by Bill Fullerton
Velma Meeks sat enthroned at one end of the worn couch in her haphazardly furnished living room. In the far corner, a soap opera flickered in unobserved silence. She lit a fresh cigarette with her old one, made a token attempt at crushing the butt, then left the still smoldering stub in the overflowing ashtray. After a deep drag, she leaned back and blew out a long, contented stream of smoke. Smoking chores completed, she propped her bare feet on the crowded coffee table and waited for her friend to come back from the kitchen.
Waiting in silence, however, was not her style. The thirty-something bottled-blonde looked around at the empty doorway to the kitchen. "You know it's hard for me to believe you're this messed-up. You've always been so self-confident. Now, it's like you don't know whether to fish or cut bait."
She reclaimed her spot at the other end of the sofa. "The thing is, Mark and I went out a couple of times last weekend. One was a real date. On the other we just went swimming. Both times he seemed, well, sort of distracted. Like, it was nice to be with me, but no big deal, either."
"You think maybe he's just jealous and pouting because you went out with Darrell Ray?"
Bebe shrugged and reached for her own cigarettes. "Could be. That's what I'd hoped for. But now I'm not sure. He's never even asked about what I did while he was gone. At first, I figured it was because somebody told him about my dating Darrell Ray and, like you said, he was pouting. But now, I'm beginning to think he just doesn't care."
"I doubt it." Velma leaned forward and inspected the second coat of bright red polish she'd just applied to her toenails. "Maybe he's just trying to act cool. But judging from what you've told me, I doubt that, too."
The women smoked and pondered the situation in silence until Velma started rummaging through the clutter on the coffee table. "Have you seen my nail file?" She paused and looked over at Bebe. "You know, I just had a thought. Was he that way, you know, distracted like, when he picked you up? What I'm asking is, did something happen during the date that might have caused this?"
"Well, he seemed all right at first, I think." Bebe picked the file off the floor and handed it over. "But I was carrying on, doing a lot of the talking. You know, trying to act like I was interested in what he'd done down in Baton Rouge. So I'm not sure."
"Do you think something might have happened while he was in Baton Rouge, you know, with Amy?"
"I've wondered about that myself. But I don't think so. Still, with someone like her, anything, and I do mean anything, is possible."
"I suppose there could be more going on between them than we first figured. Best friends do fall in love. Maybe they got carried away, you know, at one of those parties he told you about. If so, he might be feeling guilty and all."
Before Bebe could respond, Velma continued, "And while we're on the subject of getting carried away, I take it you two still haven't done the dirty deed?"
"No. At least, not yet. The timing's never felt right." Bebe tried to act nonchalant. "Why do you think I went out with Darrell Ray?"
They both giggled. "Well, honey, maybe he's just getting tired of waiting for some action. Look, even if that's not the main problem, I promise you, a little back-seat boogie session will get you his undivided attention."
Bebe hoped she didn't come off sounding like a kid to her older friend. "You're right, of course. But what if the problem's something else? Isn't there a chance doing it too soon could make things even worse?"
Velma paused to light another Parliament. "Not if you play it right. How you handle a guy after the first time is super important. Nothing personal, but whatever you do, don't try pulling your roommate's old rejuvenating virgin stunt or, even worse, pretend it's your first time. It's 1968, not the dark ages. You know better, I know better, odds are even Mark knows better. After all, he's bound to have learned something in college."
Bebe had to grin. "At least a little something."
"The trick is," Velma continued, "to act just a little confused and vulnerable, like it was so incredible you're all shook up. Instead of saying you never did that before, say you've never 'felt' like this. It's a sneaky little way of suggesting that, even if there might have been one or two others, he's the best."
Down at the other end of the couch, Bebe pretended to take notes. "Act confused and say, 'felt.' Is that right, Professor Meeks?"
"You got it. That way he'll get all full of himself and want to be your knight in shining armor and go around saving your honor-for himself, of course. Once he's your big, brave protector, you start hinting around about how it might be nice to have some sort of casual, just for the summer type, understanding. Maybe say something about how that way you'd have a good excuse to say no when guys like Darrell Ray ask you out."
"Velma, you won't do. Does any guy ever have a chance around you?"
"Not if I have my way, honey. They never have and never will. Just ask my poor husband."
"So you think it's time I got it on with Mr. Mark?"
"A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do," said Velma. "And just between you and me and the walls, some girls say it's kinda fun."
Bebe laughed, then checked her watch and stood. "I've gotta scoot. But do you remember that joke, the one you said you told Buddy, about how you were giving up sex because it was too messy, too much work, and the positions were just plain ridiculous?"
"Oh, yeah. I had him going for a minute. You should've seen his face."
"Well, to tell you the truth, that's pretty much how I really do feel. I love everything leading up to it. You know, the flirting and the dates and even making-out. And there are times when I do get a little turned-on and want the guy. It can be fun then, at least for me. But most of the time, it seems a lot more about his wants and needs than my feelings. Still, I suppose if it has to be done, it has to be done."
"That's the spirit, girl."
"Because I promise you," continued Bebe, in a voice that left no doubt about her sincerity, "there's no way that damn Amy Marshall, or anyone else, is going to keep me from marrying her best friend."
Bill Fullerton writes:
"At one time or another I've been a country grocery store clerk, oil field roustabout, infantry soldier, graduate student, paper pusher for the government, out of work, and a newspaper columnist. I'm still grinding out sports and general interest pieces, both print and Net, while trying to add published novelist to my resume.
"I have a B.S. from LSU and a Master's degree from Louisiana Tech, and have had academic work published. In addition to USADS, my fiction has appeared in Rose and Thorn, DeadMule.com, New Works Review, Chick Flicks, Nibbler, and Long Story Short. After picking up a Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart in Viet Nam, I lived in New York City from 1970-1972, the setting for my first novel, A Brief Affair.
"Although born and raised in Louisiana, I'm currently out-stationed with my family in Austin, Texas, where I've just finished my second novel, We Danced to Ray Charles, a coming-of-age, mainstream story, set in a small Southern town in 1968."
Visit Billís blog at Billís Bilge.
[Note from Ye Editor: And for another great story, be SURE to CLICK HERE to read the story about Bill Fullerton written in 1969 by William F. Buckley, Jr., in the National Review.]
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