It was late on a school night and dark. Dark like only a new moon can make it. The air was crisp and cold. The weatherman had warned of a freeze that night. Me, Joaquin Cormican, his sister Marty, and her friend Donna Bingham had snuck out and were roaming the streets drinking, toking, and smoking.
Joaquin was 16 years old; hard and wiry with the leathery skin of an outdoorsman. He had shoulder length straight blonde hair run through with a shock of pure white about two inches wide that began at his hairline over his right eye and ran back. He always kept a nickel bag tucked in his boot.
Marty was his twin. She was slight of build like Joaquin, but pale skinned with red curly hair. She had the white streak too and it mirrored her brothers, on the left side. She fancied ‘big bell’ hip huggers and loose tops with scoop necks. She was the reason I hung out with her brother.
Donna was the shortest of us all but she teased her dark brown hair to appear taller. She hung out with Marty for access to Joaquin.
After a bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple and a couple of fatties we jumped the fence at the high school and made our way to the bleachers. Joaquin and Donna slunk into the shadows and Marty and I sat on a lower row talking in the dark. I was too scared to even hold her hand. We talked about school and Coach Hernandez’ History class. We agreed that football coaches had no business teaching American History. Marty was shamelessly flirting with me but I was too scared and stupid to realize it. I let the opportunity slip through my fingers and eventually she gave up.
“Joaquin,” she yelled, “let’s go. I want to go by the haunted house.”
A few minutes later he and Donna emerged from beneath the bleachers, slightly disheveled and passing a joint as big as my finger back and forth between them. Joaquin took a big toke and handed it to his sister who did the same and handed it to me. We sat in the chill and polished it off before we made our way to the fence. Joaquin boosted Donna and then followed her over. Marty started over but stopped near the top.
“Gimme a push, TN.” She said as she looked over her shoulder and smiled mischievously.
I did; and I touched her butt doing it. It was the greatest night of my life. I could have died happy right then, but I’m glad I didn’t because the night just kept getting better. About halfway to Piedras Street and the haunted house she quietly, unceremoniously took my hand and intertwined her fingers with mine. We held hands all the way there.
At the haunted house we peeked through the high, unkempt hedge that surrounded the property. Everything was dark and scary, the way it always was. Marty looked cool but I noticed she clutched my hand a little tighter than she had been. We worked our way through the hedge and moved towards the back of the house, Joaquin leading the way with Donna right behind. Marty and I held hands and followed them obliviously. Suddenly Joaquin stopped.
“Oh, shit,” Donna said.
“What?” I piped in; annoyed that Marty had dropped my hand. Then I saw the light glowing from the back window of the house. My mouth went dry and I tried to swallow.
“I’m outta here,” squeaked Donna and she hurried back the way we had come.
“Wait up,” Joaquin whispered after her, then turned to his sister, “I can’t let her go off by herself,” he said. “You two stick together.” He faded into the darkness after his girlfriend leaving Marty and me alone at the back of the property.
“Whattaya think?” she asked.
“I dunno, you?”
“I think you should sneak up and peek in the window.”
“I don’t know, Marty. Who do you think is in there?”
She put her hands on the sides of my head and looked me in the eyes, “I will show you my boobies if you go peek in that window.” She prompted.
“Oh,” I said, somewhat in shock. I looked at the front of her shirt and then back at her face. She nodded her head and I contemplated the offer. But I must have been too slow.
“I will let you see me naked!” she sweetened the incentive, goading me to action, but I still must have hesitated a bit too long because as I began to turn toward the house she offered further encouragement, “you can touch em, if you want.”
I finished my turn and looked back at her over my shoulder, nodding my head. I moved quickly towards the haunted house and stood on my toes to peer over the sill of the back window into the mysteriously lit room.
I must have made some noise when I looked through the dirty pane of glass. I could make out the silhouettes of two people inside and immediately they turned their flashlight directly on me. I fell back into the weeds as the door burst open and they ran out into the yard laughing.
It was Joaquin and Donna. It had all been a trick. I was mortified when I sprang up and ran all the way home where I quietly crawled back in my bedroom window and sat on the floor leaning against the wall below the window. Wallowing in teenage angst and self pity I sat there turning to mush as the night deepened. I sat there until I heard a soft tapping on my window.
I slowly raised my head and looked out. Marty Cormican stood alone and naked inches from the glass signaling me to open the window. I did.
“Are you crazy?” I asked her, “You could freeze out there. Look at you; you’re covered in goose bumps.”
She crawled through the window clattering to the floor when her foot got caught. We both froze and listened for my parents, afraid that the noise might have woken them.
When we heard nothing from down the hall I looked back down at Marty. She was beautiful, “What are you doing?”
“I gave my word,” she said.
She more than kept her promise that night and we dated till we finished high school.
Marty went off to State and I got drafted.
We sorta drifted apart when I was in Vietnam.
I saw Joaquin a couple of times when I was there but he never came back. His name is engraved on that wall in DC. I’ve been back to see it. I know it’s there.
I kept signing up for more tours but after six years my dad convinced me that I was probably pushing my luck. I took my discharge and came home. I saw Marty about three months after I got back. She was married to Jim Barnett and working for the phone company.
She said she was happy but only her mouth was smiling when she told me that. Her eyes were blank, expressionless.
She had lost so much.
Too much fun!