Stars, Sulfur, and the Taste of AshbyCruel2BKind©
*Wish me luck on the contest!
All characters are 18+*
I looked down between my shoes. I could see a candy wrapper and an empty firecracker casing floating in the dirty puddle between them. I reached down and picked them up, tossing them into an empty bag with the few kernels of kettle corn that I hadn't finished.
It had been raining regularly, but it hadn't cooled anything down. Instead, each shower had been followed by wet searing heat, and a sullen yellow sun. I pitied the high school kids in their stiff red and black uniforms, their sweaty cheeks puffed with the effort of belting out a lusterless Sousa march.
The parade was outside my house, and I had watched the entire thing. The last group, a girl scout troop throwing out bubblegum, was already a block ahead. The listless spectators were getting up. Folding lawn-chairs and gathering up bags and picking up trash and corralling squalling kids.
I sighed and looked back down to the puddle. I wiped my hair out of my eyes, and rubbed my cheek. I needed to shave. All I could grow was dark fuzz that didn't match my lighter hair.
"Jamie? Hey, Jamie Moss, is that you?"
I was startled. I didn't have any friends back home, who here would know my name? I whirled around and felt my stomach sink very slightly when I saw Tricia Stevenson bouncing towards me.
"How have you been? I haven't seen you in forever!" For good reason. The faint rosy smell of her shampoo brought back unpleasant memories. It wasn't her fault though, I guess.
"Pretty good Trish, what's up with you?"
It felt strange to sit here and just talk with somebody. I hadn't done much since I got home. I worked forty hours a week or more at my shitty job at Burger King. I went and saw movies on my own. I took long walks with my dog. I realized that this was the first real conversation I had held with somebody other than my parents since I had gotten back from college.
Despite being a little uncomfortable at first, I relaxed. This was nice. This was really nice.
After a small break in the conversation, she looked at me and asked, "What are you doing for the fourth?"
It felt like a loaded question. Like she was waiting with bated breath to hear my answer. I just shrugged. "Go home, watch Independence Day, I might see some fireworks with my folks."
She shook her head, sending her unruly tawny hair flying everywhere. "Nuh-uh. You can't. See if you can bail, and then you can come party with us."
A dozen knee-jerk excuses flew through my head. I even opened my mouth to voice them. But then I shut my mouth and reconsidered. She could see how hesitant I was, and she flushed bright red.
"Jamie?" She took a deep breath. "I just wanna be friends. We can just forget about what happened before you left? Please? I really miss you."
I thought about it for a moment. I looked down between my shoes to the fast-drying puddle
"Let me call my parents." I murmured. "Tell 'em where I'm going?"
She grinned so wide that her dimples cut into her cheeks.
It turned out that Tricia had made a lot of friends while I was gone. One of them lived out in the country near a bank of fireworks that were going off at ten. Since it was private property, we could have the entire place to ourselves while the fireworks went off. Her friend was having a party in his backyard.
I drummed my fingers on the hard plastic armrest. My stomach felt like it had crumpled into a tiny ball. Tricia was in the passenger's seat, I was in the back with a bright-eyed chubby girl named Vicky, and her friend Steven was driving.
We couldn't have been more than ten feet from the car in front of us.
My stomach lurched as Steven turned around to talk to Vicky, we were listing to the left, into the opposing lane of traffic.
"Steven!" I yelped.
He looked lazily to the front, one hand on the wheel. He lurched back into his lane, making my stomach twist and jump.
I closed my eyes tightly and felt how the cotton candy I had bought at the parade was reacting uncomfortably in my stomach. I tried to shake off the sickening sensation of impending death and looked out the window,
We had been driving for maybe half an hour, always at least fifteen miles above the speed limit. I saw nothing but corn and soybeans as far as the eye could see. Every now and then, a wide field spotted with black cows, or massive rolls of hay.
I was contemplating how angry my mom would be if I called her and begged for a ride. I didn't want to get in a go-cart with Steven ever again, much less a car.
I glared at the back of his head. At the peeling red skin I could see between the pale orangey-blonde bristles. While I was at it, I glared at Tricia's tawny tangle. It was all her fault that I was here.
I stretched my legs and shielded my eyes with my hand to get a good look at the house. The glare from the setting sun was orange and sharp.
The place was surrounded by a windbreak of cottonwoods. There was a barn, but no animals. It was just a garage for what looked like half a dozen rusty vehicles, plus some farming equipment that actually looked new and usable.
The long driveway had four cars in it. I could see a bunch of shadows flickering around the massive conflagration in the backyard, at the edge of the shoulders-high corn.
We moved around back, and I could see them more clearly. Six or seven people, surrounding the fire. One girl was holding a bottle of what looked like rum and dressed only in her shorts and a bikini top. All of the guys were shirtless.
I felt my eyes linger on the muscles under the skin of one of the boys. His pectorals bunched and lengthened in an alive way as he lifted the rum bottle to his mouth for a moment. I saw bubbles sink up through the clear liquid, and I saw a rivulet go down his chin.
I looked back down at the scruffy grass and walked over to the fire. Now that I was out of the car, I was smiling. I couldn't shake off the sweet chemical elation of being out of that car. The mix of adrenaline and endorphins was intoxicating enough as it was.
I sat down and the boy with the muscular chest handed me the rum bottle. "Welcome stranger, who are you?"
Tricia sat down between us on the scruffy grass. "This is my friend from high school, Jamie! Jamie, this is Jake. This is his house."
She took the rum bottle from Jake and took a swig. I didn't look at his face for more than a second. I've never been very good at looking people in the eye. But I got an impression of straight low brows and blue laughing eyes and a wry but achingly full mouth. I glanced back up at his lips for a split second just to justify my first impression. They were very sensuous and full, pink. There was something very... very sexual about his mouth that was hard to ignore.
I looked back down and took the rum bottle from Tricia to take a gulp. It burned my throat on the way down. Tricia jabbered on between us, and I was grateful. It took the pressure off.
It was about seven when we got to the place. And an hour and a few shots later, I was starting to feel fuzzy.
The road just outside of the farm was lousy with cars. Cars hurrying to the grassy lot and the field where they would watch the fireworks. The farm was strung up with NO TRESPASSING signs, but the occasional car still tried to park and unload onto the private property to watch the fireworks.
I say tried, because whenever it happened Jake would go over and talk to them. Never raising his voice. He managed to evict every one. They walked away looking exasperated and frustrated. He was very professional about it. Unlike some of his drunk party guests who just hollered at the trespassers.
I shouldn't have been looking at him, but I couldn't stop. I had a bad crush, and I tried to quash it however I could. He was sitting on the other side of Tricia, and that helped. But sometimes he moved. Sometimes he went over to the pile of broken pallets to tear off another board to feed to the fire. I could see his muscular lower back in the light of the fire and the setting sun.
I wasn't just fuzzy. I was buzzed. I shouldn't have been there. It was dangerous.
Tricia put her hand on my knee.
She had been doing it all evening. Brushing up against me, touching me, laughing hard at whatever I said, joke or otherwise. The scent of desperation came off of her in waves. I didn't say anything. I didn't want to embarrass her, but whenever I shrugged off her hand, she just put it back on me as soon as she could. I just gave up eventually.
It was easier.
My hands were on her shoulders, her thin sunburned shoulders. I could feel the straps of her tank top. I was confused. Was I holding her? Or pushing her away?
Her lips were against mine, tasting like limes and rum and sour watermelon lip gloss. Her tongue tried to work into my mouth and I pushed it out with my tongue. I pushed her away, feeling disgusted. I was drunk. I was way too drunk.
Her hand was on my crotch, trying to feel through my jeans. I pushed the hand away and then I was pushing her head away as she tried to lower it to my crotch.
"Tricia!" I spat, pushing her away.
It was cold and it was dark. The sweaty heat had turned cool and humid after the sunset. We were at the edge of the cornfield, sitting on a big glacial boulder. She had brought me here easily, telling me that she needed to ask me something. I felt disgusted that I had fallen for it. And disgusted by the pathetic way she kept trying.
"Stop it." I pushed her away hard enough so that she nearly fell off of the rock.
"Jamie? What's wrong?" She couldn't suppress the whine in her voice. I gritted my teeth as she drew out the last word in a pathetic bleat.
"I don't want to." I grunted. I got up to go back to the fire. I wobbled unsteadily. I hated how drunk I was. Any nice feelings had long since been replaced with feelings of depression and weariness.
She was crying. It wasn't kind or levelheaded of me. But I hated her right then. I wanted to call her a squealing cunt. I wanted to call her a brainless bitch. A desperate slut. I hated her.
"Why not! Y-You... You've been snuggling with me all night asshole!"
I gritted my teeth. "You've been hanging over me. There's a difference."
I started to walk back. "What about before? You used to be my boyfriend, when did you become such an asshole?"
That was too much. Just too fucking much.
I turned on my heels. "Boyfriend?" My outraged voice cracked on the last syllable, but I didn't care. I was so furious. "We were FRIENDS. You got me drunk and sucked me off before I puked. After I told you I was gay. And then I went to college. How fucking de-- How fucking deluded are you? You stupid--!!"
I was going to say bitch. But I couldn't finish. Not with the screwed up look on her face. I just turned around and wove back to the fire, feeling like the worst person in the world, and feeling queasy. I thought I was going to puke.
They had a rain barrel at the side of their house. The roof gutters emptied into it. Very eco-friendly, but I wasn't concerned about gardening or lawn mowing. I was just interested in the big plastic barrel full of rainwater.
I put my hands on the rim and dunked my head in the water. It was so shockingly cold that I yelled under the water and got some in my nose. I dunked my head three more times and shook like a dog.
Water ran down the back of my shirt, cooling the sticky sweat between my shoulder blades, trickling into my hot armpits.
I looked down at the barrel. The water was brownish, with leaves floating in it. It smelled earthy. I dunked my head in it again, and tried to see how long I could hold my breath. It was quiet down here, calm. Noises were muffled and softened, filtered through the water.
I exhaled slowly, feeling the bubbles tickle my cheeks and forehead on the way up.
A rough hand grabbed my shirt, right in the middle of my back, and pulled me out.
It was as rough and rude of an awakening as being born. I gasped in the cool night air and promptly fell on my butt in the long grass.
"What the hell?" I sputtered, wiping water out of my eyes.
I opened my eyes and promptly shut up, looking down. It was Jake. Standing over me, glaring, holding one hand to his chest. Somewhere, he had gained a t-shirt. It was black, with a smiley-face on it.
"Jesus fucking Christ, were you trying to drown yourself?"
His voice was hard and low. I shook my head back and forth, realizing what it must have looked like. "M'sorry." I mumbled, wiping my eyes. The water helped, but I was still out of it.
He held out a hand and I tentatively took it. He pulled me up so fast that I got dizzy.
"Crashing?" He asked sympathetically. I nodded, keeping my eyes at knee level. "Here then, lets go inside and I can get you some water."
"The fireworks..." I trailed off. I realized that I didn't care if I caught the start of them. I just wanted a drink, and then I wanted to lie down, sleep it off.
"What was that?" He asked softly. I looked up and caught a glimpse of his blue eyes and full lips before looking back down.
No one was inside. The door had stayed unlocked, but people only went inside to grab a drink or use the bathroom. Now we had it to ourselves.
The water was icy cold, and it tasted like minerals, almost metallic. It was delicious. I drank until a dull spike of pain lodged behind my eyes, a painful cold headache.
He was standing on the other side of the kitchen, a mere ten feet away. Leaning on the counter and peeling an orange. I watched his nails bite into the ripe orange flesh and tear off a thick peel, a little juice squirting from the cut he had made into the membrane itself.
I took another drink once the headache faded. "Yeah." I said quietly. "I think I'm coming down from it. I shouldn't have had that much to drink."
He laughed softly and offered me an orange slice. I took it and held it, but didn't eat it yet. "You must be a bit of a lightweight... You didn't have the bottle that much. Tricia had at least half again as much as you did. She still seems to be functioning okay."
I felt sick at the mention. I had treated her like shit. I wanted to go back and apologize, but a cowardly part of me just never wanted to talk to her again. I popped the orange slice into my mouth. The juice was shockingly sweet and acidic.
He tore off another slice and tossed it to me. To my surprise, I managed to catch it.
"I'm gonna get a smoke out in the field. Wanna come with? It might do you some good to stay away from the party for a bit."
I nodded. I didn't want to go back to the fire. "Yeah, and the fireworks are gonna start any minute now."
I followed him out. His t-shirt was too tight, and I could see the outline of his muscles through the back. It was exciting to watch. I could feel my mouth getting dry. He was half a foot taller than me, and so much bigger.
I ate the other orange slice he had given me, and it helped a little.
The sky was a dark bowl of stars, and there was no sign of the fireworks yet.
The corn stalks were thick, and hard to push through. Each individual stalk was as thick as my wrist, and almost as tough as wood. I thought that we would be able to part the stalks like grass, but we ended up just standing near the edge of the field while he smoked his cigarette. He inhaled, and the ember lit up his cheeks and eye sockets. His face looked hollow and skull-like for a moment, and then the ember faded and I couldn't see him. It was so dark. The sky was dark, the moon was new, and we were far away from the bonfire or the streetlights. The only light was his little red ember.
I didn't say anything, and neither did he. But that was alright. I felt relaxed for the first time all night.
"Want one?" He asked softly, offering a cigarette.
I wanted to take it, but I'd never smoked before. I shook my head, and realized that he probably couldn't see me. "No thanks. I don't smoke."
I moved slightly. I just wanted to upwind of the smoke. My feet tangled in a fallen cornstalk and I lurched to the ground.
Or I would have, if he hadn't grasped my wrist and pulled me up. My head was spinning and I still wobbled after being pulled up. I started laughing. A shaky giggle of relief.
He chuckled. "Careful. You have had a lot." He was so close, still holding my wrist. I wasn't sure if I was hallucinating or not when he pressed my hand against the crotch of his jeans.
I could feel something hard and hot and throbbing through two layers of cloth.
"What?" I whispered. I looked up at him and he still had a cigarette butt between his lips. The glowing ember lit up his blue eyes into a strange deep purple-grey. He let go of my wrist and pinched the butt out.
"Sorry." He mumbled. He started walking back towards the fire, just as my brain started to realize what had happened.
No. I couldn't let him get back to the fire.
Despite the alcohol, my cock was swelling. I could feel it straining against my tight underwear and nylon shorts. I walked quickly after him. He was nothing but a dark shape against the dim light of the fire on the other side of the house.
When I caught up to him, I shied away. I knew what I wanted. And I wanted it so badly. But I didn't know what to do.
"Jake." I murmured. He turned around, surprised to find me right behind him.
I tucked my head out of sheer instinct, but I forced my line of sight back up. I looked into the darkness where I knew his face was. The dim firelight lit up random dark hairs on his head, and the tanned skin on his neck. But his face was unreadable. Unseeable.
"Jake." My voice was hesitating, numb.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that." He sounded ashamed.
I shook my head so quickly that I got dizzy. I was so frustrated that I couldn't find the words. So frustrated and terrified and horny.
I reached for his shoulders, and I rested my hands on them. Carefully, as if he were a wild animal that might bite. I tightened my grip, and felt the way the muscles moved under his shirt and under his skin.
I aimed my face for his. My lips touched his chin first, but I moved up and pressed my lips to his.
I broke away, shaking. I had never done anything like that ever. He was perfectly still for a moment.
"Jake?" My face was flushed. My legs felt shaky. I was having a hard time breathing. My lips were wet from his saliva. I had been rough enough to force open his lips.
He was moving. His hands were on either side of my head, and then we were kissing harder. Our teeth clicked together, and then his tongue was in my mouth. I could taste his cigarettes. It was like his mouth was on fire. I could taste something bitter, and minty. I couldn't place what it was.
I could barely breathe.
He broke and I gasped. My lips felt swollen, bitten. My cock was so hard, I felt like I could come at a touch.
"The corn." He whispered. He was walking, and I was stumbling backwards. I nodded, and turned and sprinted for the corn. I couldn't get there fast enough, and he was behind me.
I could hear his feet hitting the weedy lawn. I felt like I was running away from him, but I was going slow enough. I wanted him to catch me.
Into the cornfield, forcing my way through the woody stalks. I could hear him behind me, and I was running. Running to lead him, running so I could be caught.
I nearly stumbled. I was in a rut. A place where the corn was parted, trampled and pushed aside like the hairline of a giant.
He crashed behind me, and I tensed up for an impact, turning around to meet him. It was so dark. I couldn't see a thing but a dust-grey fringe where the tips of the corn met the sky.
Then his hands were on my shoulders, pushing me gently, but firmly down. My knees buckled, and I knelt in front of him, looking up, barely able to see the pillar of his body against the sugarcoat of stars.