He had seen her the first time when he was working on his Nova in the driveway. His little sister’s little friend. Tiny. Pretty. Funny.
The girls would play music in the rec room and dance and sing. She had a pretty voice. She lived right around the corner. Single mom. Poor.
She came around a lot. She and his sister became best friends right away. She spent the night over almost every weekend.
He was a senior in high school. He was popular - golf team, top 10 student, worked at the local Italian restaurant - the golden child of a major family. He and his just older brother threw the best parties. Lots of parties. His parents didn’t care.
The little friend, she was a freshman. Still, she and his sister were always making an appearance at the parties. They’d have some drinks. Get giggly. Then they’d go in the other room and watch tv and eat snacks.
He had a serious girlfriend. Made a dollhouse for her. She cheated on him. She maintained her position of power. Plus, she was damaged. Tall, smart, top of her class, but damaged. Basically a slut. But they were in love. They thought they were. They had been together two years - a long time in high school.
In the winter, he’d light a fire in the huge, stone fireplace, or his dad would. Sometimes mice made their homes in the spaces of the stones.
The little friend was almost like a family member - always around, eating box macaroni and cheese. Unselfconscious. Loved to sing, played Monopoly. Bright kid. Pretty.
She and his sister skipped school sometimes, told him not to tell. Once or twice, he drove his parents station wagon to take the little friend and his sister for Dairy Queen.
There was something about her eyes. Green and enormous. They would look into each other’s eyes when they were talking and even after they stopped.
That night was cold. All the older kids were back from college. It was a great party. His brother was playing the best music. Kegs, a bar in the Rec Room. Kids and cocktails spilled into the West yard.
His sister and her little friend were right there - drinking, playing along. They were the youngest ones, but they acted older, especially the friend. She was so natural with everyone. Sweet.
The party wound down late. A few stragglers. They needed rides home. He said he’d drive them. Asked his sister and her little friend to take a ride. On the way back home, snow tingling the air, he stopped in an empty parking lot. He pushed the station wagon gas pedal to the floor, hit the brakes and turned the wheel. The car slid and spun around in a semi-circle. Cookies, he called them. Like an amusement ride. Cookies, cookies, cookies.
They got back to the house and he took some logs from the big stack on the front porch and built a fire. Discarded newspapers and breath got it roaring. The three of them sat down together on the couch in front of the flames. A mouse ran across.
He sat between his sister and her little friend. As he talked, he put an arm around each of them. He rubbed the little friend’s shoulder. In a minute, his sister was asleep. He led the little friend downstairs, into the cramped room in the basement with one single bed.
He laid her down and kissed her. He took off her shirt. He rubbed her breasts. He told her to go back upstairs and not say anything to his sister.
She told his sister, the little friend. A few months later. He denied it. He was back with his girlfriend and was about to turn 18. It wouldn’t look right.
Their friendship almost broke apart. The sister had to take her brother’s side. The little friend was a liar.
But four years later, when he came back from college for the summer, right before the little friend left for France, he told his sister the truth. He had to, he had no choice. It was the only way he could ever get the little friend back into his bed.