Charlotte XXVI

Nathan

Over the blood rushing to the surface, I hear my father’s voice repeatedly telling me to respect the other gender, to be cognizant of my size and how it can be used to intimate without meaning to, how I should treat women in the manner I would want my mother—or Charlotte—to be treated.  With his admonitions in my head, I manage to bite back the word bitch and say evenly. “What do you want Greta?”

She smiles but there’s no affection there. Not for Charlotte at least. “Just kidding. I know she’s having treatment. She okay?”

I wonder at their closeness if she’s asking. Wouldn’t she have heard from Charlotte if they were friends? I never really paid attention to Charlotte’s female friends. They didn’t interest me. And she had no close male friends and if any of the sausage holders tried to kiss up to her, Nick and I made short shrift of that.

“She’s fine.” I’ve had enough of the conversation. As I turn, the camera shutters again. “What the fuck?”

“Sorry Nathan,” another girl mumbles and looks at the floor. I think her name is Sarah. She has her lens mounted camera running. Laws require all wearable tech with cameras to have the cameras obvious and to emit an audible sound when a picture is being taken…for so-called privacy. They aren’t allowed in school. Reaching over, I pluck the frames off her head. Behind me I sense Nick coming up for support. As Sarah attempts to grab her glasses from me, I toss them to him. He squeezes the camera apparatus between his fingers until it cracks.

“Looks like your camera is broken,” Nick smirks as he hands back the lenses. “You’d think they’d be able to make those a little less fragile after all these years.”

I give him a chin nod and we take off.

“What was that all about?” Nick asks when we are driving to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

“That was about Greta being a complete asswipe. How good of friends are her and Charlotte?”

Nick shrugs. “Not real close. They were on the same competitive gymnastics squad and my guess is that their friendship is more of a frenemy thing.”

“Frenemy?”

“Yeah, like they compete but are teammates.”

I let that thought marinate for a few moments. “Charlotte asked her for condoms so I figured they were like best friends or something.”

“Nah. Charlotte probably went to Greta because her older sister is in college.”

“Got it.”

It made sense now. Charlotte and Greta were friends of convenience. This didn’t excuse Greta but it did explain a little why she was trying to get her digs in.

“We going to the Milhawk party this Friday?” Nick asks done with the conversation about Greta. I am happy to let it drop as well.

“Why not? We got anything better planned?”

“Nope. Can’t drink though so if you want to get shitfaced, I’ll drive your weak ass home.”

“Thanks for the offer,” I say dryly. Maybe I would tie one on this weekend. It’d make the time fly by a little faster.

***

Jason Milhawk lives in South Loop where old money and new are on display between the historic row houses and the newly furbished townhouses. Milhawk comes from old lumber baron money and lives in a row house which has seen a lot of cocktail parties but few ragers.

However, Milhawk had a fully stocked bar and game room in the basement that his parents had built and sound proofed so he could practice with his band. Milhawk’s band is terrible but when you’re drunk it all sounds good.

And I am really drunk. Milhawk dragged me behind the bar the minute that Nick and I got to his house and we proceeded to see how many shots of Patron we could drink in ten minutes. A lot is the answer to that. I stopped counting after the tenth one because…well, I couldn’t count anymore.

Nick’s not allowed to drink because North Prep athletics has a zero tolerance policy. One drop and you’re out. For all his careless attitude, sports means something to him. I suppose that is why he sleeps around so much. It’s the only vice he’s allowed that won’t affect his eligibility.

If Charlotte were here, I wouldn’t be downing shots either because I’d be too concerned about keeping an eye on her but she left me and went half way around the world to hang out with Fraus and Frauleins and people she says have been puked on by the good look faery. I wonder if she means guys too. A chill skitters down my spine. I’ve never been uncertain with Charlotte before. She’s not looked at another guy with any interest but she was a virgin before.

She was nearly animalistic with me before she left. After we’d had sex that first time, it was like a dam had broken and she wanted me all the time. Which was great in the moment but now I’m worried. What if she’s horny and she looks to some other guy close to her to fulfill her needs. Sheee-it.

I fumble with my phone to see if I can call her. What’s the time zone difference again? Would I be waking her up? What time does it say on my phone anyway? I peer at the screen trying to get a fix on the numbers that keep moving. Is that a ten? It is ten? Or is it ten minutes after one?

A slim arm hooks under my arm and little fingers curl around my biceps. For a minute I think it’s Charlotte but then the overwhelming scent of musk hits me. The obvious cologne is something Charlotte would never wear. Peering to my left I see Greta. Her smoky eyeshadow is smudged around her eyes making her appear alarmingly like a raccoon.

“You got shit under your eyes.” I make a circling gesture in the general direction of her face.

She rolls her eyes at me. “It’s eye shadow genius.”

I grunt. Looks like raccoon eyes. “Charlotte doesn’t wear her eye shadow like that.”

Greta rolls her eyes even harder. So hard that I wonder they don’t actually fall out of her eyes. Maybe her eyeshadow is like a forcefield and holds them in. Hmm. I’ll have to ask Charlotte about that. I pick up my phone again but Greta pulls my arm down.

“Nathan,” she breathes against my neck. “I’m sorry about earlier today. I was just kidding. I know Charlotte was sick and that she’s not pregnant.”

The air is warm and her breath smells like she just chewed five breath mints. There’s an almost medicinal feel to it and it reminds me uncomfortably of the hospital. I move away but realize that I’m sitting on one end of the sofa with the arm against my left side and Greta plastered to my right. I shake my right arm a little to let her know that I need room. When she doesn’t move, I scowl at her.

“Even if she was pregnant, so what? Kid would be mine and all of us would be happy.”

That’s not entirely the truth. Her mom and dad would frown. A lot. But in the end, Charlotte and I having kids is the culmination of both our families’ dreams. They’d get over it real quick. I can feel myself harden slightly at the thought of Charlotte being pregnant. That’d be cool. Not now I mean, but later after I’m out of the Marines or even just after boot camp. We should talk about this. I tap the glass of my phone and the numbers settle into 1:15.

With a finger hovering over the call button, I contemplate the time difference. She might be up. Or I might wake her up. Before I can dial, though, the phone is plucked from my fingers. Greta holds it behind her.

“What the fuck?” As I reach over her body to grab it, she leans backward and I collapse on top of her, somehow falling between her open legs. Her thighs grip my hips and she rubs against me as I try to get my phone back. A flash of light followed by a shutter sound goes off. I turn toward the offending noise and it’s that S girl. Fuck. I can’t remember her name.

“Need some help?” Nick’s there and plucks the phone from Greta’s hand. Shoving off her body, I catch the phone that Nick tosses me.
Greta is still lying on the sofa, her legs slightly sprawled looking up at me beneath her eyelashes. She probably thinks she looks sexy but instead it looks a bit grotesque. “You should cover yourself. This desperate look isn’t going to get you anything but a disease.”

Turning on my heel, I pocket my phone. To Nick I say, “Let’s get out of here.”

He nods but before we leave, he turns back to Greta. “You’ve got issues girl. Better work them out or these parties will be closed to you.”

He high fives Milhawk as we exit.

“No worries about that chick,” Milhawk says. “She’s off the list.”

“Whatever,” I say. I’m more interested in talking to Charlotte than talking about one messed up girl from North Prep.

“She’s trouble,” Nick mutters as we walk toward the car. “Don’t underestimate her.”

“What could she possibly do?” I scoff.

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