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“You want me to show you what, in exchange for fifty bucks!” Emilia whispered, the words parting her lips like contemptuous gnawing bites.

“What I meant to ask-“, uttered Luela, suddenly embarrassed, afraid. “What I meant was; would you pose for me?”

“Luela, that’s not what you said! If that’s what you meant to say, then that’s what you should have said! God?”

“I’m sorry Emilia. Let me try again. Would you pose naked for me in exchange for fifty bucks?”

“Hell no!” Emilia answered. “Talk about- of all the- I just can’t believe- you must be kidding- what makes you think… I gotta go.”

“Emilia, I didn’t mean to make you afraid of me. Wait.”

The young woman reached for her friend.

“Don’t you touch me.” Emilia demanded, wrenching her arm away. “I’m not afraid. I’m just… I gotta go. Where are my keys? Where did I leave my keys?”

She scanned the room once, avoiding Luela’s gaze.

“Emilia.” ,Luela breathed, tired, mournful. “No matter what happens, please don’t hate me. Please.”

With her left hand Emilia clutched the chain of keys from atop the stereo. With her right, she brushed a length of pink highlighted fairness from her face. She met Luela’s stare, and heaved a great breath. Wariness, perplexity, reticence, and even a little resignation, was expressed in the exhalation. Luela wasn’t stopping her. She was free to go. There was the door. After that was the hallway, the kitchen, the living room and foyer, Emilia knew the way. She suddenly felt as if stark naked, and even looked down to assure herself that she wasn’t. There was her car in the driveway, the gas tank was full. Then leave, you idiot, Emilia thought to herself.

“I gotta go.” ,she gurgled, so bewildered that she barely inhaled enough to speak.

Emilia cleared her throat.

“I’ll see you around.”

“See you around.” ,Luela repeated, turning her stare toward the space of floor before her bare feet.

Emilia awkwardly pivoted her way around the open door, and walked quickly, quietly down the hall.

“You’re leaving so soon, Emilia?” ,said Mrs. Washburn, from her seat at the kitchen table, where she was reading that afternoon’s paper.

“Yes, Mrs. Washburn.: ,the young woman answered, changing her shocked expression to something a little less conspicuous.” ,I just realized that it’s my turn today to pick up my stepbrother from day-care. And once I get back home there’s this heap of chemistry homework I gotta do, cause the lab is due tomorrow. Gotta go, bye.”

Emilia was proficient at deceit. She even surprised herself sometimes with her own speed and accuracy. Why were you out so late last night? Could you explain why there’s a dent in the rear panel of your mother’s car? Emilia, can you explain to me why this particular charge is on MY credit card? She could weasel out of it all, a few choice words, some carefully timed expressions, and she was out like Roman Polansky. So what o I tell Luela, she thought once inside her mother’s Isuzu. What do I say if she calls this weekend? God, am I going to avoid her for the rest of the school year? Emilia fired up the kitten v-six, and carefully pulled out of the driveway. I don’t know. Maybe she got the point. Sure, she’s cool like that. thoughts swam in her head as she coasted up and down Village Street. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe she just came right out and said it. Just like that. Would you show it to me if I paid you fifty dollars; was the question Luela had asked. Exactly, Emilia wondered, was it? I should have known, she thought, turning onto Auger Road, I should have known when she took that book of paintings out. Perhaps Emilia should have known before even that. But when? When could it have started? How was she to know? After all, Luela herself was a teenager. For her, deceit was not only a tool, but also a shelter. Or an asylum, depending which side you were on.

The book of paintings was Luela’s favorite, Boris and Doris VALLEJO’S Mirage. They were a husband and wife team of artists. He, the painter, she, the writer of the poetry inspired by each piece. Luela hoped to paint as well as Boris one day, the same sort of photo-realistic fantasy surrealism, the same fluidity, but rendered in her very own style. Boris was indeed the best. Luela had her women idols, Katy Kolwitz, Rowena Morrille, O’Keefe, Artemisa, she respected them all. Yet none of them had the sensuality, the power, the brilliance, the freedom, she saw in everything Boris signed his name to. As Emilia drove farther and farther away, to wherever she thought it was safe, Luela fingered her stereo’s remote. She then raised the volume slightly, because Jill Sobule did not create particularly loud music. The chains are locked across my chest, she sings, there’s no heart breaking. I’ve done this show a thousand times, Luela sings along, this tricks so easy. As they lower me into your waters, there’s no escaping. Luela had wanted to show her friend the book, she sketched from daily, to tell the casino oyna truth, to share its secret. She thought it was about time.

They had been friends since the fifth grade. They had observed how each other fit in and out of catty cliques, showed one another the best possible paths through the emotional wilderness of adolescence, watched each other grow into the bodies they’d hoped to grow into, took joy in experiencing one another’s success, and encouraged each other’s way past failure. And now, there, alone in her room, with her songs, and her books. She had failed. There was no one to tell, no objective role model, no gay and lesbian league in North Branford High, no best friends. Luela didn’t even feel like drawing. If it had happened with someone else, if Emilia wasn’t the crux, she would be the one to say; Okay Lue, tell me what’s wrong. She had failed because she had crossed the line of love and friendship, which happened to bisect the thicker bolder line called sex. Luela reached for her pad of newsprint, and fished a charcoal pencil out of the box. She drew a plus sign on the top left corner of the next blank page. She smiled a small smirk of futility, then drew an x. Luela tossed the pad to the floor.

The notion of failure reminded her that hindsight was 20/20. Emilia was always whining about how she missed John after he’d left her, until Rudy showed up. Then Rudy left her to whine, until Stephen offered his attention. There was another, but he had come and gone so fast that Luela couldn’t remember his name. Luela reach for Mirage, and leafed through the pages until she was past the pencil studies. She cringed suddenly. Painful memories spewed from the back of her mind. Emilia had described the sex with them, yes all of them. It nagged at her that they, as clumsy and oafish as they were, could have entry into such splendor. Did any of them ever give you an orgasm; Luela had asked once. Emilia hesitated, then said she didn’t know. Of course she didn’t know. She’s like a lot of girls our age, Luela thought, that only think of the clitoris as just another place to hang jewelry from. Come on, most of them won’t have a genuine orgasm until the age of twenty-four. We need like a three-day workshop in health class, masturbation: plateaus and peaks. Luela had wondered -now and again- as to how inspiring might Emilia’s more private terrain be. She never knew for sure because Emilia never disrobed beyond her under clothes. Never once during sleepovers, nor in the girl’s locker room, before and after gym. Luela believed her friend was ashamed of her body, as it was with most boys in the sense that she didn’t measure up to that socially reinforced ideal. As absurd as she knew it was, Luela couldn’t trace Emilia’s shyness to any other source. She would strip down to nothing [and she did often] yet Emilia usually changed in the bath. For a time Luela thought perhaps it was the usual homophobia, but Emilia never purposefully looked away, or seemed at all uncomfortable with Luela’s brief nudity. Maybe that’s why she’s running home right now, she thought, because she has known all along. She turns the page, and touches her favorite painting in the book as if it was in relief. I guess that was nice of her, she thought, not bringing it up, not crucifying me.

Emilia rummaged through the center console, her eyes fixed on the road ahead. Home was down the next right, 17 Rosecastle Lane. She initiated her turning signal, obeying the rules, despite the empty wake reflected in the rear view. Her mind raced, hurtling through facts, preconceptions, feelings, and sentiments. As Emilia drew nearer to the turn, an intention spoke itself out, a ring of clarity above the din. She passed Rosecastle, passed Jay View Road.

At the light, where 22 met 80, Emilia turned her full attention toward the small compartment behind the stick shift. Two things were clear in her mind; which cassette it was she needed to find, and where she would drive to while listening to it. The light turned green. Someone had come out of Jay View, the same driver that was now waiting behind her. His horn blared suddenly, startling Emilia. She muttered a curse, threw an empty cassette at the rear window, and turned east on 80. Emilia pressed the gas more firmly, increasing the distance between herself and the scowling old goat in the 88 Monte Carlo. The case, she had found. The cassette that was supposed to be inside was still missing. Where could it be, she thought, cursing aloud. Emilia then checked the mouth of the car stereo’s face, from which protruded a cassette, the cassette. Emilia rolled her eyes. She pushed the tape in, switched the stereo on, and raised the volume to eight. Smashing Pumpkins blared from the speakers, the base tones vibrating the dash. Emilia reduced the organized pandemonium to a mild storm, then pressed fast forward. As she searched, the part of her brain that specified the song, happened to be the same area that ran the image of Luela. Emilia blocked the image, concentrating slot oyna her attention on the road, on the stereo search. Yet the focus was not, nor could it be, absolute. I should have known, Emilia thought, I should have realized much sooner. Presently, the fast-forward arrived at the desired song. Emilia raise the volume back to eight. Love is suicide, the singer screeched repeatedly. It was one of the songs Luela suffered through when Emilia cruised them around town on Friday nights. The book, thought Emilia, the book was full of naked women.

The empty bodies stand erect, whined the Pumpkin, casualties of their own flesh, afflicted by their dispossession. No self-respecting…heterosexual female, she believed, would have that kind of book laying around. Then, looming invisibly in the sky ahead, was the image of a nude woman. But nobody’s ever new, blared from the speakers. Nobody’s felt like you, nobody. The red hued woman is seated on an infinite white floor. She has reached both hands between her legs. Her face is directed upward, toward the red, blue, and lavenders of her fantasy. Her eyes are closed. Her mouth, open. Love is suicide, he whines and screeches again and again. Sure she would, Emilia contributed to the chat room of her mind. Luela’s an artist. If they don’t have a book full of naked people to draw from, they have real ones. Red satyrs, and lavender skinned winged women, embracing, tasting one another in a nebulas quilt of tiny stars, and glowing orange moons. You’re just uptight, she told herself, suddenly making a let turn. Emilia considered the sky ahead, the invisible galaxy of oranges, pinks, and reds. No, I’m not! Yes you are. It’s that painting, her favorite painting. The tragedies reside in you, the singer uttered mournfully, the secret sides that hide in you, and the loneliness divides you in two. Who’s your best friend, Em? Leave me alone. All my bliss does now reveal, in the darkness of my dreams, in the spaces in between us. Who is she, Em? Emilia’s vision suddenly clouded with tears, the drab sky, the hot reds and pinks, the milky blue and purple, bled into the present. Nobody’s ever new, nobody’s felt like you, nobody.

Slowly she pulled up to the curb that bordered her intended destination, turned the stereo off, and cut the engine. I can’t believe it, she thought while drying the tears away with the hem of her sweater. Just comes right out, and asks me. What was it, anyway? What was the it she wanted to see? Emily prepared to leave the car. My breasts? No, those are thems. Suddenly, she smiled. Emilia giggled to herself, amused by her use of the English language. What’s it, she asked herself, the smile retreating, yet taking the tears along with it. What? My butt? My God, she probably stares at my ass all the time at school, in the hallway! So? God, sometimes she’d fall back, like…like a horny little boy. So!?! What do I do? This can’t be. This changes everything.

“Hey!” , Stephen shouted, simultaneously rapping a knuckle against the driver’s side window.

Grinning, he watched Emilia’s immediate surprise, and bellowed laughter as she screamed. She flung the door open, and rushed at him. With a barrage of formidable kicks and punches, she had taken the boy down. They wrestled, and for a moment Stephen thought she’d pin him. But he broke Emilia’s hold. In scant seconds he rolled her on her back, straddled her pelvis, and held a firm grip on both her wrists.

“You ass hole.” ,she smiled briefly, her chest heaving between the boy’s knees, “Are your parents home?”

“Yep.” ,said Stephen, slightly out of breath.

“Well get off me dude! I don’t want your mom to see us like this!”

“What about my dad? ,he joked. “Him too, jerk. Come on Stephen. Get off? Please?”

He rose to his feet, then extended his hands. Emilia took them, and was brought to her feet.

“You okay?” ,Stephen asked, brushing bits of recently mowed lawn from his jeans. “Your eyes are all puffy.”

“Oh man.” ,Emilia sighed. “Yeah, I was a little upset. Do I look bad? How bad do I look? Man. Can, can I come in?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Stephen Emilia’s second to last boyfriend, led the way to his parent’s front door. He was not tremendously attractive, or intellectually engaging, nor was he the captain of the football team. However, he was the only one who said he would remain friends with her, and actually kept his word. Emilia followed him up the steps, and into the kitchen where she briefly exchanged pleasantries with Mrs. Dumbrousky. Emilia then asked if she could use the bathroom. She entered, closed the door, detached the tiny silver dove from its finely groomed nest where right eyebrow met temple, and placed it on the edge of the sink. Emilia washed her face, and stared at its reflection as she dried. The young woman thought she should go to the car, and get her make-up. But the second thought prevailed. Stephen never liked too much make-up on me anyway. Well, maybe just a little? Oh screw it, she told canlı casino siteleri herself, returning the ornament to its roost. Emilia exited the bath, and looked down the hall to see that Stephen stood in his door way. He motioned for her to enter. She followed, then seated herself in the swivel chair before his computer. Stephen sat on his bed.

“What happened?” ,he asked.

“Nothing.” ,she answered, turning to face the screen. “Steve honey, when can I come over and type up that paper for Henderson’s class?”


“Are you going to write it for me?”

“Nope.” ,smiled Stephen reaching for the beaten Spawlding glove, the bruised dull ball on the floor by his feet.

“Loser.” ,smiled Emilia, fingering the keyboard.

“You’re the loser, can’t write her own paper.” ,said Stephen, tossing, and catching, tossing, and catching. “Come on E. What’s wrong?”

She met his gaze, then turned away, scanning his desk for something to fiddle with.

“Luela’s…weird.” ,Emilia muttered. “She pisses me off sometimes.”

“What happened?”

Emilia found a Matchbox dye casting of a 78 Chevy Nova, and drove it across the terrain of Stephen’s desk. She rolled it over pens, and pencils, up and across the open hills and valley of Chapter Two, Succession From Lincoln’s Union.

“We just had this long discussion. I didn’t agree with her. Well, I never agree with her, not exactly, and usually she’s okay about it. But this time, this time she was a real bitch about it, like I was supposed to feel exactly the same way. But I couldn’t, so she started saying the most hateful shit, and that’s when I left, crying and stuff.”

“Wow, and you guys are like the best of friends.”

“Yeah,” ,Emilia paused. “I know.”

“Oh, please. That’s the last thing I want to talk about right now. I just came to cool down. Can I just chill here…for a little while?”


They were still together six hours later. Emilia called home, informing her little brother that she was having dinner at the Dumbrousky table, and not to worry. Oh, and did Luela call? No? Good. Dinner was at a half past six, when Jake, Mrs. Dumbrousky’s boyfriend, arrived home from work. Stephen only liked that the man tended to his own business, and never laid a violent hand on his mother. After dinner the two youths retired to the downstairs family room, where they watched the NBC Thursday night line-up.

As the night wore on casual conversation between friends gradually became the whispered kindling of two smoldering coals. By nine o’clock Emilia was huddled close to him. By ten, Stephen’s arm was around her. By eleven Emilia was breathing against his cheek, taking in the scent of soap, of cotton/polyester blend, of boy of young man. The kissing, moist and clumsy teeth clashing, began around ten after. It was she that had started, or at least made the first contact of nose to nose. By twenty after, they broke free from one another because Jake had come down stairs to look for that day’s paper. Jake was still present by half past eleven, at which time Stephen switched to CBS because Leno was not funny at all.

Emilia had a curfew of course, but no one brought it up, and any necessary explanation would be thought up later. Besides, it was Friday night. Jake ascended the stairs as Letterman’s monologue came to a close. By a quarter to twelve Late Night no longer sustained their interest. The kissing continued. Emilia felt Stephen’s fingers fumbling beneath her shirt. Presently she helped him undo the tricky clasps of her bra. Illuminated by the flashing images of the television, Emilia scrutinized Stephen’s expression as she raised her shirt to expose her breasts. He closed his eyes, and nearly lunged at them, both of them.

“Steve?” ,she whispered. “Steve?”

He answered, despite his full mouth.

“What do you like best about a girl, I mean physically?

He raised his head, face flushed, eyes alert, mouth open, his lips moist yet drying quickly due to his quick breaths.

“Everything, I guess.” ,the boy answered , moving to continue.

“No really. You don’t have one special…part you like more than the rest. Come on, I know all you guys like either-“

“Your ti- I mean breasts. Your…breast are my favorite.”


“I don’t know.” ,answered Stephen, as he fingered the circumference of one, then the other. “Maybe, because no pairs are alike. You know, large, medium, small.”

“Luela once told me that guys like to see breast cleavage because it reminds them of the female buttocks.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. She says it’s because of how we used to be primitive, and stuff. Like, we would see how the animals did it, you know -from behind- so we did it the same way. And being human, we went from his sense of smell to his sight to get the mate he wanted.”

“I don’t get it.” ,Stephen said urgently. I mean, asses are nice to look at and all, nice to touch, but they don’t hold my attention like breasts.”

Emilia stared thoughtfully at the top of his head. Slowly, she closed her eyes, and concentrated on the meager sensations in her center, so that she might escalate, and become something more inspiring.

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