Michael did well at school without much effort and it often left him bored. He felt different than the other kids, but hadn’t learned who he really was yet, or how truly different he was. He kept his own counsel at school, because there wasn’t anybody he felt comfortable confiding with. That was nothing new to him, he had never been able to expose what was going on inside him, to anyone.
The other boys in his class, weren’t mental rock stars, or at least too naive, if they had any brains. It struck him odd that the smartest kids were the most awkward, so he tended to avoid them, they required too much effort to be around. He liked his friends somewhere in the middle and liberal, because conservative guys were just too angry and that was annoying. As soon as the school allowed him, in his sophomore year, he moved off campus into an efficiency apartment, so he could get away from the forced socialization of the dorm.
It was just four walls with a kitchenette and a bathroom, but it was an old building and had niceties like real wood trim, stained a deep walnut color, and nice kitchen cabinets that were built on site, not at factory. The walls were painted a color that Michael frequently sold to landlords, during his summers at his father’s hardware store. He called it rental eggshell. There were a few bland landscapes up when Michael moved into the furnished room and he left them. He never really did anything special to make it his own. All the furniture was older and natural wood, lighter than the trim, more of teak color. It had a bed with a side table, a wood table with two chairs by the kitchenette, and a slightly warn upholstered couch and chair. It was just a place he could escape and be by himself.
He still had a group that he hung out with for something to do. Some Bros to shoot hoops with. He didn’t follow his father’s path by getting on any of the colleges teams, but he liked the activity of sports and that required a certain level of social behavior. If it hadn’t been for that he probably would have only hung out with whatever girl he was dating, because he found small talk tedious and difficult.
His friends idolized him for his prowess with women and looked up to him. He was always the first choice for pickup basketball games as well, though he tempered his skills to keep the games fun for everyone. He’d learned in high school that when he went all out, people didn’t want to play with him, because it was just him taking the ball away from them and shooting baskets.
He always had to keep a lid on his abilities in all aspects of his life. He did keep a 4.0, but he wasn’t the only one, and he gave the impression that it was harder than it was. It was another reason he kept to himself most of the time, it was easier. He constantly had his guard up when he was around other people. Fortunately the guys he hung out with were all a little high strung and talked over each other, so he didn’t have to contribute much in the way of conversation to get by. They would go out for pizza and over the course of a couple of hours he’d contribute little more than grunts, smiles and laughter for jokes he often didn’t think were funny, and agreeing nods.
This lead to him spending a lot of time in his head, even when he was with other people. Thinking about philosophy and other things that would make his friends think he was weird, if he spoke them out loud. There were times that he thought he might be some kind of psychopath, because he was so cold. When he would break it off with one of his girlfriends and they would start to cry, he felt nothing. He just wanted the crying to stop, because it was annoying.
He always made sure to do his breakups in public spaces like parks, so he could walk away. If he did it in their rooms they would try to seduce him into staying and once he’d made up his mind it didn’t interest him any more. While he didn’t really understand, or care, about emotion. He understood that it hurt them worse if they offered themselves to him and he turned them down and he didn’t want them so mad they made trouble for him.
He didn’t have a lot the traditional signs of being a psychopath. He didn’t care for sick activities. No desire to hurt small animals, or anything like that. Pets were the one thing he had ever felt a genuine affection for, he was able to trust them. People were a soup of unreliability and constantly changing loyalties. You would think that animals would be less interesting, because they couldn’t talk, but for Michael that was their best quality. His lips twisted a little and he considered himself objectively. He his was probably more of a sociopath, because never felt guilt manipulating people.
All these thoughts were running around his head while he zombie walked through the cafeteria line. He paid for his food and scanned the room. Whenever he was in one of these deep brooding, self absorbed moods he avoided other people. He couldn’t fake attention to idle conversation when he was like this. It was prime lunch time and all the tables had people sitting at them. He saw one table with a single passenger at the end and thought the opposite end would be a good spot.
As he walked to the table he looked at the girl sitting there. Cataloging people was a pastime for Michael, so it usually didn’t take him long to put people in box and label it. But something about her was jogging his head.
She light brown hair with blonde streaks that fell over her shoulders. Not the kind you get from a salon, the ones you get from being outside. He thought her body was maybe slightly better than average, unless you were one of those idiots that obsessed about big breasts. She didn’t have the traditional looks of the girls Michael usually dated. Regardless he felt drawn to her and not in the sexual conquest way that he was used to. She was pretty in sort quirky way, but not someone you would look at and instantly think she was beautiful. She was someone you would look at twice though, because there was something going on inside that spilled out and added radiance. He realized as he got closer to the table that she was smiling while she read.
Michael had never seen anyone smile so completely while reading a book. Then she must of read something particularly entertaining, because her smiled broaden to a full, take a picture smile. Michael stumbled a little when he saw her expression light up. As if one of his shoes stuck to the floor. She had a smile that was like sunshine and it blinded Michael, because he didn’t really understand goodness. He felt everyone was motivated by their own selfish desires. He had to believe that to be able to manipulate people the way he did. He believed all the goody-goody stuff was a sham and just another way to manipulate people. He could not comprehend why someone would bother being good, there was no advantage to it.
He sat down at her table. She continuing reading her book and smiling as she read. She did look up for a second, when he sat down, and nod to him. Then he did something completely impulsive and that was rare in Michael’s well calculated life. He tried to start a conversation with her.
“What are you reading?” Michael asked without preamble.
“A book.” She responded without looking at him.
“Is it a book on sarcasm?” Michael smiled at her. She rolled her eyes, but still didn’t look directly at him. Though she did sneak a peek from the corner of her eye.
“I sit alone, so I can read.” She glanced at him and then turned back to her book. “Is this leading to a longer conversation, or are you just being polite? Because you really don’t have to be polite, you can just eat your lunch.” She didn’t look up at him when she spoke and this stunned Michael. He was used to drawing peoples attention.
“I don’t know, but it’s an honest question. I’ve never seen anyone so happy to be reading a book.” It was an honest question. Something of an oddity coming from Michael. There was usually a motive behind everything he did. But he was genuinely curious about the book as well as her. She put a worn leather bookmark, with a red tassel, in the book and closed it. Then she handed it to Michael. “It’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’m reading it for the third time, which makes it a record, because I’ve never read a book more than twice before.”
Michael examined the quirky cover. It meant nothing to him, but he was going to get a copy and find out what the deal was. He had never read any book twice. “What’s it about?” Michael asked still looking at the book.
She chuckled and it made Michael look up. He wanted to see the source of that beautiful sound. “It’s… It’s… ah… about how you need a towel if you’re going to hitchhike through the galaxy.” She laughed at the expression Michael made in response to her statement. Though she was sort of laughing at him, he didn’t mind at all. In fact it made him feel good. That he really didn’t understand.
“You’re a strange bird.” Michael smiled, not even knowing where the phrase had come from. He couldn’t remember ever using it, or even hearing it before. It was very unlike him.
She laughed and smiled. Sunshine radiated from her and it made Michael blink. “You could definitely say that.” She said and reached across the table for her book. He let her clamp her fingers down, but didn’t let go.
“I’m, Michael.” She nodded her head and pulled the book from his fingers.
“I know.” She opened the book back to her spot. “Your reputation precedes you.”
Michael looked at her for a moment. She pretended to read, but kept glancing up to check if Michael was still looking at her.
“Normally,” Michael began trying to lasso some of his confidence. “When someone tells you their name, the polite response is to tell them yours.”
“Marjoram, Marjy.” She sighed and depended her portrayal of someone reading a book.
“Just call me, Marjy.” She still didn’t look up from her book.
Michael looked at the blond streaks in her hair and small straight nose. He couldn’t make sense of the name. “Is that middle eastern?” He asked. His tone exposing his confusion.
Marjy laughed. The most genuine, open, laugh Michael had ever heard, and set down her book to examine him. “That’s a new one. No one’s ever asked that before.” She looked Michael straight in the eyes, something Michael wasn’t used to either, her eyes crinkling at the corners from her smile.
“It’s a spice. That is both for flavor and can also…” She raised her eyebrows and index finger. “… be used as an herbal medicine. At last count, I believe there were 12 uses in that department.” Her smile expanded. “My parents were, are newagers, hippies, they want me to save the world.”
“How’s that working out for you?” Michael spoke more naturally than he could ever remember doing.
“I’m trying to work on myself first, but I take the science and math classes they want me to take.” Marjoram surprised herself at the openness of her response. She cleared her throat wanting to get back on a lighter track. “Guess how many times I’ve explained my name?”
Michael was fascinated by her, he couldn’t remember ever looking at someone so closely. It took him a moment to realize she was waiting for an answer. He chuckled. “I don’t know, thousands?”
“Correct.” She slapped her palm on the table. “Bing! Bing! Bing! Thousands of times starting in Kindergarten. Johnny tell our contestant what he’s won.”
“Well, Marjoram.” Michael did his best Johnny Olson impersonation, something that was, so far out of his comfort zone, he thought he might pee himself. “He’s won a date with our beautiful hostess!”
Marjoram’s smile crashed and she raised her eyebrows. “Nice try. I’ll give you that.” She looked at Micheal’s crest fallen face. She had no idea of the extent of Micheal’s current state of vulnerability, but she was an empathetic person and knew she’d just flattened him. She’d had this discussion a lot. But it usually with nerdy boys, who thought she was approachable, because she openly read books, and liked science. Never with anyone she found attractive. Had she just thought that?
“First of all, I have a mirror, I’m not beautiful. I’m cute, I guess, maybe even a little better than average on a good day, but not beautiful.” Michael just kept staring at her blankly and she sighed heavily again. “Look, Michael, you seem nice. Actually a lot nicer than I expected you to be, but I don’t want to be one of your curb girls.”
“Curb girls?” Michael was genuinely confused.
“Yeah, you know, your reputation precedes.” She waved her hands as she spoke. “One, two, three months on the outside, then kicked to the curb with no warning. Replacement already standing by.” She went back to her reading pantomime.
“Oh.” Michael clasped his hands together on the table. “How do you know so much about me?”
“I’m a people watcher and girls talk. Not necessarily to me, but close enough for me to hear them. We’ve been in the same school for over two years, it’s hard not to notice you.”
“So you did notice me.” Michael said clinging to her admission.
She chuckled again and looked up from her book. “Yes, I did notice you.” She admitted, blushing a little.
“Well maybe, I’ve never found the right girl.” He said to his own amazement.
She set her book down and took a deep sigh. “Michael. You’re being incredibly sweet. And I honestly can’t tell if this is just one of your moves, or this is you, and that’s why you’re so successful with…” She waved her hand around again. “Whatever it is you do. I haven’t been on a real date since I came to this school. That should tell you I’ve got a few issues. It’s not, because I come from some sort of ultra conservative background, my parents were free love hippies.” Marjy couldn’t believe she was saying all this and couldn’t stop herself either.
“Maybe it’s an over-correction from the way my parents are, just like conservative kids go crazy when they get away from home. Life is really…” She took a deep breath. “Intense for me. I just like to keep things simple. And whatever, whomever, you are…” She waved her hand at him. “It’s not simple.” She shook her head no slightly and smiled in a less friendly way than she had before and that disappointed Michael. She went back to her book.
Michael sat very still. Looking at her as she determinedly did not look back at him. After a while he looked down at his tray. He realized he was clutching the edges of the tray and he released his grasp like it had given him an electric shock.
“Okay… Okay.” Michael said quietly. Marjoram made sure not to look up when Michael stood. She didn’t look over until she was sure he was walking away. His tray sat on the table with his untouched lunch. She looked at the abandoned food and felt like she was going to cry and she had no idea why. It wasn’t that she was a stranger to tears, if anything they were her daily companion, these were unexpected and made her chest hurt. She slapped her book down on the table and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“What the fuck?” She said in a loud whisper that penetrated the room two tables in every direction. A few people couldn’t help but look over at her. She got up and left her lunch as well. She wanted to get back to her room, before this got the better of her and she lost it. That had happened to her in public before and it was humiliating.
Three days later Marjoram was crossing the campus between classes when she heard her name.
She looked around but didn’t immediately see Michael running towards her. When she did, she took a deep breath and braced herself as he came storming up to her. She had just managed to get him out of her head. Well not really, but that’s what she’d told herself.
“Hi, Michael.” She said, trying to keep herself neutral.
“I loved it!” Michael beamed at her.
“You loved what?” She asked her brows crinkling.
“The book, the Guide.” Michael held up his new copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “It’s the first time in my life I just read a book straight through. I couldn’t put it down and sat up all night with it. I can see how you’d want to read it more than once.”
“Great…” Marjoram was a little overwhelmed and wasn’t sure what to say.
“It’s also the first time, in my life, that I laughed out loud reading a book. Alone in my room, I’m just laughing. It was… I don’t know. It felt great.” Michael was teetering on jovial, something that was very new to him.
“Well I’m glad you enjoyed it.” Marjoram looked in the direction she’d been heading. “Well I’ve got to get to class. See you.” She gave a little wave and started walking again. Michael fell into step beside her. She sighed.
“I’ll walk you.” Michael said enthusiastically.
She started to protest that it wasn’t necessary, but she could tell it would take her longer to win that argument than it would to walk to class. So she accepted his presence. It was easy, because he was talking about his favorite parts of the book and not pressuring her in anyway. It was more continuous speaking than Michael had said to another person, basically in his life, and he was only slightly aware of it. When they got to the building, she turned to say goodbye to him and he lit her up with a smile and started talking before she could stop him.
“It doesn’t have to be a date. I just want to hang out with you. You’re different from anyone else I’ve ever known. And you turned me on to the best book I’ve ever read.”
“Michael.” She looked into his eyes.
“Anything you want. I just would like to… you know, know you.”
Deep sigh. “Okay.” Marjoram decided to give Michael her standard guy test. If he was faking it, he wouldn’t make it through the evening. No guy ever had passed it. Some had stayed the whole time, but it was obvious that they were just hanging on with the hope of something more. “There’s a coffee shop. No alcohol. It’s sort of a beat poet slash hippy hang out. People drink coffee, talk, play board games, talk more, smoke cigarettes. Some people get up on the little stage and play music or read poetry.”
“You smoke cigarettes?” Michael asked his eyes going wide.
“Yes.” Marjoram chuckled at his expression. “Not a lot and I roll them myself, with all natural tobacco that my parents grow on their little hippy farm.”
“That’s actually pretty awesome.” Michael smiled. “And here I thought you were completely vice-less. It sounds great. It will certainly be a new experience for me.”
Marjoram sighed heavily again. She had hoped for a less enthusiastic response. She scribbled her number on the edge of a sheet of notebook paper and ripped it off, handing it to Michael in one motion. Something in sureness of her movement impressed him.
“Call me about seven.” Another test. “And I’ll tell you how to get there.”
“You don’t want me to pick you up.”
“No I’ll meet you there.”
“All right. But I’ve got a pretty nice car.” His mother had given him the Mustang when he left for college.
“I’m sure you do and I’m sure that it works real well for you.” Nodding so he would understand that she knew it was part of his game. “I’ll see you tonight.” She turned and went in the building, to her class.
Michael passed Marjoram’s first test. He found himself enjoying the place, because he was a naturally curious person and it was completely different than any place he’d hung out before. It had a random lot of small tables in the middle of the floor and stools beside a long shelf on the wall opposite the door. There was also a coffee bar, with stools. Room for maybe 50 people and that was crowded. The people were also interesting to look at. Every age represented and mixing together rather than divided into age clicks. And all of them characters, worthy of study. But even though he handled it well, at the end of the night Marjoram still didn’t take the offer of a ride home and road her bicycle home instead.
They began meeting for lunch, school activities, or at the coffee shop, but no official dates. He did start putting his arm around her and they did hold hands. After a month they began kissing. Very tender, childlike kissing. But warm and moist. During the whole time Michael never went out with anyone else. Didn’t even look. Their make out sessions became more passionate, but she always kept her clothes on, even after she started letting him put his hands under her clothes to touch her skin, she always stayed dressed and stopped before it got too far.
For their two month anniversary they went to the coffee shop. After they’d been there a while, Michael suddenly stood up and went to the stage. Marjoram’s jaw dropped and her eyes expanded in disbelief when she noticed the piece of paper Michael was unfolding as he got up on the stage.
“Ah, hello.” Michael looked around the room. “I’ve heard a lot you up here. This is my first time, please be gentle with me.” Michael paused as a friendly laugh rippled through the crowd. “This is the first poem I’ve ever written, or read aloud. After the others I’ve heard here… I would say it’s sort of short and little simple. But you got to start somewhere.” This got a second laugh.
“Okay. Here goes…” Michael held up the paper then lowered it. “Um… does not have a title. I’ll call it… Sunshine.”
Michael held up his piece of paper. “Living, or so I thought. No doubts in myself. Believing life obvious. People simple. Living with absolutes of my own design. Alone with never a second thought. Never even caring. Lost and not even knowing it.” Deep breath. “Yearning and not even feeling it. Cold feeling no different than warm, because warmth could not penetrate the cold. Then suddenly sunshine radiating from a heart beat. Life. Life unlived until now. Life unattainable until now.” Michael’s voice became shaky and he wasn’t even faking it. “Sunshine radiating from a heart beat. And suddenly the world is warm and for the first time, when I didn’t even realize it was cold. Sunshine radiating from a heart beat and suddenly I’m no longer alone, when I never even realized that I was.”
Michael cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “That’s it.” There was a pause, then polite applause and smiles. He didn’t bring down the house, but they got that it was genuine. “Thank you.” Michael did a nodding bow, smiled, waved to the audience with his piece of paper and sheepishly went back to his seat and sat down. He couldn’t look right at Marjoram and when he did she was opening staring at him.
“Did you like it?” He put the paper on the table and slid it to her. “I wrote it for you.” He looked at her and looked quickly away. “I wanted you to know…” Michael nodded his head, not able to finish his sentence. Emotion didn’t come easily to him.
Marjoram nodded smiled and reached up and put her hand on the back of Michael’s neck and pulled him to her. She kissed him more deeply than she ever had before. “I liked it.” A tear escaped her eye.
“Yeah?” Michael asked smiling.
She nodded. “Yeah.” She kissed him again. “Michael, can we get out of here?”
“Sure.” Michael looked around. They had a lot of eyes and smiles pointed their way. “You want to leave right now? We’re sort of in the spotlight at the moment.”
“It’s okay. I don’t care.” She kissed him again. “I want to go to your place. My roommate’s home.”
“Yeah?” Michael couldn’t hide his surprise.
“Yeah.” She said softly, nodding.
It was the most tender experience of Michael’s life. He had never been so careful, so gentle, or felt so much before. That was why he was stunned when holding Marjoram afterwards he realized she was crying.
“What’s the matter, Marjy?” He brushed the hair back from her face.
“Nothing.” She turned her face away from him and continued to cry softly.
“Did I do something wrong?” Michael had never genuinely asked that question in his life.
“No.” Marjoram shook her head. “No you did everything right. Perfect.”
“What is it?”
“It’s silly.” Her voice was barely over a whisper.
“What? What’s silly?” Michael felt a little desperate. A girl’s tears had never affected him before.
Marjoram clutched at the sheet and twisted it in her fingers. She took a deep breath. “It was my first time.” Her voice was barely over a whisper. “You must think I’m a total klutz.”
He hugged her tightly and let her bury her face in his chest. “Oh, baby, no…”
“You’ve been with all those other girls.” She sucked air to choke down a sob. “They probably… I don’t know how to do anything.”
Michael felt a foreign feeling in his chest. He didn’t know what it was, but it hurt. “I didn’t even know, baby.”
She laughed and wiped away some tears with the back of her hand. “I don’t know how to respond to that.”
“I mean, it was wonderful. It couldn’t have been any better. Honestly.”
She pulled away enough to look up at him. “Do you mean it?”
He kissed the tears from her cheeks. “Yes, of course I mean it.” Michael was stunned to realize he did.
Satisfied with his response she laid her cheek on his chest and snuggled up to him. “But couldn’t you… tell?”
“I wasn’t really thinking, I was just with you, it was wonderful.”
She took a deep swallow her eyes opened wide. “Am I loose?” She really had no idea about such things.
Michael couldn’t help but laugh and she punched him in the gut. “No, you’re not loose.” He had to chuckle again and she let him have another punch which made him laugh more.
“It’s not funny.” She protested, but was smiling and she’d stopped crying.
“I went so slow, because I wanted it to be special. I knew you didn’t sleep around so it didn’t surprise me that it took a while to get inside of you. And I really wanted to last, so I was going extra slow.”
She hugged him tightly. “Okay. You’ve officially done everything right.”
“You want to try a second time?”
She slapped him with her open palm. “No. Not yet. It hurts. I mean it felt really good, but it hurts right now.”
“You want a drink, or smoke some pot?”
She looked crinkled her brows. Michael laughed.
“Don’t tell me, with your hippy dippy parents, that your shocked by pot.”
“You’ve just never mentioned it before.”
“I didn’t want you to think I was trying to ply you with intoxicants. But we’re past that now.”
She smiled. “Okay, you’re still batting a thousand.”
“Works for me.”
Michael reached into the drawer of his bedside table and took out his old cigar box. “I know you can roll. Would you do the honors?”
“Yes.” She smiled the way that always made Michael feel a little dizzy.
“Thank you. I’ll get some beers.” He got up from the bed and went to the refrigerator.
Marjoram became the closest thing to a real relationship Michael ever had with anyone, sexual or otherwise. It didn’t even cross his mind that he wasn’t stepping out on her. He was too happy and that was completely alien to him. It didn’t occur to him that he’s lost all his possibles, until he had one of his empty nights.
One of those nights that he questioned himself and his… existence. Michael had never felt comfortable in his skin. He always felt like he was missing something about himself. He looked at his parents, who were nice, better than other parents he knew about, but he always looked at them like strangers. He felt no connection to them. They were just people that served the purpose of food and shelter. People he would not need much longer and might not even speak to again, once he cut the ties, unless they became somehow useful. Because that was the only metric Michael had ever applied to who was in his life, were they useful.
But this isolation was a bitter bitch. Some nights his human factor, his need to be a part of the larger world, would rear it’s demanding head and he would cave in on himself. All his self confidence and bravado would just be sucked out of him and he would feel completely empty. As if at any moment he could literally implode in on himself and disappear. Those were the nights he was a stallion. Those were the nights that the sex mattered as sex. He had to take everything a girl had to offer. To annihilate her. Fuck her until she passed out from exhaustion, with him still inside her. Because he could drink all that in and fill himself up again.
So that night he was empty and he called her and she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t come over no matter how much he tried to persuade her. That was when he suddenly realized he had nothing on the side to call in. She had to come. There was no one else. He couldn’t be alone with himself. She had hinted all through the call, then finally said, when it was obvious he just wasn’t going to get it. “Baby you know I love you, but I can hear it in your voice, I know how you are and what you want when you get like this. I’m cramping and flowing big time, I’m in my flannels and tucked in bed and I can’t handle that tonight. Why don’t you come by in the morning and we’ll get some breakfast.”
“I could come over there. We could just cuddle.” Michael offered.
“Michael,” She chuckled. “You know I don’t believe that for a second.”
“Okay…” Michael had just stared into the void trying to process what was going on in his own brain. Rejection. She was rejecting him. No one had ever rejected him before. “I’ll see you later.” He said and hung up the phone.
“Michael, I’m sorry, but I just feel the worst…” All she heard was the click of the phone going dead.
Michael had tried to ignore what was happening inside of him. He was feeling… feeling what? He wasn’t big on feelings. He didn’t really understand them, except in a theoretical way. He tried a half a dozen booty calls, but they all failed. One girl that he had been especially harsh with actually laughed and couldn’t stop laughing about him calling her and expecting her to run over. He had to hang up on her to stop the laughter.
The vacuum increased. Michael hugged himself he… cried. He touched his fingers to his face, felt the wetness, then examined his finger tips. He never cried. Even when his arm was broken after getting a hard tackle in JV Football, he didn’t cry. Rather he’d just been fascinated with feeling of the pain. He had gone so far as to poke it on his way to the hospital just to see how much more it would hurt.
He did the same thing now. He poked at the pain. He found the source of the pain. It was her. She caused the pain. She was the source and he had to do away with any source of pain. He went to his bedside table, opened the draw, and took out the old wooden cigar box. He never used drugs by himself. He had them for girls to make them more pliable and useful to him. But he needed to get through the night. He rolled himself a party joint, by gluing two papers together and packing it tight. His natural tolerance was high, so he didn’t mess around.
The next day he sought out a freshman girl he knew was crushing hard on him. He knew her from the school paper, something he did to fill out his resume for law school. She was five two, long curly chestnut hair, petite, and a little heavy in the bottom which he liked. He knew, she about melted into the chair every time he leaned over her to look at her work.
He liked doing it and watching her young hips squirming and grinding. He could practically feel the heat rising from her thighs. He wasn’t even sure of her name, but he knew she’d be at the cafeteria early. Freshman always had earlier classes and they were still fastidious about making their classes on time. He was choosing her, because she was a freshman. Nothing insulted the older girls like stepping out on them with a freshman. The funny thing was that he was actually was actually closer in age the them than his classmates. Because of his athletic build, strong mature face, and an attitude that made the professors nervous around him, everyone forgot he’d skipped grades and was younger than everyone else.
Michael walked slowly by her table, pretending to look for someone. As he expected she waved to him and went so far as to jump up to talk to him.
“Oh, hi…” Michael paused.
“Ashley.” She quickly volunteered.
“Ashley, yes, I’m sorry. I’m really scattered today.” He looked around the cafeteria.
“I was wondering if you were going to be by the paper later. I wanted you to read my new story.”
“I’m not sure how the days’ going to go.” Michael continued to scan the big room, then turned back to Ashley and made a little grimace. “Had a bit of a… disagreement last night and…” He looked around again. “I was kind of hoping to see her here.” Michael bunched up his lips. “I guess I’ll eat by myself. I’ll see you.” He started to walk away. Ashley practically leaped after him and bravely touched his elbow with her fingertips.
“Don’t sit alone. Sit with me.” Her eyes dropped should couldn’t match Michael’s steady gaze. She waved her hand towards the table. “I mean, sit with us…” Michael looked over at the table and Ashley’s two freshman friends beaming up at him. They were sure to know of her crush. He took one last look around and then turned to the table. He dreaded interacting with the other two. He just wanted Ashley. Spoiled, but insecure, rich girl. She was going to give him what he needed. She would fill him up nicely.
She didn’t go to back to class that day. She didn’t give it a second thought when Michael said he really couldn’t be alone. He had her back at his apartment three hours later. She walked in like a deer entering a new forest with many strange smells. She had never been in a boys apartment before.
“Do you want something to drink?” Michael asked standing in the kitchen area of his efficiency apartment.
“Yeah, I’ve got everything. Beer, wine, those little sweet wine coolers. I had a party last week and there was all kinds of stuff left over.” This was a lie. Michael always made a point of keeping every type of alcohol a girl might want. He knew the wine coolers were a top choice, so he was always stocked with those.
“I’ll try a wine cooler.” Ashley couldn’t believe her luck and running into Michael at just the right moment and was terrified of him thinking of her as not being cool.
“I don’t know. What do you have?”
Michael smiled. “I have purple, red, and pink.”
His smile disarmed her and she smiled back. “I’ll try pink.” Michael could have guessed that, he bent over to retrieve a pink bottle and Molsen for himself.
Ashley looked around the apartment it was masculine in it’s bareness. A bed backed up to the window. A couch and a chair were covered in utilitarian green fabric. End tables and a coffee table that matched the wood accents on the chair and couch. Had Ashley been more been more worldly she would have guessed it was a furnished apartment. She glanced at his answering machine. It had 12 messages.
“You’ve got a bunch of messages.” Ashley cringed and wondered if she’d made a mistake bringing it up. She had daydreamed about this moment for months. The last thing she wanted was to have him hear some message and excuse himself to go running back to his old girlfriend. The girlfriend that they’d just spent two hours on the green talking about and he had decided that it was time to move on and 12 messages didn’t look like moving on.
Michael came over and handed her the wine cooler. He looked down at the machine and frowned, took a drink from his beer, then looked out the window.
“You’re the only one I want to talk to right now.”
Three hours later Ashley laid on Michael’s bed sweating and panting. She was so exhausted and hot that her arms and legs were spread out to cool off. She didn’t even think of covering herself with the sheet, even though at heart, she was incredibly shy. She watched the muscles in Michael’s backside move under his skin as he walked to the bathroom. And blew out a big breath of air. It was a day of many firsts: First time she’d been in a boy’s apartment. First time she’d had a wine cooler. Three actually. First time she’d ever used the marijuana. And she decided the first time she’d been fucked, because the two boys she’d been with in high school were so inadequate compared to Michael that they just didn’t count.
If she’d been crushing before, she had no idea what she was feeling now. A part of her felt like she should throw her clothes on and run, but she knew she wasn’t going to do that. They were going to have to surgically remove her from Michael’s side. He came out of the bathroom walked to the bed and looked down at her. She was terrified that he was going to take her again. He smiled and lay down beside her and kissed her gently and began exploring her with his hand. She pushed herself away.
“Wait, Michael. I can’t take anymore.”
Michael frowned at her.
“Let me do something for you instead.” She kissed his neck and down his chest and did something else for the first time to round out the day.
Michael watched her clumsy, desperate, attention as much as feeling it. He had everything she had to give and she was still trying. He was satiated. So much so, he was feeling generous. He wanted to keep this one around for a while, she filled him up nicely.
“Turn around…” Was all he said. She froze. She was so focused on what she was doing that it took a while to realize what he was saying. The only reason she understood was that at a sleepover, with friends in high school, there had been much giggling as they read through a sex manual and they had all blushed and said “No way!” when they’d read that part. She awkwardly followed Michael’s instruction. He guided her into place as she straddled him. It made her better at what she was doing as Michael knew it would.
It was dark when Ashley woke up lying across Michael’s chest. The street light painted white lines across their bodies where it spilled through the blinds. She desperately had to pee, but she didn’t want to wake up Michael. She studied him and felt the full contact of their warm skin. She’d never experienced afterglow before. In high school it was get it done and get your clothes back on before you got caught. After a moment Michael could feel her looking at him and he opened his eyes.
‘Hello sunshine.” Michael used his finger to brush a curly chestnut lock from her eyes.
“It’s nighttime.” She responded a little too earnestly.
“You.” Michael petted her head. “You are my little ray of sunshine. You made everything all better.”
She hugged him tightly, but didn’t feel as close as she did before he woke up. He could feel something off in her, but didn’t really know what it was. Instead of trying to figure it out, he looked to his own needs. “Let’s take a shower.”
“Let’s?” Ashley hadn’t ever even been in a bathroom with a boy before.
“Yeah, let’s take a shower.”
Not wanting to appear naive now, after going this far, she agreed. “Okay.”
Michael’s apartment had a shower stall without a tub, but it was a larger tiled stall so it didn’t feel cramped. He had one of those shower seats in his shower and she thought that was weird, but kept that to herself. She thought only old people had those plastic chairs in their showers. He stood in front of her outside the shower holding his hand under the spray until he was satisfied with the temperature. Then he took her hand, walked her in and closed the glass door. She was so nervous she didn’t say anything, she just stood there. Without asking or any other sort of preamble, he poured shampoo his his hand. Ashley noticed that it was better shampoo than what she used, since being put on a college budget by her father. Instead of washing his own hair, Michael started to wash hers. She had never remained so still while someone else touched her. He was slow, gentle, and thorough. He took the shower head off the hook and went carefully through her hair, washing away all the lather. Then he set the shower head back and got some conditioner.
“I imagine you spend a lot of time battling tangles in this beautiful cascade of hair.”
“Yeah, I do.” Was all she could manage to reply.
He slowly worked the conditioner through her hair. When he was satisfied, he retrieved the shower head and began to carefully rinse her hair. He met her eyes and smiled. Then he sat on the shower chair. He was too much taller than her to comfortably wash his hair and she realized that now she could easily do it and she took the shampoo bottle filled her hand and washed his hair. Then put a little conditioner in as well.
When she finished he looked up and smiled at her. Then he reached up and got the bar of soap out of the holder in the wall. She noticed that it was Dove and she was a little surprised at that. She thought it would be Irish Spring, or Ivory. She wasn’t sure why, she just never imagined a boy having Dove soap. Without getting up from the chair, he began to lather her up. Once she was thoroughly covered in soap he returned it to the receptacle and worked it into her skin. It was oddly nonsexual, yet incredibly sensuous at the same time. It was a total anomaly in Ashley’s life. It was so out of her realm that she was able to just go with it.
He washed her face, her neck, her breasts, and between her thighs, then all the way down to her toes. Not once did it feel as if he was trying to do anything sexual to her. Then he gently turned her around and started at her neck and gently worked his way down again. Though she jumped a little when his finger entered her slightly from behind, again it wasn’t sexual, and she let him do it without protest even though she’d never even stuck her own finger in there before. He moved on washing down her legs, down to her feet. She leaned against the wall and lifted her feet, one at a time as he washed them as well.
Finally he turned her around and he hugged her, holding his cheek against her belly. She felt more nervous than she had when he first slipped her out of her clothes. There was something more naked going on. Something she didn’t understand, but he did. If he did that was all that mattered to her. After what seem like an eternity to her, he turned his face into her little belly and began to kiss her. He kissed her belly slowly moving around and very gradually working his way down to the inside creases of her thighs. The water had lost some of it’s warmth and normally she would have thought it was uncomfortable and yet she thought the water spraying and running over her body was the only thing keeping her from losing her mind. He began to kiss into her small curly mound of hair and she suddenly wondered if he found that offensive and as if he could read her every thought. He looked up at her.
“I’m glad you embrace being a woman.”
She wanted to say “Excuse me?” But she was too nervous to speak.
“I appreciate a little trimming, but I think these girls that take too much off, make themselves… ugly.”
“Ugly?” Ashley’s confusion gave her a voice.
“Yeah.” He lowered his eyes to her thighs again and kissed her trimmed, but full curls. “I don’t understand men who want women to look like children.” He kissed her again. “Maybe I’m just old fashion.”
She ran her fingers through his hair and then lifted his face. “I think, you’re just… manly. You’re not afraid of women.”
He smirked. “Maybe.” He was thinking about Marjoram’s wispy covered womanhood. He didn’t think she manicured at all, she just had straight light hair and not much of it. She was blessed with a well combed body. Even when she was lazy about shaving her legs it was still soft and sparse. He looked up at Ashley, she was like that as well, even though her hair was thicker, curly, and more present, it was still soft and felt good against his face. He slid his arm under her thigh and lifted her leg over his shoulder and licked her, separating her lips. He lightly flicked the little cherry he had exposed and she shuddered with each flick. He used his other arm to scoop up her other leg so that she was straddled on his shoulders and sucked her into his mouth exploring her with his tongue. She shuddered violently, clutching at his shoulders and drawing blood. He let her legs slid over his shoulders and pulled his arms from between her legs and holding her under her thighs. She locked her legs against his back as she slid down on to his waiting desire. Once he was fully inside her they didn’t move. Her muscles clenched against him and they held each other tightly. Then slowly she began to push up, with her hands against his shoulders, and slowly lower herself again. She let her feet drop down and make contact with the tile so she could use her legs. He held her under the arms and lifted her as much as she did with her legs. He rubbed his face on her chest licking and nibbling her. It never became frantic, she’d already had more of that that day that she’d ever had and thought she couldn’t take any more. But this slow deep riding, she could take that. When they came together they were barely moving. Fortunately for Ashley, she was no mind reader, because she wasn’t there at all, Michael’s only thought was of Marjoram and his only salvation was that the shower hid his tears.
They ordered pizza and stayed in that night. She called her roommate to tell her not to worry and they stayed in bed until the next day. She noticed that there were more messages on the phone when she got up to pee, but didn’t say anything. She hadn’t heard the phone ring, or the machine pick up, so he must have turned the volumes down. He saw her pausing and looking at the phone, when she met his eyes he scared her. She thought suddenly he might become violent with her. Instead he just picked up the receiver and set it aside.
“I can’t deal with that.” Was all he said. And she let it go, because she had what she wanted, but she still felt guilty. She knew who he was and who she was too. While she’d been jealous of her, it wasn’t until that moment that she really put a face on what was happening. Even though they weren’t friends, even though she had never even talked to Marjoram, she still felt guilty and suddenly very uncomfortable. If they had been in a fight, just the day before, and this happened what did that mean for her? She was blankly staring at in the direction of the answering machine when Michael said something.
“What?” Ashley had heard him, but was so lost in her own tangled thoughts she didn’t understand.
“Do you want to order another pizza? Or I think I’ve got a menu for Chinese around her somewhere, if you’re tired of pizza.” Michael asked coming over and wrapping his arms around her. “I’m starved, but I don’t really feel like cooking anything and I certainly don’t feel like facing the world right now.”
“Yeah, that would be fine. Chinese would be fine.” Her cheek was against his chest, but her eyes were still on the answering machine.