ATWD – Chapter 003

All That We Dreamt ~ On Fire

 

Derrick And Elise

 

1. Derrick

 

Derrick sat at his desk at the window in his room. Wait a minute, he snarled to himself. It wasn’t his room. Everything in this house was a history lesson.

His room? It had been his grandfather’s room. His father still called it his father’s room. His desk? That had been an extra credit project for an architecture student whose family had suffered tragedy during one of the world wars and his studies had suffered. So great-grandfather had him design a simple built-in desk for his grandfather’s room to prove to himself, and the faculty, that this student deserved his degree, even if he had failed a couple crucial exams. The window had been somebody else’s project. His grandfather had gone off in a drunken rage and blamed the window that had been there for being ugly. He had a favourite student redesign the window, throw in some leaded diamonds and a bit of subtle stained glass filigree It could be Derrick’s favourite window in the house, but it wasn’t his window, it was his grandfather’s.

His father had a story for every object in the house. And his father wasn’t even a History Professor. He was a Drama Professor, part of the English department.

He was also an absentee father, spent most of his time in Washington State, where the Drama department kept promising him a deanship and kept luring him back out there for one more project, one more production, one more year. At least that was the official story.

And now that Derrick was almost sixteen years old, rumours of a different ‘story’, – possibly ‘closer to the truth’ were filtering back home, and when the wrong people didn’t know Derrick could hear them, those rumours filtered through his ears.

He’d been encouraged to admit he was gay for liking that window. The filigree was a realistic representation of ivy- maybe a little too artistic to be real ivy, but still- And nobody wanted to believe he wasn’t gay to begin with. Nobody but his sister, who snarled and stuck her tongue out at anybody and everybody, and especially Derrick and would say, “NO- Derrick isn’t sensitive enough to be gay- he’s just weird-” And his mother, who’d caught him after he discovered his uncle’s secret old stash of Playboy Magazines, going back to Issue One, and could not hide his arousal before she noticed that- Mom knew about the rumours and while she didn’t quite approve of him staring at naked centerfolds, she sighed with resignation and told him to keep them well hidden and under no circumstances allow his sister to know they even exist-

And keeping things hidden was a large part of the reason this was Derrick’s favourite window in the house. And his favourite desk. The desk had secret compartments in every one of its drawers. His grandfather had hidden his ‘booze’ there, after his ‘tea-totaling’ grandmother had discovered several other hiding places and smashed a lot of bottles.

Derrick kept two of his ‘secret’ notebooks under the false bottom of the wide pull out drawer that was in the center of the desk, center of the window- And the reason Derrick had ‘needed’ a high seat, modeled after a bar stool, with a low back- was the fact that this had been a writing desk, not designed for a laptop computer, or a tablet- and while Derrick was approaching six feet tall as a fifteen year old, justifying a laptop on that desk without reaching far enough to cause continual back aches, He’d asked for a higher chair and Mom found one- in a second-hand store she made him promise to describe as an antique dealer, half way to Niagara Falls, where mom, the Dean of the Creative Writing Program at a prestigious university that wasn’t widely known for having a lot of famous Creating Writing students with notable success- The most famous writers and there were quite a few, had come from other departments, Fine Arts- History- African-American Studies, Women’s Studies, even a Veterinarian and a Mathematician, and two Doctors- but no one was sure the Doctors counted because Pre Med was here, in Ithaka, and the Medical School was way the heck down in New York City.

Today, being the last Sunday before school started up for soon to be sixteen year old high school students whose mothers insisted against private schools and alternative schools and especially home schooling – Derrick had gone to his desk, snarled at all the memories of his father explaining that no, it was not his desk- and pulled the secret notebooks out from under the false bottom in the cleanest drawer in the room – and he planned to write something private in the smaller notebook he had open on top of the larger one that was also open on the built-in desk. And both of the notebooks were on top of a ‘Coffee Table’ sized book full of full colour, almost dazzling photos of world-class examples of Architecture that his Great Grandfather had not written, – That his Grandfather had not had somebody ghost write for him, but did praise several of both men’s best students and did mention that his Great Grandfather, as quoted by Frank Lloyd Wright, was one of the keenest minds in modern Architecture. But the quote went on to  wonder why he remained in academia instead of venturing out into the real world and causing the kind of ripples that Frank was famous for.

Derrick could forget for a few moments that his great-grandfather had designed and built this house to show off his designing and building skills. It was one of the houses at the university (Just outside the security checkpoints) that every architecture student had to tour and critique.

But of course, once he’d opened the notebook, he had to sit there and g roan and remember the history lessons his father would never let him forget.

Page One of this smaller notebook had scrawled in large letters three lines tall: “Yes, this is my room. Yes, this is my desk, Yes I like this window because it faces the back yard and I don’t have to worry about anybody staring in at me while I sit here.”

 

 

He turned to the first blank page in this notebook and picked up his pen. But before he could begin to write anything there was a knock at his door.

“Derrick? Are you dressed?” it was his mother’s voice.

Instead of trying to think of a snappy comeback, he closed his notebooks, stashed them beneath the desk drawer’s false bottom, centered the coffee table book on the top of the desk where his ‘homework only’ laptop would be soon –  and grabbed a magazine from the left side of the desk, opened to photos of the French countryside, turned toward the door and answered, “Yeah- I’ve been up for a couple of hours-”

“Can I come in?”

He frowned, “Yeah, come on in-”

The door knob turned, the door opened, his mother, dressed like she had an interview at office, took one step inside, “I got a call from your Aunt Kaylie, they’re in town and they’re on their way here, should be here in less than ten minutes.”

Derrick closed his magazine and stared blankly at the cover, “Why are they here?”

His mother didn’t quite smirk at his reaction, “Your cousins spent last month at their other grandparents’ camp, up at the lake- And they’re on their way back home.”

He winced. His cousin, Gretchen, almost a year younger than he was, might have been his best and closest friend in this world. But he wasn’t going to let even his mother know that.

Derrick was dressed in lightweight, faded, but not cut-off – jeans and a new-ish dark blue tee-shirt with a pocket. He hopped down from the bar stool and took the extra effort to jam his bare feet into a pair of shoes that looked like up-scale deck shoes, and not the ones his status conscious grandmother had insisted on buying him.

His mother managed a grin when he wasn’t looking. She saw her son using twice as much energy as it would take to simply bend down and pull the shoes on with his hands instead of struggling to wiggle his feet into them.

But then he hopped sideways and raised one foot to where he could insert his finger and run it along behind his heel to straighten the back of the shoe. And, with that shoe finished, he raised the other foot to perform a similar operation with that shoe.

She waited until he was in front of her to shake her head and grin about her son’s priorities.

Derrick’s sister, Annie, was at the breakfast bar, on a “real bar stool” with no back when they reached the kitchen. The ‘formal dining room’ was spotless, as usual, being a department head, his mother had a budget for maid service, but the maid would only clean the seldom used guest bathroom and the dining room and the library and the absentee father’s office. The first thing she’d said when she arrived with the  slip of paper in hand that identified her as the contracted maid service’s bonded and approved maid was, “I don’t do windows-” Derrick wasn’t sure why – but that phrase had convinced him that she was a hopeless parrot who couldn’t think for herself and he’d made a mental note to lock his room on cleaning days.

But there was Annie – nine years old, trying to look like an eighteen year 0ld, with all her expressions and gestures copied from a teevee show about mean girls in a snooty California neighborhood, “Well, if it isn’t my gay brother – how are you today sweetie?” She’d probably practiced that at a mirror until she got the mocking tone of voice and evil glare just right.

Derrick almost laughed.

“You talk like that when your cousins get here and I will cut your allowance in half-”

“You can’t do that- My father pays my allowance.”

“What on Earth gives you that impression? Your father spends all his money in Washington, and has nothing left over to help support you two- or me-”

That was the first time Derrick had heard his mother complain about their father in front of his sister.

Annie looked shocked. Derrick remembered overhearing her on the phone with one of her mean girl friends, “Myrna said she bets my father has a whole other wife and maybe kids on the west coast that he doesn’t think anybody knows about- He couldn’t do that to me – No – She’s gotta be lying-” And, from the depth of the shock and horror on her face, Annie must be considering that something like that just might be true.

Their mother looked at Derrick, “Have you had any breakfast? We probably won’t have dinner until late, and your cousins are coming here from your Aunt Kaylie’s favorite restaurant-”

Derrick sighed, walked to the refrigerator, grabbed the milk, walked to the cabinet with the cereal, grabbed the box of frosted little wheat squares, set both down near the empty bowl as far from his sister as he could get at the four person ‘breakfast bar’.

Annie rolled her eyes in disgust and got up and left her bar stool, and left her own emptied bowl on the bar.

“Are you forgetting something?” their mother asked Annie, blocking her exit from the kitchen.

“You get a maid, why can’t you get kitchen help?”

Their mother laughed, “Your grandmother would answer that with, ‘We already have kitchen help-‘ and point right at you-”

Annie glared at her mother, “You’re serious? You expect me to-”

Mom nodded.

Annie snarled and stomped her feet all the way back to the bar, grabbed her bowl, and the spoon, and stomped over to the sink where she almost threw the bowl and spoon down, but shuddered and pursed her lips and set them down easy, then picked the spoon back up and raised it a foot above the stainless steel sink and dropped it, smiled about the satisfying ‘clang’ – Then she stomped past her mother and headed for her room.

Derrick waited a couple minutes, and after swallowing his second mouthful of cereal, “Oh, poor Annie – What’s she got to put up with today? Cousin Roger?”

Mom  smiled, “She had planned to go to the mall with Ashley and Magdelaina -”

Derrick grinned, “Somebody named Myrna told Annie she bets Dad has a whole second family on the west coast.”

Mom wrinkled her brow, then – “Oh, Myrna Ashburton – Her father did have a second family – somewhere, I think it was more like New Jersey or something.”

 

Breakfast finished, bowl in the sink, face washed and dried, Derrick heard the SUV’s brakes squeak and the engine grumble into silence, left his room to meet his mother on their way to the front door before the doorbell rang. Annie showed them a ‘bored-half-to-death’ expression and tipped her head to one side, stayed behind them as they opened the door.

Thirteen year old cousin Alex ( a boy ) was standing beside eleven year old Roger at the door. They were both wearing suits, Roger was pulling his tie apart and trying to pull it away from his neck as Alex had already done that. Gretchen stood several feet back, wearing a brown and muted yellow dress with a kind of leafy autumnal forest pattern. Her father was one step in front of her and her mother was beside her, but Gretchen really stood out. The dress looked like silk, or some lightweight man-made fabric that gave the illusion that it was almost opaque. Derrick hoped his eyes hadn’t really popped out of their sockets, and tried to make sure his mouth wasn’t hanging open.

She glanced his way and grinned, then glanced at both of her parents and gave him a dark look that he thought meant, “Don’t say anything, let them believe this is absolute torture for both of us.”

“Why are you so dressed up?” Annie’s eyes sparkled as she looked up at Cousin Alex.

Alex snorted.

Roger finally pulled the tie free from beneath his white shirt’s collar, “Grandma made us get dressed up to go see great grammie at the old people’s home.”

Mom gave her brother a hug and would have hugged Aunt Kaylie, but Kaylie caught mom’s hands and held them firmly to keep her sister-in-law from hugging her, “You didn’t tell me on the phone that Alex was with you-”

Alex rolled his eyes and glared at somebody, Maybe Aunt Kaylie, Maybe Derrick’s mother, maybe everybody there and life in general.

“Yes, oh, Alex is with us -” Aunt Kaylie grinned. “George’s car blew a piston or something and he asked us to pick up Alex while we were going there anyway-”

Alex winced.

Roger sighed and wondered what to do with his tie, now that he’d managed to remove it.

Gretchen looked like she would rather be in Philadelphia.

“We can’t stay for the night- We have to get Alex home and then get home ourselves at a decent hour-” Uncle Mitch yawned and stretched his arms out in the shade of the trees just beyond the Wisteria-covered pergola near the front door.

Derrick wondered why everybody was just standing there, looking so awkward.

“Well, come in, come in -” his mother finally smiled and waved them inside, “Can I get you some juice or lemonade? Or anything?”

Uncle Mitch groaned, “I think I need something a little stronger than lemonade -” he glanced toward Aunt Kaylie, “I think even Kaylie had a hard time dealing with Edna this time.”

Kaylie gave the ‘children’ a glance before nodding, “He kids, why don’t you go play outside or something-” This was the unsubtle Aunt Kaylie that Derrick remembered, sometimes joking and telling her nieces and nephews to go play in traffic ‘or something’.

Mom looked at Derrick, “Derrick, offer them a cold drink from the refrigerator- will you?”

Derrick nodded and led his cousins and sister into the kitchen.

Alex snarled, “No beer?” and looked like he meant it.

Derrick shook his head, “Grandma put a curse on the place beer and alcohol bottles explode by themselves.” he managed to smile at Gretchen who managed a covert smile of her own.

Alex settled for a brand named cola Roger wanted a syrupy orange drink. Annie, who ‘hated’ that brand of cola wanted the same thing that Alex was drinking. Gretchen wanted the canned iced tea, and no, she didn’t need a glass for it. Derrick grabbed the generic bottle of  cold water.

Then Alex, who’d been there once before, led them out the back door and into the very shady back yard. Two large trees, forty feet from the house and another forty feet from each other, almost defined the entire back yard. A twenty feet tall hedge or privacy screen of northern cedar which had been planted as bushes that weren’t supposed to grow taller than six feet – stood looking like a solid line of cypress trees closer to the property’s actual border. Between the ‘hedge’ and one ancient ‘soft maple’ was a pergola that had once been covered in climbing roses, then honey suckle, then been ripped out and later replaced (by another grad student in need of a grade boost) and now covered with non-flowering (non bee-attracting) ivy. This pergola was high enough to allow for the double benched lawn swing that hadn’t been built by a student, but was a gift from Derrick’s maternal grandfather, who was clever with his hands, and hadn’t told anybody ‘important’ – like Derrick’s father? – that it had been entirely constructed from recycled pallet wood. And stressed and stained to look like a treasured antique.

Derrick appreciated the fact that their back yard was almost always five degrees cooler than the world around it. Annie was upset that they didn’t have a ‘real’ swimming pool- just the hot tub that was big enough for eight people, but rarely saw more than one or two, and which almost never saw direct sunlight, being close to the back door and having its own solid wood pergola, more to keep leaves and snow from falling into the water or onto anybody who braved the wild back yard to sit and bubble away in the usually heated glorified jacuzzi.

Annie’s eyes were still sparkling in Alex’s direction, “Is it hot enough to go swimming? Anybody want to go swimming?”

Gretchen looked like she liked that idea, then frowned at Alex and her brother.

Alex pretended he hadn’t heard that- “I meant to ask last time, What’s with all the freakin arbors back here?”

Derrick shrugged, “Uh, we’re supposed to call them ‘pergolas’, and I think ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ magazine praised the ‘innovative use of pergolas’ in a house my great-grandfather designed and had his students build for the newly appointed dean of the school of business administration back more than a hundred years ago. Ya’d think they invented the damned things-”

Annie almost threatened to tell mom, but noticed the grin on Alex’s face and smiled with him.

Alex headed for the lawn swing. Annie tried to get there ahead of him. She sat down where she thought he would sit down beside her and he sat across from her, closed his eyes, winced, and turned his cola bottle up, drained half of it, made a face and then belched. Annie grinned and tried to belch herself. Roger sat beside Annie.

Gretchen frowned and stood beside the stressed and stained two by fours that made up the frame of the swing.

Derrick took a couple steps away from everybody else, took a sip of cold water, turned around, noticed Gretchen looking helpless and wrinkled his forehead.

She frowned and moved her eyes to indicate either Alex or Roger, or both – she looked at least frustrated about something.

Alex leaned way back while Roger made the swing move, an easy enough task, you push with your legs on the stressed and stained ‘deck’ between the two benches. The ‘deck’ was Grandpa Sterling’s word for it. Hand-picked matched pieces of strong wood, sanded, smoothed and spaced too far apart to be a porch floor and too close together to be a fence. Derrick had been fascinated by it when he realized the ‘deck’ remained perfectly parallel with the ground, no matter how hard and fast any kids ever tried to make it move.

Roger would be coming close to even Annie reminding him that this swing was not supposed to move so fast – When Alex groaned and stuck his foot out, dragged it and forced the swing to stop moving, “Uhhh- I don’t feel so good, Do you think I can go lay down somewhere?”

Derrick nodded, “The guest room is all ready, I think Mom thought you guys would be staying over night.”

Annie jumped up, “I’ll show you where it is-”

Derrick had almost taken a step toward the house and Annie nearly knocked him over – He sighed and stepped back, “Better make sure it’s okay with Mom and Uncle Mitch and Aunt Kaylie before you show Alex to the guest room-”

Annie glared at him, but softened and nodded. Roger jumped from the swing’s deck and followed Annie and Alex.

Derrick and Gretchen stood where they had been and watched until The younger kids were all inside the house and Roger had been sent back to make sure the door was closed behind him.

“He should be sick -” Gretchen shuddered, the idiot couldn’t get to any beer, wine or whiskey last night so he drank the juice from three big jars of pickles and pretended to be drunk and slobbered all over me -”

Derrick winced, an older, married man had slobbered all over her once before, and groped her, and tried to do more, but the man was her mother’s boss and when her father had been injured and couldn’t work for over a year, they depended on her mother’s income, and her mother would rather let her boss get drunk and grope Gretchen than chance losing her job. That had actually been the beginning of Gretchen and Derrick becoming close friends and confidants – She knew about the idiots accusing him of being gay, including his sister – and he knew about the assholes who’d groped her and gotten away with it. ‘Derrick-‘ the email had begun, ‘I hope you’re the right person to turn to, I have to tell this to someone – my mother’s freakin boss got drunk and tried to rape me and my mother told me to keep my mouth shut and pretend it never happened. How can I pretend it never happened? I feel sick – I keep thinking I might throw up two or three times a day – I can’t sleep -‘.

She sighed and smiled at the now vacant swing, climbed aboard and sat down.

He climbed aboard and sat facing her.

“All he talked about for the last two weeks was how much fun he had getting drunk a dozen times at places I bet he never went to-” She winced and shook her head.

He leaned forward, hands on his knees, “So he wasn’t there for the whole month?”

She almost snorted, “No, just the worst part of it. I used to love going to my Grandmother’s for a month in the summer, now I think it might have been spoiled forever.”

Derrick leaned back, his eyes nearly closed, looked like he was in pain.

Gretchen leaned forward, her hands on the rounded edge of the bench seat, “Are you still writing stories and poetry? You haven’t sent me anything in over a month.”

He opened his eyes, looked at her, almost leaned forward, eyes straying to the neckline of her dress, “I started a couple things. Nothing I’m proud of – but then I remember you really liked a couple poems I thought nobody would ever think were worth the ink or the paper they were written on- And you were away from your laptop all month -”

“I should have told you – Grandma Edna’s got wi-fi at their campsite. She got hooked on some nasty political moron who is still trying to convince everybody that this world is a conspiracy full of communist atheists who want to kill everybody and rape their corpses- ” She realized he was trying not to gaze at her neckline and covered her chest with her hand.

“You’re covered-” he closed his eyes as he nodded.

She grinned, “Grandma Edna bought me this dress because she saw ‘the actress who played the Harry Potter girl wizard’ wearing something like it somewhere on the internet.”

“Hermione?”

She nodded.

“How can she be so politically insane and like Hermione? You know the actress is standing up for women’s rights and women’s equality issues?”

She grinned as she nodded, “I know- but she doesn’t – or if she does – she – I don’t know – Grandma Edna has several loose screws in her head.” Gretchen laughed.

Derrick nodded, “I usually wonder why anybody would wear a dress. Like who the hell ever decided that guys should wear ties? But you really look good in that-”

She almost blushed, almost smiled, “Are you going out with that friend of yours? Or are you still just friends?”

He almost laughed, shrugged, “Two weeks ago she told me she seriously thinks she’s a natural born Lesbian because guys are such jerks. The other night she wanted to know if I would kiss her, just so she’d know what it was like-”

Gretchen did laugh, “Did you?”

He nodded.

“Did she like it?”

He shrugged, “She kept asking if I would try variations, like French Kissing?”

“And did you?”

He nodded.

“Did you like it?”

He shrugged, then nodded, “She grabbed my hand and put it on her breast, then actually dragged my hand up under her blouse and inside her bra and then she got upset with me when I. um -” he shrugged and looked away. But he looked back and looked into her eyes to guess whether he should actually continue- “When I got aroused-”

She closed her eyes, winced, shuddered, looked worried, looked hurt – opened her eyes, but kept them focused downward.

“Sorry-”

She did raise her eyes, and smiled, then looked right into him, “I didn’t tell you about a dream I had that you and I got married. I don’t think it was this life, I think it might have been in a previous life or something. I dreamt that somebody told me I was going to drive you to seek out loose women if I continued to be afraid to make love with you.” She looked really serious – “So I woke up and I thought about that – I thought that you would be about the only guy I know that I really trust, who I thought would treat me like you thought I was a human being with valid hopes and dreams and my own ideals and stuff – And I didn’t know I had fallen back to sleep, I went looking for you to tell you I wanted to make love with you? And I caught with some blond haired floosy who was – um – well – performing oral sex on you?”

They both stared at each other, looked worried, looked frightened.

“I don’t think I know any blond haired floosies-” he said.

She burst into laughter, “You look so freakin serious – Gawd!” she looked down again, “Besides, we’re cousins- it’s against the law -” she looked up again, “Dammit!”

He turned very pale, blinked a couple times and shuddered, “Wow – I think you just set my head on fire – I mean, I could feel like – almost paralyzed and then something shot up my spine and I almost thought I might faint- Wow.”

She closed her eyes and looked  like she could burst into tears, then shook her head, opened her eyes and looked through him again, “I don’t know, maybe we should never be this honest with anybody – but you probably saved my life by being there and being sympathetic. I really thought about killing myself.”

He swallowed, nodded, “I will always be here for you – I’d steal a police care and come get you even I knew there was a 99% chance I’d get caught and tossed into jail – if you called up or sent me an email message in the middle of the night and said, “help – I’m getting suicidal thoughts again-”

“I know you would, you love me – you never said so, but you’ve proven it a hundred times – ”

He suddenly realized they were moving, they were pushing the swing back and forth, slowly, but pushing it, he watched a sudden breeze raise a lock of her hair and watched a bit of her neckline catch the same breeze.

She smiled at his smile.

They stared at each other, through each others’ eyes for at least five minutes.

“Does your mother know you want to be a writer when you grow up?” She asked, still smiling into his soul, he could feel that.

He tried to shake his head without blinking, without looking away from her eyes, “How many lectures a day do you think I could handle about the structure of the novel or things like ‘A true novel conveys the author’s complete philosophy of life’  I’d never write anything, it could never be good enough. I’d always be a liability to the world’s greatest authority on creative writing-”

“Write for me, then, I love everything you send me-”

There was a sound somewhere near them and Annie cackled, “Staring each other down? Who’s winning?”

Gretchen made the gesture, “Time out-” then turned to Annie, “I was winning, I knew it- ”

“Oh, sorry – Alex threw up. Mom wants to know if you want to come to the clinic with us. There kind of isn’t enough room in either vehicle for all of us. Mom’s on the phone to uncle George – Uncle George took a selfie of Alex’s health insurance card and Mom’s smart phone is the only one that works right now.”

“Oh – We’ll be okay – ”

“Alex said he tried to get drunk on pickle juice and might have done something to get you really upset, and he’s hoping you won’t want to come with us, because that would make him feel worse -”

Gretchen nodded. “We’ll be okay here-”

“What are you talking about?”

“Poetry-”

“Oh God! Well, you can trust him, everybody knows he’s gay-” Annie cackled and ran back to the house.

Derrick clamped his eyes shut, let his head hang straight down and shook it in disbelief.

Gretchen laughed, almost helplessly until she finally regained control.

The two of them got up, climbed off the swing in different directions, then walked toward the back door –

Derrick’s mother opened the door as he reached for the doorknob, “Oh good, Alex told us he thinks he might have alcohol poisoning, I doubt it, you can’t get alcohol poisoning from pickle juice. But he’s got severe cramps and he’s vomited twice- luckily he made it to the bathroom – I know I can trust you two -” she shook her head and gave that a short laugh, “Is your phone charged?” she asked Derrick.

Derrick nodded.

“Good, keep it near you – lock the doors, I have a key – I can monitor the security cameras from my cell – I have no idea how long this is going to take – but – you’ll know as soon as I know anything – ” She kissed Derrick’s cheek and Gretchen’s forehead, turned around and almost ran through the house. She was the last one out the front door and into Mitch’s SUV.

Gretchen walked up to the screen door that was outside the steel front door and stood there, arms crossed in front of her, with Derrick almost out of sight behind her.

Uncle Mitch caught a glimpse of her as he was about to back out onto the street and took a split second to wave.

She waved back.

Mitch smiled and then turned all his attention to the back up camera and shot several glances through the windows behind him before he did back out, stop, turn the wheel, sort of raise his hand in a near wave and started off down the street.

Gretchen locked the screen door. Then she stepped back and let Derrick close the front door, “How do you lock it?”

He showed her.

“You’ve got security cameras?”

He nodded, “The university paid for them. Four of them, not exactly state of the art – One has a view of the driveway from the garage to the street- One is on the utility pole out there, and covers the front of the house. The third is down that side of the house and the fourth is out in the front yard, disguised as a solar night-light.”

“Does that make you feel safe? Or weird?”

He nodded, “Weird. Because anybody in the security office at the school can spy on us any time, night or day. They set it up, they have the passwords. And of course, anybody who wanted to get away with anything could merely cause a blackout and all the cameras would be worthless.”

Gretchen backed up against the locked front door, “I don’t believe they left us alone like that. Don’t you hate it when they say something like, ‘I know we can trust you’?” she drew a nervous breath and looked like she very much wanted to be kissed.

He smiled, nodded, “Want a hug?”

She nodded.

They reached around each other and hugged as completely as they knew how. Her arms were around his neck and his were around her back at shoulder-blade height.

She let go, brought her arms back from around his neck.

He started to step back, she reached out and caught him by a belt loop, tugged him toward her, reached around his back, one arm reached up behind his shoulders the other circled his waist and pulled him completely against her.

After several minutes like that she let her upper arm down and slid both hands behind his butt and clutched, reached up with her mouth and almost got a chance to say, “Kiss me you fool-” but just managed to move her lips a fraction of a millimeter before he did kiss her. She squeezed his butt with her hands and nodded. He moved his hands toward her bum, hesitated. She nodded again, moved her mouth away from his just far enough to gasp, “Yes-”

And then she gasped, pressed and moved enough to let him release her bum long enough to adjust himself. Then she pulled him against her again. Then she moved his hands back to her bum. She opened her mouth enough to move her tongue into his mouth, then opened wide enough when he took the hint to let his tongue into her mouth.

He pulled her bum toward his crotch, he drove his tongue deeply into her mouth- He thought she was enjoying the hell out of that- but she shook her head and pushed back, “No – not so rough,” she smiled with her eyes sparkling, “You’re going to choke me for goodness sakes -” Then she covered his hands which had almost let go of her bum, and held them in place.

“What I couldn’t tell anybody, what I could hardly admit to myself, was, the asshole that groped me, he grabbed my – you call it ‘bum’ don’t you?”

He nodded, “It’s a Canadian thing, My mom is like, half Canadian.”

She nodded, grabbed him by his bum, “I really liked the way that felt. Everything else was pure hell, but that felt wonderful – and I thought, no wonder so many women become sluts -”

He looked worried.

“Oh, sensitive guys are the most dangerous-” She reached up to his face, didn’t quite pull his mouth to hers, but guided it, then reached behind his bum again.

They kissed deeply and passionate, pressing and pushing below the hips. He felt dizzy, he wondered how far this could actually go when she sighed and stepped back, “I don’t want to get this dress all wrinkled and messed up.”

He grimaced and winced, stepped back, figured that was all they would do, but thought, hey, that was great.

“Is there a really safe place here? Where we can hug and kiss and know when they get back from the emergency room?” Her eyes danced as she could see that he was probably feeling as good as she felt.

He nodded, “There’s an office where mom keeps the security cam controller box locked up, but I know the passwords too, we can turn on my laptop and log in and watch from any room in the house.”

“How about your room? I remember being really impressed when you showed me the built-in desk and the bookcases and I thought your bed was cool, with the drawers beneath it-”

He nodded, “My laptop’s in there-”

She nodded, “Okay- let’s go there-”

He remembered the countless times his mother told him his room smelled like a locker room. He really hoped this wouldn’t be one of those times.

He reached back and took her hand and led her around the kitchen and down the hall and around the corner, and pushed his door open.

She stood there and looked slightly scared, let go of his hand.

He winced, but made sure he was looking away from her when he did, guessed one more faux pas or missed cue or something meant she had seen something that completely changed her mind, but he inhaled through his nose, and no- he didn’t think it smelled like a locker room.

“It hasn’t changed-” she said, “except you have a different bedspread.”

He looked at her and could not read her expression to save his life. She might have been fascinated, she might have been horrified, she might have short circuited her brain or she might be wallowing in a deep ocean of lust – she showed no emotion, until she turned, threw her arms around his neck again, and hug there with her mouth against his – “Come into my bedroom said the spider to the fly -” she nodded and backed into his room, pulled him in after her. Until she sat back on his mattress. just sat there, pulled him between her legs, looked up and gazed with what he guessed had to be lust, then blinked and cleared her face of all clues once again, “But don’t think this means you can just go all the way with me and I’ve already said yes to that – She shook her head – “You let me decide how far we can go. Do you have any, um, you know -?”

He shook his head, “Any what?”

She looked crestfallen, “Prophylactics?” she glowered at the floor.

He nodded.

She brightened, “You do? Okay, but that still doesn’t mean yes -” She slid sideways on the bed and jumped up, turned around, “Can I watch you -” She laughed, “Can I watch you set up your laptop?”

He nodded, reached down, pulled one of the big wide drawers beneath his mattress out. There were several nicely folded blankets, a comforter, a couple different bedspreads and two of his mother’s odor eating dryer sheets visible there. He reached beneath his brown and gold bedspread and pulled his laptop bag out from hiding.

He plugged the charger with its long cord into a socket that was part of the circuit plugged into the UPS system that would give every electronic gizmo plugged into it about ten to thirty minutes of life if a black out or power glitch shut down or messed up the whole area.

One odd thing. He realized he hadn’t paid any attention to what shoes she was wearing and now, as she stood behind him at his desk, he glanced down and saw her bare feet. He shot a quick glance back toward the door and saw the pair of white moccasins she had told him she liked so much. He smiled and looked into her eyes.

She beamed back, glanced back, saw her moccasins, turned and smiled, “I had to wear those stupid, ‘sensible’ leather shoes to the rest home. Couldn’t wait to get away from there and put these on, they’re my favorites-”

He smiled again, almost forgot what he was doing.

But there – the computer started up, said it had 89% of a full battery charge and was charging, and he clicked the right icons, entered the right account name and password and the screen turned black then divided itself into four sections and showed them what all four cameras were seeing.

Gretchen shivered, “We’re safe – I feel like a conspiracy – like we’re using their technology against them.”

He blinked. He might have had just enough time to look like he was forming a question.

“You’re supposed to ask me who ‘They’ are -” she giggled.

“Which ‘they’ are you referring to, my dear?”

“Oh, don’t ever call me that – It sounds so phony.” she shuddered, “May I?- ” and reached out, touched his laptop and turned it and angled the screen just right, grabbed his hand and pulled him back toward his bed.

-This can’t be happening. I’m dreaming, or worse. I got hit by lightning and this is my final hallucination as my brain is dying – But the look in her eyes was more than worth it. – I’ll take it – Can I live in this dream forever? If so, there must be a God. And He or She really does love me. –

Gretchen backed up against mattress again, reached behind him, one hand on his bum, the other behind his heart, pulled him against her while she raised her mouth to his and loved the way his hands went right to her bum- oh yes, this is perfect.

But-

She pushed him back. Then back some more. She stood up, “I can’t get this dress all freakin messed up -” She sighed and looked around.

He sighed and felt like he could collapse on the floor or go bang his head against a wall until he lost consciousness.

She turned around and pointed to the zipper that was down just above where a bra strap would be. This dress was amazingly sexy, “Unzip me – Dahlink-” she tried to sound like Natasha from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show. One Christmas, when they were several years younger and the whole family was at his Maternal Grandmother’s ‘old hacienda’ for the weekend, the bored kids were dragged into the basement playroom and sat down in front of a huge old pre-flat-panel console teevee and shown how to work the old VHS tapes and treated to hours of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which had amused either his mother and her father or their parents, or all of the above immeasurably. When that day was over they could all quote the same stupid jokes their parents loved.

His fingers really trembled when he touched the zipper.

“Oh, come on, don’t tease me to death, don’t give me time to change my mind. Where’s your cell? Is that your phone?”

Derrick pulled the zipper down all the way, hopped across the room to his dresser, where the phone was buzzing and moving around between rings. He recognized his mother’s name and number and pushed the green telephone symbol, “Hello?”

“Hi Derrick, this is your mother, We’ve been here about ten minutes. I just finished giving them all the information I could and then put your uncle George on the phone with them for the rest. Alex coughed up some blood into a steel tray somebody found when he looked like he was going to vomit again, and they took him right into one of the examination rooms. The nurse said she might need my phone to talk to George if it looks like they need his permission for anything serious. How are you guys doing?”

He focused on Gretchen, “Um, We’re okay, a little worried, but- we’re okay, thank you for keeping us informed -” he winced at how stupid that sounded to him, but Gretchen had just folded her dress and hung it on a hanger in his closet and turned around – She was standing there in a white strapless bra, that might have been a boob lifter, but gawd! and the underpants were about as sexy as they could get without actually crossing the line into being  a thong-

“Is Gretchen right there? Where are you?”

“We’re in the kitchen- Gretchen said she always gets thirsty in a crisis-”

Gretchen grinned at him.

“Is she right there with you? Did she hear this?”

“Want me to hand her the phone?” he turned it sideways.

“Yeah, I’m right here -” She beamed as she realized he had taped over the selfie camera with a bit of black tape.

“Did you hear what I just told Derrick?”

“Alex is coughing up blood, they took him right into one of the rooms and you’ve been on the phone to uncle George?”

“Yes, you heard, okay, Derrick has me on speed dial, I thought they would make me turn this off inside the facility, but they said, no- they have electronics that won’t be interfered with by a smart phone-”

“Are you hanging up?”

“Yes, we might need all the power I have left and I didn’t bring the charger with me-”

“Tell everybody I love them- ” She nodded, somberly.

“Me too-” he nodded in sync with her.

“Okay, I’ll do that, keep your cell close, good-bye for now-”

“Good bye-” he saw the ‘call ended’ legend and turned it off on his end anyway, let her take him by his arm and pull him toward his bed, where he set the phone face down on his bedside table beside the old plug-in radio, which he turned on low, so they could barely hear the classical music, and he turned on the electric lamp with its old style bulb, right over the phone, with its main camera, covered by two bits of black tape, facing up.

She looked like she wanted to know why he did that.

“If any hackers try to hack into the phone that radio station, which is the only one this radio gets, will make it impossible for them to hear anything but the music and a lot of static. The stupid old light bulb is supposed to disrupt any microwave smart meter type attempts to hack into this room and know anything about anything going on in here.”

“You’re kidding?”

He shook his head, “No – that radio program I told you about – said so, of course, they could be lying –  But I don’t think so. He grinned at his phone, gave it the finger, “Eff off surveillance state -”

She giggled.

He looked at her. Looked with the feeling that she was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen, maybe even imagined.

She shrugged, “I have a bathing suit that shows more than this-”

He swallowed, “Good thing you’re not wearing that – I’d die from the eyestrain -”

She winced, shook her head, then beamed at him, looked at him, looked at the bed, looked at her dress in the closet which was close enough to get there in two quick and silent hops and she could be back in her dress in less than ten seconds.

“Should I get – um – at least partially undressed?”

She hopped up on the bed, leaned forward, almost spilled out of the bra – smiled, “No -” then beckoned, stood up, reached for his belt, undid the belt, unsnapped, unzipped, pushed down and stepped back, smiled, “I always guessed you’d either be in tighty whities or no underwear at all.”

His underwear was the tighty style, but two-tone blue. And he definitely was bulging in there, almost popping out.

She stepped forward, looking cautiously into his eyes as she did, “I had girlfriends who told me about their ‘I won’t tell if you don’t tell encounters with friends’ brothers and relatives, and I felt kind of left out, would you think I was less than human if I asked if it was okay for me to take a little look inside your pants?”

He shook his head, “You have my permission -” he blinked and almost laughed, but she stepped forward, gingerly put two index fingers inside his underpants, brought her thumbs against those index fingers, tugged very gently and almost jumped back when it flopped out, not quite throbbing, but hard as he’d ever felt it.

She looked fascinated, “Oh my- I feel like you’re already inside me with that -” she looked worried for a moment, eyes showing a range of conflicting emotions, or at least sending a range of conflicting half messages – “Can I tell you a huge family secret? Something my mother promised to kill me if anybody every finds out? I’m not your cousin – My mother was almost a month pregnant when she met your uncle. She suspected, but he never guessed – They got it on on their second date and everybody thought I was born a week early, but I was like, three weeks late?” She kept looking up at his eyes and back at his penis – “Do you hate me?”

He shook his head, slowly, “Of course not -”

“This still doesn’t mean You can screw my eyes out without my expressed permission and -” her eyes were still flashing up and down, looking into eyes and gasping at his – “What do you call it?” she asked, “I mean do you have a pet name for it or anything?”

He almost laughed, “I call it a lot of things, maybe Oglethorpe is the funniest-”

She giggled, eyes still dancing up and down, sparkling a little more now than before, “Oglethorpe?”

“Yeah, he’s like not too bright but he’s curious as hell – I keep trying to tell him not to get me into too much trouble and he just kind of grins at everything and never says a word.”

She grinned, then sighed, looked down, never tried to put Oglethorpe back inside his pants, looked frustrated, “I really REALLY want to go all the way with you, right here, right now, but we can’t. My mother will know, my father will know, your mother will know, just by looking at us. -” She frowned and winced, “Can I touch it?”

He nodded.

She touched it with one finger.

“Oh, go ahead and hold it with your whole hand if you want. I think he would really like that.”

She grinned and kept her eyes focused on Oglethorpe as she surrounded him with her right hand.

Derrick nodded, “He likes it, he likes it.”

She looked slightly perplexed, “Should I – um, do anything, like -” she motioned with her left hand.

“Oh, be careful, he’s sensitive, I don’t know what would hurt and what might get him so excited he’ll squirt all over the room, all over you, all over anything.”

Her hand was very nice and warm and when she looked up and into his eyes there was some kind of a really strong magnetic field that felt like they were joined together, like he was inside her, and they were flowing into and through one another.

She swallowed, “Did you ever – up – give yourself an orgasm?”

He shook his head, “I started trying a couple times, but I’d only get so far and then I’d wonder, what the hell am I doing? And it felt so weird, like I was outside myself looking back at me and thinking I was a real mutton head, and this was not one of my brighter moves-”

She laughed, then half closed her eyes, closed them all the way and drew a long breath, “Do you want to touch me?”

He swallowed, nodded, “Where?” She took his right hand and brought it to her crotch, pushed her bikini underpants down, “There – Just touch – don’t even move.”

He nodded as he moved his hand between her ‘forbidden zone’ and the underpants and let her hold his hand stationary when he made contact.

The magnetic fields, or electro magnetic fields, or whatever they were, became instantly twice as strong as they had been. He gasped, “Wow-”

She nodded, “This is nothing like being groped by slobbering old drunks or idiots pretending they’re drunk-”

“Oh – get naked – she said, pulled her underwear back up and ran into his bathroom, came back with one of his white hand towels, and a full sized bath towel.

He wasn’t exactly naked, his underpants were below his crotch, Oglethorpe was standing up and staring out at the real world beyond his usual confines. He was still wearing his tee-shirt.

She opened the bath towel and spread in along the edge of his bed, pushed her underpants down and sat there, “Time for an advanced biology lesson. The psychologist I had to see actually told me how to do this. And she suggested I think about any guy I felt attracted to and tried to convince me that it was perfectly normal and a perfectly healthy thing to do -” She reached behind her back, unhooked and let her bra fall away, grabbed it and set it on his pillow.

He pulled his tee-shirt over his head and tossed in on the bed, just beyond the towel, behind her. Then he pushed his underpants down and stepped out, raised his right foot with the underpants hanging on around his ankle – grabbed the blue material and tossed that over beyond his tee-shirt.

She reached for his hand, gave it a tug.

He stepped toward her-

-And his phone buzzed and vibrated, then rang.

He crossed his eyes, gritted his teeth, picked up the phone, saw that it was his mother again, winced, nodded to Gretchen, pushed the green phone icon and almost groaned, but took a breath, “Hello?”

“Hello, Derrick, it’s your mother again.”

“Is everything all right?”

Gretchen closed her right hand around Oglethorpe again. He nearly gasped.

“Ahh Yeah, well not really.”

“What is it-”

“Salmonella – a pretty bad case of it- Alex will be in the hospital here for a couple days. Your uncle George has rented a car and will be driving here, he’ll stay in the guest room. They gave Alex a sedative, which I thought was a really strange thing to do, but he was making a lot of noise and scaring the other patients, so maybe that’s what they do, knock the screamer out to keep the peace – are you still in the kitchen? Is Gretchen still right there?”

“Um, actually, she’s in the bathroom right now.”

“Okay, call me when she gets out, we’re on our way to a fast food take out place, find out if she wants so so Chinese or a slice of pizza, or whatever- hope she doesn’t take too long, or her mother will make a best guess and bring her whatever tonight’s special is-”

“Okay – you know what I want?”

“Sweet and sour chicken with chicken fried rice and a spring roll?”

“Yeah- I’m becoming too predictable-”

Mom laughed, “Go bang on the door, scare her to death and call me right back.”

“Okay-” he frowned and watched the ‘Call Ended” message bloom before he pushed the red phone icon, then turned the cell phone off.

“Did you hear that?” he sighed.

Gretchen nodded, covered Oglethorpe with her mouth and moved her head up and back once, then sighed and jumped back on the bed, “Yup, they’re at the mall, do I want the stupid chicken special or what- Is the Sweet and Sour chicken you’re getting all right?”

“It’s usually surprisingly good.”

She nodded, “Sounds good to me – Okay, here’s your lesson – She spread her legs and pointed, “See this cute little lump here? It varies from woman to woman but I was told I’m normal and average in the physiology department and this is where you either rub, very gently, and keep asking if you’re doing it right, or if you’re really adventurous, or really in love, use your tongue – and ask if you’re doing it right and encourage your lover, which should be me – mostly – if you’re doing it right, if she thinks you should be going faster or slower – maybe even more gently – pay attention to what she wants – What I want – and that way I’ll be eager to know what you want and what you like. Show me how to speed dial your mother – ”

She took the cell phone into his bathroom and dialed, flushed the toilet for effect.

When she came back she was smiling, “Same thing you’re getting, and you forgot to tell your mother to get you some Chinese tea with that -”

They helped each other dressed, and washed their hands in his sink, hot water and soap, She brushed her hair, and then brushed his. smiled, hugged several times. Helped him shut down his laptop, pack it up and re-hide it.

They walked to the front door, where they hugged and groped each others’ bums and kissed several times before Derrick shuddered, “I can feel them- they’ve turned onto this street.”

They wiped their mouths and practiced looking bored and anxious about school and worried about their cousin for several seconds before the shiny black SUV was actually visible and slowed down, signaled and turned into the driveway.

“Are you always this psychic?”

He shook his head, “Only when I’m horny, In love, or worried half to death that somebody with authority is gong to catch me doing something they won’t approve of-”

 

They opened the door as everybody approached, “So, what did you too find to talk about all the time we were gone?” Kaylie smirked.

“Creative Writing – he told me about somebody’s theory that a serious novel should be the writer’s complete philosophy of life. And I told him that the way to make money writing was to start with a likable character whose butt is in a bear trap and the story is how he frees himself, or doesn’t -”

Derrick’s mother raised her eyebrows, “Do you have a restless urge to write?”

Gretchen blushed and looked to Derrick for help.

Aunt Kaylie made a face, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, Gretchen won a prize with a story she wrote for a contest at her high school.”

“Really? what did you win?”

“A lot of junk email and an offer to have my work published that would only cost me five thousand dollars to have a thousand copies printed.”

“And a cute plaque with her name on it that says ‘First Prize ~ High School Short Story Writer of the Year.’-” Aunt Kaylie looked like she might even be genuinely proud of that.”

“Keep writing, If you get yourself a scholarship here, you’ll certainly have a place to stay – without paying through the roof to live in a dorm full of brats and delinquents-” Mom was unusually cynical this afternoon-

Gretchen shot a surreptitious smile over to Derrick, but then raised her head, “Ahh, that will never happen, wouldn’t they accuse you of nepotism?”

“I have nothing to do with any of the scholarships or grants- but I could write you one hell of an interesting application letter.” Mom actually grinned.

 

Roger and Annie wanted to watch a program they’d seen advertised while they were bored out of their minds in the emergency waiting room. The parents had “Grown up” stuff to talk about. Gretchen and Derrick took their Take out dinner and tea out side and sat across from each other, looking bored, but-

Derrick tried to look like he hardly knew she was there, “So, what do you think? Should we run away to Hawaii or Bora Bora or some place like that, live every day half naked and never be heard from again by anybody who believes themselves to be anybody worth knowing- and spend a really happy life together?”

“Yeah – Sounds good to me, should we make a pact? First one to make enough money with a published book or article or anything, pays both our ways to paradise- Or should we wait long enough to make sure global climate change won’t kill us in our sleep?”

He sighed, “I thought I was supposed to be the practical one and bring us both down with visions of an unfriendly reality -”

“We can take turns. Should I send you sexy selfies of me in that bikini I told you about?”

“Can you be sure you’ve got a secure connection and won’t be intercepted by bored idiots at the NSA or where-ever?”

She sighed, “No- Can you?”

“Maybe – I think I have a really deep encryption program just make the subject line something like ‘really boring homework assignments’ copy a page from some highbrow encyclopedia and stick your sexy photos in the middle somewhere.

She grinned, with her face down, as if she was staring into her fried rice, “I sent myself a text message while I had your phone in the bathroom, Keep your phone charged and beside you while you sleep. I never know when I’ll have trouble getting to sleep and if we can figure out a secure connection with encryption maybe we can get naked and have cyber sex together or something. I think I’d like that-”

He nearly gasped, choked and nodded, “Yeah – me too-”

“Send me a picture of Oglethorpe all excited and ready to rock and roll?” she shot him a mischievous grin.

He managed not to choke and gasp as he nodded, raised his head just enough to send her a wicked smile.

In the kitchen Derrick’s mother caught Aunt Kaylie shaking her head as she stared through the window over the sink, out into the back yard and at Derrick and Gretchen, hunched over their Chinese food on the glider, “Were we really that dorky and weird when we were their age?”

“Probably- Of course we had a lot of other ways to be dorky and weird- and maybe a lot less to be terrified about in the real world around us.”

“Do you believe that? I think the world has always been this terrifying, we were just blissfully unaware of that.”

Derrick’s mom shrugged.

“Is Derrick really gay? I don’t know, I just don’t get that kind of vibe from him.”

“No- he’s as straight as anybody I’ve ever known about.”

Kaylie laughed, “How straight is that?”

“Do you remember Christmas, five years ago? My husband’s uncle Robb was complaining that somebody found his priceless stash of Playboy Magazines, with every issue from Issue one up through December 1989? And probably sold them on eBay for a lot of money?”

Kaylie laughed, “That jerk-”

“Nobody sold them on eBay – Derrick found them in the garage last year and smuggled them one at a time into his bedroom, the last time I barged in without knocking, because I forgot he was home, it was a school holiday – I caught him gawking at a centerfold, and both hands were on the magazine, but he was definitely turned on by what he was looking at. I made him promise to never let his sister know those magazines ever existed.” She shrugged, “He’s sensitive, he’s probably so shy he’ll be a virgin until he’s at least twenty-one – but he’s sexually normal.”

 

“Hey you two- you finished eating? We gotta bring cousin Alex’s stuff into the guest room and then we gotta go – we’re going to be late as it is-” Aunt Kaylie barked out the back door.

Gretchen groaned, dragged herself to her feet and trudged toward the house with her empty plate, cut and plastic utensils in her hands.

Derrick sighed and forced himself up and followed her.

Everybody had a bag or something to carry in. Derrick and Gretchen got to make two trips. Then Gretchen had to use the washroom and ran off and shortly there after Derrick stood beside his mother feeling lost and depressed as Uncle Mitch backed out of their driveway – they waved. Gretchen tried not to look hopeless, but managed a little smile as she waved back.

About an hour later, Derrick went into his bathroom and found a note tucked into the toilet paper, “Look under your pillow”

He did. Gretchen had managed to smuggle her tiny bikini into his room and hid it under his pillow, with another note. “Hawaii sounds better to me by the second. But it’s supposed to be really expensive to live there. And we’d both get all wrinkled by the constant exposure to the sun – Let’s keep thinking – Is there a perfect getaway anywhere on the planet? I’ll probably text you from home around midnight. If you’re laptop is plugged in and online, let me know- maybe we can do a few things we’ll both regret without anybody getting pregnant.”

 

He went into his bedroom before ten, wrote in his secret notebook for almost an hour, set up the laptop at eleven pm. and climbed into bed, pulled the bikini out from inside the pillow case where he’d stashed it and realized she’d perfumed it, inhaled deeply, yes, that was the subtle stuff she was wearing. So subtle he hadn’t been conscious that it was there. Now he’d probably never forget it. He didn’t need any centerfolds to turn him on that night. His phone buzzed before midnight. He’d turned off the audible ring tones. Yup, it was Gretchen – texting, Hi, we’re home. I’m naked, are you?”

He laughed and replied, “almost-”  and then added, “Laptop is up and ready to rock and roll.”

She texted back C U there – couple minutes.

The university had a ‘secure server’ for conference calls and it accepted but monitored skype calls. He’d heard some of the grad students at one of the coffee houses talking about a really secure server and he wrote down the site and user name and password, but he’d tried it and discovered that it had probably been shut down by somebody.

So he connected through his father’s internet service, not through his mother’s university account, went the generic skype route, and clicked  on her account half a second after it appeared with the little green light “Online”

“Hi-”

“Hi – I think I almost survived the ride home – we stopped a couple times, I wondered how long it would take me to escape and hitch hike back to you.”

“Oh, don’t do that, those are the girls who disappear or end up mysteriously dead in several pieces in morgues and stuff like that.”

She winced, closed her eyes and sighed, “Yeah, it’s back to you being the voice of reality, but at least we take turns. You never let me think I can take really crazy risks and get away with that and I remind you that your really beautiful day dreams and wonderful suggestions probably won’t work, we’d get to Hawaii and we’d either be eaten by sharks on our first fishing trip or they’d find us in ten years after we starved to death trying to live the dream of being professional beach combers – You know I wrote a story about a beach comber and nobody in my class had any idea what that meant. They thought I made it up.”

He nodded, “We live in the wrong time zone.”

She laughed, “Or maybe the wrong planet – Beam us up Scotty, there’s no gravity down here.”

He smiled, “You’re not supposed to know that variation -”

“I shouldn’t know half of what I know – I did tell you my mom’s genius club wants me to join as soon as I’m old enough.”

“Mensa?”

“Yeah, that sounds right -”

“Your mother is part of that?”

“Where do you think she gets her sanctimonious streak? She certainly doesn’t think she’s holier than god and doesn’t make enough money to be Donald Trump’s closest competitor. She scores really hard on IQ tests and practices mean comments and double entendres and all that silly head game stuff. And she’s convinced herself that she is special because her brain is better than ninety-nine percent of the idiots who take that test.”

He laughed.

“See? You’re the only one on this planet who understands my sense of humor -” she rolled her eyes, “I’m doomed, I tell you, I’m doomed.”

“But at least we’re doomed together -”

“Ya think? That’s a little more fun than being doomed alone.”

He nodded.

“Did you ever get that really secure server thing to work?”

He shook his head, “I think somebody like campus security found out about it and shut it down and didn’t let any media know it ever existed.”

“Then I should never do this –  Should I?” She opened her pajama top to show him her breasts and quickly pulled it closed again. “It’s silk – I love the way it feels. and it does have buttons, I just didn’t use them.” She picked up a piece of paper and held it up to the camera built into her lap top. R U Naked?

He blushed, shook his head.

“But you could be – Like me – I’ll show you mine if you show me yours -”

Oglethorpe was suddenly very interested, “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure –  You are the one guy on this planet who’s proven that you give half a shit about me and you’re sensitive, and tall, and smart, and good lookin and you have my kind of silly sense of humour, let me have a look at you know who.”

He laughed, shook his head, pulled down his pants and stood up.

“Oh yeah – hello there, old friend – I know somebody who wants to get to know you a little better.” She stood up, pulled her pajama bottoms down and  showed the camera what was inside. Then she sat down and looked glum. Elbow on her desk, chin in her hand. “Think there’s a chance in a million we’ll ever consummate this budding romance?” She frowned, sighed, shook her head, “If it’s meant to be – it has to happen, if not -” she shrugged, “Well, we tried, I know we tried.”

She read him two poems she’d written over the summer and needled him until he read the latest story he couldn’t figure a decent ending for.

She nodded, “Yeah, I like it, I can see those characters – but what are they going to do? Discover that the earth really is flat and jump off the edge? Pull out a machine gun and kill everyone in sight? Let me think about this.” She glanced behind her, “Shh – I just heard the bathroom door.” then she grinned, “Maybe we can write stuff together, inspire each other and really accomplish something good – then we could maybe buy our own island, the hell with Hawaii – It’s already taken anyway.”

Then she turned around and looked behind her again, whispered, “What time is it?”

“Almost Three -”

“I’ve been pretty quiet haven’t I?”

He nodded.

“Not as quiet as you, maybe – but I should probable go –  I love you – we’re cursed – but at least we have each other -”

Click. Call ended.

 

To Be Continued :

 

 

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