Jake Mathews was the king of the trailer park. 19, good-looking, charming, always knew what pretty words to say to the young girls. He liked the power he had, the ability to control those girls with a wicked smile or a flash of his blue eyes or flip of his long hair. Those same girls who were rebelling against their parents, against school, against structure, against societal expectations on how they should behave and carry themselves. They sought independence and the unknown. And they craved attention from older boys like Jake. They wore crop tops and shorts that didn’t leave much to the imagination. They smelled like France with their Walmart perfume. Their faces were painted to look more mature, more alluring, more sophisticated.
Anna Howard was one of those girls. 15 going on 25, she was well aware of her own power, beauty. She used it to get whatever she wanted. Pot, beer, a kiss, money for the mall. The boys would stumble over themselves to please her. Except Jake, the one whose attention she really desired.
At the bonfire in the field, Anna and her best friend since 2nd grade, the introverted Hillary White, were hanging out, looking for something besides homework and their parent’s constant criticism and rules.
“Jake is so hot,” said Anna. “Tonight’s the night we hook up.”
Hillary shook her head. “You’ve never had sex, you have idea what you’re doing. Just stop.”
“I don’t need to know anything because he does. He can teach me.”
“Teach you how to be the slut of Rochester Hills?”
Anna lit a cigarette she stole from her mom’s purse. “You keep fucking all those books you read, and let me worry about real fucking.”
They both laughed and headed closer to the flames. Jake was holding court, telling stories about beating the shit out of people, stealing cars, having sex with a former teacher. All the younger girls ate it up.
Anna stepped forward, brushed by Jake and said, “You gonna tell stories all night or get me drunk?”
Jake checked her out from head to toe. He went to the keg, filled a cup and handed it to Anna. “Drink up, gorgeous.”
Anna smiled and downed the beer in three gulps. “That’s more like it. Got anything stronger?”
Jake snatched a bottle of vodka from his friend. “Follow me.”
They went into the woods and sat on a homemade bench. He handed her the bottle. “Let’s see if you handle something a bit harder.”
Anna tilted the bottle and drank. Her stone face didn’t betray the horrible taste. “I can do the hard stuff.” She looked him dead in the eyes, then at his crotch. “Anything else hard I can try?”
The king of the trailer park blushed.
Back at the bonfire, Hillary was bored. Nobody was talking to her. She was lost without Anna. She felt like an outcast. Everybody was drinking and laughing and having a great time. All she wanted were her books. She preferred imaginary worlds over real ones. In the real one, she was invisible, a nerd, not cool or pretty enough for the horny boys. She wanted the attention Anna got. She wanted boys to see inside her, judge her on her good parts, not on the plain outside. She wasn’t Anna, though. The boys always chased Anna, never her. A third wheel. She texted her friend. “U coming back soon?” No response. She decided to go home. When she walked in the front door, the first thing she saw was her mom sitting on the couch reading a book. Her dad was watching football. Hillary existed inside the quiet of the house. Her parents never talked anymore. They were husband and wife in name only. Her parents were strangers now, going through the motions of a dead marriage.
Hillary went into her room, put in her earbuds, grabbed her journal, and began to write a sad poem about her mom.
Anna touched Jake’s face. Tender but with a purpose. He backed away. She got closer. She kissed him, tried to slip her tongue into his mouth, but he didn’t return the favor. He was all awkward and sloppy.
“What is wrong with you?” Don’t you want me?”
“Maybe it’s the vodka. My bad. Can we just talk instead?”
“Are you serious? Talk about what? How fucking lame you are?”
“I’m not lame. Everybody will tell you that.”
“Oh, you mean like Miss Jenkins? That story about sleeping with her? You can’t even kiss you fake fuck. You really think I believed that shit?”
Jake knew he was exposed. She saw right through him, this damn girl knew he was a fraud. He was intimidated by Anna. He preyed on less aggressive girls. The lonely and insecure ones, like Hillary. He wished he was with her right now and not Anna. “I’m going back to bonfire,” he said.
“Yeah, keep walking you pussy.”
Anna decided to go home. She went into her bedroom and texted Hillary. “What u doing?”
“Writing. What happened with Jake? You guys hook up?
“No. He’s a little boy. Don’t know shit. Whatever.”
For reasons she didn’t understand, this made Hillary happy. “Wanna go to the mall tomorrow? Plenty of boys.”
“Yeah, I’m down. I’ll text u in the morning.”
Anna crawled under her Disney princess cover and fell asleep.
Back at the bonfire, Jake was telling everybody that he just fucked Anna in the woods. The king was back.
Chris Milam lives in Middletown, Ohio. His stories have appeared in Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, JMWW, Lumiere Review, X-R-A-Y, Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.