She was out of my league, that was for sure. Not just that I had no chance with her. I mean I don’t even think I was allowed to look at her, really. Not short, pudgy me, coming out of the Quick Mart, gas station hot dog in one hand, Slush Puppy in the other.
She was cursing, in a southern twang that went with her husky voice. What made me notice her then, and not before when my fat ass was too distracted by the promise of sugar and tubes of meat, was the way her tank top jumped when she kicked the flat tire. It leapt as her flip flop slapped ineffectively against the rim. The sight was near-religious for me.
I looked away before she could catch me scoping her out, heard her yell into her phone. “Babe, c’mon! It’s not like I ran over that nail on purpose! Don’t be that way…I don’t know, I’ll call a cab or…”
I’d already tuned out by then, not eager to imagine the hunky, likely depressingly superior male specimen she was talking to. I’d set my junk food on the roof of my Acura and was fishing for my keys when I heard her say “Hey, excuse me? Excuse me!”
I wasn’t trying to be rude. There was just absolutely no reason for her to be talking to me. I didn’t realize what was happening until her voice, jarringly close, said “Hey, hold up!”
I turned, chili dog in one hand, jumbo Slush Puppy in the other, the breeze emphasizing how desperately baggy my shorts and tee shirt were.
“Hi,” she said, giving me a small smile. Auburn hair. Tan skin. Freckles on her nose, almost invisible under the halogens of the gas station. Every part of her lean, soft. I was almost hot enough for someone like her, once upon a time.
“Hey.” I dropped into the driver’s seat, still under the impression that there was nothing this Homecoming goddess was going to need me to stick around for.
“Where you headed?”
“Uh…just, just home.”
I searched her eyes. They flickered down the road.
“That way,” I told her, pointing down the highway. She lit up.
“Oh, awesome! Can I get a ride?” She was beaming, already assuming she had her answer.
“Well, I’m kind of low on gas…” You’d probably want to call me an idiot, but really, what chance would I honestly have had with her? Do you really think I was blowing anything?
“Oh, I’ll pay you! I’ll totally pay you!” She swiped her hand like it was a done deal. “But my boyfriend has the money, so…”
“I dunno…” I said. Look, sex was not going to happen, okay? No matter what heroics I performed. Why go through the trouble when I already knew the outcome?
“Please?” She made a pouty face, reached through my open window and grabbed my arm. The way she was bent over, I could immediately tell she was a B-Cup.
“Okay,” I agreed immediately.
She told me her name was Britty. I thought that sounded fucking stupid for anyone else who wasn’t hot enough to instantly render men retarded. On her, however, it was perfect. She ran back to her car, reached inside, grabbed her bag. She banged her head on the door frame, and in her anger she kicked the car again.
“OW!” she screamed, immediately falling and grabbing her foot. Her face was scrunched in a look of pure agony.
I climbed out, jiggled over to her. I felt like a big strong man, despite my gut bouncing even more than my knees were. She was sitting almost Indian-style. The toe beside the big one on her right foot was swelling up.
“Looks like ya cracked it,” I said, hating how high-pitched my voice always was.
“Can you help me up?” She sounded so small and hurt I felt bad about the constant sexual thoughts I was having about her. She reached out her arms, wrapped them around my neck as I scooped an arm under her knees and shoulders and hoisted her up. I’ve carried heavier bags of groceries.
I got her into the passenger seat of my car. “Thank you,” she said sheepishly, smiling an embarrassed but grateful smile at me. It made me feel like a hero, despite my complete lack of definition.
She curled forward, cupping her injured foot as I closed the door. I jingled my keys as I walked to the driver’s side, using the sound to distract myself from my jiggling gut.
She called her boyfriend, told him she’d caught a ride with “some guy.” Apparently he wasn’t pleased with that. “Don’t get that way. Jesus, you know that’s not gonna happen. Ugh!”
Guess he was the jealous type. Whatever.
“So how far to your boyfriend’s place?” I asked when she hung up.
“About twenty miles.” She’d taken some pills she had in her purse, and her foot seemed to be bothering her less now. She was leaning back, looking out the window, when suddenly she sprung forward in her seat. “Shit! You have gas for this, right?”
I hadn’t thought about that. Honestly I’d just popped in because I have zero regard for what I put into my body. I checked my fuel gauge. “Uh, yeah…probably.”
“Damn, I’m sorry! I didn’t even think…” She fished around her purse. “Let me get you gas, okay? At least a gallon for the drive? Would that be enough?”
“This is a Prius. A gallon would get me to the next state.”
“Cool. Pull in here.” She waved me into a Citgo, handed me a credit card. “I trust you,” she smiled, looking me in the eye, clamping the collar down hard on my sense of ethics. Ugly boys can do no wrong to pretty girls, and she knew it.
I took the card, got out, ran it through the slot on the pump. She told me her zip code, and as soon as I punched it in, the computer read “DENIED.”
“Uh…it didn’t work.”
“Weird. Try it again.”
I did. “Nothing.”
“Shit!” She opened up her purse and climbed out. She winced as she balanced herself on her injured foot, shifted her weight, and hobbled over to the ATM. She swiped her card, punched numbers, yelled: “What the FUCK?!”
She jammed in her PIN again, stabbing the keys like they’d insulted her, apparently got the same response. “AHHH, GODDAMNIT!”
“No everything’s not fucking okay? GODDAMNIT! GODDAMNIIIIIIT!” She balled her fist like she was preparing to punch the machine, but probably remembered her injured foot and dropped her arm. “My money’s gone! MY FUCKING MONEY’S GONE!”
“Fuck,” I said, as sympathetically as I could.
“I had two-thousand dollars in there! Oh no! Oh no!” Her voice had that whine that told me she was about to panic-cry.
“Hey, it’ll be fine. Just call the bank. Most of ‘em have fraud protection. They’ll put your money back.”
She didn’t seem convinced, but it seemed to comfort her somewhat. “You think so?”
“Totally. Same thing happened to me once. Got my money back the same day.”
She pouted, scrunched her eyebrows. “I’m sorry I can’t get you gas.”
“Shit, don’t worry about it.”
She hobbled back to her car, her foot clearly hurting her more than it was a second ago.
“You sure you don’t want me to take you to an emergency room?” I asked her.
“No, I’m fine. I’ll just…I’ll have my boyfriend take me to the doctor tomorrow.” She made a small, sick sound as she pushed herself into her seat with her foot.
I filled up my tank, and we were back on the road.
Her foot was really bothering her. She was moaning in discomfort two minutes in.
“Maybe you should take a couple more, um…pills.”
She looked at me then, unsure if I was judging her or not. “I’m not an addict.” She didn’t say it defensively. It sounded more like she was trying to convince herself.
Well, I thought, that was unprompted.
“Oh, no, I just…I mean, if you’re not going to the doctor about your foot until tomorrow, I just figured you’d want it to hurt less. I’m pretty sure you broke something.”
“Yeah, maybe…” She was staring through the floorboard, trying to convince herself that she wasn’t trying to convince herself. Finally she dug through her purse.
“I’m only gonna take a few.” She was telling herself, trying to make it sound like she was telling me. She spilled a small handful out of the bottle, rolled a few back inside, then tossed back the rest. She took out a bottle of water and took a deep swallow. When she put the cap back on, I smelled that it wasn’t actually water she’d just swigged.
She was completely out before I could ask her which road to turn off on. Shit.
It was completely dark when she started awake, taking a rushed breath and blinking her eyes. I’d pulled into a paved lot for a hair salon that hadn’t been built yet, waiting for her to rouse and tell me where to go. She’d been out for a couple hours
“Shit! What time is it?”
“Fuck. Fuck!” She dug out her phone, swiped her finger over the screen. She shook the knee of her good leg as she waited for an answer.
“Hey Brian? Jesus, babe, I’m sorry. I’m on my…don’t be that way! Jesus! I hurt my foot and took something for it. See for yourself when we…the fuck are talking about?! You fucking ashsole, you know I wouldn’t…what do you…?”
She had a look of disbelief.
“What? You can’t be serious! Babe, I would never do that! How could you think that? I told you! I hurt my foot! I took some pills and…Brian, please listen!” She was crying, sobbing actually. The kind of sob that hits you by surprise, so you don’t have time to mask the panic. “No! No! Babe, I moved all the way down here for you, why would I…babe, no, listen! Why would I…babe, please. No! No, Brian, I…!” She looked at the phone, fear rising, swiped her finger over it, held it back to her ear. I heard what sounded like voicemail. She dialed again. Voicemail. Again. Answer this time. Couldn’t make out the words clearly, but it sounded like Brian didn’t want her coming home.
She started sobbing, bawling, and smacked her phone into the dashboard as hard as she could. I heard the screen spider web, and she hurled the little box through the window. She curled up, eyes against her knees, her tears making dark streaks across her jeans.
I sat in uncomfortable silence, not sure what would be the right thing to say. Obviously the plans had changed.
“Wrong guys. I was pick the fucking wrong guys…”
Abruptly she opened the car door. I assumed she was going after her phone at first, then I noticed she was dragging her bags with her.
“Hey! Where you going?”
She sniffled, wiped her eyes, then in a disgusted voice she said “Well, obviously you don’t have to take me anywhere now. But I appreciate your help.”
“I’m gonna go. I gotta…I gotta go catch a bus or something…”
“The bus station is miles away! I can’t let you out here this late! We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“It’s alright. I can make it.”
“Bullshit. Your toe is broken. No way you can walk this highway like that.”
“I’ll be fine…” She sounded less sure, and glanced over her shoulder down the dark road.
“Look, let me take you to the emergency room.”
She shook her head. “I can’t pay for it. I don’t have any insurance or…” She started crying again. Holy fuck, was she having a shit night.
“Come on,” I pleaded, figuring I was being more genteel than creepy. I wanted so much to help her out, to be enough of a hero for her that maybe, maybe, in some fucking way, she would overlook the fact that I looked like a pimply bag of shit. “We have to get that foot looked at. You won’t make it far off the bus if it isn’t treated.”
She seemed to be considering this.
“I can’t leave you out here,” I told her. “I just…can’t, man.”
She smiled. Her eyes had that sad light girls get when something touches them.
“You’re so sweet!” She said it to me like I was her fat-assed little brother. But I would take that over abandoning her any day.
She gave the highway another glance, then climbed back in. In another moment we were moving.
“You’re just the sweetest thing ever,” she told me, her voice thick with her melted heart. In her tenderness, I had become simultaneously heroic and, consequently, devoid of sexual intrigue.
I could live with that.
The hospital was another ten miles. It was a sleepy, spread-out Georgia town. Nothing was a close drive away.
She’d taken some more pills for her foot. Fewer than before, but enough to put a dopey smile on her face. “You’re so amazing,” she said, almost with a slur. “You’re like, my fucking hero.”
I smiled. She scooched up, leaned over, gave me a clumsy kiss on the cheek. “Fuckin’ knight in armor,” she told me, and started giggling. She fell back into her seat, punched me playfully in the shoulder. My arm rippled where she hit me. Everything on me was so loose nowadays.
She moaned, contented, wrapped her arms behind her head. “I feel so fucking safe around you.”
“I’m glad, Britty.”
She gave me a smile of instant friendship. “Hey, what’s your name?”
I shook my head. “You probably couldn’t pronounce it.”
I shook my head. “It’s an old name. They don’t really make the letters for it anymore.”
She scrunched her brows, shook her head. Tried to make sense of what I just told her.
“How’s your foot?”
She sighed. “Still fuckin’ hurts.”
“You should take some more pills,” I told her.”I mean, what harm could they do now?”
“Yeah,” she said, slick and lazy. “What harm could they do now?”
She tapped a few into her palm, swallowed them.
“Sure that’s enough?” I asked.
She smiled. “Fuckin’ right.” She poured more, a small handful. She chased them with the rest of her vodka.
“Sure that’s enough?” she slurred back at me.
I smiled. “You would know, wouldn’t ya?”
She nodded. “Shit yes, I would.” She drained the rest of the bottle.
She leaned back, got comfy. “Mm-hmm,” she murmured. “Hey, where we goin’ anyway?”
“To my place.”
“Hey – but what…”
“Don’t worry…I’m a gentleman.”
She laughed, barking and uncomprehending. “Ha! Yeah…fuckin’ knight an’ armor…”
“Yeah,” I said. “Night.”
She was still warm when I stopped the car behind my house. Her breath hissed out of her when I picked her up and carried her inside. Rotten floorboards threatened to give under my weight and hers. Light from the half moon peppered in through holes in the roof.
She’d died before her gag reflex could kick in. Thank Christ. I hated having to scrub out my car.
I hear my brothers smacking in the night. They’re hungry, but she’s mine.
“No, you handsome devils,” I tell them. “Sate your lusting bellies elsewhere.”
They growl, irritated, but any of them would say the same to me. They would have no trouble finding prey. They’re so beautiful, all of them. Some could even slip into dreams.
But seduction is such a misunderstood art. There are other ways to break down the walls between prey and their trust. And it’s the trust we need. To feed. To fuck. It’s the trust we take, so that we may live. The infinitely harmless can be as inviting as the sensuous nighttime lover. We all have our guile.
I kick aside the loose boards in the floor, step into the dark, flowing water. Country plumbing, in days before daylight could travel through wires.
I step into the rushing water, my bulk consumed by its chilly froth. I sink with her, down to the dark place others only see in dreams. My gorgeous brothers spread into the night. They only have so long before daylight robs their looks.
Demon lovers. Nightmare beasts. Forceful and potent. Lean and beautiful. Fat and hungry.