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Authors: Robin Brande

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BOOK: The Good Lie
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It Started with Cosmopolitan

[1]

My dad and I had this weird
competition going on when I was little.  We tried to see who could memorize the
most things out of the Bible.  I finally became the hands-down champion when I
was in fifth grade and could recite all sixty-six names of the books of the
Bible, in order, Old Testament and New.  He took me out for a three-scoop
sundae and shook my hand and told me he was retiring from the game.

Victory.

Until then he gave me a run for my
money, always keeping a few verses ahead, but I guess a young mind can
withstand more than an old—like they say little kids can learn languages so
much more easily.

I know he wished he could ask me
for tips as he pored through his Bible every night searching for more verses on
adultery that he could include in his letters to my mother.  He wrote to her
every day.  I sneaked into his room one morning when he was in the shower and
read one, and believe me, he hadn’t done too badly.  Ten pages on legal pad
paper, filled with the best of the best on fornication, adultery, and other
sexual sins.  I think he retired from our game too early.

I’m sure my mother threw them away
without reading them.  Wouldn’t you?  Who wants
to get a thick envelope
in the mail every day saying you’re a piece of trash and you’re going to hell? 
But the funny thing was, at the end of this awful, vicious letter I read, he
had written, “The children and I still love you and beg you to come home.”

How pathetic is that?

 

[2]

How long can a man go without sex?

Jason would probably say two
hours.  For my dad, it had been about four months, if you include that month
before my mother left when she was hiding out with me.

As far as I can tell, it started
with
Cosmopolitan
.  I understand why he did it—who knew who might walk
into a Circle K or 7-11 and see you buying a
Penthouse
or
Playboy

What would the church leaders say?  What would his clients say?  He was the
Christian Real Estate King.  His reputation was his business.  He couldn’t be
caught with smut.

So he figured it out.  He could get
away with buying
Cosmo
.  He might be buying  it for his wife.  Or his
daughter.  No one would have guessed he was touching himself to the bra ads. 
To the articles—
“How to Drive Him Wild in Bed”
—to the covers with their
digitally-enhanced bosoms.  It was perfect.  No one would have guessed but me. 
And that’s only because I heard him.  Believe me, I wish I hadn’t.

And then one day he noticed me. 
What luck!  I was a female, right?  Right there in his very own home.  No need
to go to the store.  No need to plunk down the cash.  No need to risk being
seen.  Here she was, boobs and all, just walking around all the time.  More
convenient than a convenience store.

I don’t know how guys think we don’t
know.  You can tell when someone’s eyes are on your boobs and not your face. 
Hello.  We know.

And I knew.  He could tell me how
many threads I had in each button hole, he was studying them so carefully.

I’m a modest person.  It’s not like
I flaunt them.  But I have my mother’s generous breasts.  They just grew that
way, no fault of mine.  And as far as my father was concerned, those breasts
were on his child, under his roof, and therefore he had the right to look.

Besides, I was the daughter of a
whore, right?  What else should I expect?

I thought about what I could say.

“That makes me uncomfortable.”

“Do I have something on my shirt? 
You keep looking there.”

“I’m your daughter, for God’s
sake!  Stop being such a pervert!”

But I’m such a chicken.  I could
never actually confront someone like that.

So instead I wore the biggest,
baggiest shirts I could find.  I wore my apron around the house whenever he was
home.  I kept my arms permanently folded across my chest.  But his eyes were
still there, and no matter how many barriers I put between me and them, I could
still feel them penetrating right to my nipples, right to my cleavage, right to
the insides of my life.

I didn’t tell Posie.  It made me
too sick to say.  Instead I just tried to stay out of his way.

But then I was at the sink one
night cleaning up after dinner, and he sneaked up behind me and laid his hand
on my back and stroked it up and down.

I froze like he’d pulled a gun.

“Don’t,” I managed to say.

“Don’t what?”

I couldn’t think of what to answer.

Greetings from Jackson Hole!

Dear Lizzie and Mikey,

Hello from Jackson Hole!  I miss
you both, but I’m having a wonderful time.  Today we . . . Tomorrow we . . .

Who cares? I wanted to scream.  Who
the hell cares?  Did I want to know that she was happy?  Did she care at all
what a hell I was living in?

I wanted to burn the letter but Mikey
wouldn’t let me.

“Come on,” he said, “it’s from Mom.”

“So?  She doesn’t give a shit about
us.”

“Yeah, but . . .”  He dropped his
eyes.  “I miss her.”

“I don’t.”

“Yes you do.”

“Mikey, how stupid are you?  She
left us here alone while she went off to have fun with her lover.  How selfish
is that?  You think she cares about us at all?”

“She said she cries sometimes
because she misses us.”

“I don’t believe that for a
second.  I think she’s screwing her brains out.”

Mikey winced.

“Here, keep it,” I said, throwing
the letter at him and retreating to my room.

Mikey knocked on my door.  I let
him in.  “I want to write her back.”

“You can’t,” I said.  “We don’t
know where she is.”

“She’s in Jackson Hole.”  He
pointed at the letterhead.  “At this hotel.”

“She
was
.  She’s probably
miles from there by  now.  Face it, she’s off on a different life now.  You’re
on your own.”

His face tightened.  He stared at
me bleakly.  “Don’t say that.”

“It’s true.  We don’t have a mother
anymore.”

“You’re such a—bitch!”  The first
bad word I think I ever heard him say.

He slammed my door and started
kicking it.  I heard the flimsy wood splinter.  “I hate you!”  Another kick,
then a fist, then his whole body rammed against the door.  He opened the door
and slammed it again and then he kicked once more and widened the hole.

I sat shaking.  I wasn’t prepared
for the violence.  I understood it—Lord knows I could have used some of it
myself at that point—but it wasn’t my way.  I prefer to hide.  To wallow.  To
take the coward’s way out.

But really, if I could have?  I
would have loved to smash something up.  Start with my mother’s vases.  Start
with my father’s sales trophies.  Start by taking a knife to his curtains and
his bed and the clothes my mother left behind.

Mikey kept wailing and kicking and
screaming, and I loved him more because of it.  Good for him.  I wish I could
be like that.

But I’m afraid.  Of how far I’ll
go.  I’m afraid if I start I’ll never stop.

If people really knew how much rage
I felt they’d lock me away to protect the nation.

Consequences

[1]

Some of the people from my old
church believe that AIDS is God’s curse on the homosexuals, like striking a
blasphemer with leprosy.  Even if you point out to them that nuns and babies
are getting it, they refuse to change their minds.

Everything has consequences—I do
believe that.  The wicked will always be punished.  If you’re doing something
wrong you should expect bad things to follow.  Wait for it like a piano falling
from the sky.

“Let’s go out,” Jason suggested.

“No,” I answered, “it’s okay.”

“It’s your birthday,” Posie
reminded me.  “Of course we’re going out.”  So they treated me to the latest Ryan
Tremaine comedy/action/sci-fi/horror/date flick.

Ryan Tremaine meets Criterion
Number Two.  He could definitely carry me.  He also meets Criteria One, Six,
and Seven, and probably others, though I don’t know him well enough to say.

We sat three ducks in a row: 
Posie, Jason, me.  His harem of two.  And he alternated nicely, equitably,
squeezing my knee, grabbing Posie’s arm, whispering one funny comment to her,
the next one to me.

It wasn’t a real date, but it was
good enough.  I’d take it.

Ever since that bizarre scene with
my father, Jason had been treating me differently.  Almost . . . gently.  Like
he thought I had such a hard life.  Like he pitied me.

He opened doors for me.  He bought
me little treats like Tootsie Pops and Hershey’s Kisses.  And I even noticed if
he ever had to choose between sitting by Posie or me, he chose me.

It was nice—definitely nice—but
weird.

“Careful,” Posie warned me at one
point.  “He may like you.”

“Careful?  It’s what I’m dying for.”

“He’ll only break your heart.  He
can’t handle a girl like you.”

“Which is what?” I asked, slightly
offended.

“Decent, with morals.  That boy is
set to self-destruct.”

“Oh,” I said sarcastically, “so he
doesn’t deserve a girl like me?”

“Precisely.”

But ever since she’d said that, I’d
been feeling extra sleepy around him.

We went to IHOP after the movie for
our ritual celebration menu:  fats, salts, sweets.  Fries, sundaes, a burger
for Jason because he could eat that any time day or night.  He sat between us
and I could pretend he was sitting closer to me most of the time, except when
he was falling over Posie laughing at something she said, or tickling her into
laughing at something he said.  But they were just friends.  I could believe
that.

Then came the moment I’d been
anticipating all night:  Who gets dropped off first?  Usually it’s not an issue
since Posie almost always drives, but tonight, for some reason, Jason had
squired us in his parents’ dark green Land Rover.  He said the Birthday Girl
had to sit up front.

When the moment came to turn toward
my home or Posie’s, the face of God smiled on me and Jason angled toward Beaker
Lane.  Posie first.  Me last.

She got out and leaned in at my
window and gave me a significant nod.

Was it a warning or a blessing? 
Was she telling me to go for it?

My palms started to sweat.  This
was It.

There’s a park near Posie’s house. 
Jason drove there and obeyed the signs:  Park.

He cut the engine and doused the
lights.  He unbuckled his seatbelt.  “So . . . Lizzie,” he began.

I cleared my throat.  A speech
might be in order.

He trailed his fingers through my
hair.  “Happy Birthday.”

“Thanks.”  I was looking somewhere
to the left of his ear, afraid to meet his eye.  It was like dealing with a
vicious dog—you don’t want to challenge his authority.  “Good movie, huh?” I
tried.

“Mm-hm, but I’ve been waiting to do
this all night.”

He leaned forward and I pretended
to myself I didn’t know what was coming next, because I really did want that
kiss and I was afraid I might try to stop it.

So different from that scary kiss
of Chris’s.  This one was soft and dry at first, then gently moist, then
alarmingly sensual as his tongue explored more territory, including the fronts
of my bottom teeth, and it went on for a good forty-five seconds before Jason
pulled back, lifted my chin with his forefinger, made me look into his eyes,
and then dove in again.

It’s something I hope scientists
are studying, this disappearance of time between the start of a kiss and the
end.  Whole world wars could have been fought right outside the car and I
wouldn’t have noticed.  I was caught in a black hole—had ventured there
willingly—and for all I knew I was an old woman when I emerged, because I lost
any sense at all of where I was and how much time had elapsed, and all we had
done was kiss, for heaven’s sake.  I caught sight for a moment of a bum
standing in the park lamplight urinating against a tree, and all I could muster
was a faint, “Huh,” before closing my eyes and going back to the task at hand.

I was still awake.  I hadn’t fallen
asleep on him.  Maybe I was cured.

Of course it was too good to last. 
I knew Jason would want more.  With the deft smoothness of a safe cracker, he
undid my bra with a single twist.

I jerked back.  My breasts were
already spilling out.  “Jason, I can’t—”  I fumbled to redo the clasp.

“Lizzie . . .”

I was a little afraid then, because
I was already way beyond my level of expertise.  I’m sure Posie would have
known what to do, but I hadn’t read that far in the girl manual.

My fingers felt as limber as
stumps.  I could not refasten the clasp.  I stalled while trying to work out
the mechanics.  “I really love you, Jason, but I can’t.”

That stopped him cold, at least for
the moment.  He sat back and looked at me funny.  “Really?”

“Um . . . yeah.”

If I thought he was kissing me
before, now he was
really
kissing.  Meanwhile his hand slowly slid under
my shirt.  It was so warm and soft and welcome—

“No.”  I grabbed his wrist and
pulled his hand back out.  “I can’t.  You know that.  I have to stay a virgin.”

Jason leaned back against his door
and shook his head in a tired and friendly way.  “Lizzie, Lizzie—you and Posie.”

I was happy to hear him confirm
it.  I didn’t really doubt Posie’s version of their relationship, but I was
relieved just the same.

“You sure?” he asked.  “Because it
could be so good.”

“I’m sure.” 
Fairly sure. 
Almost certain.  Please don’t ask me again.

He dropped me back at my house and
kissed me once, mouth closed, and I thanked him for the ride but I really meant
for the kissing, because it was exactly what I hoped that was like.  Happy
Birthday to me.

I walked toward the house with my
bra still open beneath my shirt and my breasts hanging loose and with each step
I savored the tingling throughout my body.   I was in a pleasant fog of arousal
and had no better plan than to go to my room and lie awake and relive the whole
night thirty or forty more times.

Through the window of the living room
I saw the light from the TV.

That—right there, before I opened
the door—that was the last sweet moment I would enjoy for a long, long time. 
After sixteen years of waiting, I had finally had my first honest sexual
experience, and it was with a boy I truly loved.

Now came the consequences.

 

[2]

I stepped inside.

The room was nearly dark.

I saw two bodies on the floor.

My father hovered over Mikey,
pinning his arms to the carpet.  Both were in their underwear.  Even in the
meager light cast by the television, I could see that my father’s penis was
erect.

At the sound of the door my father’s
head jerked up, but he didn’t climb off my brother.  Instead he bent over Mikey
again and pretended to bite his neck and then jostled and tickled him like they
were wrestling and not humping or whatever he was doing before the boy’s big
sister came home and caught him and stood there staring but not saying a word
or pulling him off or doing anything to save a little boy.

I couldn’t see Mikey’s face.  I
didn’t know whether he was laughing or crying or silently screaming.  I turned
away not wanting to see anything.  I ran to my room and shut the door and
wedged a chair under the doorknob to keep him out.

My heart pounded in my chest,
keeping time with the chanting in my head:

Why, oh why, oh God—

Why did you let her leave?

BOOK: The Good Lie
12.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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