Bethany Griffin - Red Death Series
Bethany Griffin - Handcuffs
Bethany Griffin Bio
Teachers & Students
Bethany Griffin - News & Reviews
Bethany Griffin Frequently Asked Questions
Bethany Griffin Links
Bethany Griffin Blog
Contact Bethany Griffin
Chapter 4

So now I’m back to the basement.

My boyfriend lives there. Correction, ex-boyfriend. He’s like the troll under his parents’ house. Except he looks pretty good. For a troll, I mean.

I knock on the door. The side door. But before my hand connects for the second knock the door swings open.

“C’mon in, I’m watching something.”

I should probably explain about my ex.

“Take your shoes off, Parker.”

I probably should explain, but I don’t have the energy.

His TV is on, his laptop is defragging, there is a CD playing over speakers angled throughout the narrow bedroom. He’s wearing headphones, but the cord is dangling, not plugged into anything. Kind of like me.

“What’s up, Parker Prescott?”

“I hate the way you say my name.”

“I know.” He raises one eyebrow at me.

“You got any other girls coming over here today?” I ask this and am amazed at how hard it is to ask something as if you don’t care when you care so much that you can hardly get the words out.

“You know I don’t.”

“How’m I supposed—” I stop myself midsentence. There’s just no point. He plugs the headphones into something, turns a knob, nods, then lets the headphones fall down around his neck. They are the big bulky kind, not the sleek little ones that go in your ears. My parents seem to believe that I am a computer genius, but beside him I am nothing.

“Trouble in paradise?” he asks, looking at me.

“You could say that.”

“You could tell me.”

“I could.”

“I could listen.”

“You might.”

He laughs and unplugs the headphones so that I can share his musical experience.
“You like this CD?”

“You know I do.” This is true even though I don’t remember ever hearing it before. Because I like everything when he’s around. Even though he might be getting ready to tell me why he hates this CD, the fact that I heard it here, standing awkwardly beside him while he leans back in his black leather office chair, makes it official: I will love this song until the day that I die. He knows this. I know he knows this.

“You look good, Prescott. You can sit down, you know.”

The only place to sit is on his bed, which is about a foot from the desk where he’s working. The bedspread is purple stripes alternating with dark charcoal stripes. I know it well.

“I got this scarf for Christmas.” I sit gingerly on the edge of the bed.

“Red looks good on you.” He eyes me for a couple of seconds. “Kandace Freemont got this red and white Santa robe for Christmas. Like a Santa suit, but it wrapped around with a white belt. She showed up here wearing it. Wasn’t wearing anything under it at all.”

My stomach lurches. He isn’t looking at me. I don’t know why he’s telling me this. He’s always done this. He’ll reveal things or make comments about other girls just when I start getting comfortable with him, with us. Things about other girls that I don’t want to know. But I need him. I left the family trauma to seek comfort in his basement. And this is what he offers me. It’s sad, really. I’m sad, in just about every way that it’s possible for a person to be sad.

“Guess you liked that,” I say. This is how it always goes with us.

“I’ve seen better, and I’ve seen worse.”

“What happened?” Don’t tell me, don’t tell me, don’t tell me, don’t—

“I sent her home.”

“Yeah?” Why can’t I breathe? Why is it so hard to breathe in this damn basement? I feel something close to hope, the best feeling I’ve had today, and hate myself a little for being so pathetic.

“If she’d only had a hat. With a Santa hat it would have been hot. Without it, it was just sleazy.” He looks away, hits a button on the computer, and then turns back to me.

“Didn’t you enjoy that?” I say this coolly, as if I don’t care.

He swivels his chair so that our knees are touching. Is he trying to make me jealous? Right now I am nervous and jealous and sad all at once, and it’s not a good combination. I kind of want to go home. Then he says,

“I’d like to get you sleazy, Prescott. Kandace Freemont already is. There’s a difference.”

He leans forward and closes his eyes, and I let him kiss me. That’s a lie. I twine my arms around his neck and kiss him hard. Possessively. Exactly what he wants.

But I don’t close my eyes. Closing your eyes implies trust.