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Gathered Here Together by Garrett Socol

01/03/2010

She was given a choice of two vehicles: a clunky purple sedan or a jungle green monstrosity that could’ve been mistaken for a military tank. She went with the sedan.
     In his half-size-too-small blue blazer, the flirty, fleshy, ruddy-faced rental car agent handed her the key and a copy of the contract, and Trish London was on her way. Unfortunately she was heading to a place that she had escaped from four years earlier and parents who didn’t exactly glow with warmth and good will.
     Traffic was light at eight-forty in the evening, so the drive would have been pleasant if not for the record-breaking temperature. The entire state of Ohio was experiencing an oppressive heat wave that, according to local meteorologists, would continue for at least five or six days. The rental’s AC didn’t work, so Trish zoomed down the freeway with all four windows open in order to avoid suffocation.
     As she passed familiar towns, she couldn’t help feeling like an animal being led to slaughter. The looming green sign that welcomed her to Two Rivers caused her heart to race and her entire body to tense. The purpose of this homecoming was not to come home. Home just happened to be in the neighborhood, and it was cheaper than a room at the Ramada. But Trish tried to focus on the bright side: She’d be flying back to New York in just thirty-six hours.
     The two-bedroom plus den house of her childhood seemed smaller (she feared her head might hit the ceiling), the front lawn shrunken, and she wondered if her parents had morphed into marionettes during her time away. Parking behind her father’s dusty old Chevy truck, she was momentarily six, sitting in the high front seat that made her feel like she was riding an elephant.
     Overcoming the enveloping dread, Trish climbed out of the purple sedan. Her legs moved slowly, reluctantly, against their will. Leaning against the car, she gazed at the quarter moon, glowing in the night sky like a neon slice of melon, the only speck of brightness in the gloomy, carnivorous landscape. She closed her eyes and took a deep, mordant breath, wishing she could fall asleep right then and there, leaning against the rental.
     After some minutes, one foot followed the other on the gravel, then the grass.

The mother of the deceased, in a simple black dress and a humongous black hat, looked appropriately funereal as she greeted guests on the wide steps of the stone chapel, but she carried on with the energy of a cruise director. She wept, whispered, wiped lint, paced, embraced, clasped her hands, passed out breath mints, pointed to the rest room, hugged, huddled, hydrated, and repeatedly checked her reflection in the window of the intimate place of worship. Her actions did not seem like those of a sane human being, or perhaps it was the breakneck speed with which she performed these actions that suggested a degree of insanity (and maybe some kind of amphetamine).
     Honey Frick wasn’t an unattractive woman, but middle-age bloat made her chubby and awkward; she seemed uncomfortable with the added weight. Her skin was alarmingly pale, as if she feared sunlight, and her choice of bright red lipstick (the only splash of color on her) was a serious mistake. From afar, she looked like an albino with a smear of blood for a mouth. The hat concealed her lifeless hair, hazelnut brown with so much gray intruding that it could’ve been considered gray with hazelnut highlights. Lorelei’s murder hadn’t come as a complete shock to Honey; she equated life in New York City with danger, decadence and death. “How many times did I warn her?” she would say. “I told her those streets are teeming with lunatics and troublemakers and it’s only a matter of time before they strike a small town girl.”
     The sun was hidden behind thick, dark, slow-moving clouds, but its heat made the crowd sweat through the fancy Sunday clothes worn on this melancholy Saturday morning. The weather was all anybody could talk about: heat rash, heat cramps, rolling blackouts, dehydrated gardens, humidity, hyperthermia, dehydrated seniors, and the stench coming from dumpsters filling up with spoiled food from refrigerators whose power had failed.
     “They say it’s going to cool down by the middle of next week,” Honey’s cheerful, double-chinned friend Danielle told her. Danielle was a genuine people-pleaser, and she had her hands full with Honey.
     “They’ve been saying that for a month. Those idiots would predict sunshine in Seattle.” Two Jack Russell terriers began barking on the nearby lawn. “Could somebody get those mongrels out of here?” Honey shouted. “I cannot stand that yapping!” Scanning the crowd, her eyes fell upon Trish London. She gasped, a loud rip separating one moment from the next, then she closed her mouth and stood there, frozen and grinning. The elegant young woman with huge, expressive eyes put her arms around the mother of her late best friend. “I’m very sorry,” she said.
     “You decided to fly in,” Honey chirped, trying to disguise her displeasure.
     “Of course,” Trish replied, only slightly surprised to smell booze on Honey’s breath. “We were so close.”
     “Right. If you want, you can stop at the house after the service,” Honey said. “But I know you’re a strict vegetarian and we’re serving an abundance of beef.” Intentionally or not, Honey punctuated each word with spit.
     “Oh,” Trish responded, “Well, I don’t exac–”
     “Excuse me, dear,” Honey said, abruptly stepping away to greet a petite redheaded woman, the piano teacher. “Winifred!”
     Falling into Honey’s waiting arms, Winifred cried, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The mother should go before the daughter. This should be your funeral, not Lorelei’s.”
     “I’ll second that,” Trish muttered. She began to mill about as unobtrusively as she could, looking no one in the eye but seeing everyone clearly. The kids were now teenagers. The young adults were now middle-aged. Even though these were the neighbors she’d known for the first eighteen years of her life, Trish strolled among them virtually unrecognized; a change of hair color and loss of forty pounds brought about a startling new look. Lorelei’s lanky, blue-eyed brother Preston kept glancing at her, trying to place the face. “You seem so familiar,” he finally said.
     “Hi Preston. It’s Trish.”
     “Trish London?” he exclaimed. “You look fantastic! You flew in from New York?”
     “Landed last night. How have you been?”
     “Great,” he beamed. “Hey, do the police still think it was a random act of violence?”
     “That’s what it was, a random act of violence. Did Lorelei know all these people?”
     “No way.”
     “Then why are they here?”
     “There’s not a lot to do in this town, remember?”
     “So because there’s no zoo or water theme park, everybody dresses up and goes to a funeral?” she asked.
     “The murder was a big deal,” Preston explained. “This is the event of the season.”
     “Oh. Well,” Trish said, “I’m sure your sister’s smiling from above, happy to provide a day of fun for the neighborhood folk.”
     “Listen,” Preston said, “my parents are having people over after the service. Why don’t you come by and we can hang out?”
     “Because I need to spend some time with my own parents, as much as I wouldn’t like to. They were asleep when I got in last night, and my plane leaves early tomorrow morning.”
     “Then come over for an hour. I was just a kid when you left,” he said, wiping the sweat off his forehead. “We hardly knew each other.”
     “And now you’re all grown-up.”
     “Sure am,” he proudly stated. “Every inch of me.”
     “Right,” she said, not unimpressed with the change. Then a gawky teenager with acne now a clear-skinned young man with a sexy edge. Fooling around with him was an exciting idea until she realized how profoundly inappropriate it would be. “What are you, eighteen? Nineteen?”
     “I’ll be twenty in June.”
     “June is eleven months away, Preston.” The intellectual development didn’t exactly match the physical. “What do you say we head into the chapel?”
     “Cool. Sit with me?”
     “Are you freaking nuts? You need to sit up front with your family,” Trish instructed. “I’ll be way in the back.”
     The mourners filed in, a laborious process, as if lugging their bodies around in the heat was a struggle of Herculean proportion. The chapel was cramped and close, making breathing difficult. Soft moaning and murmuring deflated into silence as a silver-haired pastor stepped to the podium. He spoke lovingly of Lorelei despite the fact that he didn’t remember the least bit about her. After taking a puff from his inhaler, he introduced Lorelei’s father.
     Jeremy Frick, a tall, thin man who seemed to hide behind his brown frames and thick lenses, boasted about his daughter’s early intellectual inquisitiveness. “At five years old, she asked, ‘Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways? How do I know you’re not a figment of my imagination? Why are they called apartments when they’re all stuck together?’ Well, maybe she was six.” He adjusted his glasses and wiped the sweat from his mouth and neck. When the Frick patriarch sensed he was losing his audience, he called for his son. Preston stepped up and expressed regret that his sister didn’t take the time to get to know him before moving to another state. Then he introduced his mother as “the woman who named her daughter Lorelei, which Lorelei never forgave her for.”
     Honey Frick sashayed to the podium; her dramatic hat seemed to arrive several seconds before she did. “I’m too saddened with grief to speak for long,” she said, “but I have a message to impart.” She took a dramatic pause. It was obvious she relished being the center of attention, the star attraction. “When my baby girl turned eighteen, she entered a rebellious stage and wanted to move to New York City. I pleaded with her to stay in Two Rivers, but when you’re eighteen, the advice of a mother doesn’t count for much. She wanted a glamorous, daring life: fancy restaurants, gallery openings, martinis with young men, maybe conjugal indulgences before marriage. That flighty girl ignored my advice and followed her best friend to New York. Some of you might remember that friend, Trash London, Irene and Norm’s girl. She always had a knack for shaking things up. Anyway, she lost a few pounds and flew from New York to partake in today’s service. I‘m sure she’d like to say a few kind words about my sweet, soulful, brutally stabbed Lorelei.”
     Stunned and mortified, Trish struggled up from her seat and proceeded to take the most unpleasant walk of her life, wobbling most of the way. Her limbs felt inexplicably heavy, like they could give out. The only sound in the chapel was that of Trish’s heels clacking on the tiles, the metallic noise bouncing off the floor and hitting the ceiling where it split and slammed each wall on its way down.
     Standing behind the podium, heart beating in her head, her eyes met Honey’s. She thinks I’m a murderer, Trish thought. Preston was gazing with lust. He’s picturing me naked right now, she thought. I’m going to need some serious liquor after this, she concluded. All eyes focused on the devil in the little black dress. Several parents covered the ears of their small children, afraid of the venom that might spew from her demon mouth.
     “I uh…I have to tell you that Honey is right,” Trish said with difficulty. “Lorelei moved to New York four years ago because of me. She was excited about her future, felt like it had so much potential. And it did. She did. We shared an apartment in Greenwich Village and had a ball, especially during Fleet Week.” The deafening sound of a car alarm came crashing into the chapel, making it impossible for Trish to continue. A handful of people stood up and rushed out from their pews.
     A full sixty seconds later, silence settled in, and Trish took a few seconds to bask in the rich, thick quiet before speaking. “Um, anyway… Lorelei rarely ventured to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but that’s where it happened. A bad occurrence in a good neighborhood. I discouraged her from going. The purpose of this little jaunt was to pick up an embroidered silk jacket for her mother, cornflower blue with little yellow petals on the sleeves. I didn’t understand why she was being so thoughtful to a woman who once dragged her across the floor by her ponytail.” There were gasps that Trish ignored, sneezes that Trish acknowledged. “I guess Lorelei was a better person than me because I don’t forgive easily. She forgave everyone.” Trish took a long deep breath in preparation for the piece-de-resistance. “It’s ironic that the mother she forgave for years of cruelty was the cause of her death. You see, if Honey hadn’t had a birthday in July, Lorelei wouldn’t have been at that particular place at that particular time.”
     Honey seethed; the rage was almost visible, like a mist surrounding her. Jeremy had to physically hold onto her arm to prevent her from rushing to the podium.
     “According to German legend,” Trish continued, “a young maiden named Lorelei threw herself into the river because of an unfaithful lover. She was transformed into a siren, and could be heard singing on a rock along the Rhine. Her hypnotic music lured sailors to their death.” Trish gazed wistfully into the distance. “That’s how I choose to remember my sweet, soulful Lorelei: luring sailors, one after the next.”
     The murmuring in the chapel began again, but this time it had a potent undercurrent, like the ocean before a tidal wave. The possibility of ambush bubbled in Trish’s head, and she realized she was ill-prepared for any kind of physical attack; the dress was too lightweight, the shoes were all wrong. Instead of returning to her seat, she took a speedy stroll straight to the nearest exit door.
     The sun managed to find the two clouds in the entire sky that broke apart, and it beat down on Trish like a follow spot. Trish (or Trash, as she began to refer to herself) scurried to her rental car, jumped in and promptly locked the door. She considered waiting for Preston and whisking him off to some out-of-the-way spot for a quickie, but she decided that she’d done enough damage to his distraught, grieving mother for one day.

Lazy, listless and fifty-eight, the parents of Trish London hadn’t changed in any discernible way since the last time she saw them. Her mother Irene continued to look at the world through gauze, thanks to the tranquilizers she took six times a day. Her father Norm may have lost a couple of pounds, but he still spent his time indulging in his two favorite activities: drinking and sitting.
     Everything came flooding back. Trish remembered exactly where her mother hid her vials of pills. (Under the left seat cushion of the sofa.) She recalled her own method of telling how inebriated her father was when he got home from work. (By the number of seconds it took him to get his key in the front door.) Irene and Norm both seemed blissfully content with their routine, walking around in what Trish liked to call a London fog.
     Within Trish’s reach were a host of amenities - her old bedroom, a refrigerator filled with food, a hammock in the back yard - but she abjured them all. It seemed wrong to succumb to the slightest bit of physical comfort in such an emotionally uncomfortable environment. Not a single item was new. From the dishes to the towels to the dusty books on the shelves to the brand of breakfast cereal in the kitchen cabinet, everything was exactly as it had been for twenty years.
     Remote in hand, Irene channel-surfed in search of a particular cable program. “There it is!” she shouted excitedly. “Have you ever seen this?” It was a reality show involving ordinary people and fashion makeovers.
     “Nope,” Trish told her. “I don’t watch much TV.”
     Irene was instantly fascinated by a bovine grandmother in desperate need of a makeover. “I can’t wait to see what she looks like after,” Irene gushed. Norm’s head was leaning back on his armchair, his heavy eyelids losing the battle to stay open. Trish couldn’t help wondering how different things might have been if her older brother Roger hadn’t died young and her parents hadn’t gone into a state of shock from which they never recovered.
     Even after sixteen years, Roger was present in every room of the house. His personal belongings were displayed on shelves museum-style, with an index card explaining the significance of each: his baseball mitt, a bowling trophy, a silver watch, his football, a pair of weather-beaten black boots. Roger was the undisputed hero of the house. Only his remnants remained, and they were more alive than the human inhabitants.
     It was disturbing to Trish that her mother was mesmerized by a show in which women were given makeovers while she barely noticed the major physical transformation her own daughter had made. It was maddening that neither parent asked about Lorelei’s funeral or life in New York or anything that mattered. By six thirty in the evening, Trish felt like her throat was constricting. A thought presented itself involuntarily in her head: “I’m going for a drive,” she announced as she raced out of the house.
     Escaping was a predictable move, an easy out, and Trish was aware she had done this before. Many times. Ostensibly it was her parents who she was running from, but she wondered if there was more to the puzzle. Would she ever land in a destination that would satisfy? Or would there always be some better place in her mind, an idyllic utopia where she would find like-minded people also running toward some imaginary somewhere?
     Everything she passed had an eerie, estranged familiarity; corner houses, grocery stores, parking lots. The gas station where her mother accidentally left her behind (at seven years old) made her cringe. The baseball field where Roger hit a game-winning home run made her smile with longing for a more innocent time. Literally travelling through her past, Trish began to feel as trapped as she did growing up. If there had been a red eye back to New York, she would have driven straight to the airport, but she knew there wasn’t; she had checked when she landed. There was only one logical thing to do, and she was driving toward it.
     Lorelei’s house, though only two miles from Trish’s, was in a much more ritzy zip code. It wasn’t exactly 90210, but the properties were more impressive and the lawns were large and immaculate. Turning onto the leafy street called Mulligan Place, Trish experienced an instant surge of emotion, primal fear mixed with mournful gloom. This was the first time she’d ever been on this street without her best friend.
     The sun was in the midst of setting, and the sky was a gorgeous shade of violet slashed with streaks of hot pink. The humid air, still uncomfortable, was uncomfortably still. Not the slightest breeze blew through the old willow tree on Lorelei’s front lawn. This was their tree. On Sunday afternoons, the girls would stretch out under it, usually on the grass but sometimes on nylon lawn chairs or chaise lounges, and talk unstoppably. They would discuss school activities, cute boys, lip gloss, older boys, fashion, boys they wished weren’t gay, teachers they thought were most likely to molest a student, and other vital issues of the moment. This was their haven, sacred ground. Nothing could hurt them under the old weeping willow; its flat green leaves were protective armor.
     Like a cat burglar, Trish glided along the side the house. A half dozen cars sat in the driveway, suggesting friends and family were still hanging out, paying their respects, filling their stomachs with beef and polishing off one bottle of booze after the next. Sure enough, Trish heard animated conversation, lively laughter, and clinking ice cubes coming from the rear patio. The mood wasn’t the least bit somber. Unfortunately Preston wasn’t among the revelers.
     Standing motionless on the grass, she realized that some kind of fever had infected her brain. The decision to see Preston was as immature as Preston himself, not to mention perverse and incestuous. But it seemed her only option with the exception of going to some bar on Cedar Boulevard and getting soused. She loathed drinking alone, and she loathed getting sick after drinking alone, and she loathed waking up early to get to the airport after being sick after drinking alone, so when examining the situation from a purely objective point of view, seeing Preston was the most rational plan.
     Blue brocade curtains covered the windows of the house, so it was impossible to see if Preston was engaged in some lengthy, engrossing conversation inside. She wouldn’t dare ring the doorbell for fear of facing Honey Frick. Luckily, she only had to wait a few minutes for Preston to appear on the patio. He had been on a beer run; two six-packs accompanied him. “Preston!” she shouted in a loud whisper.
     After glancing in every direction, he saw the figure in the fading light. When he realized who it was, his face lit up and he rushed over. “You’re here,” he quietly said. “Follow me, I’ll sneak you in the side door.”
     “I’m not setting foot in the house,” she adamantly stated. “We can go for a drive, if you want.”
     “Cool,” he said. “Parked out front?”
     “Pathetic purple rental.”
     “I’ll be right out.” He scooted off as Trish carefully made her way back to the car where she took a minute to rationalize her decision to wade in these dangerous waters. She told herself she was bringing a little joy to a lonely, small town guy (though she didn’t have the slightest evidence to suggest he was lonely). She convinced herself that, if nothing else, the evening would eventually become a bittersweet memory to recall with nostalgia.
     Preston came zooming out the front door with a level of exuberance that reminded Trish of a dog when its master arrives home. “Hey,” he said, jumping into the passenger seat of the jalopy. She half expected him to lick her face.
     It was obvious why he had gone inside. The fresh scent of Pepsodent permeated the entire front half of the automobile, possibly parts of the back. “You smell clean,” she told him.
     “Thanks. I can’t believe this,” he said, slapping his solid thigh.
     “Kind of surreal, isn’t it?”
     In a black T-shirt and a pair of faded jeans, he looked relaxed and carefree. His legs were almost too long to fit into the space in front of the seat, but he managed, and Trish started the engine. “Can we jet out of here please?” she asked, desperately wanting to put some distance between herself and Honey Frick.
     “Sure. Make a left at the corner and go down to the little park. We can park,” he said. “And talk,” he added.
     She couldn’t deny this young guy’s allure. With dark blonde hair and smooth olive skin, he combined the look of a choirboy with the spirit of a rebel. There was a hint of naughtiness in his expression and his speech. “How are you holding up?” she asked.
     “I’m good,” he said. “How about you?”
     “Not so good, but I’ll get through it.” She smiled sadly. “I suppose your mother crossed me off her Christmas card list.”
     “Oh. Yeah, you don’t want to run into her in any dark alleys.”
     Trish nodded in agreement. “Listen Preston,” she said in a serious tone, “I realize you weren’t close with your sister, but you should know she cared about you a lot.”
     “It’s not like we didn’t get along,” he explained. “We just didn’t know each other that well. Seven years is a pretty big age difference.”
     “She was going to insist you to move to New York.”
     Stunned, it took Preston a few moments to register this out-of-the-blue piece of information. “She actually said that?”
     “Talked about it often,” Trish said as she pulled into a parking space fifty feet from the nearest street lamp. “Would you have gone?”
     “In a heartbeat. Anything to get out of this hell hole of a town.” Suddenly he became quiet, lost in thought. “Wow,” he softly said, almost to himself. “Hey listen,
     I brought a joint if you want to smoke a little grass.”
     “A genius in a gymnast’s body, that’s what you are, kid.”
     “It’s good stuff,” he told her, lighting up. He took a deep, long toke, exhaled, and handed the joint to Trish. She took a shorter toke, and then handed it back to him.
     “I always had a crush on you, y’know,” he said.
     Trish’s eyes opened wide. “Get outa here. I was fat.”
     “Not compared to the other girls in the neighborhood.”
     “I was obese, Preston.” After passing the joint back and forth a few more times, it became obvious that both were more than a little stoned. “Do you feel anything?” she asked.
     “I feel everything,” he replied just before leaning over and planting a big one on Trish’s lips. It was the eager kiss of a teenager, complete with the fresh, tangy taste of Pepsodent. In a flash, his shirt was off. She caressed his tight, golden torso, enjoying the warmth of his skin against her cooler hand. “Let’s go a little slower,” she said after thirty glorious seconds.
     “All right,” he said. Then he took her right hand and gently placed it on his bulging fly. To his delight and surprise, she let it rest there. “Remember the night you slept over at our house?”
     “I do.” She tried to repress a giddy burst of laughter, but it came shooting out of her.
     “What’s so funny?”
     “This thing’s alive!” she bellowed before exploding in laughter again. Preston merely chuckled. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You were starting to tell me an important story.”
     “It’s not that important.”
     “Yes it is. About the night I slept over at your house. Please continue.”
     “Well,” he said, “I couldn’t fall asleep knowing you were under the same roof.”
     If Trish had been sipping a drink, liquid would have come shooting out of her nostrils. This laugh was even more raucous than the previous one. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve known so many guys who didn’t have a problem falling asleep with me under the same roof. In fact, plenty have fallen asleep with me in the same bed. Keep going.
     I was asleep in your sister’s room, and you were awake.”
     “So I tiptoed to her room and opened the door without making a sound.”
     “Courageous. Did you come in?”
     “I was fourteen and petrified! No, I didn’t go in. You were sleeping on your stomach with your arms flung out. The blanket covered your body except for your right leg. I stared at that exposed leg for the longest time. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and it was just a few feet away from me.”
     “You were feet from my leg.”
     “Almost close enough to touch.”
     “But you stayed at the door.”
     “Right. Didn’t know if I could take much more.”
     “What did you do?”
     His heart was racing as fast as it was on that unforgettable night. “Take a guess.
     I kept my eyes on you the whole time. On your leg, I mean. It was so damn erotic.”
     She paused with reflection. “The things we don’t know,” she said with a sigh.
     “I ran back to my room because I didn’t want to make noise when…when it was all coming to a head.”
     As Trish continued to move her right hand back and forth, she lifted her dress to expose her legs. He kissed her with insatiable hunger as his hand moved up her sacred thigh. There was no shyness in him; he caressed her body with confidence and aggressiveness, as if they’d known each other a long time, which they had. But the sexual bliss was interrupted by an avalanche of tears on Trish’s face. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Are you crying because you’re happy?”
     “No,” she managed to say between sobs.
     “Because you’re turned on?”
     She shook her head. “No.”
     “But you’re definitely crying, right?”
     “I’m crying because I can see my whole life ahead of me, and my best friend isn’t there.”
     “You were pretty tight, huh?”
     She nodded. “It’s a shame you didn’t know her these last few years.”
     “Why?”
     Trish wiped the wetness away with her available hand. “She reinvented herself. Blossomed into a creative adult, totally in charge of her life.” Trish’s hand began to move faster. “She was into every aspect of the arts. Had the most eclectic taste.”
     “What kind of music did she like?” he asked, allowing his body to sway with the motion of Trish’s hand.
     “She loved Debussy. Vangelis. Pink.”
     “I like Pink,” he said, closing his eyes and moaning with delight. “What about books?”
     “Mostly nonfiction: environmental research, politics, biographies. But she also loved Fay Weldon.”
     “Fay Fweldon?”
     “Weldon. Her stuff is really funny,” she said as she unzipped Preston’s fly.
     “Fay Felton?”
     “Weldon,” Trish repeated. “She loved to tell me about great books she found.” “Way Feldman?”
     “Your nutty, nasty, know-it-all sister would underline paragraphs she wanted me to read because she knew I’d never get to the last page. Sharing interesting things gave her pleasure.”
     “We had something in common. I give pleasure, too.”
     “It’s all about give and take.”
     “Giving, taking. Taking, giving. All good.”
     “That’s right. All,” she said in her marijuana haze. “Quiet.”
     “All Quiet on the Western Front. Trish,” Preston squealed with ecstasy, “you’re the best western front.”
     “All quiet on the Best Western front,” she said as she continued to provide him with pleasure, and vice versa. She enjoyed watching him, almost with pride, as if he’d grown up to be a strong, sensual lover, Lorelei’s baby brother. When it was over and his head lay between her neck and shoulder, she reminded him she had an early flight. She felt him nod, and all too soon he composed himself in the passenger seat.
     The silence in which they sat wasn’t the least bit awkward. They felt connected on some primal level, two restless souls in a backward town, kindred spirits escaping into each other’s bodies and minds. Eyes closed, they bathed in fatigue and physical satisfaction.
     “I wish you weren’t leaving,” he said. “I wish I could see you tomorrow, and the next day.”
     “You can still come to New York,” she said.
     “Really?” he asked, sounding sixteen.
     “Sure. I’d help you get settled.”
     “I might take you up on it,” he said, the wheels turning in his head.
     “That’s what your sister would have wanted.”
     “You’re not making this up, right?”
     “No, Preston. She felt guilty leaving you with your mother for this long.”
     “Yeah, the woman is pretty vile. But she was worse to Lorelei than she was to me.”
     He leaned over and kissed her again. Then, incredulously, they gazed into one another’s exhausted eyes. “Wow,” he said. “Trish fucking London.”
     “Wow,” she said. “Preston fucking Frick.”

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Garrett Socol’s fiction has been published in The Barcelona Review, 3:AM Magazine, Pequin, Perigee, Paradigm, PANK, Hobart, Ghoti, Ducts, Ascent Aspirations, Underground Voices, JMWW Journal, Foundling Review, kill author, Bartleby Snopes, Emprise Review, Metazen, nth Position and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. His plays have been produced at the Berkshire Theatre Festival and the Pasadena Playhouse. For 15 years, he created and produced television shows for the E! Network including “Talk Soup” and “The Gossip Show.”

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