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As Derek pulled his pickup into the circle at the end of the indifferently graveled road leading to the farmhouse, Sheila Holloway noticed immediately that, as she expected, her parents were still gone. On Saturday nights they might play forty-two with the Marlin family until well after midnight. That suited her fine. It was still only a little past ten, and she and Derek could sit in his pickup for an hour or so with little chance of interruption. She wanted to know where her relationship with him was going and this would be a good time to talk.
"You want another beer?"
"No," Sheila said, "and you'd better not either. You've already had three. If we're still here when Mom and Dad get home and they smell beer on your breath, we'll both be in trouble."
"One more won't hurt. They won't be back for another hour, at least."
"No." Part of Sheila's protest was simply that she didn't really care for the taste of beer, and when Derek had more than three or four, she didn't like the smell of it on his breath when he kissed her. And she wanted to be kissed. Her sixteen- year- old body was still a mystery to her, a thing to be explored and tested, like a swimmer working up to a dive from the high board, no longer content with mastery of the one still occupied by kids. She leaned into Derek's embrace. He kissed her, his breath smelling faintly of alcohol and tobacco.
She thought Derek would be nice, in a way, if only he had interests other than hunting, fishing and drinking beer with the other seniors. Nevertheless, she allowed him more liberties than she ever had with other boys. It was a puzzle to her sometimes, but aminor one. At least he showed some consideration, touching her gently, rather than the rough and grasping embraces of some boys she had dated. His hand moved over her breast, and she allowed it, liking the sensation of his strong fingers as he squeezed and molded it in his hand. His tongue entered her mouth and explored pleasantly, like warm sunshine on bare skin. After a while he pulled her closer, letting her feel the male hardness pressing against her thigh, hoping that she would react to the sensation. Sheila did react, liking the feel of his body against her own. She allowed him to unbutton her blouse and slip his hand inside her bra. A wave of liquid warmth spread from her breast down to her belly, causing her to squirm restlessly against him.
Had she drank one more beer, or had Derek not rushed things quite so much, she might have given in. Her young body was demanding release, beginning to overpower the dictates of reason, but Derek moved too fast. He left her breast and moved his hand down between her thighs, rubbing too urgently, too suddenly, too overpoweringly intimate with his attentions, digging his fingers into the denim of the jeans between her legs as if grabbing for a slippery prize that wouldn't come loose.
Sheila broke away from him, breathing heavily. She pulled her blouse together and began buttoning it.
"No." She fended off an encircling arm. "It's getting late anyway. Mom and Dad will be home before long. Let's just sit and talk."
"I'm too bothered to talk. You know what you do to me." Derek reached behind the seat and retrieved another beer. Defiantly, he popped the top and tilted it to his mouth.
"If you're going to drink that, I'm going in."
"Aw, this won't hurt me." Derek pulled out a pack of Cambridge and lit a cigarette, hanging it from the corner of his mouth.
"Do what you want to. I'm going inside." Sheila slid over to the passenger door, frustrated and irritated.
"Don't be mad."
"I'm not mad."
"See you tomorrow?"
Sheila relented. After all, he hadn't really acted much different than he usually did. She leaned forward, kissed him on the mouth and slid out of the truck. "Why don't you try getting to school a little early in the morning? Maybe we can talk before history class?"
"Okay. See you then."
She closed the door and walked the few steps up onto the front porch, using the inside light filtering out through a window to find the light switch there. She flicked it on, then turned, intending to wave, but Derek was already driving away. She watched until the taillights were obscured by the tree line intervening between the house and the black top a quarter mile away, then turned to open the door.
Just as she closed the screen door behind her, a clap of thunder sounded, and a flash of light surrounded her, illuminating the living room with an eerie suffused glow. It winked out immediately, leaving the farmhouse in total darkness.
"Shit!" she muttered, an expression she seldom used, and never at home, at least not when her parents might hear. She fumbled her way toward a drawer where candles and matches were kept. She lit a taper and carried it to her bedroom, walking carefully to keep within the bounds of the flickering light. Had the house not been so dark, she might have noticed that the end of the hallway leading to her parents' room was no longer there; indeed, their bedroom was not there either, nor anything else familiar in that direction. She did notice a coolness in the air, but passed it off to an impending thunderstorm. Unconcerned, she undressed and climbed into bed, wondering if she would still be awake to hear her parents come home. She wasn't, nor would she ever see her mother and father again.
• • •
First Lieutenant Wanda Smith was still seething. She brushed a hand through her short black hair, irritated at every man in the world, then grabbed the steering wheel of the jeep Cherokee as it began drifting to the left on highway 59, heading south to Houston. Goddamn him. Goddamn him to hell, that son-of-a-bitch eagle- wearing, smirking army colonel that was destroying her career. Right now, if she never saw a man again in her life, she thought, it would be little loss. The son of a bitch ! Trust him to catch her with the little WAC corporal. Bad enough that, but the way he handled it! Give him a little fucking or be reported! She would fuck him, all right, with a nine millimeter in the mouth if she could get away with it. It wasn't like she was a roaring butch feminist lesbian; in fact, she usually did prefer men, but every now and then an unaccountable urge drew her to a female, and damn, the little WAC had been so cute. They were just getting started when the colonel walked in, drawn back to the office by who knew what. Maybe he had suspected when she failed to react to his advances; more likely he was a long time sniffer- outer of what he thought to be sexual aberrations, regardless of what the regulations said. That didn't excuse his actions, though, even if she had been consorting with an enlisted person. That, she admitted to herself, was her own fault and she should have known better.
This morning, he had called her into his office. The smirk on his face would have done justice to any cat with feathers hanging from its mouth. Wanda tried unsuccessfully to brush aside images from the scene that followed.
"I know this sort of thing goes on in the service," Colonel Brewster said, twirling a pencil in his fingers like a weathervane, "but you've gone beyond the bounds of propriety. Sex with a subordinate. While on duty. Of the same sex. Can you give me any reason not to report this?"
"No, sir," she said.
Copyright © 2006 Darrell Bain.
Posted March 11, 2013