Dichotomy

Joe O’Leary passed the glass of wine — he made sure to find those plastic ones that looked real — across the table to Annabelle. She didn’t like beer, she said. Course not, she was a good girl. Not like those sluts at the football parties, throwing themselves at everybody. Dropping their red cups full of beer and bending over so they were showing off what wasn’t under their skirts for anybody who wanted an eyeful. Or more. He’d gotten more last night, and the night before that. But Annabelle wasn’t like that. She was a good girl.

“This is nice,” she said, smiling at him. “Usually all anybody has is that cheap Boone’s sludge.”

082014Joe smiled at her, glad that sneaking the bottle from the supply in his dad’s shop storeroom was worth it. He needed a girl he could bring home, one that would get his parents off his case. The party girls didn’t count. Any girl who would spread her legs for half the football team because her sorority sisters told her to was just a sheep waiting to be fleeced. Once he had what he wanted from them, they were useless.

“Just consider it thanks for all your help tutoring,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been able to answer that questions about the signs a mountain might be a dormant volcano on the last quiz without you.” He sipped from his glass, sure that the wine was the key. “Are you going to the game Saturday?”

“My parents aren’t coming,” she said. “They don’t-” She sighed. “They aren’t coming.”

“They don’t like football?” he asked.

“They don’t like that I went away to school,” she said, straightening in her chair. “My father went to Boston State and worked nights to put himself through school. My mother went to work when she was 16 because her family needed the money. They wanted me to stay at home and go to UMass-Boston. I gambled that I could get a big enough scholarship to come here, and didn’t even apply to UMass-Boston. They think spending the money for me to come here is a waste, but I was lucky and did get that scholarship, so they couldn’t stop me.” Her voice quivered a little, her eyes bright with unshed tears.

“But they aren’t coming all the way out to Amherst to see you,” Joe said. He reached across the table and took one of her tiny hands in his big one. “My parents will be here, if you want to borrow them. I’ll be busy with the game, anyway.”

She smiled, but shook her head. “I couldn’t,” she said. “But you’re a really nice guy to suggest it.”

“Why don’t we take a break from studying for a while,” he suggested. “My brain feels like a big blob, and you sound like you could use a minute.” He reached for the wine bottle and refilled her glass. “What do you like best about living on campus?”

He kept her talking, and filled her wine glass over and over, until she was giggling and starting to tip to one side. When she slid into him, he leaned over and kissed her. She was soft and her lips tasted like the wine, and Joe wanted to keep going. But she wasn’t that kind of girl.

“I should go,” he said.

“You don’t have to,” she said.

“Yes, I do,” he said.

It wasn’t until she was in bed and he was standing outside the on-campus apartments that he realized what he needed. Sure, it was a Monday night, but there had to be a party someplace. He walked until he found a house with music pumping out the windows and the smell of pot on the air. He didn’t know whose party it was, but it didn’t matter. He was the quarterback. He could get in anywhere.

When he woke up the next morning, he was surprised to find himself in his dorm room, fuzz coating his mouth. He thumped his alarm clock until it stopped and pushed himself up, his head throbbing. He remembered being a gentleman and putting Annabelle to bed. He remembered the party, and the two girls he’d fucked in the living room. He thought he’d nailed another one in one of the bedrooms, but that was the last thing he remembered. He must have made it home to crash at some point, but he had no idea when. He looked at the clock, rubbing his eyes until they focused. Shit. He had to move or he’d miss geology class and Annabelle would be mad.

He made it to class just as the last few people were filing into the lecture hall. Annabelle was sitting further back than usual, but all the seats near her were full. When the lecture ended fifty minutes later, he hurried outside so he could catch her when she emerged.

“I hope you understood that,” he said to her when he saw her.

She nodded, and bit her lip. “I’m sorry about last night,” she said.

“Nothing to be sorry about,” Joe said. “I’m the one who brought the wine. I should be apologizing.”

“No, you were a complete gentleman,” Annabelle said. “Most guys would have tried to join me in bed, and you didn’t.”

Joe managed not to smirk. “Most guys are jerks,” he said.

“I’m glad you’re not,” she said. “Since I almost passed out on you, how about I treat you to a movie tomorrow night?”

“Sure,” Joe said.

Only after Annabelle had headed to her next class did he pump his fist in the air. She was the right girl, he was sure of it. Soon he’d have a girl worthy of his status on campus.

This is part of my novel-in-stories round of the Story Cubes Challenge, where I am writing each week’s prompt to fit together into a novel. If you want to get the stories as they publish, subscribe here. Earlier installments are in the newsletter archives.