DWTS 7 Halloween

Halloween. The night we all wait for. Next to Freestyle night it is the most anticipated. And this year was such a disappointment. For my money, this was one of the most iconic of Halloween pieces. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpDY5-rrck0

That had mood, it had madness. It was scary. Still gives me chills. That’s what I want. It was lacking. There was no mayhem, no joi de vivre, it lacked that je ne sais quoi. For one thing, it looked like they cut the budget. There were none of the Busby Berkley show stopping cast of thousands dances we’ve come to expect. And Sasha is still in. When he’s not tied up with a partner he usually creates a little mayhem. I miss that.  

Hell, everybody got 9s. Half of them got all 9s. Everybody got at least one nine except Sean with his three 6s. You would think with all those 9s that there was some good dancing going on. And there was. Some of it was very good, but, like I said, no show stoppers.

Kel and Witney. What a rocky horror. He was nowhere near as good as his zombie helpers. They made him look bad. And why zombies? There were no zombies in Rocky Horror. I want to see Transylvanian Transvestites. I know Witney has the IQ of a dance shoe and I guess Kel never saw Rocky Horror, but you’d think somebody involved would have noticed the disconnect. His dancing was way rocky and the horror was that they gave him 9s for that monster mash mess.

JVDB and Emma was the second best of the night for me. I usually like my VWs light and ethereal, but this dark waltz was evocative of the infernal and drew me in. It gave me chills. I loved it. And I don’t give a damn about lifts if they ain’t calling other faults such as not enough time in hold, developés, etc. I’d have given them a 10.

Ally and Sasha. Lots of roundness. I don’t usually think of tango as having a lot of roundness. Costumes annoyed me. I hate the Joker. Good tango content though.

Hannah and Alan were awarded a DNP. What do I know from jazz? It was entertaining.

Karamo and Jenna. He earned his boot off the show.

Lauren and Gleb and Argentine Tango. I absolutely adored every second of it. I have a special affinity for the song, Whatever Lola Wants. I loved the kiss of death and the reverse rise. It worked with the music and brought chills across my body. So so good. She almost fell which means they lost a point, yet they got straight 9s. I smell a 10 in the making. I think the judges were as captivated as me. There was a problem, though. While they were talking to Tom, you could see that Gleb only has one hole in his neck. Did he get bit by a snaggletoothed vampire?

Sean and Lindsay were spookily awful. Loved Len’s comment. The awfulness that is Sean continues. And what the heck was a Frankenstein’s monster doing in a coffin? Or the mummies? They were better dancers, by the way. It was a Monster Mess. They almost got him in the bottom two. I had all my fingers crossed. I’m sure they’d toss him if they could get him there. But I’m afraid the Trump crazies will keep him afloat.

Kate and Pasha. I loved the song and the singer sounded so much like Chris Isaaks. A beautiful rumba. The song at least. What happened on stage was cause for arrest. She was flashing those fat legs and hands all over the younger man. And why do they think putting him in a silver suit and soot on his face makes him a wolf. Looks more like Flash Gordon was working under the hood. She did have one very nice spiral.

Team Trick was the Dream Team. They had the best celebrities, no duds. They should

have owned it, with 10s. I was less than blown away.

Team Mistep. It was quite cute. Best part was Kate’s kickline with the boys.

Unfortunately, I didn’t particularly care for either song. Whatever happened to the big budget think pieces like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP-J5fEbVrU


Sorry guys, no new fiction this week due to technical difficulties. My “good” computer is now my dead computer. If anyone wants the carcass for parts send me $100 and shipping. My old backup computer is now my computer in the shop. I have an even older XP for special emergencies, but found out tonight that it wont even boot up. I just get the blue screen of death. I need to drop that off at the repair place tomorrow. I’m typing this with my thumbs on my tablet. I think I’ll go read some short stories. You should, too.

A Pretty Girl

My computer is dead. They could not revive it. They said I could sell its remains on ebay. I’m reduced to depending on this old clunker where the keys cannot be relied on to print and the space bar has all the predictability of a roulette wheel. I’m constantly backspacing to fix things. It makes typing anything exhausting. They seemed to think that my computer was becoming obsolete and I needed a new one anyway. It was only 22 months old. Not even two years. Obsolete? I mean I know it’s not cutting edge after 22 months, but obsolete?

I’ve got my eye on a replacement. I’ll have to wait for the black Friday sale for it to even become close to affordable. But I have to write. And I cannot continue to do it on this clunker. I have another name for what it is but since this is a family site, I’ll stick with clunker.

I should have posted this last week, but well, ya know.

A Pretty Girl grew out of a dare kind of. You may have read Best Summer Ever. It’s posted under 2019 Stories. If not, you should. Anyway, at the end of Best Summer Ever a fan asked me about the female lead. She said the girl sounded interesting, what’s her story. I said I didn’t think there was a story there because I didn’t think I could channel a 15 year old girl. She said “Probably not.” Well, I took that as a challenge. I’m not sure if I really channeled a 15 year old girl, I can’t find one to read it for me. But I had a lot of fun writing it. It’s one of my longer stories, clocking in at just over 10,000 words. So get comfy before you start. I hope you enjoy it.

A Pretty Girl

“I’m coming over.”

“No, you don’t have to do that,” Mandy protested.

“I said I’m coming over. You need a friend.”

“I don’t want to ruin your date. Don’t bother. I’ll be fine.”

“Yeah. See you in about 30 minutes.” Savannah broke the connection.

Mandy sighed. She hated being a pain. So she got stood up. It’s not that big a deal. Not even stood up. Lated? Is that a word?

            Jason was supposed to pick her up at 7 to go to a teen club dance. Savannah called her at 8 to find out why she wasn’t there yet. Mandy babbled something about Jase having no sense of time, but she was worried. He finally showed up at 9. Her mom answered the door and to use her phrase, “sent him packing.”

“No respectable young man shows up two hours late for his date and no self-respecting young lady would tolerate it,” she said. “Besides, I caught a whiff of beer. I don’t think you should keep seeing him if he drinks and drives. We agreed to allow you to go on car dates now you’re 15 because we respect your maturity and responsibility. Don’t make us regret it.”

            Yeah, Mom has a way with words. Lots of ‘em. But she was glad Mom took charge of the door answering tonight. It would have been hard to tell Jase to go.  

Well, alone again on a Friday night. What a loser. When Mandy had related what happened when Savannah called again a little after 9, her response made even Mandy blush. Savannah was her best friend and super-protective. Even more so than Mandy’s body-builder older brother Nathan, whom they both referred to as “the Neanderthal”. Savannah was older and considerably wiser about boys, dating and other important stuff. What a difference a year makes.

            Savannah arrived as promised. Mandy overheard her mother say she thought she’d see Savannah tonight. God, I am such a loser, Mandy agonized. Even my mother knows it.

            “So he bailed on you?” Savannah was livid. Her green eyes shone with fire and her curly brown hair seemed to crackle with energy.

“Not really. I mean he did show up.”

“Two hours late! In some ways that’s worse than not showing up at all. It’s like saying ‘You’ll dance to my tune, bitch’. He is such a douche. You can’t let that go.”

“Well, maybe it was my fault. He seemed distracted at school today. Maybe I did something wrong.”

“Don’t blame yourself. Maybe you’re not the problem. Maybe he is.”

“What? You think we should break up?”

“No. I’m calming down now.” Savannah visibly settled herself. “You should do what YOU want to do. You’re beautiful and smart. You should call the shots, not some nerdy boy. If you stay with him or with anyone, be sure he respects you.”

“Like your Del? You are so lucky. He absolutely adores you. I wish I had a Del.” Savannah’s face softened at the mention of her boyfriend. Senior, biggest guy at school, all-state tackle, bitchin’ car and yes, he doted on Savannah.

“Yes, like my Del.”

“Well, I AM very pissed about tonight. He’s blown me off a couple of times at school, too. But he’s cute as can be and I just can’t resist him when he makes his wounded puppy dog eyes at me. I can’t just break up with him. He’s my first boyfriend since I can go on real dates. And Fall Fest and Homecoming are coming up. I gotta have a date for those.  Everybody will think I’m such a loser if I can’t even get a date.”

“But someone like him? He showed up at the club before we left. He told people you were being a bitch. You want to date a boy who says that about you? There are other fish in the sea. And pretty as you are, they’ll line up to date you. Just take your pick.”

“I don’t seem to pick so well. My last boyfriend cheated on me and now this,” Mandy moaned, covering her head with the comforter on her bed. “What’s wrong with me, Vannah? I feel like I have ‘loser’ stamped on my forehead. Why can’t I keep a boy interested in me?” Her voice was muffled by the comforter.

“I don’t know, babe. You’re a pretty girl and you like pretty boys. There’s nothing wrong with good-looking guys. I mean, look at my Del. But you just seem to always pick the worst ones. A lot of good-looking guys think they’re all that, like the rules don’t apply. Maybe go a little slower. Get to know a guy before you give him your heart.” Mandy sat up and looked at Savannah like she had all the answers. Savannah stroked Mandy’s honey blond hair and looked into her cool blue eyes.

“You make it sound so simple. I thought I knew Jase. I thought he liked me,” Mandy said looking earnestly into Savannah’s eyes.

“Jason Collins only likes one person, and that’s Jason Collins. I haven’t said anything but I’ve been afraid this was going to blow up.”

“What? Tell me.”

“You said I make it sound so simple. Well, it should be, but dicks like Jason are everywhere. They put on this act. They make you think they’re so romantic and nice and into you. Then once they’ve drawn you in, you see the real person, and he’s a shit, but by then it’s too late. I’ve seen him do this before.”

“Oh my god. Jase was so sweet and romantic at the start. You mean now I’m seeing the real guy? That he thinks he can ignore me at school and come and go as he pleases and I won’t say anything? What a dick!”

“That’s my girl,” Savannah pulled her into a hug. “We’ll find you a real boyfriend. The kind of boy you deserve. But for this weekend, you’re with me. Del and I are going bowling tomorrow night. You’re going with us. I’ll bring my cousin Gary to make it four. You remember him?”

“Yeah. He’s cute, sweet, everything I want in a boy except he’s also looking for the perfect boy. Send him over early and we can try on dresses together,” Mandy said through a pout.

“Don’t be homophobic. You could use the help. Your sense of style is terrible.”

“Is not!”

“Is too. Hey, I smell popcorn. Your mom said she was making some. Let’s go gorge ourselves and zone out on Netflix.”

“Now, that I agree with.”

            Per Savannah’s advice Mandy didn’t take Jason’s calls on Saturday or Sunday. She also ignored his texts and emails. As she expected, he caught up with her at her locker Monday morning.

            “Mandy. What’s the deal, babydoll? You won’t talk to me or return my texts. I’m sorry about Friday, okay? I just got caught up with the guys. You know I only think about you.”

“Oh, Jason. We both know that’s not true. We’ve drifted apart recently so I think we ought to take a break from each other.”

“A break? What? Are you breaking up with me?”

“Yeah, I am. I like you a lot, Jase. I just don’t think we belong together. We have other things we want to be doing.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.  She turned quickly to walk away before being ensnared by his hurt puppy dog eyes. She knew she wouldn’t be able to resist them. She heard him gasp, “What the fuck?” After turning a corner she whipped out her cell and texted Savannah, “done”. Savannah would get the rumors started and make sure Mandy’s side was the official story.

Fall Fest was going to be a bust as far as Mandy was concerned. She tried to be open to talking to different guys, trying to get a feel for their character, but mostly it made her seem awkward and stand-offish. Also, Jason was popular so dumping him did her no favors, even though Savannah made sure everyone knew he had mistreated her. So, she ended up dateless for the first school dance. She had planned to sulk at home but Savannah made her come along with her and Del. A few boys asked her to dance, although one got a painful jab in his foot from her spike heel in response to a wandering hand.

An hour or so into the dance, she and Savannah went to the bathroom to freshen their makeup. Afterward, coming down the hallway near the gym Mandy heard off to her left, “Hey, Mandy. Got a minute?” She looked over and saw Jimmy DeVane, a classmate, a cute classmate.

“Hey, Jimmy.” Then to Savannah, “Go on, I’ll catch up in a minute. So, what’s up, Jimmy?”

“I’ve been thinking I should tell you I’m sorry about you and Jase, but I’m really not. He was never good enough for you. Just saying.” He leaned against the wall beside a classroom door like he wanted her to stay a few minutes and talk. She stepped closer.
            “I thought you and Jase were buds. Is that how you talk about your friends?”

“Yeah, we’re amigos. I know him real well. That’s how I know he’s not what you need. I guess you know he was seeing Charlene while you two were dating?” She didn’t know, but wouldn’t admit it.

“Yeah, he’s a douche,” she replied. Jimmy chuckled.

“Let’s not talk about him. How about us?” He stepped closer, into her personal space. She could feel the heat radiating from his chest. He was summer tanned, black haired, moody, sexy. Your basic bad boy. Yep, she thought. He’s got a reputation but he’s the kind of guy she liked. “Maybe we could get together some time,” he breathed huskily. “You know, get to know each other,” another step and he was very close but not actually touching.

She suddenly noticed how dark the hallway was. She edged a little away, saying, “That sounds like…”

He casually put his arm around her waist saying, “What’s the hurry?” She overcame her jitters. After all, they were in school. She was safe here.

“No hurry,” she whispered. He leaned back against the wall, gently pulling her with him. She didn’t resist, but allowed him to pull her into full contact.

“We could have a lot of fun together,” he breathed into her ear. She lifted her head to reply, but his mouth found hers. She went with it and decided Jimmy DeVane was a great kisser. Breaking the kiss, she pushed him slightly back. With a smile she said, “Maybe Jimmy. But not here in the hall.”

“There’s any number of open classrooms. Let’s go.”

“No, Jimmy. Not at school.” His arms had tightened and she realized she couldn’t break free.

“Let me go, Jimmy.”

“Aw, don’t be a tease, Mandy. Jase said you always came through for him.” He pulled her tight against himself. She could feel his arousal. He attempted to kiss her again.

“He said what?” she squeaked as she avoided his mouth. She was so surprised she hardly noticed he had maneuvered her into the classroom.

“Yeah,” he breathed in her ear as she struggled. “He said you were hot for it. Slow to start, but a real tiger.” He covered her mouth with his again. Only then did she notice his hand was under her skirt and felt it slide down inside the front of her panties. Without thinking about it, she bit his lip. As he pulled his face back she slammed her knee up between his legs as hard as she could. His face creased in agony but he refused to let go. As he crumpled to the ground he tried to pull her with him. Getting one arm free she punched him in the face the way Nathan had shown her. This allowed her to break his grip. She fled the room and ran without stopping until she fell sobbing into Savannah’s arms.

“Oh god, baby. What’s wrong?”

“Jimmy DeVane, he just tried, he tried to force me, he tried to rape me,” she barely managed to get out.

“Oh my god. My poor baby,” she crooned wrapping Mandy even more tightly. “Are you okay?”

“No. I mean yes, I got away. But I wanna go home.”

“Del,” Savannah said. “Get the principal.” He nodded and left.

“No, Savannah. I don’t want to cause trouble. He’ll say it’s my fault. It sounds like Jason’s been saying I’m easy.”

“What? You told me y’all never did it.”

“And we never did. You know I wouldn’t keep that from you. But he’s telling people we did. Jimmy wanted in on it.”

“They are both fucking low life scum!” Savannah swore.

Principal James came up with Del. “Miss Barrett, Miss Smalls. Del here tells me there has been some problem?”

“Yes,” Savannah said. “Jimmy DeVane just tried to rape Mandy.”

“Oh my. Miss Barrett, is this true?”

“Yes,” she barely managed to whisper. Now that the immediate shock was wearing off she was beginning to shiver and couldn’t stop the tears.

“That’s a very serious allegation, Miss Barrett. Are you sure it wasn’t just teenage fooling around?”

“He forced me in a classroom and tried to rip off my panties,” she gasped.

“Oh, well, yes. That’s terrible. Now, I’m sorry to have to ask this but I must. Did you at any time say ‘no’ or indicate that you were unwilling? Or did you lead him on?”

She had been afraid they’d paint it as her fault. She raised her tearstained face, surprising even herself with the force in her voice, “I screamed no, bit him and kicked him in the fucking balls. Is that enough of a no for you?” The principal seemed a little shocked at her vehemence.

“Well, yes. But it’s over now. You’re safe.” Turning to another teacher he told him to scout around and find Jimmy DeVane.

“Mandy! Mandy! Are you okay?” Nathan came running up. “What’s going on?”

“DeVane attacked her,” Savannah told him, passing Mandy into his arms.

“That punk. I’ll kill him!” Nathan roared.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort, Mr. Barrett. I suggest you settle down and call your parents to come collect your sister.”

“I wanna go home,” Mandy moaned.

“I can take her home,” Nathan told the principal.

“I’ll release her to your parents. We’ll let you leave when your parents arrive, Miss Barrett. I’ve called the school nurse. She will want to have a look at you. Perhaps we can resolve this without involving the authorities.”

Savannah, who had been whispering with Del, whipped her head toward Principal James and said, “A fucking whitewash? Are you kidding?” As she gaped at the principal, Del slipped away.

“Language, Miss Smalls,” the principal glared at her. One of the chaperones came up. “Ah, Mr. Johnson. Have you found him?”

“Yes, sir. We got the DeVane boy. Looks like the girl got in some licks. Bob’s holding him in your office. Want me to call his parents?”

“Yes, please.” There was sudden shouting and shoving on the other side of the gym. It looked as if a fight might break out.
            “Oh, Lord. What now?” the principal worried as he and several other teachers headed toward the disturbance.

After Principal James left, Del came up. In the crook of his massive arm was the neck of a very frightened looking Jason Collins. Although there were no visible injuries, the state of Jason’s hair and clothes showed that Del had not used gentle persuasion to get him to come along.

“The boys are causing a ruckus to keep the teachers occupied. You only got a few minutes, Savannah,” Del said. A small crowd of students had gathered around them to see what was happening.

“Well, Jason,” she began. “I’m happy to let you know that you and your best friend’s plan to rape Mandy didn’t work.”

“Mfft?” was all Jason could get out from under the huge arm holding him captive. Savannah gave Del a short nod and he released the boy with a look that advised him to stay where he was. “I didn’t do nothing,” Jason whined.

“The police already have DeVane in custody and are probably looking for you,” she coolly lied. “He told Mandy how you said you two had been having sex and she was hot for it. Maybe you helped him plan it or maybe you just set them both up. Either way, you’re an accessory to a felony, Jason. Y’all are sixteen. You can be tried as adults. DeVane will be expelled and do prison time. You will at least be expelled. Maybe prison also. A pretty boy like you won’t do well in prison,” she sneered.

Jason’s crimson face blanched. He began sobbing, “Oh god, no. I didn’t think he’d do anything. It was just talk. Just guy talk. Oh god, oh shit. I can’t go to prison. Mandy, don’t let them send me away. Please.”

“You mean you and Mandy weren’t intimate?” Savannah asked innocently.

“No! No, no, no. We never did nothing. She wouldn’t. I mean I wanted to, but no. Not ever. I just said we did ‘cause Jimmy was bragging about the girls he’s done. It was stupid. I’m so sorry, Mandy. I’d never do anything to hurt you.” It seemed as if he were pleading for his life, which in a sense, he thought he was.

“All right, everyone, break it up,” Principal James said pushing through the milling students. “Mr. Collins. I might have known I’d find you mixed up in this. Where Mr. DeVane causes trouble, Mr. Collins is sure to follow. Mr. Johnson, take him to the vice principal’s office and call his parents, too.”

Within a few minutes the principal had cleared the area and Savannah, Del and Nathan took Mandy to sit on the bleachers to wait for her and Nathan’s parents. Nathan kept his arm around her and she leaned in as if drawing strength from him. The doors nearby flew open and her parents came running in, her dad outstripping her mom. He rushed towards them shouting, “Where’s my baby, where’s my little girl?”

Mandy, feeling like she was seven again, cried, “Daddy” and ran to his arms. He was built big like Nathan and totally engulfed her. Being enfolded in his arms was the safest place she knew. Her mother came up and began fretting over her as her dad turned to Principal James.

“I want that boy locked up or I swear I’ll kill him myself.”

“Now, Mr. Barrett. Calm yourself. Everything’s under control.”

“Control? Where were you when that bastard tried to rape my daughter?”

Principal James sputtered, “We’re dealing with it.”

“See that you do! Come on, honey,” her dad said to Mandy. “We’re taking you home.”

Principal James grabbed him by the arm. “She needs to see the nurse first.”

Mr. Barrett looked pointedly at the hand on his arm, then the principal. “I’ll ask nicely only once. Take your goddamn hand off me. I’ll take care of my daughter. You obviously can’t.” James quickly raised both hands in surrender and the little group – father, mother and two children left. Savannah leaned into Del and whispered, “Go, Mr. B!”

“So what was the deal with terrifying Collins?” Del asked.

“A little bit payback and a little bit cleaning up Mandy’s reputation. Jason’s been saying she’s a slut. Now he’s publicly admitted he’s a liar. We have plenty of witnesses.”

“Remind me never to cross you,” Del smiled.

The attorney Mandy’s family consulted advised against any action. She said that the school would probably not be held responsible and it would be an awful experience for Mandy, especially considering what she had already gone through. Jimmy DeVane was not expelled but allowed to transfer to another school in a nearby school district. His father, the largest contractor in Middleton, coincidentally made a huge contribution to the athletic fund. And Jason basically got yelled at and told to keep his nose clean. Mandy felt like the only one who received any real consequences. Her parents decided she was not ready for car dates. They would reconsider when she was sixteen. WTF? she thought. I’m the victim here. Even my own parents are acting like I did something wrong. She felt like the point was moot anyway. None of the guys were exactly lining up to ask her out. While they all got a laugh out of the public shaming of Jason, it was as if she had broken some taboo in reporting Jimmy. Even though everyone considered him a basic boyslut, none of the boys wanted to see him called on it. Her parents also wanted her to talk to a counselor, but she adamantly refused. She was not going to talk to some shrink about something as embarrassing as this. She didn’t want some pointy headed guy with a goatee poking around in her head. She just wanted to forget the whole thing.

“Maybe I should have just let it go, not told anyone. It was all my fault anyway. I shouldn’t have been alone with him,” she moaned to Savannah.

“What? Hell, no! You were in school for Christ sake. You should expect to feel safe there. It was not your fault. Don’t ever say that. It was just a matter of time before he did that to somebody. You probably have saved someone else from getting raped by standing up to him.”

“Then why do I feel like the bad guy? Everybody’s acting like I did something wrong. Maybe I did. I did let him kiss me. If I hadn’t he wouldn’t have thought I’d let him do anything else. Maybe I did lead him on. I didn’t mean to, though. I feel like such a zero. The guys only want me if they can get in my pants,” Mandy agonized.

“Girlfriend, look at me. You did nothing wrong. NOTHING! He is low life scum and those bastards let him off scott-free. You were totally right in everything you did. And if others can’t accept that, then fuck ‘em.”

“Easy for you to say. It’s not about you. I feel like that Hester girl in that stupid book we had to read in English last year. The difference is I didn’t do anything! It’s like everybody hates me, including me.” Mandy just wanted to scream.

Homecoming came and went dateless. Mandy went to the game to see Del terrorize the other team, but skipped the dance. Savannah tried to get her out of her funk but couldn’t seem to get Mandy interested in anything. She vaguely hoped her life might start back up when she could date again at sixteen. Maybe. If she could find someone.

The mild Georgia winter came in softly and it was in a warm January when disaster struck again. Del was contacted by a PAC-10 college which offered him an experimental scholarship plan that would allow him to finish his senior year at college while taking in college level courses. This would allow a lighter load during his first football season, when a number of athletes find out they can’t keep up. He explained to Savannah that this was his big chance. She bravely kissed him good-bye and let him go. Then completely broke down in Mandy’s room.

“I always knew he might go off somewhere after high school. I just kept this small dream that he might get a scholarship in-state. Somewhere close enough that we could stay together. Even if that didn’t happen, I was hoping to enjoy at least six more months of the best relationship I ever hoped to have. It’s just not fair. This world sucks. Football sucks. Everything sucks.”

Mandy didn’t know what to say, so she just held Savannah’s hand and passed her Kleenexes.

“I’ve got big news,” Savannah said as she joined Mandy at their regular lunch table on a rainy February Monday. “Guess who is back on the market?”

“I don’t have to guess. I’m sure you’re going to tell me whether I care or not,” Mandy replied nonchalantly.

“Well, my intel is that Brad Jessup is a free man.”

“No way! He and Carol have been basically married for the last year.”

“Well, apparently there’s trouble in paradise. There was a scene at a party at Jordan’s on Saturday. You know. The one we weren’t invited to. Mostly couples or couple wannabes. A parents out of town party,” she said with raised eyebrows. “It seems Carol got into the liquor. You know how she gets when she’s had a few.” Savannah loved to repeat gossip. Fortunately, Mandy loved to hear it.

“I’ve heard she gets a little crazy,” Mandy confirmed.

“Yeah. Seems she was getting flirty with some of the guys. Brad and her got into it a few times. He was mad she was drinking, and she was mad he was a ‘party poop’ as she called it. They weren’t speaking to each other and avoiding each other most of the night. Then Carol went off the deep end. She went shrieking through the house that she caught Brad in a back room making out with Nicolette Sheridon. She said he had his tongue halfway down her throat.”

“Eww,” Mandy didn’t care for that mental picture.

“It went downhill from there. It seems the most family friendly thing she called him was a goddamn fucking son of a bitch. She went on that he was a pervert with a tiny dick, lousy in bed and slapped women around because he’s not man enough to hit men. She really laid it on. And, get this. Nicolette wasn’t even there that night. She must have imagined the whole thing. They said Brad was just ice cold. Stared at her and didn’t say a thing. He just left. She had to find her own way home.”

Mandy looked around the cafeteria. Brad was sitting over at a table with the tennis team. Carol was sitting with the cheer leaders. Even her extra heavy makeup couldn’t hide that she was recently hungover or crying, or both.

“You know how they are. They’ll be back together in a day or so. They can’t live without each other. They say it all the time,” Mandy reasoned.

“Not necessarily so. I have intel from a source, a guy, who said Brad told him he was getting tired of Carol’s shit. He said this was the last straw and there was no going back. He even put on Facebook that ‘Brad is NOT in a relationship’.”

“Wow, maybe it is over. And they were such a beautiful couple, not.” Mandy thought Brad was gorgeous and Carol was just too easy to hate.

“This might be my big chance,” Savannah said.

“Chance for what?”

“To get Brad.”

“As if. He doesn’t even know you exist. He’s out of our league.”

“Of course he knows me. We went together, once.”

“In fifth grade!” Mandy exclaimed. “Y’all were going steady in homeroom and broke up by recess. It lasted what, three hours?”
            “But a quality three hours,” Savannah sighed. “I’ve got a class with him next period. Wish me luck.”

“Go for it, girl,” Mandy said through a smile.

Savannah related over the phone to Mandy that night how well she had played Brad in class and that he would be joining them for lunch the next day. And sure enough, Brad came strolling up with his lunch tray shortly after she and Savannah had sat down. Savannah was bright and flirty, trying to keep Brad engaged, but Mandy got the feeling his attention was elsewhere. Poor Savannah, she thought. She’s trying so hard and it’s so not happening.

As they went back to their lockers before the next class Savannah admitted it wasn’t working.

“Well, that sucked,” were her exact words. “But I’ve got another 50 minutes to work on him. It’s double or nothing.”

“That’s the spirit,” Mandy cheered her.

That’s why it was almost surreal when she found Brad falling into step beside her as she headed out of school later that day.

“Remember me?” he asked playfully.

“Oh, hey Brad.”

“You a walker or a bus rider?”

“Oh, I live just a few blocks. I walk when the weather is nice. It’s overcast but not too cold today.” Mandy sensed she was babbling.

“It may start raining any moment. How about I give you a lift home? It’ll let me make up for monopolizing your friend at lunch.” She noticed he didn’t mention Savannah’s name. Crap. What should I do, she wondered. Savannah has staked her claim, but he’s definitely not interested. She’ll hate me if she thinks I screwed things up for her, though. But he’s driving a BMW. And he’s gorgeous. And he’s nice. Savannah said I should look for nice. Maybe if I let him drive me home, it’ll give me time to tell him what a great girl Savannah is, she rationalized.

“If you’re sure it’s not too far out of your way.”

Mandy knew that word would get around fast and she needed to get ahead of it. So she called Savannah that night.

“You did what!” was Savannah’s response.

“I tried to tell him how great you are. To build you up.”

“I’ll just bet you did.” Savannah was having none of it.

“Vannah, don’t be that way. I didn’t go after him and I’m not going to go out with him or anything. It was just a ride.”

“Mandy, get real. It was not ‘just a ride’. He’s cozying up to you. I know you’ve been desperate for a boyfriend but I never thought you’d stab me in the back like this.”

Mandy was sobbing now. “Vannah, don’t say that. You’re my best friend. I promise I’ll never even look at him again. I’ll do anything, just don’t shut me out. Vannah. Vannah!” but Savannah had hung up.

Mandy couldn’t face Savannah the next day. She packed a lunch and ate it in the library. Maybe Brad and Savannah can work things out without me in the way, she decided. And just to be sure, she left the school by a different exit that afternoon so Brad couldn’t find her. If he was looking.

Mandy was sitting in the library the next day eating a dry sandwich when someone flopped down in the seat beside her. It was so sudden she jumped. She turned to find Savannah looking at her.

“This sucks,” Savannah said by way of greeting. “I can’t be mad at you. It’s like telling a fish not to swim. And it’s so cliché, letting a guy get between us. We should be better than that.”

“I’m sorry, Vannah,” Mandy said timidly.

“Nothing to be sorry about, babe. This one’s all on me. It wasn’t going anywhere. I was just being jealous. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course. You’re my bestie.”

“Are we good?”

“Better than good.”

Brad wasted no time in pursuing Mandy. Giving her the full court press according to Savannah. He met her at her locker, drove her home from school nearly every day. He asked to pick her up in the mornings but her parents didn’t know he was driving her home (he let her off down the street), and since she wasn’t supposed to have car dates she didn’t want to push it. Valentine’s Day was chocolates and a dozen red roses. She felt like she was getting the royal treatment. Mom noticed and raised her eyebrows. “Not that Collins boy, I hope,” she commented.

Mandy had told Brad about the sixteen-years-old rule for dating and he had already had made plans with her for February 20. He wanted to be her first official date. She had glossed over her few actual car dates with Jason.

Mandy tried not to gush about him to Savannah, but it was hard. She felt all glowy when he was with her and felt his presence with her all day after he kissed her at her locker. It was like she could smell his cologne on her all day long. It wasn’t long before Savannah said, “Yep, you got it bad. Just be careful. You give your heart too easily. Make sure he deserves it.”

Their first date was to a very nice restaurant. Mandy knew his family had money but didn’t know much more. He told her that both his parents were successful attorneys so he was raised by a succession of nannies. His parents assuaged their guilt by buying him pretty much whatever he wanted. He said he earned extra spending money doing filing in his dad’s office on weekends.

“Weekends?” Mandy moaned. “When will we see each other?”

“Well I couldn’t very well do it during the week. I do have school work you know. But it’s only some weekends. Some Saturdays, hardly ever a Sunday. We’ll work around it. You won’t even miss me.”

“I miss you whenever you’re not with me,” she said.

“You’re such a romantic. Just one of the things I love about you,” he said, reaching over to stroke her cheek.

What!? flared in her brain. Did he just say the L word? Wow!

It frustrated Mandy that for most of March it seemed Brad was more unavailable than not on weekends. He said spring was a busy time in his dad’s office. He also didn’t pick up her calls and rarely responded to texts when he was working. He said it was frowned upon to carry around a cell at work. He was there to work. Dad wanted him to make a good impression.

The dates they did have were wonderful to Mandy. She loved how all the girls looked at her enviously. And Brad was so romantic most of the time. Whenever he was snappish or petulant he blamed it on problems at the office. But, sometimes it was something she had done wrong. She always promised to do better. He always forgave her. And she could always pull him out of his funk.  

When they would find a secluded place for parking things got even better. Although he pressed as far as she was willing to go, he always backed off the moment she asked him to. They had progressed rather quickly and there wasn’t much they hadn’t tried as Prom approached.

Mandy talked with Savannah about going all the way with Brad at Prom. Well, not at Prom, but at the after party. Savannah told her what she felt she needed to know, what to expect and so forth. By this time she and Brad were fairly familiar with each other’s bodies and she joked with Savannah that Carol wasn’t lying about only Nicolette.

“She got the tiny dick part way wrong, too,” she giggled to Savannah.

“More information than I wanted, thank you very much.”

“And next weekend I’ll see if she lied about the lousy lover part. She must have. He’s so romantic and the way he can make me feel with just his hands is so, so…”

“TMI, girl. Let’s talk about protection.”

“Well, I’m on birth control pills for my irregular periods.”

“And were you taking a nap the day they talked about STDs in health class? You’re not just sleeping with Brad, but every person he’s ever slept with and that they’ve slept with. You’re sleeping with Carol. And I know for a fact that she was balling Jackson on the football team before she hooked up with Brad. And football players are worse than alley cats. Who knows how many girls Jackson’s been with. And those girls probably did other football players. It’s a geometric progression. You’ll probably be screwing half the school. You tell Brad, no condom, no nookie.”

“Well, now that you have totally killed the romance…”

“Just trying to keep you safe, babe.”

“Hey, Mand. Dreamboat is here!” Nathan yelled up the stairs. Well, what’s Prom without a little brotherly embarrassment, she thought? She had waited upstairs so she could make a big entrance. Both boys watched as she slowly walked down the curved staircase. Mom had gone dress shopping with her and had wanted her to pick a blue monstrosity that Mandy thought looked like a wedding cake. She ended up picking a shimmery emerald sheath that may as well have been painted on. A slit up the side to her thigh allowed walking and dancing. A plunging neckline accentuated Mandy’s well-developed chest. Her swept up hairdo accentuated her long neck. Brad’s mouth actually fell open. Mandy beamed, noticing he looked especially sexy in his tux.

“Yep, little sis cleans up pretty well,” Nathan bragged.

“You look pretty nice yourself, for a Neanderthal and all,” Mandy razzed him. Nathan did look dapper in a black tuxedo. It fit well over his massive chest and muscular shoulders. He was doing a super dooper brotherly favor for Mandy by taking Savannah to Prom. Mandy wouldn’t want to go without her best friend.

“Wow,” said Brad, finally finding his voice. “I knew you were beautiful, but wow, just wow.”

“I think you need to work on your patter, bud,” Nathan said. Brad gave him a brief glare.

“He’s doing just fine,” Mandy crooned. “Feel free to continue.”

Dad did his dad thing with Brad, but ended up just saying “you kids try to get home before the sun comes up.”

Mom took about a thousand pictures and cried.

 Prom was everything she dreamed it would be. She was the envy of every girl. She felt like she glowed. She was at the event of the year with THE Brad Jessup. It didn’t get much better than this.

The after party was at Jordan’s. His parents were home, but confined themselves to their room. Mandy barely registered she was there before Brad was hustling her upstairs. He found the bedroom he was looking for and locked the door.
            “Alone at last,” he said. “I’ve been wanting you all night. You’re all I think about. The way you look in that dress is driving me wild. Every boy at Prom wanted you tonight. But you are here with me. You are mine, and nobody else’s.”

He embraced her and started kissing her face and neck. Mandy just reveled in the sensual feeling of it. Within minutes they were on the bed. The assertive way she pulled open Brad’s pants sent the message that she was all in. Ready to go for it.

Because of her discussions with Savannah, her familiarity with Brad’s body and a little internet porn (just for research purposes of course) Mandy felt she was well prepared. They left the light on because Brad said he wanted to see her when he took her. She saw him pull a condom from his pocket. Good, one embarrassing thing not to have to ask about. When he finally entered her it didn’t exactly hurt, but was damn uncomfortable. Then it got better. A lot better. Then Brad stiffened, groaned and rolled off her. What? Is that it? she almost asked out loud. Was this the big mystery everyone is wild about? Yes, once she got past the discomfort it felt nice, but really? That’s it?

Brad went into the bathroom to discard the condom. He came back and stood by the bed dressing, looking at her cockily, like she was a prized possession. She laid there with her dress shoved up around her waist, tits hanging out, panties around one ankle, legs splayed and suddenly felt like a Saturday night whore. She couldn’t help the tears of disappointment that started rolling down her cheek.

“Hey, what’s this? No need to cry.” He sat beside her and caressed her cheek.

“I’m just so happy,” she lied.

Savannah promised her that it gets better.
            “That’s what they tell the gay kids.”

“Well, it’s true.”

“Yeah, I think Carol was right about the lousy lover part.”

“It was your first, and his first with you. The next time will be better. Less pressure. Trust me.  I know these things. Me and Del had a terrible time at first. He was so afraid he was gonna hurt me. It’ll be okay.”

The next week didn’t go so well for Mandy. She missed meeting Brad after school one afternoon. She was sure she had told him she had a meeting and couldn’t see him. The next day he was mad, and remained moody despite her efforts to cheer him up. He flared up once and called her ‘stupid’. She felt as if he had struck her. He was immediately conciliatory.
            “I’m so sorry baby. It’s just when you do things like that it makes me think you don’t care about us. I hate it when you make me yell at you.”

“I’m sorry, too. I’ll try to do better,” she said, but wasn’t really sure what she was sorry about.

Possibly the biggest surprise ever was when Savannah announced she had a date with Nathan.

“Like a date date?” Mandy was dumb struck.

“Yeah. We had a good time at Prom. And the good night kiss was excellent.”

“Eww, I don’t wanna hear that. Yuck.”

“Maybe we can double some time.”

Mandy tried to decide if that would be awkward. No, what could be better than having the three people she most loved in the world all together?

Brad didn’t agree.

“Being around Savannah would be weird for me. She’s still got a thing for me. I can tell.”

“She does not have a thing for you. She’s dating my brother.”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right. Don’t you think it’s kinda creepy the way she’s sticking herself in your life? She’s all you talk about and now she’s got her claws in your brother. Kinda like she’s stalking y’all or something.”

“Brad! You take that back. Savannah is my best friend in the whole world and I won’t hear you talking bad about her.”

Brad grabbed her by her arms and pulled her against him.

“You’re my girl. You’re supposed to stick up for me, not put me down. We’re good for each other, babe. Don’t screw it up. And don’t take that tone with me.”

“Oww, Brad! You’re hurting me!” He released her.

“Sorry. Guess I don’t know my own strength.  It’s just sometimes you make me crazy jealous.” And he walked away. Mandy rubbed her arms, knowing there would be bruises.  Well, at least it was cold weather so she could cover them with long sleeves.

Mandy was worried about Brad’s mood swings and tendency to suddenly lash out. She didn’t think she could talk about it with Savannah because it felt too personal, and it was probably all her fault anyway. But, she decided to have it out with him on Friday. As soon as she opened her locker Friday morning, Brad popped up beside her.

“Good morning, beautiful.” He was holding out a gorgeous, full red rose. “I was an arrogant jerk yesterday. I’m sorry.”

Her plans to ‘have it out’ flew out the window.

“Mom and Dad are on a business trip. I gave Rosa Saturday night off. We can have the whole house to ourselves. Wanna play house?” He wiggled his eyebrows, making Mandy laugh.

“You know I’ll do anything you want.”

“That’s my girl.”

Mandy had smoked pot with Savannah a few times. She liked how it made her feel. She was amazed when Savannah told her it was a cure for hangovers also. Mandy had been slipping booze from her parents for about a year. It helped her forget when Brad was a jerk. She never had hangovers, but it was good to know. Savannah also told her sex while high was the best. So she stuck a joint in her purse when Brad picked her up on Saturday. When she pulled it out later Brad was all in. They were reclining in his king size bed watching some forgettable flick on his 50 inch HD TV, drinking champagne (honest to god champagne!) from long stem glasses. He lit the joint for her. He was being very romantic. The champagne buzz, the pot buzz, their natural chemistry all flowed together and she fell into a very warm and happy place. Brad began to leisurely caress her. Before long, they were both nude. He took his time with her and when he finally entered her she already felt on fire.

When the fireworks finally died down she realized now that’s what it’s supposed to be like. Wow! Old Carol was wrong about the lousy lover part, too.

When he took her home he apologized that he had to work on Sunday but would see her at school next week. She floated in and up to her room. She had no memory of anything else until she woke with a smile on Sunday morning.

The next week at school was more of Brad’s Jekyll/Hyde transformations. He was even more jealous than ever of Savannah. Mandy just made sure she didn’t mention her around him. It seemed like every day he was in a bad mood and relied on her to pull him out. It was frankly exhausting. And she felt like she was walking on eggshells, trying not to set him off. When he hadn’t said anything about weekend plans by Thursday she timidly asked if he wanted to do anything. He morosely said he had to work Saturday afternoon and night. Something about an important client and a lot of paperwork. She’d see if Savannah was available. She made sure not to mention that to Brad.

It turned out Savannah was going out of town. An extended family member had died and she was attending the funeral on Saturday. Well, that means Nathan will be around, she thought. We can binge on Netflix.

Late Saturday afternoon Mandy’s mom asked if she and Nathan would go pick up the enlargements of the pictures she had taken of them dressed up for Prom.

“I never see you two all dressed up so I wanted to make some frameable portraits. They’re at the Kinko’s in the mall in Middleton.”

“Mo-om,” she whined. “That’s like an hour away. Why’d you take it there?”

“Because a friend recommended it. I wanted a professional job done.”

“C’mon, sis. I’m driving,” Nathan called from the foyer.

“Because I don’t have my stupid license, yet,” she muttered.

There was a line at Kinko’s. A long line. Why did everyone have to show up at the same time on Saturday she wondered. Then the man said the pictures weren’t ready quite yet. She played around on her phone until he told her they were almost ready and he would go get them. She realized she had been waiting nearly a half hour. Nathan was waiting in the car. He probably thought she got lost. She realized she should have texted him. She saw there was a Starbucks beside the Kinko’s so decided to get him a latte to make up for the wait. When the clerk gave her the bag she took it to a nearby table to make sure the prints were right. She had to smile at how great they came out. Mom could be a professional photographer. There were nice portraits of her and Nathan. Mom had also sent the photo of her and Brad they had received from Prom labelled “Midnight Fantasy, April 14” for extra copies. Probably so she could brag to relatives, Mandy decided.

Mandy slipped the pictures back in the bag and headed out. The Starbucks was in a semi open area by the food court. She suddenly stopped in her tracks. Was that Brad at a table? Yes, and who was the young lady with him? Maybe a client? No, too young. Maybe a co-worker? That’s it. They must have stepped out to have a coffee break together. The girl laughed at something Brad said. He reached out and wiped a dab of whipped cream off her nose and stuck it in his mouth. She leaned into him and they kissed.

What!? This couldn’t be happening. Not again. Just when everything was going so well. Okay, not so well. In fact, pretty crummy the past week. But, hell, not again. Her world came crashing down. It was all a lie. Why her? Why again? She realized that she must truly be worthless. No guy could stay true to her. Her first impulse was to run home and cry all night. She leaned back on a large planter and felt the beginnings of a sob form in her throat.

No! she thought to herself. He just isn’t worth it. This relationship is more trouble than it is worth anyway. She suddenly realized she had been getting to the point where she didn’t look forward to seeing Brad, but treated each occasion with trepidation. What kind of relationship was that?

 And she was sick of playing the victim. She felt a fire burning inside.  She needed to have it out with that goddamn fucking son of a bitch. And a public place was just fine.

She slipped into the Starbucks, keeping out of Brad’s sight and ordered a latte. Once she had it, she walked up to Brad’s table and sat down.

“Hey, babe,” she said cheerfully. Then she turned to the girl.

“Hi, I’m Brad’s girlfriend, Mandy. I’m sure he’s mentioned me. You must be his cousin Sally. You’re much prettier than he described you.”

Mandy wished she had a camera to capture the absolute look of horror that ran across Brad’s face.

“Brad, who is this?” the girl asked with a voice Mandy would classify as shrill.

“Um, it’s just a girl I used to date. I’ve tried breaking up with her, but she keeps pestering me.”

“Oh? When did we break up, Brad darling? Last week after I left your bed? Or yesterday when you kissed me good morning? I must have missed something,” Mandy said in a falsely bright voice. Brad was turning very red.

“Brad, what’s she talking about?” Definitely shrill, Mandy decided.

“Nothing, hon. She’s just delusional. If we ignore her she’ll leave,” the last two words were directed at Mandy with a threatening look. Mandy just winked at him.

“So,” Mandy said conversationally. “How long have you two been together?”

“A few months, uh who are you?” the shrill girl was getting annoyed.

“Mandy, stop it!” Brad demanded, slamming his hand on the table. People stopped talking and were looking at them.

“Maybe I should leave,” the shrill girl said.

“No,” Brad grabbed the girl’s wrist. “Mandy was just leaving.”

“Brad, you’re hurting me,” the girl said.

“You’ll get used to it,” Mandy said. “And by the way, Brad. Mom said to be sure to give you one of the pictures.” She pulled the Prom photo of the two of them with their heads together, looking in love and dated a little over a week ago. She put it down in front of the girl.

“Brad?” Shrill girl said tremulously, then yanked her arm away and ran out.

“You fucking bitch,” Brad snarled at Mandy. He swiped at her, knocking the coffee from her hand onto a patron at the next table. The old lady gasped and made to get up. Brad turned on her, “Sit the fuck down.” She squeaked and sat back down.

“Leave her out of this!” Mandy demanded. She had never seen him this wild but she was pretty livid herself. Where was Mall Security when you needed them? The place had a fair number of customers but mostly women with small kids and senior citizens. People Brad would have no problem bullying.

Brad turned back to her.

“You just had to push it. You just couldn’t let it go. No, you just had to go and FUCK IT UP! Are you really this stupid? You think because it’s a public place I won’t kick your skinny ass?  My parents are lawyers. No one can touch me. I can do whatever I want. They could buy this whole goddamn mall without batting an eye. And you think you’re good enough for me?” His backhand slap was so fast she never saw it coming. Her head snapped back leaving her dazed. There was a muffled, shocked “oh” from the people watching. He picked up and threw his luke warm coffee in her face. “You’re pathetic. Not even worth the time it took to fuck you. I was about done with you anyway.”

“You bastard,” she gasped as coffee dripped down her face. She snatched the old lady’s coffee and dashed it in his face. If possible his face got even redder. He grabbed the tiny table and threw it aside ignoring the noise as it clanged against other tables and chairs. Mandy had stood up to face him. She turned to her left, pivoting on her left foot as if to flee. As she expected, he lunged forward to grab her arm. She continued her pivot bringing her right foot around and directly into Brad’s unprotected crotch. Just like Nathan had taught her. He doubled over, clasping his hands over his genitals with a groan. Mandy used the brief moment to reach into her purse. She pulled out a small canister and sprayed pepper spray into Brad’s face. He screamed like a girl and began clutching and wiping at his face. He ripped off his shirt and began wiping his face with it. Some in the rapt crowd laughed.

“I’m going to fucking kill you,” he threatened through a voice rasping from the effects of the pepper spray. “When I’m through with you no guy will ever look at you again without disgust.” His eyes, red, distorted and undoubtedly blurred had a murderous gleam in them.

Mandy realized she was in trouble. She had used up all her tricks. Brad was still between her and the mall opening. She knew she probably couldn’t outrun him anyway. Well, she’d go down swinging. She grabbed the little cocktail chair she had been sitting on and brought it up like a lion tamer. She jabbed it at Brad, making him take a step back. She aimed it at his face making him put his arms up protectively. On about the third or fourth jab he grabbed it and tore it from her grasped. He threw it behind him. It went clanging out into the main mall walkway.

“You bitch,” Brad said in a low voice, apparently his pronouncement before carrying out her sentence. That was all he got out before a blur to her left tackled Brad. They tumbled to the floor and Mandy saw an enraged Nathan pummeling her former boyfriend. He gave him two quick right jabs to the face.

“You piece of scum!” Nathan shouted. “How dare you touch my sister! I’m gonna kill you! You son of a bitch! He punctuated each sentence by slamming Brad’s head into the floor.

“Nathan,” Mandy cried. “Stop. He’s not worth it.”

Nathan pulled himself together. “You sure? I’d love to fuck him up, but good.” He looked down at Brad with murder still in his eye. He continued banging Brad’s head against the tiled floor.

“If you ever (bang) touch my sister (bang) again (bang), I will (bang) rearrange that pretty face so much even your mama (bang) won’t recognize you (bang). Got it? (bang)”

When Brad didn’t say anything Nathan banged his head against the floor again.

“I said got it?”

“Understood,” Brad muttered.

Nathan let Brad up.

“Now go get in your fancy ass car and leave. If I ever see you again you will regret it. That I promise.”

Trying to regain some semblance of dignity, Brad looked down his nose at the attentive Starbucks audience. Then he quickly turned and limped away. The entire crowd began applauding Nathan. A barista ran up to her with a towel.

“That was so impressive,” she gushed. “We called Security. I don’t know why they aren’t here yet. Let me get you a replacement for your latte. And another coffee for you too, ma’am,” she added looking at the elderly lady Brad had threatened.

“Oh, I’m sorry about that,” Mandy apologized to the elderly lady. “And I’m sorry I took your coffee.”

“That’s fine, dear. You put it to good use. You’re a real spitfire. The boys better watch out for you. And your brother’s a real cutie.” The old lady winked at Nathan making him blush.

“You okay, sis? I can’t believe that bastard hit you. Why didn’t you tell somebody he was like that?”

“I didn’t realize how bad it was, it just kinda snuck up on me,” she was trying to make some sense of it all. “I guess I got what I deserved, though. How much did you see?”

“Pretty much all of it. I just waited to let you take care of it. You were way outgunned but stood your ground. Pretty gutsy. I’m so proud of you. Now, let’s get you home.”

As it turned out, the mall security cameras captured the entire scene at Starbucks. The mall authorities banned Brad from the mall. When his parents were shown the video they were so furious with him that they took the keys to his car, grounded him for the rest of the school year and ordered Rosa to enforce it.

And, it was hardly surprising that someone at Starbucks had whipped out their phone and recorded the whole sorry scene and posted it to the web. Of course, it went around school like wildfire.  Brad’s former friends began avoiding him, some of the jocks jostled him roughly in the halls and the girls jeered him. Suddenly everyone seemed to care about Mandy and how she was doing after such a terrible ordeal. Several people, guys and girls, approached her with raised palms for a high five.

“Good afternoon, Mandy.”

“Good afternoon, Dr. Foster.”

“Oh, please, call me Edna. I want us to be able to talk freely in these little sessions. You calling me doctor sounds so formal.”

Mandy couldn’t believe she was in a counselor’s office. But Mom and Dad had insisted. Even Savannah said that after the year she’d had, talking to someone might help her process it.

Um, no. But I’ll be polite and listen.

“I’ve talked to many teens like yourself who have been through traumatizing, confusing situations. It really helps to talk about it. No drugs, no needles, no head shrinking. Just let’s talk.”

Mandy didn’t want to talk but Dr. Foster, no Edna, had a way of drawing things out of her.

In their second session Edna came to the point.

“Mandy, according to what you’ve told me, you have had some horrific experiences in the past year, all centering around your relationships with boys.”

“You could say that,” she said with the condescension only a teen can muster.

“You’ve been cheated on, lied to, nearly raped, physically and mentally abused. Is that the kind of relationship you want?”

“What? Of course not.”

“Okay. Is that the kind of relationship you deserve?”

Mandy opened her mouth to deny it but nothing came out. She wanted to deny it. But, maybe, down deep, she knew it was all her fault. Brad had once said she could even ruin a wet dream. She was worthless. She was a loser. Maybe she didn’t deserve better.

“I see,” said Edna. “I think this is something we need to talk about. A lot.”

By the end of the school year Edna cut her loose, as Mandy described it. The first Monday she didn’t go to see Edna seemed odd. She realized she would miss the good doctor. Edna was no miracle worker; Mandy was not healed of whatever it was that was wrong with her, at least in her estimation. But she did learn a few things. She leaned on Savannah too much. She needed to be her own person; make her own decisions. And she should stop second guessing herself, afraid of what others, Savannah, Nathan, her family would think of her. She needed to own her actions and decisions. And she needed to respect herself. Edna said if she couldn’t respect herself, why expect others to? Good point. Edna told her that when it came to boys, she didn’t need to remake herself into what they wanted. The face she presented them was what they would come to expect. And how long could she keep up the façade? She would never be happy that way. She needed to be herself and not measure her worth by what a boy thought. Either a boy would like her or not, but at least she was being honest. And if he had problems with her being herself, then she needed to respect herself enough to walk away.

“Basically, if they don’t like it, fuck ‘em,” Mandy paraphrased.

“Er, that’s one way of putting it,” Edna stammered.

There was one strange coda to the whole year that Mandy and Edna discussed. Jimmy DeVane had attacked her just the same as Brad, yet the school’s reaction was radically different. Was it because Brad’s was visual and Jimmy’s was out of sight? Brad had left physical damage, Jimmy only psychological. Edna helped Mandy to understand the difference was the type of attack. There remained the subtle impression that what happened with Jimmy was her fault. The simple fact is that whenever there is a sexual assault, people rush to say what the woman should have done to prevent it. It’s her fault that she let it happen. At first that realization infuriated Mandy. But in the end, it just made her very sad.

“I am so glad this school year is over. I hope to never have another one like this,” Mandy whooped.

“Cheaters, rape, abusive boyfriends. Just another day at the office,” Savannah was the only one who dared joke about this with Mandy. But it helped her put it in perspective.

“Really, what’s next year? Serial murder and cannibalism?”

“Yeah, typical high school.” They both laughed. Mandy’s mom came in the room.

“You girls all packed? We leave early tomorrow.”

“All set, Mom. Sun, sand and sea, here we come.”

Mandy’s parents had rented a cottage in a small NC beach town for the summer. Her mom had heard they had a good fireworks display and was looking forward to it. After that she and her husband largely left the teens to themselves as they toured the area, visited historic sites and played lots of golf. They frequently were gone overnight, but told Nathan he was the chaperone. Mandy almost choked the first time they said it.

A summer at the beach was just what she needed. Total relaxation and a perfect tan for the next school year. A few days after the Fourth holiday she and Savannah and Nathan had staked out their spot for the day. They were right in front of the cottage, a Low Country style with a huge wrap porch, side sun deck and wooden walkway right down to the beach. Nathan had found a group of kids with a Frisbee. He was just a big kid himself and they were soon whooping it up.

 Mandy laid on her stomach and unclipped her top.

“Vannah, put some lotion on my back, please.”

“Such good manners,” Savannah teased as she squeezed lotion on Mandy’s back and rubbed it in.

“Mmmm,” Mandy purred and closed her eyes. She heard Savannah rattle the cooler, putting ice in a cup and the sizzle of pouring soda.

“Heads up!” she heard Nathan yell. She felt Savannah jump and suddenly her back was covered in ice and soda. She was so startled that she shrieked and jumped up, belatedly realizing that her bikini top was still on the blanket. She looked up into the face of a cute boy, who was staring at her tits.

“Pervert!” she yelled at him. “Are you just going to stare at my tits or help?” He immediately threw his towel around her. She clutched it tightly and ran for the cottage, Savannah in her wake. In the background she could hear Nathan laughing his ass off.


Apparently the magic of Disney missed my house. Bah humbug. Mostly pedestrian dancing at best all round with a few exceptions.

First off JAZZ IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE. They go on and on about it being a ballroom competition. Well JAZZ IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE.  WTF guys. Get with the program. Nextly, CONTEMPORARY IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE. Why can’t they get that through their thick heads? And I imagine throughout the season we will be continually subjected to this awfulness and they will add in Broadway, and Charleston, and Bollywood. Why not add in tap, pointe and ballet? They call it a ballroom competition. Then do freaking ballroom dances.

Three of the celebrities scored a DNP for the night. That’s Did Not Participate. That’s better than what would happen at a real dance competition. They would get a big D for disqualified.

Ally and Sasha. Meh. She did a lot of what she was supposed to do.

Kel and Witney. It was jazz.

Kate and Pasha. I liked the QS and polka parts. The rest was just jazz.

The dance of the night for me was Sailor’s VW. And that was mostly because of Val. That man knows how to shape a dance. It was the only dance that moved me to chills. Softer than air, a well done VW like that just captures my heart. I loved it.

JVDB and Emma. Yeah, everybody loved it. It missed the sharp edges and life of a real PD. You want PD look at this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHdBpB1A7iM  Possibly the best PD ever on DWTS. All the things he did, JVDB missed. Watch the two side by side and there’s no comparison. What JVDB didn’t do is make me believe it. Simple as that.

Turn Alan loose on a smooth dance and you usually get a thing of beauty. He is so much like Val in that respect. This was no exception. Hannah was lighter than air. It was dreamy and soothed me. I could have done without all the smoke. I’d like to see the dancers’ feet. Hannah is beautiful and dances beautifully.

Finally, a samba and a good dancer. Lauren’s samba was passionate and had a lot of wow factor but something was missing. I kept glancing at my arm waiting for the chill bumps but they never came. I’m not sure what it was. Cool moves. We even got a samba roll although we had a weird camera angle at the time. And what was Gleb yelling about during the dance?

Karamo needs to go. I like him. He’s funny. We finally get a samba and he gives us this? I’ll be kind and call it a valiant effort. But about as wooden as my desk. No bounce, no hips, no rolls. Len called it right when he called it “stompy”.

Sean’s quickstep should be renamed the slowstep. Simple and a mess. Yet it was his best dance yet. And the sad fact is, he will probably win this season. Trump has tweeted his support so the Trump crazies are all going to vote for Sean. Just like last season when a no talent disc jockey won because the entire state of Arkansas voted for him or the season before when that stumblebum baseball player came in second. Having the judges decide who gets saved may protect the show from travesties such as Juan Pablo di Pace, but it won’t prevent idiot voters from making some clown the winner and turning the show into a circus. If they can ever finagle Sean into the bottom two they need to jettison him when they have the chance. I’m not sure they’re going to have the chance. I’m pretty sure he’s going to win. For the people who care about dance, watch who comes in second. That will probably be the best dancer. It’s gonna be a throw down between JVDB, Ally, Lauren and Hannah. Maybe Sailor. I don’t believe she’s got the legs, but she does have Val. There’s a lot to be said for that. An Ally/JVDB final would be fun. Pit husband against wife – Sasha vs. Emma.



What a great night! Full of hooting and hollering, laughing and chills and loving the dancing. And not a dud in sight (I’m being kind here). I’ve always considered Leah Remini one of the more unpleasant celebrities to don the shiny shoes. I guess she’s something of an acquired taste. I think I love her as a judge, though. Anyone who’d stand up and yell at Len for a 4 paddle is okay by me. I loved the madcap ambience she lent to the ballroom. Len may never be the same. Maybe they should adjust his meds.

My full on favorite of the night had to be Ally and Sasha’s jive. Hot dang, that’s how it’s done! She was channeling Tina Turner for all she was worth and getting it. I was totally covered with chills from the moment the silver dress came off. Oh my god! So good. I had a flashback to 12 year old me sitting up past midnight on a Saturday night with the TV turned low to watch them on the Midnight Special. I was enthralled with those four women spinning like dervishes, only a suggestion of a dress, hair in the wind. Wow, it got my blood up. Still does. Here’s a flashback. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzQnPz6TpGc If that don’t make you dance, you got no soul.

My other full on chill blade moment was Lauren and Gleb. OMG how good was that? So flowy, with shaping and swaying. Lines and stretches galore. A Classic. I always liked that song anyway. Hey, I’m southern. So sue me. And kudos to Gleb for not waxing. He’s the only male dancer on the show with the cojones to show a little chest hair.

Then there was Sailor and Val. Someone needs to tell him the manbun is really not working for him. But on the ballroom floor it was a wow performance. Fun and fringy. I love her joyous smile and legs for days. As Len would say, a proper cha cha. Mom crying in the audience was so touching, but could her boyfriend look any more like a goober?

JVDB and Emma had one of the better QS in a while. He kept it smooth and moved with confidence. You always had the sense he was steering and knew where he was going. Not seeing that in the other men yet. Again a great rondé. He was robbed. It was much better than Kel. A point of order. I hate people who say “We’re pregnant.” No, your partner is pregnant. As the guy, you have done your part. You are not pregnant. Now she does her part. She is pregnant. Ain’t no we about it.

I liked Karamo and Jenna’s tango. It looked mostly like a paso doble, but it did have intensity. He totally owned it, no doubt about it. From the wink, he had me hooked. Hmm. That didn’t come out right. Anyway, phooey on Carrie Ann for her lift obsession. But Karamo needs to stand up straight.

Hannah and Alans paso was so fierce. She knew what she was about and she went for it. There was a deadly calmness to her reminiscent of an assassin or, even better, a black widow spider. But she kept letting the grin slip out. It kinda ruined if for me. She’s got it going on. Just needs to control that face.

I seem to be the only one not blown away by Kel and Witney’s cha cha. It was competent and workmanlike. I didn’t see the Cuban motion the judges claim they saw. I think they were fooled by the wiggling around in non cha cha moves. Where’s Len when you need him to call them on stuff like that? Not bad at all, but I’ve seen comparable in Greensboro. Sorry for the inscrutable comment.

I assumed Kate would grow on me. Seems I was wrong. I’m just not liking her. I was trying to subsume myself into a sexy tango and all I could think was “fat legs” “bad hair” and “pinched face”. Len and Bruno called it. She missed the character. Sorry maybe it’s just me. I’m not a fan. But still, not a bad dance.

I gotta say I am a Sean Spicer fan. I’m so pulling for him. Three times out and all he gets is latin. The man can’t catch a break. His body just ain’t built for latin. Let him try a waltz or foxtrot. Tonight he was so entertaining. Lindsay was dancing like nobody’s business keeping the attention off him. And it mostly worked. He walked around like the General on inspection like he usually does. But there were hints of paso in there. My favorite part however was the faces he made. Just like the ones he made when he had to lie for Trump.

Lamar. Thank goodness he’s gone. He didn’t even do one full measure of VW in hold. It was his best dance and I’ll give him props for gracefulness and lyricism. He’s just not a dancer.

Next week is Disney Week, God help us.

Looks like Ally, Hannah, Lauren and JVDB are the odds on favorites for the finals. That’s my prediction.

Best comment of the night: Lauren “No more sixes, praise the lord.”

Best face. The look of surprised befuddlement on Lindsay’s face when she heard she and Sean were safe. It totally said “how the hell did that happen?”

Mea Culpa

I owe a big mea culpa to Lauren and Gleb. I said she dallied with 20 men on TV. That was Hannah. Lauren was on some singing show.

I was out for a medical procedure yesterday and my computer was out for one today. We are both recuperating. Thus, no new story this week. I did spend a good bit of time editing three versions of The Fourth Reich today. I have the original and the “clean” version for submitting to a website that wanted clean sci fi. I liked some of the clean version changes so I now have a revised version. I kept all the cursing. Let’s face it. That’s more realistic. I kept von Hoek’s prey as Jennifer. The captain can’t have all the fun. Dr N’duru (changed from N’dutu) shows her marksman chops and Jonesie gets to kick more Nazi ass. I like the extra scenes. You also find out who Jennifer fantasizes about. It ain’t the captain. I’ll post it once the editorial changes are more than ink stain and lemonade on paper -I had technical difficulties at Panera. Their tables are just long enough for three piles of paper and a pick two. But the lemonade didn’t want to share. According to the web the story has way passed short story and is about to pass from novelette to novella. The length will hinder getting it published anywhere unless I serialize it or make it a part of a book of short stories. I guess I could add more episodes about where they land next. That was actually in my first version but i liked better the idea of ending it with the dive into the wormhole. Spoiler alert: They survive.

And best news of the week, I now have 3, count ’em 3, short stories picked up for publication. Two will be in Ariel Chart Literature Review, an online only mag and my third will be in Down in the Dirt which has a hard copy distribution. No money changed hands. From now on I’m only submitting to paying mags. I got my validation now.


Night Two

Like a Sergio Leone movie gone wrong, the night was a mix of the good, the not so good, the bad and the ugly. Strangely enough, I can allow five dancers into the good category. Please understand I am being very generous here. Very generous.

Hannah was the real standout. It was a long wait, but her dance gave me minor chill bumps. Call them proto chill bumps; not the full Monty. Still, it was the only time all night. Len was right (it does happen on occasion), it was the best dance of the night. It actually looked like what it was supposed to be. So many of the dances missed that fundamental mark. But she’s also a ringer. She admitted up front that she’s been in dance classes since she was 3. She said she had stopped for a while. I noticed they didn’t mention how long she had stopped. Ten years? One year? A month? She’s got an edge no one else does. Not exactly fair. But it should be fun to watch. Alan is a bit like Mark Ballas. He can take her to the finals, but he tends to choke. He may torpedo her at some point.

I don’t know Kate Flannery and don’t exactly like her yet. I think she’ll be an acquired taste. Not much foxtrot going on, lots of side by side. It was good, but too Broadway. And I got distracted by the dancing spacemen in the background. Or more exactly, the spacewoman, with the form fitting space suit.

I so wanted to love JVDB after last week’s tango, the only dance I got to see. And his agility and extensions are wild. A mid-air split? A rondé over Emma’s head? Dang, he’s rocking 42. But dancing is more than acrobatics (although they do tend to like the acrobatic dancers). I was not blown away by his cha cha at all. He did one little segment of hip rolling and apparently that was the Cuban motion section of the dance. Didn’t see it again. I got to the end and said “that was it?”

I loved Karano’s spot. The practice segment was more entertaining than the dance. He is such a cutup. I couldn’t stop smiling from beginning to end. That helped to assuage the pain of his quickstep. Not so good, but as Carrie Ann said, it had pizzazz. And in this competition, pizzazz goes a long way.

If you gotta do paso, you gotta do skirt work. I remember Kate Gosselin set the bar for awful skirt work many seasons ago. She played “peekaboo, can you see my undies” rather than whipping it around. Best ever was Julianne Hough and Apolo Ono. She’s a pro, but that’s how it’s done. That said, Lauren had some credible skirt work. Gotta give her credit. Best shot was in practice when the skirt got tangled around Gleb’s head. The dance had moments of sass, but mostly looked like community theater and mediocre acting.

That was as good as it got. The good news is it has to get better. Doesn’t it?

The Not So Good

As for Sailor’s rumba, the best thing was that it actually looked like rumba and not vertical sex. I saw recognizable steps. But she was wooden and flat footed. She also had the best come on smile ever. I’d give her a ten paddle just for the smile.

I kinda liked Kel. I think he’ll grow on me. But I think I’m being too generous to put him in the Not So Good category. His dance contained recognizable samba steps like the judges said, but Bruno called it when he said it didn’t look Latin. It lacked anything that would make it look like a samba. No bounce, no life. Just blah. Yeah, I think it belongs in the bad category, but I’ve already written this so he gets a pass.

The Bad

Ally and Sasha got 20 points for their VW. What the hey? Who was the short guy standing in for Sasha? That couldn’t have been the real one. He was awful. He walked around, never had any lift, never achieved take off. Totally earth bound and klunky. And he’s the pro. When they were in hold and spinning, none of the ones were recognizable. Just plain awful. Best part was her Princess Di sapphire and diamond earrings.

I hated to see Mary Wilson go. There were many other candidates who were more worthy of the boot. She’s this year’s icon, our diva. No, she can’t dance at all, neither can several others. She couldn’t keep up with the foot work, but she was channeling Tina Turner for all she was worth. So, so sad to see her go.

Which leads us to the ugly.

Ray was the least ugly of the pack. His opening looked like me in the morning stumbling around looking for my shoes. And trying to straighten out my back. Len called it. Ray just walked around.

Even Lamar knows he’s in over his head. And that’s pretty deep considering he’s about seven feet tall. And what colorblind person designed their costumes? His shirt and pants were different shades of green, just close enough to clash. And it wildly clashed with the color green Peta was wearing. At least it added interest. He’s my pick as the next to go. Please.

Sean, the man we all love to hate. As the kids would say OMFG. That was soooo bad. First off, when did Shut Up and Dance become a tango? There was no tango about it. Same with Sean. I spent the dance alternating between wild laughter and loud groaning, and throwing popcorn at the tv. No tango in the house tonight.

I think Hannah, JVDB, and Kate are the ones to watch. If Sasha finds his lost groove, he’ll put Ally in the running. And never count out Gleb. I think Lamar will go next, then Ray. As I said, we love to hate Sean so he may stay around longer than anyone expects, just so we can gape at the train wreck. It’s definitely time for a double elimination. Get the dead wood out and start working the rest.

I still need to do some work on the site. I’m a dinosaur and everytime I converse with wordpress help they just confuse me with technospeak. I think I need to hire someone to fix up my blog the way I want it to be.