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Set the Lamp Afire

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“Dude,” Jeanette bursts into Jerry Trainor’s trailer, practically tripping up the stairs on her way in.

“Jen?” he asks, eyeing her strangely. It’s not uncommon for her to burst in suddenly; she tends to do that a lot. They are what he’d call ‘good friends,’ considering their age difference, but maybe, you know, if she was ten years older, they’d be more than friends.

OK, without lying, he really likes her.

“Have you ever tried vodka gummy bears?” She’s grinning ear to ear, her cheeks burning.

He actually has to think about this. It’s been quite a few years since he’s done vodka-soaked anything, being a little beyond that point in his life – say, like, fifteen years past that. In fact, her asking the question is making him old.

He responds defensively, “Well, yeah, of course I have.”

“Aren’t they amazing?

He looks at her from over his reading glasses (God, his reading glasses) and says, “Aren’t you a little young to be doing that?”

She snorts. “And you never drank before you were twenty-one?”

“Well, no, I mean, yes,” he responds, “but, you know—“

“Just stop,” she says, placing her hand on his face.

Before he has a second to think about it, he licks her hand.

“Ew!” she says, pulling it away, and shaking it off.

He grins. “Sorry.”

“No, you’re not.”

They have this ridiculous brother/sister kind of relationship that he really cherishes. Sometimes, if he’s run out of ideas in the shower, it becomes more than that, and maybe he kind of thinks of her that way (after all, she’s really started to fill out her clothes, and, damn it, he wish he hadn’t known her before, when she was just a kid, because, well, it’s kind of gross, but now, well.) It’s the kind of slippery slope he tries to avoid. But when she’s grinning at him like that –

“Why did you even ask me that question, anyway?” he asks, trying to divert his thoughts.

“Oh, well – Nathan’s birthday was last week, and some of us went out, and one of our friends brought him vodka gummy bears, which, of course, he refused to eat, so on a dare, I ate all of them…”

“You ate all of them?” Jerry is immediately reminded of the time in high school, was it, when his friends dared him to eat a whole tray of Jell-O shots, and how he puked electric blue for the rest of the night. “That probably didn’t end well.”

“No, no, it didn’t,” she says with a half-frown.

Despite his better judgment, he sits down next to her, wrapping his arm around her. “Do you feel better now?” he asks. He can feel her short breath upon his cheek, he’s so close.

“Yeah, yeah, I’d say I do,” she says, barely louder than a whisper.

And just like that, the entire mood changes. “How about now?” he asks, leaning in before he can think better of it, and touches his lips against hers.

Immediately, she responds, reaching up to the back of his neck and pressing back against him. Obviously, he wasn’t the only one who had been thinking about doing that. And holy shit, for a young woman, she knows how to kiss, pressing gently but firmly, then before he knows it, she’s pushing her tongue into his mouth and dancing with his, and, oh God, wow – yeah, he really wants this.

All of a sudden, it feels a little too real, and he pulls back, staring at her.

Her eyes immediately register disappointment before she quickly covers it up. “What?” she asks. “Was I, um--?”

“You weren’t bad,” he immediately responds. “God, you were – I mean, we just can’t, I mean…”

“You mean I’m too young?” she asks, frowning. Suddenly, he’s reminded of her character and how much she can be like Sam in real life.

“Yes,” he says, “that has a lot to do with it. You… have your whole life ahead of you, Jen. You need to be a young person. Not with an old weirdo like me. I … shouldn’t have done that. It wasn’t appropriate.”

“Because I’m too young?”

“Because we work together. And because you’re too young.”

“Wow,” she says, standing up. “So that’s how it is?”

“I’m fucking thirty-five years old. I should be married right now. Most of my friends from high school have two or three kids by now. I shouldn’t be fucking around with underage kids.”

“I’m an adult, asshole,” Jeanette says, already by the door.

He sighs loudly. “You know what I mean.”

“Do I?”

“Jen… I really do like you. I just don’t want to screw up what we have.”

“Which is what?” she asks, frowning even deeper.

“A good working relationship. An awesome friendship. Despite how I might feel about you—“

“How do you feel?” she interrupts.

“That’s not the point.”

“It’s not?” She raises an eyebrow at him, which makes him take a deep breath. Something about that. Shit, he thinks.

“I mean, I—“

Before he can finish the sentence, she’s crossed the room again, her lips atop his, rolling softly, gently, perfectly. He feels his stomach do a full circle right as she steps backwards towards the door. “Think about it,” she whispers to him, walking out the door and closing it behind her.