the first half of chapter twelve.

Yes, I realize it’s terribly unfair…I make you wait all of this time, only to give you half a chapter.  More coming soon…I’ve been really busy enjoying summer and working too much for the proverbial “man.”

I continued to see that first guy–the one I had met at Angela’s oh-so-hip birthday party–all over town. His name was a mystery to me. I silently called him “Lou Barlow,” a decidedly uncreative moniker, since he looked exactly like his namesake. He shyly smiled at me across the bar at a showcase of sad bastard music. He watched me drink coffee in the corner at Tiny’s, pretending to stare intently at the lower left hand corner of his paperback whenever I looked up from my notebook. Once, perhaps feeling particularly saucy after a few trips to the keg, he winked at me at an excruciating hipster dance party (everyone was jumping around, pretending their enjoyment of Justin Timberlake was merely ironic).

I ignored him, feigning ignorance and a memory conveniently erased by alcohol. I had no interest in knowing his name. I would have considered sleeping with him again, but only if I could once again disappear before dawn.

I had known too many fellows like him: surprisingly conventionally handsome, but wearing the mask of the delicate wallflower. A vague liberal or fine arts education. An alleged interest in photography, painting, or writing. Or worse, a terrible band churning out painful anthems of angst. A meager income spent on records and booze. Plaid shirts from the thrift store.

These boys seemed so palatable on the surface. “Oh, look, he’s not only cute, but he’s SENSITIVE and he likes ALL OF THE SAME THINGS AS ME!” But their skins peel back with the ease of the ripest banana, revealing only the blandest, smoothest apple sauce.

Fortunately LB was far too nervous to pursue me. He did not corner me in the bulk section at the grocery store, even though it would have been so easy. The fluorescent lighting and piped-in soft rock would have rendered me docile. Nor did he call Angela to request my phone number. It could have been that simple. Maybe he could already hear my confession, “I only went home with you so I could erase someone else.”

The second fellow came months later. Much more flavor was found with the Cayenne Gingersnap. Almost sickeningly sweet at first, he soon set fire to my taste buds, singeing my sinuses.

I met CG at a depressing old man bar (of course). A friend of a friend of a friend. When I walked over to his table to meet my friends, a tangerine rolled out of my purse. He chuckled as he retrieved it from the space between his Japanese sneakers. “So you’re Abbie, I guess? Well, there’s an apple waiting over on that table across the room. You and your citrus fruit ought to join it.”

I scowled at him before sitting down. “Redheads are always the biggest asses,” I told myself, while muttering something like, “It’s a tangerine, you douchebag.”

A double whiskey and half an hour later, I thought he was the most charming person ever born. He complimented my shoes and dress. We talked about cats and the numerous merits of the public library system. We both laughed at the right moments, without trying. Every word slipping out of his mouth was entertaining. But I wasn’t the only person under his spell; all of his friends deferred to him, as if they knew they could never be as funny or interesting as he.

A plan was hatched. Everyone at the table would go back to his house, for some unspoken–but apparently important–reason.

Our bikes were locked next to one another. We discovered this after everyone else had piled into someone’s band van.

“Are you going to show me where you live? Can I follow you?” I asked this with full throttle coyness, with my hand on my hip and my head tilted to the most flattering angle. 43 degrees. Maybe 41.

He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s your choice, but you might regret it. I have plans. Schemes. A mission.”

I rolled my eyes, as he began to coast down the street. I jumped on my bike, knowing that if I lost him, I would never find my way. I chased him over to Stark, hoping that I could catch him before he turned at the dead end.

And then I saw sparks flying towards me. I moved over to the left side of the street, cutting off an angry cab driver in the process. When I looked back, I saw the explosion of red and white stars.

Fireworks.

Jesus.

He pedaled furiously, while still managing to light one roman candle after another. I screamed as I dodged disfiguring facial burns and a headful of fiery locks. I tucked my skirt between my knees, in an attempt to avoid errant sparks. I was genuinely frightened…but not enough to turn around and head back to my apartment.

Something hot grazed my shoulders. The tiny hairs inside my ear were crackling. I shivered.

“What the fuck! Are you trying to kill me?”

Another explosion off to my right answered my question.

Right about then, my panties were vaporized. I realized that fucking this guy was a matter of life or death.

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