Category Archives: Unfinished

Unfinished short stories can be found here.

Cold Storage

I wrote this a few years ago as the first part of a series, but I never wrote more than this entry. It may be a bit rough and/or crummy. In any case, here it is.

1998

Alaska. Halloween night. Jake didn’t dress up, just so people would ask him what he was supposed to be. “I’m my evil twin, Ekaj,” he would explain.

“But you don’t look any different,” the irritating questioner would retort.

“That’s what makes me so insidious.”

Well, at least he thought it was clever, as clever as most 17-year-olds got, he decided.

Though Jake wasn’t the type to spend a lot of time on his appearance, tonight he checked himself out in the bathroom mirror, making sure his wavy, dirty blond hair didn’t look too out-of-control. A little chaos was fine, but he had to be sure it looked as if he put a bit of effort into it. He wanted to appear laid back, easygoing, no expectations. Always one to overanalyze, he assumed this would help the evening go more smoothly with Donna. Pure guesswork on his part, too, as he’d never been on a proper date, and this probably didn’t qualify either.

Satisfied that he looked decent enough in his crimson t-shirt, faded jeans, and sneakers, he slipped on a blue overcoat and headed for the door. “Be home by 1AM!” his father slurred, already six beers into a case of Old Milwaukee.

The plan was simple: Jake would meet up with Donna at her babysitting gig, which was on the west end of the Air Force base. Donna frequently sat for five-year-old Arianna, and was good friends with her mother, Tiffany. It was one of Tiffany’s “house rules” that, if Donna was going to have company during a babysitting stint, Tiffany had to meet them first. The other house rule was “no sex in front of the kid.” Jake wondered how serious that one was meant to be.

From Tiffany’s house, Donna and Jake would walk to the Halloween party at the high school, at the southeast corner of the base. Donna intended to meet up with a couple of her friends to go out into the forest near the school and perform their Samhain rituals. Jake found the concept eyeroll-inducing, but he did his best to keep an open mind. Besides, after Donna was finished with her Wiccan activities, they’d go back to Tiffany’s, put Arianna to bed, and have several hours of alone time. The prospect was nerve-wracking for Jake, who hadn’t done more than kiss this girl in the week they’d been seeing each other. They spent their lunch periods together, passed notes in the hall, and on some days he walked her home. Two days before, he’d done just that, and gotten a kiss for his trouble. It was chaste and awkward, the way the first ones often were, but he certainly didn’t regret it–he knew he was behind his peers in terms of experience, and didn’t want to leave high school without even a measly kiss under his belt.

A good twenty-minute walk brought him to Tiffany’s house. Typical of military housing, it was half of a duplex, and not very large or extravagant, just a box-like structure with windows and beige siding. He opened the screen door and knocked. No answer. He knocked again–still nothing. With a sigh, he grabbed the doorknob and discovered it turned without resistance. Since he was expected, he didn’t think much of just walking in. He pushed the door open and stepped inside. As the screen door swung shut behind him, he looked straight ahead and saw two people lying on a black sofa, one on top of the other. His heart pounded but he desperately avoided overreacting. Walking closer, he made out that Donna was definitely the one on the bottom. “Having fun?” he announced himself.

The guy on top stopped what he was doing and looked up. It was Mitchell, one of Jake’s friends, and someone he knew had more than a passing interest in Donna. For her part, Donna quickly shoved him off and sat up. “Thank you,” she said, glancing in Jake’s direction. “I told him you and I were seeing each other but he just can’t take a hint.”

Mitchell smirked, draping his arm over the back of the couch, appearing rather pleased with himself. Jake crossed his arms. “Where’s Tiffany?”

“Upstairs,” Donna said. “She’s getting ready.”

“I didn’t know Mitch was going to be here,” Jake said, his casual way of asking for an explanation.

Donna was quick to explain. “He walked me over from my house and said he’d keep me company until you got here. Obviously, he had only one thing on his mind.” She shot him a nasty glare with that last comment.

“Well, I’m here now, so thanks for looking after her,” Jake said sharply, staring at the boy who’d just been necking his girlfriend.

Mitchell may not have been the most considerate person, but he could tell when he was unwanted. He grabbed his coat and left without much fanfare. Jake finally noticed the little redhead sitting on the loveseat across the room, bouncing enthusiastically. “You’re Jake!” she declared.

He nodded. “I guess you’re Arianna.”

She beamed. “Do you want a shoulder massage?”

Jake raised his eyebrow, puzzled by such an abrupt offer and the age of the person giving it. “Maybe later,” he deferred.

Donna patted the spot next to her on the sofa. “Sit down.”

Jake did as he was told. She leaned against him. “You know that asshole wouldn’t even lend me his coat for the walk over here?”

Jake tentatively put his hands on her shoulders. “Shouldn’t you have brought your own?”

“Oh, I see. Take his side.”

He rolled his eyes.

Moments later, Tiffany finally made her appearance. She was tall, blonde, and thin, and Jake thought she looked older than she really was. For someone in her mid twenties, she had too many wrinkles, pronounced bags under her eyes. He didn’t know if it was young parenthood that caused it, military life, or something else. Nevertheless, she was in a stellar mood. “I’ve got a date tonight,” she announced, showing off her bare midriff and hip-huggers. Definitely dressed to get laid, Jake thought. “You must be Jake,” she said. “You’re not as cute as Donna said.”

“Uh, thanks,” Jake smirked.

“But you don’t look like a creep, so that’s good. When will you two be back?”

“No more than a couple hours,” Donna promised. “When is your date?”

“A little after eight.” It was five-thirty, so Jake knew they had plenty of time.

Donna grabbed Jake by the hand and led him toward the door. Tiffany went for a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, getting a head start on her evening. “We’ll be back!” Donna reassured.

The two of them began their trek across several streets and a few parks, working their way toward the high school. Donna did most of the talking, which was fine with Jake. He didn’t care for talking about himself, and he absolutely wanted to get to know her better.

“My dad almost didn’t let me babysit tonight. He pulled some bullshit with saying my grades weren’t good or something. He just likes to yank my chain a lot. Do your parents do that?”

Jake shook his head. “My dad doesn’t really care what I do, as long as I’m home on time. He knows I stay out of trouble.”

“My parents are assholes. They always hassle me for no reason. And then they reward my little brother for doing nothing, and rub it in my face.”

All of this sounded familiar to Jake. The first time they really talked, at the Homecoming dance, she’d gone off at considerable length about her father. Jake thought the man sounded controlling and manipulative, but hadn’t yet met him. She just always seemed to have a lot of ill will directed toward him. But then, what teenager didn’t fight with their parents?

Then again, Jake never really argued with his parents. He got the usual lectures about poor grades (anything below an “A” didn’t cut the mustard), sloppy clothing, and general ambivalence to the world around him, but he never properly rebelled like most of his peers seemed to. Maybe it was because he got all that chaos out of his system years before. For some reason, he just never felt motivated to stick it to his parents and make their lives a living hell. Plus, since his parents divorced, his father was in a perpetual drunken stupor, reeking of cheap beer and rum and often oblivious to anything with less than 5% alcohol content by volume.

So, Donna spent most of their journey complaining about her family. Her father was an ass, and her mother was an idiot, and her brother was a prick. Jake had very little to say that would comfort her, but he hoped being able to vent to someone would help her feel better.

It was about this time that Jake realized Donna hadn’t actually dressed up, either. She wore a green turtleneck and jeans, hardly anything that screamed “Halloween.” Between parental rants, he inserted the question: “Are you supposed to be anything for Halloween?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Do I look like a little kid to you? I’m fourteen, I quit dressing up when I was twelve! And you’re one to talk. What’re you supposed to be?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I’m Ekaj, Jake’s evil twin.”

She didn’t look very amused. “That’s stupid.”

“You’re stupid,” he shot back.

“I’m sure I could’ve come up with something better than ‘evil twin.'”

As they walked along one of the major roads, they saw the high school coming up. Jake walked closer to her, which prompted her to tug at his coat. “I’m cold,” she said flatly. He slipped out of the thick, blue covering and threw it around her. She smiled and kissed his cheek. “You’re a gentleman.” The “unlike Mitch” was implied, Jake thought.

The sky had already darkened for the most part, but a plethora of lights illuminated the school, revealing dozens of students strolling in and out through the front doors. Jake and Donna greeted a few acquaintances in passing on their way inside, moving toward the great hall, where most of the festitivies occurred. The scene was crowded, students milling about, trying a random assortment of games. People played Twister for prizes, something Jake would’ve expected to be far too risque for the school administration to allow, but there it was–two freshman girls and a junior guy, contorting their bodies in a vain attempt to avoid the inevitable collapse. The other games proved much more traditional, and involved throwing or rolling balls, tossing rings, or whacking a pinata shaped like a moose. Jake just hoped it didn’t contain “moose pellets.”

Few of the activities truly caught their interest, until Donna spotted a ring toss game using two-liter bottles of soda. “How does this one work?” she asked the senior who appeared to be in charge of it.

He answered as though it should have been obvious. “Uh, you just toss the ring, and if you get it around one of the bottles, you win it.”

Donna nudged Jake. “Win me that Dr. Pepper.” She pointed to a bottle in the middle of the pack. Jake wasn’t sure he could make it, but he figured he would try for Donna’s sake.

Pulling a dollar bill out of his pocket, he handed it to the senior and was given three rings, about four inches in diameter. The guy instructed him to stand behind the line of blue tape stretched across the floor, which meant Jake would be tossing the rings a good five to seven feet.

Standing behind the line, he concentrated, leaning forward, holding a pink ring horizontally in his right hand, lining up the shot. He gave it a spin and watched it bounce harmlessly over the collection of bottles. Donna frowned, but at least he had two attempts left. He tossed the second, which hooked the top of the target bottle, but still flew off to the left. Jake shook it off and tried to shut out all distractions for the final shot. Donna wanted that bottle, and by God, he was going to get it for her.

He pulled his arm back toward his chest, and this time tried to put very little spin on it, so it would simply land rather than swirl around the neck of the bottle. His change in strategy paid off, as the blue ring cruised through the air and landed squarely around the top of the Dr. Pepper bottle and came to a stop. Donna smiled and did an excited little jump. Jake was only too happy to reach down and retrieve his prize. “Here you go,” he said smugly, handing it to Donna.

Jake realized a few of Donna’s friends had shown up while he was concentrating, and one of them–Sarah, he thought her name was–asked if she could have a drink. Donna shrugged and extended her arms to give it to Sarah, but the latter girl’s grip slipped, and the bottle hit the floor with a bounce. Fortunately, it had not yet been opened.

Sarah bent down, picked it up, and went to twist off the cap. Jake only got as far as saying “Wait!” before the soda fizzed over and started spraying through the bottom of the cap. A startled Sarah released the dysfunctional bottle and it smacked the floor once again, spinning in circles and covering the floor in fizzy, dark soda.

Jake sighed, saw no one else moving in to stop it, and grabbed the bottle, twisting the cap back on tightly. Donna ran off to hunt down a custodian, and Jake held the bottle at arm’s length by the neck, letting the excess drip off the sides into the puddle that had formed on the floor. He stared at Sarah. “You can’t open a bottle of soda right after you drop it, you know,” he said, thinking this would’ve been common knowledge.

Sarah blushed and looked down. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

Donna soon returned with paper towels, and a janitor was in tow with a mop. The mop soaked up most of the mess, while Jake, Donna, Sarah, and two more of Donna’s friends knelt down to clean up the edges with the towels. In a minute or so, they had the mess cleaned up. Jake wiped down the bottle, seeing that it had lost about a quarter of its volume in the ordeal. “Can I try again?” Sarah asked sheepishly.

Jake gave it over to her again. “Just open it slowly this–”

And there it went again. Sarah unscrewed the cap in a hurry, and the fury of fizz resurged. Jake stuck his hand on top of the bottle, tightened the cap, and gave Sarah a dirty look. “You know what? Just keep it.” He glanced over at Donna. “You wanna get outta here?”

She nodded. Jake, Donna, and her other two friends–Vicki and Stephanie–headed out, leaving Sarah with a bottle of Dr. Pepper whose carbonation she evidently could not control.

The four of them exited the school and strolled across the street toward the forest. The trees went on for quite a distance, maybe a quarter mile or so. Just before the trees was a small park, consisting of a swingset and a merry-go-round. Donna stopped Jake there, putting her hand lightly on his chest. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to come with us.”

“Why not?” he grumbled.

“Because I know you don’t believe in this stuff and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“What, exactly, do you think would happen to me?”

“I don’t know. Angry spirits. Bad karma. Could be anything. Just because you don’t believe in higher beings doesn’t mean they don’t believe in you.”

He rolled his eyes. “Suit yourself. Do you just want me to wait here, or go back to Tiffany’s?”

“Just wait. We won’t be long.”

She moved off with Vicki and Stephanie, disappearing into the woods, and Jake found a swing to slouch in. He considered following them anyway, but he didn’t want to be disrespectful. He knew very little about Wicca or Wiccan beliefs, and wasn’t sure how a fourteen-year-old raised by Christian parents could know much about it, either, but he declined to press the issue. This was their first “date,” after all, so it wasn’t as though she owed him anything.

Boredom set in and he started to swing, inching higher with each thrust forward, until the chains gave a satisfying “snap” each time he reached his apex. He didn’t know how long he’d been doing that when Donna called to him to “Jump!”

Without thinking about it, he slid forward at his highest point, soared through the air, and landed on his feet, knees bent. His shins burned every time he did it, but somehow that failed to deter him. Donna clapped with satisfaction and came over to hug him. “Told you that wouldn’t take long.”

“We’ll see you later,” Vicki said, waving to Donna. She nodded in return, and watched the other two girls walk away, going south.

“You ready to go to Tiffany’s?” Donna asked.

“Of course,” Jake said, casually taking her hand in his.

The walk to Tiffany’s duplex was largely silent, and Jake felt tense. Donna was content to walk hand-in-hand with him across the base, and all he could think about was the fact that he’d be alone with a pretty blonde for several hours. What would he do? What could he do? Anything was possible. He had a condom in his pocket, courtesy of his friend Josh. He was “prepared,” should anything happen. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to go that route so soon, particularly with this girl.

Donna said very little until they arrived at Tiffany’s, finding the woman dressed up and ready to go.

“Ah, good!” Tiffany smiled. “I was hoping I’d get to leave early. Arianna already ate, had a bath, put on PJs, and brushed her teeth. She’s ready for bed anytime, but she can stay up until 9 if she’s good.”

Donna nodded. “Same as usual.”

“Now, Jack, is it?”

“Jake,” he corrected with a shrug.

“Jake. I’m sure Donna’s already told you my rules, but I’ll restate them for your benefit. No fucking in front of Arianna. That’s basically it. You can spend the night if you want, I don’t really care.”

“I have a curfew, but thanks,” he said.

“And if you do have sex, just remember: Saran Wrap doesn’t work. That’s how I ended up with Arianna,” she laughed.

Jake hoped she was making that up. He couldn’t be certain.

Momentarily, they heard the sound of a car horn. “That’d be my date,” Tiffany said. “You kids be good!” She snatched up her purse, tossed her keys into it, and ran out the door.

Donna locked it behind her and moved to the couch, flopping onto it. “Arianna!” she called toward the stairs.

“What?” came a squeak from above.

“Just checking on you. You can come down if you want, you don’t have to go to bed ’til 9!”

The little redhead scampered down the stairs and hopped onto the sofa next to Donna. She stared at Jake again. “Do you want that massage now?”

At this point, Jake was more than ready for it, no matter who was giving it. He felt the tension all over his body, the anticipation, the arousal. He needed some kind of relief, and if that meant having a little kid rub his shoulders, well, he’d take what he could get. He hoped it would calm him down a little.

He sat on the floor in front of Arianna, and she put her hands on his shoulders. She had a tight grip for a five-year-old, and went to work immediately. She dug her fingers into his skin and worked the tension out of his muscles. He closed his eyes and sighed. He wondered if she had to give her mother a lot of these, since she seemed to be quite skilled at it.

Donna got up and sorted through Tiffany’s movie collection, a bunch of VHS tapes. There was a particular one she wanted to see, which she stuck into the VCR once she found it, then went back to the couch.

Jake opened one eye, noticing something was coming on the TV.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“‘Interview with the Vampire.’ I watch it every Halloween.”

“Oh, I’ve never seen it,” he admitted.

“We’ll take care of that. Arianna, would you mind going upstairs and playing in your room? I’ll take over.”

The little girl nodded and obediently went back upstairs. Donna started working on Jake’s shoulders, picking up where Arianna left off, and Donna was definitely more forceful about it. She practically pulled him up off the floor with each movement of her hands. She kept it up through the previews, but once the movie started, she scooted off to the side and patted the spot next to her. “Come sit with me?”

He got up and took the designated spot. Without a word, he moved his arm toward her, and she leaned forward to let him slip it around her. She sighed and wriggled against him, getting comfortable. He put a peck on her cheek, got his other arm around the front of her waist, and in moments they were about as close as they could get with their clothes on.

Donna focused on the movie, so Jake tried to do likewise, difficult as it was. He’d never held a girl before, and he found the experience intoxicating–the warmth of her body next to his, her scent surrounding him, something subtle and sweet. He felt his pulse racing and could do nothing to slow it. He thought himself an idiot: there wasn’t even anything happening, just two teenagers watching a movie.

He did his best to pay attention to the film, but it seemed physical urgency was starting to get the better of Donna, too. Something tickled his neck so lightly he couldn’t be sure Donna was actually touching him, or if it was merely his own anxiety playing tricks. He soon realized, as the sensations intensified, that Donna had turned her head and was kissing his neck. He held her more tightly, if only to give his hands something safe to do, and just let her do as she pleased.

But Donna was having none of that. She took one of his hands and put it on her chest. He quickly moved it down to her stomach. She made a slightly frustrated noise and pulled it back up, resorting to sucking on his neck now. He trembled, half out of excitement, half out of fear, no longer contesting the placement of his hand. This meant Donna only noticed the vibration coursing through his body. She pulled away from his neck to see him face-to-face. “Are you shaking?”

“Yeah.”

She tilted her head. “Why?”

“I’m nervous.”

She giggled. “That’s cute.” She scooted in and kissed him on the lips. Not gently, either–full of demands. She slipped her tongue into his mouth at the first opportunity, and he found himself virtually helpless. She knew what she was doing and he hadn’t the slightest clue. His body seemed almost alien to him, lit up with enraged hormones determined to overtake all reason. She snaked her hands under his shirt, creeping up his abdomen toward his chest, still kissing him, keeping him unbalanced.

He lost all sense of time and space, doing his best to reciprocate her moves, until she set off one alarm too many. He felt her hand working at the button on his jeans, and he stopped her cold, pulling her hand away. She broke their liplock and stared at him. Jake couldn’t discern whether she was more confused, hurt, or angry. “Why did you stop me?”

“I don’t… I don’t want to do… do that,” he stammered, struggling to get the syllables out.

She frowned. “Don’t you like me?”

He nodded. “I like you a lot. That’s why I don’t think we should.”

“I don’t get it,” she sighed. “This is what every guy wants. Am I not pretty enough for you? Are you mad at me because of Mitch?”

“No, it’s nothing like that. I think you’re very pretty. And this has nothing to do with Mitch.”

“If you like me, and you’re not mad at me, then why don’t you want to?”

He sighed. “If we do it now, you’ll just think that’s what I want from you, like everyone else.”

“What if it’s what I want?”

“Then if you like me, you’ll wait until I want it, too, right?” He couldn’t predict how she’d take having her own logic turned around against her, but he had to try.

Fortunately, she couldn’t see any fault in what he said. She didn’t look upset anymore, so he just kissed her and held her tighter. She made no complaints about that.

Despite very little happening after that, the time went by far too quickly. He held her, rubbed her back, kissed her, but mostly just kept her in his arms with no expectation or escalation. The movie long over, they sat together in contented silence.

A few minutes before 1AM, the alarm on his watch beeped. “Shit,” he muttered. “I need to get home.”

He started to pull away, and she clutched his arms. “Don’t go.”

“I have to, I’m already going to be late.”

She gave him a pleading look, eyes as big as saucers, tears practically welling up in them. “Ask for another couple hours?”

“Fine,” he sighed, getting up and going for Tiffany’s phone. He punched in his home number and waited for his father to answer.

“Hello?”

“Yeah, Dad, it’s me. I was wondering if I could stay out a while longer, like until 3?”

“No, it’s late, you need to get home.” No negotiation, no compromise. It was as much as he expected.

“Okay, I’ll be home soon then.”

He hung up and looked toward Donna. “Sorry,” he said simply. “I wish I could stay.”

She ran up and hugged him, giving him another kiss. “I wish you could, too. See you on Monday?”

“You bet,” he said, kissing her cheek.

She showed him to the door and handed him his coat, helping him put it on. “Thanks for tonight,” she said quietly.

“You’re welcome.” One more kiss, this time on her forehead.

Out the door he went, into the cold night. He already knew he wasn’t going to sleep well. Not with her scent all over him, and the fresh memories of her fingers and lips on his body. Maybe things wouldn’t work out in the long run, but if they had nothing else, they’d always have Halloween night.

It was the only thought comforting him as he made his way home in the cold, Alaskan night, green ribbons sparkling and waving in the sky above, both timeless and transient.