Southeastern Arkansas. 1971. We walked along the shoulder of the two-lane highway, both fourteen, Barb swinging her hips, me kicking rocks into the ditch.
“Stop walking like a boy,” Barb said in a puff of smoke. I stopped kicking rocks and took the cigarette from her.
The Sheriff pulled up next to us, his windows down.
“What are you pretty girls doing walking alone when it’s fixing to get dark?”
Barb flung her hair, tilted her head, trying to look insulted. I cannot describe exactly what came over me.
“We’re visiting from California, sir,” I lied.
“Yes, sir. We’re Mr. Philip Price’s nieces.”
“Yes, sir. We’re heading back. Don’t worry about us.” We smiled. Barb puffed her chest out and he looked her over.
“Well, I ought to give you a ride.”
“All right,” I said. Barb shrugged.
We didn’t know Philip Price. I’d read about him, the new editor, in the local paper. What a bizarre lie I had spun.
The Sheriff stopped the car.
“Go on,” he said, challenging us.
Committed, we got out of the car. The Sheriff followed. When we got to the door, the Sheriff leaned between us and knocked. A man pushed the screen door out and I held it open with my hand. I thought he looked too young in his Levi’s and white t-shirt for this to be the right house.
“Hello, Sheriff,” he said.
“Mr. Price, these girls say they’re your nieces.” He paused. “Seemed a little late, so I gave them a ride.” Barb kept smiling the whole damn time. I chewed my lip.
“Yes. Thanks, Sheriff.” His words brought us relief and anticipation. What a gentleman to play our game. Mr. Price looked at us, squinted. “Well, come on in. Thanks again.”
“All right.” The Sheriff walked back to his car.
Mr. Price nodded at the couch and we sat down.
“Y’all want a Coke?” he asked.
We sat, sipping our drinks and listening to the music. This is where we got separated. I went to another room with some other people, leaving Barb, partially because I thought she would be fine. Partially because she had irritated me over something trivial.
“Did you want to go?” Philip asked Barb, gesturing toward the hallway.
“Oh, no. I want to thank you for covering for us.”
“Sure. I know adults can be a drag at your age, especially cops.”
Barb was pained that he’d said at your age, because she didn’t want to believe it was such a plain thing. Barb thought she knew how to look older but now figured she’d tried too hard. She felt foolish. Philip touched her leg.
“I like your shoes,” he said, looking down at her wheat-colored platforms. Two straps crossed over her foot, another snaking around her ankle. He took Barb’s Coke from her and set it down with his empty beer.
Philip had touched the top of Barb’s thigh and complimented her shoes. His compliment gave her the courage to scoot a bit closer.
“You seem smart. Thought about where you want to go to college?” He rubbed his first two fingers in a light circle on her leg. But he looked right at her face, as if he didn’t know what his hand was doing.
“I do want to get out of this town. My family doesn’t have money, so I probably won’t.”
“I went to Little Rock University, which you know, just became public as UALR. Then I worked on the paper there. That’s how I got this job.” He continued swirling his fingers over her jeans. “You don’t need money. There’s the government, loans.” The circles he traced on her jeans got bigger and he leaned back, letting his hand slide farther up her thigh. She tried to keep her breath slow.
“How do I go about doing that?” She was interested in a loan, part of her. Yet, she thought of men she’d examined carefully around town. Chris Dentner at the post office. Crisp blue uniform, light hair trimmed short. Lean, clean shaven, seemed to command authority. Mike Arden, who commanded a different kind of power as he drove his black Pontiac GTO in circles around Danny’s on Friday nights. Dark hair, a broad chest, a thick red and white letter jacket, and always a girl by his side. Barb had considered being somebody’s something, standing by somebody’s side, letting someone touch her leg.
“Surely, there’s someone at your school to talk to. A counselor.”
For a moment she wondered if she was betraying Philip, that maybe he would feel differently about her if he knew exactly what age she was.
Philip leaned in and kissed her on the mouth while unfastening her belt buckle. Why didn’t she say anything? She could have scooted away, excused herself to go find me, ideas so plain they must have seemed impossible. She also wanted him to keep touching her, but she did think maybe she should not stay on that couch. Philip traced shapes around her belly button, then continued kissing her softly on the neck while moving his hand down her body.
She concentrated on her body — on the singularity of his touch. She thought about Chris Dentner and Mike Arden. She’d thought of these things before, and now she suspected herself of imagining this moment, the reality with Philip. His fingers were beneath her underwear, continuing their circles, pausing to slip inside her quickly, then sliding back up.
She kept thinking, intermittently, that this shouldn’t be. But she was almost fully dressed. This wasn’t that, what it could be, that which made babies. She told herself consequences were intangible.
Her chest and neck flushed as he brought her to climax on that couch. The Coke, the house, but mostly his hand on her clit are all things she will never forget.
Only a decade later will I realize that I shouldn’t have been so jealous.
Amber Nicole Brooks currently serves as the Nonfiction Editor for The Chattahoochee Review. Her work has appeared in The Southeast Review, The Arkansas Review, The Eudora Welty Newsletter, Orange Coast Review, and The Collagist, among others. In 2007, a story of hers placed third in the Playboy College Fiction Contest. She also has work upcoming in Five Points and the inaugural edition of Supplement Journal.
(Next BAD SEX story: The Resiliency of Epidermis by Len Kuntz)
(Previous BAD SEX story: Plaza Trinidad by Noa Sivan)
Feel like submitting? Check out our submission guidelines
(Image by unsplash.com)