for this bittersweet transgression, I’d make sure I never recovered from it.
9 ____________ Kat
Ka-thunk . Ka-thunk . Ka-thunk . I stirred from a beautiful dream to the sound of tires on asphalt and the pre-dawn light of rolling highway sweeping by. I blinked my eyes open and as I rubbed them free of sleep I remembered. I remembered everything. I glanced at the seat next to me where Julie drove, eyes held straight ahead, sleepy but awake and nursing a to-go coffee cup that smelled like hazelnut. “Julie?” My last memory was of me in bed with Josh, falling away into the glow of our mutual orgasms. I had no memory of getting into Julie’s car. She didn’t look at me. “Hey sleepy head.” “How…?” I glanced around me, found my purse and my shoes at my feet. “How did I get here? What time is it?” “You were dead to the world, doll. You’ve been asleep for hours.” My jaw ached and the memory of why sent a blush straight through me. I touched my sore lips and startled when I saw the ring of bruises around my wrist. Both wrists. I covered them as best I could before Julie saw. The memory of them made me tremble all over again, but I was too exhausted to indulge them. “How did I get to the car?” What I wanted to ask was, what happened to Josh? She cleared her throat and reached her free hand to crank the heat. Outside fall had turned the world bright yellow and orange, but it also brought a chill that had seeped into my toes while I slept. It felt like we’d been gone from the world for years, not hours. “You fell asleep during the party. You were carried out to my car and buckled in when it was time to go.” I waited for her to get to the details we both knew I ached for. Josh. I tried to burn his name into her forehead from my seat. Tell me about Josh . “He left,” she said finally. She sighed, took my hand from my lap, and pressed it against the heater. I didn’t even realize how cold my fingers were. “After he put you in my car and asked me to drive you home. He left.” “Oh.” I stared out the window. I don’t know why it made me feel so sad, so lost, but it did. I felt… Like a mistake. Julie sighed. “If it makes you feel better, he practically made me sign in blood that I’d make sure you got home safe.” I didn’t answer. A shiver passed through me and I wrapped my arms around my body and squeezed. “Damn it, Kat.” Julie plunked her coffee in a drink holder and veered sharply towards the side of the road and came to a slow stop. An early morning fog hovered across the ground, making the empty nothing on either side of the highway seem particularly ominous. Fitting since it was Halloween. Tonight would be one of the biggest nights of the year at South River. I’d offered to help. Josh would be there. We’d have to face each other, surrounded by hundreds of people. “I’m fine,” I interrupted before she could start in on me, though we both knew I wasn’t fine. I didn’t know what I was, not exactly, but it wasn’t fine. Regret. Guilt. Shame. Aching, dreadful longing. Oh, fuck me . “I don’t know what happened,” she started and turned fully in her seat. Her perfect fairy hair was messy and ratted on one side of her head, but somehow her make-up remained as crisp and new as if we’d just left for the party. “I can guess and I don’t need details. He seemed pretty upset and now so do you.” “Please, Julie, please don’t look at me like that. I know what you’re thinking. And believe me, whatever you’re thinking, I’m thinking something worse.” “I knew the moment he saw you we were in big trouble.” I leaned back into the chair and stared out into the fog. Was this what Brian meant every time he laid into me? For the first time I felt like I was still a little girl pretending to play in a grown up world. “I feel like I’ve set fire to my whole world.” Julie snaked her fingers through mine and