Rosenjack *** Chapters 13 - 16
...sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime... Father Figure (George Michael)
Rose had been eagerly anticipating my Mayday birthday, and on that day, she presented me with a little bottle of Old Spice. Something in what she said when she gave it to me made me think she chose it because she'd remembered Stan having worn it. I was just grateful for the thought. With the cologne, she also presented me with a chocolate cake she'd baked herself, white frosting with a huge blue 39 written in icing. We spent the rest of the night eating cake and playing Gin Rummy. I remember it so vividly; I can close my eyes at any moment and replay the whole thing in perfect detail... we were sitting on the floor of the common area, on either side of the coffee table, the subdued lighting from the corner lamps softening the entire room, the smell of Old Spice that I had applied drifing through the evening, the radio gently flooding the room with jazz from the university station. Jokingly, I thanked Rose for putting the big blue 39 on the cake, for rubbing my face in it, and in retaliation she reached over and pushed the piece of cake in my hand into my face, rubbing frosting on my cheek. She reached up to wipe the gob of frosting from my face with her thumb and then stuck that thumb in her mouth to slowly slurp the white goo off, grinning like an imp, a demon, as she did so, and giving me a minor heart attack in the process.
That was the night I finally let myself go over the edge; after she had gone home and I was laying there in my room, alone in the dark, slowly stroking, I deliberately chose to invite Rose into my private fantasies. Please don't mistake this action. There was nothing raunchy or unredeemably sexual in those thoughts, although not from lack of trying on the part of my libido. Every time the little head tried to make me picture a penetration, the big head forced it back to something suitably R-rated. A visualization of her jumping into the pool only to lose her bikini in the water and have to exit the pool naked, while I waited with a towel to dry her off. A scene of her in my room, standing over my cot, posing innocently in the nude and asking which feature I thought was her best. That night was the first time I consciously chose to visualize her, to acknowledge to myself that the feelings I had were not only romantic, but sensual, sexual, physical. I tried to avoid thinking about her any more after that night, but it was too late. I had opened the bottle, and the genie wouldn't go back in. Rose came to occupy the center of my fantasies, although we never progressed in my head even as far as heavy petting, only a tender kiss here and there. Lancelot complex even in my flippin' private fantasies, for crying out loud, lust for the lady but respect her, never touch her, until she makes a move, until she comes to you begging for it...
I knew the word for what I was, but I couldn't make it stick, couldn't make myself believe that I had become that. Pedophile. Child-lover. Pervert. Filth. It couldn't be true, but it had to be. I was attracted to Rose, sexually attracted. I wanted to see her naked, wanted to touch her nakedness, hold her close in the dark. Did it matter that there was more to it? That it was the whole person I wanted, her mind and her spirit, her humor, her pain, her gentle trust, her heart, and not just her body? But I wanted her body as well, and I just couldn't get past that. Why did I want so badly to feel her skin against mine, her lips on mine, her breath in my ear? Why did I want to just have her near me, laying with me, holding her close and stroking her hair, her limbs, her tummy, her hips, her thighs, the creamy flesh between her legs... God! God! Stop it, stop tormenting me, stop pushing me, stop the burning, for God's sake, PLEASE!
Life's like a road that you travel on, one day here and the next day gone... Life is a Highway (Tom Cochrane)
It wasn't too long after, that I bought Rose a bike. It was a display model at Toy Barn, a little beat up from the constant parade of kids who had tried it out, but they let me have it for 25 bucks. Rose didn't mind the wear and tear, she was thrilled just to have it. She had lost her last bike (that she was too big for anyway) two or three moves ago, and the restoration of wheels meant we could ride places together. I instructed her to lie to her mother and tell her I had found the bike abandoned in a storage shed; I was worried Marjorie might object to my having bought it for Rose without the convenient excuse of a birthday or holiday as justification. It worked out beautifully. We rode together everywhere that spring, but our favorite places to go were Dannan Park (where we rode the swings and watched little kids playing in the sandbox), the overlook on Griffin Ridge that commanded a view of the tree-choked valley floor next to the river, and the Goodwill shop on Maynard Avenue where we spent happy hours rooting around for treasure in other people's castoffs. Idyllic.
Believe it or not, I had never ridden "look Ma no hands" before. With Rose's encouragement, I gradually came to an understanding of gravity and balance that allowed me to match her in riding with my hands at my sides, steering with careful shifts of my weight. We had contests to see who could go the longest without grabbing the handlebars, and I actually won three or four times (although I think Rose let me win half of those because she felt sorry for me). Whenever we raced to the Petro4Less in the Sangreal Plaza, she always won, but when the race was to the Audi dealership at the top of Parkway Lane, I always won; I think it was because I was able to put more power into that last steep uphill part after we got through the intersection. Not that it ever really mattered, I don't think either of us really gave a damn who won, the actual pleasure was in just being together.
We used the truck a handful of times. The first few outings were nothing but fun. I have particularly fond memories of an overcast Saturday afternoon in May when we went to the flea market over in Peace Landing, the one that sets up every weekend in the parking garage of the abandoned Holiday Inn. We oohed and ahhed over a vast array of gewgaws and gimcracks, and traded little idiocies that left us both breathless with laughter. On the ride home, after stopping at the Dairy Suite for a couple of butterscotch malts, she dozed off in the cab, slumped against my side, and for 20 heavenly miles or so, with my arm draped over the back of the seat, I had the blessing of feeling her warmth as she nestled against my shoulder, her soft snoring providing a delicious counterpoint to the bluegrass and Celtic ballads provided by the university's radio station. Then there was the Sunday that I took her to the Rerun Cinema, that little space in the Goldenview Mall that had housed several small businesses over the years, until somebody converted it into a kind of art theater whose bill of fare was confined to "the classics". That was where we saw a retrospective of Fleischer Inkwell cartoons; Koko and Bimbo and Betty Boop. Needless to say, she spent the better part of the next month talking like Betty Boop every time she saw me, cooing "Boop a doop a doop, ooh!", twisting her hair and tossing her head back with a wicked roll of her eyes. The nutcase.
The last time we used the truck that summer, an oppressively muggy night near the middle of August, was when we went to the drive-in just off of County 616. That outing was a long night's journey into Hell. I had thrown a bunch of blankets in the bed of the pickup, and when we got there I backed into our stall, then we sat down together in the bed with our backs against a couch cushion I had propped against the cab, to watch all three Matrix films shown as a triple-feature; a jumbo-sized bag of popcorn between us and a six-pack of birch beer on the wheel well. I still hadn't quite gotten over the shock of Marjorie saying yes to this little outing, after Rose asked a mere three times. Once again, Marjorie assured me (over a six of Molson's) that her trust in me was absolute, and she knew Rose would be safe with me. Gratitude or guilt. Probably a fiercely unhealthy mix of both. Rose was beside herself with joy at the prospect of staying up past 3 am on a Friday night. At a drive-in, for God's sake. I had seen the first film in it's original run, and worried a little over the intense level of violence, but thought the climactic scene, with the full-blown Snow White ending where the hero is brought back to life by True Love's Kiss, was appropriately gooey enough that Rose and I could both enjoy it on the same level without too much danger. I hadn't seen the second or third films before, hadn't even read reviews. Thrice-Damned Idiot. The second film sent me on a roller coaster ride through the flames of damnation, a savage spectacle plunging me into the abyss and searing me many times over before emergence on the far side. I was pinned in place, skewered, when barely half an hour into that film, there was a fully nude sex scene, complete with climax. Actually, one sex scene intercut with several explitly suggestive near-sex scenes, underscored by an unrelenting, driving, raw, percussive bass line that left nothing to the imagination, a throbbing, insistent, primal urge with no escape possible save the one you knew and wanted so badly you could taste the blood at the back of your throat. I had seen much raunchier, many times before, this one didn't even show genitals; but watching it with Rose beside me was a rocketsled ride through the firey pit. Onscreen, Trinity clutched Neo to her as if they were on a journey through a galaxy of their own, and only by holding onto him with all her strength could she be assured of safe passage; and when Neo climaxed, I shivered in sympathy and knew I was lost. It wasn't just sexual, it was sensual; not sex, but lovemaking. As I watched from the corner of my eye for her reaction, I found my breathing labored and tense, and the heat rising in my pants was a foreign presence that could not be shut down. She never even looked over at me, just kept staring at the screen, and I tore myself up trying to decide whether that was good or bad, trying to get some clue from her reaction. Was she breathing hard? I couldn't tell, my own breathing drowned everything out. Gradually, I became aware that, just beyond the edge of the truck, past Rose, I could see into the back seat of the rocking car parked next to us. Turned my head hellishly slow, knowing what I would see on the other side. And I did; not immediately beside us, one space over, but suggestively recognizable through the back windows, a coupling. Bosch himself couldn't have painted me into a worse Hell. Still Rose stared straight ahead, and the need to know overwhelmed everything as I watched her chest intently to see that, yes, she was breathing deeper and harder than normal. After the scene was over, the only thing that seemed to change between us was when Rose nudged off her sandals and put the bottoms of her feet against my bared calf, leaving them there for most of the rest of the second film. Thankfully, the third film was a return to old-school violent mayhem, and even provided a tearjerker ending as a cherry on top.
For weeks afterward, those films were a sigificant spur to our conversations. Although we never discussed the sex scenes, there were moments, maddening, tantalizing, hint-from-the-heart-of-Hell moments, when she started to say something, then drew up short and changed it to something else. Did she know what she was doing? Did she know the effect she was having on me? It was like having a burning curtain between us. I knew the curtain was on fire, and I was certain she was aware of it too. Neither of us acknowledged it verbally, but too many sideways looks that seemed to linger just a little too long were darts of fire that pierced my spine.
Did she know I was having to hug my pillow to my chest at night, just to have something to touch, to pretend it was her I held? I couldn't tell what was worse, the slow burn of loneliness I had known before I knew Rose, the loneliness that tore me down day after day after endless day, or the rapid burn that was torching my heart now, burning it to a blazing cinder every night, only to be revived the next day by her first Hello.
...you don't really want to know just how far its gone, just leave well enough alone... Dirty Laundry (Don Henley)
The grass in the complex seemed especially fertile that summer, pushing up out of the earth at what felt like a ridiculous rate. I was mowing some part of the grounds almost every other day, pausing once in a while as Rose brought me ice water or lemonade. Part of the time I saw her watching me mow, keeping her eye on my shirtless circuit of the grounds, but there were long chunks of time when she was off by herself. It didn't take me long to learn she had been going to my room to listen to my music. On an especially humid evening a couple of weeks before school started, she showed me what she had been doing all that time she was alone with my tapes; she had been organizing them for me, cleaning up and matching cassettes to cases, re-labeling the dubbed ones and cataloging everything. She had created a mix tape, and she used both the tape and a tennis racket to put on an air guitar show. I sat on the common room couch and watched her prance and caress the "guitar" through a set that consisted of the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" (crackling with tension), Cheap Trick's Budokan version of "I Want You To Want Me" (necessarily calling to mind thousands of preteen Japanese girls who were all dying (dying, dying, dying) to rush the stage in a wave), Jerry Lee Lewis doing "Great Balls of Fire" (for which song she temporarily put down the "guitar" and pulled up a chair to use the coffee table as an air piano; at the point in the song where Jerry Lee jumps up and knocks his piano bench flying, Rose jumped up and kicked the chair back with such violence that it made me jump in my seat), and Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry". My God. Her performance of "Dirty Laundry" was the single most erotic thing I have ever seen. In my entire life. I mean that quite literally, I have never seen any performance, by any other person, before or since, that was more charged with sexual energy. When the song reached the first guitar solo, I actually stopped breathing for a moment at the wonder of it all. As the solo started, Rose was swinging her hips from side to side with the "guitar" slung low between her legs, her fingers moving in an amazing show of dexterity that I could almost believe would produce the sounds I was hearing if she actually had a guitar in her hands. Then she shifted to pumping her hips front to back, still stroking the neck, making love to the damn thing. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and suspected I was hallucinating it; she was openly humping the body of the "guitar", and her fingers seemed to have given up on imitating fret positions, choosing instead to stroke the neck as if she were gripping a phallus. As the solo rolled on, she did a strange little mincing dance step from right to left, then whirled and moved back from left to right in a duckwalk that was a perfect imitation of Chuck Berry; it was touching and hilarious and savagely sexy all at once, and it was all being done for me, a private audience of one. As the solo rolled to a close, she ran forward and dropped down, sliding the last few inches on her knees and holding the "guitar" upright between her legs as if it were something she were worshipping. That performance is acidly etched in my head, and I can recall any moment of it any time I want to simply by closing my eyes; and of course, whenever that song comes on the radio now, I have to turn away, lest I get too distracted to continue whatever it is I'm doing. When the set was over, sweat was pouring from every part of her body, and she came over to collapse on the couch.
"My God," I murmured, "that was unbelievable! You look like you're dying, let me get you a drink." As she took the cold root beer from my hand, deliberately touching my fingers to do so, she looked up at me without moving her head.
"Yeah, I've never done four songs in a row before," she grinned, "guess I need to build up a little more stamina." I plopped down next to her, wiping her face with a towel I'd brought over, and fanning her with it. "I'm so hot and sweaty," she panted, "you must think I look like some gross pig." No, I answered, your steaming hot sweaty body makes me think of things, but pigs aren't one of them. Then aloud, I said, "It's summer, you goof, you're supposed to be hot and sweaty. Trust me, you're beautiful."
"So you liked it?" Her grin told me she knew she didn't need to ask.
"Yeah, but Rose, I'm a little worried about contamination. I mean, I don't want to take you away from the kind of music kids your age listen to. I don't want you to grow up older than you should be." She sat forward at that and put her hands on her hips.
"Waitaminute. When these songs first came out, kids my age listened to them then, didn't they?" she demanded. I had to nod my head. "Well, this music was okay for kids then, so it must be okay now, right?" As I started to protest, she held up a hand. "Besides, it goes both ways. You listen to my music, right?" Again, all I could do was nod my head. "Well then, trust me. 'They say that a hero can save us, I'm not gonna stand here and wait'..." she sang with a gentle drawing out motion of her hands as encouragement to me, and I picked it up, "I'll hold on to the wings of the eagles," and then we finished together, "Watch as we all fly away." She reached over and grabbed hold of my shirt sleeve, and for a vertiginous few seconds, I was forcibly reminded of the first time Lilly had grabbed my shirt; and then she was climbing onto my lap, straddling my leg and leaning right down into my face in her earnestness. "And get this," she insisted, laying a hand on my chest, "even though you hate a lot of Disney's recent slop, we both liked 'The Goofy Movie', right? Right. And I know we both liked that Powerline song ('Tevin Campbell' I corrected silently), I-2-I, for the same reason. C'mon, you know what it is, say it." Rolling my eyes theatrically, I muttered something about the bass line. "That's it!" she beamed, "that fat, phat bass line." With a slowly dawning sense of recognition, I realized that I had heard it that time; the difference between fat and phat. My slowly spreading foolish grin told her she had won this round.
...strange what desire will make foolish people do... Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)
A year had come and gone, more than a year, really, more like 14 months. Rose was in sixth grade. Apart from the impending transition to junior high, she didn't find it to be much different that fifth grade, except perhaps a little... not really lonelier, she said, scrunching up her face (adorably) and trying to think of a better way to put it, finally setting for 'more isolated', because Brittany and her posse were gone. She said she didn't miss them, but the wistful way she said it made me think that wasn't quite entirely accurate.
We were in my room at the time, with the door ajar. I was trying to avoid any appearance of impropriety, and trying to keep myself honest with myself. The door to my room was at the end of the hallway, about three feet past the entrances to the locker rooms, and I knew if anyone were to overshoot those by even a couple of steps, they would see right into my room.
Rose was perched on the cot, her shorts displaying her gorgeous legs from the top of the thigh down, and her blouse carelessly open at the top button, so that every time she leaned forward, I was able to see the faintest shadow of the cleavage that would soon be there in earnest. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, leaning back on my hands, waiting for the guts to ask my next question. I think I might have been more nervous than I ever had before in my life, when I finally screwed up the courage to come out and say it. "What about boys? Are there any that look interesting to you?" The responsible adult in me, the part that owned my conscience and guilt and repression, the part that obeyed the law and saw to it that I did the right thing by those less able to look out for themselves, was anxiously hoping to hear that she had discovered some stupid bohunk that took her breath away. The starry-eyed adolescent in me, the part that owned my sense of romance and love, my heart and soul and, yes, my aching manhood, cringed at the thought that I might hear the answer the adult was demanding. The two halves were waging a savage battle inside, kicking and gouging in the mud and the blood and the tears, fighting so hard that my ears were buzzing and my lungs were unable to completely fill. Rose, knowing nothing of this death struggle, thought I was teasing her, and she was just a shade put out as she told me that she had no more prospect or interest in snagging a boyfriend now than she had when they first arrived. Then, as the resentment gave way to her usual impish good humor, she slipped down to the floor and wrapped her arm around mine and hugged it tight to her as she grinned, "Anyway, Jack, you know you're the only man for me!" Holy God. My mixed emotions at this display were as divided as oil and water, and the play of of those emotions on my face didn't escape Rose's notice, because she asked if I was feeling all right. "I'm fine," I managed to choke out, "I'm just a little tired, I guess." Or a lot tired, of fighting with myself and playing with myself and, and, and... Goddamnit. "Well, that won't do," she chuckled, "you'd better lay down and rest for a bit." And she pushed on my chest until I gave in and laid back on the floor, turning to face her as she lay down next to me, her head propped up on her hand. She grew just a little more solemn as she reached over to brush the hair out of my eyes, and she said, "You know how much you mean to me, don't you, Jack? You're the best friend I could ever hope for. You look out for me and you take care of me and you make me laugh and, and... oh, Jack, I, I, I just, I just love you. You know that, don't you?" She was blushing, but only slightly, and I must have been blushing myself as I reached over to stroke the side of her face. "Yes, I know," I said, and taking a huge mental breath, pushed myself to say, "and I love you, too, Rose, with all my heart. You know that, don't you?" She flashed her usual pixie grin and and said, "What's not to love?" I had to laugh out loud at that, "You minx!"
I don't think I'll ever know which one of us moved then, or whether we both moved at the same time. All I know for sure is that the next thing I knew, we were wrapped up in each other's arms, holding each other tight, her face nestled into my neck, her gentle breath tickling my skin, her aroma filling my nose. I must have been acting on sheer instinct when I gently kissed the top of her head, my hand caressing and rubbing her back. The feel of her soft lips on my neck sent a delicious shiver down my spine, a lovely sensation that I never wanted to end; not quite a kiss, but damn near. I don't know how long we lay locked together like that; it might have been ten seconds, or a lifetime. What I do know is that I suddenly became aware of my erection surging, bulging in my pants, pressing into her thigh with an insistence I couldn't deny. We lay together like that for five or more minutes, the worry over what she would think of the erection being overwhelmed by the sheer joy of holding her close, feeling the mop of her hair filling my face. I knew this could only end in one of two ways, and I had to make it be the right way, for both of us. Pulling away from her was like pulling the flesh off my body, an agony that I forced myself to endure because to do anything else would have been a violation of her youth and her understanding of our friendship.
We chatted for probably twenty more minutes after that, and after a glance at the clock, I told her I needed to get started on shutting the pool down for the night. She nodded, her usual happy headbob letting me know everything was okay between us as she bounced out the door for home.
It was perhaps two or three weeks later when it happened. The night. The night that changed everything. The night that finally, firmly, irrevocably started us down this path. That night had been particularly slow. Rose had gone home at 7:00 to dinner and homework (an English paper that she was looking forward to writing on the computer, a review of Lewis Carroll's two Alice books), the last swimmer had left the pool at 9:30, and as the clock slowly crawled around to 10:00, I decided nobody else would be coming that night, so I went to the men's locker room to take a shower and get ready for bed. I took out my contact lenses and stashed them in the locker I had reserved for myself, the one closest to the shower. The entrance to the men's shower area, on the far side of the locker room from the entrance just outside my room, wasn't actually a doorway, really more of a large opening, probably ten feet wide. The shower area itself was a large open tiled room with eight shower heads around the walls, half of which could be seen from any angle in the men's locker room. I went to my favorite showerhead, the one with the softest spray, twisted the knobs, and waited for a few seconds until the water was nice and warm, then cranked it up as hot as I could stand it. As I stood there in the spray from the showerhead, I was thinking, as usual, about Rose. Once again, I forced myself to remember I shouldn't be thinking like that, and I tried to think about Marjorie instead, but it didn't work; Marjorie just evaporated as soon as I tried, and I was left with Rose by default. I had a full erection by now as I washed my body, and I slowly started to play with myself, picturing Rose in my mind and stroking and fondling myself with my right hand. In one of my dreams from the night before, we had been in the wave pool at some waterpark, the waves knocking us back, forcing her into me, and she had been laughing as she turned to face me and allowed the waves to force her deep between my legs, our crotches pressed tightly together. That was where the dream ended, and as hot water pounded down on my head, I chose to revisit that scene as a daydream to see where it took me. Not surprisingly, my erection (in the vision) emerged from my swimsuit, and as it ground into the panty of Rose's bikini, she looked a little shocked at first, then smiled her biggest, warmest smile and wrapped her arms around me, pressing up against me and straddling my leg, trapping my hardness between our thighs and grinding her little pussy up against it. I was breathing a little harder now, slightly shocked at my audacity in letting my imagination go this far, and quite unwilling to stop it. As the vision continued, I noticed that even though the wave pool was crowded, everyone else was too involved in their own struggles to stay afloat to pay any attention to us. I slipped my thumb under the material of her panty and pulled it aside. Her reaction was one of open-mouthed wonder, and then she bit her lip and after nodding vigorously to tell me to keep going, hugged herself close to me, her chin resting on my shoulder, her chest pressed up tight to mine. In one smooth motion, I slid my cock deep into her, all the way to the base, and her cry was one of wonder and surprise, with no pain whatsoever. It was as if her hymen had already been broken, there was no need to push through. We continued to bob along together, letting the ebb and flow of the waves gently push us together every time we started to slide apart. In the shower, I soaped up my hand again, then used the feeling of stroking my cock with my soap-slimed hand as a stand-in for Rose's little love tunnel wrapped around me. I squeezed harder and harder, massaging the head with my fingertips, and the familiar tingle started to make itself known. In the daydream, Rose had wrapped her legs around my waist, hugging me tight between her thighs and forcing herself onto me, to make sure I stayed buried deep inside her. I could tell it wouldn't be long now before I was shooting my load. As I turned around to feel the water on my back, I thought I saw a blur of color by the outer door of the men's locker room. I squinted, trying to make it out; without my contacts or glasses, it was a struggle. My first thought was that it was a towel that some tenant had left hanging on the hook by the door, but something about that explanation didn't seem quite right. Still I gripped my hardness, slowly stroking, and as I squinted toward the door, I thought I saw the blur move a little. I stepped out of the shower's spray and reached into the locker to get my glasses, but by the time I had them on and looked back at the door, there was nothing there. "Hello," I called uncertainly, holding a towel around my waist and sneaking over to the door to look out, "is someone there?" The hallway was empty, but I was sure for a fleeting instant I'd seen something or someone there, and I was scared that I had been caught jacking off. Nothing ever seemed to come from it, though, and I let it slip out of my mind.
When Rose seemed to pull away from me a little over the next few days, it literally never occurred to me to wonder if she had been the blur. After all, it was the men's locker room, I knew she wouldn't have come in there. As things seemed to cool down between us, I attributed it to nothing in particular. Maybe she was upset about something; if so, surely she would tell me sooner or later. We were pals, after all.