Note: I started writing this sometime in early ’09 as a tribute to a sordid affair that ended on a sour note. At first it was just random chapters and scenes that went nowhere, but the words flew out of my control and began weaving themselves into what you see below : )

The last year of high school shoved this effort to the sidelines, but since I think what I’ve written so far is somewhat decent, I might as well keep going and fill in the patches in the plotline.

At the time when I wrote this, I was blessed to be surrounded by a circle of brilliant writers superior to myself: RKron (www.polerus.wordpress.com), who actually has a FULL-LENGTH novel written; Minavk, who always beat me on our English 11 assignments and whose name I borrowed for one of the chapters below, Lordofmagic, always there to offer his pointed critique; Saintweasel, now THERE’S someone I’m jealous of (www.saintweasel.wordpress.com); Arianna with her PERFECT essays, poetry, whatever it was she wrote, Naphyla with her beautiful fanfics……

A special thanks to o_Angel_Friend_o for his lavish praise (http://o-angel-friend-o.xanga.com/722195745/a-young-talent/) : ) Now I’m determined to keep going and finish what I’ve started

Oh, and some prolific writers whose style you may find echoed (badly) throughout these words: Margaret Atwood, Michael Ontdaaje, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anne Rice, Henry Miller, etc…

Lastly, THANKS FOR READING!

Chapter Five: Curlicues

tiramisu

Wisps of gently spiraling, tornado-shaped smoke rings, materializing out of the end of her mother’s stub of a cigarette, merging with what drifted upwards from the laden ashtray, unfolding and refolding themselves lazily in the chill of the evening air. She coughed in protest, and hastily took a gulp of her strawberry-and-watermelon smoothie.

Across from her and her mother, Karenin was polishing off the last morsels of his coffee tiramisu. She watched the progress of the fingers,  from the edge of the starchy white lace tablecloth to the phosphorescently gleaming cutlery; tracing the path of his fork from the ornate dessert plate to his barely ajar lips. A miniscule crumb rolled off the larger chunk, and clung to his bottom lip like an accidentally-on-purpose mole. She opened her mouth to tell him, but at that moment an untimely ray of evening sunlight glided over her eyes, so she was forced to throw up her arm to ward it off.

Mrs. Ko leaned back luxuriously in the chaise italienne, casting most of her face in shadow. “Ichiro, Maito, oishi?” She ground out what’s left of her cigarette in a corner of the silver ashtray.

Kaleda reddened as the elderly gentleman with the salt-and-pepper hair at the next table raised his eyebrows inquisitively. “Mom! Speak English!”

Her mother smiled thinly. “What’s wrong with Japanese, Maito-chan?”

She grimaced. “Well…well, people are looking.”

Indignantly, Mrs. Ko turned to Karenin. “Ichiro. You tell me, is it a crime now to speak Japanese?”

Karenin looked taken aback. “No, of course not, Mom.” He darted a sly glance at Kaleda. “Just because Maito-chan doesn’t understand. . . . . .”

Chapter Eight: Beatrice

bw-classroom

Karenin maneuvered his way through the claustrophobic hallways, wincing frequently as various overzealous freshmen whizzed past him; a particularly large one knocked into his overladen hands as he lumbered past, sending Schubert: Life and Works and En Direct I flying. Snarling under his breath with the most profane of Japanese curses his cousins had taught him (Baka!), he bent down, smoothing out the pages painstakingly while the hubbub of the last remaining minutes of lunch swirled around him like a maelstrom.

He stepped into the French classroom just as the bell shrieked to announce the beginning of last period. Madame Stalwal, the flamboyant professor with an astonishingly prominent backside for such a squat person, and permanently present eyeliner that most girls concluded to be tattooed on, threw him a patronizing look. He straightened his paisley tie hastily.

“Madame, je m‘excuse.” He gasped out. These days, three steps of semi-vigorous “exercise” sent him into a Class A asthma attack.

The class gawked at him in alarm; with the members of First Responders bouncing in their seats excitedly, eager for a chance to prove their otherwise defunct usefulness.

“À vos place, Monsieur Ko.“  Stalwal  hitched up her repugnantly snug track pants that did not flatter her misshapen thighs one bit and blinked her bird-of-preylike eyes repeatedly in annoyance. “I will have a word with you after class.”

Gratefully, he crumpled into his fluorescent orange chair, fumbling in his bag for pencils and dictionary, still inhaling and exhaling rapidly, the air rushing excruciatingly into his tar-tainted lungs. His two friends, Nathan Wiest and Conrad Au-Yeung shook their heads at him from across the room, clucking their tongue and expelling quiet bouts of laughter cautiously.

The three of them made an odd trio. Conrad was small in stature, with eyes straight from a nineteenth century anti-Asian political cartoon, though thankfully without the pigtail and mandarin robes. He considered himself something of a Don Juan with the ladies, and has had three girlfriends since the beginning of eleventh grade, though that has began to diminish ever since the massive breakouts that left his cheeks resembling that of a rotting pomegranate. Nathan was short and slightly chubby, never to be seen without his limited edition turquoise Nintendo DS and coke bottle glasses. He was, truth to be told, too pumped with either estrogen or progesterone or both, as Conrad gleefully pointed out after the fateful day in tenth grade science, where they learned the appalling mechanics of the female body.

A picture of the three of them, taken on a bygone field trip laid out their personalities impeccably. Conrad’s toothy grin stretched from ear to ear, the ghostly hand of one of his unseen lady loves creeping across his shoulder.  Nathan gazed at the camera with a misty, doe-eyed expression, his porky fingers framing his chin comically. As for Karenin . . . all that could be seen was the back of his impermeable hood. He has always disliked pictures; they washed out his milky complexion and in his opinion, gave him uncanny resemblance to a girl.

Stalwel turned her back towards her students and began to scribble across the whiteboard promptly, thus obstructing nine tenths of the words. Sighing audibly, Karenin flipped his French text to a random page, shoved Schubert inside furtively, and began to read. One hour and fourteen minutes left. He wondered vaguely if Kaleda remembered her keys.

The phone jittered; Stalwel paused midsentence and swiveled around, regarding it with mild suspicion. Waddling over as fast as her elephantine legs would allow, she snatched up the receiver with her pinky in the air. “Ms. Stalwel speaking . . . ah . . . yes . . . yes . . . really now . . . mmhmm . . . perfect . . . thank you so much, dear.” She nodded curtly, apparently overlooking the fact that the person on the other end could not see her, hefty stature or not.

Franz Peter Schubert was born on the last day of January, 1797 in Vienna, the much revered epicentre of classical music, the son of Franz Theodore Schubert and Elizabeth Vietz. At the age of five, he began to receive regular instructions from –

His head snapped up and swiveled instinctively towards the door, along with every single head in the classroom, as a knock-knock-knock shattered the lethargic drones of the futur simple. Stawel froze in action, flapping her hand irritably at Mina Virk, who was sitting closest to the door. Crossing his disproportionally long legs under the desk, Karenin went back to his book. Transfer students who barged into the middle of a class did not impress him, not even if the class itself was French.

He concentrated instead on the intricate series of sharps and flats, crescendos and decrescendos in the minuet he was to perform for the next school assembly. The tips of his elongated, almost spidery fingers tapped out the rhythm silently but steady across the surface of the desk. The hum of the classroom dissolved, and the black patent enamel of the grand piano gleamed before his eyes; cold, distant, polished, distinguished, a patrician to the last degree – a bit like himself, really. If it had lips, it’d surely be sneering malevolently behind your back.

“. . . Right over here, next to Karenin.” He couldn’t be bothered with looking up. Soft shuffling, almost unintelligible  footsteps; not Stalwel’s. The metallic screech of the chair being drawn out; a muted cloud of perfume enveloped his nostrils – rose, kept youthful by a snatch of baby powder. He cleared his throat, brushed a hand discreetly over the sleeves of his uniform shirt to straighten out any wrinkles, and turned to the new arrival.

Chapter Eleven: Kabuki Hearts

karenin-elodie1

Look, it’s that new blonde.

How long d’you think before the roots start to show?

Oh, I dunno…another hour?

Laughter.

Elodie pressed her forehead against the cool metal of the mint-green lockers. The coldness seeped into her brain; she lapped it up, like a sponge tossed in water. Life has made her blissfully unaware of the whispers on the sidelines, the kind of talk seeking only to provoke and enrage.

Thousand page biology textbook…check…Sketchbook…check…the little scrap of notebook paper with her lab partner’s email, in case she doesn’t get the homework…check…gym strip…gym strip?

She gave a hiss of annoyance and exasperation, slamming her fist into her forehead. The gym was all the way on the other side of the school; another ten minutes down the drain. She has no chance of catching that bus now; maybe she’ll call Lee; just to spite him.

. * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . *

The peeling mahogany-paneled doors were ajar. Wisps of soft, ethereal piano music drifted out from between the crack, like perfume particles dispersing silently through a room. Chopin, or was it Schubert? She took a step forward, then stopped forcibly, dragging the heel of her wrinkled brown loafer against the much-abused floor. A piercing squeal of plastic on barely-there varnish exploded through the hallways, turning several startled or bemused heads. A posse of elaborately coiffed and maquillaged girls flounced past, tossing her contemptuous looks, barely concealing the venom under the meticulously-applied Nars lipstick in Orgasm.

The ribbon of tranquil notes halted abruptly. A quiet, yet not altogether unfriendly voice called out. Yes?

She hesitated for another moment, then steeled herself and strode through the doors.

A tall, thin boy perched on the edge of the imposing grand piano; an immense book of sheet music poised open in his palms, staring at her with mild curiosity. He was pale, with disheveled black hair that tumbled across his forehead; a long, narrow face with gaunt cheeks beneath well-defined cheekbones; large, sincere eyes that were Oriental only by the clear brown tint of the irises; and a serene, rather brooding mouth. His lanky elbows stuck out inharmoniously from the regulation white uniform shirt like knots in a rope. The cavity between his collarbones caved in sharply beneath the well-worn collar and loosened tie. A second later, she recognized him from her French class earlier this afternoon.

Sorry…am I interrupting you? The words shot out of her mouth in an untidy heap, before she’s wrapped her tongue around them fully, echoing throughout the cavernous gymnasium like a game of hide-and-go-seek with her mischievous doppelganger.

He shook his head, smiling lopsidedly, revealing a silvery line of retainers. A resplendent ray of afternoon sun darted off the propped-open cover of the pristine piano, illuminating the pensive depths of his eyes. Oh no, not at all, I’m just practicing for the upcoming assembly. I think you were the new girl from my French class…Elodie, right? He smiled again, tentatively, darting his gaze downwards and clicking his right index finger against his temple.

Nodding like an obedient puppet tugged by invisible strings, she gestured towards the girls’ changing rooms. I-uh, forgot my gym strip there. I’ll leave you alone then. Sorry again. God! What a stupid thing to say!

She felt his keen  gaze trailing after her as she scuttled off in the opposite direction. Cheeks aflame, she attempted to unearth his name from the handful of fresh ones that cluttered her immolated head. Calan? No. Longer. Kevin? No. Not that commonplace. Something soft, melodious, quasi-Russian, slightly erring towards the feminine side…

Karenin.

Yes, that was it.

. * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . * . *

“Leda, can you make me a cup of tea, quick?” Karenin poked his head out of his bedroom door, reading glasses askew, a Sharpie tucked behind one ear; the pungent stench of rancid eggs and petroleum wafted towards her.

“Right away, Your Majesty.” She sang. “Green, jasmine, or red? In a coffee mug or cup and saucer? Sugar, honey, milk, or cream? Though I don’t think there’s any cream left in the house. . .Becel instead?” She chuckled at his thoroughly horrified expression; the mere thought of besmirching his beloved cup of tea was dastardly.

Gagging slightly, he slouched into the hallway, dragging his feet across the cream-coloured carpet. Two murky brown patches beneath his eyes gave them a skeletal, insomniac appearance. The ever-present chemical odour of tobacco clung to his ratty white t-shirt and baggy black pants. He looked like a street urchin who wandered into the house purely by accident.

“What time is it now?” She doesn’t keep the habit of wearing a watch, and her cell phone was buried somewhere beneath her dirty laundry pile.

He flicked his lanky wrist upwards lazily. “Eleven forty-seven. And I’ve got twelve more pages to read for chemistry.” Sighing, he brushed past her down the snailing staircase. “Cheerful, aren’t we? And shouldn’t you be in bed?”

She pranced after him. “Yea-a-ah. So what?”

“I’m not dragging you up tomorrow morning. I’ve still got that scar from last time, when you clawed me on the arm. Scary awake, scarier half-awake.” He shook his head ruefully.

She burst out laughing. “Where did that come from? Anyways, guess what happened today?” Blinking at the sudden flood of fluorescent white light that bathed the kitchen in a frosty glow, she yanked open the fridge door with both hands and fummaged around for the carton of cranberry juice; her favourite.

“Mmm.” The tap clicked on with a hiss of water on metal. He wiggled the circular knob on the gas stove back and forth several times. A small blue flame leaped up, followed by a ring of its siblings, and began dancing merrily, licking the bottom of the kettle amorously.

“Some girl called you this afternoon while you were still at school. Melody, or something like that, she wants you to call her back ASAP.” She watched the blood-red liquid slosh into the transparent glass, à la poorly-made TV commercial, waggling her eyebrows at her brother suggestively. “Have you finally discovered your inner pimp?”

Pausing while reaching for the teabags, he glanced at her with perplexity, furrowing his brows and drumming his fingers against the counter. “Melody? Melody who? What did she want?”

“Ah . . . she said something about going out for a cup of coffee sometime. Oops, my bad, the name’s Elodie, there we go.” Crossing her arms, she beamed triumphantly. “That ring a bell?”

He choked as he raised the fragile, hand-crafted porcelain cup to his lips, spraying a mouthful of tea across the meticulously scrubbed counter. “Elodie? Elodie Towers? What the- ?” Snatching up a sheet of tissue, he buried his nose and mouth in its pristine surface, muffling his anguish. “What did she say exactly? Why didn’t you tell me earlier? Holy crap . . . it’s almost twelve, how am I supposed to call her now?” The hollows of his cheeks were now the colour of their mother’s Sunday morning Bloody Mary, a rare occurrence indeed.

“Dunno.” She snickered. “Here’s her number, figure it out yourself.” Tossing a crumpled piece of notepad paper with some real estate agent’s smug smile on the front before his stricken face, she slipped out of the kitchen, pausing only to snatch up her cup of juice; ample fuel for a sugar rush in the small hours of the night.

Chapter Seventeen: Sang de Condiment

bus

The bus pulled up, unexpectedly, at 6 P.M. on the dot.

He fumbled in his pocket for the bus pass. The driver, a rotund East Indian gentleman with a formidable handlebar mustache stabbed his exhaust-tainted gloved finger at his chest, motioning for the stamping out of what was left of his Camel. He did so, clumsily, on the side of the fare box that stood at attention like a Roman infantry soldier of bygone times, leaving a dime-sized tint on the metal.

He slid in next to a faux-blonde in full armored black, topped with burlesque fishnets and dizzying platforms. The stench of cheap, perhaps expired perfume applied generously drifted over and up his nostrils like Zyklon-B gas. He resisted the urge to retch into her patent leather miniskirt-clad lap with some difficulty.

The back pocket of his jeans vibrated insistently, sending an unpleasant buzz from his rather narrow backside to the tip of his overtly tapered fingers. He wrestled the well-disguised torture device from his pocket, sliding it open with an unnecessary flourish and slamming it against his left ear breathlessly. The giggly adolescent girls sitting behind him poked each other and smothered their snickers behind garishly-painted nails.

Hey?

Karenin, Elodie here. You at the theatre yet?

I’m on the bus. Give me five minutes, tops.

‘Kay, but I’m warning ya, the good seats are filling up fast. Run if you will.

No worries, I’ll fly.

Her muffled chuckles sounded strangely distorted, as if a creature of indeterminable stature had somehow got itself lodged between the phone lines. I’ll see you in a bit, then.

Click. Click.

Raindrops threw themselves at the bereaved windows like Kamikaze insects. Streetlights flying past emitted an eerily orange glow, reflecting off the water particles and bestowing them an unfortunate appearance of dollar-store crystals. Swiveling his head this way and that to keep from dozing off, he spotted the numbers 07.10.27. etched into the fine layer of mist atop the murky glass. He pondered their significance. Birthday? Anniversary? Day of Such Joy or Tragedy They Must Announce It To the World?

The robotic, cool-as-you-please female alto announced his stop loftily. Scrambling out of his seat and tottering a bit, he wobbled towards the exit on sea legs. The bus screeched abruptly to a halt; the package of Camels slid out of his overladen pocket and clattered to the ground. A burly, nearly-bald man stooped over and thrust the package at him, as if it held a radioactive spider of some kind in its four-by-three-by-one inch depths.

Chapter Twenty-One: Phantasmagoria

memories2

She keeps looking up from her English paper, craning her neck, blinking pensively at the doorway, as if he’d appear at any given moment.

She would not believe it, would keep pinching her arms and shaking her head like some drug-induced fiend at a rock concert until she could see the whites of his eyes. Otherwise it’ll simply remain smoke and mirrors.

Each morning she fixes herself up, nice and fresh, twisting her dirty blonde hair into a neat ponytail and bobby-pinning the stubborn wisps to the side. Slick on a little hairspray to keep them in line. Line her eyelids with jet-black kohl; occasionally sapphire blue, fan at them furiously with her fingers to dry. Wiggle a mascara comb under her nearly-transparent lashes. You never know, never know when he’s gonna jump out at you. When you’ve got no makeup on and droopy hair and panda eyes and angry red patches all over your face. Then you’ll spot him. And then you’ll scold yourself a thousand times over. A dot of cherry-colored gloss at the centre of her lips; butter on toast. Yes, that’s it. You’re done. A self-reassuring pat to the head. And she’s off.

Someone once told her. You’re sending off the wrong signals, missy.

It’s thrift-store affections. It’s second-hand love.

It seemed as though he’d brewed an essence of himself and doused it all over her. Eau de Karenin Ko.

She was still her, but tiny trickles of him spilled out from the cracks between the lid and the geometrically-shaped crystal bottle with every miniscule action she took.

She ought to feel lucky. Blessed.

She doesn’t. She feels like a watermelon with the succulent pink insides scooped out. Just the shell, the outer layer. When you slice it open, you’d see nothing.

Empty. Empty. Empty.

She ought to call the police.

Ma’am, what happened? Indifferent, South-Western American drawl. Probably with his feet propped up on his office desk, the sunset glancing off the dusty shades behind him, a glass of brandy in one hand and cigarette in another, the fumes rising, spiraling and melting into nothingness, evanescing into thin air. Are you physically injured in any manner? Should we call an ambulance?

Oh no, sir, I‘m fine, absolutely dandy. An ambulance would not be necessary. Wastage of public tax dollars, really. I’m calling to report a robbery. It might be a bit late, but I think you could still catch him.

Well, speak it, ma‘am, we’ll do our job.

Ah…a certain young man made off with my heart. Along with two-thirds of my soul, I estimate. That’s all I had in my bank account. What about my children? Small but audible sobs. What about me?

Ha.

She feels guilty. It paws at her chest, purrs contentedly as she smiles, throws her head back and laughs; not too loud, not too soft, just enough to show that she’s into what he’s saying. He must be all smug inside. A small sparkle will shoot up his spine. She can see it in his eyes, the way the light pirouette off the irises.

The little things. The way he squinted one eye closed and smiled lopsidedly, talking out of one side of his mouth and staring off into the distance as he spoke to her. The way his jaws tightened every time something threatened to throw his perfect record into imbalance. The way his nostrils flared, with a soft, exasperated sigh every time she made a stupid comment or knocked something over. It drove her mad. Especially now. It drove her mad to reminiscence, to recall these details to life once more. It drove her mad to see them on ink and paper.

He’d take everything so seriously. A joke tossed casually into his direction, he’d cock his head to one side thoughtfully and smile a tight-lipped smile, utter a terse response topped off with another barely-there smile. More like a leer, really. A predator of some kind out of the African savanna, ready to pounce at anytime.

His eyes; the way they twinkled as he fixiated his macchiato-brown stare on her lake-blue ones. He wasn’t shy in that manner of speaking, not really. Not like some of the other boys, who’d flinch and look away as soon as she met their eyes. He’d gaze, a bit more, a bit more, then slowly, slowly tilt his head away nonchalantly until the connection was broken. A small, secretive smile would be playing about his lips. She’d like to run after him. Watcha smiling about……me? She liked that; she made someone happy. Usually it’s the other way around.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Grande or Venti?

parkbench1

How’s Superman doin’ today?

Not so well, thank you, m’dear.

Listen to me, two packs a day is all righty, but three is pushing it. Now gimme those.

He grins lopsidedly, a knight-errant glint surfacing from the depths of his caramel marble eyes . Four years and I’m alive and kicking. Miracle, isn’t it?

Her benign smile slides off her face like melted butter. You have no idea.

Oh, but I do.

She kicks at a discarded Starbucks cup. Grande; perhaps even Venti. It simply looked too big to hold any form of caffeine. Explains all the psychedelic eyes, she figures.

He fishes out his notebook, flips nonchalantly to the last page. December 9th, 3:18p.m., cigarette #53, Gauloises. Dee-lish.

I’m kinda cold. She whispers.

I suppose you expect me to act the Austenian gentleman and offer you my North Face with a gallantly sweeping bow, no?

You read my mind.

He tugs his left arm out of his sleeve gently, wraps it around her like a cocoon. She scoots closer, curls against his chest. Wisps of her hair snake up his navy blue sweater, aided by sinisterly playful particles of static electricity.

My gosh, I can feel your ribs through a thick honking sweater. How much do you weigh now?

Last time I checked, 124 pounds.

And when was that?

…Three weeks ago.

She winces.

He laughs lightly. Isn’t that the point?

A jogger huffs past them, throwing him an accusatory look. His eyes read: you are a disgrace to the male race. Get off your ass, scoot off to the gym and start pumping weights. Protein shakes would also do.

She snatches up his hand and jabs repeatedly at the numerous protruding veins, a la Wack-A-Mole. Did you hear Terence Glass in P.E. today? Said Holocaust survivors had more meat on them than you. Asked me how the hell was I hiding my bruises, and told me we gave “banging” a new definition.

Witty fellow, really.

He bends and stretches his fingers luxuriously. I’d love a copy of Chopin’s Nocturne in G Minor for Christmas. He winks.

That’s all?

Well, and a locked room with three day’s supply of food and fresh sheets, with just me and you inside, the keys tossed down the sewer.

How do we get out, then?

Break the window, break down the door. You can use me as the battering ram.

She coughs, I’d like a warranty, please.

He looks highly affronted. I’m made out of carbon and other unpronounceables, not porcelain.

She giggles into his chest, followed by a short round of rasping coughs. I don’t understand, tar seems to have no effect whatsoever on your respiratory system.

Dr. Evans is getting impatient. Another three months, I reckon, he’d cut off my cigarettes supply and starting IVing carcinogen into my arteries. Not that it’ll work, I presume. Even if I don’t look it, I’m a tough cookie.

She yawns, purring slightly like a naughty kitty. I’m getting sleepy…

No matter. My turn with the story anyways. I’ll drive you home. Where did we leave off?

The girl has fallen into the river. Her captors cannot swim. Then…

The fugitive is hiding behind the tree. He sees all, he can swim-

Of course he can, silly, otherwise how did he get the jewels from the island to the mainland?

Boats were invented then, Elodie darling.

He’s not Jack Sparrow. He’s just a poor young boy stealing for his family.

All right. So he can swim, he sees the fair maiden bobbing in the treacherous waters. The good side of him is saying: jump in, jump in and save her, let the cops shackle you up!

She untangles herself from his jacket and glares reproachfully. Cops? I thought this was the medieval times.

Sheriff and his men, law enforcers, whateveryoucallems. Happy?

Psh. Go on.

The good side of him is debating whether to save her or not, and the not-so-noble side is hissing into his ear: your family is starving. Get a move on, boy.

His finger splay, tap at the air, pounding the imaginary black and white keys. Come on now, your call. What will it be, fight or flight?

Iunno…

How ‘bout this? We have him sneak out from behind the tree, trot off home with his bag of jewels, buy medicine for his momma and five siblings, and they live happily ever after. Or we have him jump in doltishly and act the hero.

Act the hero then. But make it nice. Authentic and stuff.

Roger that. So our foolish country boy whips off his shirt, excuse me, tunic, dashes out from behind his hidey-hole, and plummets into the river, to the utter astonishment and bewilderment of the sheriff and company.

Hmm…does he have six-packs?

In his cheeks, yes.

You’re not nice. Go on.

The water rushes over his head. For a second, he was back in the ocean. But then his fingers close on locks of hair. He kicks hard, and finds her waist.

Why not her boobs?

That’s later in the story.

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