Cynthia invited me to a summer’s end party after school began. It was after my usual curfew, so I snuck out of my bedroom window and ran across town. Most of the kids were unknown to me. Several of the junior high girls were exceptionally alluring. We congregated in the basement. For once the adults let us be, staying out of our way upstairs.

One of the older guys, a junior in high school, surreptitiously pulled out a flask of hard stuff to everyone’s delight. We mixed it with our soda, enough for those of us brave enough to get a little buzz. Then we sat in a circle on the concrete floor.

“Let’s play spin the bottle,” the guy who brought the booze suggested. No one objected. I’d never done that before and was excited. He put his now empty flask in the middle of the circle and spun it. When it pointed to another guy, he laughed. “Ok, I’ll spin it again.”

When it landed on a girl, they went into a dark closet.

Someone shouted, “Your time is up in two minutes!”

Someone else added, “You don’t have to do anything if you don’t like each other, but you have to stay there the full two minutes.”

After two and a half minutes, we banged on the door and ordered them out. They were flush-faced and still hanging onto each other.

The next to spin followed, clockwise, until it was my turn. Great luck, my spin landed on this girl that I’d been watching. I had never seen her before. Her long, brown hair framed a pretty, yet serious face. She was about five-six with breasts that were beginning to swell enticingly.

We took our turn in the hallowed closet. There was just enough light filtering in for me to admire her features. I put my arms around and lined her up. Although I was not entirely a novice kisser, I didn’t want to blow it with this one.

“Wait,” she put her hand on my lips. “What’s your name? Mine is Lorelei.”

“I’m Ron. Lorelei is a pretty name, is it French?”

“My Dad says it’s German.” She stared at me a moment, a strange look in her eyes, making me wonder if she wanted to back out of this, but then she smiled. “Okay, Ron, let’s do this.”

My heart raced. I hoped to not make a fool of myself. Should I keep my eyes open, or closed? I took my cue from her. Her eyes were still open, staring at me in the half light as our lips met. We were restrained at first. She began to nibble my lips, a good sign. My mind was on fire.

Should I open my mouth? I went for it, she did too. Then I slowly stuck my tongue in and she wiggled hers, mixing her wetness with mine. It sent shivers through both of us. I hugged her tighter, feeling the enchanting swell of her breasts through our clothes. We continued fencing our tongues, tasting the Coke-whiskey sweetness in each other‘s mouth.

Too soon they were banging on our door. “Come on you guys, it’s been almost three minutes already!”

I didn’t feel like re-joining the group. “Let’s sit over there and talk,” I said, pointing to an old sofa in the corner of the basement.

Lorelei nodded, took my hand and led the way. Just sitting beside her, holding hands and yes, more kissing, thrilled me. An express train was charging through my brain, but my head cleared enough to remember how important it was to compliment a girl.

“You’re so pretty.”

She giggled.

“I mean it. You’re really pretty.”

“You look good to me too.”

A year younger than I was, she had a serious face that smiled warmly. With her dark brown eyes, she bore into me, as if drilling for my soul. Let her tear into me, I decided. I would rip out my heart if it pleased her.

We talked, words spilled out of me as if a dam had burst. I told her my closely guarded secrets, about my desire to run away, get away from this town. I would reinvent myself in some exotic location and live a life of adventure. She seemed interested, maybe she would join me. I gushed on about politics, how we needed to change the country. Civil Rights, the War in Vietnam, all the hot button issues I addressed and she didn’t object. Her eyes remained fixed on me, drinking me in, convincing me that she understood and agreed, or at least respected the wisdom of everything I had to say.

It was time to go, but I couldn’t let her slip through my fingers.

“I have to see you again. Where can I meet you?”

She smiled wide and slyly, so sexy that she took my breath away.

“I usually hang out with my friends in front of school. See me there on Monday.”

We had a date. I snuck back through my bedroom window before anyone woke up and tried to sleep. School wasn’t something I usually looked forward to, but I was impatient for the rest of the weekend to pass. When Monday’s class finished, I’d hold that enchanting girl in my arms again. That much seemed certain.

 

Four o’clock on a Monday Afternoon

After school I ran along the tracks to Wood Dale Road, then north to Highland, my old alma mater. I was brimming with anticipation for this newfound girl, the brightest shining beacon of hope in my miserable life. Lorelei understood me. With her I looked forward to shared happiness, not here in Wood Dale, that could never be, but as far away as we could get.

There were several kids standing close together by the road. I didn’t see Lorelei. Maybe she was delayed.

“Who you looking for?” A big Mexican boy at the far edge of the group asked me.

“I’m waiting for Lorelei. Do you know her?”

The whole group burst into laughter. I wondered what was so funny. They spread out and the Mexican boy opened his long jacket, revealing someone hiding within. It was Lorelei, her small frame in the boy’s tight embrace. Some joke. I hadn’t anticipated finding her that way.

“Well, you found me.” She sounded deadpan, not as thrilled to see me as I’d expected.

She seemed to eye me coldly. I thought her smile looked mocking, challenging. What was I to make of how I had found this girl who’d enchanted me? Were his advances unwanted? She wasn’t struggling, made no attempt to break away from the guy. His arms draped possessively over her shoulders from behind. She gripped his hand in hers, as if she’d long claimed him as her steady. His eyes met mine haughtily, as if to say I had no business being there. My preconceptions fell away; I had no idea how to respond.

A moment passed in which I only stared, dumbfounded and said nothing. It seemed I had been set up to be mocked, by my beloved Lorelei. It had been a tough week of school already, now this. Everything I’d gone through piled up to this big letdown, eroding my self-confidence, leaving me in Paranoia’s choking grip. Had Lorelei been intending to humiliate me in front of her friends from the beginning? I had to salvage some pride.

Masking my shock and confusion with a hard face, I straightened my back and made an about face with stiff military precision, exactly as taught by Mr. Gatto. Without looking behind me, I marched back the way I’d come. I had to be a disciplined soldier. I couldn’t let anyone, even a failed love, destroy me. My future, I told myself, lay beyond the narrow confines of this town and spoiled girls. If I was to have love, or at least soul-satisfying lust, it would be out in the larger world.

Next spring I would launch myself into that world. There could be no turning back.

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