Stillwell lit two Luckies and handed her one. The streetlight threw vertical shadows on her face as she smiled up at him. “What’s this?” he said, touching his finger to the pucker of skin on her belly.
“Cigarette,” she said.
“Huh,” he said, taking a drag. “You two didn’t get along, I take it.”
She shrugged. “That’s the only mark he ever left on me. He felt bad about it afterwards. Seemed to, anyway.”
“Huh.” He watched the smoke curl from her Lucky, the ash beginning to crumple under its own weight. He took an ashtray from the bedstand and placed it on his own naked stomach. “My old man was no angel himself.”
“Yeah. The belt, that was his, y’know...”
“Yeah. But then one day, I don’t remember what I did, but I had the belt coming. So I decided, bent bare-ass over my own bed, to not cry. And I couldn’t see his face, but it was like, whap! whap! And then he paused, y’know, waiting for the reaction. But I held it in, y’know. And I couldn’t see his face, but I could, y’know, I could picture it. Confused. He wasn’t a smart guy. But then he got it after a minute. Still, one more time—whap!—and that was it. Never got the belt again.”
“Yeah,” she said, and handed him her cigarette.
He took it from her and stubbed it out, and then his. They slept, her with her head on his chest.
She called a few times, but gave up after a week or two.
She’d been angling to get Zero into the bedroom all night. He finally just let her blow him on the couch, not only shutting her up for fifteen minutes but also letting him continue with the block of Roseanne on TV Land. The blow job was pretty good, too.
After she was done, during a commercial, Zero said, “Hey, what’s that on the back of your neck?”
“What?” she said, feeling back there.
“That scar, man.”
She said, “Oh, that. Nothing. I was in a pretty bad fight once, with some bitch trying to steal my boyfriend.”
“Yeah. Just stupid high school shit, at some party. When I had her on the ground, one of her friends hit me with a broken bottle.”
“Yeah. Eight stitches.”
“Man,” Zero said. The commercial was over, but Zero said, “Y’know, I haven’t thrown a punch since fifth grade?”
“Yeah, this kid, I don’t remember his name, was being a real prick at the bus stop, man, just being a real jerk-off. Throwing rocks at kids, just being a prick. And then, I dunno what happened, but I just snapped and beat the shit out of him. Right there in front of everybody.”
“Wow,” she said, “Did you get in trouble or anything?”
“Nah, no grown-ups around, nothing. None of the other kids were gonna narc me out, they all hated him too. But there I was, standing over this kid, crying in the gutter. And then I realized I was crying too. Or at least I had tears coming out of my eyes. All worked up, man, all excited, and for what?”
“Nothing,” she said.
They fell asleep in front of the TV, Zero’s pants still undone. Zero scrambled some eggs for them both in the morning.
He never called her again, but ran into her on the street a couple weeks later. She seemed real glad to see him, but they never hung out again. It never came up, really.
Bronson had been trying for a couple of weeks now to get this girl into the sack, but it was totally worth it. She was round, she was firm, she was more fully packed than a Who concert in the ‘70s.
They lay there, panting. “Man,” Bronson said, “That was fun.”
She laughed a little in the back of her throat.
Bronson rolled over onto his side, facing her, his head resting on his hand. “Hey, what’re all those little scars on your back? You fall into a thresher or something?”
“Hm, no,” she said, “I had a boyfriend who was into BDSM.”
“Oh,” Bronson said, “What is that, like, an industrial band or something?”
She laughed again. “No, it’s, y’know, bondage and stuff. He had this cat-o’-nine-tails he’d use on me.”
“Not your thing, huh?”
Bronson pulled a face.
She said, “Have you ever tried it?”
“Well, no. But I did date this one girl who wanted me to rape her all the time.”
“Yeah, it was no big thing, it was just kinda weird, that’s all. Every time we’d do it, she’d ask me what it was like raping her.”
“And what did you say?”
Bronson shrugged. “Oh, well, y’know, I said it was great or whatever. But I couldn’t really say, since I’d never raped anybody. She seemed to like it, though, y’know. I aim to please.”
She said, “Well, an element of danger can be, y’know, a real turn-on.”
“Yeah, I get that. I dunno. It’s dangerous enough out there for me, thanks. I mean, not to sound braggy or anything, but fuck. I’ve been beat up, shot at, all kindsa crazy shit. So when I’m in the company of a young lady, y’know, I’d like to...let my guard down a bit, I guess. That’s living dangerously, you ask me. Not that you did.”
He grinned. “I guess I’m just an old-fashioned guy,” he said.
“I think you’re sweet,” she said.
They slept, and then she let him have sex with her again in the morning.
She never returned any of his phone calls after that.