A couple months ago, I posted an excerpt from a longer fiction project I'm working on entitled "Half-Virgin." A busy summer at work slowed my progress on the piece, but I'm finally back to writing it.
Here's another excerpt.
A month and a half later I met a freshman in a flowing white summer's dress that fell perfectly on her sun-toasted skin and brightened her brown eyes. The enthusiasm that came to define her I saw immediately, even at a dull conference table full of student newspaper writers. It was in the way she click-clacked the top of her pen one too many times. It was in the way she banged her knee against the table and twisted her mouth into a silent O, though what her mouth really wanted was to do was release a good old-fashioned ouch. It was in how her mischievously crinkled smile said hey-this-meeting-is-kind-of-
I plotted how to talk to her as if I was organizing a bank heist: I would exit the bathroom in exactly two minutes, right as she would finish talking deadlines with the Entertainment Editor and begin her approach to the elevator. The time prediction I bungled, so I sought refuge at the water fountain. Five, four, she was coming!, three, two -
"Hi, I'm Madeline!" she said, pre-emptively striking my opening line.
We talked about the meeting. So boring, we agreed. "What the freak is a rag right?" she asked and I laughed. She told me she was already thinking of dropping newspaper duties; she was overwhelmed by her pre-law classes, and she wanted to focus on them before Passover, when she'd take a trip home. "I'm Jewish too," I said gently, and Madeline said "A-hoy, fellow tribe member." She then said that was a stupid joke and I said no it wasn't, it was cute.
I learned that her parents were hyping law school, and we bonded for our faces simultaneously scrunched up like tomatoes. But: "I want to be a lawyer!" she said, "I want to represent kids who need help. How cool would that be?" Helping kids would be cool, I told her, distracted by the way her dress hung a little lower on her left, it would be very, very cool.
A lunch date and a fancy dinner later, we stood beneath the plaster columns of an old town courthouse in the middle of nowhere. No kidding, it was in the countryside, all dust and single-lane roads and the spraying of stars in the midnight sky. We were alone and it was late and we were giddy on red wine and marble cheesecake and a semi-earnest conversation about whether pine cones could be used as currency in a forest-based society. I said that was ridiculous, and Madeline asked me what I had against pine cones. "Seriously?" I asked. "I'm always serious," she chirped. "Even when I'm silly I'm serious!"
I tapped one of the courthouse columns and white flakes fluttered off its surface. I told her how it's nice to see a big empty building once in a while, and she said she prefers a big mountain to a big building any day, but this, this was kind of nice. "No, really nice," she corrected herself, lightly touching my wrist, "I like it here."
Then - silence. Even in the darkness I saw her brown eyes. The wine I could smell on her breath, or maybe it was on my breath. I didn't know and it didn't matter. I brushed my thumb against her wrist and she sidled my hand into hers.
And then she burped.
"Excuse me," she whispered, turning away. I wanted to laugh but I just smiled instead.
The moment hung there, and then it fell. I would kiss Madeline later, but not now, not yet.
Chipped flakes of paint trickled down from the roof of the courthouse. This old place was falling apart, but to us it kind of looked like it was snowing.
Excerpt from "Half-Virgin"