Home > The Summer That Made Us(7)

The Summer That Made Us(7)
Author: Robyn Carr

“Come on, Charley. I’m too old for these games. We gotta either do it or move on.”

“What games? This isn’t a game! I’m not exactly ready. I’m not on the pill or anything.”

“Why not?” he asked. “Man, you’re the first college girl I’ve ever met not on the pill!”

“I didn’t have a reason to be on the pill!”

“You didn’t have a boyfriend...ever?”

“I’ve had plenty of boyfriends, but never one who threatened to break up with me if I didn’t get birth control!”

“Seriously?” He laughed. Then he grabbed her and kissed her and said, “That’s sweet. But I’m too old for this. We have to get on with it.”

“I told you, I’m not ready...”

“Then let’s get ready,” he said, snuggling her to the ground and going after her mouth with his. “I have protection. I have a condom. Let’s just take our time, how about that?”

“I don’t know...” she said. But the truth was, she was getting turned on and she had begun to have fantasies. She thought about moving out to Boston while he attended Harvard, working while he went to school. She never thought about the fact that she was probably smart enough to get into Harvard herself. She’d killed the SAT; her grades were excellent, always had been. But instead she thought about being his forever girl, then his supportive wife. They’d both be very successful, be a power couple, maybe even have children someday. They’d live in a big rural house, commute to the city, go home to each other every night—a lifelong love affair. They’d have lots of friends, join a club, have parties, go to dances at the club, take trips together.

While she was busy thinking about how ideal their life would be, he was sliding off her shorts and pressing himself against her. He was whispering, Baby, baby, baby. He had his fingers on her, in her, and she was about ready to explode. She tried to ignore the fact that it was a little uncomfortable. He was a little clumsy. Or maybe she was; she was the one without experience, after all. So she snaked her hand down between their bodies to touch him as intimately as he was touching her.

She felt herself because he was pressing right into her.

“Mack,” she said softly. “Where’s the condom?”

“Ugh,” he said. “Crap. Just kiss me a second while I get under control...”

So she did. And while she was kissing him, he was pushing deeper and groaning. He was pushing inside her.

“Mack!” she said, panicked.

He pumped his hips a couple of times. He moaned. “Crap,” he said again. “Oh, man. I shouldn’t have had so much beer. It’s okay.”

“What’s okay?” she asked.

“Nothing really happened,” he said. “It’ll be fine. But you shoulda told me you were a virgin.”

He pulled out and tucked himself away. He helped her pull her shorts up. He kissed her deeply.

“Yeah, I think I did! And something happened, all right,” she said. “And it happened without a condom!”

“Sorry,” he said. “Don’t worry. No one ever gets caught the first time. It’ll be fine.”

She sat up and slugged him in the arm. “‘I have protection,’” she mimicked. “‘I have a condom!’” she said. “You idiot!”

He flopped over onto the grass, his hand on his forehead. “Don’t bitch, Charley, okay? I got a little hot. Your fault, you turned me on so much. But I’m telling you—it’ll be okay. Trust me.”

“Fat chance I’ll ever trust you again!” She got to her feet and walked through the bushes to the lake.

“Come on,” he cried. “Come on!”

“Up yours!”

“Charley,” he called, following her. “Hey, come on!”

But she walked right into the lake and began to swim.

Charley swam across the lake in the moonlight, unable to cry after the first half mile. Waseka was a large lake and from the party site to the Berkey cabin was about a mile. The girls were fish, all of them, but swimming at night while under the influence and emotionally upset was a very dangerous thing to do. Charley knew it but really didn’t care at that moment if she died.

She should have at least made him say he loved her first. He couldn’t get a piece of her fast enough. And then he berated her for being a virgin? She would have to rethink growing old with him.

“You went all the way, didn’t you?” Hope whispered that night.

“Shh, don’t let the little girls hear you,” Charley answered. “They’re big mouths. I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? How can you not know?”

“It...it happened so fast. It hurt. I wasn’t that sure...”

“Did he...did he rape you?”

“Shh. No, I said okay. But I shouldn’t have and he didn’t use anything...or pull out...or...”

“Oh, Charley!”

Charley was upset by what happened and she needed time to think things through. She hung close to home, where she got a clear reminder of why she had been avoiding the place. Her mother was irritable and preoccupied; Aunt Jo was more spacey than usual. There was another couple who Uncle Roy had brought and they stayed on, upsetting the balance of things for a while. It was some Russian guy and his much younger girlfriend and things were tense for some reason. Charley didn’t understand why but they created drama. Then, before Charley could get a grip on her own issues, the Russian guy took off, abandoning his girlfriend, and Lou took the young woman to the bus station in Brainerd, and after that Lou and Jo did nothing but bicker. Lou was in a foul temper that rose every ten minutes; you didn’t dare spill or talk back or leave a mess—she was constantly on a tear. And Jo was withering, clearly very upset, probably with Lou. When asked what was wrong, the malady was described as “family trouble.”

“Well, no shit,” Charley muttered under her breath. Though no one knew exactly what had set the sisters at odds that summer, it was definitely made worse by the strange couple. Years later Charley realized that up to that point, that summer, her mother always seemed to be capable and decisive. Aunt Jo had always been sweet, supportive and attentive. They bickered as sisters will but rarely, and making up quickly. That summer they both fell apart. They became unaccountably useless as caretakers.

Charley described her own withdrawn behavior, which was barely noticed by her mother and aunt, as cramps. Not that anyone cared.

After about a week of thinking things through, she went back to the party spot across the lake. She asked several waiters where Mack was. “Gone.”

“That fast?”

“Didn’t hang around to talk it over.” One of the girls she knew said, “You should’ve told him you were only sixteen, Charley. Turns out you scared the shit out of him. He hit the trail.”

“Who said I was sixteen?” she asked.

“Your cousin Hope.”

The worst thing, even though Charley had made up most of the biography she’d given Mack, was it never once occurred to her that he might make up some of his. She heard he was not twenty-two but nineteen. He was not a graduate or even a college student and law school was not in his future. At least not anytime soon. His daddy was not a rich lawyer but a humble farmer and he didn’t have any way of escaping his fate if he had sex with the underage granddaughter of a superior court judge.

“You should’ve told Mack ol’ Grandpa was a judge,” said one of the waiters Charley had known for two summers. “You shoulda seen his face. I didn’t know a person could get that color!”

“I didn’t know anyone knew that!” Charley said.

“Hope told me. Hope told anyone who would listen about her rich, powerful grandpa.”

Well, that’s just great! Charley thought.

Gone. Gone. Gone.

Charley’s heart didn’t break because Mack had run off and left her lonely, nor was she in a panic about him getting in trouble because she wasn’t going to accuse him of anything. Nor did she hurt because he was a liar who had used her. The lesson that hit her in the chest with the weight of a hundred-pound boulder was that she’d fallen for it. That was something that would stay with her forever—she could take almost anything but looking stupid. That was the worst pain she could imagine.

When it was just the six cousins and their mothers, no daddies or grandparents or unwelcome guests present, the four oldest girls slept in sleeping bags on the screened porch, their mothers slept in the big bedroom together—when they were speaking, that is—and the little girls, Bunny and Bev, got to sleep in the upstairs loft, which had two bedrooms. Of course they wanted to be outside on the porch with the big girls, but they were exiled as “babies.” So, Charley tucked into her sleeping bag night after night, sometimes weeping soft, silent tears as she wondered how she could have been so easily duped by such a well-known male trick. She rarely fell asleep before dawn. She had dark circles under her eyes. She wasn’t hungry. But only Hope noticed. Only Hope tried to console her. And as far as Charley was concerned, Hope had caused the trouble by bragging about the judge.

Even though Charley and Hope were best friends, they were nothing alike. They were as different as Jo and Lou. Charley wanted to be Barbara Walters or at least Jane Pauley, and Hope wanted a nice, rich husband. “Rich as Grandpa Berkey and ten times as handsome,” she would say. So, to help Charley with her tears Hope would say, “Ohhh, don’t cry, Charlene, you’ll find another guy—a better one!”

It was only a couple of weeks after Charley lost her virginity that Bunny drowned. And suddenly the summer was over. The summers at the lake to come never would.

* * *

The lake house transformed under the fierce and yet gentle hand of Melissa Stewart. Charley often thought if she’d had an assistant like Melissa during her talk show days, her life would have been almost carefree. During the month of April Charley returned to the house on the lake three times and every time she saw such growth and improvement she was completely impressed.

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