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I looked mature for fourteen. That’s what the manager at the burger place said at the interview. I got the job, but for only four hours each day after school and eight hours on the weekends. Still, it was enough money to buy my freedom.

I picked up a second job at the chicken place just up the road. A quick ride on my ten-speed brought me another few hours work before finally heading home around eleven, exhausted from washing the fry baskets caked with the concrete-like mixture of flour and water and mopping the old tile floors that never did look clean.

I didn’t know Doug very well. He was a friend of the owner’s son at the burger place. He just pulled up in the  driveway one afternoon in his olive green Dodge Charger and asked me out.

I knew he had spent a couple years in the military and he was a photographer. This is literally all I knew. And he was legal drinking age, which was nineteen at the time. His straightforward confidence was refreshing and I was feeling worldly, with my newfound independence. This is what being a grown-up is all about.

I already had a steady boyfriend, but we had to break up when I moved back “home” as mom called it…about four hundred miles south of where we had been living after the divorce. It was a long distance relationship anyway, because Bryan was in and out of juvenile detention centers by that time. I missed him, and we wrote letters. He was a real romantic, often sending me quotes from love songs and various books he was reading. He swore his undying loyalty to me and I to him, so I can’t say I was looking for someone new.

Doug liked to drink. He took me to hotel bars on the island where I never got carded. We danced late into the night to the hits of the eighties: Howard Jones, Culture Club, The Romantics.

The first time, he took me to his parents’ house where he still lived. It was the middle of the afternoon and no one was at home.

“Has anyone ever told you how photogenic you are?”

He reaches up, smoothing the side of my cheek tenderly with the back of his hand and kisses me as we stand outside his bedroom door.

“No. I never…”

“Well, you are. You could be a model…”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah! Hey, why don’t we shoot a few right now?”

“Um…okay.”

He grabs his camera off the kitchen counter and leads me out the sliding glass doors to the swimming pool.

“Now, lay on your side by the pool…”

“Like this?”

I lie down on the patio deck, smiling in my blue sundress with the spaghetti straps and my long, Miss Clairol light ash blonde hair– propped up on one elbow.

“Perfect!”

I sense that he sees me, but it’s not really me he admires. His focused detachment while he lines up the shot unsettles me and I become bored with his lack of engagement. From across the water, he clinks down a half-empty bottle of Jim Beam on the deck and lies down on his stomach, aiming the camera to shoot with the bottle as part of the composition.

“Oh, man…I can’t wait to get these developed.”

He smiles and walks over, offering his hand to help me up.

In his small bedroom, I wait on the edge of his plaid bedspread while he carefully places Eric Clapton’s “Time Pieces” on the turntable and turns the volume down low. Twirling a strand of my hair I glance nervously at the posters on his walls featuring pretty girls perched on shiny cars. Girls older and prettier than me.

It’s not my first time. Bryan had been my regular, and attentive partner for almost a year. We developed a fun and satisfying routine over time. With such a successful introduction to sex, I could only imagine it would always be that way, no matter who I was with.

To be continued…

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