The Less-Than-Magnificent Ambersons
(Fiction, Written for class at Ball State University, 2013)
You never think that falling in love is going to happen to you. You tell yourself that it’s not in the cards. At this age it’s just supposed to be about sex, right? I’m 17 years old. What more could anyone want from me? I work at Texas Roadhouse, I live with my drunk of a father, and I smoke weed 7 days a week. It’s not like women are lining up to date me, least of all someone like Sarah. I’d known her since the third grade and to be honest, she was infuriating. She was loud and bossy, never letting me get a word in. I grew up as the class clown and with every joke came one of Sarah’s famous eye rolls. I figured she was born with that stick up her ass. Nothing about her appealed to me, except of course those ridiculously beautiful green eyes. It also helped that her ass was perfection. I’m a guy, what can I say?
It was late July when I caught the aforementioned virus. I had plans to go to this campy church festival with my friends. It was a stupid tradition that we had going: get high, eat cotton candy, and sneak into the poker tables. These plans were ruined because Jerry just had to invite Sarah. What a fun night, I thought, she’s not going to let us do any of that.
“Explain the thought process,” I said to Jerry while we waited outside Sarah’s house.
“She’s my friend? I don’t know what else to tell you. Since when do you dislike Sarah?”
“I don’t dislike her, I just think she’s a wet blanket.”
Jerry shook his head in disagreement.
“Could she take longer?” I moaned.
“Bro, calm down.”
Sarah came running out of the house, her stringy brown hair blowing past her. She was wearing the most flattering pair of jean shorts known to man, giving her legs the appearance of being three times longer than usual. Her basic red v-neck allowed her blue bikini top to graze over her collarbones. I shook the vision of her untying the knot of fabric behind her neck, letting the straps fall to the ground along with the rest of the garment. I clearly didn’t shake the thought quickly enough. I came to reality with Sarah next to me in the car.
“Hello?” she yelled into my ear.
“No need to shout. I’m alive with two working ear drums.” I stuck my finger in my left ear. “Well, maybe one now.”
There it was. That famous eye roll. It was going to be a long night.
Tradition number one was a little pre-game toke, but since Sarah was completely against drugs, we decided to skip that part. Tradition number two was eating as much fair food as possible. I didn’t think Sarah would really participate given her recent development.
“Guys, look at my stomach,” she demanded. We obliged.
“What am I looking at here?”
“My two pack, duh! I’ve been working so hard on this!”
“You look great, Sarah!” Jerry was just feeding her ego I think.
Sarah strutted into the festival with pride, shaking those hips with every step. When we got inside, she wouldn’t stop drooling over those potato chip twirly things. And candy apples. And any other fried object.
“Didn’t you just lose weight? Why exactly would you want to ruin that?” I asked her. She immediately punched me in the gut.
“Well that was just rude!” Sarah walked farther ahead of me after that, which gave me the heavenly and unfortunate opportunity of staring at her ass. I didn’t know what was happening to me. This girl is awful! Why on Earth am I thinking about her naked? She once again drew me out of my hormonal coma by screaming, “Hey slow pokes! I want to murder ya’ll!” She gestured towards the water gun race. Lord, help us all.
Sarah had a competitive edge unlike any other woman I’d met. I imagined she came out of the womb trying to beat someone at something. Asking the nurses to check out her baby fat like it was any kind of accomplish. I, however, felt up to the challenge of taking her down. We played one completely over-prices round and I won, of course. Determined, Sarah paid for us to play again. She won. She pointed at this stuffed bear to claim as her prize. The swamp guy running the game told her it wasn’t worth her winnings. Sarah attempted to argue with the man, but Jerry and I distracted her with those potato chip twirls.
As she ate, she jammed along with the music from the Christian cover band butchering the Gin Blossoms. I could see her getting happier with every crunch of the fried vegetable. If this is all it takes to sedate the beast inside her, I was content. After demolishing the food in front of us, I suggested we take a stroll through the flea market they had set up inside. The heat was really getting me.
When we went inside, Sarah was looking around at every hand-knitted baby hat with intense curiosity. Ignoring the dusty surface, she touched every broken toy just to see if it would magically work again. I caught myself staring again. Something about her smiling at these insignificant trinkets made me think maybe she wasn’t such a bad person. Maybe I just didn’t see her in the right light.
“Can I have this?” Sarah pointed at a framed movie poster reading, The Magnificent Ambersons. It was clearly from a few generations back.What could she possibly do with this frame? Was I missing something? I didn’t know what else to say except, “I’ll get it for you.”
“Oh my gosh, thank you!”
She took the poster under one arm and returned to her strut down the hallway. I shook my head at what I had just done. I could feel the smile on my face lasting a little too long. I made eye contact with Jerry. He knew.
Sarah led us down the rocky path lined with fair games to a small booth in the back. It was being run by a young woman covered in tattoos and dressed in a camouflage tank top revealing the majority of two amazing breasts. Sarah motioned me to sit down next to her in these tiny black folding chairs. The sun was going down and the humidity had made Sarah’s hair get curlier by the hour. Behind those brown curls I noticed the sign for the booth: ‘Hair Color and Braiding’. What have I gotten myself in to?
“Can you give me a pink streak? I’ve always wanted one.” Sarah’s eyes tried to avoid the rack staring back at her.
“Of course, darlin’!” The women was talking even louder than Sarah.
“I guess I’ll take one too,” I said to the woman.
Sarah immediately whipped her head around to look me in the eyes. Her face was sparkling with delight. I couldn’t break contact with her eyes, so green and so large.
“Yeah! Let’s do this!” Sarah yelled like she was at a Monster Truck rally.
We sat there as Jerry took blackmail photos on his phone. The woman braided this small piece of pink faux hair into Sarah’s hair as she told us tales of her husband who won’t support her cosmetic career. When she finished with Sarah, she moved over to me with a can of hairspray. The woman ran her fingers through my bushy curls, putting her chest directly in front of my face. My eyes were locked on Sarah instead. She was flipping her hair over her shoulder repeatedly to see the small pink strands.
“Ya’ll are real cute together,” the women said. Jerry immediately started laughing. I shot him a look.
“We aren’t together. Just friends,” I assured her.
“Uh huh. If my husband and I were as cute together as ya’ll maybe I’d have a kid by now.”
I didn’t know what to say. I looked to Sarah for a cue. She was still playing with her hair, unaware of the conversation. When she finally came back to the conversation she demanded the woman, “Oo! Give him a faux hawk!”
I reluctantly allowed this to happen. There I was, a six foot four, seventeen-year-old with a pink faux hawk. I didn’t let the shame get to me. Sarah’s grin was worth it.
Jerry continued on his picture taking spree and begged for a shot of me and Sarah with our pink hair and movie poster. The flash was bright and blinding, similar to my emotions at the time. I reviewed the picture of Jerry’s phone. What a couple! Sarah’s petite form posing with her hand on her hip and my grand stature of 200 pounds taking up the frame. I looked ridiculous. She looked stunning. Pure happiness could be seen clearly. Her cheeks were glowing red with joy and a days worth of sun burn. Gorgeous.
To this day, I have that picture on my wall, right next to the poster of the Magnificent Ambersons. She gave it to me a few weeks later as a memento of that night. My friends told me I was crazy. I knew I was crazy. Sarah made me crazy. I knew that it was going to be worth it, though. And it was.