Saturday, June 25, 2011
This time, I was going to make Brandon kiss me. I’d stayed on campus until 2 A.M. with all of the other high school graduates in the school district, eating free food on the quad, visiting booths set up with games, or just chilling to some great music. Now I was back and this time, this time, Brandon was going to kiss me.
I gathered my courage and slipped quietly behind the bench where the most popular guy in school was holding court, like a young Duke of Edinburgh in his downtime. He shifted his broad shoulders, threw back his head and laughed at something one of his courtiers said. I watched him distractedly run his hand over his short, dark hair the way he did when he enjoyed something. I thought, not for the first time, that if he were quiet and brooding with an air of mystery or danger about him, he’d be just like of Heathcliff. The truth was, though, he was loud and careless, and if he brooded over a secret, it was that he’d plagiarized his Senior Portfolio—nothing to worry about now that he’d graduated. But he’d been a star on the school’s football and baseball teams, and I wanted him to kiss me, just once. It would never happen anywhere else—in school I belonged to the literary crowd, more Jo March than Becky Sharp—but I knew he couldn’t refuse me tonight.
Brandon had his arm draped around Regina, the latest check-me-out-I’m-so-cool, spoiled princess to throw herself at him. I reached out and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, Brandon? Can I see you for a minute? Over there, by the corner of the building?" Brandon looked up.
"Oh, hi, uh..."
Say "Hello Ally. I was hoping you'd come tonight," I thought.
"Hello, Ally. I was hoping you'd come tonight."
Now get up and say "Sure. Whatever you want." Brandon took his arm from around Regina and began to rise.
"Sure, whatever you want,"
"Hey, Brandon, what’s up?" Regina demanded. She stuck her lower lip out in a pout. "I thought you were here with me" She put her hand on his arm and tried to pull him back down beside her. Ah, Regina. Queen of the mean girls. She'd finally managed to shed her parasitic boyfriend, Greg, and latch on to the prize catch of the school just before graduation; I didn't want to think of how she'd done it. Tonight was my night with Brandon, though, so I focused on Regina’s hand.
“Let go,” I said and her hand sprang off Brandon’s arm as though she’d been touching a bare wire that was suddenly electrified. She sneered at me.
“What’s wrong, can’t find a boyfriend of your own, you fat bitch?”
Do you know what I hate? I hate people who swear; I hate people who think using obscenities makes them cool; and I really hate people who think they can call me a fat bitch and get away with it. A bar of soap appeared in my hand.
"Clean your filthy mouth out, you loathsome piece of garbage,” I said, shoving the soap down Regina’s throat. “You’re a worthless leech, Regina; you’re as smart as the food you vomit every day. You’re crude, immoral, vulgar and senseless.” That last was Tolstoy’s opinion of Shakespeare but it fit Regina, too. I was on a roll, now, verbally slicing-and-dicing this “America’s Next Top Model” wanna-be without using obscenities. It’s a trick I picked up from my AP Lit. class, or my How to Get Creative With Your Denigrations class, as I secretly called it. Of course, I’d never say anything like that at school. Are you kidding? I’d be a laughing stock, if I didn’t get ambushed and beat up for my trouble first. But here I made sure nobody laughed. I wrapped Brandon’s arm around my waist and we wandered across the quad together. Behind us, Regina’s screams of rage were interspersed with the sounds of retching. I was satisfied.
I guided Brandon toward the corner of the Admin building where an old pine tree stood. The boughs of the massive tree swept down to near the ground, but if you parted them and walked toward the trunk, letting the branches close behind you, there was a lovely alcove where a couple could be undetected. Decades of college students had used it as a trysting spot and I'd decided that this would be the perfect place for our first--and probably only--kiss. I walked through the branches, the scratch of the pine needles against my skin muted, as pain is in dreams, and Brandon followed. Turning toward the high school sports hero who wouldn't give me more that an absent-minded "hello" in the school hallway, I began my carefully choreographed and long anticipated conquest.
Say how much you really like me.
"You know, Ally, I really like you."
Tell me you think smart girls are sexy.
"You're very smart." He paused to look at me for a moment, assessing me. "Personally, I think smart is sexy. I'm surprised no one has tried to ravish you yet."
Oh, I like that. Ravish is good, very Jane Austen. Now tell me that you think you'd prefer me to Regina any day.
"I do believe," Brandon said, as he put his other arm around my waist and pulled me into a close embrace, "that I'd prefer you to Regina any day. There's so much more to you." He ran his right hand appreciatively over my bottom. "Regina's pretty but she uses her anorectic body more than she does her mind, you know?" He brought the hand up that had just caressed my bottom and held the back of my head as his mouth came closer to mine. "But we could have such...stimulating conversations..." I could smell his sweet breath, feel his heart hammering under his shirt, sense his desire. I held the moment, savoring the anticipation of feeling his lips on mine...
Tires screeched on the street; a car hit something. I sat bolt upright in bed, my heart doing a tap dance in my chest, my lips tingling. Damn. I'd come so close. I looked over at my nightstand and groaned as the clock came into view. Five AM, only an hour and a half since I'd managed to fall asleep. Even though I’d gotten home from Operation Graduation a little after 2:00 in the morning, I’d been too keyed up to go to sleep until 3:30. Now an accident had wrenched me awake, my mind muddled, my dream unfinished.
I kicked the covers off, swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood up. The sun was just turning the edge of the early June sky pale as I stumbled to my window, which faced the street in front of our house. I looked out, peering right and left as far as I could I but didn't see anything. The few houses on our street, all colonials set behind large front lawns, were dark. No light shone out from a front door or window, indicating an equally inquisitive neighbor had heard a crash and was looking around for its source. I opened the window, thinking there’d be some noise from the street but all was quiet. No hiss from a broken radiator, no hubcap spinning on the road broke the early morning hush. Even Athelstan, the Great Dane next door, was silent. I slammed the window shut and crawled back in bed.
I considered dreaming about Brandon kissing me again but the mood was broken. The sound of the accident bothered me. I'd heard it through my ears, not in my dream, and believe me, I know the difference. Sounds in my dreams are made from memory and imagination; in the waking world they're physical realities, louder, more immediate. Real sounds trump imagined ones every time. I turned over and covered my head with the blankets.
Eventually, I drifted into the soft fog that proceeds dreaming, slowly spinning until my feet touched down with remembered firmness on the ground beside the house. I heard talking and recognized the voices of my older brothers, Jacob and Joseph, home from college for my graduation. I wandered toward the sound until words became apparent, something about spaceflight and zero-gravity.
“Hi, Ally,” Jacob said, looking up from a sheaf of papers that he and Joseph were studying. He enthusiastically patted the side of a rocket I hadn’t noticed. Right. I hadn’t noticed a full-size, multi-stage rocket beside our house. My mind can fill my dreams with surprises, sometimes. “We’re going to the moon. Wanna come?”
“Nah,” I said, stepping on a board at my feet. Wheels formed and I pushed off with my foot, angling toward the sky. “I’d rather use a skateboard.”
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