Bodies In Motion — Chapter 4

The next afternoon Owen walked into the student fitness center wearing shorts and a t-shirt and carrying a racquetball racquet. Amy had called him that morning and asked him to play racquetball with her. He had borrowed a racquet and now here he was. He looked around the lobby of the center and spotted Amy watching the swimmers through the glass that looked into the pool. She wore a blue cotton tank top and black spandex shorts. Owen pored his eyes over the soft lines of her body as he walked toward her.  As he neared, Amy turned and smiled and then she laughed.

“Cute legs,” she said.

“Yeah, well. Yours too.” Amy held her own racquetball racquet and a can of new balls.

“Have you ever played racquetball before?” Amy asked.

“Once or twice,” Owen said. “But my dad used to play, so I get the gist of the game.”

“Your dad used to play? I don’t think that’s going to help you today.” Amy smiled and gave Owen a playful shove as they walked down the hallway to the racquetball courts. Owen swayed away from her with the shove and then let his body fall back against her small hand and bumped his shoulder into hers. “Scott and I used to play a lot,” Amy said.

Owen heard the echo of racquetballs slamming against the walls of the courts and the squeaking of sneakers on the polished floors. Bodies thundered inside the tiny pen-like enclosures and the air was filled with the smell of sweat and rubber.

“So are you good?” Owen asked. He and Amy had reached their court and he opened the low door, waited for Amy to duck through, then followed her in and closed the door behind them.

“I’m not bad,” Amy said. “Why? Are you nervous?”

“No, just want to know what I’ve gotten myself into.”

“Shouldn’t you have asked that before? Maybe when I invited you? Why did you say yes?” She opened the can of balls and pulled one out and put the can in the corner of the court.

“It sounded like fun. And you said how much you liked it. So — I don’t really care if you’re good at this. It’s just fun to play, right?”

“Absolutely not,” Amy grinned. “I want to win. Don’t you?”

“Just serve,” Owen said.

Amy stepped to the service line and rocketed the ball off the wall with a deft flick of her wrist. It caromed back toward Owen, sailed over his head and bounced against the back wall of the court and then bounced forward past him and rolled and stopped against the front wall.

“That’s a point,” Amy said. She walked up to the front of the court and picked up the ball and returned to the service line. “That racquet you’re holding,” she said, “it’s to hit the ball.”

She turned and served again.

This time Owen jumped at the ball as it sailed toward him and he got his racket on it. But the ball skidded along the side wall before hitting the front of the court.

“Gotta hit the front wall first. Another point for me,” Amy said.

Her wrist flicked and the ball was sailing at Owen again. He smacked at it. Good contact this time, but off target. The ball shot forward at waist height and spanked Amy in the right butt cheek. She squealed and then turned grinning at him.

“Are you flirting with me?” She said.

“I’m sorry,” Owen said. His face felt hot. The ball had rolled to him. He picked it up and held it out to Amy.

Instead of taking the ball from his hand she danced up to him, rubbing at the spot on her bottom where the ball had hit her. She pouted. “I think I’m going to have a bruise, Owen. I’ll tell everyone Owen bruised my pretty bottom.”

Owen’s face burned now. “Oh, God,” he said. “You’re too much. I’m sorry.”

“My sweet ass.”

“OK. OK. I said I was sorry.”

“You are blushing. Beautiful! Am I embarrassing you?”

“Just serve,” Owen said.

“It hurts a little. Can you check it for me?” Amy pushed her hip to the right and pulled out the waistband of her shorts.

“Serve,” Owen said.

“You are embarrassed.” Amy’s dark eyes flashed and her eyebrows jumped as she sized him up. Then she shook her head and smiled and turned and served again. Owen’s return sailed into the ceiling.

They played for an hour. As Owen settled down he managed to score enough points to make the match interesting. But it wasn’t close. They played three games and Amy Wheatman won them all.

“Good game,” Owen said as they stepped through the door of the court and back into the hallway. He held up a hand for a high five.

Amy slapped her hand into his and then in a single movement she grasped his hand in her fingers and pulled his arm down and around the back of her waist. She pressed her body against him. Owen felt her heart beating in her stomach as it pushed against his.

Amy brought her face close to Owen’s. “You got beat by a girl, Owen,” she whispered.

Owen leaned his body away from her and looked into her face. “That’s OK,” he said. “I had fun.”

“You got beat by a girl,” Amy repeated.

“Yes, I did. You’re good.”

Amy relaxed her grip on Owen’s hand and she directed his arm from around her waist. They stood facing each other now, just their fingers loosely locked together. Owen’s hand was sweating and he let go of Amy’s fingers and wiped his palm dry on his shirt. Then he wanted to reach out and hold Amy’s hand again, but she had started walking so he fell in beside her.

Amy turned and walked backwards in front of him. “Will you tell people you got beat by a girl?” She said as they walked.

“Yes, of course,” Owen said. “Or, you know, if it comes up. I don’t know why anyone would want to know. Why wouldn’t I?

“I just thought it might bother you,” Amy said.

“It doesn’t.”

“Not even a little?”

“I don’t care if I win or lose,” Owen said. “I had a good time. That’s really all I care about.”

Amy spun on her heel and walked beside Owen to the lobby. They agreed to meet at the library later. When Owen said good-bye, Amy Wheatman did not respond.

At six o’clock Owen was in the library. He found a table and spread his books to save a seat for Amy. At seven o’clock he was still alone and he texted Amy but she did not reply. At eight o’clock he checked his phone again, but there was nothing from her. At nine o’clock he was still alone. At ten o’clock the library closed and Owen went back to his dorm room. He texted Amy one more time. “Did I miss you?” he wrote. “Where were you sitting? I was in the main room.” His phone stayed silent.

The next morning he tried her again. Texted her and called, left a voicemail. He said he’d be at the library again that evening. Six o’clock, main reading room, she should come. He got the same table as the night before, spread his books and waited. He read. He grew tired and put his head down on his books to rest. He dozed until a chair moved and something rocked the table. He lifted his head and looked up into a grinning face. It was Debbie.

Owen had never seen Debbie smile before. He looked at Debbie’s teeth. They were baby teeth, tiny in dominant gums. He sat up straight and looked around for Amy Wheatman, but he didn’t see her.

“Where’s Amy?” he said.

“Not coming,” Debbie grinned.

“What do you mean?”

“Not coming.”

“Why?”

“You’re a dope.”

“Where’s Amy?”

“Not coming. How do you not get that? Not. Coming.”

“No, I get that. Debbie. But why? Not coming why?”

“Because you’re a dope and I was right about you.” Debbie said. Her smile was gone and her lip curled as she spoke to Owen. Her tiny teeth glinted.

“Is she in the library? You’re here?” Owen said.

“She sent me. She’s not coming. Don’t call her anymore.”

“Wait? What? What is going on?”

“I was right and Amy finally sees it and says don’t call her. I said I would tell you.”

“Why not? You were right about what?”

Debbie’s face pulled back into a smile again, her heavy cheeks tugging open her plump lips. She was enjoying this, and this was the moment she’d been waiting for most of all.

“A man who doesn’t want to win is not worth your time.”

Debbie stood up and smoothed her coat around her globe-like body. Her arms were short and her fingers barely reached the equator. She gave Owen a last look full of triumph and then moved out. She sidled between the tables in the reading room and then disappeared between the bookshelves and was gone.

…next, the final chapter…

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Bodies In Motion — Chapter 3

Debbie herded Amy off to the library and Owen returned to his own dorm. When he walked into his room the curtains were drawn across the window and the room was dark. The air was thick and humid and it smelled of breath and sweat and the recent secret movement of bodies. Owen switched on his desk lamp and in the dim light he could see two pairs of feet entwined in the jumbled blankets of his roommate’s bed. In the bed lay Owen’s roommate and a girl. She was not the roommate’s girlfriend. Owen could see the girl’s naked back, and her long bare legs. The blankets bunched loosely across her butt, giving her at least that small privacy. The roommate and the girl were dead asleep.

Owen pulled his books out of his backpack and held them high above his empty desk and then let them go. They hit the desk top like a rifle shot. The feet in the bed flinched and then the roommate and the girl writhed and groaned and stretched themselves awake.

“Roomie,” the roommate said to Owen.

“I’m home,” Owen said.

“I see that,” the roommate said. He looked at the girl; she was lying comfortably next to him, putting her fingers through his unkempt hair. The roommate slid his hands under the covers and groped her and she giggled and he rolled on top of her. Owen turned away from the roommate’s naked backside. The girl whispered something to the roommate who rolled to his feet and pulled on his jeans.

“Yeah, we should go somewhere. I’m starved. Here’s your clothes,” the roommate said and tossed a wad of clothes to the girl in his bed.

Owen sat at his desk looking into an opened physics text book and he waited for the roommate and the girl to finish dressing.

“We’re going to eat or something,” the roommate said. “You never saw me.” He and the girl brushed past his desk and out the door. Owen heard the girl laugh as the door shut behind them and then the muffled sound of their voices receding down the hallway and then nothing. He got up from his desk and opened the window. Fresh cool air flooded in and cleaned the air inside the room.

Owen was at his desk reading later that evening when he heard a knock on his door. He got up and opened the door. In the hallway stood his roommate’s girlfriend Kim. She was a short, dark-haired girl with a round face and eyes like a tortured kitten. She wore a long t-shirt that covered her almost to her knees, but her legs were bare and on her feet she wore a pair of pink fuzzy slippers.

“Is he here?” She asked. She wrung her hands nervously in front of her.

“I haven’t seen him,” Owen said.

Kim stood in the hallway and looked down at her pink slippers. She looked down the hall for a moment as though she was expecting the roommate to appear at that instant. Then she looked past Owen into the empty room.

“Can I sleep here again?” she asked.

Owen backed out of the doorway so she could come in. “If you want,” he said. “Come on in. I’m just reading.”

“OK, thanks, Owen,” Kim said. “I’ll be real quiet.” Kim scuffed her slippered feet past him and went to the roommate’s bed. She pulled back the rumpled covers, kicked off her slippers and climbed in and pulled the blankets over her body. She curled into a fetal ball and lay quietly facing the wall. Owen went back to his desk and began reading again. It had been half an hour when there was another knock at the door. This time when Owen looked into the hallway he found The Bishop standing before him with a violin in his hand.

The Bishop was Dan Bishop. He lived down the hall from Owen and he was known on the floor to be full of advice for everyone on every topic. All of the advice was bad advice. The Bishop had no experience with anything he weighed in on, but that never stopped him. He was especially forthcoming with advice on women and people humored him, but no one took him seriously since all of his supposed girlfriends went to other universities or lived, unverifiably, in Canada.

“I gotta come in,” he said and he didn’t wait for Owen to agree. He simply stepped forward and turned his wiry frame and slipped past Owen. He crossed the room and sat down on the windowsill, his back against the glass. “You have to listen to this for me,” he said and he lifted the violin to his chin and began playing. He wasn’t bad, but it was late and the squeal of the strings shredded the delicate quiet.

Owen waved his hands at The Bishop and Kim sat up in the roommate’s bed.

The Bishop stopped his bow and looked apologetically at Kim. “Hey, Kim. Sorry. I didn’t know you were here. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“I wasn’t sleeping,” Kim said. “Just waiting for him.”

“Yeah. I haven’t seen him,” The Bishop said. “Owen, I just wanted to talk to you. I might have met someone.”

“You’ve been to Canada today?”  Said Owen.

Kim laughed out loud and The Bishop raised a middle finger at both of them.

“I’ve been to the student union, asshole. She was in the coffee shop and I actually went up and talked to her. She’s a music major and I told her I played the violin. She was interested. I’m going to write her something. A song.”

“On the violin?” Owen said.

“Why not on the violin? I’m good. You’ve heard me play.”

“Yes. I didn’t say you were bad. I just don’t know how many great seductions have started with a violin.”

“I think it’s sweet,” Kim said from the bed.

“There you go,” said The Bishop. “Thank you, Kim. You are very wise.”

“She’s a girl,” Owen said.

“Meaning what?” Kim said.

“Meaning just – If something sounds romantic you guys love it no matter how corny the idea is. If he walked up to you and started playing the violin, I guarantee you wouldn’t go home with him,” Owen said.

“If I liked the violin, I might,” Kim said. “I would appreciate that he did something for me. That he knew what I liked and did it for me.”

“You’re very encouraging, Kim,” said The Bishop hopping down from the window sill. “I’m going to work on this. I’m going to do this.” The Bishop opened the door. “Thanks again, Kim. Fuck you very much, Owen.”

When the door closed, Owen looked back at Kim. She sat in the center of the bed, swaddled in the soiled sheets.

“You can’t encourage him,” Owen said to her. “He’s going to make a fool of himself.”

“What’s wrong with romantic?” Kim said. “You should appreciate that. Of all people.”

“What does that mean?” Owen asked.

“Oh, come on, Owen,” Kim said. “You’re just like him.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means you guys would both rather fall in love than get laid.” Kim lay down in the bed again and rolled again to face the wall. “Believe me,” she said from the shadows, her voice muffled by the pillow, “it’s a good thing.”

…chapter 4