I woke up to the sound of the shower being turned on. I was lying on top of the comforter: black with silver stripes. Hands clasped behind head, I pointed my feet and stretched, hyper-extending my legs. My denim capris were by my feet and my shirt, crumpled into a ball, was beside me. I was wearing my black bra, designed with skulls across the cups and my green boy shorts. I rolled onto my left side and reached for my cell phone. It was blinking red; I’d forgotten to charge it the night before. I had no new messages.
I sat up and started to put my jeans on. The shower turned off. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I buckled my belt and then grabbed for my shirt – the one I’d bought at the only concert I’ve been to: Blink 182. After putting my shirt on, I grabbed my phone and slipped it into my back pocket.
Jake walked out of the bathroom just wearing a towel around his waist. His hair – dark brown with blonde highlights in his bangs – was soaked, drops of water ran down his forehead and moistened his eyebrows and lashes. Left hand on waist, he pushed his bangs up with his right hand. Smiled.
“Glad you slept over?”
I sat back down on the bed. I glanced over at the nightstand: there were two empty condom wrappers and a half-empty bottle of Budweiser. I took a swig of the beer and picked up the wrappers.
“Where’s your trash?”
“Leave ’em there, Lex. Joe is at Kyla’s.” He stood in front of his dresser, opened the middle drawer, and pulled out a pair of red boxers.
“Do you ever wear briefs?”
“You hate them.”
I took another swig. “I know, I know. But, when I’m not around, do you…”
“I can start wearing…”
“No, no. I’m not too crazy about…”
“That’s what I thought.” He loosened his towel, letting it drop to the floor. A scar ran down his spine all the way to the top of his crack. White lines zig-zagged along the scar. The scar I couldn’t see the night before. The scar I must have been grazing my fingers upon as we orchestrated our own rhythm. I always wondered why he didn’t have an indent down the middle of his back. Why there was a thin, long cap between the nape of his neck and ass. Coming over once in a while just to let him spread my legs – giving him something to aim at – and leaving before the first cigarette was lit, gave me no chance to see what I was exploring. “So when am I seeing you again?”
“I don’t know, Jake.” I checked my phone. The time was 9:52 a.m and the date was August sixth.
“Well, ya know that I don’t really like callin’. So, when you’re home or not with your girlfriend -”
Jake laughed. “You texting her now, Lexie?” He picked up the towel and rubbed it against his head.
“What? No. What, what girlfriend?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” He snapped his fingers. “What’s her face?”
His right eyebrow raised. “Maybe I’m wrong. I thought your friend’s name was Jackie or whatever.”
“Jackie?” I placed my hands on my hips. “Jackie. Jackie’s straight.”
He rolled his eyes. “Whoa, Lexie. Sorry, didn’t know you respected that!” He laughed, putting on his green, collared shirt. Cracked up, even. “Oooh, a straight girl! Watch out!”
He popped his collar. “Excuse me?”
I walked towards the door. My phone started to vibrate – calendar notification: it was Jackie’s nineteenth birthday.
“I was jokin’ around, Lex! What the fuck?” He pressed his palm against the door before I could reach for the knob. “I mean, look at us. You’re not completely attracted to me. You swing both ways, ya know? Maybe she could, too. I know you’d want…”
“It’s different, Jake.” He lowered his arm. “She’s like, my best friend.”
“What’s this, then?” He crossed his arms.
“It’s what we do every time.” I ran my fingers through my hair. Pointing to the bed I said, “We come here, we fool around, I leave.”
“Well yeah. You’re my girl, Lex.” He wrapped his arm around my waist and nestled his nose against my cheek. “I need you. Don’t you need me?”
I shook my head. “I already have you. What is there to need?”
He kissed my cheek. “Come on. That sounds stupid. Whatcha mean, Lex?”
“We just fuck, Jake. Fuck, fuck, fuck! We never hang out, we barely talk on the phone and, and the time I do spend with you depends only on whether I’m in the mood or how long you can last.”
He stepped away from me; his forehead against palm. He started to walk away.
“With Jackie, there are no limitations. We can do whatever. We talk. She fuckin’ listens to me. I listen to her. We hang out. We get closer and closer each time. It’s whatever, whenever.”
He dropped his hand and looked back at me. “Whatever you want?” He laughed. “Really?” He raised his voice. “You guys can do whatever the fuck you want?”
“Why are you yelling at me?”
“Because I know that you’re lying, Lexie! Lexie, I know your friendship with this chick has limitations. Wanna know what they are? She is straight and she’ll never want you! She’ll never need you! Or as you put it, she’ll never have you!”
“Stop it, Jake.”
“Sure, sure, you can do whatever you guys damn well please, but what about your wants and needs? Ya felt her up? Fingered her? Gone down on her?” He licked his lips.
“My God, Lexie, have you even kissed her?”
I felt my phone vibrate in my back pocket. I took it out and read the lit up screen: one new text from Sarah.
“Let me guess, is it your girlfriend?”
Hand on knob I said, “No, it’s your mom.” I opened the door and slammed it behind me.
I was still parked at Jake’s apartment complex. The time was 10:30. I had been sitting in my car, with head against the window and cellphone in lap, for half an hour. Looking in the rear-view mirror, I saw dark circles beneath my eyes. My eyelids were still traced with black eyeliner and mascara flakes dusted my cheeks. I looked down at my phone: no new messages. I had ten percent left in my battery; it took twenty percent to make a phone call. Of course.
I shifted my car into drive and drove to the gas station down the street. My mouth was dry; lips were chapped; the taste of raw coffee beans and cherry licorice coated my palette anytime I cleared my throat or swallowed.
The only open parking spot was next to a red convertible mustang. The top was down and a golden retriever was lying down in the back; he had a red collar on and a shade of gray around his nose. I left my car and went over to the mustang. The golden retriever perked his ears up and stuck his tongue out as I approached. Good boy. I took my phone out and horizontally captured the car and dog, that looked over its shoulder as I took the picture. Attaching the picture to a text message, I typed “If I could, I’d drive this car with the pup in it to ya house. Cake would be optional ;)” and sent it to Jackie. I bought myself a couple bottles of water, a raspberry iced tea and a pack of gum. Sitting back in my car, I took a picture of the iced tea in my hand. With 5 percent of my battery remaining, I sent the picture to Jackie with the message “oh how I miss you.”
When I returned to my apartment, I turned my phone off and let it charge for a couple hours. I recolored my hair to dark red, before I took my shower. My blonde roots had been showing since the end of July. Jackie’s hair was blonde. Wrapping myself in a towel after my shower, I could smell raspberry. Raspberry, the only scented body wash that wasn’t half-empty or watered-down. Opening my vanity, I grabbed my can of Axe and sprayed it down my torso, across my shoulders, and under my arms.
Two hours later, I unplugged my phone and turned it back on: five unread text messages – all from Sarah. Damn it. I sat down on my couch with my feet on the coffee table. The digital clock on the cable box read 1pm. I scrolled through my call log and came across Jackie’s name. The last time she had called me was July 5th: two days before we’d last hung out. She’s probably with Mike. I selected her name from my contacts list, brought the phone up to my ear, let it ring two times and then hung up. What would I say that I wouldn’t write in a text? I called again. The phone rang four times.
Now what? “Hey!”
“What’s uh, what’s going on?”
“Not too much. Just got back from having lunch with Mike. What about you?”
“Oh, cute.” I chuckled. “I uh, just got back from seeing Jake actually.”
“Really? Wow. How’d that…”
“Happy Birthday, Jackie.”
“Aw, thanks, Lex.”
“Yeah, don’t worry, you’re welcome. Just uh, just thought I’d call.”
“Well, thanks for that. I appreciate it.”
“Welcome.” I sighed. “So, what are your plans for the rest of your day?” Oh Jesus, it’s her birthday.
“Not too sure, actually. I’m probably going out to dinner with my parents and Mike or whatever. Don’t know where I’m going.” She laughed.
“Sweet, sweet. Ya, ya, I just like took a shower and colored my hair.”
“Cute! What color?”
“Bet it looks so good on you.”
“Ya think? Yeah?”
“Your hair always looks good, Lexie.”
I smiled. If only I was there, I would have hugged her.
“I’ve missed you too, by the way. I got your pictures.”
“Oh good, I’m glad you got them. And I’ve like, really missed you. Like a lot, Jackie.”
“Oh, Lexie, I think I’ve missed you more.” She chuckled.
Impossible. “You doing anything tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I have work.”
“But, I’m not doing anything now. Mike isn’t coming back over until like five. You’re welcome to come. My parents just left to do some errands.”
“You fucking with me?”
“Lexie, God, no! Come over! Please, I want you to.”
“Give me twenty minutes.”
I collapsed into her as soon as she opened the door. Her chin on my shoulder; my nose against her neck. She smelled like vanilla. “You smell good.”
“Some things never change with age.”
I laughed and squeezed her tighter. “Oh, Jackie, Jackie.”
“Yes, Lexie?” We separated. She was wearing a yellow v-neck shirt, her pair of jeans with a rip over her right knee and beneath her left back pocket, and leather belt with a skull belt buckle. She looked like a golden hourglass. I wanted to stick my pointer fingers into the pockets of her waistline. A small tickle. She’d probably laugh. I smiled. Jackie leaned into me and kissed my right cheek. My left eyebrow twitched. I smirked a little.
“Oh.” I stepped back and crossed my arms. “Thought it was your birthday.”
“Just being selfish, I guess.” She winked at me. I winked back at her. We laughed. “Stop being cute.”
“I’ll stop instantly.” I pulled down my shirt and put my hands in my front pockets. “I’ll start my whole new way of life, right now.”
“Just for you.” I stopped smiling. “Happy Birthday.” I gazed into her eyes.
She covered her eyes with her hands. “Smile, please! Stop looking so sad.” She spread her fingers, peaking through, and then closed them like they were legs. “Lexie!”
“Just trying to make you happy, Jackie. This is what you want, right?”
“Lex, stop! Remember? You said that however I feel, you feel that times ten? I’m happy right now. Be happy. Be ecstatic!”
I removed my hands from my pockets. “I am more than happy.” I smiled, without teeth. “I’m with you.”
She walked towards me and wrapped her arms around my waist. Leaning in, she kissed me on the cheek and then whispered in my ear, “Ya know, you can kiss me.” She leaned back, hands still on my waist, hair in face. I pushed her hair to the side and kissed her on the cheek. She closed her eyes, inhaled and exhaled deeply. Opened her eyes, “Sorry, I kinda get butterflies whenever someone kisses me on the cheek.”
I sighed. “You’re so adorable. Oh, my God.”
“Your snake bites feel cool.” She whispered.
“Like cold?” I touched them; they were circular with a ridged, green jewel in the middle. The jewel felt like a nipple against my pinky.
“No. Just when you kissed me, it felt different.”
“I like it, though.” She kissed my left cheek and pulled me in for a hug.
“You give awesome hugs.” I said.
“Really? I feel like my hugs are wicked weird. I find myself always hugging people with my legs apart and then I just kinda slam my crotch onto their leg.” She pressed herself against me and laughed. “That feel good?”
“Now that you mention it.” I kissed her on the cheek twice. “I love you,” I whispered in her ear.
“I love you too, Lexie.”