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Hot Fuss (working title)

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"Wake up.”

 

Someone pokes me on the shoulder repeatedly while I struggle to do as the thick voice says. My left cheek pressed against the rough texture of the wooden table, saliva dripping between my parted lips; I open my eyes and can’t comprehend my surroundings for a moment. Then I attempt to pull myself together: close my mouth and lift my head to come across a pair of brown eyes staring into my own.

 

I know exactly where I am, and everything hurts.

 

“Hello again,” he says carefully, then signals to the guy in the corner behind him without looking away from me. “We brought you some food.” The guy comes over and puts down a McDonald’s bag in front of me.

 

“I’m not hungry,” I mumble, but that’s not exactly the truth. The truth is, my stomach is boiling with rage and guilt and acid, and even the thought of eating the things they put under my nose makes me want to throw up.

 

“Come on now, don’t be shy,” he says as he puts the items of the package on the table one by one. “You’ve been here all day without anything to eat so, we figured you wouldn’t say no to a Big Mac.”

 

“Just let me go,” I say, my voice is coarse, breaking in each syllable. “Please.”

 

“You know we can’t do that,” he says, voice low, trying to be sympathetic.

 

“What-” I’m tired, and the light above my head hurts my eyes. I put my head in my hands, close my eyes, and try to clear my throat. My eyes fly over the coke can when I open them, then they move to the cop’s face. “What more do you wanna know? I already told you all I can recall.”

 

He quirks an eyebrow. The guy behind him scoffs, back in his corner. I fix my eyes on somewhere on the table.

 

The good cop softly sighs as he takes out three pictures from his briefcase. He puts the pictures carefully on the table and pushes them towards me.

 

“I want you to look at these pictures,” he says with his calm voice. “And tell me what you remember. Every detail.”

 

There are two bullet shells in the first picture.

 

The second is a picture of a girl, lying motionless on the sand, her entire body soaked wet.

The third picture is of a gold cross, a necklace, half sunk in the sand.

 

As soon as I take the second picture in my hands, my eyes start watering. “Oh, Jenny…”

 

“That’s Jennifer, yes.”

 

“She looks… different,” I whisper, with tears in my eyes. “Her face- her face looks weird. Is she supposed to look like that?”

 

“She’s dead , kid,” the bad cop chimes in, irritated by my emotional reactions, leaving his dark corner to come closer to me. “She looks like it.”

 

The good cop sighs. I lock eyes with him. He taps the other two pictures. “I’m listening,” he says.

 

Nothing comes to my mind.

 

“I don’t know... I don’t really- I don’t remember.”

 

“Oh, bullshit!” the bad cop cries out. He slams his palms on the table, and before I know it, his face is uncomfortably close to mine.

 

“I know what you’re doing, kid,” he says. I can see the white hairs in his thick, brown mustache. And the blood vessels in his bulging eyes. “You’re stalling. And you’re making me angry.”

 

He says, “So why don’t you drop the act and start remembering shit already?”

 

I’m trying. For her sake.

 

Oh, Jenny...

 

The roots of the incident, they all lead to that day. The heart of the mystery. The key point of the story.

 

It was late September. There was this huge party going on, and every popular kid in town was invited. I, of course, wasn’t. But there are ways to be accepted into a place full of jocks and cheerleaders and wannabe rockers and their groupies without being called out for not being “cool enough”, and I happened know the most effective one: Have an insider.

 

Me, I was the only son of a middle class family with three children, living inside our cute, tiny house with white picket fences.

 

Her, she was my best friend that I grew up with. We were neighbours, my father and her dad would often make barbecues in each other’s garden until my father’s company went bankrupt and we had to move to a cheaper district. But we didn’t let that stop us the way it stopped our dads.

 

We were inseparable, Jenny and I.

 

She would get invited to every event that’s worth going. And I would go only because she was going.

 

You see- I was a little in love with her. At least I thought I was.

 

I didn’t know how much she could change. Or how much I could.

 

And now she’s...

 

Focus.


Remember.

Back to the party.

Not long after we arrived at the scene, she already was in control of everything. She’d been like that since junior year of high school. Her making out with boys, her making out with girls to look good for the boys- I was there through all of it.

She waved at some pretty, pretty boys she calls friends. I didn’t want to be there to witness her obnoxious flirting with all of them to get something she wants, so I told her I was going to get myself a drink. She nodded without tearing her eyes from one of the boys, and I went straight for the snack table.

 

That was when I met Andy.

 

Andy, who was alone, and slightly tipsy -and possibly soon to be drunk, if he wasn’t planning to put down the bottle he had in his hands.

 

Andy, who was just another jock.

 

He had a dark red blazer on with a white v neck underneath, accompanied by a blue jean -like most of the guys there. His light brown hair was messy in a way that was not intentional but more like someone just messed it a few minutes ago. Either way, it looked good.

 

Andy, whom I admired a little since the first year of college, even though I hated to admit it.

 

“Hey,” he said when he noticed me staring, catching me off-guard. He came closer, and I waved and said “Hi,” trying to buy time as I struggled to remember how socializing works.

 

“Andy, right? You’re in the football team?” I said, to which he nodded. “Um, you were great on the field last week.” Well, he was incredible.

 

He scoffed and mumbled a thanks before bringing the bottle to his lips. “You alone?” he asked.

 

I pushed the thought of Jenny out of my mind. Jenny and her boys.

“Yeah.”

 

He tilted his head to the side and studied my face for a few seconds.

 

“Walk with me.” He started walking towards the exit, grabbing a new bottle on his way out, and I followed him.

 

“I know who you are,” he said as he swayed his way into the woods.

 

I panicked. A little. What he could’ve heard about me? Me, a nobody?

 

“You’re that guy Jenny always keeps around.” Oh. Figures. “The one everyone thinks is gay.” Wait-

 

“What? I’m not-”

 

“Dude, I don’t care.”

 

“You don't?”

 

We stopped. He looked at me over his shoulder.

 

I said, “I mean, I thought jock types were supposed to be, you know…” I shrugged.

 

He let out a short, loud laugh. We resumed walking.

 

After a little while, he stopped in his tracks, turning towards me.


“Look what I found in the master bedroom,” he said, grinning like a maniac. He drew out a handgun and pointed at me.

 

“Whoa, hey,” I raised my hands defensively.

 

“Relax, man, the safety’s on.” He lowered the gun. “What do you think I am, a psycho?” He scoffed and flopped down in front of a tree. There was something in his eyes, almost like he was sad.

 

I sat down next to him, our backs rested against the tree. He took a gulp of his bottle before offering it to me. I took a careful sip. He put the gun on his lap.

 

“Andy,” I said slowly, “why are we here?”

 

He shrugged. “It just got… a little, uh, overwhelming in there.” He began to examine the gun, like it was the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen. “There’s this girl- she’s the owner of the house, actually,” he said, his words rushed. “I guess she likes me. Or just wants to fuck me but like, bad . So she caught me in the master bedroom, thought I was there for her. And she came onto me, I mean she was crazy , wouldn’t leave my lips alone.” He chuckled. I could almost taste the bitterness. “So I pushed her off of me, went straight for the drinks and got myself a bottle or two or five. I figured here would be great to, you know, escape a little. But I didn’t wanna go into the woods alone. Pleasantly drunk. With a gun.” He made eye contact with me for the first time since we sat down. “That answer your question?”

 

I nod.

 

“Doesn’t matter though, because here we are. I’m here with you, and all the girls are…” he pointed the gun towards the way we came and squinted his left eye. “There.”

 

He took the bottle back and downed the last few drops. “Well, I’d better be off,” he stood up, put his gun back in the small space between his jeans and his lower back. You know, like some mob. “So… thanks for accompanying me, I guess.”

 

“Sure,” I said. “Anytime.”

 

He smiled, and although it was more of a drunken smile, it was genuine. He put his hands on the sides of my face and kissed me on the cheek, near my lips so the corner of his mouth and mine brushed together for a second. Then he patted the same cheek two times, smiled again, and said, “I’m gonna ask Jenny out.”

 

As he walked away, he shouted, “Wish me luck!”

 

And that was the day everything in my life took a completely different turn. That was the day it all started to go down.

 

“I remember,” I blurt out. It’s all coming to me - what happened, how it happened, who did it.

 

I look up from the picture in my hands. The picture of my best friend’s lifeless body.

 

“I know who killed Jenny.”

Chapter Text

Two days after the party, Andy and Jenny started dating.

 

Andy asked Jenny to be his girlfriend like he said he would, and Jenny, she accepted the title rather eagerly. It didn’t take a lot of time for the whole school to accept this power couple as their superiors. Everywhere we went, be it a party or a class or even the school corridors, everyone treated them like they're celebrities. We would always wander together, the three of us, though I was but a humble servant for our mighty king and queen. After all, I should’ve considered myself lucky to be friends with Andy, the star of our football team; and Jenny, the daughter of the man who literally owned the school.

 

I was the weird, quiet kid they kept around just because they pitied me.

 

And yes, maybe I was quiet. But it wasn’t that I didn’t like talking, it was that they never listened anyway, so I gave up after a while.

 

I blamed Andy for a long time, for turning my life upside down, for stealing Jenny, all of it. I kept telling myself that before Andy, it was all good between Jenny and me. Before him, it was the two of us against the world. Before him, she loved me .

 

The truth is, he was just a face to blame. Jenny had stopped caring about me a long time ago.

 

But in the good old days, it was just me and Jenny.

 

We’d known each other for so long I don’t remember when we’d met. My earliest memory of us is when we were five, playing with plastic animals. I remember I got angry at something she did and threw my lion at her, she got angry at me and bit my arm.

 

We were the type of kids who would play house in each other's backyards, with dirt and grass for food on the dinner plates we snitched from her parents’ kitchen -her mom wasn’t happy about it-  and tree leaves for money. I’d be the husband and she’d be the wife, or sometimes one of us would be the kid, or we would be siblings. Whatever the scenario was, they had one thing in common: We always had a lot of money. At the age of eight, we didn’t know how to live without it.

 

Then, my parents lost all their money.

 

We were thirteen and I cried when my mom told me we were moving out to somewhere else. For the first time in my life, I was going to be away from Jenny.

 

She was the center of my universe. I couldn’t imagine a life without her.

 

Now I’m twenty years old, and she’s gone, and I still don’t know how to live without her.

 

Even back when Andy was her -and therefore, my- puppet master, I got to be with her. I could pretend she was there even though she never was, not since we grew up. But now-

 

Focus.

 

Remember.

 

The Puppet Master.

 

At one of the parties, Andy decided I should participate in their little games.

 

We were occupying a couch: Jenny in the middle, Andy on her right, me on her left. They were tipsy enough and I was just a little more sober than them. Not a logical choice, really. Not in a situation like this.

 

I was looking at nowhere in particular and I caught Andy looking at me.

 

“Our friend here,” he said, his hand stroking Jenny’s arm, looking at me in a way I couldn’t look away. “He might be feeling a little lonely, don’t you think?”

 

He said, raising his eyebrows at her, “Would you like to comfort him, baby?”

 

Jenny giggled at Andy’s words. When she turned to me, her lips curled in her famous wicked smile that people often confuse as a good sign. She put one hand on my thigh.

 

“I-”

 

She put her other hand over my mouth.

 

“Drink more,” Andy said, giving me his bottle. “Everything will be simpler. Trust me.”

 

I obeyed. I don’t know if he would give me any other choice.

 

She came closer.

 

I felt my heartbeat going even faster with each time her warm breath hit my face. She was straddling my legs, looking down at me, and I didn’t even want to complain. I was willing to do everything the supreme queen wanted me to do.

 

Sometime ago I had asked Jenny why we never dated. She said “I didn’t wanna ruin our friendship,” which translates to you’re not important enough.

 

She said, “I like having you around. I always have.” Which means you’re not rich anymore.

 

She said, with a smile, “Besides, you make a great sidekick.” which translates to you’re way below my league.

 

That night at the party, when she kissed me, I felt like crying.

 

That was the moment I was waiting for my whole life. That was what I wanted. She was what I wanted. And at that moment, I was finally touching the skies.

 

I kissed her back and life was almost simple.

 

Then I heard Andy’s laugh. That irritating, repulsive laugh, so close to my ear.

 

I began to think the only Andy that existed was the Puppet Master Andy, that that chaotic, hedonistic person was who Andy really was. Every move of his was obscene. Everything he said was vile. Vanity was going to be the death of him. I couldn’t find a trace of the person I first met back in that party.

 

I gently pushed Jenny off of me. She was surprised. Confused. I’d never not want to kiss her, be with her, love her- I just didn’t want to be a part of their games.

 

“Come on now, don’t be such a bore,” Andy said. “We’re just playing.” After all, it was all a game to him.

 

But bowing to him meant being with Jenny.

 

All hail to the king, then.

 

Before I can change my mind, Andy jumped up. “Ah, that’s our song,” he declared, gesturing at Jenny to take his hand. She did, of course, and in a blink of an eye they disappeared into the dancefloor.

 

Me, I went to get myself a drink or five.

Chapter Text

Like almost every Christian raised kid, Christmas was my favorite time of the year. We would decorate the tree with my sisters, my mom would buy little presents for us and friends which we would wrap together, we’d sing some weird carols, and do all that stuff you do as a kid on a holiday. We were happy.

 

And Santa Claus was real.

 

And Jesus died for our sins.

 

Now that we were grown-ups, it was hard to keep track of what’s real anymore.

 

That Christmas, Jenny went on a cruise with her family. I half-expected their ship to crash into an iceberg and sink, that would've been an ideal death for her mother -going down on a yacht, wrapped in furs, with a glass of red wine in her hand. "Darling," she would say with a posh accent to her husband as the ship started to flood, "I told you, we should have gone to the Bahamas like last year."

 

Surprisingly, as a trio, our dynamic was pretty well balanced. Jenny was the queen and our sole aim was to please her. She demanded and we obeyed, although only in theory. Andy, however, was the real power behind; the puppet master, controlling our every move and its outcome. He appeared to be a humble servant to our queen, pretending to take her every wish as a command- but I knew him, oh, I did. And me, the jester- I lived to serve them. Why? Because I loved Jenny. Because I wanted to be like Andy.

 

That Christmas, without Jenny, there was no balance.

 

There was no queen to serve and we didn’t know what to do for a while. Andy was acting a bit different, more robotic, more deadpan, more...careless. I dared to ask him what was wrong. He laughed it off and said “You’re just being paranoid.” He also kept bumping me with some part of his body -usually hands or legs- whenever we were together and talking with people. He didn’t do that when Jenny was with us and he didn’t do it to her either. He would always have his arm around her waist or let her sit on his lap.

 

On New Year’s Eve, his fraternity organized a big “popular kids only” party and we just had to go. Because, in his words: “It’s not a holiday if you don’t get wasted and make out with someone.”

 

To which I replied teasingly with, “Too bad Jenny can’t make it, then,” 

 

“Yeah,” he said, sighing. “How sad.”

 

“It was time we had some bro time together though,” he said, punching me lightly on the shoulder. “Just the two of us.”

 

“Yeah,” I exhaled. The last time we were alone with Andy was the first time we met.

 

Then came the party.

 

It was held at the same place I met Andy, where he found that gun, where he told me he was going to ask Jenny to be his girlfriend. I recognized the place instantly, and I thought Andy did too but he didn’t show any indication of that. I guess it didn’t matter to him as it did to me. Maybe he already forgot.

 

After a few minutes in, the night continued by us sitting on a couch, me quietly sipping shitty beer from a red cup, him chatting with the people around.

 

One of them asked, nodding at me, “What is he, your bodyguard or something?”

 

Another one said, laughing, “Did Jenny send him to make sure you won’t cheat on her?”

 

Andy laughed along with them, but didn’t humor their annoying questions with a real answer. Instead, to my surprise, he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and said “We’re just having a bro time tonight.” Just as he told me earlier. “Right?” he smiled at me. I nodded. Whatever you wish, my king.

 

It went like that for a while before a song he liked started playing and he suddenly got up to dance.

 

He extended his hand towards me. I reluctantly took it, and he harshly pulled me on my feet, causing me to stumble against his body. He caught me before I fell, his grip on my arm tighter, our bodies pressed together. He put his lips next to my ear, “Let's dance,” he said.

 

And so we did, swaying to the beat; so close together, sheepishly grinning at each other.

 

As we danced we sipped our drinks every now and then, and as we drank our bodies got closer. Each time crossing another line, another wall we built around ourselves. Another barrier he didn't let down when Jenny was around.

 

He put his hands on my hips, his fingers cold on my skin under my shirt. My head was spinning because of the alcohol and the dancing so I buried my face in his shoulder, put my hands around his neck. We stayed like that for a song or two, moving slowly but without missing the beat.

 

“You smell nice,” I yelled in his hair. He was reeking of cigarettes and booze and sweat. He laughed. It was a beautiful laugh.

 

Maybe the Andy I had known wasn't completely lost after all.

 

I declared I was going to go pee, yelling in his ear drunkenly, and took off before I was even sure he heard me. He did, apparently. He also followed me, for some reason, which I realized only after I finished my business and saw him in front of the closed door when I turned around.

 

He was laughing. I grinned at him, trying to fight the sudden dizziness but I couldn’t and he was there to catch me, surprising me with how close he was so suddenly. Our eyes met. Now, I could see clearly. He asked me if I was okay. I nodded. He didn’t let go of my arm. I broke into a smile.

 

Just as abruptly as he caught me, he put his hands on the sides of my head, grabbing my face like it would disappear if he didn't, and he kissed me.

 

Not like he kissed Jenny- that was different, but more similar than you’d think. He kissed Jenny like he had something to prove. He kissed me like he wanted to devour me, like a lion eating its prey.

 

I ran my fingers through his hair and kissed him back.

 

I didn't know what I was doing or why. It was just an urge. And we both acted on our urges that night.

 

At some point he grabbed me by the waist and backed until his back hit the door. The impact was so sudden that I almost collapsed against him, and my chest hit his. We kept making out, breathless, and he rocked his hips against mine. The sudden friction made me groan. He laughed at this, then kissed me harder, pressing his crotch to mine.

 

Just when I thought I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen, he broke the kiss. He looked at me, brushed the hair on his forehead back, licked his lips. Then, without breaking the eye contact, he grabbed my wrist and guided my hand inside his jeans.

 

I didn’t pause. I didn’t hesitate. I was doing what I was told, pleasing my king like a good servant. When he decided to return the favor, however, that’s when I stopped.

 

“Why’d you stop?” he mumbled, nibbling at my neck. His voice rough- and I wanted to say I don’t know because I didn’t, I wanted to ask what we were doing because I couldn’t comprehend why I wanted it so bad, and I wanted to ask what he wanted from me. Instead, I picked up the pace, and he rewarded me with a soft moan. After that he buried his face on my shoulder as our movements got faster, and I kept smelling his hair, his hair that reeked of booze and smoke and just a hint of coconut oil. I didn’t know if it was intoxication but those couple of minutes felt like an eternity to me. I was never able to forget that night, regardless of all the alcohol I consumed that only let me remember bits and pieces of it.

 

We cleaned ourselves in silence, fixed our clothes and our hair, only the sound of our breaths were heard- and the background noise of the party I already forgot about. Then, he let out a sigh, said: “I’m dying for a cigarette,” and left the bathroom.

 

As always, I followed.

 

He snatched a pack someone left on a table and smirked when he found out it had some cigarettes in it. He went up to the roof, me in tow, and was kind of annoyed to find a couple making out there. However, when they saw Andy, they broke apart. “Shoo,” Andy said, dismissing his subjects from his throne room with a wave of his hand, and they obeyed, of course they did. We sat at the edge, dangling our legs down. He lit a cigarette and put the pack down between us. I took one as well. I let him light it.

 

He fixed his gaze on the stars, and I fixed my gaze on him. A sudden wave of courage came over me.

 

“Why are you acting like a jerk when Jenny's around?”

 

He shrugged. “'Cause she needs me to be one,” he said, blowing out smoke. “‘Cause it's easier to pretend.”

 

He kept looking at the sky carefully like he was trying to pick out constellations.

 

“You also don’t laugh quite often around her.”

 

Another shrug.

 

“I love it when you laugh,” I said. “You look so alive.”

 

He tried to scoff at that but his smile was genuine. “Babe, you’re drunk.”

 

“So are you.”

 

He looked at me for a second, then just shook his head, averting his gaze back to the stars.

 

“Do you remember the day we met?” he asked, as if I didn’t have the memory branded into my brain. I nodded.

 

“That Andy was different,” he said. I’ve noticed, I wanted to say. I wanted to let him know that I pay attention. “That Andy was weak. That’s why he needed Jenny. To remind him how he needed to be.”

 

“I liked that Andy,” I murmured, partly hoping he wouldn’t hear.

 

He turned his head towards me, and this time, a familiar glint was in his eyes, almost daring me to say it again- as if he would come back when I do.

 

Then I kissed him.

 

I didn’t even know that I wanted to before the very second our lips touched. Somewhat sober, but fully aware of what I was doing, for the first time.

 

He pushed me away, gently, like I did to Jenny that one time.

 

He let out a chuckle that I wasn’t sure what emotion it reflected- was he laughing at me?

 

Then he stood up and left, just like that, without saying another word; leaving me alone on that cold night, on the rooftop of the building where everything started, and where everything would come to an end.