this being?”
“What the fuck’s you do, Apple? Eat a dictionary?” Casey asked.
“Language, Case,” she answered, watching Abby.
“I didn’t follow any of that, Apple.”
“God, being a spiritual being, Abby,” October said, “Maybe people don’t have the answer you’re looking for.”
“Assuming, Ockie. Assuming,” Amaretto corrected.
“Assuming god is a spiritual being, blah, blah.”
“This is why I have to find a group of people,” Candice said, frustrated.
“You’re looking for something that doesn’t exist,” October countered.
“How do you know, Ockie, I mean really, really know?”
“Don’t be an idiot, Abby,” Casey said, standing, indicating his face with his hands. “I’m proof there is no God.”
“Don’t be an asshole, Case,” Amaretto warned. “You only prove how angry with God you are. Ironically, the God you claim not to believe in.”
“Apple!” October shouted from across the table.
“Don’t even think about it, Case,” Brigantine warned, noticing Casey’s clenched fists.
“That’s the thing! That’s the thing!” Candice said, much too excited. “I think most people who claim not to believe in God, really do, just like Apple just said.”
Apple stood, glancing at Casey, Casey off to her right. “I’m sorry you’re an asshole, now sit down.”
Casey sat, chuckling. “Don’t go around telling everyone I’m an asshole. I like to see the surprise on their faces when they discover it for themselves.”
“Abby, close your eyes,” Amaretto said. “Now, imagine if you will an animating force, energy, that makes up all things. If we go down to the atomic level, we see electrons spinning about nuclei. Spinning, spinning, spinning. All things are made of this. Collectively, this force could be called God.”
Candice opened her eyes. “But –”
“We fell from the trees some three to four million years ago. I imagine since about three minutes after that, human beings being so full of themselves, have imagined this animating force, the stuff that makes up all things as a projection of themselves.”
“Anthropomorphize, it’s called,” Brigantine said. “We tend to want to see things, like animals, as we see ourselves. I guess if you have a spiritual being, or assume a spiritual being, then we’d have to make it human, like us, but with superpowers.”
Candice twisted her face. “You’re saying people just sit down and make God up?”
“Pretty much,” Brigantine answered.
“No,” Amaretto corrected.
“No?” Brigantine challenged.
“Do you think Hank woke up one day and decided to put a bag over your head and take you out into the woods?”
“Of course not.”
“It was done to him.”
“He didn’t say, but that’d be my guess.”
“Markus and Fisher don’t wake up one morning and decide to cover each other’s asses, do you think?”
“Markus is trolling for Ockie-likes. The system covers for him. Fisher obviously gets a hard dick from abusing power. The system covers for him. Some boys somewhere gang rape in a church basement in the name of God, and oh, look, boys will be boys. No, Brig. It’s all about tradition and the authority that defends the tradition.”
“You’re really losing me,” Candice admitted.
“Sorry, Abby. Getting off track. Brig and I will take it outside later. You want to find God, Abby? The Christian God? Read the Bible.”
“The Christian God?”
“Tradition of authority,” Amaretto repeated. “The belief gets handed down across the generations.”
“And,” Brigantine added, “If the belief isn’t challenged, some guy might bag his daughter and punch the shit out of her, thinking he’s doing good. What-a-good-boy-am-I! he gets to say.”
Amaretto smiled. “That’s about it.”
October hurried from the table, answering a knock on the door.
“Sorry to bother you,” Officer Kyle Penrose said to October. “I have a report that someone took a cab from this house last night in the late evening.”
“What’s this about?” October asked.
“There was a break in near where, by the description, you were dropped off.”
Amaretto appeared over October’s shoulder. With a little wave of her hand, she said, “This is not the droid you are looking for.”
Kyle crossed his eyes. “Right, this is not the droid I am looking for. What happened to your hand?”
“I’m okay. Thanks for stopping by.”
October closed the door. “Apple, that was fricking weird.”
Amaretto shrugged, turning. “I’m going to bed.”
“Do you know what happened to Apple’s hands?” Brigantine asked, walking hand-in-hand with Candice.
“She got burned, no big deal,” Candice answered. “I can’t believe how stupid I was.”
“He is a pretty boy.”
“You think I’d be so shallow as to fall for someone’s looks?”
“That’s not what I meant. He certainly has a pretty face, but he’s a good salesman, too.”
“Apple called him a predator.”
“That certainly fits.”
“It wasn’t about his face or his flattery, you know that, right?”
“He’s the president of that Christian group. I can’t believe I was so stupid. Really, I did like that guy.”
“I’d say you liked what he presented to you.”
“You guys always split hairs like that.”
“I don’t have a problem being accurate.”
“It’s annoying, sometimes.”
Brigantine stopped, looking down on Candice. “You do know you’re my best friend.”
“Yes, Brig, I know that.”
Brigantine cupped Candice’s face. “You do know I love you.”
“What are you trying to say, Brig?” she asked, caught in Brigantine’s eyes.
“I thought my English was pretty clear.” Lifting Candice’s face, Brigantine placed her lips on Candice’s briefly, meaningfully. “You’re my best friend and I love you.”
They continued walking.
“I like boys, Brig.”
“So do I, I guess. Your point?”
“I think you just confused me.”
“Apple told me.”
“What she did?”
“Eh, no. What happened to you. What did Apple do?”
“She didn’t tell you anything?”
“She said you where sexually assaulted by many attackers. She wanted to tell me, and took it upon herself to tell me, because she thought she should talk me down off the ledge.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Well, if I learned you were attacked by a bunch of boys, I’d be out to kick some ass – jump off the ledge. Apple managed to talk me out of a blind rage.”
“That’s it, Brig. That’s what she did. I was in a really dark place. I wanted to cry, I wanted to kill, I wanted to die. Apple talked me off the ledge.”
“How’d she burn herself?”
“I don’t understand it, but she did that for me.”
Brigantine smiled to herself.
Amaretto leaned over the dresser, close to the mirror, working her mascara.
“I can see your underwear,” October said from her bed.
Amaretto caught her eye in the reflection. “Do you like what you see?”
She shrugged, replacing the cap. “Nothing like a solid four hours sleep.”
“You scared me last night.”
“Best you avoid religion, then.”
“Apple, it took me some time to digest it, to understand what you did. I do the same thing, you know.”
“The forehead thing, sure. Just not as dynamic. Abby needed a hard kick in the side of the head.”
“I knew that, too. I almost put my fingers through her cheeks. Do you really think I’m afraid of the fire?”
“Made you scream like a little girl and run away.”
“I wanted to get the garden hose.”
“No. I don’t think you’re afraid and that’s a problem. You want to suck the darkness out of everyone and your really have no idea what the darkness is all about.”
“I do understand, Apple. Just because I’m not all doom and gloom because of it, don’t discount me.”
Amaretto turned, leaning against the dresser, watching down on October. “I never discount you, Ockie. Ever.”
“You did last night, at the fire.”
“That was for Abby. I had to isolate her one-on-one, so she’d give me her attention. Like if you went forehead-to-forehead –”
“With someone and you were tapping on their shoulder.”
“I guess I could have said to you, don’t take it personal, but I was too busy at the time to consider your feelings.”
“I see that now. Did you really need to pick up the fire like that?”
Amaretto shrugged. “Maybe not, but it was pretty cool.”
October stood, taking Amaretto’s hand, looking. “Does it hurt?”
“Do you mind I stink of cigarettes?”
October looked up, Amaretto in her three-inch heeled boots, into Amaretto’s dark eyes. “Not on you, Apple. Others, yes, but not you.” She took the hair ring in her free hand. “I should make one from your hair.”
“I’ll make you one when I get back.”
“Promise me no fist fights with Casey?”
“Afraid I’ll hurt him?”
“Matter-of-fact. Did you see how quickly Brig got into that?”
“I did, yes. Casey should mind his manners. We’re doing our best to like him, he should go out of his way to return the favor.”
“I’ll have that conversation. He’s not used to having people around where he doesn’t have to wear armor.”
“Must be difficult.” Her sarcasm was not lost. “Are you going to kiss me?”
“I mean, you put yourself in the position.”
Amaretto shrugged. “A kiss for luck, then.” Amaretto leaned down, touching her lips to October’s. “Thanks.”
I’m going to burn this house to the ground, Amaretto thought, gagging on the stench of cigarettes, pot and human filth as she stepped over bodies.
“You owe me! You owe me!” Marvin Beal called, pointing from across the room in the dimness.
“Yeah, Marv, I’m sorry,” she moaned, entering the hall, making for her bedroom, Beal catching up, pushing in, his arm around her waist.
“Uncle Jack,” she said, nodding to the bed.
“Where the fuck have you been?” he bellowed.
“School work. I wanted to say I’m sorry I mouthed off the other day. I was in a mood, you know, woman problems.”
“That’s not going to cut it, Apple,” Morgan said from the other side of Jack, lifting her head.
“You really hurt your mother’s feelings,” Jack told her. “When she’s pissed off, I’m pissed off.”
Amaretto closed her eyes. “Okay. What can I do?”
“For starters, you can come around and give you mother a good kiss,” Jack said.
“A good kiss,” Beal repeated, guiding Amaretto around the bed.
Amaretto ripped free of Beal, dropping dark Hello Kitty to the floor, mounting Morgan over the sheet, her knees to either side, taking Morgan’s face in her hands, lifting, putting her lips on Morgan’s, kneading hard, her tongue working in Morgan’s mouth.
“You taste like bourbon,” Amaretto said, drawing back, watching her mother’s eyes, eyes much like her own. Pretty close to making out with myself, she thought.
“Wow! That’s hot! That’s so fucking hot!” Beal exclaimed.
Amaretto watched up on the night sky, stars teasing through misty clouds, Amaretto sipping bourbon, a tear cutting down her right cheek.
“That was kind of fun.”
“Sure, Morgan.” Amaretto wiped the tear on the back on her hand.
Morgan sat on the lawn chair next to Amaretto, her knees against Amaretto’s leg. “Uncle Jack wanted you to have this.” She tucked two one hundred dollar bills in Amaretto’s camisole.
Amaretto emptied half the glass. “Hundred bucks a load? Last time I took a load in the face, I got five hundred bucks.”
“I did not know that. What’s the big deal, away?”
“I really thought after what I spouted off, Jack was going to kill me. I mean, really kill me, burying me in the Pines. That I don’t take the load, that I don’t do bareback is the only thing that gives me something to bargain with.”
“Uncle Jack wouldn’t do that.”
“We can hope.” She drained her glass. “I tell you, Morgan. Having to fuck Beal is bad enough, but taking his load in my face is beyond humiliating, which I think is the point.”
“They get off on humiliating us.”
“I like it, always have, something about their love spilling all over me that’s just hot, you know.”
“You’re a better kisser than Uncle Jack.”
“My mother would be proud.”
“Would you consider clearing the house?”
“Kick everyone out, for a couple months, anyway, so I can scrub every inch of the place.”
“How do you think I pay the bills?”
Amaretto considered the stars. “Let me look at the books. I bet I could cover the bills.”
“Blowing Uncle Jack?”
“Fuck, no. You and I can spend some down time together.”
“Oh, you little slut. You want me to yourself.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fuck, no, to that, too, Morgan. Do you have any idea how creepy it is for me to fuck you?”
“I thought you were more open minded than that, Apple. Just because I’m a girl –”
Deep breath. “Because you’re my mother, Morgan.”
Morgan took Amaretto’s hand. “What happened?”
“Got burned, no big deal.”
“Did you see a doctor?”
“Nothing pusy or infected. It’ll heal.” She looked at her mother. “I’m not staying.”
“I told you I wanted you home by tonight.”
“That’s before Jack and Marv blew their loads in my face. I’m going back to October’s for awhile. You have plenty of people to keep you company, pay your bills and fuck you.”
“None that kiss as good as you.”
That just broke my creep-o-meter.