Christopher and I go to the beach together on Sunday morning because it's still dark outside, his friends are going, and the progression of winter gives us some cooler breezes. He told me that he might swim, so I felt obligated to put on something that I could swim in. Yet again, I was forced to put on one of the bikinis my mom got from the magazine, but I put that ugly pair of shortalls that I'd bought a few years ago out of sheer curiosity for how they felt over it. I also brought along his jacket.

"Why the hell are you wearing that?" Christopher asked when I came out. I just shrugged and pulled on my baseball cap. He handed me his things and I crammed them into one of my mom's ginormous tote bags that she uses whenever she wants to seem young and cultured.

I think it's really ugly, but that's not what the magazine said.

We get a ride with Bruce. One of Christopher's friends sits in the backseat beside me, pointedly looking out the window for the entire ride. When we arrive about twenty minutes later, Christopher walks me out and nods to his friends. They head off east, towards the sunrise, for what I now see is a beach house that doesn't really look empty.

"Where are they going?" I ask curiously, looking over my shoulder as Christopher leads me towards the water.

"To get high."

"You're not going?"

"Being with somebody I actually like isn't as much fun when I'm trashed."

"Ah," I pet his arm and beam. "You're so sweet."

This makes him grin inelegantly.

Christopher and I find a patch of sand that isn't covered in sea weed (or whatever the hell this shit is) and throw out the towel. After a quick mishap that has us running behind it and Christopher's clumsy tumble that pretty much eliminates the use of the towel in the first place, we both sit down and get comfortable against each other.

"Does your mom even know you're here?" Christopher asks, pulling out a cigarette and gesturing for me to sit in his lap.

"I left her a note on the fridge," I snap.

Christopher nods and puts the cigarette in his mouth while his hair gets whipped around by the wind.

"Aren't you going to swim?" I ask.

"Maybe."

"Isn't it dangerous? Aren't there, like, sharks and stuff in the water now?"

"I dunno. Are there?"

"Yeah. Dusk and dawn, don't you watch the news?"

"Not that part," he says honestly. I roll my eyes and straighten the towel we're sitting on. "Wanna make out?"

"Not right now," I say simply.

"How come?"

"Feels weird. Your friends know we're, y'know," I shrug and continue. "But my… friends – well they're not friends, you know that, but I don't know what else to call them – don't. I forget sometimes, though, who we're around. I gotta get in the mood."

"How about if I talk dirty?"

"On Valentine's Day come with me to the carnival," I say impulsively.

"Why? I thought you didn't want people to know. Hell, I don't. Those girls are annoying."

"I'm not embarrassed of you."

"Me neither."

"I just don't want them to talk to me about you. Carol and them are so annoying."

"I know."

"So," I turn around to face Christopher and ask tentatively, "You're not ashamed of me?"

"Of course not – I show you off to my guys, Lillian. You're perfect."

"If I had friends, I'd show you off, too." I bite my tongue and fix my words. "Better friends, I mean."

"Valentine's Day," Christopher nudges my cheek with his nose. "I'll go with you wherever you want."

"I want this to stay on the DL, though."

"There's nothing sexier to me than hiding under your bed when your mom comes in, Lillian. Really."

"I agree."


Lucy and I walk home together on Friday, the afternoon before Valentine's Day. She likes to talk to me – well, at me, really. She loves to titter on and on about Luke and how he's a step up from her first boyfriend, who she dated before she moved back here. I'm really surprised at how much easier it is to listen to her nowadays. I guess her conversations are interactive – she asks for my input with actual interest in what I'm saying rather than using it as a tool to know if I'm paying attention. I never have much to say, though, but when I do Lucy appreciates it.

The fire at Pierre's (now referred to as 'the fire' in casual conversation) was nearly one month ago. Even though Christopher and I haven't brought it up, we did get a strange apology from Sean before he thanked us for getting him out and not leaving him to be found by the firemen with scribbled-on circles around his nipples and a penis drawn on his face. I nodded when he spoke to us while Christopher stayed silent. I almost asked Christopher why he was being so quiet, but as Sean walked away, he kicked Sean in the butt. It wasn't enough to hurt, but it seemed like it was very embarrassing.

"So, anyway, I was thinking of how you said me and Luke should try, y'know, talking to each other about – well, each other, and I learned a lot about him," Lucy says brightly. "Same as how you said we should, like, bond over things we both like."

I didn't use those exact words, but at least she got the message.

"How'd you know that'd work?"

"It usually does," I say simply.

"When did you become Miss Love-Guru?"

"I'm not."

Lucy sighs and looks at me with a friendly smile on her face. "Why don't you have a boyfriend or anything? You know so much about… like, healthy relationships. Lately you have, at least. You got a crush I don't know about?"

"Eh… no. I just listen to what I hear people saying."

"Oh… well, are you doing anything tonight?"

"No."

I've got to work on this lying problem, really. It's not healthy.


"Which one do you want?"

"The red one."

The carnie goes behind the milk bottles and pulls down the bright red stuffed snake for me. I take it, beaming, and wait for the carnie to turn around before hugging Christopher quickly.

"Thanks," I whisper near his ear. He nods and pulls on the hood from his hoodie and the glasses again. I get my shades and the baseball cap back on before we walk away with our arms wrapped around each other.

Every year there's a really lame carnival for the week of Valentine's Day that I've only been to once before. Christopher and I go tonight, but under certain circumstances. I wore a bright pink jacket that had been buried in my closet, a baseball cap and shades so that anybody who may see us wouldn't recognize me. Christopher came with a hoodie and baseball cap on, and, as a precaution a pair of glasses. He told me that when he put them on, he understood how I felt.

"See? They aren't so dorky," I said.

"No, no, they are. Now I just understand how you feel so nutty all the time… the dork seeps into your brain from these and gets discombobulated into crazy."

Ha-ha.

Most of the carnies are playing fair games because the carnival is small, but for the few crooked ones, namely the one we just left, I'm glad I've got Christopher here. He cussed that man up and down the street when he figured out how the bottles were made to not fall over, and threatened to let every single person who wanted to play know (along with threatening to come to his house and 'fuck him up'). The carnie tried his hardest to not give in; I don't think he believed Christopher could be so wacky. But when he got hit in the head with one of the baseballs we're supposed to be throwing at the milk bottles, he understood.

"I can't believe you threw that ball at his head," I say thoughtlessly, holding back a big grin.

"He pissed me off – pulling that shit here. I wish I'd got him again and busted his face open."

I smile broadly and hold onto him as tight as I can. When he notices my grip, he rubs my back.

This is about as romantic as we get in public.

Since the fire, Christopher and I have upped our game in the secret-affair department. Nobody asks questions when we both go off by ourselves because people think we're just too irritable loners – my mom's stopped asking why I go to the 'library' every Thursday after school, and Vivian and Kitty have both given up on me in all social aspects. They've deemed me 'hopeless.' I'm glad, though. Less prodding in my business.

Before Christopher and I can enjoy true oneness with each other and our sociopathic tendencies, though, we've got one more errand to run.

"No, man… that's not how you do it. You just gotta act cool, y'know? Put your hand on her leg like… like you're alright with it? And don't sweat so much."

Sean shrugs and says, "But what if, like, she doesn't like it?"

"Then you just stay cool. Alright, man?" Tom pats Sean's back toughly. "You gotta loosen up. And quit crying – I dunno how, but the waterworks always work for you."

Sean nods and stands up after his friend. I wait for them to a couple feet away from the basketball court where they'd been playing with a bunch of other stout guys their age. Thankfully Carol knows everybody's business so she let it slip that every Friday night they go to the park with their dweeby friends to play basketball. Christopher and I decided that we oughta hit it after we left the carnival.

"Hey! Sean!" I walk over with my hands held up like an ambassador, Christopher close behind me. "How's it going?"

"G-g-good," he stammers.

"And you?" I ask Tom.

"Fine," he says curtly. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm just hanging out at the park, same as you two. Christopher and I were both bored, you know."

Tom raises his eyebrows and smirks a bit while Sean frowns, looking worried.

"What's funny?" I ask Tom.

"What do you mean, 'what's funny?' I've seen him climbing in your window on Friday nights. What's this, your midnight date or something?"

Sean gets a bit peaky while Christopher snorts. I cross my arms and frown.

"Is that how you figured out which window is mine?" I ask.

"Well duh. I already know you two know," he says, more to assuage Sean's fearful shaking. "And Sean said sorry. So buzz off."

Christopher and I hadn't planned out how to deal with Tom, so I'm actually improvising this and am a bit surprised that he and Sean know Christopher would come to see me at night. A small part of me wishes they could be terminated to keep this from getting out.

"We're just here, though," I say, "We can hang out here, it's a public park."

"Yeah, right. What, are you gunna drug and molest me, too? Or back for more?" he jerks his thumb for Sean, who shudders.

"Not really."

"Well then what is it? Shit. Or are you gonna strip for me, too?" I shake my head while Tom chortles and continues angrily. "I can't believe Sean was ever into you. Russo, either." Our eyes flicker to Christopher, who's raised his eyebrows. "Why they both like skanks is beyond me. I bet you're sucking Chris off."

"No," I say, getting a bit defensive.

"Oh, yeah? Well you're a pretty big ho. I mean, first you play hard-to-get with Sean and then start messing around with Russo and next thing I hear is that you're asking Sean if he wants to do it – and you stripped for him! Hooch! Nympho-hooch! And now you're out here with this id –,"

Christopher snatches Tom's collar towards him, nearly getting the boy off his feet. Sean and I step back, the former shaking badly, while Tom starts to shiver.

"This what?" Christopher spits angrily.

"This idiot!" Tom shouts.

"I'm gonna bust your head on the sidewalk if you don't apologize," Christopher growls. Dammit. I didn't want him dead, I just wanted him to know we knew.

"I ain't sayin' nothin'!" Tom snaps.

Without asking him again, Christopher clocks Tom in the face and when he falls, snatches Tom's shoes off.

"What're you doing!?" I ask crossly. Christopher ignores me and, in one swift movement, yanks the boy's pants off. Tom starts to fight back sluggishly, still confused by the wallop in his face, but it doesn't slow Christopher down. After pulling off Tom's shirt (he's good at that; taking off people's shirts) he stands up, pulls out his lighter and, in one swift motion, sets Tom's clothes ablaze. Christopher tosses them for the basketball court where they can burn uninterrupted. He takes my hand seriously.

"Bye," he calls over his shoulder while leading me away. Sean stares at us, looking downright terrified, while his friend shakes on the ground. I don't say anything because I'm a bit aggravated by what Christopher just did; he went nuts on Tom, which is what I'd hoped wouldn't happen. I'm just glad he didn't actually bash Tom's head against the sidewalk, but, still, it's wrong.

"Why'd you do that?" I ask the moment after we both climb through my window. I shut it and frown at him with my arms crossed disapprovingly.

"Do what?"

"Take off Tom's clothes and," I gulp noisily, "set them on fire!"

"Because I would've really had to hear it if I actually bashed his head against the sidewalk!"

I furrow my brow incredulously while he nods as though he really just rationalized everything. I guess he did, though.

"You're not changing, are you?"

He shakes his head, grinning crookedly. I try my hardest to fight back the immense pleasure that gives me, but I still smile a bit.

"And you won't even try?" I ask unnecessarily. He shakes his head again, so I smile harder. "Good," I mumble. "Just start giving me a signal so I know when I watch out for Crazy Chris."

"Right," he says quickly. We both smile and it's so nice to be able to do that for real, finally. I even kiss him – on the cheek, though, because I've figured out that abysmal kissers shouldn't be the ones initiating the serious kisses. I usually leave that to him. Luckily, he's not slow in that department. If anything, our new problem is keeping this from my mother.

"Um –"

"Mom, it's so damn hot," I wave my face pointedly, holding my sheet against my chest. "Turn on the air, please."

"You've got all those blankets, of course you're hot!"

"Yeah, well, Mom, you know how I like blankets and being covered up."

"Alright, fine, whatever, but I'd expect you to know better after having someone looking through your window! Put a shirt on, Lyn, Jesus."

"Okay, okay, okay."

"Goodnight."

"'Night."

She leaves, clearly riffled, before I jump up and lock my bedroom door behind her. On the bed, Christopher's head emerges from the comforters, smirking so hard I'd expect my mom to feel his presence.

"That was too close," I grumble.

Christopher shrugs and gestures for me to come back, adding, "She would've skinned my dick."

I nod and climb back into bed before Christopher quickly returns to his valiant attempts at third base. To be honest, I'd wanted tonight to be the night, but after that – not so much.

So tonight will be another clump of boob fondling, fingering and amateur handjobs that Christopher seems to enjoy despite the fact that he's pretty much talking me through it.

Oh, well.

Another night with Christopher. It's nice. I can go to sleep in his arms and wake up around four in the morning to argue about… anything, really. And once that's done, we go back to sleep. When we wake up, I'm glad I can trust in the fact that he'll probably have his hands somewhere they shouldn't be and I can tell him off (or kick him off) for it.

I guess being Anthropophobic isn't so bad after all.

Christopher doesn't mind.

"As long as you're not Dickaphobic, I'm good."


Three Months Later

Dear Imagination,

The other day I stepped into a quiet room and saw you strapped to a chair and surrounded by butcher knives. I picked one up. You pleaded for mercy while a stranger pried your eyes from their sockets and the blood oozed from every hole made in your skin –or whatever the hell that is you have – so I waited for the stranger to leave you alone.

Then I stabbed you in the face.

Lyn

"So… have you got any plans for summer, then?" Ms. Cybil asks. I shrug. It's the last day of school and it happened to land on a Wednesday, one of the days I meet Ms. Cybil.

"My mom and her friend might take me and her friend's kids to Chicago."

Ms. Cybil nods and puckers her lips in that same strange way she always does. I do the same and squint, just like her.

"Well, Lillian… I've had a nice time with you. I hope you won't have to be having these same meetings next year. I'm glad to have met a girl as… individual," she says this carefully because she probably wants to say 'strange,' "as you. I know you don't like to admit it, but I've seen your progress. The new girl you talk to – and those other two – Vivian Sanders and Kitty Burgess. I'm proud of you."

I nod thoughtlessly.

"Have you got a real boyfriend yet? Or are you still going with the Sean boy?"

"Um… no. I wasn't going out with Sean, anyway."

"Oh, really? What happened to the 'criminal boyfriend'?" she asks jokily. I smile guiltily.

"Oh, him? He's still around."

Ms. Cybil frowns and puts on a hard expression while I stand up and get my book bag on because it's nearly time to go.

"Lillian, you don't have to kid anymore – the year's over."

"I'm not. I told you, I'm a nymphomaniac and I have a criminal boyfriend. Why would I make that up? What girl would want to make up a lie about herself like that?"

She opens and closes her mouth stupidly.

"Listen, Ms. Cybil, until I met him, I never understood what my purpose was. Now I know what it is – now we both know what our purpose is. I helped him see the light." Her expression softens a bit because she thinks I converted a nutty juvenile delinquent. "The truth of the matter is that I couldn't be any happier that we found – and helped – each other… and got through crazy times."

"What're your newfound purposes?" she asks, a bit hopeful.

"Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday we find at least two hours to bang each other's brains out."

Her eyes pop out while I smile friendlily and wave. I keep waving while slipping through the door for the last time – or at least until my junior counselor figures out how strange I am. It can't be easy dealing with a compulsive liar, I'll admit.

While I walk to South Central alone, I grin a bit.


fin