Kevin had asked Jill while they were driving around on Sunday morning, what she liked to drink and she'd told him she liked wine. Neither of them were old enough to drink, yet---at least, according to the law. On Monday morning, Kevin decided to forego his usual classes at the community college in Squiresville. He waited until Jill and her mother left for their respective jobs. (Jill's father had died five years earlier. He'd suffered a major heart attack, while cleaning the family car at the car wash, in town. By the time the attendant discovered his body slumped over the soapy hood of his car and called 911, it was too late; he was already gone.) Then Kevin asked Jill's brother Gary if he would buy him a bottle of wine.
Gary was twenty-five and he hadn't worked a day in his life. No, Kevin though, that wasn't exactly true. He'd worked for one whole evening in the kitchen at the country club, out on Saddle Brook Road. The story went that by the time his shift ended, he'd broken so many glasses and dishes, that he owed the country club money, which was why he never received a paycheck for his one and only day of honest labor. Since then, he'd made a living out of cashing his monthly social security check at the Wachovia bank, on Main Street.
Monotoning didn't have a state store of its own. They had to drive the three miles down the road to the one, in Lazarus, instead.
Kevin parked on a shady side street, a block away from the store. He handed Gary a crumpled five dollar bill. Gary went and came back, ten minutes later, with a green bottle conspicuously concealed in a brown paper bottle. It was Boone's Farm Apple Wine,the cheapest stuff on the shelf, cheaper even than Thunderbird or Ripple.
"Here," Gary grunted, thrusting the bottle at Kevin.
"Hey, don't hold it out in the open like that! Do you want everyone in the whole world to see it?" He grabbed the bottle from Gary's hairy, big-knuckled fist. Reaching his hand between the bucket seats, he carefully placed the bottle on the back floor.
"Now, look," Gary said, staring Kevin straight in the eye. "If you and my little sister want to go out driving and drinking, tonight, that's fine by me. That's your business. But if the cops stop you and they ask you where you got that bottle, just remember one thing. You didn't get it from me."
"I'll tell 'em I found it," Kevin said brightly.
But Gary didn't think that was funny. "You'd better," he said.
That night, at seven o'clock, he picked Jill up at the payphone, in front of Harden's hardware store, on Main Street. "So did you give Larry back his ring, yet?"
"NO!" she nearly bit his head off. "I haven't been able to get a hold of him, yet. Now, where's my bottle of wine?"
He looked at her. "Huh? How did you know about that?"
She smiled. "You forget. You asked my brother to buy it for you. If there's one thing Gary can't do, it's keep a secret. As soon as you left him off at our place, this morning, he started making his daily rounds. The Laundromat, Miller's meat market, Dave's Doughnut Shoppe. And of course, Hennessey's Pub. He told anyone he could get to liasten---" And here, she perfectly imitated her older brother's gruff, nasal, Neanderthal-like voice. " 'Hey, guess what I just did. I bought Kevin Badger a bottle of Boone's Farm Apple wine, so he and my little sister could go out drinking, tonight."
"Why, that no good---" Kevin spluttered in a useless fit of self-righteous indignation.
"The big, stupid idiot even went and told my mom," Jill said.
"Oh, great." Kevin's shoulders slumped and he felt his heart sink deep inside his chest like a stone down a dry well. "How did you manage to wiggle your way out of that one?"
"I told her Gary had gotten it all wrong, as usual," Jill replied with a frown and a slight shrug of her shoulders. "I told her the reason you asked Gary to buy a bottle for you was because you and some of your buddies were getting together for a poker game, tonight, and you wanted something to drink. Now, where's my bottle?"
"Check under your seat."
Jill's sleek silhouette disappeared into the darkness, as she bent over and extracted the bottle, still in its brown paper bag, from beneath her seat. The bottle's green glass gleamed brightly in the sharp glare of the yellow sodium arc lamps lining both sides of Main Street.
At the same time, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Monotoning's one-and-only, white-and-blue cruiser car coming up the other side of the street, headed in their direction.
"Quick, put that bottle down!" he hissed at Jill like a venemous snake.
Kevin sat bolt-upright in his slippery seat. He gripped the steering wheel tightly in both hands and stared straight ahead, holding his breath.
The cruiser car passed them by and continued on up Main Street, at the same slow, steady pace as before. The hulking shadow behind the wheel didn't even so much as glance in their direction, as he passed Kevin's car.
"Whew!" Kevin gasped, expelling a huge draught of air through his nostrils. "That was close."
Jill laughed. "Oh, Keith, why are you so uptight? That was just Raleigh Splitter. Raleigh's a close, personal friend of mine. All the cops in town are friends of mine. If you want to travel with me from now on, you're going to have to learn to loosen up a little, enjoy yourself more."
She settled her bulky, red leather purse in her lap and dug out a crumpled package of Marlboro Lights and a cheap plastic lighter. "You want one?" she asked, offering him the pack.
"Nah, no thanks."
"You mind if I have one?"
"No, go right ahead."
"I can't stand this much silence. I need some noise," she said, and leaned over, and switched on the radio, filling the small car with a loud, roaring racket. Kevin's old Mustang bumped and rattled over the double set of rusted railroad tracks, at the North end of town.
They went for another drive in the hills outside of town, where the macadamed roads soon gave way to dirt and gravel, and the old stone-and-brick farm houses were few and far apart. Neither of them said very much. They listened to the tunes on the radio and passed the bottle between them. The wine looked thin and clear as water inside the bottle and it produced a warm, comfortable glow in the pit of Kevin's stomach. After a sip or two, he decided he'd had enough. Each time Jill handed him the bottle, he lifted the bottle to his mouth and tilted back his head, letting the wine slosh against his clenched teeth, and passed the bottle back to Jill.
Soon, he felt her warm hand on his thigh. "Kevin, when are we going to get married?"
He looked at her. His eyes bulged in their sockets and his jaw fell all the way down like a sprung trap. It took a second or two, before he realized that his front right tire was thumping along in the grass and weeds, at the side of the road. He quickly turned his attention and his right front tire back to the road.
"Married?" he said. "Are you crazy? This is only the second time we've been out together. I like you alot. But I really don't think we know each other well enough yet to know for sure if we love each other enough to get married. Besides, I don't think your mother would like the idea very much. I know my folks wouldn't."
"I'm eighteen now, and I can do whatever the hell I want. And so can you, if you really want to."
They were on Old Lumber Mill Road. They'd passed the last farm house and the tiny power station, on the left side of the winding road, about fifteen minutes ago. The towering connifers formed an impenetrable wall on both sides of the road.
"Quick," Jill said. "Pull in here."
Kevin turned his steering wheel hard to the right. The moment his headlights touched the solid wall of trees, they suddenly seemed to swing inward like an invisible gate.
He slowly and carefully inched his car down a tight, narrow path between the trees. The interlaced branches formed a natural canopy high over their heads. The lower limbs banged and scraped against the side of Kevin's car. They made a high-pitched, screeching sound like the sound of fingernails being dragged down a chalk board.
"This is far enough," Jill announced, after they'd gone about half a mile.
Kevin braked the car to a cautious halt. Before he could reach it, Jill eased the shiny, silver shifter intp park. She leaned over and switched off the motor and doused the lights, submerging them both in complete and total darkness.
Kevin's heart hammered like an angry fist inside his chest and he felt as if he had a raging fever. He hesitated for one second, just long enough to draw in a deep, ragged breath, expelling it slowly. Then he inclined his head toward Jill's. Their lips met, colliding softly, smacking sweetly.
The plump, moist tip of Jill's tongue lightly tickled Kevin's tightly puckered lips, instantly relaxing them. The next thing he knew, their tongues were playfully poking and probing each other like a pair of baby porpoises, inside each other's mouth. The interior of Kevin's car suddenly felt as hot and uncomfortable as a microwave oven.
He heard Jill moan in a state of prolonged ecstacy. "Mmmm..."
Reluctantly, they parted, at last. Jill's eyes gleamed and she smiled a bright, happy smile. "Oh, wow," she managed to gasp, fanning her flushed cheek with her red-painted fingertips. "You're really good, you know that?"
Her slender fingers trembled, as she undid the top bottom of her blouse. Kevin reached out a hand to help her.
She stopped. "No," she said. "We can't do it in here. We'll have to do it out there, somewhere. I don't suppose you have a blanket."
"I have a sleeping bag in the trunk."
"You carry a sleeping bag in your trunk?"
"Sure. Haven't you ever read For Whom the Bell Tolls?"
Kevin rushed to the back of his car, unlocked his trunk, and pulled out his old Boy Scout sleeping bag. Jill accepted his hand, entwining her long fingers around his. Together, they waded through a vast meadow, filled with grass and weeds, and stickerbushes, that were as high as their waists, and in some places, even higher.
They left the meadow and entered a small, grassy area, where the land suddenly steeped downward in a sharp declension of barren earth and giant boulders. The starry, night sky loomed high above them like gaping, black maw of some terrific monster.
Jill stood to one side, an anxious look on her face, and watched, while Kevin unrolled his sleeping bag, unfurling it like a sail, and spread it out on the soft, pliant grass. He sank to his knees and with the palms of his hand, he smoothed out the heavy, tattered, and threadbare, grey and brown cloth.
Without a word, Jill came and knelt down in front of him. She looked deep into his eyes, as she unbottoned her blouse, one slow button at a time. Then she removed her blouse, casting it aside like an extra layer of unwanted skin. Reaching behind her back, she deftly unhooked her bra and tossed that away, as well. Freed at last from their cotton-and-wire constraints, her magnificent breasts seemed to float toward Kevin like a pair of wan balloons in the cool night air.
She saw the stunner look on his face and she giggled like a little girl. "It's okay," she assured him. "Go on, touch them. They won't break. Honest."
His larged hand gently cupped her bright breast and squeezed. It was like a balloon, he thought, soft and squishy, yet warm and tender to his touch.
He kissed her right breast, then her left breast, and then her right breast, again. Her nipples sprouted outward into firm, brown cones.
Kevin heard her moan, again, long and low. This time, though, it sounded more like a groan.
"Kevin, make love to me," she crooned sweetly in his ear. "Please?"