Continued from The Party Line
By the time Holly had composed herself and returned downstairs, Frank was dressed and sitting at the dining room table. She could see Bill peeking over the table at the angry welt on Frank’s neck.
Veronica poked at the spider bite, dabbing antibacterial ointment on the hard bump.
“That’s my job, Mom.”
“Yeah, well, you took too long. Here, you can put the bandage on.”
She handed Holly a three-by-three Band-Aid. “I’m going to a rodeo with Calvin tonight, honey. You’re going to have to watch Bill for me.”
The smile drained from Holly’s face. “Can I sell him to the monsters in the graveyard at the end of the road?”
Bill stood up straight, looking wildly around to see if anyone was serious.
Veronica eyed her son. “Nah, I think I’ll keep him a little while longer. He doesn’t have enough meat on his bones yet.”
Bill shot up the stairs into his room. He barricaded the door with his stuffed lime-green plush alligator.
Calvin walked back into the dining room from the kitchen. “Speaking of graveyards, the old coot who takes care of that church gave my crew a lot of grief. Didn’t want us to string the lines to his cottage.”
“He gives me the creeps.” Holly shuddered, rubbing the goose bumps that appeared on her arms. “Frank tripped on a spool of wire and fell into an open grave.”
Calvin’s eyebrows arched. “Open grave? Nobody was digging; they’re stringing overhead wires to the cottage.” He grunted. “I doubt it was a gravesite, probably and old outhouse hole.”
That sounds worse than an open grave, but just barely. “Could be, but I thought I saw a headstone,” said Holly, as she applied the oversized Band-Aid to Frank’s wound. “I wouldn’t put it past the old caretaker to be a grave robber, or necrophiliac, eeew!”
Veronica gave her daughter a dirty look. “I don’t think this is an appropriate conversation.”
Calvin and Holly grinned. Frank stopped wincing from the spider bite.
“I think I should go home. My mother will want to dote on me too.” Frank rubbed his neck.
“I’ll give you a lift,” said Calvin.
# # #
Frank called Holly late that evening. Veronica pointed her finger at the egg timer. Holly nodded, and her mother left to tuck Bill in.
“I thought we should talk about what almost happened today.”
Holly had, in fact, been thinking about that subject nonstop. “Now that I look back on it, that was really scary. I didn’t care about birth control. I didn’t care about getting pregnant. I just thought about being with you, right then and there.”
“Yeah, same here. I’m assuming you’re still a virgin, and I like that about you.”
Holly was quiet for a moment. “Are you a virgin?” she asked.
“No, I’m not.”
Holly was surprised that her eyes started tearing. “Oh, okay.”
“It’s not by choice,” explained Frank. “When I was thirteen, my baby-sitter made me, you know, do things to her.”
“Was she pretty?”
Frank chuckled, breaking the tension. “No, she was in her late thirties. She wasn’t getting anything from her husband, so she took advantage of me. I was a dumb kid, I thought it was great. At least she gave me a lot of training. It went on for two years.”
Holly furrowed her brow. “I remember that, I think. Didn’t she go to jail?”
“Yeah, but for the big stash of pot she kept in her house.” Frank sounded like he was starting to breathe hard and fast.
“Oh, you’re not… playing… with yourself, are you?”
“Ummm, no, I’m not. Doesn’t turn me on one bit.”
“Then why are you breathing so fast?”
It was Frank’s turn to be silent for a moment, except for the heavy breathing. “I’m not. I’m sitting on my couch. My mom is cleaning the dishes, so she’d see me if I was playing with myself.”
“Well, who is breathing so loudly?”
Holly heard a distinct click, and the breathing stopped.
“Someone was listening in,” she thought out loud.
“Well, if it was the old guy at the end of the road, he’s all hot and bothered by now.”
“Yuck, you can sure kill a mood. The timer is about to go off, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Sorry about that,” said Frank. “Pleasant dreams, beautiful.”
Holly stood to hang up the phone when she heard a girl’s voice whisper, “He’s mine.”
She stared at the receiver, unsure if it was her imagination.
# # #
The next day, Holly borrowed a condom from Sandra, “just in case!” Sandra hugged Holly, gave her three, and said, “Welcome to the free-love club, baby.”
Holly knew word would get around, but it was better to be safe than pregnant, for both their sakes. When she told Frank in biology, he agreed, and showed her the twenty-four pack he purchased.
“Getting ahead of yourself, aren’t you?” said Holly with a laugh. “You’re assuming we’d need this many?”
Frank looked into her eyes. “At least.”
Holly blushed, and looked away. She believed him, and spent the next few minutes in a lucid daydream.
“Want to take in another run after school? I have a match this Friday.” Frank handed her an Erlenmeyer flask full of flatworms. “We could practice wrestling, if you want.”
Holly looked at the writhing container with disgust. “No, thanks, but we can take another run. I’m behind on my weekly miles.”
Frank watched her with mild enjoyment. “You’re cute when you’re grossed out. I’ll wear my jogging stuff on the bus.”
Holly shook her head. “I’m such an idiot. How is that spider bite?”
Frank turned his head, and Holly noticed the bandage was different. “My mom changed it this morning,” he said, guessing what she was thinking. “Not too bad, looks like a hickey. The swelling went down last night. My mom didn’t believe it was a spider bite until she got a good, close look.”
He pulled a flatworm out of the flask with metal tongs and placed it on a slide. Setting it in the microscope, Holly looked through the eyepiece and decided flatworms looked worse when magnified. She started drawing the wiggling body parts on the lab worksheet. When she couldn’t stand to look at the slimy worm any longer, Frank took over.
Holly closed her eyes and calmed herself. When she opened them, Tommy was blatantly staring at her up and down, a big smirk plastered on his face. Sandra already told him, that didn’t take long. She gave him a dirty look, and he ogled her chest. That’s one thing you’ll never get from Sandra. Boys are so… boob-crazy. She turned her attention back to Frank, ignoring Tommy’s rudeness. At least the flatworms had more manners.
On the bus ride home, she saw Tommy making out with Sandra, but he kept his eyes on her. She snuggled closer to Frank’s warm protection. I’m going to have to talk to Sandra, but she won’t like it. Frank put his arm around her, and they rode together in silence.
They dropped their books on the dining room table. Veronica and Bill were not home, and Frank wiggled his eyebrows in a mock smirk. Holly changed into her jogging suit, and they stretched in the yard again.
Frank had what looked like a small purse over his shoulder. “Don’t you think I’m sexy?” She gave him a dirty look. “Okay, okay, it’s a 110 camera, an FM radio and some candy. I figured we could have a picnic.”
They jogged next to each other, up the winding road to the church. The caretaker’s truck was still absent. Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen his truck in weeks, thought Holly.
Frank walked around the church, taking pictures with his Kodak Instamatic. Holly walked over to the hole that Frank had fallen in, and decided it wasn’t big enough for a full-sized coffin. She sat on a hunk of granite, munching the candy in Frank’s bag.
Frank came over when he ran out of film. She listened to him talk about church architecture, until she balked when he began to discuss flying buttresses.
“There’s no such thing as a flying buttress! You’re making that up,” she said with a giggle.
“Oh, grow up.” He pointed at the hole. “Someone pushed all the cables in. At least I won’t trip on them again.” He looked into Holly’s aquamarine eyes, and sighed. “Jesus, you’re so beautiful.”
He reached over and kissed her slowly. She felt her resistance melting, and pressed herself against him.
Barely audible, she heard it again: “He’s mine.”
She stood up, almost knocking Frank into the hole. “Did you hear that?”
He looked at her strangely. “I didn’t hear anything, but it sure seems colder.”
She looked down at the stone they were sitting on. “Oh, my God, it’s a headstone. This was a grave.”
Frank brushed away the dirt and pine needles. “Amanda Parker, born April 1830, died April 1847. That’s depressing.”
”I said he’s mine!”
Wild-eyed, Holly spun around. “Did you hear that? Tell me you did!”
Frank cocked his head to the side. “Yeah, I hear it. Sounds like that old caretaker’s truck is coming up the road. We better head back.”
Holly looked at Frank, who looked quizzically back. “Let’s go.”
They passed the caretaker’s Chevy truck after a few minutes of jogging. He scowled at them, muttering under his breath.
When they arrived at Holly’s house, Frank’s mother was talking to Veronica in the driveway. He kissed Holly quickly. “I’ll call you tonight,” he whispered. She nodded, and he hopped into the passenger side of his mother’s Ford Galaxy.
They waved as the Ford pulled away. “Mrs. Long said we look more like sisters,” said Veronica. She mussed Holly’s hair, and chased her into the house.
# # #
Holly picked up the phone on the first ring.
“Holly, it’s me.”
“Duh, who else would be calling this late at night?”
“I have a practice tomorrow, so I won’t get to see you after lunch.”
Holly sighed. “I have a cheerleader practice tomorrow after school, so I won’t see you until Wednesday. That sucks.”
The breathing started again, and it was as though someone was standing next to Holly after running a marathon.
“Someone’s on the line again, I can hear them breathing. Go away, you stupid pervert!” She rubbed her arms, it was unusually cold. She looked over at the freezer to make sure Bill remembered to close it.
“Well, let’s not give them anything to masturbate to. Your turn to call me tomorrow, try after ten.”
“Okay, I love you.” She froze – she said the words before she could stop herself.
“I love you too, beautiful. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
She sat with the phone to her ear. She couldn’t believe what she said, and his reply finally sunk in. He loves me too!
Quite clearly, she heard the girl’s voice on the phone. “I said he’s mine!”
Her vision blurred, she could see her breath faintly. She felt as if she were falling into a deep hole, where light couldn’t find her. Before she blacked out, she heard a girl laughing triumphantly -- laughing in Holly’s voice.