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The Girl in the River 

A short story by Jeffrey Chisum

Illustration by Justin Wood

Krista felt him shudder, and he let out a groan, and then he was done. She lay still as Shane caught his breath.

“You are so hot,” he panted. “I love you.” He leaned his freckled, slightly pimpled face down and kissed her on the forehead, and then he rolled off of her and sat on the side of the bed. He looked over his shoulder and said, “What time you say your parents get home again?”

“Five.” She watched him scan the bookcase until he found the clock. It was 4:27, and so she figured that he’d leave right away. Shane pulled on his underwear and jeans and said, “Well, I better get going.”

“Can’t you stay just a few minutes longer?”

“C’mon, honey. You know that’s not a good idea. Your dad would kick my ass.”

Just then the doorbell chimed and the two of them froze.

“Shit —” Shane grabbed his shirt off the floor and jammed his thick arms into the sleeves. Krista started to laugh.

“Relax. It’s probably just some Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or Mormons.” She lifted herself up on her elbows and yawned. “You’re such a scaredy-cat.”

“You would be too if you knew what it was like to be a guy.”

“Whatever.”

She wrapped the comforter around her and climbed out of bed and walked in the direction of the bathroom; she figured that he was watching her as she went, and she liked it. At least partly. In the beginning, she’d worried that Shane would leave once they’d slept together, but now she knew that he was different — she could feel it in her stomach. She could always give him what he wanted, and so why would he leave? Krista wiped herself and flushed the toilet and re-wrapped the comforter around her body.

“Shane?” she called as she walked back into her bedroom. He didn’t seem to be around — maybe he was in the living room — and so she tossed the comforter on the bed and began putting on her clothes. She looked up as she was fastening her bra, and she saw him peeking around the doorjamb.

“There you are.”

“Yeah, I went to go see who was at the door.”

“Who was it?”

“I couldn’t see anybody. Anyways, I wanted to check ’cause I gotta get going.”

Krista sighed and slumped her shoulders, and made sure he noticed. “You always leave right after. Aren’t we ever going to do anything together?”

“What are you talking about? We’re together, like, all the time.”

She tried a different approach: “You wanna smoke out?”

“Look,” he said. “How ’bout I take you out to ride the bikes this weekend? Me and Lawrence were just gonna go, but you can come too. Is that cool?”

“I guess so,” she said, wondering why Lawrence had to come.

“Great.” He walked over and gave her a wet kiss. It made her lips feel electric.

“Call me,” she said as he turned away.

“I will.”

She heard his footsteps on the floor, and then the sound of the door opening and closing. The clock read “4:35,” and so she quickly made the bed, setting her old Woodsy the Owl, and a big, fluffy white bear, neatly at its foot. The time between the end of the school day and her parents’ return from work was always the worst part of the day. It got way too lonesome, even though she was mostly used to it. She surveyed the room one last time to make sure there weren’t any signs of Shane, and then she went out to the living room and sat cross-legged on the sofa. Soon, Mom would come home and ask her about her day, which had been boring — at least the parts she could talk about — and then Dad would come home and get his beer and sit, and that would be the end of it. No more talking for the rest of the evening unless it was Dad ordering Mom to bring him something or telling a lame story about his stupid job at Newlands Chemicals. Which is exactly what he proceeded to do an hour later.

“Somebody’s gonna get fired,” he said, settling into his easy chair. “We just did inventory, and we’re missing a whole lot of red phosphorus.”

“Oh, dear,” said Mom.

“Yeah. That stuff is really dangerous, too. Could cause a big fire. You know, they think that’s what started that fire up in the Sierras.”

“Really? I thought it was lightning.”

  • A short story by Jeffrey Chisum

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