“What's wrong?” Sophie nervously asked, slowly fastening her own seat belt as he started the truck. Had he, she wondered, finally discovered she had deleted some of his texts, the pornographic ones?
“Nothing,” he said before taking in a calming breath as he pulled out of the driveway and letting it out slowly as he turned onto the dark road. “So, tell me, who's gonna sing with you tonight?”
“Um...I don't know if you know him. We sang together the other night. Palmer Kimble?”
“I didn't get to see you sing that night, but I heard you were great. Yeah...I think I remember him from school. Couple of grades above us, right?” he said.
“Just one. He has a band now, kinda,” she said, biting her lip and staring at Ronnie's phone. She picked it up and turned it over as she pulled off her wooly hat.
“Isn't it working okay? I used my charger to charge it for ya. It was totally dead when my mom had it all that time. Our phones aren't that different, but you never can tell what happens when you use somebody else's charger,” she said.
“Works fine. It's the stupid texts I'm getting that's the problem,” he angrily said. “Probably hafta change my number now...before she starts calling me. Dammit!”
“Change your phone number?” she said. “Why?”
He sighed. “I made the stupid mistake of giving it out to some fricken nut job I met at Danfords the other night. She kept bugging me for it. I resisted long as I could. I finally gave it to her when I thought she was drunk enough that she wouldn't get my number right.”
“But she did and now she's...what is it called? Cyber-stalking? Is she... like texting you every few minutes?” Sophie asked.
“That wouldn't be so bad except...it's what she's texting to me that's the problem,” he said.
“Can I see?” Sophie said, tapping on the text icon.
“Don't!” he said reaching for the phone, but he was dangerously swerving off the road and couldn't reach it when Sophie turned her back on him.
Just as she suspected, it was the same person who had texted photos of her boobs—the ones Sophie had deleted-- but this time it was a full length, provocative shot of the girl completely in the buff, her bright red lips puckered in a kiss.
“Wow, she ain't too shy, huh?” she said, dispassionately.
“She's a total psycho. I thought ignoring her would give her a clue that I'm not interested, but...hey, gimme that,” he said, grabbing for the phone, but again he couldn't reach it and still stay on the road. “Come on, Sophie. Don't look at that crap.”
“What? You're afraid I'll get ideas?” she said with a laugh.
“I hope not!” he said. “If you're gonna look at 'em anyway, delete them for me as you go, okay?”
“Really? You haven't even seen some of them. Don't you wanna keep them?” she said, genuinely surprised. Sophie could clearly see Ronnie had not replied to any of them and most were not even opened which gave her hope and made her ridiculously happy.
“Hell no!” he said.
“She's stacked... in a cheap sorta way.... and pretty... if you like all that makeup. Thought that was your type,” she said, gladly deleting dozens of pictures of the girl in varying stages of undress, all of them sent that day.
“My type? Seriously?” he shouted. “You actually think I go looking for girls like that? She doesn't even know me and she's sending that kinda stuff out to me, hundreds of photos of her....”
“Her artfully shaved va-jay-jay?” Sophie said, grimacing as she gladly deleted that one.
“Whatever,” Ronnie said. “She's a total skank. I mean...how many other guys have the same exact pictures, huh? She's likely to end up in a cheap porn movie..or worse. I like girls with a bit more class than that.”
“Oh, like Rachel Blowjob Hamburg I suppose?” Sophie snidely said.
“Dammit, Sophie! Why do ya keep bringing her up?” he said. “Rachel was NOT always like that. You don't know everything about her so don't go talking shit about her. You don't know what she's been through.”
“What are you talking about?” Sophie said, turning to stare at his profile even though it was only illuminated enough to see it when the lights of an oncoming car flooded into the cab—which was not often on this somewhat deserted back road.
“You wouldn't believe it anyway,” he said angrily.
“If you tell me I will believe it,” she said. “I trust you not to lie to me, you know.
He glanced sideways at her and as she seemed sincere, his anger dissipated.“Rachel was not like that when we were together, okay? She was...”
“When you were together? So... it wasn't just...so you were really like boyfriend-girlfriend?” Sophie said, her heart suddenly feeling like it was in a vise.
“Yeah. Thought you knew that,” Ronnie said, debating if he ought to continue. “It was way back in middle school and she was real nice. I mean really nice and sweet and fun and just amazing, so I asked her out. I was shocked when she said yes. I'd never asked a girl out before that. We went to movies and stuff, mostly with our friends as a group so it wasn't like we were serious, but...one day it got...um... serious.”
“Whaddaya mean?” Sophie asked, fearful of the answer.
“We didn't plan it. We were at her house, a group of us, but everybody left to go to some party, but Rachel couldn't go cuz her parents insisted she stay home and... she didn't want me to leave her there alone so... then it was just us two watching TV and...” Ronnie stopped. “I shouldn't be telling you this.”
“Ronnie, come on. It's just me and besides, it's ancient history now. It's okay,” Sophie said, trying to sound more casual than she felt. Really, this was killing her.
After a few minutes of silence he quietly said, “We...did it.”
“Umm... you mean... sex, right?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, sounding rather odd.
Sophie blinked and waited. Surely there must be more to this to make him act so weird about it. “Okay.... Did she get pregnant and have an abortion or something?” she asked.
"Uh...an STD then?"
"Geeze...Nothing like that,” he snapped.
“You said you didn't plan it, so I thought...”
“We didn't, but we weren't stupid,” he said. “She got a condom from her brother's room and... even if it was the first time for both of us it was... nice... real nice.”
Again Sophie wondered about the odd way he said it. “So it wasn't just...” Sophie said, wishing her heart would stop drumming against her chest so fiercely. “So... you actually did like her. Was she the one you said you were in love with?”
Ronnie had started to shake his head, but stopped, realizing that it would be better if Sophie thought Rachel was that girl. “Yeah, but it was middle school and we weren't even sixteen ...so what did we know about love? No, it wasn't love. We just thought it was...or pretended it was. I did like her though...a lot.”
“How ... how long were you guys together?” Sophie said, feeling her stomach plunge.
“Four months, no, it was five. Yeah... September through... it was around Valentine's day when we... when she...” he said, drifted off, going back in time for a moment.
“Why did you break up?” she asked, frowning at the absent look on his face.
“Uh...” he shrugged. “You know how it is in middle school. Nobody goes out with anybody for more than two weeks.”
She gave him a scathing look. “Two weeks isn't exactly five months. Try again, why dontcha?”
“Okay, she got all weird and started picking fights for no apparent reason,” he said. “I didn't know why... until much later.”
“You lasted five months together,” she said, her tone accusing.
He just shrugged again which really ticked her off.
“So, like...did you do it all the time?” she said.
“Do what?” Ronnie said, distractedly.
“How many times did you guys have sex?”
“Oh...uh... twice,” he said, slightly embarrassed.
“Twice??? You were together for five months and...Seriously, that's it?” Sophie said incredulously. “You're lying.”
“We were just kids, Sophie. And it's not like it was the most important thing to us,” he said, running frustrated fingers through his hair, wishing he'd never said anything about this. “We've totally strayed from the point of all this.”
“What point? There was a point?” Sophie said, confused, annoyed and totally ticked off. She never liked Rachel, but now she thoroughly hated her. She was first to have Ronnie, after all... the bitch! No, Sophie had no idea how they veered off onto this particular topic, but now that they had, she, in a morbid sort of way, wanted to know more, everything in fact, even if it killed her.
“The point is Rachel was not a slut back then. She was a nice, normal girl until... It was only after something really bad happened to her that she got all screwed up in the head and she started...”
“What happened to her?”
“I... I can't tell you,” he said.
“Oh, hell no,” Sophie said. “You can't just toss that out there and then not tell me everything.”
Ronnie pulled over on the side of the road and turned to Sophie. “Listen to me. I promised her I wouldn't tell anybody. It's really bad, Sophie. Trust me you do NOT want to know.”
She glared at him.
“Okay, okay, I'll tell you, but you can't say anything to anybody, got me?”
“Who the hell am I gonna tell?” she snapped. “I don't exactly make a habit of talking about Rachel.”
Ronnie slumped in the seat, as if the secret was weighing him down. “Rachel was taken to what she thought was a party by somebody she thought she could trust, but he drugged her and let a bunch of his friends take turns with her.”
Sophie gaped. “How do you know that?” she said.
Ronnie sighed. “I asked her and she told me,” he said. “One day I got up the nerve to just ask her why she...why she...”
“Why she did the whole football team in one infamous night?” Sophie said, derisively.
“Yeah, something like that,” he said grimacing. “I heard she was getting into drugs too. She was spiraling completely outta control. I had to do something.”
“And she told you this story... and you believed it,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. “You can't really be that stupid.”
“She would never lie about something like that, not to me. We had been friends, Sophie, good friends even after we broke up,” he said fiercely. “Yeah we drifted apart, but she knew she could trust me with a secret.”
“But why would she keep it a secret? She should have gone to the police...if it was true.”
“It was true. She was afraid, cuz the guy that drugged her was someone her whole family knew, maybe even a relative. She wouldn't tell me his name, but that's who I think it was. I tried to convince her to tell somebody, a priest, her parents, a teacher or.... anybody.”
“So, why didn't she?”
“Actually, she did. She told her mother, but her mother didn't believe her. She blamed Rachel, called her a liar, a trouble maker and every name in the book. She blamed Rachel for causing trouble in the family.”
“If her own family didn't believe her why should we?”
“Because it makes sense...in a way. That's when Rachel... she became a totally different person when nobody believed her and she...”
“Wait, I don't get it,” Sophie said, stunned. “If she was really raped or whatever it was, why would she do that with all those boys at school?”
Ronnie shrugged. “I won't pretend to understand it either. You'd have to ask Simon,” he said.
“Simon?” Sophie said, incredulous. “Did she have sex with him too?”
“God no, but he's the psychiatrist in training, remember? Only someone like that could make sense of what makes people do what they do ,” he said, exasperated.
“I...I still don't understand...”
“The point is,” Ronnie said loudly, interrupting her. “Until you know what's really going on in somebody's life, you just don't have the right to criticize them, okay?”
Sophie frowned. “Then...what does that mean? I shouldn't delete these photos?” She was still holding his cell phone, and deleted the very last text before he could stop her.
“Oh, no! I want those gone,” he said.
“But we shouldn't criticize this girl for doing this cuz she...what? You're the one that called her a skank, remember? But now you're saying she could be damaged somehow.”
He shrugged. “Well, damaged or not, I still don't want anything to do with her or anybody like that. People like that who desperately need attention-- whether good or bad-- must have something seriously wrong with them to do that so... Let's just say I got enough trouble in my own life to have to deal with someone's else's crazy crap.”
He put the truck back in gear and drove on. Several minutes passed in silence until Sophie broke it. “So...are you and Rachel still friends?"
“Wow, you really are out of the Catalpa Valley loop,” Ronnie said, shaking his head in disbelief.
“I can't believe you don't know, but... Rachel committed suicide, Sophie, so I guess you can say we are not friends anymore,” he said.
“Oh, my God...” Sophie said, covering her mouth with her hands. “Why didn't you say so? My God, Ronnie! When did she...”
“Couple months ago. I thought everybody knew,” he said dully. “It was in the news.”
“I never watch the news. Oh, Ronnie, I'm so sorry,” she said. “I'm so so sorry about everything I said about her.”
“Yeah, well, doesn't matter much now, does it?” he said curtly.
“Of course it matters. She was... she was your friend and... and your first love,” Sophie said, suddenly feeling very sad for him, and miserable for herself.
“Just...I don't wanna talk about it anymore, Sophie...please,” he said quietly “Like ever.”
“Okay,” she said, biting her lip. “Guess that answers my question though.”
“What question?” he asked.
“What your type is,” Sophie said, remembering Rachel's short wavy, black hair, exotic dark eyes and petite frame; exactly the opposite of herself. “Now I know.”
Ronnie remained quiet. She doesn't know anything.
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