fire Ryan Gardino wants to go down on you. He tells you this over the phone while you’re halfway on and halfway off the couch in your basement, nervously wrapping the faded yellow telephone cord around your left ankle, then your right ankle, and now you can’t move.

While your dad is working late and your brother is setting off bottle rockets at the neighbor’s house two blocks down, Ryan Gardino shows up on your doorstep. He is two years older than you, in the tenth grade, and has a Mohawk. Your hand is stuck to the latch on the screen door as you watch him take a long, relaxed drag off his cigarette and tosses it into the flower pot next to the door.

You let him inside, and as he passes you, his leather jacket jingles from the small chains and music band buttons pinned on like war badges. He smells like leather and nicotine. His slow spreading grin stops midway as he asks you if anyone else is home. You tell him you’re alone, but your brother might be home soon. Last week you acted out the entire move of The Princess Bride with your best friend. You talked all night, fashion magazines spread out like a picnic blanket and wondered why the girls in your class smeared makeup on and wore Victoria’s Secret bras. You are scared shitless of the boys in your class. They walked down the halls in noisy packs, laughing and punching each other, smelling like gym class and cologne.

Ryan’s fingers are tapping on the small of your back like a piano as you lead him into your room. You see it through his eyes: puffy pillows, a daybed with a rose comforter, and your favorite stuffed horse your dad won at the school carnival in fifth grade. Your clothes shoved and half hanging like tiny cloth bird wings out of your dresser drawer. He walks over to your stereo and flips the switch on, turning the music up as he slides out of his jacket like a snake shedding its skin and stares at you. He has a sideway smirk on his face as he approaches you, hands out, not playing the keyboard of your back any more but still ready to touch you. When he does—touch you—your stomach, already in painful knots; flips and seizes. Your heart is a dying bird in flight. He takes your hand and leads you to your daybed. You can still see your stuffed bear, Mr. Noodles, shoved between the wall and bed frame, gaping at you with a look of abandonment. Before childhood guilt can creep in, you are falling backwards on your bed as he lands on top of you, his mouth on your neck, sucking, leaving hickies—you’re almost positive—that you will have to cover up with makeup you don’t own yet. There’s an oven in between your legs, gobbling its way up until it reaches your throat. You’re thinking about how people kiss in the movies and you’re trying to imitate them, but your tongue keeps hitting his and you stifle your giggles.

Your room faces the baseball field and you can hear the neighbor’s boys shouting and the sound of the steel bats as they hit the ground. You try to remember what first base and second base are as he smuggles his hand inside your bra, cupping your A cup breasts that are still in the process of shaping themselves, still growing into their full potential. He plays with your nipples like pegs on a Battleship game board. You swore to your best friend to never let a boy go up your shirt, to never be like the other girls in your class. Now, there is a boy panting on you like a heat exhausted dog and his crotch is a steel poker in between your legs. There are ten of him, all doing different things, and you can’t keep track, and you feel like one of your brother’s bottle rockets, dizzy as you launch into the sky, exploding into a thousand pieces. This isn’t how you imagined it. Your mouth is covered with his mouth and his fingers are unbuttoning your pants, sliding them down to your ankles, and his hands are giant spiders inside your pink polka dot panties.

You think about your mom and all the men she brought home over the years; how fast she could switch from yelling at you and your brother to laughing at everything when a man showed up at the door, flirting in the kitchen like you weren’t there, like you didn’t exist, but you were there, standing in the corner in a pink nightgown, holding your glass of chocolate milk.

There is the distant sound of bottle rockets shooting off as your room slowly fades into a dirty yellow haze. Your hands have found their way on either side of his shaved head. You cautiously rub his stubbles which feel like beach sand, not knowing if this is right or wrong, if this is where it all starts, or how it is supposed to start. You think you need to listen to your brother and just shut up and grow up. Ryan Gardino’s head is moving down now, his Mohawk like the fin of a shark as he drags his tongue past your belly button, blazing a trail like Red Hot candies down, further down, and somewhere in the background you can hear Fugazi singing: You can't be what you were, so you better start being just what you are.


About the Author: Hillary Leftwich currently lives in Denver with her son. In her day jobs she has worked as a private investigator, maid, and pinup model. Her writing can be found on the side of bathroom stalls as well as Dogzplot, Monkeybicycle, Hobart, NANO Fiction, Eunoia Review, Progenitor,  One Sentence Love Stories with Meg Pokrass and The Citron Review. She is the associate editor at The Conium Review and the nonfiction editor at The Fem Lit Mag. Find her on twitter, or not, @HillaryLeftwich

Story Song: "Bad Mouth" by Fugazi

Photo Credit: Leesa Cross-Smith