“Where the fuck are you?” Ethan said into the phone.
“We’re on our way! Chill out, loverboy!” said Maggie.
“I’m losing my fucking mind over here!”
“Give us like ten more minutes and we’ll be there.”
Ethan exhaled. “Fine. I’ll be in the garage. Come meet me there.”
Ethan sat down on the weight bench in Big Mac’s garage and ran his hand through his hair. He gave himself a moment to quell his thoughts and then shook his head and pulled his phone back out of his pocket. He checked Facebook and saw that Maggie had just posted photos of Ann Marie and her in their Halloween outfits five minutes earlier. He scrolled down the page and saw various other people’s posts: Outfits, pumpkin treats, candy bowls, religious rants, etc.
Twenty minutes later, Maggie walked through the door, her outfit covered with a shiny leather trench coat.
“Oh, thank God,” said Ethan, standing up.
“Jeez, Spazzy-McGee, you were pretty rude on the phone a few minutes ago,” said Maggie.
“I know,” he said. “I’m sorry. You know how worked up I get about this shit.”
“Psh. It’s not that big of a deal, Ethan. You’ve got feelings for a girl. So what? Every boy in high school does. A lot of girls do too. The world keeps turning round and around and soon we’ll all be dead. Who cares?.”
“I know, I know. It’s just…it’s never been this bad before. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say…”
Maggie shook her hair out of her eyes. “Ha. You don’t have to say anything, loverboy. I already told her.”
Ethan’s blood ran cold. “What the fuck? Seriously, you told her?”
“Sure! Annie and I tell each other everything!”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, what am I gonna do?” Ethan placed both of his hands on top of his head and began pacing in front of the tool cabinet. He stopped suddenly and said, “I mean, what did she say?”
“Oh, you poor thing…” Maggie walked over and placed her hands on Ethan’s shoulders. “Look at you; you’re shaking all over!”
“What did she say, Maggie?”
“Well…” Maggie pulled a cigarette out of her purse. “She said she thinks you’re an all right dude, but you know as well as anybody else does that she and Big Mac are all about each other.”
Ethan didn’t say anything for a moment. “Yeah. I mean, of course. They’re not like officially dating or anything though are they?”
“Ha. Ethan, it’s 2016. We don’t have labels like that anymore.”
“Of course we do! Half the people in school are dating. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Does it matter? They go and do things together. They eat, they drink, they smoke, they laugh, they watch TV, they kiss, and they have sex. It’s not that big of a deal. But you know as well as anybody else does that they don’t need to be dating for them to be exclusive to one another.”
Ethan was silent again for a couple of moments. “Yeah,” he said finally. “Yeah. God, what am I gonna do? How could I do this to Big Mac? How could I do this to Annie? They’re gonna hate me…”
Maggie laughed. “Nobody’s gonna hate you, Ethan. Believe me. Annie just feels bad. Feelings happen. Don’t take it so seriously.”
Ethan shook his head. “I can’t believe Annie knows. I wish I could take it all back. It seems so stupid now.” Ethan could feel tears well in his eyes and roll down his cheeks. He attempted to choke back his emotions, but he soon found himself sobbing. Maggie put her arms around him and he buried his face in her shoulder. She smoothed the hair on the back of his head and quietly said, “It’s okay. It’s all gonna be all right.”
Eventually, Ethan was done crying and he pulled his head off of Maggie’s shoulder. He rubbed the remaining tears out of his eyes with both of his hands and looked at the ground, sniffling. He could feels Maggie’s eyes upon his face but he didn’t want to look at her. “I just feel so stupid,” he muttered. “I fucked everything up. I just want things to be like they were. I’d take it all back to have things like they were.”
Maggie looked at Ethan sadly for a minute and then said, “I might have an idea.”
Ethan looked into Maggie’s eyes and said, “What?”
“I mean, you might not like it, but I think it’d alleviate some of the concerns for everyone.”
“What is it?”
“Well…” Maggie paused for a moment and then said, “You could pretend like you like me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, Annie knows how feelings are; they’re really fickle. Everybody knows that the best way to get over someone is to start liking someone else. What if we convince her and Big Mac that you like me? She wouldn’t have to feel bad anymore and Big Mac won’t suspect a thing unless she tells him about, which I really doubt she would.”
Ethan thought about it for a moment. “I mean, how would we do it?”
“Easy,’ she said. “We kiss in front of everybody, you ask me out, I turn you down.”
Ethan shook his head. “I would kiss you? Wouldn’t that be weird for you?”
“It wouldn’t be weird for me. Believe me, Ethan, I’ve kissed a decent amount of people in my time. It’s not gonna be anything new to me.”
“But I’m gonna look like an idiot in front of everybody.”
“So what? There’s no shame in asking someone out and getting turned down. Everybody’s been there; it takes a lot of courage! Everybody will probably pat you on the back!”
“Aren’t you gonna feel weird if everybody thinks I have feelings for you?”
“A lot of guys have feelings for me, Ethan. I’m the ‘sluttiest girl in school’, don’t you know? I always have to keep the dogs at bay. Again, nothing new for me.”
“I don’t know…”
Ethan looked at the ground again and shook his head. When he didn’t say anything else after that, Maggie said, “What do you have to lose, Ethan? I already told Ann Marie so she knows. It’s either you stick with that and you own that or you shift the attention away from it.”
Ethan stopped shaking his head and then looked up into Maggie’s eyes. “All right. I’ll do it.”
“Good,” said Maggie and she smiled. “Do you have a lighter?”
Later, Maggie and Ann Marie were leaving the party. They marched down the slope of Big Mac’s back yard as Ann Marie said, “I can’t believe he asked you out!”
“Ha,” said Maggie. “The poor thing looked so starstruck. I felt bad turning him down.”
“Yeah. I just…I thought he liked me.”
“I mean, that’s what he told me, but you know how boys are, Annie. They want what’s available.”
Ann Marie laughed. “What made him think that you’re available?”
Maggie pulled a cigarette out of her purse. “They think they know everything.”
Just then they rounded the corner and saw Ethan sitting at a picnic table near the sliding glass door to the daylight basement.
“Oh, shit!” said Ann Marie, grabbing Maggie’s shoulder to stop her. Maggie looked at Ann Marie and they both laughed.
“You go on, Annie,” she said, holding up her cigarette. “I need a light.”
“Are you sure?” said Annie.
Maggie giggled. “Of course. Go on. I’ll see you in a minute.”
Ann Marie marched off towards her car and Maggie walked over to Ethan.
“How are you feeling, loverboy?” she said.
Ethan exhaled. “A lot better. Thank you, Maggie.”
“No problem. Got a light?” she said, holding out her hand.
“Maggie,” said Ethan. I’ve…I’ve never kissed a girl before, you know.”
Maggie laughed. “Well, shit, Ethan, no worries. I thought you felt a little stiff. You’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure.”
“No, I just…It was amazing.”
“Ha. Like I said, I’ve had a lot of practice. Everyone always remembers their first; I’m glad yours is gonna be a good memory.”
“Maggie, I…Thank you. For everything.”
“Ethan, really, it was nothing. Do you have a lighter or what?”
Ethan reached into his pocket and placed the lighter in her hand. “This is kind of weird, but…You remind me…You remind me of a bodhisattva.”
“A what?” said Maggie, who seemed to be focused on lighting the cigarette in her mouth.
“A bodhisattva. They’re beings who choose to keep being reincarnated so that they can help others on earth reach enlightenment. Selfless beings. It’s Buddhism.”
Maggie looked sharply at Ethan and then said, “Look, Ethan, it was just a kiss. I’m glad you’re feeling better. I’m gonna call it a night. Annie is waiting for me.”
Ethan looked at her, mouth agape for a moment and then said, “Yeah, all right. I’ll talk to you soon, Maggie. Thanks again. Tell Ann Marie I said good night.”
“Yup. Night!” Maggie had already started continuing into the night, down the slope towards Ann Marie’s car.
Ethan described the scene to Sheriff Boyer. She said nothing at first, as she finished jotting down some notes on a legal pad. Finally, she finished writing, put a cap on her pen, looked at Ethan and said, “That’s a very touching story, Ethan. I remember the feelings, being young, falling for whoever is giving you the most attention. It’s too bad they’re both lost causes.” Sheriff Boyer nodded her head and held her eyes wide. “But, I think that, more than anything, is what youth is all about: learning to accept that more often than not you just can’t have what you want.”
Ethan looked into Sheriff Boyer’s eyes for a moment, shook his head and then said, “Yeah. I mean, that’s my story. I didn’t do anything to Maggie. I could never do anything like that to her. Not after what she did for me.”
Sheriff Boyer let Ethan’s words hang in the air briefly and then said, “Of course not. A young man has feelings for a girl who won’t give it up, but a sensitive boy like you wouldn’t force his feelings on the girl he loves, now would he?”
Sheriff Boyer grabbed her pen and started turning the pages on her legal pad again. “Unfortunately, nothing about your story can be proved, Ethan. I’m afraid I’m gonna need more than that to absolve you.”
“I don’t know what more you want from me!” said Ethan, throwing his hands up in the air. “I’ve told you all there is!”
Sheriff Boyer stared him dead in the eyes and said, “Well, we’re going to have to come up with something, now aren’t we?”
Big Mac cracked the window of Ann Marie’s car as he lit a cigarette. She had arrived earlier to pick him up since he had been taken in to the station by Officer Parker in his squad car.
“Fuck, I don’t know what to think,” he said as the smoke drifted lazily out of his mouth.
“I know,” said Ann Marie.
“I feel bad for the both of them. Ethan’s pretty much fucked and Maggie’s all busted up and shit. Did you hear about all of the bruises and cuts and shit she has all over her body?”
“Ugh, Jimmy, I don’t want to hear about it!” said Ann Marie.
“I just don’t get it. I can see all the bruising and maybe some of the scratches around her neck, but I don’t get how she got that huge cut down her back.” Big Mac shook his head.
Ann Marie said nothing at first. “The huge cut down her back?” she asked. “I mean, we did that to her.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“It’s makeup. It was part of her costume. We did the cuts around her neck and stuff too. She decided at the last minute that she wanted to be a dead slutty cop instead of just a slutty cop. She said it was more ‘spooky’.
Big Mac nodded his head and said, “Huh. Well, how do you like that?”