Summer rolls in like a hail storm, sudden and unexpected and cold. One minute there's finals and the next everyone's bags and boxes are packed and he's turning down offers to pitch in for two weeks in a house on the beach.

He drinks too much and thinks about calling his sister. He jerks off thinking of the shy redheaded girl in his spring semester Psych class, the girl with the slim hips and round face and downcast eyes. The girl with the halfway smile that never opened wide enough to show her teeth.

He doesn't remember ever feeling so much like a do-or-die.


He forgets. Two weeks later, he can't not do laundry anymore and he digs that piece of paper out of his jeans just before dumping them in the wash, thinking first that it's an old gum wrapper. It sits crumpled on the counter for the next three days.

He picks it up between inane, made-for-TV comedies. Between one rambling chapter and the next. He stares at it long and hard, not reading the numbers or memorizing, just looking. Looking at how she shapes her sixes, an incomplete little coil of ink, but her nine is long with a curling tail, like a lowercase g.

The paper almost lands in the trash four times before he finally picks up the phone.


He isn't sure he could explain it if anyone asked.

She's stuck up and she's a bitch and they've got nothing to talk about when they're together. She fucks around on him with girls, and he's not really sure he cares, because there's nothing conventional about the pair of them anyway.

She stands him up for dinner and he ends up fucking the hostess in the coatroom instead, a line of angry businessmen with their wives ringing the bell over and over while the girl with the sensual curves (he feels it's very important to point that out to her later) comes on his fingers.

It's maddening.

They argue, and once or twice she throws things, face red and eyes wide, but she goes slack under his hands when he twists her arm behind her back, gently, and bends her over her kitchen counter. (He likes to think that he anchors her.)

They don't listen to the same music or like the same movies; he mocks her Victorian name and she sneers at his tendency to to quote poetry when he's drunk, and more than once, he goes to pick her up and finds her with someone else, and he still can't understand what about it thrills her, what makes her cheeks heat and her eyes sparkle when she says, "Sorry, I tried to call but –" and there's a crease like tinfoil in her smile.

Sometimes, in a whirlwind, he thinks he loves her, low-slung jeans and day-of-the-week underwear, and sometimes he sees red, cuts himself on her edges. It goes on like that all summer, some twisted, reckless abandon rushing through him, and she only eggs it on, smiling at him through painted lips, mocking and sincere in one.

Once, they push over the edge and he punches through his bathroom mirror, and then she kisses his knuckles while she cleans it, bandages like she's done it before.


In August, he buys himself a bus ticket and packs up his bag, and she's there to drive him to the bus stop, zipping along the dips and peaks in the roads in some fancy European car her parents just sent along for her birthday.

Fifteen minutes before the signboard says he needs to go, he pushes her into a stall in the bathroom and lifts her hands up above her head, presses her wrists to the dirty tile wall.

After, they break apart sweaty, and her carefully sculpted appearance is flustered, mussed.

"You should go," she says, pulling at his wrist to get a look at his watch. "Your bus –"

"Yeah," he says, fixing his shirt, and she grins at him, wide, and pushes, both of her hands flat on his chest, laughing, "You gotta get back to being smart."

He heaves his bag up onto one shoulder and doesn't look back on his way to the lot.

a/n: yet another challenge. the words "sensual," "curves" and "victorian" more or less caused this piece. (yeah, it didn't turn out quite like i expected.)