Linda walked alone to meet Ronnie at the lot. With each footstep, her nipples rubbed against the shirt her mom had ironed. It hurt and embarrassed her, but made her feel worldly and older than fifteen.
Gone were the days of scabbed knees, lost skate keys, racing the ball to the sewer. This summer Linda and her best friend Valerie cruised the Bronx sidewalks holding their transistor radios, dragging their shoes, snapping their gum, and trying to look sullen when they weren’t giggling. Pretending they didn’t purposely walk past Ronnie and his JD, dropout friends playing stickball or pitching quarters.
Every night in the shower, with the warm water caressing her as yet untouched breasts, Linda sang about Ronnie Angel, who didn’t know she existed.
Then last night Ronnie grabbed Linda’s shoulder as she and Valerie walked down Allerton Avenue. He smelled of English Leather and sweat, right through his tight white tee shirt.
“Hey, girlie, what’s your name?” he asked.
Linda looked up into his grinning face, his pompadour hanging over dark eyes. She heard his friends hooting behind him.
“Linda,” she whispered.
“Well, little Linda. You’re sure a pretty little thing. Meet me tomorrow night in the lot on Burke Avenue, and I’ll buy you some ice cream.” Then he leaned so close to her she could smell his cigarette breath, and he whispered, “I really like it when my girl doesn’t wear a bra.”
Linda turned bright red. Valerie gripped her arm and dragged her down the street. “C’mon Linda, we gotta go, it’s late.”
“Think about it,” Ronnie called out as she tripped away.
Ronnie wasn’t there when she got to the lot. She sat on the big rock and stared at the pile of broken beer bottles in the weeds. The rock was warm, but the evening air smelled like the first day of school. Sirens whined in the distance, and the ice cream truck jingled a few blocks away. She was scared that Ronnie wouldn’t come, scared that he would.
Suddenly, he was sitting next to her.
“So, little Linda, you decided to show up.”
He put his arm around her back and rested his hand on her hip. It was even hotter than the rock. She stared at the hairs on his fingers and nodded.
“And I’m just in time for the ice cream man.”
Ronnie stood up and whistled for the truck. He came back, tossed the wrapper in the street, and handed her a lemon Popsicle.
“Thanks,” she said. “Aren’t you having anything?”
“Nah, I’ll just watch you eat. C’mon, I know a better spot.”
He took her hand and led her deeper into the lot, to a place cleared of rubbish and hidden from the street. Ronnie pushed aside some branches, opened a beat-up trunk and spread out an army blanket.
“Sit down. Sit down and eat,” he said. “It’s a picnic.”
Linda sat on the scratchy green blanket and licked her Popsicle. Ronnie stood looking down at her.
“Nice licking, Linda. Can you suck it too?”
Linda felt her stomach drop, felt the itchy feeling she got when the gym teacher made them spread their legs to stretch. She was afraid, but that only made those feelings stronger.
“Well, can you?” he said.
She pursed her lips around the Popsicle and sucked. Ronnie watched.
“Now I want to taste it,” he said. He kneeled astride her legs, took the pop from her, and threw it in the weeds. Linda was confused, until he put his mouth on hers and opened her lips with his tongue. Her heart raced, and she almost felt like she was peeing her pants.
He sat back and smiled. “Yum, that was good.”
He looked down at her chest and Linda felt her stiff nipples poke into the cotton.
Ronnie smiled. “Good girl. You didn’t wear your bra. I like that.”
Linda was confused to feel proud and ashamed at the same time. Powerful and helpless.
“Why don’t you take off your shirt? All the cool girls strip for their boyfriends. Or are you still just an immature little kid?”
She looked around. There was no one else to see her, no one to help her. She didn’t move.
Ronnie reached over. “Here, I’ll help. I’ll undo the top button. You do the rest.”
She smelled cigarettes on his fingers. Her breath came quickly. She watched his man hands undo the little pearl button. She couldn’t stop thinking about her mom carefully ironing around that button.
Linda jumped up and pulled her blouse closed. “I gotta go,” she said, and stumbled through the underbrush and trash toward the street. She didn’t hear Ronnie follow, and she didn’t look back.
Back at her apartment, she took a long hot shower and stuffed her blouse under her mattress. Ronnie Angel had touched it.
A few days later, Valerie wanted to go for a walk, and Linda couldn’t come up with a good excuse not to. When they got to Ronnie’s stoop, he was making out with a peroxide blonde. His ID bracelet hung off her wrist; his hand rested on her butt.
Linda tried not to cry. If only she hadn’t been so lame, hadn’t run away like a stupid little baby, she could be the one sitting there with Ronnie, wearing his ID. His hand could be on her butt.
Linda and Valerie kept walking.
“Did you see that tramp?” Valerie asked when they passed.
“Yeah,” Linda said. “What a whore.”
Jeanne Holtzman is an aging hippie, writer and women’s health care practitioner, not necessarily in that order. Born in the Bronx, she prolonged her adolescence as long as possible in Vermont, and currently lives with her husband and daughter in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in such publications as The Providence Journal, Writer’s Digest, The First Line, Twilight Times, Flashquake, Salome, Hobart online, Hip Mama, Every Day Fiction and The Iconoclast. You may reach Jeanne at J.firstname.lastname@example.org.