Chapter Two: Beautiful Dawn

The memories came in a flash, painful moments relived in their terrible glory in the seconds after the door opened and Ani’s doppelganger stepped in. The images of the two women superimposed. The dichotomy threw me; I simultaneously existed in both worlds yet belonged to neither. My new reality fell away its hold on me nothing compared to years of history in another.

“Hey Tristen, you’re finally here!” Sitting on the living room couch amid an array of plastic and paper shopping bags, (the fancy kind with big braided ropes for comfortable carrying of expensive purchases) Ani bolted up and toward the door the moment I stepped through it. Her petite height brought the top of her head just under my chin as she closed in for her customary hug. Slender arms wrapped around my middle and squeezed with all the ardor of an anxious, excited teenager. I returned the embrace, feeling for the first time an inexplicable inner flush of warmth as her arms briefly yet intensely closed around me and then released.

“Yeah, sorry. Dad insisted I finish mowing the yard before he’d let me come up.” I scratched at errant blades of grass still stuck to my calves and ankles. Ani snorted and tossed her raven-black ponytail over the opposite shoulder it had just occupied.

“Where’s Jordan? I thought that was his job.”

I offered a wry smile. “He had swim practice this morning, and Mom told him he could spend the afternoon with the team. They’re doing some dinner thing at the captain’s house.” Ani made a sound halfway between an indignant snort and a swooning adolescent girl.

“That sucks, but Tommy Genetti … yum.” She shook her head and grinned. “What I’d give to trade places with your brother, Tris.”

“Ewww.” I wrinkled my nose. The entire female population of our junior high school had been in love with Tommy Genetti from the moment his family moved into town a few years earlier. Tall, with broad shoulders and chocolate brown hair, Tommy was undeniably good-looking. His wash-board abdomen and piercing blue eyes warred for his most appealing feature. I understood the draw but for some reason, I just couldn’t muster the same doe-eyed fawning infatuation that Ani and the other girls gushed whenever hearing his name. Ani’s envy of Jordan’s friendship with the senior grossed me out. She didn’t live with him, see the state he constantly left the bathroom in, or have to hear him drone on and on about what an awesome guy Tommy Genetti was over dinner every night.

“I swear I don’t know what’s wrong with you, Tris. You must be the only girl in the whole ninth grade that doesn’t have a thing for Tommy.” She tossed a long-suffering look at me then dove back into the array of bags. “But whatever. Daddy finally let Mommy buy it for me. I’ve been dying to try it on, but I wanted to wait for you to get here first. Come on!” She rummaged, found the bag she wanted and plucked it. Hopping over the rest, she beckoned for me to follow her through the large dining room and up the stairs to her bedroom.

Once there, ensconced in a rainbow of pink hues bright enough to cause retinal scarring, I settled into my customary seat at the end of her four-poster princess bed.

“I’m amazed your dad finally said yes,” I said. Ani dropped the shopping back at the head of the bed and grabbed the hem of her baby-doll t-shirt. She yanked it up exposing a torso already blooming into womanhood. Her budding breasts were hidden by a black bra with more lace on it than the entirety of my tomboy wardrobe. Below, her belly was nearly concave, the flat expanse of faintly olive-hued skin flawless. It wasn’t a foreign sight, Ani having disrobed in front of me for the better part of the last thirteen of our fourteen years. Yet, the strange flush of warmth from her earlier embrace returned this time with a prickle that traveled down my spine to the pit of my stomach. Confused, I dropped my gaze to my hands folded together in my lap.

“Well, I promised I would wear it only in our pool where Daddy can supervise,” she giggled. Her denim shorts came off and landed next to me, followed by black lacy panties matching her bra. I’d been there on the shopping trip when her mother had bought the matching set for her, secretly both envious and mortified that at fourteen Ani’s body was more than ready for such frilly undergarments while mine remained stick-straight and flat everywhere it counted.

The heat mounted beneath my skin, building like a bonfire whose source of ignition defied comprehension. I glanced up toward the window over her dresser to the left, wondering if I was sitting in the direct rays of the afternoon sun. Mystifying, the shade was down, and the Pepto pink curtains pulled tightly shut. I wiped away a bead of perspiration from my upper lip.

“Did you bring your suit like I told you? Daddy said we could break in the pool a day early just you and me.”

My eyebrows shot up. I forgot I was trying not to look and arrowed my surprise right at her naked body. Pert breasts and rounded hips met my shocked gaze. My face burned.

“Seriously? But the party isn’t until tomorrow.”

She cocked her head, glossy black ponytail trailing, and slid a paltry amount of black spandex up her thighs and over her hips. Silver rhinestones sparkled below her navel in a flowery pattern. I swallowed against a sudden knot in my throat.

“Daddy thought since they were just digging up the yard on your birthday that you might want first dibs. I wasn’t going to turn him down, you know? It’s damned hot out there today!” She grinned, blue eyes sparkling, and shook out an even smaller piece of black spandex. Holding it up to her chest, she smoothed the fitted rhinestone-lined cups over her breasts. Excitement beaded her nipples. The knot in my throat grew, choking me. “Here, help me tie it.” She spun around and lifted her ponytail. Loose ties trailed down her sides and hung from the top of each breast.

Trembling, I slid off the bed and fumbled to tie the strings at her neck and just below her shoulder blades. Her light olive-hued skin felt like silk against my fingertips and the backs of my knuckles. Breathing grew difficult. Done, I backed away and struggled for composure. What was the hell wrong with me? Fourteen years of friendship – we’d been inseparable since diapers – and I’d never reacted this way to her before now. Was I coming down with something? It would be perfect timing to catch a summer cold the day before my best friend’s birthday party and the grand opening of her family’s new pool.

Ani spun around to face me. My stomach knotted and then dropped. My jaw would have followed except I had it so tightly clenched that my smile was a grimace. My best friend was gone. In her place stood a nubile young woman all but ready for child birthing. Sleek black spandex hugged every curve, accentuated the fullness of her breasts, and left nothing open to the imagination at her hips and butt. I understood then why her father had been so hesitant in allowing the purchase.

“What do you think? It’s perfect, isn’t it?” She ran her hands over the curves on display, bright pink nails contrasting with the dark material binding her body into a picture of adulthood neither her father nor I was ready to see let alone accept as reality. Twisting at the waist, she stared down over one shoulder at her butt and cooed in excited delight. Sparks fired off at the edges of my vision as sudden gray crept in; I sucked in a breath, realizing I’d been holding my breath.

“You look … amazing.” They were the only words I had, the only words I trusted out in the open air. There were other words and phrases flying around between my ears that I’d thought to apply to my best friend. Sexy. Desirable. One hot mama. They all came with one overwhelming urge: to reach out and touch, and not with the companionable affection long established between us. No, this was something more, something ultimately taboo. It was all I could do not to recoil and run for my life.

“Thanks!” Ani gushed ignorant of my discomfort. “Get your suit on and let’s go, huh? Come on!” She play-shoved me by the shoulders. I rocked backward and issued a strained laugh. I’d folded and tucked my plain blue one-piece into the cargo pocket of my shorts. I reached for them then realized she expected me to do as she had done and change into my suit in front of her. The thought made me cringe as did the idea of jumping into the pool next to her. All of that naked skin wet and shining … the heat inside me was unbearable. How was I going to be able to swim, let alone act like normal with this new feeling swelling inside me? I couldn’t and didn’t want to stop looking at her, every detail of the silver rhinestone pattern etching itself into my memory like some new constellation begging for memorization. I needed to get away from her, from this all too surreal moment. But I couldn’t just bail; she’d know something was up.

“Alright. I have to pee. I’ll just change in the bathroom and meet you down by the pool.” I darted toward the bathroom.

“Don’t be silly, Tris. I’ll wait here for you and we’ll go down together. That way Daddy won’t have a full heart attack, just a mini one.” The bathroom door muted her laughter. I leaned against it and blew out a shaky, tear-heavy breath. The mirror showed a girl too tall and lanky for her age, with cornflower curls gone wild and hastily tied back, and pale blue eyes sporting a haunted expression. Oh God, what was I going to do? The thought had barely crossed my mind when it occurred to me that asking God for advice in this situation was probably the worst thing I could do. Didn’t God hate sinners who lusted after their own kind? I was so screwed it wasn’t funny.

“Hurry up, slowpoke! The water’s waiting!” Ani trilled. My guts twisted into an anxiety pretzel. I had no choice but to pretend like my world hadn’t just upended and turned itself inside out all in the last ten minutes. Crap.

“Hang on, I’m almost done,” I lied and fumbled my suit out of my pocket.


The following afternoon brought a steady supply of hot sunshine and clear blue skies, perfect for the day’s events. Although the party wasn’t scheduled until two, neighborhood kids began trickling into the backyard around noon. At Ani’s insistence, I’d stayed the night. Snuggled up next to her in her double bed, shoulder to shoulder beneath the frilly pink canopy, I hadn’t gotten much sleep. I was all too aware of the exact shape of the body snoring just inches away from me and how, despite her greater curves, we were both females. The sheer taboo electrified me. My skin sizzled and charred where our bodies happened to touch; my shoulder, hip, and knee turned inferno with the innocuous contact. I didn’t dare toss and turn in my sleepless state. Years of prior experience in the matter promised such restless activities would bring her nestling closer in an attempt to soothe, limbs wrapping around and tangling with mine in what had always proved a welcome solution. This time I was terrified it would only make my confusion even worse.

Ani and I were in the pool as soon as breakfast was finished and so greeted the incoming kids with enthusiastic splashes. By two, the pool was full of half-naked adolescent bodies both male and female. The air was redolent with the smells of charcoal barbecue and chlorine. Music blared from speakers placed in the kitchen windows but the radio’s refrains couldn’t compete with the raucous screaming of two dozen voices raised in unadulterated joy.

At three, Ani’s father bugled for anyone hungry enough to eat a cow, most of which was slathered in barbecue sauce and coming straight off the grill. Since I hadn’t eaten anything since seven, I was one of the first out of the pool. Paper plate laden with ribs, chips, and potato salad in hand, I found a place at the end of the deck surrounding the pool and sat down to eat. Halfway through the rack, fingers sticky with sauce, I realized the pool wasn’t as empty as it should have been. While the others had all followed my example and had chosen places around the expansive backyard in which to eat, there were still a handful of people idling in the water. One of them was Ani. The other was, shockingly, Tommy Genetti. I almost dropped my plate seeing him there, not two feet away from Ani in the shallow end. What the heck was a senior doing at a junior high party? I shook my head in disbelief. Jordan had made a point of telling me he would be as far away from what he called the gathering of the toddlers as he could. Tommy clearly had an entirely different opinion.

Taller than her by a full foot and a half, Tommy loomed over Ani whose breasts just barely crested the water. He drifted closer to her as I watched, one arm lazily swinging through the water to brush her elbow. She pretended to shy away from the touch, half-slapping at his errant hand then at the last second captured it in a playful grip. He swiped at her with his free hand, splashing her in the process. She squealed and his rich baritone laugh rippled across the distance. I darted a look toward the grill, positioned down in the yard some twenty feet from the deck. Ani’s father still stood in front of it and was now flipping burgers where he’d cleaned burnt sauce from the hot surface. He was blissfully unaware of his daughter and the boy encroaching upon her. My stomach clenched around the ribs I’d managed to eat.

Ani squealed again, bringing my attention back to her. Tommy had her in his arms, her back to his chest as he lifted her clear of the water. She squirmed much to his delight, his handsome face split by a grin she couldn’t see. The muscles in his arms flexed. Ani screamed as she hit the water ass first and sank to the bottom. Tommy threw his head back and laughed at the sky. She came up sputtering and slapped at him. Laughing harder, Tommy helped her wipe the hair from her face. Seeing it, my stomach revolted, curdling around my lunch. That should be me, I thought. She should be playing with me that way, not him. The flare of jealousy that followed only added to my mounting nausea.

Damn it, what was wrong with me? Jealous, of Tommy Genetti? Wasn’t I supposed to be jealous of Ani instead?

I eased my plate to the decking and looked back to them in time to catch Tommy’s hasty glance first up at the house, then down the yard toward her father and the grill. Seeing they were in the clear, he tugged Ani closer to him so that they stood breast to belly, their hands hidden just below the water’s surface. They exchanged words I couldn’t hear and then the water between and around them eddied. Tommy bent slightly at the waist as Ani came up on her tiptoes, and then her head lolled back on her shoulders. At the same time, Tommy’s eyes closed and his features simultaneously tightened and relaxed. While I couldn’t see exactly what was happening between them, I knew.

Tears spiked my eyelashes.

Minutes later Ani’s low moan carried over the water. Tommy huffed abdomen knitting and releasing to match the gentle eddies of the waters at his waist. A new heat turned my belly and groin into a molten pit of mixed pleasure and pain. I couldn’t watch anymore and studied the rounded tops of my knobby knees. Minutes later, Ani gave a hiccuping sigh, unlike anything I’d ever heard from her before. Tommy grunted, hissing softly, and then water churned audibly. A glance in their direction showed them both breathing heavily and quickly moving away from each other, eyes still locked despite the growing distance.

Dread extinguished the heat and left me cold and hollow inside. Their interlude was over but the lingering heated looks yet exchanged between them promised this wasn’t the last they’d see of each other. I’d never hear the end of it in the retelling, a story she was all but guaranteed to regale me with later tonight.

I buried my face in my hands and stuffed my anguish down in place of the potato salad going warm on my plate.


Tommy Genetti ushered Ani into the world of boys and, subsequently, men. Their relationship lasted only a handful of weeks, at which point Tommy found himself a senior cheerleader who didn’t have to lie about her whereabouts if her parents ever asked. At least, that was the excuse he gave Ani when they broke up. Our combined conclusion was that this same senior cheerleader probably put out, something Ani refused to indulge Tommy. She was, after all, only fourteen years old no matter how much older her makeup and curves testified. At seventeen, he was ready to go places Ani wasn’t. That made all the difference to my best friend who, for all her bravado, was still a pre-teen with only the most glorified Hollywood versions of sex to go by and wanted nothing short of the real deal.

For the next two years, Ani went through boys both younger and older like they were tissues, hanging on a new one’s arm every week. Her father was naturally horrified that his baby girl was growing up so fast, and constantly compared her to me asking, in his thick Italian accent, “Why can’ta you be mora lika Tristen, ehhh? She don’ta care ’bout da boys! She’s a good girl, cares mora for her grades! Ani bella, mi bambina, slow down, huh? Be mora like your friend. She’s on da righta path!” I’m sure he thought he was paying me a compliment. Every time he said it, however, I cringed. There was no way he could know the real reason I wasn’t out chasing the boys at Ani’s side. I wasn’t about to clarify it for him no matter the depths of my torment. To do so would have been to admit that I was different from all the other girls I’d ever known. There was something wrong with me, it seemed.

I hadn’t been able to shake the growing attraction to Ani. It didn’t matter how many double dates I went on with her (most of them her father knew nothing about; I was a pro at keeping her secrets), or how many boys I kissed or let feel me up while she was busy sucking face with her newest flavor. Ani had always been the center of my universe, but after the pool party she burned hotter than the sun and exerted such a gravitational pull over me I was helpless to do anything but fall into orbit and silently, miserably, pine for her from afar.

A few months after her sixteenth birthday, Ani declared she’d found the one. Two years older than her, Eric worked at a local gas station. Tall and broad-shouldered like Tommy, Eric wore his dirty blond hair long, but with the sides and back shaved. He rarely shaved and sported a constant scruff that looked greasy more often than not. Covered in tribal tattoos from shoulder to wrist on both arms, he proudly displayed his ink by wearing nothing but ill-washed athletic shirts that had once been white and had long since turned a drab gray, and jeans holier than the Pope at the Vatican for Sunday mass. This was the guy she intended to give her virginity to. It made me sick.

“Tris, I’m telling you, he makes me so hot I can hardly stand it!” Tucked away in my bedroom, we were supposed to be doing homework. Instead, we were sprawled on my bed, books open but ignored. She looked at me sideways as she said this, cheeks flaming. As usual, my stomach was in knots. “We’re going to the drive-in tonight. He said he would bring his friend Paul for you to meet.” She smiled, expecting me to be excited. I faked a smile back.

“Great, sounds like a good time.” Swallowing my dread, I took a deep breath. I caught the sweet and fruity scent of her shampoo. Ani’s concept of personal space was negligible at best. We lay half-reclined length-wise on my bed, facing each other with scant inches of bedspread between us. She radiated heat and sexual charisma. Our hands were inches apart. If I’d had the nerve, I could have reached out and twined my fingers with hers. The thought brought the urge, and I held my breath against it.

I studied her profile instead. Black waves of hair were held back by a brown banana clip, right ear invitingly open. Bangs tousled over her forehead, eyes half-closed, nose gently coming to a rounded point. She licked her lips unconsciously, leaving them wet and shining, plump and slightly parted. I wanted to kiss her, to make her aware of my gaze, to make her forget Eric. I was still too much a coward to dare such a bold act and so kept still and silent under her regard.

Inside I raged. How could she want to give herself to this boy claiming to be a man? What was so special about Eric? I saw it in his eyes – that glint of conquest and impending victory. He didn’t want her the way I did. He certainly didn’t love her. Why couldn’t she see it too? How could my intellectually superior best friend be so God-awful stupid when it came to boys, to me, to love?

“I sneaked out last night. I know, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. He picked me up down the street and we went to the Altmiller Playground.” She turned, grinning, wanting to confess a secret. I jerked back, gasping in shock. She laughed. “Yeah, we climbed the big rock and sat between the two big rocks on top. I let him suck on my nipples, Tris. He has an amazing tongue. I’ve never let a guy do that before, and I thought I was going to cream myself right there.” She giggled. Stop talking, I thought, I don’t want to hear any more. It hurts too much. Please stop. Of course, she couldn’t hear me and kept right on confessing.

“We came really close to doing it. He unbuttoned his pants and mine, and I let him finger me a little. Not inside, just outside.” She stared pointedly at me, both shy and daring at the same time. “He knows what he’s doing, I swear. While he was fingering me, he pulled his dick out of his pants.” She stopped, eyes wide, waiting for my reaction. I feigned interest. “He asked if I wanted to touch it, so I did, and Tris, he’s so hung.” She grinned again, so proud of herself. The images nauseated me; her laying there with her jeans wide open, his fat greasy hand shoved down her panties, and her tiny hand wrapped around him. Bile rose in my throat. “I jerked him off. The first time, I swear. I never saw a guy make such a face, but he said it was good, excellent even. Then he asked if we could go to the movies tonight because he wants to go down on me, wants to make me feel really good too. So I said yes and told him you would come too so you can meet Paul.” Her face glowed as she grabbed my hand. Electricity fired up my arm. “Say you’ll go, Tris, please. He’s the one, I know it. I want him to be my first, and I know if you’re there you’ll have a good time with Paul, and it’ll be okay. Please?”

I swallowed my nausea and focused on the feel of her fingers wrapped around mine. Her hands were soft, her skin warm. There was as much pleasure in her touch as pain so that I luxuriated in bittersweet agony. Tonight’s events at the drive-in promised to be just as deliciously torturous but there was no way I would ever say no.

“Of course, I’ll go, Ani. Can’t wait to meet Paul, too.”

She crowed in delight and clasped her hands to my cheeks. The kiss was quick, light and meaningless like affection between sisters. Her lips were there and gone yet in that contact, I glimpsed heaven.

Later that night Eric pulled up in front of my house in a whale of an old Cadillac. How convenient, I thought. Dusk was swiftly turning into darkness. Before he could honk, I ran out of the house with a hurried parting salutation to my parents. Ani had rolled the front passenger window down, and she leaned out, waving. “You can sit in the back with Paul,” she murmured.

The backseat was hospitably spacious, and Paul sat half-sprawled across three-quarters of it. I slid in carefully, making sure to keep body contact to a minimum. Eric pulled the car away from the curb. After he had it cruising smoothly down the street, Ani turned around in her seat. “Tris, this is Paul, Eric’s friend. Paul, this is Tristen. She’s my best friend so be nice.” She flashed a grin at him.

“Hi,” I said. To risk a rhyme, Paul was tall. Even though the backseat had ample legroom, his knees brushed the back of the front bench seat. Shoulder-length black hair framed an angular face. Accentuated by the low light, his eyes were a dark blue. When he smiled in greeting the corners of his lips stretched nearly to his ears. He sported the faint shadow of a goatee around pale lips verging on plump. I hoped he wasn’t one of those open-mouthed kissers.

“What’s up?” He gave me a once over, blue eyes widening at my mane of white-blond hair and cerulean eyes. They all did it, especially now that I’d grown curves of my own. The attention my looks brought made me uncomfortable; Ani was the bombshell, not me.

Dressed in a t-shirt with cut-off sleeves and frayed jeans that had ragged holes in the knees, he idly toyed with the tattered edges of the hole in his left knee. At Ani’s introduction, he nodded in my direction.

“What movie are we seeing?” I asked. Together, the three of them laughed.

“Does it matter?” Eric eyed me in the rearview mirror.

“I guess not, for you guys anyway,” I joked. Inside I was a mess of jittery nerves and sour dread. How did Ani think this was going to happen? Did she really plan to give up her virginity in a car full of people? Or were she and Eric going to find a more private spot? Neither was better than the other, I realized.

Minutes later we pulled into the expansive gravel parking lot of the drive-in. Eric drove up to the ticket window, paid, and was motioned through the entry gate. On the other side of the fence, there was only a disappointing handful of cars parked well away from each other facing the immense white billboard. Eric and Ani exchanged a look, and Eric drove us down to the far end and back row of the lot. The closest car was at least a hundred feet away and a row up from us. He parked and shut the car off. The engine ticked in the sudden silence.
“Movie starts in a minute,” Eric said over his shoulder. “If you want popcorn, go and get it now, but don’t be surprised if the car’s rockin’ when you get back.” He chuckled. Both Ani and Paul laughed with him. I stared out ahead of me at the back of Ani’s head. The moon was close to full, throwing off a bright white light now that we were in the open. Ani’s hair, loose and curling caught glints of it. I smelled her shampoo and a whiff of airy perfume.

Don’t do this Ani, I thought to her. He just wants to get into your pants, he doesn’t love you.

Abruptly the whiteboard flickered as the movie started. There was no sound— Eric hadn’t grabbed the speaker. Huge figures appeared on the board, fuzzy then focusing. Ani scooted closer to Eric. Not thirty seconds later, I heard a zipper being opened.

A heavy hand dropped onto my thigh, gently squeezing as Paul slid closer. He gave me a wide, knowing smile. In the front seat, Ani’s head disappeared. Eric sighed as his head lolled back. My chest constricted around a wildly beating heart as reality closed in around me.

The stuttered rhythm of his labored breathing all but drowned out the quiet slurps and sighs coming from the front seat. Paul’s kisses were wet and slobbery, tolerated only out of gratuity for the distraction he presented. Yet the sounds from the front seat grew louder, the springs creaking as passion escalated. Desperate not to hear, I closed my eyes and reached up, grabbing a fistful of Paul’s shirt. He took it as a sign and broke the kiss, pushing with his cheek to get access to my neck. He slathered the skin there with a moaning sigh. The telltale sign of his arousal nudged my thigh.

The car suddenly shook, rocking from side to side as someone shifted position up front. I opened my eyes, seeing the roof of the car and the jumping shadows cast by the movie. Up front, Ani and Eric exchanged muffled whispers. Clothing rustled. In the meantime, Paul’s hand had found the hem of my shirt. He yanked it up, permission implied by position. His fingers brushed over my breast (a full C-Cup by then) and he found the edge of my bra. Roughly, he pulled it up until my right breast fell free into his palm.

“Mmm..,” he mumbled, alternating bathing my nipple with his tongue and pinching it between his fingers. Ani whimpered in the front seat as the car began to rock. Sparks amazingly, appallingly, shot down into my belly. My sex pulsed between my thighs. The intensity startled me into boldness, the arousal itself a puzzle to be solved later. For now, I was charged with an energy-demanding action. Grunting, I squeezed my right hand down between my belly and Paul’s. I found the button of his jeans and tugged. He grunted in surprise but lifted himself and using one hand unfastened his pants. I reached in and took hold of a warmed iron rod wrapped in satiny skin. I tugged gently, awkwardly at it. He shifted, giving me room to move. I straightened my wrist and gave him my very first hand job.

Together, as I inexpertly and desperately pulled and stroked Paul to the stuttered rhythm of Eric and Ani’s panting in the front seat, he and I came. The orgasm blasted me like buckshot, threading down my legs, and convulsing the muscles in my pelvis and belly. I gasped, bucking under him. Paul made a garbled grunting noise. Semen spurted up my wrist, spattering my jeans and his. From the front, Eric gave a choked gasp, and the car jolted.

Body awash in endorphins, my only thought was oh thank God, it’s over. Thank you, God, it’s over.

I had thought that evening would have changed Ani. She had definitely lost her virginity although recounts of how it happened were full of both pain and pleasure. She told me about it the next afternoon as we lounged by her pool. The only thing I noticed that had changed about her was that she was far less preoccupied with having sex now that she’d finally done it. She didn’t ask about my experience with Paul, and I didn’t relate it. I wouldn’t have been able to even had I tried. I was still far too confused about why hearing her give away her most prized possession to someone other than me managed to turn me on. As it was, listening to her describe her front-seat activities was more than enough reliving for me. If my conflicted emotions weren’t the cause of my squirming, echoes of yesterday’s orgasm were the sure culprit.

A strange storm took up residence inside me. Caught up in its tempest, I lost a week to emotions tossed like an ocean of razor blade waves, each increasing rise followed by an even deeper plunge, the ride upon and over which left me bloody, ragged, and raw. Every word, every exchange with Ani chafed a wound that refused to heal, the nerves only deadening after a time so that I barely felt any emotion at all. Making matters worse, she never seemed to notice the change in me. She met the cracks of silence in my veneer by pretending not to see them and filling them with her brand of boy talk. Having given up her virginity to him, Eric grew to mythical proportions, a tattooed Demi-god sent to Earth to introduce her to heavenly pleasures which she was all too fond of describing in detail (as if I needed any help to imagine). Ever the faithful best friend, I nodded and grunted in all the conversationally appropriate places without investing too much of myself in the ceaseless flow of mooning and fawning.

Until the mooning and fawning stopped abruptly with a torrent of tears following. My storm ended as Ani’s began. Dawn broke over my cloud-studded skies to learn Eric had stopped responding to her phone calls midway into her most fervent worship of him. He hadn’t come to the door the day before when she’d taken the city bus out to his complex on the outskirts of town. His neighbors begrudgingly imparted a hasty departure some days past, his boss at the gas station confirming it. He was gone, Ani’s heart and her virginity with him. Her despair was larger than our mountainous home, her depression a pit deeper than the bowels of hell. Dante hadn’t dared imagine the levels of hell upon which she found herself existing post Eric’s departure.

Needed, wanted again, was it so terrible that I danced an inner jig of happiness? Comported me like a commiserating soul, my shoulder absorbing endless tears while rejoicing at her relationship’s demise? If I could have found Eric, I would have thanked him for this none-too-unexpected gift. He’d given my friend back, damaged in places yet mostly whole and desperately in need of her best friend’s comfort. I floated in direct contrast.

If only it had lasted.

Don’t stop yet, there’s one more chapter available! Check out Chapter Three!