Seeing the look on Beth's face was so unnerving I turned away quickly and started looking for a bottle opener. "The drawer to the right of the sink, honey," she called out from the living room, guessing correctly what I was looking for. Calling me "honey" was a first, but it didn't sound like anything other than a mom talking to her son. By the time I got the Coke open and walked to the living room Jackie was coming from her bedroom. "We're gonna go get somethin' to eat, mom," she said.
"Why don't you two stay, sweetie? I never get to see you these days. We can find something to eat here," Beth said. "Can't mom, we're meeting Sherry and Tim in town and we're already late," Jackie said.
As we drove away I said, "I didn't know we were meeting those guys."
"Neither did I. Pretty quick thinkin', huh?" she said with a laugh.
Alice Cooper came on the radio, "School's out for summer! School's out forrrreverrr!" Jackie cranked it up and sang along loudly, pounding on the dashboard of my dad's go-to-work car. We ended up stopping at a Dairy Queen in town. As we ate our burgers I told Jackie, "Your mom definitely heard us the other night." She threw a french fry at me, laughed, and said, "No she didn't!" Then she leaned across the table and whispered, "You just said that when we were in my room so I would give you a blowjob and you know it!" She sat back smiling at me. Then I told her what Beth had said and how she looked at me when she said it.
Jackie shot back, "She's just trying to get you to say something. Wil, she never remembers anything the next morning when she's drinkin' hard stuff. She's just bluffing. Anyway, I don't care. She's a selfish bitch and I'm moving out soon anyway, so I don't care."
"You never told me you were moving out?" I said.
"As soon as I save enough money," she said.
"You'll have to cut way back on buying clothes then," I laughed.
"Never, baby!" she replied.
She looked really good. The day at the beach had left her with a glow that was set off perfectly by her blond hair. Thank goodness I hadn't let her sunburn-- it would be a shame to not be able to touch her.
At work Monday afternoon Tim and I got to talking over a break. Once again, he seemed to know as much about my social life as I did. But he didn't know anything about Beth's "bluff". I filled him in and he shook his head. "What's the story about her, anyway Tim? I've never really asked Jackie about any of it. What happened to her dad and everything?" Tim proceeded to give me the Reader's Digest version of the saga of Jackie's parents:
Dad had been a loan officer at the local bank in their little town... Beth was the secretary to the sales manager and his sales staff at the Ford dealership... the family of three lived in a nice house in town. Then, about when Jackie was in 9th grade, the little country town found out that Beth was having a torrid affair with her boss at the Ford dealership. Jackie's dad was friends with the guy since he wrote most of the loans for the man's customers. Her dad was humiliated, quickly got a divorce, and moved a half hour drive away to the city. The sales manager left town a few months later. Jackie's mom sold the house and moved her and Jackie into the rental out in the country. Beth still works at Town & Country Ford-- the only one of the triangle still where she was when it all happened.
"Wow, that's pretty crazy," I said, "I had no idea it was like that. Damn."
"Trust me Wil, it was all anybody talked about for a long time around there. There was a lot more dirt thrown all around, but I don't know what all was true so I'm just telling you the stuff I know for certain," Tim said.
"I guess it explains a lot about Jackie. Maybe. I don't know," I said.
"Wil, you've taken a good look at Beth, right?" Tim said.
"Sure. I mean, I've been around her a couple times... why?" I said.
"What do you think she looked like ten, fifteen years ago... you know when she was 25-30?" Tim asked.
"I dunno, pretty good I guess, I mean she's a good looking woman, she, uh, just looks tired to me. But, I don't know, I mean I never looked at her that way," I stammered away.
"Look. Dumbass. Let me just tell you, Beth was the hottest thing on two legs that ever hit town. She was movie star beautiful Willie. And, she knew it. She dressed the part too, buddy. In those days I never saw Beth when she wasn't done up perfectly-- not trashy-- business clothes, but sexy. Ya know? Beth brought more business into that dealership than all the newspaper ads they ever bought. Wil, when I was 12, 13 my pals and I used to go in there every Saturday and pick up Ford brochures. She would always come talk to us, talk to us like we were young men and not dopey kids, then she'd let us use the pop machine in the break room. We didn't give two shits about the brochures and Cokes, we were there just to look at Beth. We were jerky junior high twerps, Wil, but she was so sweet you wouldn't believe it," Tim said.
"I don't believe how pathetic that sounds, you're right," I said, "But I get it. You were horny guys and she was the prettiest woman around."
"Yeah," Tim sighed, "Look, Wil. Jackie's been through a lot of shit. Guys in high school treated her like she was trash because of the scandal-- not everybody-- but too many. She usually had trouble with guys. And lots of the girls in school treated her like crap, too. Sherry always stuck by her, though. Beth's fucked up a lot of what she had going for her, but Jackie still has a chance to get past it. You never thought I wanted you guys to go out... but I like both of you and it would be cool for us, Sherry and me, if you got along with each other. But..." Tim stopped talking.
"Don't fuck her over?" I said.
"Yeah," Tim said. Then after a few seconds he added, "Sherry would kill me if you do," acting like he didn't care. He was a good guy. A better guy than I had known him to be just five minutes earlier.
That night after dinner I called Jackie's house. She was at work but Beth answered and told me Jackie wasn't home. I told her, "Beth, please have Jackie call me when she gets a chance. I want to talk to her about when we can see each other again."
"I'll be happy to give her that message, Wil. I don't get to see my baby girl much but when I do she always talks about you, honey," Beth said, "I really like that you two are getting along so well. It's very nice having a strong young man around." She sounded completely sober.
"Thank you very much," I said.