Craving Vera(7)

By: Nicole Jacquelyn

I felt the blood drain from my face and I reached out to steady myself on the edge of an old wooden chair as I stared down at my chest. Thankfully, Gran was still hidden by some boxes, because my reaction to her words wasn’t subtle. One look at me and she’d know something was wrong.

I told myself that I might be wrong, that maybe my period was late because I was sick or miscalculating, or some other reason. Even an incurable disease would be better than a baby. But I knew in my gut that none of those things were true.

I’d been sneaking out most of the summer with my Gran’s next door neighbor’s son and just like every other time in my life when I stepped out of line, I was going to be found out.

* * *

Hours later after Gran had gone to bed and the house was quiet, I crept out of the spare bedroom window for the last time. Of course, I had no idea that it was the last time when it was happening. It wasn’t until later that I’d think back to that moment and wish that I’d stayed safely inside.

I pushed through the bushes that served as a fence between Gran’s property and the neighbor’s, using the hole that I’d widened inch by inch over the summer. The backyards were dark, but I knew the route by heart and I easily made it to the back door that led directly to the basement without mishap.

Opening the door without knocking—I was sure he wouldn’t hear me anyway—I went inside and bounced down the steps. Even the nervousness over telling Charlie about our potential problem couldn’t overshadow the excitement of seeing him. Looking back later, I’d curse my immaturity.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I froze at the sight that greeted me. I couldn’t process it. I honestly didn’t even believe what I was seeing and pinched myself like a child, trying to wake myself from the nightmare.

Charlie was on the couch, right where I thought I’d find him, but instead of listening to music and drinking a beer like every other night, he was naked and Jessica, the girl I’d assumed was his sister, was riding him.

I grew dizzy as I watched them, taking in the way Jessica pushed her hair away from her face so she could lean down to kiss him and the way Charlie’s fingers dug into the muscles of her butt. When he called her baby, using the tone I’d believed was only for me, I choked on the saliva spilling into my mouth and threw up on the concrete floor. It was quite possibly the most humiliating moment of my life.

I may have felt invisible in that moment, but the noises I made were impossible to miss. I felt my entire body sag when Charlie and Jessica’s heads jerked in my direction.

“What the fuck?” Charlie blurted, his eyes widening. “Vera! Shit. Are you okay?”

I was still frozen as he pushed the girl off him and rose to his feet, pulling his pants up from around his ankles.

“I thought she was your sister,” I said dumbly, glancing back and forth between them as I used the back of my hand to wipe my mouth.

I stepped backward my hand finding the stair rail as he came toward me.

“She’s my girlfriend,” he replied, confusion lacing his words. “Sort of.”

“What?” I choked out, looking at Jessica again. She was hurriedly pulling on her clothes, but it didn’t matter. I’d already seen every bit of her.

“She knows the score,” Charlie said with a wave. “Babe, what are you doing here?”

I couldn’t understand what he was saying to me. Nothing in my life had prepared me to comprehend the type of relationship he was describing. She knew the score? What did that even mean? She didn’t care that we’d been having sex? I’d assumed she was his sister or cousin because she’d sat there on the couch while we’d been going into the bedroom to fool around. How had she sat through all of that? Was this all a big joke to them? My face burned in mortification. I was the other woman in this scenario.

“Don’t touch me,” I snapped as he got closer. I began to shake, staring at the man I thought cared about me. He’d never said he loved me, but that just wasn’t Charlie. I thought I’d understood it. I thought—God I couldn’t even remember now. Not while he was standing there, his bare chest slick with sweat and his jeans only buttoned far enough to keep them on his hips.

I was such an idiot. I’d thought his smiles and teasing and sweet touches and soft words had meant something. I’d built this whole imaginary relationship in my head that had never been true. Oh, God.

“Vera,” he said, his tone softening. “I thought you knew.”

“You thought I knew?” I hissed, lifting my foot so I could step backward onto the bottom stair. “Why would you think that? Who does this?” I waved my hand at them, trying to keep my tears at bay. “It’s disgusting. You’re disgusting.”