This story is by Tom Chambless and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Poky’s Aunt Polly owned the diner, and she let us sit in the staff’s two-table dining room in the back. We loved this quiet place. It gave us a peaceful breather after a night out at the club. We could grab a good cup of coffee before heading home.
We placed our coats and hats on the rack by the door, as usual.
Earlier, Billy had poured stink bomb water on the club’s dance floor, and the rotten stink cleared the place out. At one A.M., we had to hustle out of the Stratosphere, our favorite club. Terry gagged and retched as I hurried her out. We covered our faces, shot out the exit, and ran partway here. Billy pulled pranks in high school, and college hadn’t changed him.
Before Billy interrupted us, I wanted a chance to talk to Terry, my girlfriend, about a malicious rumor. I wished to hear the truth from her. She had made plans to go to the club with Poky. Poky brought Billy. And now, thanks to Billy, rotten egg smell prevailed in our nostrils at our room in the diner.
Terry scooted her chair out at our table, and I sat beside her. Frizzy-haired Poky sat opposite Terry. Clean-cut Billy, with his masculine good looks and expensive watch, sat opposite me.
Terry, my buoyant, bouncy girlfriend, wanted to write. A journalism major, she’s read everything. She idolized Anne Lamott – this week.
Terry wore her light blue V-neck with her long brown hair on her shoulders. Her silhouette should be on a magazine cover, with her perfect skin, and soft brown eyes. The tip of her pointed nose dipped when she talked. I loved it. I needed to remind myself to breathe.
The rumor hurt me. If true, Billy would pay.
I wore my hoodie with the hood laid back, revealing my black curly hair. Billy and Terry shared a glance. I dug my hand into the hoodie’s right pocket and hunched over, gripping my ballpoint pen. I rubbed my thumb down the smooth barrel.
My heart hurt with each beat as Poky, Terry, and Billy laughed together. A tear fell from my left eye. I didn’t want the gossip to be real.
I rubbed my thumb down the smooth pen.
Billy and I ran together since high school. Women drifted to him even then. But now, he could give a woman a look and a sideways grin, and she’d come to him. At a bar, she’d pick up her drink and walk over to him.
“Oh man, Billy’s pulled some pranks before, but this!” Poky said with her chin in her palm, red-faced, and smiling at him. Billy seemed uninterested in Poky, but she focused on him.
Everyone laughed. I smiled, going along to get along, but I didn’t find any humor in Billy or his frat boy prank. His boyish silliness didn’t match his mannish exterior.
Poky, mixed-race and captivating, leaned toward us laughing. Poky covered her face with her hands, embarrassed, then dropped them on the table. “The whole club smelled like a beer fart,” she said. They roared laughing.
Billy laughed with them. He had angled his chair to face the women when he sat. He leaned back, smiling at them, and they beamed at him, too. I sat outside that triangle. I rubbed the pen in my pocket.
“Billy and I are dancing, and he pulls a small plastic water bottle from his pocket. I thought he’d take a drink. He holds it at his waist hiding it, and pours water on the floor,” Poky said.
“Then she smells something!” Billy said. “You should have seen her face, her nose wrinkled up. She asked me if I farted!”
They laughed. Terry touched my shoulder. Her eyes watered, too, but she swooned with laughter. Terry’s so pretty I can’t breathe. “It’s so high school,” Terry said between laughs.
Poky reached for Terry’s hand across the table, laughing. “But he farts in bed, and it stinks like that!”
Terry leaned into Poky, “I know!” she said and nodded, her mouth open and laughing. Those two words flew from her lips, and her nose bobbed.
She slipped. She screwed up.
The smile fell off Billy’s face. He swallowed and glanced at me. In that second, he confirmed the rumor. I gripped the pen.
Terry’s eyes went wide, realizing what happened. Her face turned red.
“Hey! I got the stink bomb recipe off the internet,” Billy said, breaking the awkward silence. He forced a laugh.
He could have any woman in the world. Why Terry? I hurt so bad. Mom warned me not to bottle my feelings. Use your words. I had wanted to talk to her about it. I rubbed the pen.
Poky wrinkled and pinched her nose, and Billy smiled at her. I closed my eyes, and another tear fell. He smiled and leaned back, stretching and lacing his fingers behind his head. Terry’s slip of the tongue didn’t matter to him. It seemed she didn’t matter to him.
Terry turned her head away and wiped a tear. Look what he’s done to her.
A stinging high-pitched whine careened through my head. My world went gauzy quiet. The pulse in my ears drowned out the voices. Poky touched her arm. They talked, but no sound came.
My heart pounded, and blood squished through my ears with every beat.
I took two deep breaths and tried to compose. I gripped the pen.
She turned away a wiped a tear. Billy did this.
My hand shook inside my hoodie pocket. I closed my eyes, and the vision of Terry alone in the dark with Billy came over me. I had wanted to talk this out tonight, but no. Billy got in the way. Of all the women he could have, he took Terry. My Terry. My eyes rolled, and my heart pounded.
Terry said she knew, but she wouldn’t if it weren’t for him. She’s so gorgeous she takes my breath. Billy lands all the women, with his grin and his – whatever he has. Billy could have gone all his life without having her.
Terry and I haven’t made love yet.
I closed my fist and gripped the pen as my heart hammered my chest. I rocked back and forth. I swayed and stared at Billy, gritting my teeth and bouncing my knee. My grip moved to the end of the pen.
“Are you okay, Tommy?” Billy asked. The table went quiet.
Am I okay? I had never been this angry.
I stopped. I sat straight and shouted. “You took my Terry!</>” Dead silence. Billy and Terry stared wide-eyed at me. “Billy, you slipped between us like some evil shadow, and you took her to bed while she and I were falling in love! I love her! And I’ve had enough of you!”
“Tommy, I love you too!” Terry said with teary eyes. Instant joy! She will NOT carry the blame. Billy did this!
I jumped to my feet. The chair fell backward. I snatched the black ballpoint pen from my pocket and pointed it at Billy. Poky shouted. Terry froze, mouth open.
Billy threw up his arm to guard his face.
There! The scared, little boy look on his face satisfied me more than I could have imagined. I gave Billy a few clicks with my thumb.
Click-Click! Click-Click! Click-Click!
A strange and unexpected thing happened. The tiny roller ball flew from the end of the pen and struck Billy above his left eye. Billy flinched. It left a speck of ink, and he rubbed it. I stood tall with my head high and proud and took credit for the shot.
Billy stood in a huff, marched to the coat rack, grabbed his things, and left.
After a moment of silence, Terry scrambled out of her chair and threw her arms around my neck. I dropped the pen and kissed her.
When we parted, Terry said, “That’s the same kiss!” She searched my eyes. “You look at me the same, with that precious twinkle! You touch my face the same. You pulled me to you the same.”
She dropped her eyes. “Even after I…”
I lifted her chin. “It’s over now. I killed it – the hurt and anger Billy caused me. He put moves on you. He caused all this, and I ended it. Let’s move on.” Her lip quivered, smiling at me with tears in her eyes. She hugged me tight, laying her face on my chest.
I wondered how much guilt-ridden hell she’d suffered. I whispered, “It’s over.”
Terry and I didn’t speak of Billy, and he never came around our room. Pokey attended classes and helped Aunt Polly at the diner. Pokey opened the small dining room for Terry and me when it got late and quiet. We sat at our table and enjoyed the best coffee after an evening out. We had our quiet talks and each other.
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