The Strong Force

This is from something I’m writing right now. It’s just an excerpt of a longer work, and it’s pretty rough at the moment. I follow a “write fast, edit slow” mantra. I’m not sure where blogging fits into that, but it’s definitely before the “edit slow”.

The day before camp was over and everyone left, he was sitting in a group of friends around the fire. They were talking about something important or something funny, either way, not it was not something particularly memorable. He looked up for a moment during a pause in the conversation, and there she was, looking back. He held her gaze for a few uncomfortable seconds, then looked away. When he sneaked another glance, she was gone.

A short staring match, but an impression that could not be unmade. She was tall, almost as tall as he was, but angular in a way he would never be. A triangular face, topped by a thick, unruly frizz of un-quality-girl-short hair.

She tapped him on the shoulder. “I need to talk to you,” she said.

He, unused to the attention of women, simply stared at her.

“Over there,” she said.

He got up. She walked him over to a gentle grass hill sloping toward the lake and sat down. “Let’s look at the stars,” she said.

He didn’t say anything, simply sat down and looked at the stars. He wasn’t sure if there was anything to say. He didn’t know what cues to take, if there were any cues to take at all. He simply lay on his back looking at the stars, with her an appropriate distance away. Not close enough for anyone to get any ideas, to break through the veil of innocence.

“I want to tell you something,” she said. “I want to tell you something and I don’t want you to freak out.”

“Okay,” he said. “I won’t freak out.”

“You don’t know my name, do you?” she asked.

“No,” he said. “ But I’ve seen you around.”

“I’ve seen you around too, and I know your name,” she said. “I’ve seen the way you look at the Bible girls.”

“Bible girls?” he repeated.

“The spiritual ones. The ones with the Bibles.”

“Oh,” he said, “I call them the quality girls.” It seemed odd to tell her this. It was not something he had said out loud before.

“You should stop looking at them,” she said.


She took his hand, which had been against the fading warmth of the ground and the sparsity of grass. She took it without warning, without asking, her palm against the back of his hand, the warmth of it surprising, the accelerando of his heartbeat more surprising still. He did not resist as she took it and laid it against the flatness of her stomach.

“You should stop looking at them… and start looking at me,” she said.

He did look at her then, at the profile of her face against the moonlit brightness of the water. He decided that his heartbeat had risen at the surprise of the situation, at the shock of her forwardness. There was no desire there, he told himself.

“Why?” he said again.

“God,” she said. “God told me that I’m going to be with you.”

While she invoked God with her mouth, her hands told a different story. Still holding his hand under hers, she began moving it along her stomach, coasting the smooth cotton of her shirt, over a button and halting at the waist of her jeans.

“I am going to be with you.” She said it with certainty, as if the future was laid out.

Before she could guide his hand any further south in the presence of anyone who cared to glance down at that gentle hill sloping into the lake, he snatched his hand away.

His voice shook as he spoke, trying to be as gentle as possible. “I don’t even know your name,” he said. “And I don’t think God talks to people about me.”

She didn’t say anything for a long time. Then she got up, walking away, leaving him there, looking up at the infinity of stars swimming the in the clarity of an atmosphere that seemed to have completely disappeared.

He saw her the next day loading suitcases into her car. She did not look in his direction. She did not look in any direction in particular, it seemed, intent on the task at hand. He imagined hers a purposeful focus, a directed non-engagement, but he had no way to be sure.

He wondered if he should say something to her, or approach her to apologise. For what, he wasn’t sure. Either way, he did none of those things. He drove away from the camp with the others, sure he would never see her again.