CUDDLING & CONVERSATIONMature

     Then, it seemed like only seconds later, it was over.  Kevin lay on his back on the stiff, scratchy sleeping bag and stared up at the starry sky, with a satisfied smile on his face.  Jill rested her head on his hairy chest.  Somewhere nearby, a listless cricket chirped.

     He looked at Jill and said, "You know, I think I could lie here like this for the rest of my life and be content."

     Jill nestled closer against him.  Her long hair tickled his sweaty flesh.  "Mmm..." she purred.

     "So what are you doing with yourself, these days, now that you're out of school?" he asked her.

     "Well, right now, I'm working as a receptionist at Danny Ullman's dental practice, over on the Triangle, in Lazarus.  And as soon as I have two thousand dollars saved up, I'm going to go to Hollywood."

     "Hollywood!  What do you want to go there for?"

     "I want to try and see if I can star in major movie musicals like Madonna.  She's my all-time favorite.  What do you think?  Do you think I can do it?"

     "Well, Lord knows you've got a fabulous singing voice.  And you're certainly beautiful enough.  If I were you, I'd go for it."

     "Oh, thank you, Kevin.  Thank you very much!  You don't know how much I was hoping you'd say that.  I just wish my mother felt that way.  Every time I even try to bring up the subject, she just rolls her eyes and says, 'Now, what do you want to go to Hollywood for?'  And then she launches into the same old speech, over and over, again.  All about how there must be at least thousands of other girls like me, all with the same hopes and desires as me, who head for Hollywood every day.  And for everyone of them who makes their dreams come true, there are a hundred others who wind up on their backs on some casting director's couch somewhere, or making porn movies, or doing drugs, or selling themselves as prostitutes.  I don't know where my mom gets these crazy ideas.  She can be so unreasonable sometimes."

     Jill sighed.  "My mom says that what I should do is forget all this nonsense about going to Hollywood," she went on.  "She says I should find a guy I like, get married, and settle down.  I already have a decent-paying job.  If I don't like where I'm at, right now, she says she'll be only too happy to pay for me to go to the community college, up in Squiresville, so I can learn new skills and get an even better job than the one I have now.

     "The funny thing is I really wouldn't mind getting married if I knew for sure the love the guy and I had for each other would last," she said.

     "I think when you find the right person, the love will last forever," Kevin told her.

     She laughed, one high, light, lilting note.  "Oh, Kevin," she said.  "You are so naive."

     "Why?  What did I say?"

     "Nothing.  Never mind.  I just don't want to wind up like my mom.  You should've seen the marriage she had with my dad.  It was terrible.  My mom was beautiful when she was my age.  She could've had her pick of any man in The Valley she wanted.  But by dumb luck, she had to go and pick my dad.  He got her pregnant and then he refused to marry her.  He wouldn't go anywhere the hospital while my brother Gary was being born.  It wasn't until after she'd been home from the hospital for about six months that he finally came around and asked her to marry him.  And like an idiot, she said, yes.

     "They hardly ever spoke to each other," Jill said.  "He'd come home from work and sit in the living room in the dark, in his dirty, smelly work clothes, and stare at the television.  When my mom came in and turned on the light, just to say, 'hi,' and ask how his day had been, he growled at her like some kind of vicious animal.  Then he stormed off to their room and slammed and locked the door on her.  I'm sorry.  But if that's my mom's idea of love, I don't want anything to do with it.  My old man was a mean, ugly son of a bitch and I'm glad he's dead."

     Kevin was horrified.  "That's a terrible thing to say about your own father."

     "I don't care.  It's the truth.  Tell me something.  How do you feel right now?"

     "Me?  I feel fantastic."

     "You don't feel mad at yourself or guilty?"

     He laughed.  "Now why would I feel mad or guilty?"

     "For giving in to your---what do they call it in church?---your carnal nature."

     "No, I don't feel mad at myself at all.  Or guily, either."

     "And you're not mad at me for helping you to give in---just a little?"

     "No, I'm not mad at you.  If I gave in, it was because I wanted to.  I needed to."

     "What if I'd said no?"

     "Honestly?  I would've gone home and thought about you, and, well, you know..."

     "You wouldn't have tried to force yourself on me?"

     "No way.  I'm not that kind of guy."

     "I wish my boss felt that way."

     "Your boss.  What does he have to do with anything?"

     Jill took a slow, deep breath, before she went on.

     "I was typing some letters, this afternoon, when Dr. Ullman came over and sat right down on the edge of my desk," she said.  "He started telling me about what a wonderful worker I was and what a great asset I was to his organization, and how glad he was he'd hired me.  His dark, beady eyes lit up like a pair of Christmas lights and he got this big, ugly smile on his face.  Then he just reached out and touched my...my breast!"

     "Why, that no good---" Kevin swore.  "What did you do then?"

     "What do you think I did?" Jill sniffed in an inured air of self-righteous indignation.  "I slapped him as hard as I could across his fat face.  I grabbed my purse and jumped out of my chair.  I shouted over my shoulder for him to mail my check and ran as fast I could for the door.

     "My mom thinks I should have him arrested for sexual harrassment.  But I don't want to do that.  I just want to forget all about it and get on with what I want to do with my life.  I don't know what makes me madder---the fact that he touched me like that; or that now, I'm out of work, and I have to try and find another job, so I can earn the rest of the money I need to get to Hollywood.  Oh, Kevin.  Why must all men be such animals?"

     "We are not all animals," he told her.

     "But you are," she insisted.  "My dad, Dr Ullman.  Maybe even you, too, for all I know.  Men say they love women.  But they don't, not really.  Love is just a little, white lie they use to get women to do what they want them to do."

     Jill, love's not like that, at all."

     "Oh, yeah?  Then what is love like?  Tell me, so I'll know it when I see it?"

     "Well, for one thing, love is all about forgiving and forgetting."

     "I can forgive but I can't forget.  Not ever."

     She lay still and silent against him for what seemed like a long time.  He felt the rage and anger rise from her body like heat from a stone.

     Finally, in a small, little-girl voice, she said, "What time is it?"

     Kevin consulted his trusty Timex watch with its magical Indiglo light.  "12:45."

     "Oh, my God!"  Jill shrieked, suddenly hysterical.  She sat bolt-upright and started to cast about frantically in the darkness for her clothes.  "I was supposed to be home an hour ago.  My mom's going to kill me!"

     Kevin grinned.  "Hey, what's the rush?  I thought you could do anything you wanted, now that you're eighteen," he said, unable to resist sticking in the spurs , just a little.

     "Shut up and get dressed," she snapped.

The End

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