Friday, November 15, 2013

No. 43: The Man Next Door

Charles Sneegas placed the last of his belongings in the box and prepared to pick it up and leave. He had been a public defender for people who couldn’t afford a lawyer in Chicago since he got his law degree thirteen years ago. Charles had a knack, for better or worse, of making his clients sympathetic and relatable and championing for the innocence of clients who clearly were innocent. He looked around his office one last time, sighed heavily and started to pick up the box.

“You heading out?” another lawyer that Charles worked with poked his head into the office.

“Yep. Nicole and I leave Chicago tonight,” Charles said.

“I can’t believe you’re leaving the glitz and glamour of Chicago for the mundane suburban life. What’s that got that Chicago doesn’t?”

“Nicole and I want to start a family plus the law firm I got hired at is paying me a lot better than the city of Chicago,” Charles chuckled.

“I hear you, man. Keep in touch.”

When Charles got home, Nicole was sitting down on a chair as moving men went back and forth carrying out boxes and furniture. Charles noticed that Nicole was breathing heavily and sweating.

“Nic, what’s wrong?” he asked.

“I think I overdid it today,” she forced a chuckle. Charles kneeled down and rubbed his wife’s leg.

“Does anything else need to be done or were you able to get the rest of the packing done?”

“Our bedroom needs to be finished but one of the movers offered to finish up,” she said.

“Are you feeling all right? You look really pale,” Charles sounded worried.

Nicole waved off the notion and smiled. “I’ll be fine. When we get to the new house, I’ll take a long rest.”

The movers left just before five and Charles and Nicole left about half an hour later. Nicole fell asleep on the way. They arrived at their new house within a couple of hours. The movers were unloading their truck and carrying boxes and furniture into the house. Charles instructed the movers to set up the bed in the bedroom and he woke Nicole slightly and began lifting her out of the car.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“It’s okay,” Charles said and carried Nicole into the house and laid her on the bed upstairs. “We’re home.”

Their new home was a two-story white house on Brush Creek Drive, a cul-de-sac on the southeastern side of their new city. The house was the seventh on in one the north side and had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. All of the houses were on small acres of land. The only tree on the Sneegas’ property was a tall pin oak that straddled the property to the west.

Charles and Nicole met shortly after Charles entered law school. He was at a coffee shop doing some work when Nicole walked by, her purse bumped his coffee and spilled onto his notes and papers.

“Oh my God! I am so sorry!” Nicole began to tear up as she attempted to dab up the mess with a napkin. “I am so, so sorry!”

Charles looked up at her and saw that she was very cute with green eyes, slight freckles and a nose that seemed just a bit too big for her face. “It’s all right. The books will dry out and the papers were copies. I’ll just make new ones. I’m Charles,” he extended his hand to her.

She took it and wiped away a tear. “Nicole. I am really sorry. Is there any way I can make this up to you?”

Charles thought for a second. “If you want, you can have dinner with me tomorrow,” he smiled.

Nicole smiled back. “Okay,” she sounded relieved. “If you have a dry piece of paper I can give you my address and phone number.”

They exchanged information and she read over his name, address and phone number several times. “So I guess I will see you tomorrow night,” she said nervously.

“I guess you will,” Charles said.

The next morning, Nicole got up and felt much better. She went downstairs and saw Charles in the kitchen making some coffee and a Pop-Tart. “Good morning, love,” she said and hugged her husband tightly.

Charles turned around and hugged her back, kissing the top of her head. “Good morning. Do you feel better?”

“Much. I guess I just overworked myself yesterday. Hey, do you have time to go upstairs for a bit?” Nicole smiled, slightly biting the end of her tongue.

Charles looked at his watch. He groaned. “No, I don’t but I would love nothing more so when I get home maybe you should just be lying in bed, waiting,” he smiled back.

“Hmm. We’ll see…” she said and kissed him. Charles grabbed a cup of coffee and his Pop-Tart and left the house. Nicole opened the refrigerator and took out a couple of eggs. She sat them down on the counter and went over to a box labeled ‘pots and pans.’ As she grabbed a frying pan, the doorbell rang.

Nicole answered the door and saw a short, blonde-haired woman standing on their porch. “Hello. I’m Kristen Moore, I live across the street,” Kristen nodded to a tan house across the street but diagonal from the Sneegas’ house. “I just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood before I went off to work.”

“Well, thank you. We got here pretty late and I overworked myself so I didn’t feel good so we didn’t get a chance to meet any of our neighbors. Do you have time to stay for some coffee?”

“I can spare a few minutes,” Kristen said.

Nicole invited her in and motioned to the kitchen and dining room. “I’m Nicole Sneegas. My husband, Charles, just left for work five minutes ago.”

“I saw him leave which reminded me to come over. How long have you been married?”

“Twelve years in May,” Nicole answered.

“Jason and I have been married fifteen. Any children?”

“Nope. Not yet anyway,” Nicole chuckled. “What about you?”

“Chloe. Fifteen years old,” Kristen said. “She’s kind of a handful but what teenager isn’t? I need to get to work. Thanks for the coffee. We’re gonna have to have you over for dinner some night.”

“Same here. It was great to meet you. Can’t wait to Jason and Chloe,” Nicole said.

“See you, Nicole.”

Kristen left and Nicole was alone. She went back in the kitchen and put the two eggs back in the fridge.

The neighborhood was a close knit community. Everybody knew everybody else and they all got along with everybody else. Next door to the Moore’s was an elderly couple and next door to them was Casey Regan and her daughter Emili. Casey was a single mother who had worked hard and really made something of herself. Emili was a quiet girl with normally dark brown hair but for the last three years she usually dyed it blond with the ends a different color. Emili’s best friend was Chloe. Chloe was almost the exact opposite of Emili—talkative, popular and a cheerleader. Chloe had strawberry blond hair and small freckles that dotted her face, chest and arms.

They had lived next door to each other for the last nine years and knew everything about each other. Most of their time was spent at Morningside High School. They ate breakfast at school just about every morning so they could talk and hang out with their other friends Chris Anthony, Sam Wenther and Zoey Preston.

“So what’s the difference between breakfast pizza and the pizza they serve for lunch?” Sam, a short and kind of chubby kid with short brown hair, said, looking intently at the pizza on his tray.

“Do you have to ask that every time we have breakfast pizza?” Chris asked.

“Clearly he does,” Chloe said, dressed in her cheerleader outfit.

Emili looked up and smiled. She was trying to finish homework she had from the previous night before school started in twenty minutes. She constantly kept brushing her hair away from her eyes or bringing her hair from behind her to over her shoulder. “Why do you even get the pizza? You never ea t it,” Emili’s voice was quiet, breathy and a little on the deep side but it stopped Chris in his tracks whenever he heard it.

“It’s not like it’s going to waste,” Sam said. “Someone here always eats it.”

With that, Chloe reached over and took Sam’s pizza, taking a bite. “Ew, it’s cold,” she said, chewing.

“Do you want some help?” Chris asked, sitting down next to Emili. “I’m getting an A in American Lit.”

“No, I’m good. I’m just distracted,” Emili responded. “If these are supposed to be some of the greatest stories ever then why have I never heard of them before?”

“I wish I had an answer for you, babe,” Chris smiled.

Emili crinkled her nose and snarled. “’Babe?’”

“You are,” Chris said and turned his attention back to his other friends at the table. “Is anyone going to Josie’s party this weekend?”

“Josie’s having a party?” Sam asked.

“She doesn’t really know about it yet,” Chris said. “Other people are planning it for her.”

“You know I don’t go to stuff like that,” Zoey said. “It feels wrong having a party when the person hosting it doesn’t know it’s going to happen.”

“Are you still upset that we did that to you?” Chris looked into Zoey’s eyes.

“A little…”

After breakfast and after the bell for first hour rang, Emili and Zoey were downstairs in the locker room getting dressed out for gym. Zoey was wearing a Morningside High shirt and grey shorts while Emili was wearing green shorts and an old white Big Dog shirt from more than a decade ago. After dressing out, they waited in the hallway with the other girls for the gym teacher to let them upstairs.

“Why is Chris acting so weird around me?” Emili asked Zoey.

“Because he likes you,” Zoey said her tone with a hint of ‘you didn’t know that?’

“I thought he was dating that Melissa Fischer girl.”

“They broke up. Which everyone knew they would because he’s not a tool and she’s all…” Zoey flailed her hands, rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue. “You know?”

Emili leaned against the wall, pulling and stroking her hair. “Should I go out with him?”

“That’s your choice. He’s a nice guy and we all know you couldn’t date a nice guy if your life depended on it.”

“What if the guys I dated were nice until they were with me? What if my boyfriends being jerks is my fault?”

Zoey glanced back and forth. “I don’t think it works that way…”

“Okay, girls! Head on up! Three laps!” the gym teacher shouted and the group of girls ran upstairs to the gym and ran their laps along the wall.

Kristen opened the front door and let the Sneegases in. "Hello! Come in, come in. It's so good to finally have you over for dinner," Kristen hugged Nicole and then Charles. Jason came out of the living room and shook Charles' hand.

"Glad you could make it. We've wanted to get together since you moved in," Jason said then turned around. "Emili. Chloe. Come downstairs and say hello to our guests! Chloe invited her best friend Emili for dinner as well. Hope that's okay."

"Of course it is. We see Emili around the neighborhood and she seems like a good girl," Nicole said.

"She has her moments," Kristen said.

The two girls barreled down the stairs. "Hi, Mr. Sneegas. Hi, Mrs. Sneegas," Emili said.

"Hi," Chloe said and waved slightly.

"Hi, girls," Nicole said. "How was school today? You did have school right? Not some weird holiday?"

"It was school," Emili slid her hands into her back pockets and shrugged.

"Did you learn anything?" Charles asked.

"Not really," Emili said.

"Are you doing anything interesting in any of your classes?" he asked.

"Not really," Emili said.

"Have you done anything even remotely cool in any of your classes?"

Emili shrugged again. "We did these clay statue things in art classes. That was pretty cool, I guess."

"Do you like art?"

"I guess."

"Yay, something positive," Charles chuckled. "Chloe, you're a cheerleader right?"

Chloe looked at Charles and subtly batted her eyes at him. She looked at Charles' green eyes, his manicured but tousled brown hair, his slight five o'clock shadow and a grin came over her face. "Yeah. I thought I would try it out this year. So far I'm enjoying it but I don't know if I'm going to do it next year. I'm thinking of actually doing a sport next year for my senior year," she explained.

"What sport are you thinking? If it's volleyball, I could help you with that. I was quite a volleyball player in high school and a couple years in college," Charles laughed then did a mock serve with an invisible ball.

"With you being so tall," Kristen began "I would've guessed basketball."

"No. Everyone else thought that too," Charles looked at Kristen. "I would always get picked early when we would divide up for basketball teams and my team would get pissed when they would learn, or remember, that I was not good at basketball. Lousy height-ists."

Jason and Kristen laughed politely at Charles' story. Nicole patted her husband's back and smiled a closed-mouth smile.

"I was a basketball player," Jason said.

"Oh, here we go," Chloe said and dragged Emili away from the adults.

"Helped take the team to state," Jason put his hands on his hips.

"Yep, and as I recall he got rewarded pretty good for doing that, too," Kristen said.

"Really? What you get? A trophy? Ooh, a basketball scholarship to a university?" Nicole asked.

"No, she just walked away with her friend in embarrassment," Kristen smiled.

"Oh!" Charles said and clapped Jason on the shoulder.

"Yeah, that kind of ruined my chances of going professional," Jason nodded. "I cry about it every day." He pulled Kristen closer to him and kissed her.

"I need to go check dinner," Kristen said, pulling away. "It should be done any minute."

Chloe had dragged Emili outside onto the back porch. "Mr. Sneegas seemed nice," she said.

"Yeah. He doesn't seem as doofy as some adults," Emili agreed. "Or maybe he's even more doofier. I couldn't really tell with him."

"He was also hot," Chloe's eyes widened and she leaned back on the wood railing of the porch.


"Didn't you think he was kind of cute? He had bright green eyes and he didn't have that stomach fat a lot of older guys tend to get," Chloe said.

"Chloe, do you want to nail the new neighbor?" Emili smiled with a surprised look on her face.

"Not necessarily but if it ever came up or something then I probably wouldn't say no."

"Eww," Emili shrieked and waved her hands frantically in front of her.

"Calm down. It's not like that's going to happen. I don't have any desire to try to have an affair with him and he probably doesn't want to ruin his life by sleeping with an underage girl," Chloe said. "But it may be fun thinking about it though."

"I already said 'eww', Chloe," Emili said.

The Moore’s, the Sneegases and Emili sat at the dining room table and ate their dinner. “I bet it was interesting being a public defender in Chicago,” Kristen said as everybody ate. “Probably a lot more interesting than the cases you receive now.”

“It was never boring but I enjoy the place I work at now. I like being able to help this community. It’s full of really nice people,” Charles said. “What do you two do?”

“I’m an administrative assistant at a real estate agency,” Kristen began. “I’m going back and forth on whether or not I want to get my realtor’s license but I’m pretty sure I’m going to try for it in the next year or so.”

“I work in the city planner’s office,” Jason said. “You know that roundabout at 14th and Prospect? My idea.”

“I use that roundabout every day. Good idea,” Charles said.

“Before it was a four-way stop. During peak travel times traffic would be backed up for blocks but we didn’t feel a stoplight would’ve been the answer,” Jason said. “I suggested a roundabout and, well, the rest is history.”

As soon as Chloe and Emili were finished with their dinner they excused themselves and went back upstairs. The adults continued talking about their jobs and their families. Kristen talked about her grandparents on her mother’s side who grew up in a small town that no longer existed. Nicole didn't say or eat much.

"Is everything okay?" Kristen asked, noticing Nicole's almost full plate.

"Yes, everything is wonderful, it's just..." Nicole hesitated "I don't want to bring this up. Just ignore me, it's nothing."

"It's not nothing. Go ahead and bring it up. We're all friends here," Kristen invited.

"I just don't feel well," Nicole said. "It's something that's been happening off and on over the last few months. I get really dizzy and sick to my stomach."

"Oh my God. Have you seen a doctor about it?" Kristen asked.

"No. The spells only last a day or two and it's probably nothing."

"You should still see a doctor," Jason agreed. "There's never in harm in seeing a doctor. Unless you can't pay for it I guess."

"Maybe I will see a doctor next week," Nicole said. "I guess it couldn't hurt," she smiled.

Around nine, Charles and Nicole left the Moore house and began walking across the street to their house. "Thanks for dinner," Charles hollered behind them. "We'll have to have you guys over some night."

"We'll do that," Jason waved.

"Say good night to the girls for us," Nicole shouted.

"We will," Kristen shouted back.

"That was a fun evening," Nicole rested her head on Charles' arm as they walked.

"It was. What a nice family. And those girls were something special," Charles said.

"We only saw them for fifteen minutes," Nicole said.


"Charles," Nicole said in a different tone of voice. "Stay away from those girls."

"Of course I will. I have too much to lose," he kissed Nicole on the top of her head. "Now, let's get home and get you out of those clothes. If you feel up to it..." he quickly added.

"I think I can muster up some strength," she smiled big and slid her hand into her husband's back pocket.

Charles and Nicole had been dating about three months when Nicole sort of moved in. She still had her own place but spent most of the time at Charles' apartment in River North. He had two bedrooms but didn't have a roommate and only used the second bedroom for storage, of which he had very little. It seemed that he used it for something but Nicole was never able to tell what and figured it was a study room or something. She was alone in his apartment one day and went into the room and found a picture lying on a table. She picked it up and looked at it, a very young freckled girl wearing a white tank top. You could clearly see the girl's dark nipples through the tank top and the very top of the slit of her genitals. She put the picture back on the table and went over to the closet and opened it. It was filled with boxes but there was only one box on the shelf in the closet.

She reached up and pulled the box down and opened it. It was filled with folders and pictures of young girls some clothed, some partially, some naked. The girls seemed to range from around eight years old to fourteen. Most were of girls that had smiles on their faces but there were a few of girls that looked like they were crying or detached. She heard Charles come in but she continued going through the box.

"Nicole?" Charles hollered as he walked down the hall. He stopped at the spare room and saw his girlfriend looking through his box. "What are you doing?"

"What the hell are you doing? What the hell are these?"

"I can explain," Charles said, talking fast but not really panicking. "No, I can't," he sighed.

He got on his knees next to Nicole. "Why do you have these? Are you some kind of pervert? Do you take these yourself?"

"No, someone sends them to me. And I guess, yeah, I am kind of a pervert. It's more of a fetish, I guess. I don't want to hurt these girls but I get turned on by them so I think about doing...things to them and I masturbate. When I finish I am disgusted by what I did."

"But you don't get rid of the pictures. Or get yourself some therapy. Have you ever had sex with an underage girl?" Nicole asked.

Charles hung his head. "I was twenty, she was thirteen. It was my best friend's sister. I'm not proud of it and I never told anyone about it. Until now. I was going to tell you all of this, I promise but a good time never came up."

"I bet.’Hey, Nicole, just so you know, you are dating a pedophile who masturbates to underage girls and has had sex with at least one' normally doesn't come up organically in conversation."

"Only one," Charles said. "And I promised myself that I would never do it again and I haven't."

"I don't want you to do this again either," she held up a stack of photos. "It's sick and it's wrong. If you do anything like this again or if I even catch you thinking about having sex with or even masturbating to an underage girl then I will leave you and turn you in to the police. Do you hear me?"

"Why aren't you turning me in now?" Charles asked.

"I don't know," Nicole threw the pictures into the box and stood up. "I really care for you Charles, I do but this cannot happen with me around. I will help you through whatever you need but I these pictures out of here, I want you to somehow stop receiving more photos. Got it?"

"Yes," Charles nodded. "Thank you," he said.

"Don't. Get rid of those photos immediately and I should have dinner started," Nicole said leaving the room and heading down the hallway.

"There," Chris said as he backed away from the construction paper project he and Chloe were working on. "I think we got everything."

"Looks like it," Chloe said as she continued to paint on the paper using a purplish-silver glitter paint. "Here's the list if you want to make sure," she handed Chris a piece of paper and he quickly went over it.

"Looks good to me," he said and tossed the paper aside. "I think you can stop with the glitter paint now," he chuckled.

"Yeah," she chuckled back "I guess. It looks pretty good doesn't it?"

"I think it looks fine," Chris said. "Hey, uh, would you like to go out me sometime?”

"What? You’re asking me out?”


“What about Emili? I thought you wanted to go out with her,” Chloe said.

"Yeah but since we’ve been working together I’ve kind of developed a…fondness for you.”

"But Emili really likes you. I don’t think it’d be a good idea to go out,” Chloe said. “And I thought you liked Emili. Why haven’t you asked her out?”

Chris shrugged. “I don’t know. I just figured that since we’ve been such good friends the last few months that we would just end up together.”

"You just can’t expect to wind up together. Ask her out. Girls like to be asked out,” Chloe said, smiling at Chris.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go out with me?” Chris asked in both a serious and joking way.

Emili's my best friend and she really likes you. I couldn't do that to her. I hope you understand."

"I do. I figured you'd say no but I asked you and that's the important thing."

Chloe laughed. "You should probably take me home. It's getting late."

"Thank you for helping me with this, Charles," Casey said as she watched Charles replace light bulbs in a fixture over her stairs. "Those have been blown out for over a year but I can't reach them even with the ladder."

"No problem," Charles strained. "How have you changed them before?"

"Usually a boyfriend or I ask Jason," Casey said. "But this year has been kind of dry for me and Jason's been too busy.”

"So you settled for me," Charles chuckled. "Okay, turn on the light. They should all work now."

Casey flipped a switch and the lights turned on. Charles started down the ladder. "Thank you so much," Casey said. "Hey, I don't mean to be forward nor anything but would you like to have dinner with me some night?"

"Like a date?" Charles asked.

"Maybe..." Casey smiled, showing her teeth while her face turned bright red.

"Nicole's only been gone a couple of months. I don't think I'm ready to start dating yet."

Nicole had succumbed to breast cancer a couple months before. Shortly after having dinner with the Moores, Nicole went to see a doctor but it was too late. The cancer was starting to spread from her breasts and while she could've had chemotherapy and a hysterectomy, she decided not to and quickly succumbed to her disease. Charles had been continuing his life but his neighbors noted that he seemed to be a shadow of his former self.

"Then just come over and have some dinner. Enjoy some company," Casey said.

"That," Charles began, becoming a bit more upbeat "would be nice. I can cook for myself but I only know how to make meals for two so I have a lot of leftovers and a lot to throw away."

"Mom," Emili came out of her room. "I need help with my assignment. I need to create a replica of a cave and then write about it."

"Well, what does your cave look like?" Casey asked.

Emili shrugged. "I haven't made it yet. Mr. Hartman assigned us partners and I got partnered with Max Weseman while Chloe got partnered with Chris."

"So Max has your cave replica?"

"No. I don't like Max so I asked Mr. Hartman if we could work by ourselves. He said yes."

"Emili..." Casey lowered her head and pinched the bridge of her nose.

"Have you ever heard of the cave of crystals?" Charles asked.

"Of course not. Because I don't care," Emili said.

"Can she come over to my house? I can help her with her assignment."

"Of course. Have fun you two."

"The Cave of Crystals is a massive cave in Mexico with the largest crystals in the world," Charles said as he did a search on the computer. The article he pulled up showed gigantic crystals criss-crossed in an enormous cave. People in special heat suits were standing next to the crystals to give an idea of the size. The crystals towered over the people. "Everything you need to know about the cave is in this article and you should be able to easily replicate it on paper."

"Okay. That is kind of cool. Just don't tell anyone I said that."

"Your secret is safe with me."

Chris and Chloe pulled into the Moore’s driveway. He shut off the lights and car but kept the radio on, playing softly. “Thanks for driving home,” she said.

“No problem. I’m glad we got our assignment done.”

Chloe looked out the window and saw someone crossing the street from Charles’ house. “Is that Emili?”

Chris looked through the window, following Chloe’s line of sight. “Looks like,” he agreed.

“What’s she doing coming from Mr. Sneegas’ house?”

“I don’t know. Go and ask her.”

“It’s not important,” Chloe said, turning back to Chris. She leaned in and kissed him. He was caught off guard but soon closed his eyes and enjoyed it. When their lips parted, Chloe smiled, looking back and forth from Chris’ eyes to his lips. “I’ve changed my mind. Do you want to go out this weekend?”

“Have you heard about Chris and Chloe?” Zoey asked Emili the next day at school between second and third hour.

“I’ve heard bits and pieces,” Emili groaned slightly.

“I heard she gave him a b.j,” Zoey said.

Emili scrunched her face. “B.J.? Really?” As the girls walked, they approached Chris who was coming from the other direction. Emili grabbed his shirt and pulled him into a classroom doorway. “What the hell?”

“I’m sorry, Em,” Chris said. “She asked me.”

“Did she suck your dick?” Emili asked. A couple students walking by turned their heads.

“What? No! We only kissed.”

“I thought you wanted to ask me out…”

“I do but I’ve been working around Chloe a lot and one thing led to another…”

“I hope you two have a good time,” Emili said and walked away.

During lunch Emili sat with her friends but Chloe and Chris sat at a different table. “I am so sorry about Chris and Chloe,” Sam said.

“Why is everyone treating me like someone died?” Emili questioned. “I don’t care that they are dating and neither should anyone else,” she smiled and giggled when she spoke.

“Have you even spoken to Chloe today?” Zoey asked.

“I talked to her during breakfast. You were there!”

“But you haven’t spoken to her since,” Zoey said.

“She’s still my friend Zoey.”

“For now,” Sam said in an ominous voice.

Emili smiled and pushed on him. “Shut up.” When Emili got home she went across the street and knocked on Charles’ door. He happened to be home and answered. “Hi, Mr. Sneegas,” Emili said.

“Hi, Emili. What are you doing over here?”

“I didn’t know if you’d be home but I need some advice. You’re old, right?”

“I’m in my mid-thirties so yes. If you need advice you should ask your mom.”

“It’s relationship advice and my mom hasn’t been in a decent relationship since before I was born,” Emili said.

“Okay,” Charles sighed. “We’ll talk out here,” Charles walked out onto the porch and closed his front door. “What’s up?”

“Chloe is going to go out with a guy I like.”

“Uh, oh,” Charles said.

“And he said that he wanted to ask me but he asked her instead.”

“The first thing you have to remember about teenage boys is that they are terrible.”

“That I know. I’m friends with several of them.”

“The second thing is that you are still teenagers. What you do now doesn’t really affect the rest of your life. Yes, there are things that can—drugs, alcohol, getting pregnant—but for the most part, after high school you get a blank slate. Who you dated when you were 15, 16, 17, doesn’t matter anymore.”

“So what you are saying is have sex with him, get pregnant and he’ll be mine forever?”


Emili laughed. “I’m kidding. What you’re saying is it doesn’t matter if Chloe and Chris are dating and if Chris and I are meant to be together then we will end up together.”

Charles nodded his head back and forth. “Kind of. I think you pulled more from what I said than I intended but, yeah, that’s an oversimplified version of what I said.”

“Did you have any girlfriends in high school?”

“I had one. We were together from the middle of my sophomore year to the start of my senior year. Her name was Megan or something like that.”

“Did you two love each other?”

Charles scrunched his face. “I don’t know. We said it to each other but I don’t know if we knew what it meant. It’s almost twenty years after the relationship ended and I still don’t know if we were actually in love or not.”

“What was she like?”

“She was cute and had curly hair, big eyes. She was very smart and sometimes wore glasses,” Charles described, hiding the truth a little. Megan was cute and despite being the same age as Charles, looked really young. She still had her baby face and was very short. Her breasts had not quite started developing and, as Charles would out when they lost their virginity to each other, neither had her pubic hair. “She’s married now. Three or so kids.”

“Why’d you two break up?”

During high school, Charles’ best friend was Adam Westgate. Adam played sports so Charles would go over to Adam’s house to wait for him. During the hour or so he was there, he would talk with Adam’s eleven-year-old sister, Lisa. Adam came home one day and found Charles and Lisa together in bed. Adam nearly broke Charles’ nose and told everyone at school which made Megan break up with him. After awhile most people thought what Adam said was a rumor and that Charles was really caught with Adam’s girlfriend.

“Stupid high school stuff,” he lied.

That evening after dinner, Emili was in her room reading and listening to music. She heard the doorbell ring and turned the music down to listen to who was at the door. She heard her mom speak “Chloe. Hello.”

“Is Emili here?”

“Yes she’s upstairs in her room. Head on up.”

“Damn it, Mom,” Emili rolled her eyes. Emili turned off the music. Chloe knocked on her door. “Come in.”

Chloe walked in. “Hey, Emili. I hardly saw you today,” Chloe said.

Emili made a grunting noise.

“I’m sorry about Chris,” Chloe said. “He asked me out suddenly. What was I supposed to do?”

“Could’ve said no,” Emili got off of her bed. “But I’m not mad. I hope you two have a good time this weekend.”

“Really? You’re not mad?”

“No. Mr. Sneegas said that what happens in high school relationships doesn’t really matter.”

“Ah,” Chloe said but in a sad tone. “What were you doing over at Mr. Sneegas’ last night?”

“He was helping me with my homework. Do you still have a crush on him?” Emili smiled big.

“I think he’s cute for an old guy but I wouldn’t say it’s a crush.”

“Uh-huh,” Emili continued smiling. “You want to kiss him. You want to suck his dick,” Emili made a stroking motion with her hand near her mouth and used her tongue to push out her cheek.

“Shut up! That’s gross. Besides, you want to suck Chris’ dick.”

“Who says I haven’t?” Emili said in a quieter voice.

“What?” Chloe went over to Emili and grabbed her arm.

“It was over the summer. I thought that if I did that it would speed up the dating process but it seemed to just make him take even more time.”

“I am sorry, Emili,” Chloe said, squeezing her arm harder.

“It’s fine, Chloe. You and Chris have a good weekend.”

“Thanks, Emili.”

Over the next month, Charles had become a regular fixture at the Regan house. He came over for dinner about once a week and was over in general between two and four times a week. It wasn’t clear if Charles and Casey were dating or what exactly their relationship was but Emili had heard them having sex at least twice. She was happy for whatever they had because it got her mom off her back and she really liked Charles. She also wound up spending most of her time with Charles because Chloe and Chris were still seeing each other and Chloe opted to spend her time with Chris.

“When do you think someone should lose their virginity?” Emili asked Charles one night after dinner while they were washing dishes.

“Emili! I don’t think that’s an appropriate question to ask me.”

“Oh come on. You’ve become my surrogate father figure over the last few weeks so I think you can answer this one.”

“It depends on the person and when they are ready—when they can handle the implications and possible outcomes of what they are doing,” Charles said.

“So age doesn’t matter? A 13-year-old could have sex as long as they understand what they are getting themselves into?”

“Yes but what 13-year-old truly understands what they are doing in that situation?” They washed dishes in silence for about thirty seconds. “Have you…?”

“Mr. Sneegas! I don’t think that’s an appropriate question to ask me,” Emili copied. “But, no. I haven’t.”

They went back to washing dishes. “Smart girl.” Afterward, Emili went upstairs and Casey wrapped her arms around Charles’ neck and kissed him. “What’s that for?” he asked.

“I heard you and Emili in the kitchen.”

“Crap. You heard that?”

“Yes,” she chuckled. “And I thought you did very well. I am so glad that she can at least partly confide in you. She never tells me anything.”

Charles hugged Casey. “That’ll change. Someday she’ll come running into your arms wanting help from you.”

“I know,” Casey smiled.

Later that night, Emili heard the soft sounds of her mom and Charles having sex. Normally, she would turn up her music or turn on her TV but this time she put her book down and listened to the movements of the bed, the headboard quietly tapping against the wall, the moans of her mom and the soft grunts of Charles. She slid her hand between her legs and began rubbing herself. She closed her eyes and began moaning quietly. She moved her pelvis against her hand as the rest of her body twitched and convulsed. Her moans became louder and more frequent and she let a squeak escape from her mouth. Her eyes closed tighter and louder moans—almost screams came out. “Oh, Charles…” she absent-mindedly moaned as her breathing even out.

She got out of bed to dry her hand and change her underwear and heard no noises coming from her mom’s room. Emili hoped they didn’t hear her, especially the part where she said Charles’ name.

The next day at school, Chloe sat down next to Emili at lunch for the first time in what seemed like weeks. Chris sat at another table with his other friends. “Emili, I need some advice.”

“From me? What could I possibly tell you?”

“How do you give head?” she asked quietly.

“What?” Emili asked with food in her mouth.

“Chris and I want to take our relationship a step further but I don’t know if I’m going to be any good at that.”

“It’s easy, Chloe,” Emili said and began telling her what to do, or at least what she did.

After school, Emili walked over to Charles’ house where he was out mowing his lawn. “Hey, Emili,” he smiled at her.

“Don’t you have a job?” Emili jokingly asked him.

“How was school?”

“Can we go inside? I need to tell you something.”

Charles turned and looked at his house then back at Emili. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Can’t you tell me out here?”

“No. I need to tell you in private.”

Charles paused for a couple of seconds. “Just a few minutes,” and he and Emili went into his house, closing the door behind them. “Okay, so what’s so important that you need to tell me?”

“I want to have sex.”

Charles crossed his arms, leaned back on the wall and nodded his head. “Mmm. And why do you need to tell me this?”

“Because I want to have sex with you.”

Charles walked away from the wall and over to Emili. “I think you need to leave now,” he reached around Emili for the doorknob.

“Mr. Sneegas--Charles--please, hear me out.”

“No, Emili. You need to leave,” he began opening the door but she leaned against it, shutting it again.

“I could lose my virginity to some random guy whose name I probably won’t remember in ten years or I could lose it to you: a wonderful older man who genuinely cares about me and who would treat me and my body with loving respect.”

“Emili, get out. I am not playing here. And I think it’s best if you don’t come over anymore,” Charles opened the door and ushered Emili out of his house. He slammed the door.

Emili began tearing up and she ran home, upstairs to her room and buried her face in her pillow.

Chris had lost his virginity about a year ago after he had gotten his driver’s license. He was driving around on the other side of town and drove by a young girl that was bouncing on a trampoline. As he drove by the girl lifted her shirt exposing her breasts. He pulled into the driveway and they began talking. One thing led to another and they went up to her bedroom.

Now, Chloe was between his legs, his penis in her mouth. She worked down there for only a few minutes when Chris stopped her and pulled her up onto the bed. “Did you like it? Was it okay?” she asked.

“It was fine. I just thought we could do more than just that,” he said and removed his shirt. He leaned down and kissed her. He continued kissing her down her neck and removed her shirt and kissed her chest and stomach. He removed her pants and kissed between her legs. He hovered above her and began pushing himself inside her.

“Ow,” she said repeatedly as he poked and prodded her genitals with his. She spread her legs further and met his thrust with hers and he slowly and painfully slid in. As he went further, Chloe contorted her face with both pain and slight pleasure.

Within a couple minutes it was over. When he ejaculated, he grunted loudly in her ear and collapsed on top of her. “Oh, God…” he panted. “Oh, Chloe, that was good.”

“I didn’t really plan on this happening,” Chloe said.

“Well you didn’t stop me when I took off your pants.”

“I didn’t really know what you were doing. And before I knew what was happening you were stabbing me with your penis. Did you use protection?”

“No. Everything happened so quickly and I figured that you were on the pill so…”

“I didn’t exactly think I would be having sex all of a sudden so I’m not on the pill.”

“I’m going to the bathroom. We’ll talk when I get back,” Chris stood up, put on his boxers and left the bedroom.

Chloe grabbed her cell phone and began texting. Emili had been asleep since she got home from school but the chime from her phone woke her up. She looked at the message from Chloe: ‘Chris and I just did it!’ Emili sighed and slammed the phone back down on the table.

She got out of bed, went downstairs and left the house, walking over to Charles’. She knocked on his front door and waited a minute before she started to ring the doorbell. She rang three times before Charles opened the door.

“What the hell? Emili, what did I tell you? Go home,” Charles said.

“Please, Mr. Sneegas, I just want to talk,” Charles looked down at Emili and saw that she had been crying.

He opened the screen door and invited her in. “Come on in. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Chloe and Chris but I don’t really want to talk about them anymore.”

“Okay. Would you like something to drink? I have water, tea, soda and milk.”

“Can you make me some chocolate milk?” she asked.

“Yeah. I can do that,” Charles went into the kitchen.

Emili took a seat at the dining room table. “My Mom used to make me chocolate milk whenever I was upset. She never bought chocolate milk, she would always make it. I never drink chocolate milk unless Mom makes it,” Emili smiled. “So it’s a real honor for you to be making me chocolate milk.”

“I bet,” Charles said sarcastically. “So what about Chloe and Chris?”

“Do you ever wonder why you are friends with someone?”

“To be honest, I don’t really have any friends except for a couple people at work and I guess the Moores and your mom,” Charles said as he poured a glass of milk.

“I’m starting to think Chloe and I don’t really mesh anymore.”

“Why? Because she stole your man?”

“No. We just seem to be getting less and less in common. She’s perky and friendly and she’s a cheerleader. She’s a good student that is constantly on the honor roll while I can barely hold a C average in anything.”

“That doesn’t mean you aren’t friends,” Charles walked over and sat the chocolate milk down in front of Emili.

“Thanks,” she said and took a sip. “I just feel myself drifting further away from Chloe and closer to Zoey. She’s ditzy but more my style. How come you and Mrs. Sneegas never had children?”

“It just never happened. Not because we didn’t try. After Nicole’s diagnosis I was actually kind of glad we didn’t have kids. I don’t think she would’ve wanted to bring a child into this world and then just leave them and I don’t honestly know how I would’ve handled being a single father.”

“I think you are doing just fine,” Emili said. “Just in the last month you’ve been more of a father to me than my own father.”

“It’s easy when you don’t have a stake in the child,” he chuckled. “Have you ever met your father?”

“For the first five years of my life he would make an appearance once or twice a year but then he just gave up. I wasn’t ever going to love him like he wanted me to so why bother?”

“When I was growing up, not having a dad around was unique. Even if your parents were divorced you were in the majority. I knew kids who would get picked on because they didn’t have a father around. The other kids would say that they were adopted or their dad didn’t want them or that their mom went to a sperm bank. None of which are real insults when you really think about it.”

Emili drank the rest of her milk. “Good chocolate milk,” she said. “Can I go lie down on your couch?” she asked as she stood up, walked over to his couch and laid down.

“Sure. It’s getting late so you probably are tired,” Charles stood up and sat down in a chair across from Emili.

“I’ve been asleep since I got home so I’m not tired. I just want to lie down,” she stretched out on the couch and groaned. “So you lived in Chicago?”

“My whole life until about seven months ago,” he replied.

“Was it fun? Did you ever get shot?”

“No. I got shot at one time but never actually shot. You have to remember that there are nearly three million people in Chicago and only a small percentage of them can be shot in any given day.”

“I’ve never been shot either,” Emili sighed. “I was hit by a school bus one time.”


“It didn’t really hurt. I thought the driver waved me across the street but she apparently didn’t and hit me. She was only going five miles an hour, if that.”

“I was in a car accident once. I have a long scar going up my leg,” he motioned to an area on his left leg.

“Cool! Let me see!” Emili leaped off the couch. Charles pulled up his pant leg and showed her the white scar that went from a couple inches above his ankle to about halfway up his thigh. “Cool…” she said again. “What’s going on between you and my Mom?”

“I wish I knew. She’s a good lady. I really like her and I enjoy her company. I also like her teenage daughter.”

“I like you too,” Emili smiled. “Do you think you’ll ever move in with us or ask us to move in with you?”

“It’s too early for me to make that call,” Charles smiled.

Emili got back on the couch and laid down again. “I usually don’t like my Mom’s boyfriends.”

“Casey--your mom and I haven’t said if we are boyfriend and girlfriend yet. We still just consider ourselves friends.”

“With benefits,” Emili giggled.

Charles was silent and his face turned red.

“I can hear you. My room is right next to Mom’s,” Emili said. “Why did Chloe sleep with Chris? She sent me a text message telling me.”

“I don’t know, Emili. Since she did send you a text message she at least wants you to be her friend through this. When you get home, you should text her back.”

“I will,” Emili got off of the couch again. “I’m gonna use your bathroom,” and she bounded off down the hallway next to the staircase. Charles got out of the chair and went over to the couch and laid down, covering his eyes with his arm. He yawned and closed his eyes and began dozing. “Mr. Sneegas?”

Charles removed his arm and looked at Emili who had come out the bathroom completely naked. He stared at her in awe. Her pale skin was illuminated by what little light was on. She walked over to Charles who started to get off the couch. “Emili! No! You need to get dressed and…”

She leaned in and kissed him. He was caught off guard but soon closed his eyes and enjoyed it. When their lips parted Emili smiled, looking back and forth from Charles’ eyes and lips.

An hour later, Chris had dropped Chloe off at her house and she began walking up to her door. She looked over at Charles’ house and saw Emili come out. She began walking from the porch but stopped, turned around and ran back to Charles, hugging him and kissing him passionately. They parted and Emili began walking home. Chloe watched Charles close the door and then Emili walk to her house and going inside.

It was almost noon when Emili woke up. She got out of bed and looked out the windows and saw two police cars at Charles’ house. Emili panicked and threw on clothes and ran downstairs, loudly stomping.

“Emili, what are you doing?” Casey peered around from the kitchen.

“What’s going on at Mr. Sneegas’?” Emili yelled.

“I don’t know. Those two cops arrived a couple hours ago and have been there since. Hopefully everything’s okay.”

Emili dashed out the door into the yard. She wanted to go across the street and see what was going on and it took all of her strength not to do it. She saw Chloe out on her porch and walked over to her. “Do you know what’s going on?”

Chloe shook her head.

“I hope nothing’s wrong,” Emili crossed her arms and held her elbows. “Oh, hey, sorry I didn’t text you back last night. Was it everything you thought it would be?”

Chloe shook her head. “It wasn’t at all what I expected. Or wanted. I didn’t even want to have sex but before I knew it he was…jabbing me with…himself,” Chloe sneered.

“Did he rape you?”

“No!” Chloe immediately said. “I didn’t exactly try to stop him or say no. I just didn’t have losing my virginity planned last night. Although I do think I’m going to break up with him. Dating him hasn’t been as much fun as it used to be and last night was the final straw. You should be thanking me, Em, I helped you dodge a bullet,” Chloe smiled but Emili knew that it was fake.

“You did help me get my mind off of Chris. And, I shouldn’t be telling you this, I also had sex last night,” Emili got excited and hoped her story would keep Chloe’s mind off of Chris.

“I didn’t know you were seeing anyone!”

“I’m not. It just kind of happened. He was so sweet and gentle and he made me feel amazing and so loved,” Emili smiled big.

Chloe had never seen her like this before and it made her nervous. “Who was he? Someone I know?”

“Yes,” Emili leaned in closer to Chloe “it was Mr. Sneegas.”

Although Chloe knew, Emili saying it hit her like a sack of bricks. “I knew it…” she sighed. “I saw you kiss him last night and knew something happened between you.”

“Yeah, something happened but I started it. Char—Mr. Sneegas is innocent.”

“He had sex with you. You’re a teenager!”

“I wanted to have sex with him. Nothing we did was wrong!”

“He shouldn’t be having sex with teenagers. What if you’re not the only one? What if there are younger ones? I had to call the police,” Chloe revealed.

“You called the police? Why would you do that? Why would you hurt him like that? He has been nothing but nice to everyone around here,” Emili said. “And what if you were wrong about last night? You could have just ruined his life.”

“If he sleeps with underage children his life needs to be ruined,” Chloe said.

“What is wrong with you, Chloe? Why are you so angry about this?”

“I didn’t want him, Emili! I went out with Chris because I saw you with Mr. Sneegas. I thought it would make you try harder for him but instead it pushed you to Mr.…” Chloe closed her eyes and turned around “Charles.”

“I didn’t know you felt that way about him,” Emili tried to put her hand on Chloe’s shoulder but she pulled away.

“I don’t! It was just a crush and I knew nothing was going to come from it but still, friends don’t sleep with their friends’ crushes.”

“But you did the same thing to me,” Emili said quietly.

“No! You got a nice, mature man who treated you with respect. I got a jerk who practically raped me!”

“I didn’t ask for any of this to happen, Chloe. It just did. I’m sorry that Chris wasn’t exactly perfect but I didn’t know what was happening between you two. Had I known, I could’ve…”


“I’ll call you later, Chloe,” Emili turned and started to walk away.

“You know why we’re friends, Emili?” Chloe asked from the porch.

Emili turned to her, hopeful. “Why?”

“Proximity. We’re only friends because we live next door to each other. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Emili ran back to her house, crying. She collided with Casey in a big hug, bawling.

“Emili, what’s wrong?” Casey wrapped her arms around her daughter.


Casey smiled and held her daughter lovingly. “It’s okay, sweetheart. Why don’t you tell me everything?”

As tears, snot and saliva stained Casey’s shirt, Emili began telling her mom everything…

Sunday, November 03, 2013

So Many Solutions

High-five yourself. Where's your son? Invite Arnie over. Go to a bar and watch.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Since When Does Arnie Work With Brutus?

Everything we see is in 3-D. That's how our eyes work. And it wasn't cold sweat, it was cold urine.

HD-TV these days are fairly inexpensive compared to how humongous TVs used to be. To be fair, I do think it's impressive that the Thornapples do have a flat screen though.