Brian falls for his new coworker, Cassandra, who is engaged. While Cassandra is initially drawn to Brian, she starts to worry about her life if she leaves her fiance. Like a lot of writers, I mine my life for ideas and a lot of times, I reuse something several times but put a different spin on it. The new issue of Tauy Creek Quarterly does just that. While I was packing for moving to Topeka, I found a book I had made that reproduced notes that were passed between me and this girl I dated who was already in a relationship. I made a copy for myself and gifted one to her. I kept that book for 11 years and, after memorizing some of the notes so I could write "The Original of Cassandra", I finally threw it away. I wondered if she kept the book I gave her but then figured that she definitely didn't. I am also making this story the last story I'm taking from my life. I think this is a good one to go out on. I took the title from Vladimir Nabakov's unfinished final novel The Original of Laura. You can purchase it for your Amazon Kindle for only 99 cents. Continue below for a brief excerpt:
The next day when Cassandra sat down at her cubicle, I bypassed our usual mode of communication and just stood over the cubicle wall. “I need to talk to you. Can you go into break?” “I just got here. I should take at least one phone call, Brian.” “This is important, Cassandra. I need to talk to you.” Cassandra sighed angrily and dialed herself into break. I took her arm and I pulled her outside. “Okay, last night I went to a party at Ericka and Radha’s. I’ve known Radha since college and we’ve always had a thing for each other,” I began. “Brian, I…” she sighed. “Hear me out. So last night we were on the couch and I was about to leave when we started making out and she asked me to stay so we could, you know.” “Brian, I’m sorry that we’re not together but I don’t want to hear about the other girls you sleep with,” Cassandra sniffled and started to walk away but I grabbed her arm and stopped her. “But I didn’t. I’ve wanted to for years but I didn’t. You know why? Because I love you, Cassandra. I love you so much,” I said as I pulled her close to me. I then bent down and lightly swiped my lips along hers. I held the back of her head and pressed our lips together. We held each other tightly, lost in each other.
You may know Super Duck as a confusing character tucked in the pages of various Archie Comics digests, notably Laugh Comics Digest, between a subpar Sabrina or Josie and the Pussycats story and L'il Jinx getting yelled at by her dad. The name Super Duck makes no sense. For most of his existence, Super Duck existed in some sort of anthropomorphic suburban city raising his young nephew Fauntleroy. Or maybe Fauntleroy is his younger brother. It just depends on the year and the writer. Anyway, for the first three issues of his self-titled comic, Super Duck could acquire powers by taking a pill, Vitamin A-Z, he becomes super-fast, super-strong, and Super Duck. The pill was written out after the third issue and Super Duck became your standard Donald Duck clone. While not your conventional superhero character, it's probably the only example of the superhero being sidelined in favor of the secret identity. What would've happened if in Action Comics #5 or something, Clark Kent never became Superman and just stayed Clark, solving crimes and mysteries as the mild-mannered reporter and it stayed that way for the next 75 years? Then we'd probably be celebrating Siegel and Shuster's greatest creation Dr. Occult instead of Superman.
Despite a lack of color, Grace Conrad was not pale. She was a tannish, jaundice-looking color with freckles splattered about her arms, shoulders, neck, and face. Her blonde hair hung limp and stringy to her shoulders, her glasses were thicker than they needed to be. Her nose, too big for her face. Aside from the freckles, her face was also splattered with acne, most of it occurring on her forehead or on-or-around her nose. Grace blended in well in the background. Unassuming and unappealing.
During fifth period, Grace worked in the library, checking books out, putting books away, but mostly just sitting and working on her homework. Her lunch was also during that time and most days she sat in the library to eat and either read or wrote. She was also usually left alone but today was different.
Aaron Kimball was two-thirds of tall, dark, and handsome. His height was below average but that didn't stop him from playing football, wrestling and basketball, golf, or track. It also didn't stop him from having with a decent number of girls at school. During his four years in high school, he'd had several long-term relationships. The most recent of which lasted about five months and had ended over the last weekend. It was normal for Aaron to hop right on to the next girl and they were fine with it, too.
Aaron went into the library and sat at a table across from Grace. She didn't move except for her eyes to look at him. "Hi," he said.
"What are you doing?" Grace asked, a tone of disgust in her voice.
"I thought that you might want some company."
"Not really," Grace rolled her eyes.
"I also wanted to ask you something," Aaron leaned in close. "We should go out."
Grace waited a few seconds for a question but one never came. "You have something to ask me?"
"Yeah. That was it. We should go out."
"That's not a question and absolutely not," Grace shook her head. She began putting her things away. "Besides, didn't you and Beth just break up, like, three days ago?"
"Yes, but I don't like to waste time," Aaron smiled.
"Why me? Don't you have a waiting list of girls to go after? Don't tell me you've already made the rounds with every other girl and I'm the last one."
"No but I have a proposition for you. My social status has went down because my last two girlfriends that I've broken up with were very popular. You don't even have a social status..."
"Well, you're saying all the right things so far."
"I thought we could help each other out on our social dilemmas," Aaron said.
"What do you mean?" Grace asked, intrigued about what Aaron was talking about.
"We date each other. I'm not seen as shallow and you get the recognition of dating me."
"So you'd be using me?"
"We'd be using each other," Aaron smiled big. "What do you say?"
"I say no. A boost in my social stature is not something I need right now," Grace smiled and laughed.
"Well, think about it," Aaron got up and left the library.
Guys like Aaron never paid plain, brainy girls like Grace any attention. It kind of made her smile that he was talking to her and she had to force herself not to act nervous. What would be the harm in going out with Aaron Kimball for a while? How long would they have to date? They'd have to kiss so that would check one box off from the list of social interactions people are required to have by society. Would they have to sleep together? They probably wouldn't be together long enough to get to do that. The idea was so stupid and Grace decided to just forget about it.
The first date that Aaron took Grace on was to a Sonic Drive-In and then to cruise High Street. It was the standard first date for everyone at the high school so it was like a rite of passage when Grace pulled up to the order box. Kids began congregating around Aaron black Trans Am. The boys, mostly jocks like Aaron, gathered on the driver's side. Girls, all exes of Aaron who were now dating one of the other jocks, gathered on the passenger side.
"I had to see it for myself," Peyton Kincaid said. "When I heard, I couldn't believe it."
"I didn't know that you were a dog person," Christian Silva whispered close to Aaron.
"Hey, that's not cool," Aaron snapped back. "You don't even know her."
"I know of her. I can also see her," Christian said and laughed mockingly.
"Why are you out with him?" Alexis sneered at Grace through the passenger window.
"He asked and I said yes," Grace said. "That's usually how every date starts out."
"Why would he ask you?"
"It's probably my glowing personality," Grace said monotonally.
Another girl, Crystal, scoffed. "You're so weird."
"Fine," Grace sighed loudly. "Come here, I'll tell you why I'm out with Aaron." Alexis and Crystal leaned closer to the window. Grace leaned into their ears. "I gotta have his dick," she said loudly. "I'm gonna screw him raw."
Everyone looked at Grace. Crystal scoffed again. "What a whore," she said and she and Alexis walked away.
"Nice," Christian and Peyton exclaimed, giving Aaron handshakes.
After Sonic, they cruised High Street. Alone in the car, they more about each other. Grace learned that Aaron was very involved in his church and had plans to become a missionary or youth leader after high school.
"Then what's with all the premarital sex, drinking, and general douchebaggery?" Grace asked.
"We're all messed up people, Grace," Aaron sighed. "So what are your plans after high school?"
"College and then law school. It's all pretty straightforward," Grace said.
"What do you like to do in your free time?" he asked.
"Read," she answered.
Aaron dropped off Grace at her house and walked her up to the front door. "You didn't have to walk up with me," Grace said.
"I wanted to. So I guess I'll see you in school," Aaron said. He leaned in to kiss Grace but she pulled away.
"Oh, no. No-no-no," she denied. "This date doesn't warrant a kiss. One of your exes called me a whore, one of your friends called me a dog, you bought me a seven dollar meal at Sonic and drove me up and down a stretch of road that I literally see everyday."
"I thought we had a good time," Aaron was surprised.
"It was okay. It certainly could've been worse. Our next date will be in the city at a fancy restaurant, your friends and exes will not be involved at all and you will not be wearing your letter jacket," Grace ordered.
"So we're having a second date?"
"Barely," Grace said and unlocked the front door to go inside.
This wasn't how Grace thought she would lose her virginity. She at least always thought that her first time would be in a bed and not crammed in the backseat of Aaron Kimball's Trans Am with her pants around her ankles and shirt and bra hiked up to her shoulders.
It wasn't terrible. Aaron sort of knew his way around but it was uncomfortable. Clothes still being on restricted movement, her head was resting on something hard, and it was hard to see and breathe with her clothes pushed against her face and hair messed up.
After three months, Grace figured that it was time to pull the trigger on this. Most have already assumed that they were bumping uglies and she had gone down on Aaron and let him fondle her breasts but it was time to go all the way.
Grace pulled off the condom and crumpled it up into a Sonic napkin from the glove box. She kept it crumpled in her hands as she slid her bra and shirt back down while Aaron removed himself from between her legs. When he was clear, he pulled up his pants and Grace pulled up hers.
"Was it okay?" Aaron asked.
Did he ask every girl that? Grace quickly answered, "It was fine, Aaron, but we're doing it in a bed next time."
"You felt really good..." Aaron said quietly.
"Just...ew, stop. No one needs to hear that," Grace sneered. "Let's go to Sonic. I want a shake."
"Hey, did you get our American Government assignment done?" Aaron asked.
"Can you help me with it?"
"Sure. How about you come over tomorrow during dinner? My Mom is making this chuck roast and it just melts in your mouth."
"I thought we were keeping parents out of this for right now," Aaron pointed out. They began driving away from the lake area that they were at. "I don't even think mine know you exist."
"Mine know a lot about you. Besides, like it or not, we are in a real relationship now so we kind of have to tell them."
"A real relationship? When did that happen?" Aaron said in astonishment.
"I think it happened somewhere between our third date and tonight."
"Time flies when you're having fun," Aaron said. As they drove to Sonic, their hands clasped together on the console between the seats. "You're having fun, right?"
"Yeah, I am. I'm just glad to know that you are, too. This started out as such a weird relationship. I'm glad it's gotten more normal."
When they arrived at Sonic, they split up to go hang out with their friends. "Why are you blushing?" Courtney asked Grace when she walked over to them.
Grace pressed the button on the order box. "What? I don't know. Must be the weather or something."
"Welcome to Sonic," a voice came over the box. "How can I help you?"
"A large chocolate shake, please," Grace answered.
"Did you and Aaron do it?" Courtney gasped.
"Courtney, keep your voice down. What makes you think that?"
"You're coming to Sonic at ten o'clock and not right after dinner, your clothes are wrinkled, your hair is messed up, and Aaron isn't wearing his letter jacket."
"Yeah, I made him take it off."
"So how was it?"
"It was fine. Why are you so excited about this?"
"I haven't done it yet so I have to live through girl who have," Courtney said. "And you've done it with Aaron Kimball, the most popular and best looking guy in school. You know how many girls at the high school would love to be you right now?"
"If they never wanted to be me before, why should they want to be me now?"
"So that's still going on, huh?" Peyton asked.
"Get over it, guys. I really like Grace. You probably would too if you would just give her a chance," Aaron said. "Her friends have given me a chance."
"Only because they want to sleep with you and they think you'll choose one of them when you're done with Grace," Christian answered. "At least you haven't had sex. A girl like that would probably get clingy after doing it."
Aaron looked at both Christian and Peyton.
"Oh, Jeez. You have slept with her," Christian exclaimed.
"Just tonight," Aaron shushed.
"Make sure you wear protection. That one gets pregnant, it stays pregnant."
"My ears are burning," Grace walked up to the boys with her chocolate shake.
"What?" Christian remarked.
"It's a saying to indicate that you think someone is talking about you," Grace began explaining. "Never mind. And just to put your mind to ease, I'm not planning on trapping Aaron in a pregnancy. I have better things planned than popping out babies at 18."
Christian scoffed and he, Peyton, along with Crystal and Alexis, walked away. Someone--Grace thought it was Alexis--muttered "Bitch" under her breath.
"Sorry about that," Aaron turned and held Grace.
"Your friends are jerks," Grace said, looking at Aaron with wide eyes and a smile.
"I know," Aaron kissed Grace and lingered for a long time. When their lips parted, Aaron licked his lips. "Whipped cream."
Grace laughed. "You should get me home. It's almost eleven."
Aaron took Grace's hand and went over to his Trans Am. Aaron opened the door for Grace and helped her in.
Aaron had hoped it wouldn't happen but it did. It took longer than usual--five months--but there it was, staring Aaron and Grace in the face. Boredom. Aaron had become an inexhaustible lover to Grace but their numerous trysts, usually in one of their beds, occasionally in the Trans Am, a few times in the public cabin at South Lake Park, a couple times at a friend’s house during a party, and once, in the ATM vestibule of one of the local banks, had become repetitive and predictable. Aaron just went through the motions while Grace got lost in her thoughts, avoiding eye contact.
They still cherished their time together. Aaron felt as though his love for Grace was a tribute to the town. Their nighttime drives up and down the streets, walking hand-in-hand through the small business district, wandering through the two cemeteries, attending school and, much to Aaron's surprise, church functions.
Tonight, their nocturnal travels took them to an old cemetery up on a hill a couple miles out of town. It was warm with a nice breeze. The moon illuminated all the gravestones and Grace's pale skin. Aaron laid out a blanket and, after twenty minutes of looking at the star-covered sky, and talking about Grace's photography portfolio and Aaron obtaining an athletic scholarship for $1,000, they were both naked with Aaron tirelessly thrusting into Grace.
Grace never thought she'd feel this way in high school. She had fallen for Aaron and was afraid of hurting him but what else were they supposed to do? As they fucked, Grace would drift off and think about their relationship. Their relationship was unique and gave Grace some experience she never thought she'd get. A couple weeks after first making love, Aaron took her one Saturday to Eagle Bend Hunting Range north of town. They spent the afternoon Aaron teaching Grace how to shoot a wide range of firearms that Aaron's father had. Grace hated guns but loved that afternoon. They told each other 'I love you' that evening while under the stars at South Lake Park.
She came as she thought about that day and Aaron kept going, caught up in wanting to please Grace. Grace placed her hand on his chest as a signal to slow down. "Do you love me?" she whispered, breathlessly.
He stopped and looked at her. "Of course. I love you so much," he replied. "What's wrong?"
"Don't stop," Grace said, and she began moving her hips to get Aaron going again.
When they were finished, Aaron put his shirt back on but left his pants off. Grace remained nude, staring at the stars. "Why did you ask if I loved you?"
"I wanted to hear you say it," she said. "Has something been off with us lately?"
Yes, he thought. I know where this is going. "Maybe a little."
"What do you think it is?"
"We've packed so much into this relationship--a relationship that really should not have lasted this long..."
"Why do you think it's lasted so long?" Grace interrupted, rolling over toward Aaron.
He shrugged. "I don't know."
"Do you think it's because we knew the relationship was fake? Like we subconsciously inflated our feelings for each other so our relationship would be perceived as more authentic?" Grace now sat up and grabbed her clothes.
"I hope not because my stomach is starting to hurt way too much for my love for you to be a figment of my imagination," he said softly.
Grace was now in her underwear, and she sat in front of Aaron, placing her hand on his knee. "We were using each other, remember? It was a social experiment. If anything, this gave us both bragging right. I got to date and sleep with the most popular and handsome guy in school and you got to take my virginity," she kissed him softly on the lips. "What? Are you surprised that I was a virgin?"
"Yeah, for some reason," he chuckled.
"Finish getting dressed," she stood. "I need to get home."
They spent two days without each other but on Monday it was back to school. Aaron saw Grace with her friends in a corner of the commons. He felt empty and lost as he walked to his locker. As he approached, he saw a note sticking out of one of the slats. He walked quickly over to it and grabbed it. In curly, purple handwriting read Allan. Aaron looked up from the note to the locker. Number 176. He slid the note back into the slat and moved one over to his locker. 175.