I pulled one of the joints and my crumpled book of matches out of the pocket of my t-shirt. I wet it between my lips, cupped a match, lit it and took a good, long drag, and promptly started hacking, the smoke squirting out of my clenched lips and even my nose. I finally gave up, exhaled as hard and long as I could and sucked in a lung full of the warm, moist ocean air. I handed it over to Della, who I could hear was stifling a laugh.
"Cheap Mexican. Right. Are you sure it's really grass?"
She had draped her hand over mine in the pitch dark, slid her fingers down and snagged the joint and took it away. I looked over as she took a drag, the orange glow just barely lit her features against the night. She and Karen really looked so much alike, but Della's features were ever so slightly sharper, at least in this light and at this angle. No matter, they were both stupidly pretty. Not beautiful, not cute. Pretty. As the glow faded into an orange planet orbiting back in my direction in the dark, I couldn't help but wonder why she wore makeup at all. Karen never did. She didn't need it. I didn't think big sister did either. I poked around in the general direction of the glowing end of the joint, managed to snag it and brought it back to my mouth. I took a shorter, lighter pull this time and managed to hold it in. I pushed it back and realized that I was sitting on the two bottles of beer that were still in my back pocket, good thing we were sitting in the sand. I rocked to the right and pulled the first one out and when I rocked to the left, I bumped into Della, who was actually a lot closer than I thought.
"Sorry, I was getting the beers out of my pockets. You want one?"
"Hell yeah, gotta wash this crap down with something. You got a church key?"
Fuck. I should have grabbed my keys from the kitchen counter, I had one on there.
"Uh, nope. Sorry."
My eyes were either finally getting used to the dark, or the grass was having an effect on my pupils, but I was able to actually see something moving to my left, it was Della, getting up on her knees and pulling off her belt. She deftly pried off the cap on a bottle with her cowboy buckle, handed it over to me, popped the other one, dropped her belt in the sand and sat back down.
"Cheers", she said, "Here's to my kid sister's guy".
"And to you and your kid sister", I replied and sucked down half the bottle in one draught. Damn, that tasted good. Should have grabbed more than two. I sat the bottle in the sand inside my crossed legs, handed the joint back to her and took out my cigarettes. I shook one out of the pack, lit it and savored the first drag.
"Aren't you going to offer me one."
"Sure. Sorry, didn't know you smoked the real things. They're unfiltered, that ok?"
"Yep. We used to hock my dad's all the time. Old Golds. You think this grass is rough..."
I lit one for her and handed it over. We sat in quiet for a while, smoking and drinking and listening to the waves. A few hundred yards to the North someone had started a fire on the beach. I stared at it for a long time, watching the flames and sparks, watching it disappear then reappear as someone or someones walked back and forth in front of it. I also realized that I was pretty stoned, even after just a few pulls on that first number. I broke my trance with the fire, turned back to Della and said,
"So, we were going to talk, weren't we? I really can't think of anything to say, so why don't you go ahead?"
She drew in a deep breath and let it out, put her elbow on her knee and rested her head in her upturned hand, facing me.
"Ok. You know, I was only busting your balls back there, Buster. I've heard so much about you for the past eight or nine months that I think I know you better than Karen does. I think the longest she's ever been with a guy has been two or three months. You must be something special."
She let that hang long enough that it was a cue for me to say something, so I did.
"No, not really. If anything, I'm terribly ordinary. She, on the other hand, is something..."
"Yeah, that she is. What do you know about her? You didn't know about me, so I'm wondering just what she's deigned to tell you at all. Light another one, will you?"
"Mexican or Camel?"
"One of each, thanks. That shit really needs a chaser and I'm out of beer already."
I lit another joint, handed it over and lit another cigarette. We passed them back and forth for a few minutes, that rancid crap was damned harsh, the cigarette smoke tempered it a bit. I handed her my bottle, there was about an inch or so left in it.
"Here, you can finish this."
"Your looks belie you, Buster. The man on the street would think you were a hard partying, smoke 'em, hump 'em and run type with that hair and your clothes."
"Yeah, well the hair is a convenient security blanket, it helps me to blend in. As far as the clothes go, well, I wear what I'm comfortable in and, what's wrong with my clothes, anyway?"
"Oh, nothing... let's see... I think I remember what you're wearing; a green Army t-shirt with a Nixon/Agnew button stuck to it, a pair of jeans that could probably pass for a patchwork quilt, a bunch of knotted bandannas for a belt and a pair of work boots that are painted gold with a silver star painted on the toes of each one. And that ratty Stetson. Yeah, you blend in... I think it's the John Lennon glasses..."
I suddenly felt uncomfortable about myself and wondered what she was really thinking about me.
"The sartorial arts were never my forte."
"No shit. So, tell me what you know about Karen."
I laid back in the sand with my hands behind my head, my beat up Stetson on my stomach and looked up into the mist that seemed to be getting a bit brighter and bluer. I was wondering what time it actually was when Della picked up my hat, dropped it on her head, swung herself over me, dropping down with not much ease onto my middle, making me expel all my breath and a sound like a moaning dog. She leaned down to take my cigarettes and matches out of my shirt pocket. I tried to breath back in as I watched her light a smoke, shake out the match and drop it in the sand. She tilted her head back and blew the smoke up to join the salt mist. She put her left arm across herself, propped her right elbow on it so the cigarette was at mouth height, looked down at me and said,