There are different colors, sizes and I’m a little stumped by the choices I have.”Where does your sister get all these?”
“I think when you go to college it’s in your welcome packet.” Greta runs her fingers through pile messing them up and then she re-sorts them. Greta has a lot of nervous energy. One of her extremities–an arm or foot has to constantly be in motion. I’m too weak for nerves these days. I only have the energy for doing.
“I can’t wait.” But really I’m not even sure if that’s a truthful statement. College was once a foregone conclusion. Nick and I had talked about it often—arguing about whether I would go to Notre Dame where Nick hoped to get a football scholarship. Nate, now that I think about it, never participated in these discussions. I’d lived so much in the moment with the future this nebulous forward mass that was simply full of opportunity, hopes and dreams.Was being the key word now. My future was still nebulous but the shape of it had changed and I didn’t like looking at it anymore.
“I know. Me either.”
She picks up a gold foil one and one that is lime green. I can’t imagine putting one of these on Nathan and definitely not a lime green one. I pluck the gold foiled one out of her hands. “I’ll take this one.”
“The green one tastes like lemon-lime,” she sings.
I make a face and stick the gold one under my pillow. We chat a little while longer until Dad comes by and says that the car is ready to take Greta home.
It’s getting late and so I get ready for bed. It occurs to me that I should have had Greta bring over something sexy to wear to bed. I have nothing that might stir a boy’s interest. My bras are plain and so are my underwear and what’s not plain is rather juvenile.
Perhaps I could filch something from mom. I creep out of my bedroom and down the hall to my parents’ bedroom. Their door is closed but I hear their voices which means there is no way I can get inside. Turning I start to head back to my room when I hear my name and then Nathan’s. Instead of leaving, I draw closer and press my ear to the door.
“Aren’t we just saying sure Nate come and defile our angel all you want. In fact let me buy you the condoms. Need any help slipping them on?” It is dad sounding surly and gruff, a pretty unusual state for him. He’s always easy going with mom and me. I make a sad face for him. I hate that my daddy is sad because of me but does he really think I’m never ever going to have sex? That sounds pretty dismal. How would I ever have kids? How would they have grandkids?
“If her current medical regime wouldn’t have made birth control contraindicated, I would have put her on the pill.” Mom’s voice is farther away and I can barely make out her words. My guess is she’s standing in the adjacent bathroom and Dad is sitting on the sofa in front of the fireplace in their bedroom. He’s probably drinking a scotch or something amber in color. I’ve learned that anything that is darker than say a mountain dew is going to make me sick.
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that sunshine. ”
Mom laughs. “Didn’t we make this decision together that we’d rather have Charlotte experience safe sex than explore it with strangers without protection?”
“Sure but we made that decision when she was eight and still called me Daddy unironically. I thought I had a good twenty years before she’d start thinking about sex.”
Really dad? When I was thirty? I stop making my sad face for him. Now I’m frowning.
“Would you really not want your baby girl to enjoy sex Bo? That’s your wish for her? ”
“I feel like this is a trick question. Like there’s no right answer.”
I hear him shift on the sofa and then footsteps. Mom’s voice is louder, clearer now. She’s joined him on the sofa. “I’m not ready for her to grow up either but I don’t see how we stop it and I’d rather she learn about stuff from someone like Nathan who’d gnaw off his own arm before he hurt her than some other stupid North Prep punk.”
“When you put it like that…” Dad sounds reluctant but he’s obviously given up the fight. I grin to myself.”Besides it’s only for a short while and I out the fear of God into Nate this morning.”
“You did? Because I worked him over last night with the whole I trust you not to betray the goodwill of your Aunt and me.”
There’s a slapping of hands as if they’ve just high-five each other. My parents. Gah.
“We make such a good team,” says my mom.
“I know,” dad says smugly. “Now swing your leg over here, sunshine, and let’s practice some of our other team moves. Like the one where you–” His voice is abruptly cut off and there aren’t any more words, just noises that gross me out.
Wrinkling my nose I straighten up only to run into a Nate sized wall. He places a hand over my mouth to stifle a yelp of surprise and then winks at me, slowly dragging me down the hall to my bedroom.
“So your parents still get it on regularly?” he grins.
Inside my room, I flop onto the bed and try to shut out the visual. “Gross, Nate. Really.”
“Why’s that gross you out? How do you think you were born.”
“Do you really want to think about your parents having sex?”
He shrugs. “It’s not like I’m thinking about it everyday but don’t you think that it’s cool that they’re so into each other even after all this time? I mean, yeah, it’s not like I want to watch my dad chase my mom around the living room every night but makes me glad that they still work for each other years after they met. Don’t you want that?”
I do and I know who I want it with.
He nudges me over and climbs onto the bed next to me. Plumping the pillow his hand brushes something and it crackles. Oh no, the condom. Nate sits up and pulls it out.
“What’s this” His face looks hard.
“I know but why do you have it under your pillow?”
I blow him a raspberry. “Why do you think?”
There’s nothing for me to do but brazen it out.
“Who gave this to you?” His hand is crumpling the condom and I’m worrying about the integrity of the rubber.
Reaching over, I pluck it from his hand and try to smooth it out a little perturbed he’s jumping to some crazy assumptions and is ruining my plans. “I think you ruined it.”
He takes it from me and throws it across the room. “I didn’t ruin it and you’re not going to need it.”
“Geesh, Nathan, you’re as bad as my dad.” I lean up on one elbow to stare at him, acutely conscious that I’m wearing an old snoopy t shirt and some sweatpants. I get really cold easily these days. I’m unsexy and frail and probably the last thing that Nathan wants. These past weeks he’s been giving me attention has probably all been out pity. Fine then, I’ll use the damn condom with someone else. I drop on my back and start rifling through all the North Prep guys that might help me out. I’d ask Nick tomorrow. He’d make a face but ultimately he’d help me.
Nathan runs a hand through his hair and falls back on the bed. “It’s not like that.”
Not like what? I think. I burst out, “Is it because I’m too thin? My port too ugly?”
“Do you really think I’m that shallow?” He looms over me now, his big body like a plank of wood. Stiff, straight and hard.
“What is your problem then?” I yell at him.
He slaps a hand over my mouth to stifle the noise. Sitting up, he drags me over to sit on the edge of the bed and then he drops to his haunches between my legs. He lays his head sideways so that one cheek rests against my knee. It’s the most intimate position I’ve ever had with a boy and it’s setting my heart racing. He kisses the scar I got on my knee when I dragged myself over the carpet in the television room not realizing that Nick had left his Leatherman tool open. I’d cut myself and then Nick and I were afraid to tell anyone so it got infected and healed badly. Nick got a whooping and so did I. Nate was mad at both of us for a week and hid Nick’s pocket knife. I’m not sure if Nick has ever gotten his original one back although one of our Dad’s friends gifted him a new one a couple of years ago.
“You’re beautiful Charlotte. With your soft hair and your port and your scars, you’re everything I would want in a girl. Don’t you believe differently,” he turns his head again so I can see his brown velvet eyes staring straight at me.
He kisses up a little higher, to the top of my thigh. “I love your laugh. Your willingness to put up with the Jackson boys’ shit constantly. Your endless optimism. No one has your spirit.”
He rises and pushes me backward on the bed so that I’m caged on either side by his muscular arms. Why Nate, you haven’t been skipping arm day have you? I think ridiculously because I’m nervous and excited and I’m trying not to squeal.
He is going to kiss me. His face comes closer and I lick my lips in anticipation. This is it. Lower. This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole short life. This is why I have to keep living so that I can remember this event over and over and over. Slowly his lips brush mine. I want to keep my eyes open but they are drug down as if there is a string attached to my lips.
“I just want to take things slow. Make them right for you. Do you trust me?”
“We can’t go back. What we have between us,” he waves his finger back and forth, from his chest to time, “will never be the same. We will have to fight to keep Nick with us. We have to fight to keep together. No matter what. Will you do that?”
“I will,” I vow. I loved him so much for remembering Nick—that we were all unit. And that he wanted me to fight for him and for us.
He bends forward then and presses his mouth against mine again. His arms are shaking with the effort of something, some unknown force either holding him back or pushing him forward. He’s straining with the power of it but his lips against mine after featherweight, light and without pressure. It’s a hello kiss. It’s a we’re going to get to know each other one new second at a time kiss. It’s endlessly sweet and wonderful but it’s not enough.
So I grab hold of his wrists and it’s easy to tumble him down but he turns at the last minute so he’s lying on his side, still kissing me, still telling me that kissing me is all he wants for now. He threads his left hand through my right but his other hand is no longer occupied with holding him up and so it drifts downward until it finds the curve of my waist. There it stops and finds purchase, gripping me tight. He won’t let me get closer but as our lips move against each other I feel his fingers bite into my skin and that movement tells me that he’s so close to the very edge of something that he doesn’t even notice that his touch might be a little too tight. I revel in that—that I’m making Nathan Jackson feel out of control.
But his iron will is still in charge and so we are just kissing, loving each other with the soft movement of our lips against each other