I couldn't keep looking up at her. I turned my head and looked up the beach at the remnants of the bonfire that was so enticing before, now it was just a smokey pile in the chilly mist that was fighting a last hurrah against the coming of the day. It was still pretty dark, but the essence of day was coming quick upon the scene. I groped my shirt pocket for my cigarettes that weren't there. Damn. I really wanted a smoke. Now what? While pondering this latest dilemma, I felt her poke me in the chest. I turned back to look at her, she had lit another one and was holding it out for me.
"Here. It's the last one. It's yours..."
I took a drag and blew the smoke sideways between my lips and turned my eyes back up to her. I took in a deep breath and was going to say something when she beat me to it.
"One more time. Well...?"
I switched the smoke to my left hand, pushed my glasses up with my right and started to rub my eyes. Maybe when I opened them again, she'd be gone and I could go back to Karen's and get some sleep and maybe when I woke up, this would all be some bizarre fever dream or maybe Jake had dosed by coffee with one of his sixties wonder drugs and this was some weird trip... I moved my fingers from my eyes, opened them and she was still sitting there, but now that she had finished her smoke, her arms were crossed and she looked positively menacing. She had that same damned squinty eyed, bottom lip stuck out thing happening that her sister did when she was pissed. Ok, time to be a fucker...
"Del, or Della or whatever the hell you like being called, just what the fuck do you want me to say? I know enough about Karen to know I really like her and I know as much about her as she's wanted to tell me and I don't think I want to know any more, not right now and probably not ever. And I can't fucking breathe, do you think you can get off me?"
She reached down, pinned my shoulders into the sand and bent down and whispered in my face,
"What's the matter, you afraid of something?"
"I think I'm fucking afraid of you. What the fucks with you, anyway? Are you always like this or is this a little game between you and your sister?"
"No. No game. I don't play games."
She straightened up, pushed herself up to standing, side-stepped over me and reached out hand.
"Come on, get up."
I took her offer and steadied myself with her grip as I shakily got vertical. Damned weed. I felt like I was going to pass out and hurl at the same time.
"You, ok, Buster? You look a little sick."
"Yeah, I just got up too fast. You sure this isn't some sick little game? It's sure playing like one."
"I told you, I don't play games... She does."
"Stop. Right there, just stop."
"It's the truth," she practically yelled in my face. "She's left a trail of dead since we were in seventh grade when she figured out what that thing between her legs was really good for..."
I shut my eyes and blew out a long breath. Why the hell was this happening? This was a year and a half ago in Jersey, all over again. I'm such a sucker. I really am. And stupid. I'm a stupid sucker. I shook free of her grasp on my wrist, turned and started to walk back to the street, trying not to trip and fall on my face in the sand. I felt like I was walking through knee deep snow. It was barely dawn and it was already hot and I was sweating like anything and my head was throbbing and all I wanted to do was just go find some place dark and quiet to sit down and throw up and cry and punch something or someone and, and just, I didn't know, maybe just die. Fuck me. Sideways.
"Hey!", I heard her calling behind me. I kept on walking.
"Hey!", she was closer now, sounding like she was running to catch up.
"Hey! You forgot your fucking hat."
I stopped and let her catch up with me. She walked around in front of me, holding out my hat and said,
"I'm sorry. I didn't do that to hurt you. I don't really care what you know about Karen, but you needed to know that."
"Oh, no, I didn't need to know that. You're more fucking heartless than she could ever be. You're fucking evil. Leave me alone."
I tried to step sideways beyond her and she stepped in front of me again. I leaned down to her face and said,
"You're really pissing me off right now, get the fuck out of my way."
She took a few steps back and let me start to walk past her. I didn't look at her as I passed, I just kept walking.
"You're not the one that's going to get hurt this time, Buster. You have no idea..."
I stopped and looked up into the brightening and clearing air above me.
"I have no idea? What does that mean?"
"What, are you fucking kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? She's out of her fucking mind in fucking love with you, or tell me, haven't you noticed? Fuck, man, you're all she talked about when she was home a while ago. 'He did this' and 'He did that' and holy crap, man. Why do you think I came out here? Huh?"
"I have no idea what you're doing here, other than to fuck things up."
"Heh. I came out here to save her ass. I came out here to talk her into dumping you and to take her home. But that's not going to happen. Let me ask you, Buster, are you in love with her?"
I turned around to face her and grabbed her arms. I really just wanted to slap the shit out of her.
"You know, Della, you're sure not your fucking sister. Not by a long shot. Why don't you go back to New Mexico and leave us alone? This big sister shit isn't cutting it."
I let go, left her standing there and continued walking back to the street, which was now busy with the Saturday strollers and the early morning beach crowd making their way to the sand to spend another day in the sun. I made my way back onto the sidewalk and started walking South, back toward Jake's place with my hands jammed in my pockets and my head down, so my hat would hide my face from everyone I passed. I crossed the street and went into the drug store next to the SafeWay Mart and bought a pack of cigarettes. As I was paying for them I took the two joints that were still in my shirt pocket and handed them to the little girl behind the counter, who was wearing a gauzy, Indian style hippie shirt, obscenely low cut jeans and had a mouth full of braces and said,
"Here. Have a fucking party tonight. And don't ever fall in love."
She gave me a bewildered look, flashed a metal smile at me and said,
"Hey, thanks man. I will and I won't."
"Good for you."
I turned and heeled it out the door and continued South. I needed some coffee. I really needed some coffee...