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
“Trouble in paradise?” he asks, looking at me.
“You could say that.”
“You could tell me.”
“I could listen.”
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
“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
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