CURSES AND KISSES
White Springs, TN
February 14, 1994
I took Harry's hand and we walked into the high school gymnasium. The place smelled like sweaty teenagers, cologne, hairspray, floor wax and hormones. But who was I to judge? The winter carnival was underway and with less than four months of my high school career left, I couldn't care less. I was off to college in the fall and all was right with the world.
Bright lights reflected off the polished hardwood flooring. All around me were makeshift tents filled with games. At fifty cents a pop a person could win a stuffed toy, caramel apple or plastic whistle. The far side of the gym had a booth where one paid for the privilege of throwing a shaving cream pie in the face of the vice principal. For five dollars someone would be locked up in a dog run for fifteen minutes.
The air was filled with the sounds of happy adolescent murmurs and the occasional burst of laughter. The usual undercurrent of unhappiness was gone as jocks, preps, country boys and nerds seemed to be getting along.
Harry leaned in and kissed my cheek. He smelled like soap, cologne and toothpaste. I looked up into his face and melted. "Thanks."
"What do you say we get outta here and have a great Valentine's Day in the back of Dad's SUV?"
I bit my lip. It was tempting. Harry and I had been dating for three months and had about a dozen dates ending with almost penetration or Harry in need of fresh underpants. I got wet thinking about having sex with him. I'd never been with a boy and he was beyond gorgeous with his white blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Physically mature for his age he had easily made it onto the football team. He was going to college in the fall too but with his grades and extra curricular activities he'd be going Ivy League.
"I don't know," I said. Something inside me warned that it would be a mistake. That he'd lose interest and leave me with my heart broken. But God he was beautiful.
"Come on, Maryanne. I've got blue balls." He let go of my hand and slid his arm around my waist. The feel of his fingers sent pleasant warmth deep into my abdomen. "You know I love you."
I searched his face looking for the truth of the statement. His brow was raised, his eyes filled with earnestness. "Do you?" I asked. Maybe when I had his class ring I'd consider giving up the goodies.
He smirked. "How can I prove it?'
I was just about to answer him when my girlfriend, Trudy grabbed my arm. Five foot nothing with a head of auburn curls and a pert nose, she looked like everybody's kid sister.
"Maryanne, you aren't going to believe it," she gushed, her face splitting into a wide, toothy smile.
I looked from Harry's pleading face to Trudy's glowing one. "What?" I asked and she took my hands in hers and jumped up and down.
"I just had my fortune told."
I looked around the gym. "Where?"
"Over there." She pointed. In the corner behind the dog kennel, stood a deep purple tent. An eerie glow spilled out from inside, like flickering candles or an out of sync strobe light. "This Madam Xavier said I was going to make it big in my chosen field."
"Wow," I replied and smiled. I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice when I asked her, "And what field is that?" But I mustn't have been a success by the way her expression dimmed and her body ceased hopping.
"Maybe you should have asked her what sort of burger joint you should apply to," Harry said and chuckled.
"Shut up," Trudy said and narrowed her gray eyes. "Asshole."
Harry took my arm and pulled me closer to him, my shoulder tight against his muscled chest. The electricity between our bodies made my heart skip a beat. "I'm going to see Shawn. When you're done with your girl talk, we'll hook back up."
I know I should have been pissed at him for shitting on Trudy. And I was, but God he was cute. I let him kiss me and wondered how long it would be till Mr. Franklin came by and told me to cool down my hot pants.
"Love you," he whispered and sauntered off, his letter jacket straining against his broad shoulders. That was another thing I'd want to sport around the school. His letter jacket and class ring, those would make me happy.
"Come on," Trudy said, tugging my arm. "It's fun. She's a character. All black hair, fancy scarves and even a big mole on her upper lip. I bet she has to pluck that thing every day."
I followed Trudy and tried to keep up with her chattering but with each step I took, I felt discomfort. We wound our way through the busy aisles past the dog kennel full of teachers and an unfortunate lunch room monitor. The unpleasant sensation kept growing and growing. My blood felt chilled, my fingers tingled and my body threatened a full-fledged panic attack if I actually stepped beneath the golden tassels and into the nylon tent.
"I don't know, Trudy. I'm getting the creeps."
Trudy threw her hands together and bent halfway over. I didn't know if she was going to pray or cop a squat right there in front of God and everyone. "Please," she begged. "I want to know if she says the same thing to you that she said to me."
I rolled my eyes. "I don't want to." And I didn't have to. As I was turning away I was halted by Madame Xavier's short stubby fingers digging into my wrist. Damn the woman needed a manicure. Her nails were a thick, yellow, peeling nightmare. My gaze traveled up her gnarly, age spotted hand, past the tattered sleeve of her gray silken robe to her shoulder. She had no neck to speak of and her round face perched on the collar of her lime green blouse. Her down turned mouth was covered in a flurry of crimson lipstick that collected in the vertical lines that surrounded her lips. The mole probably should have its own area code and her nose hooked at the end. The most disturbing feature on the woman were her eyes. Small, black and close together. I wondered if she had borrowed them from a raccoon or squirrel or some other beady-eyed little creature.
"I sensed you had arrived," Madame Xavier said. I expected a gypsy sounding voice but instead all I got was a run-of-the mill Southern twang with a rasp from too many cigarettes. Yep, she'd look right at home in a doublewide with dark panels and avocado kitchen appliances.
I didn't know what to say. I stood there, staring at that mole and wondering if she thought it made her look like Miss Kitty. It didn't.
"I dreamt about you, my dear. Come in the tent and I'll tell you about it."
I shook my head and tried to break free but her hand was strong for such an old broad. "Let go," I said and looked to Trudy. There'd be no help from her. Her face turned an ashy white and her eyes widened like saucers. "I don't want to," I said again.
"Valentine's Day," she muttered.
I stopped struggling and glared at her. "Yeah, today's Valentine's Day. So what?"
"Your Valentine's Days will be ruined for years to come."
"Cut it out!" I shouted and the kids around me stopped talking and stared. Some snickered, the cheerleaders folded their arms over their breasts and snarled and others pretended not to listen while they obviously did.
"It's true. Until you meet your true love, your Valentine's Days are cursed."
"Bullshit," I muttered and freed myself of the wacky bitch. I turned to Trudy. "Did you pay her to say that? Because you know what? Tonight was supposed to be a special night for me and Harry. You think this nut job is going to ruin it for me, you're wrong."
Trudy's mouth dropped open but no words came out. She and Harry had hated each other since junior high. It was no surprise she'd try to sabotage everything. Tonight I was supposed to get his ring. Tonight was the night I might have given him my virginity.
I ran away like my hair was on fire until I was out in the chilly February night. The cold air burned my lungs and my eyes watered. The encounter with the fortune teller had upset me to the point that my stomach ached and my hands shook. I leaned against the brick building trying to calm my nerves and stared out into the parking lot. The streetlights sparkled on the neatly parked cars. I spotted Harry's SUV. I smiled and thought of the warm back seat, Harry's soft lips and strong hands. "Fuck you, Madame Xavier. I'm celebrating Valentine's Day with a bang."
I straightened and had taken three steps forward when I saw the dome light flicker on and off in Harry's SUV. I shoved my hands into the pocket of my plaid coat and walked toward the vehicle. As I approached, I noticed it was moving ... slow, rhythmic bouncing. Up and down, up and down.
"No," I mumbled and my heart sank before rebounding into my throat. When I got my hands on the little bitch fucking my boyfriend I'd tear her eyes out and then his.
I reached the SUV and crouched down. Squinting, I tried my damnedest to see inside but the windows were steamed up. I straightened and set my hand on the cold door handle and stilled. Deep guttural moans filtered through the door and settled like stone in my brain. Tears clouded my vision and I drew in a deep breath, readying myself for the inevitability of my discovery. My entire body shook, the taste of bile strong on my tongue. In a single movement I threw open the door and exposed the rotten lovers.
A scream caught in my throat when I saw my beautiful Harry's not so beautiful naked backside. I blinked in disbelief. The woman beneath him had long legs, thick with corded muscle and in need of a shave. They must have been going at it like a couple of dogs because besides the back of her legs all I could see were the bottom of her feet. I scowled, those feet were easily a size thirteen, and damn, they needed a pedicure. Is that athlete's foot?
"Jeez, Harry. Is that the best you can do?"
He turned around. Sweat clung to his hair making the blonde locks a light brown. His face contorted and all the blood must have sunk to his dick because his cheeks blanched an ugly shade of green.
"Hey," he managed.
"Who is she?" I squealed.
"I'm not a she," the masculine voice echoed from inside the SUV. I had heard that voice before.
"Shawn?" I lowered myself to the ground and buried my face in my hands. "Harry, you're gay."