I stood in the airport, not wanting to leave until I absolutely had to. Rasul was leaving. Prom night had been absolutely amazing and he continued to treat me like a princess afterward. No, I wasn’t in love with him. But he was special to me and I knew I’d remember him forever. I was sad that he was leaving.
He held me tightly to him before he had to pass through security and wiped the tears off my cheeks with his thumbs. “Bonita Sookie, don’t cry. We’ll write and call. It won’t be over,” he whispered
But it was. I knew it. He knew it. It was a perfect first romance, but it was over now. Between prom and graduation, we had been together several more times, and each time was better than the one before. He taught me about my body, what I liked and what I didn’t, and what I needed to have that amazing explosion of pleasure.
I had finally called up every bit of courage I had and got my mom to take me to her doctor to go on birth control. I have to say that I don’t think that situation was one of the pleasing mother-daughter conversations she had had in mind when I was born. After debating the options, and knowing my faulty memory when it came to taking any kind of medication, we decided on the shot. Despite some of my friends saying that it made them gain weight, I didn’t and the missed periods were heaven!
Rasul and I kissed for the last time before he said goodbye to his host family and passed through the scanners to get to his gate. They drove me back home, still crying. I couldn’t help it. I did care for him. Just not enough to let myself fall in love with him. Spain was too far away.
I let myself have a sad day. I sat on the couch eating Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream and watching sappy movies from the eighties. You can’t beat “Pretty In Pink” and “Say Anything” when you’re in a sentimental mood.
But I got over it. Damnit, I was turning sixteen soon! Like, in two weeks. Tara had another “camp out” in her field with me, Amelia, and Holly and the guys. As soon as Alcide found out that Rasul was out of the country, he was all ready with the innuendo and smarmy looks. I was over that shit.
Once we were all reasonably toasted and Amelia and Holly were dancing, I took the moment to grab his massive arm and pull him away from the campfire. “What the fuck, Alc?’
He tried to look like he had no idea what I was talking about. “What the fuck what, Sook?”
“Look, you’re with Holly. I don’t give a shit if you’re exclusive or not. She’s my friend and this shit has got to stop. She acts like she doesn’t notice, but no girl is that fucking blind. And, frankly, it makes me fucking uncomfortable. I’m fine with hanging out. I like you and Tray and I know you guys are a package deal. But just please stop. The little comments, the looks, all of it. It just seriously creeps me out, more than anything.” I had thought I’d made my case and position pretty damn clear.
“Well, hell, Sook. All you had to do was say something. I just liked watching you turn all pink. If it bugs you that much, I’ll stop,” he said reasonably. But then he had to talk again, and the moment was ruined. “But I’ll be right here if you ever change your mind.”
Fuck. I rejoined Tara, JB, and Tray by the campfire and smoked until I went to sleep on the blanket in the grass. Thank God I had sprayed myself down with mosquito repellant before we went out. Otherwise, I would have woken up looking like a leper.
Tray did his generous thing and left us a parting gift in the morning before he, Alcide, and JB drove off. We went back to Tara’s house and Amelia and Holly left also. Tara took me up to her room and cracked a window after stuffing towels by the crack under the door. She lit one of the joints Tray had left and passed it to me when she had her hit.
“Spill, sweetie. How are you now that he’s gone?”
“Honestly? I’m actually okay. I knew it was a short term thing going into it. He was amazing and everything was great, but it all had an expiration date, ya know?” I took a couple of puffs and passed the joint back to her.
“And you were okay with that? Losing the v-chip to a guy that wasn’t going to stick around?” She was surprised, as just about anyone else who knew me would have been.
“I was and still am. I don’t regret one single second of my time with him. Not a bit. But I’m also okay with him being gone. I wasn’t in love with him. I liked him a lot, I cared for him, and he was a great guy. But I don’t even know what the fuck love is.” I took a break in my monologue to hit the joint again. “He’ll always be my first and I’ll always remember him. But I’m too damn young to have some sort of ‘together forever’ kind of relationship. I just stopped being invisible a couple of months ago. I want to have some fun!”
She puffed and passed. “What brought that change on, anyway? One day, you’re in Jase’s old clothes; the next your in all these little numbers that show off your hot little body. ‘Cuz you have to know that you’re smokin’, right Sook?
“I’m not. Not like the cheerleaders or dance squad. But, I was so used to hiding everything that I didn’t realize I might have a little something worth showing off. I just realized that if I put forth an effort, it might make high school a little more fun.”
“But what happened, Sookie. You’re not telling me something,” she said, and she was right. I hadn’t told anyone about the field party. And Tara had the uncanny ability to read me like a fucking book.
So I told her. About being forced to go to the damn party while I was still baked out of my mind and bumming smokes off Eric fucking Northman. At that name, I thought her eyes would fall out of her head they were so wide. I told her about the making out in the woods and the almost first time and how he just left me there when he found out I was a virgin. She actually cackled at that and I think she mumbled “Not a problem anymore” before I joined her laughter. But I could be that just about anything would have struck us as funny then. Tray’s shit was strong.
She drove me home after we raided the fridge for lunch with a severe case of munchies. I managed to make it into my room unhindered and pulled out a book, but it was impossible to read with my fuzzy head. I starting thinking about my birthday. I wanted to do something fun with my friends, but not some huge, debutante, “Sweet Sixteen” monstrosity that would please my mom to no end. I had seen that there was a big fair opening on July first about forty minutes away. My parents had never taken me and Jason had never taken me either. That. I wanted to spend the day at the lake, then go to the fair with my friends and ride rides and eat greasy unidentifiable fair food and play stupid, overpriced games for cheap crap. I broached the subject with my parents at dinner that night.
“But sweetheart, You looked so pretty at prom and thought we could put together a dance floor in yard and some tents and have a big party,” Mom practically whined.
“Michelle, hush. It’s her birthday and she can do what she wants,” Daddy said, shutting her down and I knew that once he’d had his say, it was a done deal.
The morning of my birthday, I spent a couple of hours at the DMV taking the driving test and getting my official license. I no longer had to have a registered driver over the age of eighteen in the car with me while I was at the wheel and the freedom was glorious! I went to pick up Tara for my first day driving. We changed into our bathing suits and put the top down. We sang along with songs on the radio at the top of our lungs in my car. Daddy had surprised me that morning with a dark blue Cabrio convertible that I just loved. He had gotten it off one of the guys he worked with for cheap since it was about to be repossessed.
She and I went to the lake, laid out on the little beach and rented Sea-doos to play on. We had made plans for Amelia and Holly to meet me at my house later and I would drive us to the fair. The guys would meet us there since my car wouldn’t hold seven people. I couldn’t wait!
Thank God school was over. Since I didn’t have to see her everyday, maybe I could get her the fuck out of my head. And I had about six weeks of leisure time. Then football practice would start. Nothing but whatever I wanted to do until then.
Pam had the same amount of free time as me and someone had convinced me to try to be a better brother to her. After a couple weeks of sleeping in late and being a vegetable on the couch in the air conditioning, she convinced me to take her to the lake. We suited up (or down, depending on how you looked at it) and drove to the beach. She had arranged to meet up with some of her friends there and I did the same.
I saw Bill’s dark blue pickup and Max’s old-lady Oldsmobile in the parking lot. Pam jumped out of the car squealing to join a group of similarly squealing girls and they moved as a pack to the far end of the beach. I grabbed a cooler of sodas and headed down to the beach. The Sea-doos looked like fun and the guys and I thought we might rent a couple since laying on the beach was a “chick” thing.
Of course the last two had just been rented. So we would have to wait for at least an hour. Fuck. We laid out our towels with one eye on the marina to see if any of the rentals came back early. We talked about the summer so far and what we were going to do with the remaining month before the sadistic hell of August pre-season football practice. Whoever thought that running drills in full pads in the hellish heat of a southern summer was fun would be sadly mistaken.
We saw a couple of Sea-doos racing each other out on the water. Damn, that looked so fun. I couldn’t wait until some were available. I could see the blond ponytail of one of the riders trailing behind her and she took the lead from the brunette. She swung the vehicle in an arc on the water and went racing back the way they had come, looking behind her to see how close her competition was. When she reached the “No Wake” buoys first, she stood on the running boards with her arms raised in victory. When the other girl reached her, they rode off again together, no longer racing, but enjoying a ride on the water.
As it turned out, they were the first to return with their rentals. We were finishing up the paperwork to take them out when the girls came in to drop off the life jackets. Fuck. Me. This small-town shit makes it too damn easy to see someone you didn’t want to see. But I wanted to see her as much as I didn’t. God.
A fucking tiny-as-hell red and white polka dot string bikini., windblown hair and glowing skin from the sun. Why the fuck did she have to be so damn sexy. She didn’t realize how completely hot she was. She didn’t even turn her head when she and the other girls passed by us. Damn it.
“You know I only let you win ‘cuz it’s your birthday, bitch,” the brunette said and Sookie laughed.
“Keep telling yourself that, Tara. I know it’s just killing you that I kicked your ass and I haven’t even had my license for 4 hours yet.”
“How much time before we have to leave? I want to get some more sun.”
“I’ll call Mia and see what time the guys want to be at the fair. You know Tray will want to have a cook-out before hitting the rides.”
She pulled out her phone as they continued walking away from us, so I didn’t hear any other details, but I suddenly had an idea of what we were going to do tonight. Yeah, I was a stupid shit.
I love the summer. Warmth and sun. What is there not to love. Some people feel smothered by the humidity; I thrived on it. By the time Tara and I left the lake, my skin was at least two shades darker and my hair was lighter. We were going to head to my house to eat, clean up, and change before Holly and Amelia showed up. I knew the fair wasn’t the cleanest place, so I stuck to my cutoffs and a black and gray tank top. I grabbed my favorite black sandals and after I made a turkey sandwich for both of us, we ate and sat on the porch waiting for Mia and Holly.
When Amelia pulled up alone, we were surprised. She and Holly were usually inseparable. She said that Holly was feeling sick with some weird summer flu thing and couldn’t go. So the three of us drove off to meet the guys in the parking lot for the fair.
It was as expected. Tray had the top and doors off of his Jeep and didn’t want to park until we were all satisfactorily baked. Somehow the three of us managed to wedge in around JB and Alcide, but a Jeep was not made for 6 people. By the time he parked, we were all giggly and goofy. It was a perfect attitude for my birthday at the fair.
We bought our wristbands for the rides and went to wait in lines. Mia and Tray wanted the Ferris wheel. Tara and JB wanted the Gravitron (which I won’t ride ever – too many people get sick in that thing and it always smells like puke). So that left Alcide and I to ride my favorite: the Zipper. I don’t know why flipping around in a tiny cage spinning in circles was so appealing, but I loved that ride. We worked our way through the rides on the way back toward the Ferris wheel where we were all meeting before eating. Amazingly, Alc was perfectly friendly, and not in the slimy way I had unfortunately gotten used to.
Tara and JB met us in front of the ride while we waited for Amelia and Tray to meet us. There were so many options for food there. Tray and Alc, naturally, wanted one of the giant turkey legs. JB was going to try a buffalo burger. Tara and Amelia went for hot dogs, but I had my eyes on some chili-cheese fries. We split up to get out food and met back at the little garden of picnic tables, just munching and hanging out. I had a feeling the fair would become a birthday tradition from then on.
The guys were, not surprisingly, enthusiastic about going to the fair. I had no idea why I was torturing myself like this. I should have avoided anywhere she was going to be like the fucking plague. I wanted to see if I could somehow get her alone. I wanted, no, needed to talk to her if I was going to survive this summer with my sanity intact. There were too few hang out spots around town and we shared all of them. There was no logical way I could avoid her if I wanted to leave the house before August.
We piled into my Camero and drove the forty minutes to the fairgrounds. The fair was in full swing when we got there and to wait in line just to buy the damn wristbands. The first ride we came to was the gigantic spinning pedestal with the flying swings and I heard the same laughter from this morning coming from… above me? I looked up and saw a streamer of blond hair flying. Bill, Max, and Clancy looked up, following my eyes. I pretended I was watching nothing more than the ride.
“Come on, dude. This is a pussy ride. I wanna ride the Zipper,” Max said. Clancy and Bill nodded in agreement.
“You guys go on. I want to ride this.”
They left and I waited by the exit for the departing riders. I saw Sookie, staggering a little bit from being dizzy and she grabbed the arm of that guy Alcide to keep from falling on her ass. She had the same goofy grin that she had the night of the party and was giggling. Her other friends joined her and they all left the ride. I knew that she was going with a group, but did she ever do anything alone? I wouldn’t be able to talk to her at the fair; she obviously wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I left the swings and went to meet the guys at their ride. There were a lot of people at the fair since it was opening night. The chances of running into her again were slim, right?
Actually, they were. We moved from ride to ride and ate and got heckled by the asshole in the dunking booth and Bill laid out close to twenty dollars trying to knock the guy into the gray looking water below him. Since it was the opening day, there was a fireworks show at the end of the night. It actually ended up being a really fun evening once I was able to clear my mind.
I couldn’t wait for the fireworks. Since I was little, I had always associated fireworks with my birthday, since it was so close to the Fourth of July. Tray got some blankets out of the Jeep and we made our way to a little patch of grass on the edge of the grounds that had a great view. We spread out the blankets on the now damp grass as the sky darkened. It had been a kick-ass birthday.
Amelia and Tray were cuddled together and Tara and JB were making out, oblivious to anyone else. Alcide and I sat side by side awkwardly. I wasn’t about to get all cozy with him and I guess me telling him off before let him know where I stood if he tried. I reclined back on my elbows and looked up at the sky.
At the first whistle and bang, all the lights went down around the fair and the show began. I was past the “ooh and ahh” stage, but I always smiled while the fireworks were going off. It was a great twenty-minute display with an amazing finale. When the lights came back up, we were happy and tired and ready to head home. We girls split from the guys to go our separate ways and made the long ride home.