"Your turn." She pulls up her pants and runs fingers through her long ponytail. "But I don't see why we have to do this here. Your brother never cares if we're in your room."
"It's a nice night." Connor flips onto his back and unzips his jeans. "And the woods are romantic."
When he thought of it earlier in the day, it had seemed romantic--sort of rustic, a mountain man kind of thing. But it's about thirty-five degrees, and they're both freezing, having fashioned a makeshift blanket from their ski jackets and scarves. The leaves and crisp grass itch his ass, and a stick practically poked his eye out while he was going down on Jenny. They're really in the park because Connor wanted to get away from Jack, and the Sentra, and the new girl with the red hair.
Jenny curls her fingers around his dick, and he trembles-more because her hands are cold than because of anything she's doing. Then her hot mouth on his cock, going up and down, up and down. He props himself on his elbows and reaches for her breasts, malleable and firm like balled socks. Her cheeks are red from the breeze off the lake and her tan has almost completely faded.
They met as lifeguards at Euclid Beach last summer, peeling sheets of dead skin off each other's leathery brown shoulders and making out under the pier during breaks. She lives a few suburbs away in Solon and wanted to keep dating when school started. He likes the oval muscles in her calves, the dimples deep in her checks, how she says "soda" instead of "pop," is pretty sure he doesn't love her and often finds he has nothing to say in response to things she talks about when she calls.
As he feels himself starting to give, he taps her shoulder.
"Jen," he moans, "you should move."
She bobs out of the way and white jizz arcs into the air, landing on the sleeve of his coat. He just stares at it until he remembers to kiss her forehead through her knit ski hat; she likes that. Clothes and coats back on, they make their way to the car, branches and dying autumn things cracking under their feet. She threads her arm round his waist-always touching him, as if that could fill the awkward spaces between them.
Hand resting on Jenny's on the armrest, he drives her mother's station wagon back to his house. A Simon and Garfunkel song comes on the radio, and they both sing, quietly at first.
"Kathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping. I'm empty and aching and I don't know why."
Squeezing his hand, Jenny smiles, and they sing louder. Her voice is thin but pretty-one more thing to like. On the high notes, his tenor splinters. Jenny laughs, and Connor forgets that they have to have sex in one hundred and -ninety--one hours, that he can't drive stick, that Jack keeps pressuring him to apply to Case Western.
"Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they've all come to look for Amer-i-ca--"
He stops singing when he sees the strange car in his driveway, realizing it must belong to Jack's reporter.
"Don't forget to get condoms before next weekend," Jenny says, as if she were reminding him to call ahead and find out movie times. "It's good to have a backup method, just to be on the safe side."
Connor gives a nod punctuated by the birth-control-announcement stomachache.
Excerpted from Family and Other Accidents by Shari Goldhagen Copyright © 2006 by Shari Goldhagen. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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