He pulled up in his dad’s five-liter Mustang. She stood outside her mom’s apartment shivering in all black. He rolled down the window and smirked,
“How many times did you change before I got here?”
He had used that line with Jenny Hayes. He knew Jenny was his after that.
“Once.” She said.
She stepped in the car and gripped the armrest when the gears shifted. With each thrust and corner her eyes widened and she took in shorter breaths as the car banked and jerked towards the mountain road.
“Where are we going?”
He kept one hand on the clutch, one on the wheel, looked over and smiled. When he did that to Mary Young she locked eyes for a second before nervously looking back at the road and pleading Tyler you’re going to kill us, please, please look where you’re going. He knew he had Mary after that.
This girl held eye contact until Tyler was the first to look back at the road,
“I can’t ruin the surprise for you.”
“What if I don’t like surprises?”
“I think you’ll like this one.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“That doesn’t mean I can’t.”
She didn’t reply.
As they banked around each corner of the hill, Tyler looked at her legs. They were cocaine white, hairless, goose-bumped. He thought about how his friends said he wouldn’t be able to get her here, not Natilee. Nobody could get Natilee. They said whenever guys even approach her she would grab her legs and curl up, rest her head on her knees and look up from the bottom of her eyes, they said that she was emo, a cutter, a loner. They said yeah she’s hot but it doesn’t matter anyway. Nobody could get Natilee.
But him and Natilee got to the top of the hill and he told her to wait a minute before he got out another surprise. It was a bottle of vintage wine taken from his parents’ liquor cabinet. He pulled out a plastic cup and handed it to her. “I don’t drink.”
Tyler smirked, “No one our age ‘drinks.’ Common, nobody will find out.”
“No, I mean it. I don’t drink.”
“I brought it up here just for you.”
“Well.” She gave the cup back with an extended arm.
He uncorked the bottle anyway, threw a blanket over his shoulder and shut the trunk before telling her to follow him. They crossed barbwire and high-stepped through thick, yellow brush until Tyler spread out the blanket and told her to look at the view. There was a city skyline with stars above and dotted lights below that merged at the remnants of a faded sun. It was just as romantic as when Tyler had Cindy Lacey here.They sat there for a couple of minutes and listened to cows sleeping around them.
The silence reminded him of Natilee’s reply to being asked out. She had stared at him for a while, as if interpreting a joke she didn’t understand then said, OK. Both that old silence and this new silence lasted longer than Tyler liked and even though his rule was to always have the girl be the first to talk, Tyler broke this silence.
“Why don’t you like to drink?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I have time.”
Natilee curled up into the ball that she always made, tucked her chin over her knees and kept her eyes on the skyline.
“Come on.” He said, “You can trust me. I’m not going to tell anyone.”
Tyler scooted a little closer and placed a hand on her knee. She pulled back and scooted away.
“It’s about my family.”
“What about your family?”
“It can’t be much worse than mine.”
Tyler lifted up the side of his shirt and showed her a faded, white scar he got from running into a tree while snowboarding. “That was from my dad.”
He put the shirt back down and she looked away, another long reach of silence. Moments in which the girl sat there pondering how she said fine when her friends told her that the only way the rumors would stop was if she went out on a date and that they should trust her, it wouldn’t be that bad. She looked at the spot Tyler had shown him and thought that it had been pretty bad up until that point but that maybe this kid who could barely grow a beard and seemed to fit all of the player stereotypes had something real behind him. She surprised herself when she said,
“Thank you for bringing me out here.”
“Pretty, isn’t it?”
She looked at the skyline and said, “It really is.”
“I wasn’t talking about the city.”
Tyler looked over and gave the unmistakable smirk. That was his favorite line. In combination with the skyline, the stars, and the blanket, he got everyone after that. He even got this girl too. He could see it.The dilated eyes, the hopefulness. And he felt his body move a little closer like he always did and he targeted her eyes like he always did and leaned in just a little bit. She leaned in too and her breath got warmer and he could feel her leg jitter and her skirt ride up but she pulled back.
She held his stare.
She took a breath and lifted the back of her shirt. There was an ocean-sized bruise of purple and dark blue corroding on her back. It started from the left side of her body, crawled over the ridge of her spine and finished just on the other side. She turned back around,
“My dad threw a frying pan at me. He was drunk.” She looked down, “I think he tried to miss but, when I jumped out of the way it hit.”
He remained silent and listened while she went on and told him about how she would be scared to come home from school at nights because she didn’t know if it was going to be one of those nights. She told him how one time she fought back when her little brother got in the way of her parent’s arguing and she got tossed so that now she has this large scar on her arm which is why she always wears long-sleeves no matter how hot it is and how one time her brother that she defended drove drunk through the night with the headlights turned off twenty over the speed limit and that was worse than anything her parents did because she thought her and her brother were each other’s reasons, but when she asked him just a couple days ago why, he just shrugged. Inbetween this talking in which she wiped her eyes sometimes and bit her nails other times and looked into nothingness as if she were actually back in that moment in which she saw the first time her dad hit her mom, after all this she took a long pause, then shook her head again and said,
“I wasn’t expecting this. I’ve only been able to tell one other person. I didn’t think you would understand. But…”
She looked at him and he had her.
He had more of her than he ever expected or could ever want, more than any of the girls before and more than any stupid trick could accomplish. He could do anything he wanted right now and his friends would owe him combined fifty dollars and he could go back to throwing around a football and sneaking away wine and moving on through the year book where he and his friends crossed out pictures with red sharpies when they had them but as he looked at this girl with jet-black hair and dark eyeliner, he couldn’t imagine how he could ever go back.
So he told her they should go. She looked confused and wanting but said, “OK” and neither of them spoke on the way home. He rode the brakes all the way down the hill. He pulled up in his dad’s five liter Mustang.
She stood outside her mom’s apartment shivering in all black.
He wanted to end it right there with her standing on the porch and him driving away but she looked like she just didn’t understand, like she thought what had happened up there on the mountain was real and how could he just end it like that, so he rolled down the window and was going to say I’m sorry but instead mumbled,
“I got my scar from snowboarding.”
About the author:
Maxwell Junge is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s Creative Writing program. He currently works a white-collar job in Phoenix, Arizona and tries to stay calm.