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The dry heat of the cigarette smoke hurt Maureen's throat. She fought not to cough. She was sitting Indian style on the grass. It was dark, and the sky was crowded with stars. Trevor's car was parked nearby. They were up on a dirt road that dead-ended at the top of a mountain. Probably, they were on private property. It didn't matter. No one came up here. For that reason, it was one of their parking spots. She and Trevor came here to make out.
Except they'd just done more than make out. She sucked in smoke and blew it out.
Trevor sat down beside her, putting his arm around her shoulders. "You okay?"
She nodded and offered him a cigarette. He took it and lit it.
"You sure?" he said.
She smiled and offered him her lips. He kissed her.
It hadn't been bad. It hadn't hurt. Well, it kind of had, at the beginning, but then it had stopped hurting. There hadn't been any gush of blood like in the romance novels she'd read. It had just been, well, boring. Disappointing. She felt like she had the first time she'd drunk wine. She'd been expecting a sweet, sparkling nectar. Instead, she'd tasted a bitter, lukewarm liquid. It had tasted gross. Maureen remembered feeling vastly cheated. That was wine? How could people actually drink that? It was disgusting.
Of course, after she got used to it, she started to appreciate it. Like cigarettes. Same thing. But of all the things in the world, she'd never expected she'd have to learn to like sex.
People made it sound so great. It was supposed to feel really good. But it didn't. It didn't feel like anything. Maureen would rather kiss. Hell, she'd rather be groped. Being groped was nice. And the whole time Trevor had been groping her, she'd known they were leading up to sex, eventually. She'd expected sex to top groping. It was supposed to be the climax. The big finish. And it was just kind of gross. It was messy, and Trevor had gotten all sweaty. She was coated in his sweat. She wanted a shower. She wanted to cry. She'd never felt so alone in her entire life.
"Your shirt's on backwards," said Trevor.
She wriggled away from him, popping her cigarette into her mouth, glad to get his arm off her shoulder. Tucking her arms inside her shirt, she scooted it around the right way and stuck her arms back through the sleeves. She ground out her cigarette and stood up.
Trevor stood up too. "Well," he said.
"I think I wanna go home," said Maureen. "It's kind of late."
"It's not that late," said Trevor.
Maureen checked her watch. Nine-thirty. It really wasn't that late. She fumbled for another cigarette.
It was quiet for a really long time.
Finally, Trevor said, "Did it hurt? I've heard that it hurts girls sometimes, the first time."
Maureen shook her head. "Not really. I'm okay."
"You can tell me."
"It really didn't hurt that much. It hurt for like a couple minutes."
"I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt you."
"You didn't. I'm fine. I'm really fine," she said. For some reason, all she really wanted was away from him. It bugged her that they had both had the same experience and it had been so different for both of them. It bugged her that it had obviously felt good to him, and it hadn't felt good to her. It wasn't fair.
"Okay," said Trevor. "Do you really want to go home?"
She thought she did. But maybe she could...fix it. If she could just feel close to him, the way she did before, when they were just kissing. She moved close to him and laid her head on his shoulder. "Hold me," she said. She'd always wanted to say that. Women always said that on the movies. His arms came around her like a warm blanket, and it did start to feel better. She felt safer.
They stood like that for a long time. Trevor stroked her hair. She nuzzled into the crook between his neck and shoulders. It felt nice. Finally, Trevor asked her again: "Do you want me to take you home?"
She pulled back. "I like being close to you. Can we just cuddle in the backseat?"
They did. They kissed a little too. Maureen was starting to feel a huge balloon of affection for Trevor growing in her chest. She stared at his face, trying to memorize it. She was bonding to him. She knew it. It must be some sort of biological female response to sex. She didn't want to let him go. She mused on that for a few seconds. What was she feeling? She didn't want to think it was purely emotional on her part, because she wasn't sure Trevor felt the same way. If she could blame it on something, she wouldn't feel so vulnerable. Because right now, she felt like she loved Trevor.
"Can I tell you something weird?" asked Trevor.
"Sure," said Maureen.
"I think Jared is Simon Finch."
"What?!" The two had been entangled, arms and bodies entwined, but now Maureen moved away. Where in the heck had that come from? Obviously, sex hadn't had nearly the same effect on Trevor that it had had on her. How was that fair in any universe? She hadn't even liked having sex, and now it was making her feel all attached to Trevor. Trevor had enjoyed it and didn't get any annoying attached feelings. Why was the world so unjust?
"Jared said something to me about bombs, and it was the same thing Simon said to me once. Word for word," Trevor said.
"Trevor, Jared looks nothing like Simon Finch," Maureen said.
"I know," said Jared. "But maybe he could have surgery. Or he's wearing a face mask. Or—"
"Are you crazy? Simon Finch is dead, for one thing. I saw pictures of his body. For another, even if he happened to be alive, why would he pretend to be Jared?"
"Because of me," said Trevor. "He wants to hurt me."
"Jesus. Paranoid much?" Maureen said. She laughed. "Come on, Trevor."
"Don't laugh," he said. "It was creepy. He said the exact same thing."
"It's a coincidence. That's all." Maureen was starting to get creeped out herself. Trevor was serious. He really thought this absurd thing. "Maybe you should start taking your pills again."
Trevor looked at her in horror. "Take that back."
"I'm just saying—"
"Take it back."
But Trevor was climbing into the front seat and starting the car. He wouldn't speak to her on the drive home.
"What are we watching?" Frances asked. "Is it too gross, because I don't feel like being grossed out."
Maureen shook her head. She'd just arrived at Frances' house for Wednesday movie night. "I rented Sex and the City."
Maureen surveyed the living room. "No cupcakes?"
Frances wasn't eating anything. She usually had a lot of snacks. Frances shook her head. "I'm on a diet."
"Yeah, I've noticed you haven't been eating much. I know I said stuff to you about that, but I didn't mean—"
"I'm fine, Maureen. Don't worry," said Frances. She was losing weight. The pills Jared had given her worked really well. And even though she was still pretty mad at Maureen, Jared said for his plan to work, it was better that she held onto the friendship. She'd been spending a lot of time with Jared recently. "So, how's Trevor?"
Maureen shrugged. "I don't know."
"What's wrong?" Frances hoped she sounded sincere.
"Well, we had sex," said Maureen.
"Really?" That little bitch. How dare she? The thought of Trevor with anyone besides her made her sick to her stomach. But Frances leaned forward and said in her best excited girly voice, "What was it like?"
"I don't know. It was okay. I think it'll get better, but you know the first time is..."
Frances nodded. "Did it hurt?"
"Not that much."
"Did you bleed?"
"No." Maureen shrugged again. "It was fine, but he got really mad at me afterwards."
"He said this stupid thing. He said that he thought Jared was...somebody else. A dead somebody else. And he was serious. So I told him maybe he should start taking his meds, because he sounded really paranoid."
"Oh, wow," said Frances. "Gosh, you really shouldn't have said that."
Maureen looked miserable. "I know."
"Have you talked to him since?"
"Yeah. He called me and apologized that night."
"So, everything's okay?" said Frances.
"I don't know. He's different now. And I'm...Frances, I think I'm in love with him. I don't know if it's just because he's the first guy I've had sex with that I feel the way I do, but it's like, when he's not around, the world's not nearly as bright."
"Wow," said Frances. Clearly, Trevor didn't love her back. Good.
"Anyway, we haven't gone out since it happened. I'm worried. You don't think he's the kind of guy who'd just use me to get laid and then get rid of me, do you?"
"Maybe," said Frances. "I don't know him as well as you do. Or...I don't know. You didn't really like the sex. Did he like it?"
"Did he say he liked it?"
"Maybe he doesn't want to be with you because of that."
"How was I supposed to be good in bed? It was my first goddamned time," Maureen said. "Jesus, I'm so freaked out. Let's just watch the movie."
"Okay," said Frances. "I'm sorry you're so upset." Yeah, right. She was ecstatic.
Trevor stared at the clock in Ms. Trask's classroom. He could swear it hadn't moved in hours. It felt like hours, anyway. Assuming the clock was actually correct, it had only been seconds. Trevor felt like he'd been in school for eons. And it was only first period. He slumped down in his chair and tried to concentrate on what Ms. Trask was saying.
They were reading some Shakespeare play. Well, Trevor wasn't reading it, but it was assigned for class. He honestly had no idea what it was about or anything. Maureen had suggested renting the movie, and he'd seriously thought about doing it. It seemed like a good way to figure out what was going on in class, but he hadn't done it yet. He kept meaning to, but things kept coming up.
Things. Whatever. Since the whole thing with Maureen—God, that was pathetic. He couldn't even think the words. He and Maureen weren't especially talking about it in specifics, but he should be able to think it at the very least. Right. So, since Trevor had lost his virginity, everything had seemed worse. He guessed it was partly because of the argument they'd had. Hell, who was he kidding? It hadn't really been an argument. He'd said something weird, and she'd told him he ought to be medicated. He guessed she was justified in saying that. After all, it was an extremely strange thing he'd said. Maureen would obviously think it was crazy to think Jared and Simon were the same person. And she probably hadn't meant the comment about the pills as seriously as he'd taken it. He really liked Maureen. He didn't want to be angry with her. And he really wasn't.
It was just...well, what if she was right? What if he really did need to be on those pills? It wasn't just the Jared thing, although he really didn't like Jared. It was also the dreams. He'd been having really violent dreams lately. Every night, he woke up with the image of his dead parents emblazoned on his brain. He killed other people in the dreams. Jared, his teachers, Maureen, Frances, but he always ended up shooting his parents. The dreams weirded him out. They were so vivid, and while he was sleeping, they seemed so real.
And that wasn't the worst of it. When he and Maureen had... When he had lost his virginity, he'd had a flash, like the one he'd had earlier while jacking off. A gory picture. A naked chick. Anytime he got off, he saw one. Usually it was Maureen. She was always alive, but ripped up somehow. Missing limbs or bleeding from her throat or being riddled with bullet holes.
He didn't think that was normal. If he took the pills, they might go away, but so would his chance of ever having another orgasm. The pills really destroyed his libido. Which maybe didn't make much difference, really, because the flashes of wounded naked chicks were pretty much destroying his sex life anyway. He hadn't been with Maureen since. She hadn't said anything about it. That worried him too. He knew she hadn't really enjoyed having sex, but he'd hoped she'd at least want to try it again. She probably hated it. He was probably so bad in bed, she'd never touch him again.
Sex complicated things. It just did.
Frances nudged him. He had three classes with her and she'd somehow managed to end up sitting next to him in all of them. She was losing weight, but she seemed different. Not good different, either. It was like all her sweetness had been in her fat.
"What?" he whispered.
"Do you have a pen?" she whispered back. "Mine's out of ink."
Trevor shook his head. "Sorry." Pens? Who brought pens to school?
"Trevor," said Ms. Trask.
Trevor's head snapped up. Shit. She was talking to him.
"Did you have something you wanted to share with the class?" Ms. Trask asked.
"Uh, no. No, I'm good," said Trevor.
"Well, maybe you could offer your opinion on the question I just asked."
What question? Jesus, was everybody looking at him? He hated school. Opinion, huh? "I think it's good," he said.
Ms. Trask considered. "Interesting response. My question was, 'Why does Iago do what he does?'"
"Oh," said Trevor. Fuck this shit. He already looked like an ass. Maybe he'd just give a ridiculous answer. "I don't know. He's crazy."
"Yes," said Ms. Trask. "That is definitely one point of view. When Bob Hoskins was playing Iago, he gave an interview in which he said Iago is a psychopath. Can anyone tell me what a psychopath is, clinically?"
Score one for Maureen and her mass murderer obsession. Trevor raised his hand.
"Psychopaths don't have the same set of morals that we do. They do things primarily for their own benefit. They're not really able to feel empathy for other people."
"Exactly," said Ms. Trask. "Good, Trevor. But is this how Iago behaves?"
Jared raised his hand.
Ms. Trask ignored it. It was the only raised hand in the class.
"Anyone," said Ms. Trask.
Jared just started talking. "Iago's just having fun," he said. "He doesn’t have a reason for why he does the things he does. It's just his idea of a good time."
"Anyone at all," said Ms. Trask.
"Don't ignore me," said Jared.
"Jared," said Ms. Trask, "can you read me the third of this classroom's rules?"
Jared didn't say anything.
"Fine, maybe someone else can," Ms. Trask said. "Trevor?"
"Hey, don't get me involved in this," said Trevor. "Jared's an asshole, but you're a teacher, and he's right, you shouldn't ignore him."
"Rule Three states that students are not to talk out of turn," said Ms. Trask. "That means all of you are to wait to be recognized."
"If a student has something valid to say, then he should be allowed," said Trevor. "We're here to learn, right?"
"Both of you out," said Ms. Trask.
No one moved.
"I mean it," she said. "Jared. Trevor. To the office. Now."
Trevor got up. That was weird. Ms. Trask was usually really cool. And plus those classroom rules she was referring to clearly stated that students got three warnings before being sent to the principal's office. What was up with her?
Once in the hall, Jared smirked at him. "Iago's crazy, huh? You been doing your homework like a good boy?"
Trevor just shook his head. He didn't want to talk to Jared.
"Of course," Jared continued, "you know all about being crazy, right? Any takers on those pills, or did you wise up and decide you need to take them yourself?"
"You set Ms. Trask off," Trevor said. "Why the hell did you say anything?"
"Just my idea of a good time," Jared said.
"Look, I know who you are—"
"You have no idea who I am," Jared interrupted. "But I know who you are, Trev."
No one ever called him Trev except his brother. Not even his parents.
"I know all about you," said Jared. "I know what you're capable of. I know what you're thinking about doing. And I say, bring it on. Go for it. Some shit's about to go down. One way or another, you're gonna be wound up in it, because you're just like your brother, Trev."
Trevor took a swing at Jared. Jared caught his fist in midair.
"That's it," said Jared. "Just let go."
Trevor set his jaw and started up the hallway towards the office. After a few strides, he realized Jared wasn't following. He turned. Jared was nowhere to be seen. Great. He was skipping out on the office.
Trevor briefly considered doing the same thing. He wanted time to think. Jared had to be Simon. He knew stuff. But how was that possible?
On second thought, he didn't actually want to think about that. He continued up the hall.
The door to Ms. Trask's classroom burst open. Ms. Trask stepped out. "Trevor," she called. "Come back here."
Trevor went back.
"Where's Jared?" she said.
Trevor shrugged. "He ran off."
"Goddamn it," said Ms. Trask.
Trevor raised his eyebrows.
"Sorry," she said. "Look, you're right. I was out of line. I'm sorry for reacting the way I did. I've already apologized to the class. I just feel like...I don't know, I'm falling apart."
"Um...I'm sorry?" Jesus, why was she telling him this stuff?
She seemed to realize she didn't need to be sharing this with Trevor. "Back in class," she said.
Copyright (c) 2010 Valerie Chambers