TODAY’S BREW: All of Chynna-Blue’s coffee. THAT’S RIGHT, IT’S ME, JULIE HUTCHINGS, AND I HAVE INVADED THIS BLOG. Actually, I’m house-sitting, more.
And I get to introduce the incredible Louise Gornall, author of IN STONE, the only book about gargoyles that I know of, and the coolest one by a long shotm, even if there were others. Check out Lou’s blog here: http://t.co/6Vbq354gSx and follow her on Twitter @Rock_andor_roll. Now, enjoy your craving….
by Louise Gornall
I’m going to die a virgin.
Of all the things I should be thinking right now I’m stuck on virgin. Shame pulls my chin to my chest and I focus my attention on a tiny spider, building its web in the corner of the window.
“Divorce is so passé.” Chase chuckles from behind me. His cheek is pressed against mine, and every time he talks a thick patch of stubble scours off a layer of my skin.
“You’re sick,” I tell him and throw my elbow back into his stomach. A voice inside my head shouts hypocrite so loud I wonder how the windows don’t implode. I narrow my eyes as the spider switches course and starts weaving a new section of her web.
I look back at Mr Wilson. Think respect. Think sadness and sorrow. Think black. Think candles; a boys choir singing Amazing Grace. Think anything but virgin.
Mr Wilson is led motionless in the middle of the road. His wife, of 55 blissful years, is knelt on his chest, slurping up a string of his intestine like she’s chowing down on a bowl of spaghetti. Every Halloween the Wilsons used to drop a can of sugar free soda and a one dollar bill into my plastic pumpkin. At Christmas they’d always send over a box of star-shaped cookies. Such sweet memories. But it’s no good. The only person I feel sorry for right now is me. Maybe if Chase’s arms weren’t wrapped around my waist, and his junk wasn’t poking me in the back… I clear my throat, ignore the sudden inferno engulfing my face. “Maybe we should say something.”
I elbow him again. “You know what I mean, like a prayer or something.”
“A prayer?” He repeats. I look back over my shoulder. His eyes narrow. He’s looking at me like I just spoke in a foreign language. “Anna, we’ve watched a hundred — two hundred people die on the other side of that window in the past few weeks. We haven’t prayed yet. Why would we start now?”
I shrug myself free from his arms and make my way over to the mattress on the floor. My knees buckle and like a sack of stones I collapse on top of it. “I don’t know.”
“What’s bugging you, sis?” He asks. I shudder, get this overwhelming urge to bleach my brain. I’ve told him a thousand times not to call me sis. It’s weird. It makes the crush I have on him take a nosedive into daytime talk show territory.
“I’m not your sister.”
“That’s what’s bugging you? The world is going to shit and you’re upset because we’re not related. Aww.” He curls his bottom lip under.
“Why do you have to turn everything into a joke?” My human self has slipped away and I snap at him like a rabid Jack Russell.
“Oh god, Anna. Please don’t fall to pieces on me now,” he says, planting his face in his hands and kneading his eyes with his fingertips. His shirt rides up at the waist and exposes a slice of skin, half the size of a mailbox slot. I can see the beginning swirls of his tribal tattoo.
His shirt was white, wet because he’d just come back from a run. Now it’s covered in dirt and droplets of his dad’s blood. Before I can check myself I’m trying to melt it away with the power of my mind.
“You’re not falling to pieces on me, right?” He repeats, yanking me back to the here and now. He drags himself over, pulling up clouds of dust with his feet, and flops down next to me on the mattress. He throws his arm around my shoulder and pulls me into his side. Lumps of muscle, coming at me from every angle. He smells like metal. Sharp and metallic. So strong I can taste it on my tongue.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” he says. I shake my head, and he puts on The Voice. Sort of childlike, sort of girlish, all emotionally disturbing. It makes me think of clowns. “Come on Anna-Banana, tell Chase what’s wrong.”
I can’t tell him about my virgin issues, can I? Maybe. How wrong is that I’m less worried about him judging me and more concerned that he won’t offer to help me out?
It’s not like I can fix the zombie apocalypse with purity. If radio reports are to be believed a group of folks a couple of towns over already tried torching a virgin. Nothing changed. It’s not like spending my last days alive, mourning the collapse of civilization is going to make everything better. I’ve already mourned. I cried a river when Chase’s dad went nutso and tried to eat me. I have a split in my heart the size of Brazil from watching Chase fight him off with a nine iron. Nothing changed.
There’s nothing anymore. There’s no emotion, no feeling, no laws, no love — I just watched a wife eat her husband’s heart. The universe is throwing metaphors at me.
“I’ve never gotten’ an F,” I tell him. To my surprise, I’m not referencing sex.
“In school, I’ve never gotten’ an F.”
“I said no to dates and movies and parties and life because I wanted to get into a good college and get a great job. I wanted to make stupid money and buy a nice house.” I sigh. “I wanted a pool in my backyard.”
Chase nods, heaves a sigh heavy enough to shake the stone walls of our basement hovel. He knows exactly where I’m going with this.
“I’ve never driven a Ferrari,” he says. “Never got round to seeing Blue Snake in concert, or won the 60oz steak challenge at Bob’s.” He pauses, smiles at a memory. ”Never got chance to track down my mom and attempt one of those of crazy, emotional, rollercoaster reunions.”
He leans across me, an outstretched arm reaches for the box of food supplies at the foot of the mattress. He’s heavy on my lap. I don’t know why but my breath catches. He sits back up a second later, a rusty can in his hand.
“Yum, peaches.” He flicks his eyebrows like he just discovered a can of Caviar. He picks up a stray rock and goes Neanderthal on the can lid, smacking it hard until the metal splits, then starts plumbing for peach slices with his fingertips.
“Are we gonna die?” the question bursts from my lips and explodes in the air like a nuclear bomb. We haven’t yet talked about how this will all end.
“Shit,” he seethes as he snags his skin on the metal teeth he’s made. He drops the can. It hits the floor and barfs its contents all over the dry concrete.
“I’m sorry,” I gush as he sticks a bloody finger in his mouth and starts sucking. He says nothing for what feels like forever.
“Do you?” He asks.
Yes. But then, I’ve never thought any different. When we first shut ourselves down here Chase talked about search missions and rescue parties. He hasn’t mentioned being saved in days. I don’t want to die, but my pragmatic, Plato reading inner nerd, is a glass half empty kind of girl. His eyebrows meet in the middle as my silence stretches. I watch him struggle to swallow something thick and sour.
“I didn’t get into college,” he says.
“What?” He laughs, tucks his hands up behind his head and flops back. He sighs the sort of sigh that you expel when you flake out on a tropical beach. “Are you serious?” I’m shocked because he told us he’d gotten into Harvard. I saw the letter. We even went out for a family dinner to celebrate. He tugs on the back of my shirt. I’m too stunned to fight against it and fall back beside him.
“I can’t believe you lied.”
“I can’t believe I almost pulled it off.”
“What were you gonna do when the semester started up?”
He shrugs. “Hadn’t thought that far ahead. Guess I don’t need to now.” My smile dies, his cocky demure diminishes and misery washes over us, an icy wave; cold, deep, suffocating.
“I’m gonna die a virgin,” I say.
He bursts into a fit of laughter. I don’t care that my insides are curling, I’d take embarrassment over misery any day.
“It’s not funny.”
He keeps laughing. It’s infectious, and less than a second later I’m howling; holding on to my stomach because it hurts. I’m still going long after he’s stopped. Beside me everything is suddenly still, I wonder briefly if he got up and walked away. But when I turn my head he’s looking at me. Staring at me. I feel like a child and my insides turn to mush.
“I’m not ready to die,” I say. “Chase, I don’t want to die.”
A soft smile blooms on his lips. He lifts a hand, tucks a stray length of hair behind my ear. I think he’s going to kiss me. My stomach squeezes. I hope he’s going to kiss me. I close my eyes, that’s when I hear the sound of shots being fired outside.