Chapter One Mother and the Newspaper Subscriptions Salesman

May 6, 2007

Liyla had been oblivious for the past few weeks. The initial snap, or spiral, had happened on a cold Sunday afternoon as she chilled her toes, newly painted, by her bedroom window. It might have been the sweltering grey of the sky, the freedomless children kicking imaginary stones across the street (not allowed to cause mischief) with their mothers on-looking, the small bursts of laughter from the sparsely-attended carnival two parallel streets away—all visible from her bedroom window. In youth she might have considered herself a very fortunate deity to have seen these things happening, but without her imagination to bolster these ordinary occurrences, her mind seemed to have snapped and ceased to see much of anything at all.

The smile she wore day in, day out these days was reminiscent of the Mona Lisa: ambiguous, but strangely placating. She wore it regardless of her best friend's mood, who always seemed to have one thing or another going on. On days where her best friend was especially histrionic, Liyla's unwavering smile was disarming and had the quality of being able to camouflage Liyla, making her invisible, impervious. This very Tuesday was such a day, like all other days, where Liyla— personality, opinion, and all—sunk into the background as her best friend took center stage.

"It was a-mazing. I thought I'd never enjoy my first time, especially, since. Well. You know…"

Unfortunately, Liyla knew her best friend's situation all too well. Of course, having sex was going to be a big deal when Shawna's mom—devout and hyper critical—found out. And Shawna's mom was going to find out. It was their last year, and then it was off to college together—if Shawna were to get caught up now, then…

Despite the feeling of defeat that overcame Liyla thinking about how much trouble Shawna was going to get into, she smiled weakly: "I'm happy for you, Shawna. I think, though, you should be more careful. Maybe your own bedroom isn't the—best place?"

Shawna laughed. "Hush, you."

Liyla's weak smile melted. Shawna's boyfriend was a dream. The artist type. Quiet, mysterious—though Shawna had complained once or twice that his honesty was borderline cruel. A frowner, an expert with his hands, his lips, his hips, everything that two plain girls like her and Shawna could dream up. Liyla was going to ask Shawna for more sordid details, but she worriedly looked at her cell phone clock instead: "Have to get home. Mom'll kill me."

"God, can't you just stay out a little more? It's only six."

Liyla averted Shawna's puppy dog eyes. "You remember what happened yesterday. I don't want her chewing me out again." She paused. "I really don't understand how she equates being late with how much I weigh. She thinks I'm anorexic, Shawna."

Shawna laughed her daring laugh as her best friend picked up her backpack: "Well. You could tell me about how much of a slut you were tomorrow. I'm going."

"Hey," Shawna called after Liyla laughing.


Liyla walked home to the sounds of a happy group of friends frolicking and talking loudly behind her. She turned and could have sworn she saw Shawna's boyfriend among them. Even the first time Shawna introduced him to her he had looked familiar. And another time, he recognized Liyla and approached her at the mall while she was shopping for a new pair of shoes. His smile was slow and pretty, but somewhat lacking. He was completely drenched in sex from head to toe. Even had those 'bedroom eyes' that songs talked about so much, but his appeal was muted by his seeming lack of personality and conversation. He wasn't exactly shy, or maybe he was? He had chinned her and went his own way, with a nice backside view of him to keep Liyla dreamily looking on, which, at the time, wasn't so peculiar until she had the sense that she had seen his backside before, not in the literal sense, but in the sense that someone departing from a train station for the first time knows how it feels to say goodbye to a loved one. It was silly.

She sighed, It's not like anything good would come from wishful thinking. She had to focus on school.

After unlocking the door, Liyla stepped in lightly as a stray cat. Her mother could leap out of nowhere at any given moment and remind her she's fifteen minutes late. Liyla looked at her cell phone and realized she was fifteen minutes early. Paranoia can magically switch numbers around, she thought as she closed the door behind her. The whole place screamed eeriness. Everything was blue and dark in the onset of the evening, and without half her family living there—her brother and her father—the house's size seemed even more absurd to her. She poked her head in all the rooms except the one at the end of the hall. No one seemed to be home. She didn't call out her mother's name, because she knew her mom was still ticked from yesterday.

"Shawna's a bad influence, etc."; "You should gain more weight, etc."; "You think you're already grown up? Wait 'til you're out on the street. Etc, etc."

Liyla cringed. Her mom was fantastically dull. Corporate and conservative, churchy and preachy. She needed more… dimension. Like fine art. Like great writing. Like riveting music. She seemed to be a workaholic robot through and through. Except whenever Anthony was home. For some reason, whenever he would arrive, she'd come alive again. But the periods in between were excruciating and very constricting—maybe mom is anal retentive, Liyla concluded.

After Liyla was satisfied with her mental bash fest, she decided to make the most of her time.

As she was about to head into her room, she paused. What was she hearing? It sounded like the distant raking of leaves outside.

She thought better of herself and decided to head toward the end of the hall. Many an urban legend commenced with some poor girl failing to check the mysterious sound, only to find her dog or boyfriend dismembered somewhere inside her house, and Liyla wasn't about ready to let that happen to her. She clutched her cell phone, in case she needed to dial 9-1-1. She pressed her ear up against the door. What? Wait… this can't be, Liyla thought to herself. Maybe she'd been watching too many movies lately, and listening to Shawna's sexual story much too intently. This couldn't be… Dad no longer lived at home. And even then, she'd never seen her mother and father actually do it, not even a single public display of affection after her seventh birthday…

Liyla pressed her ear against the door—it moaned open. Her skin jumped. What initially sounded like muffled raking of leaves was actually sharp panting, small "Oh's", the creaking of a bed.

Liyla saw through the crack in the door her mom, with fantastic legs still in their thigh-highs and an undone brassier. Her auburn hair was out of its tight bun and splayed everywhere. Her mom wore brassieres? And who was that? Was that their neighbor? Oh, God, no, he was the clean-cut newspaper subscriptions guy who kept coming around! No mistaking the same goofy hat she saw on the floor next to the bed.

Liyla instinctively covered her hand over her own mouth and watched with a wide eye. She had caught the pre-show.

"Oh, God," Mrs. Taylor moaned. The paper boy laughed and slid his tongue over her cheek, lowering his head to lick his way down her neck and suckle on one of her beautiful nipples—dark, erect and prominent. His left hand was busily sliding down her torso.

"Ansel, you know we shouldn't keep doing this…"

"Keep doing what," he said, nearly out of breath.

"This—o-oh, God—" Ansel had interrupted her plea with an exercising of his two fingers. "Ansel, God, put them in—" He did as she told him to, pushing her lacy thong out of the way to insert his fingers deeper. In a throbbing fit, Mrs. Taylor threw her arms around his neck. He laughed into her breast, simultaneously plunging his fingers in and out of her. She grinded herself against his hand.

Liyla was slowly and instinctively sliding her own hand down her blouse. It slithered under her skirt, feeling the fabric of her panties as she watched. Her whole body had a mind of its own. The hallway was dark, luckily. Mrs. Taylor was too impassioned to notice that her daughter was rubbing herself watching the paper boy smooth her down.

"Mrs. Taylor—do you want me to?"

"Want you to what…?"

"Go down on you."

Liyla's eye popped open. She accidentally bumped her forehead against the doorframe.

Even without actual permission, he slipped his fingers out of her, and practically shoved them into Mrs. Taylor's mouth. She sucked on his fingers submissively, quaking while she was at it. Her eyes had just barely begun to close when he grabbed her whole body and pushed her red, glistening slit into his mouth. He seemed to swallow it, bravely thrusting his tongue into her.

From Liyla's view, his shaking head between her mother's legs caused her to buck painfully.

Mrs. Taylor whimpered a painful cry. He ate her up. He ate her so hard the sucking noises were audible. Mrs. Taylor wriggled out of control, half of her body spilling over the edge of her bed. The whites of her eyes were visible, the pupils rolled back in ecstasy as she moaned, like a dying cat.

Ansel used his teeth. Her pelvis jerked in his mouth, and rolled up and down like waves. He grabbed her hips and pulled her back onto the bed, sliding his hands over her thighs, squeezing them as his teeth sunk into her like a succulent fruit. He grabbed her ankles and pulled them up over her head, spreading her ankles far apart as he dug in. Her head threw itself from side to side as she laughed and cried in her throes. She was sweating as much as she would have been if she had been going into labor for the third time.

Liyla turned away from the scene, heaving as she slid to the floor, still craning her neck to watch what she could as she rubbed herself harder. She inserted her fingers inside of her like Ansel did to her mother and her mouth instinctively fell open. Her own lumpy insides, like clustered caviar, surprised her at first. But the tingling feeling overtook her and begged her to plunge her fingers in deeper. Her shapely pink nails raked at her insides. She shuddered in ecstasy, experiencing the exquisite pain of first time masturbation. Her knees spread and closed like a butterfly with the in and out strokes of her fingers.

Soon, Ansel undid his belt. Even with Mrs. Taylor's weak, delirious protests, he spread her ankles even farther apart. "A-ansel, we shouldn't—oh, God—"

A preoccupied Liyla turned away and leaned her head back against the wall. The sounds of her mother's cries and curses, and the prominent, rhythmic thump of her mother's head against the headboard of her marital bed only half-reached Liyla's ears as her legs butterflied open and closed, open and closed.

When Liyla remembered to breathe, she snapped back to reality for a brief moment and sensed the danger of being caught. She shakily got herself to her feet; her head was filled with a dull, amoral thrum—she was devastated, fascinated, enamored, trying to see in semi-darkness the sticky spider web that stretched when her forefinger and middle finger spread like scissors. She couldn't handle it anymore. She went into her own bedroom and locked the door to finish off business, leaving her cell phone on the floor by the entrance of the master bedroom.