Under the bridge
The bus drives out of town leaving Tommy behind it in a cloud of dust. He shoulders his rucksack, hoists his new trademark half smile onto his face and strides towards mum’s. It is the beginning of summer and he’s here again, home again, back to rule the roost again.
When mum opens the door he doesn’t notice the faint trace of alarm behind her surprise, seeing only delight. He stoops to wrap her in a distracted hug then throws his rucksack onto the hall floor and pours himself a hot coffee from the pot.
Mum watches from the doorway as he drinks her coffee and sprawls his adolescent bulk across her breakfast bar to read her newspaper.
“Aren’t you pleased to see me?” he smiles, not noticing that she doesn’t answer.
Larry and Jake will finish work by five and will be dying to hear about his adventures. His conquests. He runs through the girls in his head, choosing which to share, anticipating their envy and admiration. He has done it. He has broken free. He won’t be working in the petrol station for the next 50 years like Jake, or be chained to one of the town’s six girls his age like Larry.
It’s a whole world they have never known and Tommy has sampled it. A world of late nights and later mornings. Of beer and dancing with girls whose families you’ve never met, girls who were soft and warm and willing. And if they weren’t willing, why worry? They never mattered in the morning.
He goes to meet the boys at seven and, passing the river, he sees a girl he doesn’t know.
Tommy’s feet lead him to her. She is pretty, maybe fifteen? Old enough anyway. She smiles at him with full lips and lowered lashes. He sits beside her and asks her name, but she doesn’t answer. Tommy is excited by her coyness, by the challenge of her.
The girls on campus were all like this. Smiling and savvy at the start, then playing hard to get when it came down to it. He hadn’t met a girl who didn’t want him. Even if she said she didn’t at first, he always managed to make them see reason with a little gentle pressure. This little hick girl is gasping for the taste of a real man, even if she doesn’t know it yet.
To his surprise she doesn’t resist his fumblings, not even at first. Instead she sinks willingly into the mud under his weight, accepting his advance and matching it, hips rising to meet his. It is smooth and almost graceful. Those full lips part softly for his ravenous tongue.
So when she slips deftly from under him and beckons for him to follow Tommy doesn’t think twice. He stands, mouth open, eyes staring, jeans bulging and follows the lithe figure into the shadows of the bridge.
It’s three days before anyone sees Tommy again. When they do he’s sitting on the riverbank staring blindly into the shadow of the bridge, his eyes fixed on some invisible horror. He’s wearing nothing but his underwear, soiled and bloody, his mouth a perfect, slack O.
When mum reaches a gentle hand to touch his shoulder. He turns to look and when Tommy sees her he opens his mouth and begins to scream.