Back before Isabella killed Julian Polk, before we traveled through swamps and met oracles, back to the night before we traveled on our great adventure – which turns out was a mission from the gods…
There was a lady who lived next door to Tex, Ms. Miller. She was a looker; not movie star pretty, more like sexy librarian. She wore these horn-rimmed glasses like Adrian in that old boxing movie. But on this particular day she wore a huge pair of shades that covered half her face; the kind that would look more natural on the old fat Elvis or Wayne Newton.
Well, they had this dance on the last day of school in the tenth grade. I didn’t want to go, but I felt a little more confident with my friends, so we were supposed to meet at Tex’s house over on Felicity Street.
As I knocked on Tex’s door, I saw Ms. Miller out on the stoop smoking. She smoked these long, skinny one-twenties that reminded me of Cruella DeVil. I don’t know if the white on the cigarette was extra white, or if her dark red lipstick made that much of a contrast, but it was hot.
“Hey kid, you missed ‘em.”
I must have let out a sigh, because she quipped, “Yeah, I dreaded dances too, at your age.” I sat down next to her on the stoop and she offered me a smoke.
I know it sounds odd for a high school kid to be offered a cigarette by an adult female, but you don’t always see a kid with a huge tattoo on his neck wearing a black suit, Chuck Taylors, and a corsage.
I raised an eyebrow at her and said, “No ma’am, I got my own.” I pulled out a Pall Mall Red from my pack. She flipped a zippo and offered it to me. Her skirt rode up her thigh, revealing a tattoo of a fairy perched on a mushroom.
“You know Kurt Vonnegut smokes those,” she pointed out.
“Well, if I get lung cancer, I’ll blame him.”
We shared a weak laugh and she said, “Aren’t we sad, you all dressed up, ducking a dance, and I’m wishing I could go back in time and go for you. But you can’t put the sand back in the hourglass.”
Love is a crazy entity. It could fade out and you’d never even realize it was gone, but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt the millisecond you fall in it. When she put her beautiful, thin, rose-stem fingers on my hat and lifted it to rub where I was supposed to have hair, I tell you, I was in full-blown love. I mean, angels, lightning, sparks, heat, passion kind of love. I even got a little dizzy like I had the flu.
Feeling flushed and overwhelmed, I noticed a refrigerator half loaded in the back of her El Camino. Eager to change the subject, I asked her if she was moving. She told me her husband had passed away and she was going back home to Illinois. Still embarrassed by the red hot blush of my face, I ran to the fridge and offered to help her load it.
“Look, you don’t have to do that.” She blushed at my chivalry.
“Believe it or not, I’m stronger than I look.” We exchanged warm smiles.
We slid the old fridge with a chrome clamp handle from the sixties into the truck causing her glasses to fall off, revealing a huge tri-colored black eye with busted blood vessels around a beautiful green iris. Her eyes teared up and in a panic, she ran inside. I felt something on my hands and looked down to see my palms and shoes covered in blood.
Now, let me tell you, standing in a killer’s truck with blood on my hands and a ruined pair of Chuck Taylors was the last place I had expected to be the night before summer vacation, but for the first time in my life I was surging high on the intoxicating opiate of love.
I leaped out of the truck and grabbed my backpack. I pulled out a roll of duct tape – you always need duct tape, it’s like the force; it has a light side and a dark side and holds the whole damn universe together. Then I secured the doors of the fridge like a vault. I ran to Tex’s backyard shed and emerged with a hammer, bucket, and cleaning ammonia. After washing all the blood off the truck, I started knocking holes in the outer layer of the fridge with the hammer.
Ms. Miller ran out of the house, scared by the noise. “What are you doing?!” Fear dilated her pupils, while her cheeks were flushed with exasperation and shining with tears. No one had ever looked more angelic.
I held up the bucket and hammer. “Ammonia destroys even mitochondrial D.N.A. Learned that on Boondock Saints. Then I knocked holes in the outer shell of the makeshift coffin so it will sink. You don’t want it poppin’ back up on you. Learned that from Spider’s uncle, Gomez.”
She collapsed on the ground crying and babbling. I jumped down and held her. “Look, you don’t have to cry. I didn’t want to go to the dance anyway.” She lightly punched my gut with a slight smirk through her tears, letting me know that’s not why she cried.
I brushed the tears from her beautiful bruised eye and said, “I don’t care why you did it. Anyone who would make a beautiful woman like you hurt deserves what he got. Your secret’s safe with me. Even hoodlums can have integrity.” Taking a deep breath, she pulled out of my loose embrace and climbed into the truck.
I bent over to untie the bloody Chucks to throw them in the burn barrel when she turned up the radio and it blared that song, ‘Sister Christian’ by Night Ranger. I had never heard that song a time in my life, but hardly a day has gone by since that I haven’t listened to it. She walked over to me and took the cigarette I had just lit from my lips saying, “We better teach you how to dance, then.”
“Thanks, Ms. Miller.”
“Just call me April.”
We danced right there in that bloody driveway until Tex, George, and Spider returned from the dance.
April pulled me to her and gave me a real asteroids, stars colliding, movie-star, Wesley and Buttercup kiss. Our lips separated and she whispered, “Thanks for the most wonderful night I’ve ever had.”
With that, she slipped into her truck and drove out of my life.
See, it’s not that I am lonely, or all the other boys in this book find love but me. I have loved more in that one night than an army of Romeos in a mountain of Danielle Steele books. Until I feel that heat, that passion, that April Miller showed me at our little impromptu dance, where we held each other in bloody socks and danced in front of her dead husband, I’ll just do without.