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Today's Story by Rasmenia Massoud

I don’t think she’d be happy about someone else blowing her man.


Pete flips through the pages in one of the magazines he keeps in the nightstand. He stops, then resumes flipping. Stops again, tilts his head, straightens it.

“My last girlfriend, Courtney, she liked doing this stuff.” He shows me a photo printed on glossy paper of a woman riding a man. Another in her mouth, another one up her ass.

“I’m not doing that.”

“Okay, not all three. What about just two? Darryl would be into it.”  He rubs the chest hair he’s always showing off with button up shirts that are never buttoned all the way up.

The chest hair that sends heat up my neck, down my spine.

The chest hair that hundreds of women have had their fingers in.

My last boyfriend, before Pete, didn’t even have chest hair yet.

“I’m not fucking Darryl.” I pull the sheet up higher as though covering a few inches of my nakedness will serve as a punishment.  “I’m not saying that.” Pete finds the will to remove his eyes from the shiny airbrushed orgy. He changes from his leering to his placating expression. “Just blow him.”

“Look at her.” I point at the magazine. “She looks like a goddamn rotisserie chicken. Darryl’s with Jean, anyway. I don’t think she’d be happy about someone else blowing her man.”

This is just one more lie between us. I know Jean doesn’t care what Darryl does, or who he does it with, as long as it isn’t her.

I wasn’t supposed to know Jean well enough to discuss her thoughts about anything. Pete told me to stay away from Jean when he wasn’t around. “Mean Jean,” he called her. Not because of her personality, but her face.

“A face like that shows just how mean God can be,” he’d say whenever her name came up. “Darryl probably has to put a bag on that thing to fuck it.”

Pete laughs at his own jokes. He doesn’t notice how often he laughs alone.

He pulls the sheet. It falls down to my navel. His hair, a brown showing a few flecks of silver that always makes me think of rain-soaked wood, hangs down to his collarbone. A lock falls in his eye. Irises pale and washed out blue, like two circles of tinted glass reflecting light fix on me.

I feel the heat on the back of my neck, my cheeks burning.  Incinerating from the inside out. The combustion of wanting and self-loathing.

“Are your boobs getting bigger?” He squeezes and kneads like it’s a stress ball.

“It’s just your imagination.” I take the magazine from his other hand and throw it on the floor.


On the way to the bar, he warns me that Jean will be there.

“Don’t talk to her too much,” he says. “Unless you have to, ya know?  Don’t act like a stuck-up bitch like you know how to do, either.”

Talk to her. Don’t talk to her. There is no way to win this situation.

When Darryl and Pete go to play a game of pool, Jean turns to me and grabs my arm.

“For fuck’s sake, girl. I thought you were gonna leave. What are you still doing here?”

Jean’s looking her usual self, resembling a lady scarecrow. Parched, dusty brown hair drapes all around her shoulders, pockmarked skin like burlap. Her dark eyes twitch. Staring in my left, my right, back to my left eye. Searching for a reason.

“Having a beer,” I say, grateful to be in a bar that rarely checks IDs.

“You shouldn’t be here.” She leans in closer. “You don’t belong here with us. We’re old, you know. Me, Pete and Darryl… we’re old. You’re still a kid. You should be with some guy your own age, not some jerk-off who’s almost forty. Whattaya want, to be his next wife? To play step momma to his kids?”

“Well, no… his oldest is almost the same age as me.”

“See there?” Jean takes a swig from her beer. “You gotta get outta here. Just get a bus ticket and go to that school… where is it?”



“Colorado. The University of Colorado.”

“Yeah,” Jean leans back in her chair. She squints and points at me with her bottle. “You need to go there. Go be around smart people your own age instead of hanging around us old deadbeats in a dive bar in fucking Middleburg, Florida. Does Pete know you got accepted?”

“He doesn’t even know I applied to any colleges. You know how he is.  Wanting to go to college means I’m acting like a stuck-up bitch again.”

“That’s because Pete’s a goddamn idiot.” We had a laugh, and then looked over at the pool tables to see if Darryl and Pete are paying any attention to us. I feel relief when I see them preoccupied with a couple of blondes playing at the next table.

“But, it’s kind of hard. There’s something that keeps me stuck to him, you know?”

“Yeah, I do know.” She empties her beer, signals a waitress for another round. “But is his dick really worth trading the rest of your life for? I mean, all you guys do is fuck and fight.”

I scan the bar and think about how I know too much. I know which women in this bar Pete’s already been with; which ones were loud, which ones liked it up the ass, or being the occasional rotisserie chicken.

I remember what it was like to talk with another person about things that made me feel happy; about things that made me look forward to something.

Jean leans toward me. She tilts her head down. “So,” she says, “what about the other thing? You take care of that yet?”

“No.” I shook my head. “Not yet.”

“Better make it quick. It’ll be too late if you keep putting it off.  Make the appointment. I’ll take you. We can go next week, call in sick at the store and we’ll go in the morning after the guys leave for work.”

I pick at the label on my beer. I think of how easy it would be to toss aside a better future for another few decades in a doublewide with Pete; how it would be even easier for Pete to replace me when I’m gone.

“Take my word for it,” Jean says. “You don’t want to get stuck.

Getting stuck means forever.”


Looking at the clinic from the passenger seat of Jean’s car, I expected more. I anticipated chaos, protest and shouting.

What I’m sitting in front of is just another quiet office at the end of another strip mall at the outskirts of any town.

“Okay, college girl,” Jean says, opening her door. “Let’s get Pete’s bastard out of you.”

“I feel weird about this. I’m kind of freaked out. What if it hurts?”

What really freaks me out is what I don’t say: that I’m deep in my Robert Frost, Road Not Taken moment. The moment everyone gets where once it comes and goes, you’re different.  The moment you sometimes look back on, imagining the what ifs.

Jean opens her door. “It’ll probably hurt. But you should be more freaked out about being stuck with Pete. He knows how to drag you down and make you hurt. A man like that only proves how insensitive God can be.”

I step out of the car. Bits of parking lot gravel grind and crunch under my feet. The morning sun beats on my face the way it does before it scorches you for the rest of the day. Warming before cooking. The heat before the combustion of upheaval and no way back.

This is just one more lie between us.


Rasmenia Massoud is an American writer living somewhere in France. She is the author of the short story collection, “Human Detritus” and some of her other work has appeared in places like The Foundling Review, The Lowestoft Chronicle, Metazen, Full of Crow and Underground Voices. You can visit her at: http://www.rasmenia.com/

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