A Knife at Lover's LanebySabledrake©
"Aw, come on, Peggy Jean. You know I love you. Don't you love me, too?"
She drew away from him, smoothing her sweater down over the stiff cups of her bra and tugging the hem of her poodle skirt back below her knees.
The radio was playing the new one by Jerry Lee Lewis, the windows of Jimmy's new car – a birthday present from his parents – were fogged up. The interior still smelled vaguely of burgers and fries, the wrappers from the roadside stand they'd stopped at crumpled by her feet.
Next to her on the long bench seat, behind the thin blue steering wheel, Jimmy regarded her with a sort of pouting petulance that ruined his varsity letterman good looks and turned him into a little boy who'd just been denied an ice cream cone.
He was handsome, oh, you bet, with wavy blond hair that he combed back from a clear brow, and baby-blue eyes that made girls giggle and sigh. His parents had money, too, and the mothers of Wentworth categorized him as a 'good catch.'
Peggy Jean, having caught him, caught herself wondering if she oughtn't throw him back. She knew they looked good together, the perfect All-American young couple, fresh-faced and eighteen and about to graduate at the top of the senior class.
She was the envy of all her girlfriends for possessing his class ring, which she wore on a hank of yarn around her neck. It dangled against the cotton-candy pink wool of her sweater, stretched taut over her breasts.
"I do love you, Jimmy," she said. "You know that."
"There's no other girl for me," he said. "We're meant to be together. It's right, Peggy Jean. Right that we express our love."
"I didn't realize I had to prove it." Her laugh rang false in her ears. On the inside, she was churning with confused feelings.
It was obvious what he wanted. He wanted to go all the way, right here and right now, tonight, in this car parked out at Lover's Lane. She loved it when he kissed her, and held her close while they slow-danced. She just wasn't sure if she was ready for more.
The other night, at the drive-in, he had put his arm around her and gradually inched his fingers lower, from her shoulder toward the slope of her left breast. His eyes had been fixed on the screen the whole time, as if he was wholly absorbed in the movie. It was as if he thought that if he went slowly enough, she might not notice his stealthy effort.
Of course, she had been so burningly aware of them that she had hardly been able to concentrate on the movie. It made her tingle and hold her breath, whirls of dread and excitement spinning through her. It felt good, but the moment his hand reached the edge of her bra, her sense of propriety had kicked in. She'd firmly taken him by the wrist and moved him back to her shoulder.
Tonight, he hadn't bothered to be sneaky. They had been embracing, kissing, and all of a sudden his hand had been covering her breast. Squeezing. Pinching around like he was hoping to luck into finding her nipple through the sturdy fabric.
"I love you," he said. He almost whined it, and he still had that pouting look. "Don't be like that. I just want to show you how much."
"You gave me this," Peggy Jean said, picking up the ring.
"I want to give you more. I want to give you myself. We're not children, Peggy Jean. We're adults. We'll be graduating soon, and moving on into the real world. We should act like grown-ups, not silly high school kids."
"Jimmy, I don't think it's right."
"You don't love me." He slouched in the seat. His lower lip stuck out even farther, if that was possible.
"I do!" Though not, she silently added, when you act like this. "I'm not ready, that's all."
"Tonight was supposed to be special," he said. "Our special night. I've been planning for it."
A twinge of annoyance went through her. Did he mean that he'd boasted to the other guys that tonight was the night?
"I even bought something for us," he went on, digging in the pocket of his letterman's sweater. "Down at the drugstore. I thought you'd be happy."
Peggy Jean looked at the item he took out of his pocket. "Jimmy, is that a …?"
"A rubber, sure," he said in a sulky tone. "To show you that I'm not some thoughtless kid. I planned ahead."
"You bought that? At the drugstore in town?"
"Yeah." His tone perked up some, turned proud. "With this, we don't have to worry about any, well, you know, little accidents."
"You bought this from Mr. Harper?"
"Jimmy, oh, gosh!" She leaned back in the seat and put her hands over her eyes. "Mr. Harper is on my dad's bowling league. What if he tells my dad? Everybody in town knows we go out together."
"Oh," he said slowly. "I didn't think about that."
"This is terrible." Peggy Jean could already hear her mother's shrill tirade.
Mom had been a Rosie the Riveter, and come home from the factory with some pretty revolutionary ideas about traditional male-female roles, so much so that she'd kept working even after Dad returned from the war. But, outspoken about women's rights though she was, Mom was still very firm on the idea of Good Girls and Bad Girls, which type saved it for the marriage bed and which type did it in the back seats of cars on Lover's Lane.
She thought about the film strips that her Home Ec. class had been shown, too. The ones with the Good Girl who walked out of a party when someone brought out the cigarettes, and the Bad Girl – always the one with the tightest sweater and the most make-up – who stayed. Smoked. Drank. Ended up in a dark room with all the guys at the party. Was the scandal of the town the next day. Left home in shame. Ended up a degraded, miserable excuse for a woman, hanging out in bars while her looks dwindled.
Sex, according to Peggy Jean's mother, was a fine, natural, and enjoyable thing when it happened between two married people. She was enlightened enough that she'd told Peggy Jean how a girl could take care of those troublesome sexy feelings without a boy, and Peggy Jean was no stranger to the wonderful sensations her body could give her. Late at night. Alone in her bedroom. With no one the wiser.
She'd experienced those feelings a few times when making out with Jimmy. And, honestly, whenever she let herself think about what it would be like to let him put his hand under her sweater, or even up her skirt, she got all weak in the knees and fluttery in the stomach.
"But, hey!" Jimmy said in sudden brightness. "If everybody's going to know anyway –"
"Jimmy Reed! How can you say that?" Peggy Jean cried.
"What? If it's your reputation you're worried about –"
"I certainly am!"
"Then we might as well earn the talk." He wore an earnest expression now, and when he put his hand on her knee, he acted like he was trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Peggy Jean plucked his hand away. "Jimmy," she said warningly.
"It's okay, lover," he said, sliding across the seat and taking her in his arms. "It's okay."
She pushed at him. "No, it isn't."
"Give me a kiss."
Before she could say yes or no, his lips clamped down on hers and he tried to wedge his tongue into her mouth. He also grabbed at her breasts again. His weight bore her over in a rustle of crinoline and he was halfway on top of her, moaning passionately. The front of his pants was pressed against her and she knew what she was feeling there, what that solid bulge was that rubbed her leg.
She got a hand free and, almost as shocked by her actions as by his, slapped him smartly. When Jimmy recoiled, she struggled out from under him and threw open the car door.
Cool air rushed in as Peggy Jean scrambled out. She stood on the crushed-down grass of Lover's Lane, gasping for breath, her hand stinging from the slap she'd delivered.
They were still alone, no other cars nearby. The lights of Wentworth twinkled serenely in the blackness below the overlook.
Jimmy, dumped on the seat when she wiggled out from under him, thrashed his way upright. His elbow hit the horn, which bleated like a startled animal. His hair had fallen down over his forehead, and his face was sweaty, red, and indignant.
"I'm not that kind of girl, Jimmy Reed," she said.
He slid across the seat and got out. She backed away from him, hand curled around his class ring. She was on the verge of giving it back. No, flinging it back, and if he missed the catch and it sailed over the embankment and was lost in the weedy brambles of the slope, that would be okey-dokey with her.
"Peggy Jean," he said plaintively. "Don't be mad."
"You shouldn't have done that," she said.
"I only wanted us to express our love. To make each other feel good. So, come on. What do you say? You and me, tonight. Haven't we waited long enough?"
Jimmy came closer, opening his arms to her. She retreated toward the edge of the woods that bordered Lover's Lane, finding herself suddenly and inexplicably on the verge of tears.
"Darn it, Peggy Jean," he said. Then he stopped, and took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. His head drooped and he sighed. "Look, forget it. I'm sorry. Sorry I even mentioned it."
She couldn't speak for fear of crying.
"Let's just go home, what do you say? I promise, I won't do a thing. I really care about you. I want us to be together, but if you think we should wait, we'll wait."
Warily, she studied him. He looked abject, downcast, and sincere. His baby-blue eyes, huge and sad, met hers in a puppy dog plea.
"Okay," she said. "But you'd better behave, Jimmy. I mean it."
"I will. Scout's honor."
He held out his hand. She gave him one last dubious look, then accepted it. They walked back to the car together. The radio was playing, one of those heart-wrenching ballads about young love ending in vehicular tragedy.
The music prevented Jimmy and Peggy Jean from hearing the quick footsteps until they were right behind them. Rough hands, protruding from the sleeves of a leather jacket, seized them and spun them around. They staggered, Peggy Jean falling against the side of the car, Jimmy plopping onto the seat with a surprised grunt.
"Well, well," the guy in front of them said. "Ain't this cozy? A couple of sweethearts out on Lover's Lane. How ro-maaan-teek."
He was a few years older than the two of them, with dark hair greased back in a duck-tail, and an unshaven shadow of stubble. Attractive, in a hard, rugged, dangerous sort of way. He was taller than Jimmy and broad-shouldered. His jeans were faded and snug, and he wore a white tee shirt beneath the jacket.
Peggy Jean shrank against the car. Jimmy shot to his feet, blustering.
"Hey, you, what do you think you're –"
The guy pushed him. The backs of Jimmy's knees hit the seat and he dropped onto it again, barely missing whacking his head on the edge of the roof. Jimmy bounded up again, fists curled, but this time the stranger whipped a black handle from his rear pocket with the speed of a stage magician. He depressed a button. The handle made a snicking noise, and a shining steel blade sprang out of it.
A scream snagged in Peggy Jean's throat. The night had gone cold as deep winter. She couldn't take her wide, terrified eyes from the knife.
Neither could Jimmy. He sank onto the seat again as if someone had pulled a plug and let the bravado drain out of him.
"Don't hurt us, okay?" Jimmy said in a small voice. "I've got money. Twenty bucks."
"Good for you," the stranger said. "But that ain't why I'm here."
Peggy Jean's skin crawled as he turned his gaze to her. He scanned her up and down, lingering on her chest and her legs below her skirt. She hastily crossed her arms, and shot Jimmy a frantic sidelong look.
"Now, wait just a minute!" Jimmy protested.
"Relax, friend." The stranger grinned, his eyes flashing. "I'm here to do you a favor, that's what. I been listening to you and your girlie here, and I must say, I am not at all happy with what I been hearing."
"Leave us alone," Peggy Jean said strengthlessly. "Please."
"You know what I hate about girlies like you?" he asked as if he hadn't heard. "Little prim and proper prick-tease girlies like you? Oh, you're a one, aintcha? You've got this poor idiot jumping through hoops. He takes you to the movies, out for a burger, he buys you flowers, he gets his car all washed and waxed and gassed up so he can drive you around, and what does he get in return? A peck on the cheek, am I right? A good-night kiss on your daddy's porch, and then you send him on home."
"That's none of your business!" Jimmy got up again.
This time, the stranger didn't push him down, or make any threatening moves with the knife. He let Jimmy move next to Peggy Jean. She crowded against Jimmy's side. He put an arm around her.
"Jimmy, I want to get out of here," she said.
He drew himself up menacingly. "Look, you, whoever you are, I think you'd better go."
"For starters, you can call me Spike. And you don't want me to go, son. I'm the best friend you ever had. Gonna do you a favor. You'll be thanking me before we're through. I make it my business to help out fellas like you. Just think of me as a Good Samaritan."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jimmy said.
Spike laughed. "Dontcha? I'll help you along. This is one date you ain't gonna end empty-handed. You're gonna get something you been wanting a long time."
He turned to Peggy Jean and raised the knife.
"You, there, baby-doll, take off that sweater."
Jimmy's arm around her reflexively tightened. Peggy Jean clung to him, gaping at Spike.
"No! I won't!"
"Take it off, girlie, or it's liable to get messed up. You go on and fold it nice and pretty, and set it on the car so's it don't get grass-stained."
"Peggy Jean, don't listen to him," Jimmy said, aghast.
"You better listen, and you better obey." Spike stepped closer. "Or somebody might get hurt."
He drove his point home by punching Jimmy in the gut. Jimmy bent double, coughing, and looked hatefully up at Spike.
"You didn't have to do that!" he wheezed. "Why'd you do that? Why'd you have to hit me so hard? Huh?"
"There's more where that come from," Spike said, staring into Peggy Jean's eyes so that she could see the rock-steady seriousness in his. "You want I should give him another?"
"No," she said quickly. "No, here, I'll take it off. Okay? See, I'm taking it off."
Spike wrenched Jimmy's head back by the hair. "You wanna watch this, my friend. It's all for your benefit, so enjoy the show."
Whimpering, not quite sobbing yet but close, Peggy Jean slipped out of her sweater. She held it in front of her until Spike gestured meaningfully, then folded it, set it on the roof of the car, and faced them. Her arms moved uncertainly, wanting to cover herself but not quite daring.
Spike feasted his eyes on her white skin and the whiter cups and straps of her bra. Jimmy was scared to death, but he looked, too.
"Ain't she pretty, now?" Spike cuffed Jimmy on the back. "Not bad at all. You like what you see? Answer me, now."
"Yeah," Jimmy said. He licked his lips and cleared his throat. "Yeah, sure I do, she's my girlfriend. She's beautiful."
"I want to get dressed," Peggy Jean said. "It's … it's cold."
"Not so fast, girlie. How about losing the skirt, too?"
"Jimmy, make him stop!"
"He's got a knife," Jimmy said, looking away from her exposed skin long enough to throw the blade a fearful glance. "Maybe you should do what he says."
"That's the spirit," Spike agreed. "You just do what I say, and everybody walks away from this in one piece. Don't you worry none, girlie. No one's gonna hurt you. Now, the skirt."
The whimpers did give way to sobs as Peggy Jean removed her skirt. The poodle and the acres of rustling crinoline joined her sweater, and there she stood in her bra, half-slip, stockings, garter belt, underpants, and penny loafers.
Spike whistled. "Ain't she a sight!"
Jimmy was speechless.
"Please," begged Peggy Jean, tears running down her face. "Please stop. I want to go home."
"Not so fast," Spike said. "You been riding high with your boyfriend here footing the bill. It's time he got back a little of what he's been investing. He's gonna take down his pants now, and you're gonna give him a nice hand job. How about that?"
She and Jimmy both looked at him, astounded and horrified. Peggy Jean shook her head wildly. "I won't!"
"You will, 'cause I say you will. He deserves it. Dontcha, Jimmy?"
"I … I …"
"Sure you do," Spike said, with an easy smile that would have made him handsome under other circumstances. He leaned into the car – it would have been the perfect chance for Jimmy to knock him down, but Jimmy was too stunned to move – and yanked the keys out of the ignition. These, he stuffed into his pocket. Then he opened the back door with a flourish. "Off with those pants, son, and set yourself down right here."
Shooting Peggy Jean a wretched look, Jimmy took off his shoes and then undid his pants.
"I have to!" he said, with a fearful glance at the knife.
Moments later, he was naked from the waist down. It was extremely evident that part of him wasn't feeling very afraid. Part of him was poking up straight and hard as a drum major's baton. He hastily covered himself, unable to look Peggy in the eye.
"Now, now, don't be shy," Spike said. "You just slide on over and let your girlie get in there with you. I'll have me a front-row seat."
Peggy Jean didn't budge.
"Are you giving me trouble, baby-doll?" Spike asked. When she refused to answer, he approached her.
"Do what he says, Peggy Jean!" Jimmy called.
"That's some good advice. You should listen to it."
"You can't make me do this," she said.
"Oh, but I can."
He was incredibly quick, snatching the front of her bra and slicing through it with the knife. The blade was icy on her skin and she was sure she'd been cut, but when the heavy elastic let go, and the ruins of the bra fell away, she saw that she was unmarked. She screamed and moved to cross her arms, but Spike held the knife in front of her face. Weeping, Peggy Jean let her hands fall to her sides.
"In the car," he told her.
She climbed in beside Jimmy. Spike shut the rear door, then got into the front seat so that he was kneeling and facing over the back of it toward them.
"Peggy Jean –" Jimmy began.
"You hush up," Spike said. "She's gonna give you a little present. Go on, girlie. Wrap that pretty little hand around it. Give it a good rub. Up and down, nice and slow."
"I'm sorry," Jimmy whispered.
Crying, Peggy Jean reached into Jimmy's lap. He moved his hands away and she touched it, that fleshy pole jutting up from a nest of wiry dark blond hair. As her fingers came into contact with it, it leaped eagerly. Jimmy grimaced and hissed another apology.
His skin there felt softer than she'd expected, and she was dismayed to realize that some of her dread was replaced by curiosity. So this was what all the fuss was about, what guys thought was so darn important. She grasped it, making Jimmy groan, and slowly moved her hand up and down.
"That feel good?" Spike asked.
Jimmy had his eyes tightly shut.
"I said, that feel good?" Spike demanded, louder.
"Yes!" The word was jerked out of Jimmy, and he immediately looked like he hated himself for saying so.
"Thought it might." Spike's attention shifted to Peggy Jean. "Want you to lean on over, baby-doll, and give him a little kiss down there."
When she hesitated, he leaned over and pressed the flat of the blade against her cheek. She twitched away from it, and crouched so that her head was in Jimmy's lap.
"Oh, hey, no," Jimmy said, but it was a feeble protest and his member leaped in her hands in an uncontrollable lurch.
Peggy Jean brushed the rounded tip of it with her lips. Jimmy uttered a low, throaty groan, and pushed his hips up from the seat. The tip of him bumped her lips apart and scraped her teeth. He hissed with discomfort.