If you missed part 1, you can find it here: https://tammyfalkner.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/feels-like-summertime/
I shouldn’t tell him. I know that. I’m playing with fire here, but memories are powerful things.
“You fell in the lake, and you thought you pulled me in, but you didn’t. I jumped in with you because I was afraid you would drown.”
She grins. “Am not.” She goes to the couch and sits down, then pats the space beside her. “You were so cute. And so drunk. You fell right over the side, and I was afraid you wouldn’t come back up, so I jumped in to save you.”
“It was so cold.”
“I know. I thought I would freeze to death.”
I sit beside her on the couch. “I kissed you that night for the very first time.”
Her cheeks color. “I know. I remember. My first kiss ever.”
I jerk my eyes up to meet hers. “You told me you’d kissed lots of boys.”
She shrugs. “I lied.”
“I was just glad I didn’t throw up.”
“Me too.” She bumps me with her shoulder. “That was the best summer ever,” she says quietly.
“Yes. It really was.”
The first time I ever kissed Katie Higgins, she was shivering inside a threadbare towel that someone handed her when she climbed up the ladder of the dock. I remember it vividly, because it was the first time I’d ever seen the shadow of a real live nipple on a real live girl. I’d seen nude women in Pop’s magazines, or at least the ones he didn’t hide well enough, but I’d never seen an actual boob before. Or even the shadow of one.
Her breasts were barely there, no bigger than mosquito bites on her chest. But her nipples seemed impossibly awesome. I stared at her chest until Pop smacked me on the back of my head and told me to get her a fucking towel that would actually cover something.
Embarrassment swamped me as I ran to one of the bins that held spare towels and pulled one out. I ran back, careful not to trip over my own two feet this time, and I held it out to her. By the time I got back, she’d crossed her arms over her small, but still perfect, chest and she was shivering. “Thanks,” she murmured as she took the towel from me and tugged it around her shoulders. Her teeth chattered as she pulled it closed in front.
“And there goes the magic,” Pop muttered. He turned to me. “Maybe now you’ll be able to think with the head that’s on your shoulders.”
“Doubt it,” I replied, since I could still see Katie’s nipples in my mind’s eye.
“You had better go home and get changed,” Pop said to Katie. He grumbled under his breath again. She didn’t seem phased by it, though, and she just laughed.
“I can’t go home yet,” she said. “My dad and my uncle said to stay gone for a couple of hours.”
“What the hell are they doing that takes a couple of hours?” Pop asked.
Katie wasn’t repulsed by his language. She just laughed again. “Playing Scrabble, I think. Whatever they were doing included a bottle of wine.”
“Is ‘playing Scrabble’ code for something?” I asked, looking from Pop to Katie and back.
Dad thumped me on the back of the head again. “Don’t ask stupid questions,” he said.
“Why don’t you take Katie up to our house and get her something dry to wear?” Pop said. He nodded toward the house. Katie turned around and I realized her skirt was sticking to her legs. And her pink panties were shining through the white fabric.
My dad popped me on the back of my head again. “Find her something dry to wear,” he said. “But you stay out of the room while she’s changing. I’m not ready to be a grandpa.”
Katie laughed out loud.
But then Pop pointed at her. “If you get my boy pregnant, I’ll string you up by your toenails.”
She sniggered again. She held out a hand to me, and I slipped mine inside hers.
And that was the first time I ever held hands with Katie Higgins.
Katie followed me into the house, and I saw goose bumps erupt on her arms when she came into the cooler air. I motioned for her to follow me to my room. She followed, her tread light and wary.
I tried not to be too light on my feet, but the thought of having a girl all alone in my room was doing funny things to my guts. I gave Katie a t-shirt and a pair of running shorts, and I pointed toward my bathroom. “I’ll just go in there.”
I stepped into the bathroom and closed the door, leaning all my weight on it. “Holy shit,” I murmured. I looked in the mirror and ran my hands through my hair. Then I gargled with some mouthwash that was strong enough to steal my breath.
Katie knocked on the door. “You can come out now.”
Her sopping-wet clothes were piled up on my floor, and I could see the pink edge of her panties which she’d tucked under her wet t-shirt. Panties she was obviously no longer wearing. The thought of Katie with her bare bottom touching my running shorts did funny things to my insides, and then those funny things shot straight to my dick.
I sat down quickly on the little futon along the wall of my room and shoved a pillow into my lap.
“Are you all right?”
“Fine,” I croaked.
“You’re not going to be sick, are you?” she asked, approaching me, her feet as soft as whispers on the carpet.
“Oh, no, I think I’m over that.”
She crossed her arms. “Then what’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” I muttered.
She nudged my knee with hers so I’d scoot over, so I did, and she gingerly sat down next to me. And my mind went back to the thought of her not wearing panties under my shorts. Shit. I’d never get rid of this boner with her here.
“You want to go back to the dock?” she asked.
“Why don’t you go ahead?” I replied. “I need to do something for Pop.”
She tilted her head at me. “What do you need to do?”
She leaned a little closer to me, and her eyes fell to my lips, then they darted back up to my eyes.
“I…I don’t remember,” I said.
“You put your tongue in my mouth,” Katie says.
I grin. “No finesse whatsoever. I just stabbed you with my tongue. And then I did it again.” I shrug. “I thought that’s how it went.”
Katie grimaces. “I was pretty awful too.”
“We got better at it with practice,” I remind her.
Her cheeks flush. “We got better at a lot of things.”
The air grows warm around us, and I almost need to reach for the pillow again.
“When is your husband going to be joining you?” I ask, clearing my throat.
Her face clouds. She starts to pick at a fleck of lint on the leg of her maternity pants. “He’s not coming.”
“All summer? At all?”
“No,” she says softly.
Suddenly, my dog runs around the corner, and he’s pulling Katie’s youngest child. She has a crease on her cheek and her face is rosy. She climbs up onto the couch and my dog puts a paw on her leg, like he’s making sure she’s still in place. Katie pulls her daughter into her lap.
“Trixie, this is my old friend, Jake,” she says. Trixie buries her face shyly into Katie’s neck, so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say anything to her.
Pop bellows from the porch, “Those steaks aren’t going to cook themselves!”
“I better go get that,” I mutter.
“Sally can stay with me?” I hear Katie’s daughter say quietly.
“Of course he can.” Katie brushes her daughter’s hair back from her face, her fingers tender. “You don’t mind, do you, Jake?”
I don’t think I could pry the dog away from the girl if I tried. “No, you can keep him for now,” I say.
I go out onto the porch, and see that Gabby and Pop are using rocks from the driveway as betting chips. Pop has a stack of five. Gabby has a big pile. “She’s kicking your ass, huh?”
He grunts at me.
Gabby smiles. “I’m going to win his hat if he keeps on going.”
“I’d like to see that,” I say.
I get the steaks and put them on the grill. A few minutes later, Pop walks up to me. He’s not wearing a hat. “Something is wrong,” he says quietly.
“What do you mean?” I lay the last steak on the grill.
“With this family,” he says. “Something is wrong.”
“You’re delusional, old man,” I joke, but I suddenly realize how serious he is. He’s not kidding. His gut is telling him something is off.
“Katie jumps at her own shadow. She hasn’t taken that cap off since we got here, and her kids flinch if you look at them wrong. Something is not right.”
“Did she say anything to you?”
“Who?” Pop asks. He pretends to be interested in the steaks.
I nod toward Gabby, who is still sitting on the porch. “The oldest daughter.”
“She just said her dad can’t help them. That’s all.”
“Where is he?”
Pop glares at me. “I have no idea. But you need to find out.”
“Okay,” I say, more to myself than to Pop. “I’ll find out.”
Alex runs into the house and dashes to his room. He comes back with a football, which was one of the two toys he chose to bring with him. The other one was a stuffed rabbit his dad won for him at the fair when he was four. He sleeps with it, but he would never admit that. Jeff spent about eighty bucks trying to win that bear, with Alex on his shoulders the whole time, cheering him on. He could have gone to a department store and purchased a bear cheaper, but he wanted that one.
“Where are you going?” I call to Alex.
He skids to a stop in the doorway. “To throw my football.”
“Don’t go far,” I say, and then I motion for him to proceed.
He slams the door behind him so hard the windows rattle.
I take the pie out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool. The door opens and Jake walks in. “Do you have any tenderizer?” he asks.
I shake my head. “I don’t have anything,” I reply. I open a cabinet that Gabby filled earlier. “Unless you need baked crackers that look like fish or a juice pouch, you’re shit out of luck.”
He walks over close to me and appraises the juice pouches. Then he shrugs and reaches for one.
“Wait,” I say. I reach into the fridge and get him a cold one instead. He grins at me.
“You always did know the way to my heart, Katie,” he says. He pops the straw through the pouch and sucks it hard.
I snicker. “The last time I tried to find your heart, Jake, I found your dick instead.”
He chortles. “Dick…heart… It’s about the same thing when you’re a sixteen-year-old boy.” His eyes narrow. “You doing all right, Katie?” he asks, his voice soft.
I nod and avoid his eyes, which are skimming all over my face. I turn away and pretend to adjust the juice pouches in the refrigerator. “I’m fine. Happy to be here.”
“What brings you back to the lake?”
“Some much needed rest and relaxation.” I grab a stack of paper plates and get a handful of knives and forks out of the silverware drawer. “Grab those paper towels, will you?”
I turn to walk toward the front door, but Jake grabs my elbow. “Katie,” he says quietly.
I blow out a frustrated breath. “What?” He tugs a little harder on my arm until I stop completely and meet his eyes.
“Pop thinks there’s something wrong with you.” His eyes skitter around my face, and I wish my arms weren’t so full so I could pull the brim of my cap down a little. “Tell me there’s nothing wrong with you, Katie,” he says, his words as soft as a whisper.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” I reply, but even I can hear the warble in my voice.
“Would you tell me if there was?”
“Why would I, Jake?” I toss back. “I haven’t seen you in eighteen years.”
He stares at me. “Because I’m here and I’m asking, Katie.”
“There’s nothing wrong, Jake.”
“Are you certain?”
He reaches out a tentative hand and lifts the corner of my ball cap. “Where’d you get that shiner?”
I laugh, trying for a whimsical sound. But it sounds more like I’m choking on my own regret. I pull the cap off and toss it onto the table. “Oh, that,” I say. “I ran into a cabinet door.” I set the plates down on the counter and fluff my hair with my fingertips. “It hurt like a mother–”
Jake reaches out and drags his thumb across the fading bruise. “Don’t lie to me, Katie.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Did your husband hit you?” he asks. “Tell me the truth, Katie, and I’ll never ask again. I just want to be sure you’re all right.”
“My husband would never hurt me,” I growl. He would never, ever lay a hand on me. “You’re barking up the wrong tree, Jake.”
“You hit your face on a door. That’s all it was?”
“Yes. I hit my face on a door.” Technically, I’m telling the truth. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to lie to him. “It was stupid.”
Mr. Jacobson bellows through the door. “Jake! Better take the steaks up!”
“I had better get the steaks,” Jake says.
“Go get the steaks, Jake,” I say sternly, using my mom voice, the one that the kids don’t even try to argue with.
He turns and walks away. And I’m glad he does, because if he’d stayed for one more moment or asked me one more time, I might have told him the truth, and that won’t help anybody.