This week's Red Writing Hood challenge was to write about the downside of physical beauty. Not sure I actually hit the mark, but I liked what evolved from the prompt.
For the first time in ages, I'm attempting fiction.
I welcome your thoughts.
I wasn't supposed to hear him.
It was part of our agreement. As an honorary One of the Guys, I discussed the size, density, and color of my fecal matter. I hacky-sacked, and pretended to enjoy Phish. I belonged, with the caveat that I never brought up menstruation. And in turn, I was part of their tribe.
Or so I thought.
Years ago, Mom had decided that I was going to be a camp counselor. It's what she had done-- traipsed through the woods, made lanyard key chains and sang "Rise and Shine" to her defenseless charges. She held little kids' hands while they were homesick, and crooned "Scarborough Fair," in three part harmony as the sun flickered to twilight.
"When I saw your father playing that guitar, I knew I would marry him," she told me. She unpacks this story several times a year. "I spent the summer adoring him."
Sometimes, in the retelling, she digs up a picture, in all his mutton-chopped glory. He is corded from hours of rock climbing, and lean. Shirtless, he holds his guitar. Gray-eyed. Devastating.
He's my father, and a complete bastard, and I even I can see he was hot.
Mom doesn't discuss the marriage at city hall, my arrival four months later, or the trailer park in Flagstaff. And we certainly don't mention the day he skipped town.
She came home one night, reeking of cigarettes from her happy hour shift at Garcia's Bar and Grill. "Rachel, my dear," she said, slumping into a chair, "Even the nicest man thinks of sex every minute of the day. Remember that."
I nodded, as if any man or boy would even look at me, let alone hold me all night.
Yet, she insisted that I take a job at the same camp, amidst the redwoods in Northern California. I was supposed to relieve her glory days, as long as I avoided the whole unplanned-pregnancy-ruined-my-life-except-that-you're-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me thing.
And there, under that canopy of trees, I found Mike, David, Matthew, and Patrick. Four roommates from Humboldt State, reeking of patchouli and studied irony. We bonded over beers and Faith No More, but I won their devotion for keeps when I called David a "raggedy ass, soy-milk drinking motherfucker."
I was in. Which is good, because I wanted to be as close to Mike as possible. I wanted to rest my head in the crook of his arm, feel him cover me with his sinewy warmth, his hot breath warming exposed skin.
I could taste our salt, even though we had never touched. Yet.
I played the part. Out-grossed. Out-duded. I hoped, just like the movies, that he would see me--see us--right under his eyes. That love would ignite from these gathered twigs.
Last night, I saw Mike talking to David, their outlines faint in the moonlight. I lingered in the dark.
"So, would you fuck her?" I heard David's voice, then the clink of his beer bottle on the fire pit.
"Who?" Mike said, "Carli? Dude, she's like, fifteen." He was talking about my counselor-in-training, a trim blonde with blonde hair cascading to her waist. For the record, she was eighteen. And kinda dumb.
"So would you?" I held my breath, waiting for his response.
He paused for a moment, then said, "Here's what I want. I want her body and face. Shit, I want her to flog me with that hair." They both laughed. "But I wish she could have Rachel's brain."
I felt warmth flood through my body. I swallowed his scraps despite myself.
David hooted, "What, you don't want to fuck Scarface?"
My hand flew to my cheek.
Mike laughed, and took another long draw. He cleared his throat. "No. Dude. I mean she's cool and all, but....no."
Face burning, I retreated into the woods. I wished I could walk and walk until I hit the ocean, until the waves covered my head, and all was silent.
Mom was wrong. Men think of sex all the time, unless they are around me.