Tyffanie Grant was only sixteen, but she had spent the past five years selling out pop-music concerts and acting in her all-ages sitcom, Mac and Daddy. She'd always dressed and acted provocatively, yet maintained her virtue. Tonight, she was going to put money on it. Judging by the decorations and the size of this yacht on which I stood, I'd say it was a lot of money.
For a purity ball, I was expecting more white clothing. Even the boys, all athletic and bobbing their heads in unison to the music, wore mostly baby blue shirts tucked into their meticulously pressed khakis--too cool, of course, to dance.
The girls unanimously wore black cocktail dresses with skirts that reached down to their mid-thighs and kept hiking up as they wriggled, writhed, and sweat to the bubblegum blaring out of the unnecessarily large speakers in every corner. To Ms. Grant's credit, none of the tunes were her own.
After hours of this, I barely even noticed my colleague, Gretchen, finishing her photographing orbit of the room and gliding over. "Max, look at this."
"I am looking."
She smacked the back of my head. "Not there."
I turned my attention to the display on her camera. "What am I looking at?"
"Phil Ferris," I replied, "the washed-up comedian who plays the titular father in Mac and Daddy."
She smacked me again. "That's for saying tit in a yacht full of teenagers."
"It means title, you idiot."
She shrugged. "I know, I just like hitting you."
"That's nice," I told her. "Can I go back to being a creepy pedophile now?"
This time, when she swung at me, I caught her wrist.
"Do you think you could tell me what's going on without hitting me again?"
"I'm not talking about Phil Ferris," she said, liberating her arm, "I'm talking about the guy behind him."
I squinted. "Looks like a ferret in a sweater vest."
"Yeah, but who is he?"
I scanned the room and caught sight of him swaggering over in this direction, with his loosely knotted tie, well-worn cargo pants, and scruffy blonde hair. I'd never seen him before, but it was obvious to me exactly who I was dealing with: my newly acquired nemesis, who worked for my rival paper and had been snatching exclusive interviews right out from under me.
I said to him, "Allen Dean, I presume."
"Wayne," said someone nearby.
"Say what?" I turned to the voice to see a towering slab of Nordic beef. His blond hair, like Gretchen's, improbably swept over his head in the most stylish manner imaginable. His lips, like Gretchen's, puffed alluringly. His chest, like Gretchen's, threatened the integrity of his button-up shirt. And he brandished a camera, just like Gretchen.
The Aryan repeated, "I'm Wayne."
"I'm Gretchen," she purred, checking him out.
"Knock that off," I hissed at her.
"You must be the lauded Max Fuentes," the ferret said.
"You must be..."
"Not lauded much longer," he added.
"That's a declaration of war, Dean," I told him.
"A bit of a one-sided war, don't you think?"
"This sexual tension is killing me," I said. "Should we make out now, or should we trade a few more barbs?"
He shook his head. "You're funny. But redundant. I'm about to score an exclusive, and all you'll have left to write are captions."
"You're so cute," I told him before cupping my hands to mouth and turning toward the dance floor. "Tyffanie Grant! Come on over!"
A few moments passed, and she emerged from a cloud of giggling teenage girls without a word, just a curious smile.
"If I promised to dance with you and all your friends, you think I could get an exclusive?"
She looked me up and down, grabbed my hand, and said, "Deal."
As she pulled me away, I made sure to blow Allen Dean a kiss.
A half hour and a full notebook later, I rejoined Gretchen, who was standing alone and fanning her face with the hand not occupied with a camera.
"The hormones in there are suffocating," I told her. "If I don't fuck something tonight, I am going to die."
She let out something between a moan and a sigh. "Oh, yeah. It's a good thing I have a boyfriend to go home to." I couldn't tell if the sigh was one of relief or schadenfreude. It didn't matter, because I spent the rest of the evening inebriated to the point of nausea by youthful lust.
When I got home hours later, I tried a cold shower, but I couldn't wash the hormones off of me. It made it worse, actually, as I became aware of how nude I was, and how badly I wanted to share that nudity with someone who richly deserved it.
I tried masturbating, but I kept remembering how young the objects of my fantasies were. Whenever I tried to change the subject, I found myself recalling the skinny, immature limbs of my high-school sweetheart. Whichever way my mind's eye went, it landed on jailbait.
And so I tried climbing onto my fire escape and getting some fresh air laced with tetrahydrocannabinol, but this was the worst idea of them all, because of my neighbor.
I could have fled at that moment, because, facing away from me with her cell to her ear, she had no idea I was there. Yet I was paralyzed by her neck, exposed by a loose ponytail and glowing with sweat, by the damp polyester clinging to her back, and by her workout pants.
Damn. Athletic women: my only weakness.
My mind, already on fire, ceded control to my body, which maneuvered my feet right up to her. The fingers of my right hand slid over her hip so they could tug loose the knot that held her drawstring together. The rest of them stroked her stomach and crept under the hem of her shirt.
She told her phone, "I'm going to have to call you back, Mom."
Fifteen minutes later, give or take, I rolled onto my back and wheezed, "Sorry."
She also rolled onto her back and attempted, with limited success, to slow down her breathing. "Why?" she panted. "Fair's fair, after all."