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What Happens Inside, Stays Inside


by Teri Matthews

Bop, deem dum… bop-bop doom deem dum….

Natalie’s cell phone rang with the ringtone she’d set two years ago. She sang along as if she was Beck himself, “Cell phone’s dead, lost in the desert…” and air guitar, “beer neer neer neer neer nyer-nyer!” She tucked her coppery brown hair behind her ear.
“Hey Nat. What are you doing?” her mom asked.
“Not much. Staring at the dining room table. I might make some cookies.”
“That’s nice. Did you call your father for father’s day?”
“Oh shit! I forgot!” Natalie winced.
“Good thing I called then.”
“Yeah, thanks. I guess I better call him now.”
“Ok, you do that,” then in her usual sarcastic, passive aggressive tone, “Love you!”

“Byyyye Mom,” Natalie replied as she rolled her eyes.

After she wished her dad a happy father’s day at work, she flopped on the couch and tried to figure out if she really wanted to make cookies. The thought of all the work it required made her think twice about it.

Just then her phone made noise again, only this time it was a text message from her friend, Ken.

“Having a party tonight. Can you make it? Miss you!” it read.

Strange, she thought. Ken has a girlfriend, why would he say something like that?

She pondered the high frequency of men showing interest in her lately regardless of her relationship status or theirs. People just don’t seem to have boundaries anymore. However, she shrugged it off and thought perhaps she was just reading too much into it.

She replied, “Yeah, I think I will actually make it this time!”

Two minutes later, “Awesome! Can’t wait to see you!”

Natalie sighed.

It really didn’t help that Ken was exceptionally good looking. Tall, dark, handsome, you know all those features that girls like. Only he had a piercing in his lip and liked to spike his dark hair up. But then again, most of the guys she knew did that to their hair. Either way, he wasn’t bad on the eyes. Natalie threw a magazine on the floor, stuck her tongue out at the phone and spit out a plblplll noise in inevitable irritation at the injustice of it all. But she got over it pretty quickly and went to pick out something to wear later that night.

After Natalie’s boyfriend got home from work, he declined on the invitation and told her to go ahead and have a good time without him. Indifference. He had confided in her before that he didn’t have much in common with Ken and all his friends and so Natalie grabbed her purse, kissed him goodbye and went out the door.

Once in the car, she turned on some music to get her in the mood for a good time. A bit of rock here, a bit of funky break beats there, and of course a montage of totally awesome 80s for that feel good vibe.

About twenty minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot behind Ken’s apartment and walked up to the back entrance. As she approached the door, her heels sinking a bit into the damp soil, she felt the flutter of excitement at seeing Ken’s face. She let herself in the sliding glass door and proclaimed, “I’m here!” She was greeted with hellos and smiles along with some nods from those whom she didn’t know.

Natalie looked in the crowd for Ken, trying not to look too keen on greeting him lest Bridget, his girlfriend, see her and suspect an attraction. This is another one of those psychological games we play in our society. One can not help when they are attracted to another, but if that person is taken, well you better hide it from the world, or else. The funny thing about that is that the guilt you have just for thinking about it, makes you act strange and you end up totally avoiding the person you are attracted to. Natalie pondered this concept and wondered if it would be more obvious if she flirted with Ken or if she avoided him completely and blushed if he looked at her. How paranoid we’ve become. Everybody should just fuck everybody else and accept that we are mostly animals.

Ken emerged from the crowd and Natalie smiled and opened her mouth wide, shouting in delight, “Ken!”

Ken smiled a wide open mouthed smile as well and rushed over to hug her.

“I’m so glad you could make it!” he swung his beer around. “You want something to drink? We’ve got cheap beer, wheat beer, vodka, Bailey’s, Jaeger….whatever you want! Just go ahead and grab somethin’. Oh excuse me, I’ll be right back,” and he left her side to attend other guests just like that. A slight relief overcame her since he gave her the old No Press, Platonic Greet and Retreat routine, this way there was no immediate concern for acting inappropriately.

Natalie sighed and half-smiled as she walked over to the fridge and checked out the selection. She saw some decent beers in there and hoped no one would mind her taking a nice wheat one. She looked around for a bottle opener but couldn’t find one.

“Can someone open my beer?” she said aloud and pointed the long neck toward the ceiling like the Statue of Liberty, as if to say Liberate this beer!
“I got it.” A rough-looking dirty blonde with gorgeous blue eyes took her beer and opened it with his lighter.
“Thanks,” she smiled.
“No problemo,” he smiled back.
“I’m Natalie,” she extended her hand.
The charming and confidant male reached around her and gave her a hug, “We don’t do handshakes here, we give hugs!”
Ha! Well, well, well! She played along, “Oh good! I prefer hugs anyway.” She laughed as his scruff tickled her ear.

“I’m Patrick.” More smiles.

“Nice to meet you.”


He paused with a lingering stare and she could not help but become momentarily lost in the Atlantic Ocean that filled his irises. She imagined, perhaps, that he was just as lost navigating her own waters, dangerously contained in glossy orbs. So….lost….

At that moment someone came up to him and started chatting and Natalie snapped out of it and wandered over to the snack table. She drank her beer, ate some chips and dip and made her way into the living room to join the party.

As the night went on, and the drinking games slowed their pace, she noticed she had a headache. She asked around for an ibuprofen, but nobody had any. Patrick stepped in and offered an aspirin instead.

“I don’t usually take aspirin, I take ibuprofen.”
Patrick smirked at her and said, “Take it or leave it,” then promptly placed it on his tongue and held it out for her to take it.
Half shocked and half intrigued, she blushed for a moment, smiled and then, “Fine!” and she took the aspirin from his tongue with her mouth. Yummy, she thought to herself. Ohhhh, he’s trouble, that one.

She knew damn well he was just being slick. How clever, but what girl could resist a move like that? Not many, she laughed to herself.

They talked and mingled and piled on the couch with the rest of the crew. She sat herself intentionally next to him and was smiling for the rest of the night. It was not because the conversation in the room was great, it was not because of the alcohol in her system, but it was from the electric energy coming from his body, charging her up, making her feel so giddy. Unfortunately, it was getting late and eventually Natalie had to say her goodbyes. There was a boyfriend there, after all. Her last goodbye was to Patrick. She hugged him a few more seconds longer than everyone else, and said goodbye at least two times.

The mud pulled at her heels as she walked to her car and she breathed in the chilly night air with her nose, crisp and sweet. The feeling of excitement had warmed her and the cold wind did not affect her. She got into her car and smiled a devious smile, feeling a surge of power and wry creativity. But her thoughts drifted back to her actual comfortable situation in life: her couch, her bed, her boyfriend, her job, her table cloth, her Playstation, her High Def TV, her stash of canned vegetables, her computer, her almost empty carton of milk. She remembered the Ocean. She tried to keep those eyes fresh in her mind, the features of his face, his hair…so as not to forget that feeling.

She started the car and went home with ears perked up but a tail between her legs.

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