Blessings Ch. 01

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Well, it’s been a long time, but I’m finally back! My thanks go out to chargergirl for her support and her expert eye. I hope you all like, and don’t forget to vote and/or comment. I’d love to know what you think.

*

The deadbolt crackled as it unlocked. The knob turned, and the door swung open. Amanda came inside first, brushing long brown bangs out of her eyes. With her lovely voice light with laughter, she wondered aloud what the time was. Kevin checked his watch as he slipped in behind her. It was past eleven, a strange time to find the house fully lit on a Sunday night. From the foyer, Kevin could see the flickering of the television reflecting on the veneer of the coat closet. Mom and Dad had evidently fallen asleep watching the late news.

Kevin yawned, and not for the first time that evening. The movie he and Amanda had seen had promised to be epic, but instead it was epically bad. The writing, the acting, both were on the level of a volunteer puppet show at the rec center. Amanda had refused to admit that the movie was terrible; the entire drive home she had insisted that it hadn’t been a waste of three hours and twenty dollars.

“In a world scorned by love,” Kevin began in his best Don LaFontaine voice, “one man would make it his destiny to rule the stars.” He made the face so often employed by the main character during the movie’s most dramatic scenes, the face Kevin had perceptively dubbed “diarrhea face.”

“Stop it!” Amanda failed to contain her giggles. She covered his face with her hands. “You promised you wouldn’t do that anymore.”

“I am so glad we saw that movie,” he said. “You know, three hours wasn’t nearly enough time to digest the story. I mean, what became of the evil mystic forces after they were banished to the world of fire and ice? Did they melt? Did they freeze? Did they get stiff nipples and a tan?”

For a moment Amanda rested her forehead on Kevin’s arm, waiting for the laughter to subside. Once she collected herself, her lips drew sternly tight. “Goodness reigned triumphant.” Amanda borrowed her words from the wizened old sage that narrated the film. “Isn’t that all that matters?”

“No,” he said, taking a moment to scratch his chin, “the movie is going to make a boatload of money over the next two weeks, and probably spawn three or four sequels guaranteeing us ten more years of diarrhea face; that, my pretty little sister, is all that matters.”

He made the face again, and, again, she couldn’t contain her laughter. “Want to see it again?” she asked.

He did, but only if the numbness in his butt ever subsided. They made plans to catch the same movie next Sunday. Amanda even offered to pay, to which Kevin replied, “After three more hours of intergalactic strife, we’ll both pay.” He tousled her long brown hair, and then patted her on the behind. She swung at him, connecting a playful blow to his arm. “What?” he asked, “I was just checking to see if the feeling returned.” She swatted at his behind in retaliation, prompting him to smack her denim-clad backside even harder. The sound of their father clearing his throat from the recliner in the living room ended their play.

“I need to talk to you, Kevin.” It was hard to explain how his father sounded. Not exactly stern, not exactly upset, he sounded oddly determined about something. “Mandy, your mother is waiting for you in your bedroom. She wants to talk to you, too.”

Kevin’s heartbeat quickened. Worriedly, he looked to Amanda for some clue as to what was going on, but she could offer nothing more than a concerned frown. She shrugged out of the canary-yellow cardigan that had kept her slender arms warm in the chilly movie theater, and draped it over the banister. She touched his cheek and neck, silently saying goodnight, before slowly marching up the squeaky stairs. Kevin made his way to the living room. He gingerly lowered himself on the sofa, sinking into the squishy cushions. He nervously leaned into a stack of throw pillows and squirmed under his father’s gaze. He didn’t know why he felt so inadequate. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He no longer lived at home, so he was dependent of his father for nothing. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was once again a ten-year-old boy about to be reprimanded for playing ball in the house.

James Armstrong combed his graying sideburns with his fingernails. He was apprehensive about something. In a flash, Kevin’s fear of being reprimanded morphed into a fear of something else, something beyond his control. Something was wrong; Kevin just knew it. His stomach grew queasy as he imagined the worst: someone was sick, or someone had died. He thought of his grandparents, quickly reviewing each of their ages and ailments. He swallowed mechanically and thought of his cousin Phil who had recently quit drugs and turned his life around. Was it Phil? Had he succumbed to his addiction once again?

Dad rested his elbows on his knees and tilted his head downwards. casino siteleri His shaggy, salt-and-pepper hair tumbled in waves. He exhaled slowly. “Goddamn, this is hard.” He laughed nervously, stilling Kevin’s heart just a bit. Dad slowly rose from the recliner. His knees and back popped as he stretched. Kevin watched his father pace the room a few times, watched him with the awe of a frightened child. Dad slowly moved to the banister. He collected Amanda’s yellow cardigan and twisted the soft material in his hands. Returning to the front room, he deposited the sweater on Kevin’s lap. The knit yellow material was still slightly warm from Amanda’s body; it was flavored by the slightest hint of Amanda’s unassuming perfume. The hairs on Kevin’s neck slowly rose. “I know that the two of you are close, and I’m glad; I really am. It’s just I never thought—God, never even imagined that something like this could happen.”

Kevin could no longer breathe. Something was wrong with Mandy, his baby sister, something terrible. He felt his face go white, then red, then purple. He felt the need to sit down, barely remembering that he already was. He and Mandy had spent the evening together, as they often spent their Sundays, with bad food and a movie. She acted fine, he reminded himself. She was laughing and joking and healthy; there was nothing wrong with her. She ate all of her fried chicken salad; she’d even bummed half of his cheddar sticks.

“The two of you haven’t been overt or anything, it’s just the little things we’ve noticed. Your mother and I have talked a lot about it lately.” His father stumbled on his words. He was being so cryptic, and it was driving Kevin crazy. “I want you both to be happy; your mother does too…” Dad wrung his hands and cleared his throat once more. “We want you to be happy, son.”

Kevin touched his forehead; his skin was burning hot. “I am happy.”

“Cassie, she seemed really nice.” Cassie was the girl Kevin had brought over for Easter. She and Kevin had dated for a while, finally breaking it off before summer. “I almost thought you felt something for her. But I’m your father, and I know when you’re putting on a show.”

Kevin stiffened his back. Does my dad think I’m gay? There was no way. How could his father even entertain such an idea? He wanted to race to the door, to his car. He wanted to blink himself home to the privacy of his own apartment.

“Dad,” he stood up and assumed a defensive posture, “whatever you think about me—“

“Don’t do it, Kevin. You don’t have to lie to me. You don’t have to be ashamed of the way you feel.”

Kevin slowly sat back down, convinced that the world had gone crazy. He heard laughter upstairs, his sister’s laughter. “It really is okay. You know I think the world of her. She’s my little girl and always will be. I want her to be happy, and I want you to be happy, and if that means you’re happy together then so be it. Kevin’s heart went from beating extremely fast to not at all. He finally realized what this little conversation was about.

It was like a fifty ton weight lifted from his chest. No one had died; he wasn’t being forced into or out of the closet. Kevin’s frown lifted into a smile. Unable to hold back, he started laughing uncontrollably. “Dad, Mandy and I are not… Oh my God, you thought that we were…” Kevin couldn’t even say it. He had a hard enough time thinking it. He could only laugh at his father’s expense. He and Mandy, what wasn’t there to laugh about?

His father’s face went crimson. He impotently tried explaining himself. “You spend so much time with her, and you never fight. I started to notice the way you look at one another, and I thought…”

Kevin forced himself to recapture some semblance of composure. “I like hanging out with her; that doesn’t mean that we’re doing it or anything,” Kevin said. “Oh my God, does Mom think that we’re…,” he pumped his fist salaciously, “too?” His father’s face went redder. She obviously did. He pictured Mom having this same conversation with his sister upstairs; that explained Mandy laughing her little head off. Dad rested his elbows on his knees. Once more he rubbed his face with his palms.

Dad was, if nothing, a good sport. He apologized to Kevin for even imagining anything so sordid. And he promised to apologize to Amanda. That was good enough for Kevin, who retreated to his own apartment, eager to put the evening behind him.

Kevin wandered aimlessly through the halls of Cedar View. The community college’s small campus buildings were usually so familiar to him, yet he found himself lost in foreign halls. He completely slept through his morning Western Civics class. He showed up for Noon Biology class an hour late. When he finally made it to class on time, for his afternoon Computer Science lab, his brain was too frazzled to concentrate. For the first time in his life he failed a test. And it wasn’t just a fifty-eight or fifty-nine percent better-luck-next-time canlı casino F; it was an ugly, odious seventeen percent why-the-Hell-did-you-bother-coming-back-to-school-? F.

As he printed out the results of his lab test on the lightning-fast laser printer, Kevin felt a protest from his belly. He had neglected breakfast and completely spaced on lunch. No matter how nauseated the F grade made him, he had to eat something. He gathered his massive textbook and stuffed it and his folders into his green messenger bag. He zipped the bag and slung it over his shoulder.

The cafeteria’s selection was pretty bleak this late in the day. The fried foods, the chicken tenders, the onion rings, and the tater tots, all smelled like fish sticks, except for the fish sticks, which curiously smelled like tater tots. The salad bar looked terrible, by this point in the day the lettuce was wilted, the tomatoes were shredded pulpy things, and the various salad dressings had been accidentally drizzled over everything. Pizza was always a safe choice. Kevin snagged the last slice of pepperoni. He grabbed a cup of coffee and took it to the cashier.

He carried his tray to one of the booths near the back wall, somewhere secluded from the night students who slowly trickled in. The night students were older than the day students. Many came straight from work, as evidenced by the number of students in nurses’ scrubs and greasy work shirts. At twenty-five, Kevin should have been one of them. He worked for a living but only four very long days a week. He used his Mondays off for classes. He thought that taking day classes would guarantee a fresher brain and better grades. The F in his messenger bag had obviously proven him wrong.

He sipped at the coffee, unable to decide if it was too hot or not hot enough. Kevin extracted his cell phone from his jeans pocket. No calls. He wondered why he expected a call. After the previous night, Mom and Dad wouldn’t be calling for a while. He absentmindedly thumbed through his list of contacts and stopped on Amanda. He wondered if she was off of work yet. He wasn’t sure he should call her right away, considering what had happened.

“There he is!” A voice drew Kevin’s attention. It was Mark, one of his best friends from high school. A year ago, the two had made up their minds together to go back to school. Mark sat down across from Kevin. He unbuttoned his Carhartt work jacket and asked what was up. Kevin simply sighed and dug into his bag. He showed off his shameful test grade.

Mark whistled in awe. “Don’t try to build up my confidence too much,” he said. “You’re the smartest guy I know, and if you got an F I can’t imagine what I’ll get. Do they hand out G’s?”

Kevin smirked. He wasn’t really in the mood to crack a full smile.

“So what’s the deal?” Mark asked. “I know that mope, and Kevin Armstrong doesn’t show that mope because of some hard-ass lab test.

“Oh, uh…it’s just something that’s on my mind.” Kevin’s phone vibrated. He checked the caller ID and saw that it was an anonymous number, just a junk call.

“This something on your mind wouldn’t happen to be a someone by any chance?” Mark was perceptive if he was nothing else. “And this someone wouldn’t happen to be a certain type of someone,” his hands traced an hourglass figure in the open air between them, “the type of someone who wears skirts and makeup.”

The truth was Amanda had been on his mind all night and all day. For twenty years she had been his baby sister, a hero-worshipping tag-along who grew into an innocent needing protection from the seething hormonal ocean of adolescence. Physically, they were nothing alike; she was petite and delicate, with soft curves and even softer skin; and he was a tall, rough-hewn jock who might have been given a football scholarship to a real college had two wasted knees not prevented it. Yet despite the physical differences, they were very much alike, platonic soul mates who enjoyed the same movies, read the same books, and laughed at the same jokes.

Now she was something else. The runaway imagination of his mother and father had corrupted his image of innocent, pretty little Mandy. She was twenty now, a woman. Mandy, Amanda, is a woman; he had no idea why he found that fact so intriguing. He had no idea why she had invaded his dreams so pervasively last night. He had awakened at ten in the morning to find he had rolled over on to his stomach during the course of the night, trapping his hardness between the mattress and his body. His penis tingled as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Kevin very rarely dreamed such vivid dreams. He could still feel the warmth and moisture of her female flesh, and the affection of her touch. Sex dreams were no stranger to Kevin. But Amanda?

He had felt like a fiend for stumbling to the bathroom and stroking himself as the dream replayed itself. Amanda sat beside him in the movie theater, shoveling alternating handfuls of popcorn and Milk kaçak casino Duds into her mouth. She looked so warm in her bright yellow sweater. It hugged her body completely, showing off the supple curve of her form without showing off at all. A piece of popcorn stuck to the glorious pink of her lips.

In his dream he’d reached to brush it away, but she caught his hand. Her lips closed around his index finger. She hummed happily. He’d been eating popcorn and Milk Duds, too, he remembered. She must have enjoyed the taste of salty butter, and chocolate, and him. Amanda released his finger after a few moments. She pressed back into the generously padded theater seat and tilted her head wantonly, inviting a kiss. Kevin glanced around. Mom and Dad, who in reality rarely went to the movies, were a few rows ahead with their eyes firmly focused on the screen. No one else was in sight in the dimly lit theater. The digital sound system erupted with a cacophony of exploding starships. This was the grand finale of the movie, the climax. Kevin inched toward Amanda. Her pink tongue peeked out for a moment, moistening her lips in anticipation. As Kevin moved closer, he could smell salty butter and chocolate and her. There was something else, something fruity. It was the cherry lip balm that she always kept in her purse. She had applied a fresh sheen to her glistening mouth. It smelled like heaven; it would taste like heaven. She whispered his name just then. It wasn’t the husky whisper of a woman in lust; it was the playful, conspiratorial whisper she used when they were discussing what Christmas presents to buy Mom and Dad. Mouths touched. She tasted like cherries and chocolate and a hundred sweet things. He felt a wet, wriggling object push through his lips. Opening his mouth he welcomed her tongue and parried it with his own. Her hands, meanwhile, found the fly of his jeans. She forced open the button, lowered the zipper, and parted the slit in his boxers. He wasn’t sure they should go so far in the theater, but the moment her delicate fingers wrapped themselves around the shaft of his stone-hard penis, he surrendered. He didn’t care if his semen soiled his pants, or her form-fitting sweater. He didn’t care if his grunts earned inquisitive looks from the other movie watchers who had materialized from nothing to surround them.

Kevin had arched his back as the first jet of his release splashed onto the ivory rim of the toilet. The final spurts fell into the basin, dissolving into greasy globs in the water. He flushed the bowl, wishing he could flush his mind as well. How could he think about Amanda that way? Though he vowed to never do it again, throughout the day his mind was inundated with shameful thoughts of Amanda. As he explained his lateness to his Biology professor, he thought about Amanda’s sweater and the body it contained, knowing that the things he wanted to do to that body broke any number of biological rules. As he took his Computer Science test, he thought of the times they had fallen asleep on Amanda’s bed after watching the late movies on cable. In his newest fantasy, the innocent positions they often awoke in would turn not so innocent: a shapely thigh draped over his hip, a jiggling, braless breast in his hand, her neck and sweet-smelling hair pressed close to his nose, they all led to very erotic, very graphic sex scenes.

As highlights of his fantasies replayed, Kevin felt his erection growing beneath the cafeteria table. Jesus Christ, Kevin, what is your deal? Clearly, he needed something to keep his mind off of Amanda. He turned his attention back to Mark who sat patiently across from him in the school cafeteria.

Mark’s head tilted as he regarded Kevin curiously. “You are acting really out of it today. Do you want some more coffee?”

“No, no more coffee,” Kevin raised his hands in surrender. The first cup had gone through him curiously fast; he already felt the restroom beckon.

“Okay, listen, can you stick around until classes are over?” Mark held out his hands about ready to make an offer he knew Kevin wouldn’t accept, “There is this really cute girl in my Sociology class, and she has a really cute friend that sits next to her.” Kevin started to slouch; he hated fix ups. “We’re going out for drinks as soon as we finish up, sort of a midterm cool down. I told them you’d come along.”

Kevin reached for his messenger bag and brushed the pizza crumbs from his sweater. “No, I don’t think so.”

Mark grabbed his arm. “Come on, Denise and Melody are really hot, and they’re really available. You need a girlfriend, really bad. You would have to be completely screwed up to strike out with both of them. At least it’ll get your mind off of whatever girl has gotten you all worked up.” He seemed annoyed by Kevin’s reluctance. “I know you don’t like being set up, but it’s not like you go out and try to meet women on your own.”

“So I’m not out there on the prowl.” Kevin opened his arms wide; the sleeves of his navy sweater drooped past his wrists. “That doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with me!” He hadn’t meant to be so loud. One of the cafeteria workers looked up from the cash register; she fixed a curious eye on the flustered young man.

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