The Boy Who Drove Her Home
Pete Wilson sat at the kitchen table with pencil and legal pad. He wrote fast, in bursts. Pages filled. He’d sort it out later.
Pete heard something. Someone on the stairs. It was early for Cheryl. Unless she got a ride. Sometimes that new boy, Billy, drove her home. Cheryl described Billy as “cute, but young,” which probably meant Cheryl’s exact age. Pete was a generation older. Too old for the ShopKo job. Or maybe they passed him over for other reasons. All those pointless and insulting questions for which he had no good answers.
Okay, so Cheryl got a ride from some guy. Big deal. It was raining. It was that or wait for the bus. What was she supposed to do? He wouldn’t even mention it. He’d say nothing unless she said something first. Then he’d be totally cool.
There were voices on the stairs. Cheryl’s and another. This must be the famous Billy. This must be the famous Billy about to enter their apartment. It was more than Pete could take. It was too much.
Pete fast-walk tiptoed to the spare room. That’s where he kept his typewriter and things. That’s where he spent his time. Lately, that’s where he slept. He closed the door. He closed his eyes. He held his breath. He listened.
Now they were inside. Cheryl and Billy. There was laughter. What did they have to laugh about? They worked at fucking ShopKo for Christ sake. They climbed those stairs together for what messed up reason?
Pete heard Cheryl’s breathing. She was right outside the door. Their faces were inches apart. It was the closest they’d been in awhile. She knocked. Why would she do that? Any other time she’d barge in for no reason, just to annoy him.
“Pete, you in there?”
She knew he was. Where else would he be? Why was she such a bitch?
“I guess he’s not here,” Cheryl said. Pete pressed his ear tight against the door. Now they were in the kitchen.
“Sit,” Cheryl said. “Would you like a beer?”
“If you’re having one.” That was Billy’s voice.
Pete crouched down and looked through the keyhole. He could see into the kitchen, a little, the refrigerator, an edge of the table. Cheryl suddenly appeared. She opened the refrigerator and took out beers. The refrigerator closed. Then she was gone.
Pete laid down on his mattress and pulled the covers up to his chin. How long does it take to drink a beer? Would she offer him another? Would they move to the bedroom? Would they lie together, hands searching, lips touching, clothes slowly removed?
There were sounds from the stairs. Billy was leaving. Pete had no idea what would happen next. He opened the door and stepped out of his room. Cheryl was still at the table, still with half a beer. Across from her was an empty bottle.
Cheryl spoke first.
“That was rude.”
“You could have at least said hello.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“It’s what normal people do.”
Pete sat. He picked up the empty. Cheryl flinched, just a little, like he might throw it at her. He put the bottle down. Cheryl finished her beer.
“Does he want to have sex with you?”
Cheryl smiled, but is looked forced. “Probably.”
“Do you want to have sex with him?”
“Pete, if I did, I would, and you’d still be hiding in your room.”
“I was reading. I must have dozed off.”
Cheryl laughed. Pete felt nauseous. He wanted to hit her. He stood up.
“If you’re getting a beer, get me another.”
Pete did just that. There were no bottles left. Just cans of Pabst. He took a glass from the shelf. Cheryl didn’t like drinking from cans.
“I’m moving out,” Cheryl said.
Pete sat back down and took a long drink.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’m tired of living here. I’m tired of living with you.”
“When did you decide all this?”
“While I was saying it.”
“Are you moving in with Billy.”
Cheryl smiled, this time it looked easy, like a real smile.
“I doubt his parents would approve. Billy goes to high school.”
“I think that was his first beer. It got him pretty drunk. I hope he makes it home okay.”
“Pete, do you know why I brought Billy up to our apartment?”
“Billy wants to be a poet. He saw you read somewhere.” Now Cheryl was crying. “You’re his fucking hero, you fucking asshole.”