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e walked far enough down the drive that he felt like he was surrounded by forest again, before he decided for sure that Juliette was not going to follow him.

He really wanted to keep going. Find the road that was surely at the end of this track and thumb a ride back home. Do whatever his mom told him from now until the end of time.

But he couldn’t leave Juliette here by herself. Be a man, he told himself. Go back.

She was nowhere to be seen. At first he thought she might have run back into the woods, but then he saw one of the old casement windows pushed in and realized she must have gone inside.

Shit! Tell that girl something she was not supposed to do, and she’d run right toward it, arms open.

Darrell climbed on top of the banged up metal garbage can she must have pulled under the window and peered inside, ruffled granny curtains flapping around his ears.

“Julie?”

“What?” came her muffled voice.

“Where are you?”

“In bed.”

Shit. Telling her to get up and get outside RIGHT NOW, the way Dwayne talked to his wife, was not going to do anything but make Juliette mad. She was like his mom in that way: Nobody was going to boss her around, and especially not a man.

But was Darrell a man? He was back here, going after her, not leaving her alone, because he was trying to be a man in the best possible sense of the word, right? And how could he be a good man, and not a bad man, when he wasn’t sure how to be a man at all?

He climbed through the window and shut it closed behind him against the night air. He had been afraid this would be one of those meth cabins he’d heard so much about, and though he wasn’t sure exactly how he’d tell whether it was or not, he figured it would be messy, with weird drug paraphernalia scattered all over the place, and torn sofas and shit. He’d heard about meth being cooked, so he figured there might be a lot of dirty pots around too.

But this place seemed almost as tidy as his own home, those weird ruffly flowered curtains on the windows echoed in some kind of printed sofa that showed up as just big light and dark splotches in the absence of light, and an old-fashioned boxy TV with legs in one corner, and a metal-edged kitchen table surrounded by silver-framed chairs shimmering in the alcove beside the kitchen.

The place was really just one big room divided by archways and little half-walls. What looked like the bed was in a semi-private corner of the place. He felt his way in there. He could just make out her eyes, peaking up from under the covers.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m trying to go to sleep.”

He stood there for a long moment and then he thought, Fuck it. Why am I fighting this? I should just go along with whatever she wants.

That’s the way he handled his mom. Agreed with her, and then if he disagreed, slipped away to do his own thing, and hoped she didn’t find out.

He took off his shoes and laid down on the bed next to Juliette, though he didn’t get under the covers. She turned to him and put her arms around his neck.

“Darrell,” she said.

“Yes?”

She was so pretty. But she frightened him too. He felt always tense around her, braced for her, at any moment, no matter how relaxed things might seem, to do something completely outrageous, something he’d never expect.

“Let’s just stay here, I mean forever and ever. We could be like husband and wife, and eat off the land, and never have to go to school or deal with our parents or families or anybody ever again. What do you think?”

What did he think? Where was he supposed to start, with a proposition like that? How about: What happens when the owners come back? How about: What are we supposed to eat, fried squirrel? How about: Are you out of your fucking mind?

“Maybe,” he said. “Let’s talk about it in the morning.”

“Don’t you want to marry me?” she said. “My boyfriend Hugo wanted to marry me, and then it turned out to be all a big fat joke. Ha ha ha ha ha. Very funny. Do you think this is a joke?”

Uh oh.

“No,” he said, patting her back awkwardly, in a way he hoped she would find reassuring though not encouraging. “Not at all.”

“We should have sex!” she said, flinging herself against him, hurling one leg out from under the covers and over his hip. “Let’s do it, right now!”

Yikes!!! He wanted to, of course he wanted to! They were alone, they were even in a bed! And yet, no, no, this was not right. They were in trouble, this was crazy, he had to calm things down.

“Julie,” he said, stalling, casting about in his mind for what a real man might say in a situation like this. The kind of man he might like to be. Will Smith? Lebron James? Barack Obama? Shit, this was hard.

“I want to,” he said. “But I don’t think this would be right, in this weird place, after everything we’ve been through. Maybe tomorrow….”

Then he stopped. He heard something. An engine dying, the slam of a car door, and then the rattle of the garbage can under the window.

“Don’t fucking throw it there where anybody could fucking find it,” a woman’s sharp voice said.

“If somebody comes up here looking for us, we’re screwed anyway,” said a man. “I’ll take it out in the woods and bury it tomorrow.”

Darrell clapped his hand over Juliette’s mouth. Her eyes were wide. He wiggled toward the edge of the bed, pulling her with him, and then tugged her onto the foor

He heard footsteps on the planks that led up to the cabin’s door, a key in the lock. Pushing Juliette under the bed, he quickly tidied the covers. Nothing made his mom more suspicious, he knew, than an unmade bed.

He slid under the bed himself just before the door banged open and an overhead light blazed on.

Read Darrell’s side of the story.

Ho Springs is going on vacation for a week. And while we’re off resting our fingers and gathering new material, send all your friends over to meet us and catch up on the story so far! Join the facebook group. And come back and see us April 26.

One Response to “42. DARRELL: Be A Man”

  1. Niyonu says:

    I’m gonna miss you!

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