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Authors: Pamela Erens

Tags: #Romance

The Virgins

BOOK: The Virgins
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a novel


TIN HOUSE BOOKS / Portland, Oregon & Brooklyn, New York

Copyright © 2013 Pamela Erens

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, contact Tin House Books, 2617 NW Thurman St., Portland, OR 97210.

Published by Tin House Books, Portland, Oregon, and Brooklyn, New York

Distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West, 1700 Fourth St., Berkeley, CA 94710,

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Erens, Pamela.

The Virgins / Pamela Erens. — First U.S. edition.

pages cm

ISBN 978-1-935639-63-3 (ebook)

I. Title.

PS3605.R46V57 2013


First U.S. edition 2013

Interior design by Jakob Vala

Once again for JDR, AER, and HER



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57



We sit on the benches and watch the buses unload. Cort, Voss, and me.

We’re high school seniors, at long last, and it’s the privilege of seniors to take up these spots in front of the dormitories, checking out the new bodies and faces. Boys with big glasses and bangs in their eyes, girls with Farrah Fawcett hair. Last year’s girls have already been accounted for: too ugly or too studious or too strange, or already hitched up, or too gorgeous even to think about.

It’s long odds, we know: one girl here for every two boys. And the new kids don’t tend to come on these buses shuttling from the airport or South Station. Their anxious parents cling to the last hours of control and drive them, carry their things inside the neat brick buildings, fuss, complain about the drab, spartan rooms. If there’s a pretty girl among them, you can’t get close to her for the mother, the father,
the scowling little brother who didn’t want to drive hundreds of miles to get here. We don’t care about the new boys, of course. We’ll get to know them later. Or not.

She turns her ankle as she comes down the bus steps—just a little wobble—laughs, and rights herself again. Her sandals are tapered and high. Only a tiny heel connects with the rubber-coated steps. She wears a silky purple dress, slit far up the side, and a white blazer. Her outfit is as strange in this place—this place of crew-neck sweaters and Docksiders—as a clown’s nose and paddle feet. Her eyes are heavily made up, blackened somehow, sleepy, deep. She waits on the pavement while the driver yanks up the storage doors at the side. She points and he pulls out two enormous matching suitcases, fabric-sided, bright yellow. His muscles bulge lifting them onto the pavement.

I jump up. Cort and Voss are still computing, trying to figure this girl out, but I don’t intend to wait. Voss makes a popping sound with his lips, to mock me and to offer his respectful surprise. After all, I supposedly already have a girlfriend.

“Do you need some help?” I ask her.

She smiles slowly, theatrically. Her teeth are very straight, very white. Orthodontia or maybe fluoride in the water. I wonder where she’s from. City, fancy suburb? It suddenly hits me. She’s one of
I can see it in her dark eyes, the bump in her nose, her thick, dark, kinky hair.

“I’m in Hiram,” she says.

Let me re-create her journey.

She awakens in her big room at an hour when it is still dark, pushes open the curtains of her four-poster bed. Little princess. Across the hall, her brother is still sleeping. He’s four years younger than she is: twelve. She makes herself breakfast: a bagel with cream cheese, O.J., and a bowl of Cheerios; she’s always ravenous in the morning. She eats alone. Her mother, in her bathrobe, reads stacks of journals upstairs. Her father is shaving. He doesn’t like to eat in the morning. He brings her to the airport but they say nothing during the long drive through the flat gray streets of Chicago. She hopes that he’ll say he’ll miss her, that he’ll pretend this parting takes something out of him. She was the one who asked to go away, but in the car her belly acts up, she’s queasy. She thinks she may need to rush to the bathroom as soon as they get to O’Hare. She wishes she hadn’t eaten so much. If her father would act like he might miss her, is afraid for her, she could be a little less afraid for herself. She has practiced her walk, her talk, everything she needs to present herself. She is terrified of going somewhere new simply to end up invisible again.

One long heel sinks into the mud. The past days have brought late-summer rains to New Hampshire, and although the air is now dry, the grass between the parking areas and the dormitories is soft and mucky. This is a girl used to walking on city pavement, concrete. She laughs and pulls herself out. She is determined to make it seem as if everything that happens to her is something she meant to happen, or can gracefully control. She avoids the wetter grass
but in a moment she sinks again. “Oh boy,” she says. Her dress is long, almost to her ankles. I put down her suitcases and hold out my hand; she takes it and I pull. Her freed shoe makes a sucking sound. When I go over the sound in my mind later, it strikes me as obscene. Her suitcases are heavy, heavy as I’ve since learned only a woman’s luggage can be. It’s only a little farther to her dorm. She tells me that she’s an upper—what other high schools call a junior—and we exchange names.
Aviva Rossner.
She repeats mine, Bruce Bennett-Jones, like she’s thinking it over, trying to decide if it’s a good one.

She walks ahead of me instead of following, perhaps intending me to watch her small ass shifting under the white jacket. The wind lifts the hem of her dress, pastes it against her long bare leg. The Academy flag whips around above us and clings to the flagpole in the same way. The smell of ripened apples floods the air. We’re on the pavement, finally; she click-clacks to the heavy door and opens it for me. Strong arms on such a slender girl. Someone’s playing piano in the common room, a ragtime tune. Aviva starts up the stairs, expecting me to bring the bags. It’s strictly against the rules for a boy to go up to the residential floors. I go up.

Inside the dorm, the light is dim. The walls are cream-colored and dingy, the floors ocher. She counts out the door numbers until she finds hers: 21. I put the suitcases by the dresser, the same plain wooden dresser that sits in my room and in every student room on campus. Her suitcases contain—we’ll all see in the days to come—V-necked
angora sweaters, slim skirts, socks with little pom-poms at the heels, teeny cutoff shorts, cowboy boots, lots of gold jewelry, many pouches of makeup.

BOOK: The Virgins
9.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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