A Taste

May. 21st, 2012 05:54 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

Her broken-in jeans and threadbare shirt, through which he could make out a dark bra, clashed delightfully with his antiseptic decor. "Fancy," she said.

"Yeah," he replied, "fancy."

"Must be nice being rich."

"Indeed it is."

She glanced around the apartment and asked, "Somebody actually lives here?"

He slung his jacket onto his easy chair, threw himself onto its matching slate gray sofa, loosened his tie, and kicked off his wingtips. "I fully intend to ignore your vague insult."

"Nothing vague about it," she told him. "Thanks for letting me stay over."

"Think nothing of it. It's a long cab ride to your place of residence."

"I wish you wouldn't use that kind of language around me."

"Request denied."

She grunted.

He pointed to a hallway. "The bedroom is through there. As I am, if anything, a gentleman, I will sleep out here."

"And if I don't want you to sleep out here?"

"Then you are welcome to use the sofa."

"You are such a doofus." She rolled her eyes. "Got anything to drink here?"

"If you'll recall, I've been sober longer than you've known of me."

"People have been known to change," she said. "You did."

"Not as much as you think." He popped out his gold-plated cufflinks, tossed them into an empty ashtray, and rolled up his sleeves. "Besides, alcohol was responsible for these."

It had been years since she'd seen the scars that ran down the underside of his forearms, and their presence almost seemed to comfort her. "You think it was the liquor that did that?"

"I've chosen to believe so."

"Fair enough," she sighed. "Mind if I have one?"

"Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding the absence of potables in this place."

"I brought my own." Sure enough, there was a stainless-steel flask in her purse. "Got any place to put this?"

"There are highball glasses in the cabinet near the refrigerator."

"I thought you told me you still don't drink."

He shrugged. "I pretend."

"You are so weird." After pouring herself a few fingers of whiskey, she leaned on the counter, as casually as if it belonged to her, and took a long swallow, locking stares with him. They said nothing for what could have been hours until she asked, "Miss it?"

"Every day."

"Still? It's been, what, seven years?"

"In my defense, I enjoyed alcohol a great deal."

"Fair enough." She studied him for a moment. "Remember what it tastes like?"

He frowned in concentration. "No," he replied sadly.

She strutted over to him, taking her time doing so. "Want a reminder?"

"Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding my sobriety."

Propping her knee on the sofa next to him and steadying herself with a hand on his shoulder, she took a deep drink of the whiskey. Her lips brushed against his, and instantly he recognized the sour sting of the rye. He leaned hungrily toward her, but she backed away.

Without a word, she dipped a finger in the glass, traced her lip with it, and kissed him again. Eager for the flavor of the drink and of her, he licked and nibbled, causing her to moan.

"More," he whispered when she pulled away again.

But when she raised the glass, he snatched it from her hand and placed it on the end table behind him, not caring that there was no coaster. Her hand, now free, stroked his cheek, drawing him in.

He brushed a lock of hair from her face. "More," he told her again.

i_17bingo: (Default)

She stared at the ceiling. It was easy last night to avoid thinking about the afternoon phone call, but here, hours before the alarm would go off, there would be no avoiding it. Maybe if she reached over and played with the boy snoring next to her, she could put it off a little while...

She sighed. Now that the phone call had taken root in her mind, she wouldn't be able to focus, and, given the boy's condition, she'd have to do most of the work. Fuck.

"Lisa Green?" the man at the other end of the line had asked yesterday afternoon.

"Speaking," she'd told him.

"This is Steve Hartmann? From CUNY? In New York?"

For just a second, her heart and lungs had just stopped. "Hi?"

"I wanted to talk to you about your CV and letters of recommendation. Do you think it would be possible to schedule an interview sometime this coming Thursday or Friday?"

"Yes."

"I know it's short notice," he'd apologized.

"I can be there."

"But we need to fill the position next semester."

"I can make it work."

"And you live in Montreal, and most of the applicants live in the area, but you are extremely qualified, and we'd really like to meet you in person."

Ordinarily, she'd pick that time to shout to get this guy's attention, but this was someone whose good graces were crucial to her future. She decided to wait until he finished.

She was glad she did, because he had good news: "We're aware of the hardship this will be, so we'd like to reimburse you for your airfare." And bad news: "But due to budget cuts, you're on your own for sleeping accommodations."

"I'll see you Friday."

Clearly, she hadn't thought this out. She couldn't really afford to get a motel--the flight would come close to maxing out her credit card. She could always stay at a friend's place, but she didn't have any friends in New York. She did know people there, but one she didn't want to see again, and the other didn't want to see her again.

Fuck.

As quietly as she could, she rolled out of bed into a her jeans, pulled on a pair of heavy socks, shrugged on a parka, and tiptoed to her balcony. She stopped when, for a just second, and for the first time she could remember, she thought the weight in her jacket pocket was a half-empty pack of cigarettes with a lighter stuffed into it. And for just a second, she was so relieved that she didn't have to ride out the sting of this bitch-slap of a day alone. And then she realized it was only a phone.

Not long after Steve Hartmann had called her, she'd met her boyfriend at that franchise coffee bar, just like they always did after classes, squirming in her seat.

Her grin echoed in his face as he sat down and asked, "What's got you all worked up, babe?"

"I'm going to New York!"

He'd frowned. "When?"

"This weekend!" She shrugged. "Well, Friday."

"But..."

She always found his confusion adorable. Even more adorable was how easy it was to make him that way.

"But," he continued, "we're going to that dinner party at Gabe and Marilyn's this weekend."

"They'll understand."

"I don't understand."

She'd fought off the urge to keep herself from squealing like a little girl, because that's something Lisa Green never did. "CUNY!"

His eyes widened in disbelief.

"It's only an interview," she clarified, "but they practically begged me to come in. That's a great sign, don't you think?"

"What if they make an offer?"

"I'll pretend to play hardball, but I'm going to take what they can give me."

"Oh."

It was then that she recognized that the disbelief wasn't the kind of giddy excitement she deserved.

"What do you mean, Oh?"

"Aren't we going to discuss this?"

"We already discussed this," she reminded him.

He didn't reply.

"You told me I should go for it. That I needed to go for it. You know how much this means to me."

"I don't know if I'm ready to deal with this," he breathed. "This changes everything."

"You said..."

"It was easy to say that when I didn't think you'd get the job."

She set her jaw and took a deep breath through her nose. "Brody, that has to be the coldest way anybody has ever dumped me."

"Wait a minute," he said. "I never said anything about dumping you!"

"You did just now."

"We can't end this because of that!" he pleaded. "We're going to move in together!"

"You just saved yourself some trouble then."

"Come on, babe! I'm sorry!"

"So am I." She stood up and whipped her jacket off the back of her chair.

"But I love you."

She loved him too, but, Jesus. Did he really think that? She had to get out of there.

"Don't go, Lisa."

But she did.

Now, as the cold air burned her lungs, she asked herself if she'd overreacted. The answer was easy; she had. Still, this simplified things. Five and a half months was hardly enough of a relationship to bear the burden of long-distance--or even a mutual move. And it sure as hell wasn't long enough put up with that kind of shit coming out of his mouth. Besides, he hadn't called at all over the past nine hours. He was probably waiting for her to apologize. He didn't know her at all.

Still, she felt like such an asshole.

Goddammit. How the hell was she supposed to dazzle the folks in New York with this Brody-shaped hole sucking her in?

She took her phone out of her pocket and checked the time. Four thirty. Her alarm wouldn't go off for another hour and a half. The best way to pass the time would be to get her mind off of things she couldn't fix right now, and the only idea she had to do that would be to go inside and fuck the boy in her bed.



to be continued...

Coprolite

Jan. 27th, 2012 08:34 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


When her alarm went off at six a.m., her first impulse was to smash it to death with the table lamp. Instead, she held the urge back, picked up the phone, moaned, and shut it off. She rolled out of bed and rested her heels on the hardwood, cold-as-fuck floor and came close to crying out the dirtiest word that came to mind that day, just like she wanted to every morning. And, just like every morning, she swallowed it. This was her own fault for moving to goddamned Canada after growing up in a goddamn desert.

New Mexico. Shit. What did she have to go thinking about that for?

She closed her eyes, took a breath, and restrained the thoughts that wanted desperately to run there, steering them in the direction of the day ahead.

Shit. That didn't help.

She focused on the next ninety minutes.

That did it.

As she shuffled into the bathroom, her hand instinctively swept up a bottle of mood stabilizers and fumbled fruitlessly with the childproof lid. She barely kept herself from hurling it at the wall. After a great deal of concentration, she finally got the pills down her throat, leaving her free to speculate on the person watching her on the other side of the sink. Five years ago, that person would have been hung over. Ten years ago, she would have been crying. Twenty years ago, she would have been whining. This morning, she was calm, naked, and Zen with the events of yesterday.

She shook her head before wrapping her hair in a ponytail, slipping into a pair of track pants, pulling a sports bra over her head, making the necessary adjustments, zipping up a thick hoodie, and lacing up a pair of sneakers. On her way out the door, she leaned over to kiss the boy in her bed on the cheek. She wanted to tear off her clothes and fuck him, but she told herself she couldn't.

"Pete," she whispered, "I need to go to work."

"Why?" he mumbled.

"It's work."

"Oh." He rolled over. "Call me later?"

"If I feel like it."

Poor Pete--her perpetual rebound. She could tell he had been falling for her for a while now. She should probably stop calling him after days like yesterday, but she hated sleeping in a cold bed. Maybe she should just get a goddamn cat, like every other librarian.

It didn't take long to get to the gym, where she wrapped her hands and stretched. Here, in front of the heavy bag, her weight on the balls of her feet, her gloves up to keep from getting hit in the face again, it was okay to give in.

Five years ago, someone who maybe understood her more than anybody in the world--the person she hated most--walked out of her life.

One, two, one, two, one, six. Jab, straight right, jab, straight, right, jab, right uppercut. One, two, one, two, one, Sean.

Ten years ago, the closest friend she ever had up and quit on her.

One, two, three, two, five. Jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, left uppercut. One, two, three, two, Fuentes.

Twenty-five years ago, her mother was gone before they ever had a chance to get to know each other.

One, four, three, four, three, four, three, four, three, six. Jab, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right uppercut. One, Mom, Mom, Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! DAD!

Yesterday, her boyfriend said something she could only think of as a deal-breaker, leading to a pretty dramatic public breakup.

One, one, four, three, two, seven. Jab, jab, right hook, left hook, straight right, nut-punch. One, one four, three, two, Brody. Okay, so she made up seven.

She bounced back for a second and had to admit that she and love just didn't get along.

Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of some person bouncing around in the reflection of the room. Teeth clenched, sweat and tears stinging her eyes, muscles tight, lightning searing her bones, she looked like someone she used to know.

One more round to go: Six. Right uppercut. Me.

After a long shower, she didn't have to worry about holding anything back anymore--the medication had kicked in, taking care of most of it; the rest had been rinsed away. It had taken a long time for her to stop hating herself so much that the world wanted her gone; simultaneously, it had taken a long time for her to stop loving herself so much that the world wanted only to do her bidding. Now, with her collar straight, her hair swept back, and her makeup alluring-but-subtle, she was just another twenty-seven-year-old on her way to work.

A long day beckoned. She needed to have a talk with her more-likely-than-not-ex-boyfriend, she needed to figure out whether or not to keep stringing Pete along, and she needed to pick up her phone and call the man who'd told her specifically never to "ever fucking dare" ask him for anything ever again and ask him for something. In other words, she needed to clean up a series of messes she'd made. In other words, it was business as usual.

She studied the woman in front of her, through the rouge, the eye-shadow, lipstick, and brushed-out hair. "Yeah," Lisa Green said. "I'm still in there."

Atrophy

Jun. 26th, 2011 09:57 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

"You could really use some pussy, kid," said Sean's uncle.

"Bart!" Sean's mother snapped, "Language!"

"Or cock!" said Uncle Bart, his hands raised in front if him in mock surrender. "I don't care either way. Just do something to celebrate."

Sean raised a forkful of seared salmon to his lips, but his mother's hand secured his arm before he could finish. "Smaller bites, Sean," she told him. "You're almost thirty. You should know better. And I think your uncle is right, regardless of his vulgarity."

"You agree with me? There's a first time for everything."

Sean dusted the pink flakes off of his fork and decided to saw off a slice of asparagus instead.

His mother glowered. "I agree that a celebration is in order, Sean. You've made company history; nobody has been able to secure that account. Not even that creepy fuckface, Harima."

Sean chewed, swallowed, dabbed his lips with a napkin, took a sip of sparkling water, and said, "It had not been brought to my attention that an intercompany war raged over this client."

Bart snorted, "The way that fat bastard struts around, you'd think he owns the place."

"He is responsible for over half of this company's revenue," Sean said, contemplating whether he should again attempt a bite of the salmon or go for a sample of the risotto. The later was normally a forgettable byproduct of the otherwise exemplary dish, but rumor had it that a new hire in the kitchen staff was a little more creative with sides than his predecessor. "Some of that swagger is duly earned."

"I'm just saying someone needed to take him down a peg," Bart insisted.

Sean decided on the risotto. What the hell; life is short. "I don't put quite that much value on Schadenfreude," he told them before he took a taste.

"This isn't about Schadenfreude," his mother agreed. "It's about success."

The rumors were true. This now ranked above the asparagus when it came to the flavors on this plate.

"And success deserves a reward," Uncle Bart added.

"Yes, it does," said his mother.

"Evidently there is a second time for everything," Sean muttered. More loudly, he said, "I find a 10 percent commission for an transaction of that magnitude to be a sufficient reward."

Uncle Bart shrugged. "Maybe if you threw in some pussy."

"Language!"

"Or cock!"

"Bart!"

"It's not like I can buy him a drink!"

"That's not even remotely funny, Bart," his mother growled.

Sean groaned. "I am going to explain this in a manner I hope the both of you can appreciate: I am paid for a skill at which I excel, so anything less would be a disservice to the company. It just so happens that my talents were better suited to woo this potential client than Harima-san's."

Uncle Bart shook his head, and his mother rolled her eyes.

Ignoring them, he continued, "Therefore, the business I have just conducted will not be validated by another's genitalia, nor by any other frivolous gesture either of you could concoct."

Uncle Bart put his hand gently on Sean's shoulder. "I'm worried about you, kid."

"There is no cause for concern," Sean explained. "I'm not dour. I merely am."

"It's those pills you got him on, Amber," Bart said. "They made him into a zombie."

"They saved his life!"

Sean wasn't particularly hungry, so he switched his attention from the table to the restaurant in general, specifically the men. Some were plump like Caesars, and some were fit like movie stars. Most wore ties. All wore starched collars and polished shoes. Some even wore vests. Sean wore a vest and a tie. His color was stiff, and his shoes shone.

He noted that few ties made it over to the bar, and all that did were loosened. Sean's remained firmly encircled around his neck.

He tried to ignore the women, particularly the ones in crowds, because her ghost tended to drift among them. But his eyes looked anyway and were immediately haunted by the uneven edges of her dirty fingernails, the threadbare scarlet of her favorite long-sleeved T-shirt, the sexy tangles of her hair, the denim-clad superiority of her strut, and wicked curve of her smirking lips.

Her apparition smelled like stale cigarettes and bourbon, and it whispered his name. Actually, though, it never used his proper name; it called him asshole, just like she did.

Whenever she possessed him like this, his fingers took the opportunity to act of their own accord. They dismantled one cufflink and had already begun working on the second when his mother's hand clamped on his forearm.

"Don't embarrass me," she whispered.

"Then perhaps I should depart," he replied, "before I do that."

"Really," she said. "Really."

"I could always remain here," he told her, "but there is an itch in my wrists, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes unbearable."

She released him, and he stood, reaching for his wallet.

"Put that away," she said. "Uenishi-san told me the company should treat you for your hard work."

"That is very generous," he replied. "I will make it a priority tomorrow to express my gratitude."

As he made his way to the coat check, he heard his uncle tell his mother, "Nice work with your kid there, Amber."

"Bart," she replied, "you know as well as I do what's under those sleeves."

"Still," he muttered.

Sean didn't hear the rest, because all of that was behind him for now. And the very instant his feet touched the sidewalk outside, he tapped a ten-digit number into his cell phone. "Deuce," he told the voicemail that picked up immediately, "it's Fancy-pants. I'd like to have a conversation."

A few moments later, he received a text. He hailed a cab and read the contents of it to the driver: "Suffolk and Rivington."

"Are you sure? That's maybe a hundred blocks from here."

"Eighty-six," Sean replied as he slipped into the backseat. "And I am sure."

As they drove south, Sean watched for her phantom in windows and doorways and on corners, but she didn't show.

After about forty-two blocks, the driver cleared his throat. "You don't really look like the kind of person who would hang out in that area."

"And how would you describe the 'kind of person' who might 'hang out' in that area?"

"You know--young."

"I am young," Sean told him.

"I mean, acting young," he clarified. "You know, with the funny clothes. And the hair."

"I agree," Sean said. "I am not that 'kind of person.'"

The rest of the ride was silent.

Deuce waited on the corner of Suffolk and Rivington, a crumbled a paper bag in his hand. In exchange for it, Sean gave him a large wad of cash and twenty-five minutes of his time, after which Deuce got bored and returned to whatever it was he did when he wasn't selling drugs.

And finally, Sean had no family, no business, and no friends; he was truly alone. He smiled. "Hello, darling," he said to the city that reared him. "It's just you and me now."

He'd wandered less than a block before his phone went off. He sighed and read the display. No name appeared, but the area code belonged to the client whose future transactions Sean had just secured. He looked at his watch. The person on the other end would either be very happy or very upset; only extreme emotion would prompt a call at this hour.

"This is Sean McCoy." He waited for the phone to talk before replying, "Hello, Mr. Clark." The phone barked, and he told it, "As a matter of fact, I am the agent who conducted the sale. If I remember correctly, you were present when negotiations began. I hope, in that case, your question was merely rhetorical." He held the phone away from his ear. After a moment, he said, "We're professionals, Mr. Clark. That kind of volume, tone, and language is unacceptable."

The phone asked a question, which Sean answered, "Because it creates a sizeable profit margin, which is beneficial to my company, but does it in a way that your company is able to afford our rates comfortably and indefinitely. I thought that was obvious. Was this also rhetorical?"

It answered his question with a question. "I am indeed being condescending, Mr. Clark, because this phone call serves no purpose other than empty bluster."

There was more such bluster, and Sean allowed it. "There is a contract, Mr. Clark, that was signed and notarized this afternoon." Sean looked at his watch. "Technically yesterday afternoon, but only by thirty-three minutes."

Sean resumed walking north while the phone, with a great deal of gravitas, told him something. "Given that your company is called Clark Industries and you are the majority shareholder, I had surmised that you were the owner, but I appreciate your clarification of that point." He interrupted when it tried to talk again, "However, sir, you had explicitly given Mr. Franklin full authority to act and make decisions on your behalf, a duty he performed remarkably, if I do say so myself."

As the phone went off on a lengthy rant, he crossed Houston Street into a neighborhood of bars and college students who laughed and flirted and huddled together. Her ghost was everywhere. This only strengthened his belligerence. "I would advise against that, Mr. Clark. The attorney my company has on retainer happens to be my mother, and she is nearly twice as ruthless in court as she was at home." He added, "To grant you perspective, I should inform you that she was exceedingly ruthless at home."

Sean stopped in his tracks with a frown, not caring that he was standing the middle of the road as he did so. "Yes," he replied cautiously, "I am familiar with that television franchise." The phone asked a follow-up question. "It's been years since I've encountered it, but I seem to remember that the character in question was an artificial life form with no emotions that was baffled by humanity, but drawn to it nonetheless." Amused, he resumed his journey, saying, "I can see the resemblance, Mr. Clark, but there is one key difference: I do find humanity baffling, but I am otherwise ambivalent toward it."

He rounded the corner onto to First Avenue, scanning the area for taxicabs; it was late, and he wanted to enjoy some of the marijuana in his pocket before work tomorrow. Besides, it was really obvious how tired he was getting: the phantom he just saw on the corner didn't look like the others that usually followed him around. This one's hair was longer, its clothing fit better, and the last edges of its youth had eroded beautifully away. It was definitely time to bid his phone adieu. "Our business partnership goes into full effect at the start of the next quarter. I suggest that, between then and now, you grant Mr. Franklin sole contact with my company, inasmuch as you can't be trusted to ..."

Behind him, the ghost spoke. It said, "Wait a fucking minute! I know that asshole's voice!"

He turned back around, and every single thing inside of him simultaneously froze and burned. She was not the will-o-the-wisp had been daydreaming of all this time.

"Sean?" she whispered.

"Fuck me in the ear!" he replied before dropping his phone and running like hell.

Jetsam

Mar. 20th, 2011 07:27 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

There was nothing Lisa Green hated more than being a kid.

When she wasn't floating around this vast, barren trailer park in this vast, barren town in this vast, barren desert, she was wedged into her tiny, secret ditch far from her bed. When she wasn't hiding there, she was in her room, getting chewed out by her father's latest "aunt" for not being quiet enough. When she wasn't sitting through that, she was at school, getting chewed out for not learning hard enough. When she wasn't in class, listening to their bullshit, she was at recess, pretending not to hear what the other kids were saying about her when they followed her around. And when she wasn't getting tormented by them, she was home with her father. It got so all she wanted was to be left alone.

But even with the way things were in her seven-year-old life, she never believed for one minute that it could get worse; but there it was, in her hand: an F. Since she was in for a long, long weekend now, she figured she'd take her time getting home, and that's how she ended up in the catholic school playground. She went there all the time on the weekends because they had the cool, older-kid swings--the rubber ones you could jump off of, not the shitty baby harnesses they had at the public school.

As she sat there, swinging back and forth, imagining what it would be like to bring home an A, a pair of hands shoved her off the swing, into a puddle. She rescued the soggy report card and sat up in time to watch a chubby kid her age waddle over to his scrawny friend, who just stood there, wearing a wicked smirk.

Something in her snapped. Sure she'd been pushed to the ground more times than she had fingers, but this time she was getting even--just not yet. The coming revenge armored her up that night as her father punished her coming home late and soaked, and again when he came back for seconds because of the F. She had no intention of going after the kid who'd done the deed. It was obvious that shoving her wasn't his idea. Besides, she didn't know who he was. But his friend? Him she knew.

He was alpha dog to a pack of little shits that prowled her trailer park, breaking things and running away from grownups. His dad was her father's supervisor at the bottle factory, so he had a name: Fuentes. If he had a first name, she didn't give a fuck, especially now.

A few days later, she woke up early, and skipped breakfast so she could find him alone at his bus stop. She never said a word. She just snuck up behind him, kicked him in the balls, and made him eat two handfuls of dirt. That night, she slept like the dead, even with inevitable retaliation circling the sky around her.

A couple of Saturdays later, it finally swooped down to her secret ditch. Her face hot and her stomach very, very cold, she watched Fuentes, his chunky friend in tow, stroll up and look her in the eye. There was no fear on his face; just that predatory smirk. "Hi," he said, "I'm--"

"I know who you are, you fart!" she told him, balling up her little fists.

At that, the chunky one charged, but Fuentes held him back, saying, "I got this, Ange."

"But she called you a fart!"

"I said I got this!" To her, he said, "Sorry. He's still pretty mad about how you cracked my huevos."

In her toughest voice, she asked, "You want me to do it again?"

"Yeah," he replied.

She dropped her arms. "Huh?"

Ange frowned. "Huh?"

Fuentes's cheeks lifted with that dangerous smirk. "Not to me, you dummy. Simon Largo."

"Who the fart is Simon Largo?"

"He's in my class at the catholic school."

"And you want me to kick him in the balls?"

"You don't have to kick him in the huevos," he explained. "You can give him a black eye or a wedgie or make him eat dirt like you did to me; all I care about is that he knows he got beat up by a girl."

"Why?" she asked.

"He's a bully."

"So are you."

"I got better." Again, there was that cocky smirk. "Simon Largo and his friends need to know they can't get away with that kind of stuff anymore. You're the meanest, toughest person I ever met."

Ange growled.

Fuentes ignored him. "I need you to make an example out of him."

"Why?" she asked again.

"Name your price."

She thought of the most ridiculous one she could imagine so they would just go away. "Five Merde Bars."

"You're crazy!" shouted Ange.

"Let me handle this!" Fuentes barked. He turned to her. "Deal."

"How do I know you'll pay up?"

"If I don't," he replied, "you make scrambled eggs in my pants."

She couldn't stop herself from smiling. "Deal." They shook hands, and he passed her a slip of paper with Simon Largo's address on it. The following Monday, she snuck into the Largos' backyard, punched Simon in the face three times, and threw his action figures into the street. That Wednesday, Fuentes found her in her secret ditch. He was carrying a paper bag and that stupid smirk of his.

She snatched the bag away and looked inside, ready for one more disappointment in a long life full of them. Instead, she found six assorted Merde Bars, and not the mini ones either. "I only asked for five."

"I know," he replied, "but I threw an extra one in because everyone knows what happened to him, and no one knows it was me."

"Thought that was what you wanted."

"It was, but I didn't expect you to do it so good." Again he smirked that cute smirk.

She blushed. "So, ah, if you want me to, like, I don't know, beat someone else up, um ..."

"And if you ever, you know, want to throw rocks at stuff with me and Ange, like, whenever, you totally can." He added, "I'm Max."

Okay, so she was crushing on him then, just a little, but she didn't want to be too easy. "I don't give a fart, Fuentes," she replied.

"Suit yourself, Green." Right before he ran back to the vast, barren trailer park, leaving her alone, wedged in her tiny, secret ditch, he gave her one more dazzling smirk and told her, "I'll be in touch."

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Jeremiah

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