First Monday Free Fiction: Lovers’ Lane

Welcome to the June edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.

Lovers' LaneThis month’s story Lovers’ Lane is part of my The Day the Saucers Came… series:

June 9th, 1956, known all over the world as “the day the saucers came”. Now, for the first time in print, read these sensational eyewitness accounts from people who were there and lived to tell the tale. Prepare to be shocked and horrified, as you read what it was truly like – on the day the saucers came…

Today, we present you the thrilling tale of Betty Miller, then sixteen years old, who drove out to Lovers’ Lane with her highschool sweetheart Cody Barrett on…

…the Day the Saucers Came.

 

Lovers’ Lane

June 9th, 1956. It was the night I drove out to Lovers’ Lane, the night my life changed forever.

Looking back, I really should have known better than to drive out to Lovers’ Lane with Cody Barrett. After all, everybody knew what happened at Lovers’ Lane, what the boys and the girls who went there did.

Not that I really knew what went on at Lovers’ Lane — no, I was far too naïve and innocent. But I knew that what the boys and girls did there was bad and sinful. Good girls like me, girls who wanted to go to college and marry a good husband one day, didn’t go to Lovers’ Lane and they didn’t do that sort of thing. Only sluts and hussies did. Not that I really knew what sluts and hussies were either. But like every good girl, I knew a slut when I saw one.

But I was young, barely sixteen years old, and so very much in love with Cody Barrett. Cody and me, that was true love — the kind that lasts forever. Or so I thought.

That night, Cody and I had gone to the sock hop in the gym of Herbert Hoover High School. I was wearing my very best dress — white polka dot organdy with a petticoat and a wide belt of shiny red vinyl. I wore bobby socks and saddle shoes polished to a high gloss, my hair was in a ponytail and I looked pretty, as pretty as I’d never looked either before or since in my life.

I danced with Cody all night long. During a break, we sneaked outside to catch some air and Cody used that opportunity to give me his high school ring. I was sporting it on my finger, wrapped with a rubber band to make it fit, and showed it to everybody who wanted to see it and many who didn’t. For this ring, this ugly thing of gilded pot metal and rhinestone that didn’t even fit properly, was the symbol of our love, the sign that made it official. Cody and I were going steady. We were in love. And come graduation, we’d get engaged and eventually married.

And so, when Cody asked me if I wanted to drive out with him to Lovers’ Lane that night, I said, “Yes, I do.”

For even though the girls who drove out to Lovers’ Lane with their boyfriends were all sluts and hussies, that didn’t apply to me. After all, Cody and I were in love. We were as good as engaged and one day, we would get married. And if you were engaged or as good as, then there was nothing wrong with driving out to Lovers’ Lane. Nothing at all.

Cody had an old powder blue Chevrolet. We both got in, he in his baby blue tuxedo with matching cummerbund and me in my best polka dot dress. The skirt was so wide that it got caught in the door of Cody’s Chevy, soiling the delicate fabric with grease. I was really angry about that, too. Because back then, I still thought that soiling my best dress on the door of Cody Barrett’s Chevrolet was the absolutely worst thing that could happen to me that night.

“Don’t worry yourself,” Cody said after examining the soiled hem of my best polka dot dress, “The grease will wash out. After all, your folks have got one of them new washing machines, don’t they?”

I nodded, because my Mom did have a washing machine, a true miracle of technology that was supposed to clean even the worst stains.

And then we drove out to Lovers’ Lane. All the way, Cody had the radio on. There was a baseball game on and — more importantly — music. That sweet hot rock ‘n roll music that my parents wouldn’t let me listen to, let alone dance to, because good girls didn’t do that sort of thing. But then, good girls didn’t drive out to Lovers’ Lane with Cody Barrett either. And if I was about to do the one, then I could do the other just as well.

***

I don’t know what I had expected Lovers’ Lane to be like. I mean, I knew where it was. Everybody in town knew. I’d driven past that spot often enough, sitting in the backseat of my Dad’s Studebaker, while Mom lectured me from the front seat about how Lovers’ Lane was this horribly evil den of sin where only the bad girls went, only the hussies and the sluts.

Still, in my mind I had painted the place as this perfect wonderland of romance. The reality was… underwhelming. For in truth, Lovers’ Lane was merely a place known as Sighing Pine Ridge, a plateau which overlooked our town. By night, it was a lonely place and also almost completely deserted, except for the cars of the couples who came here to do whatever sinful thing it was that couples did at Lovers’ Lane.

Cody drove his Chevrolet right up to the edge of the plateau and stopped. He turned off the ignition, but left the dashboard lights and the radio on. There was a live broadcast of a baseball match, the Yankees versus the Dodgers. I remember it like it was yesterday, remember the announcer breathlessly calling out strikes and home runs, remember the names of the players, Mickey Mantle, Don Larsen, Don Newcombe, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Joe Black. I never much cared for baseball — though Cody did, which is why I suspect he left the radio on that night — but I can still recite the names of those players, like a prayer, a reminder of the last normal night on planet Earth.

Still, for the time being, it all seemed normal enough. We just sat there in Cody’s car, parked right at the edge of the ridge at Lovers’ Lane, watching the stars and listening to baseball on the radio. For the sky was clear that night, as clear as it could ever be, and the stars were shimmering like so many diamonds on midnight blue velvet. It was peaceful and beautiful and there was absolutely no sign that anything was amiss, anything at all.

Cody draped his arm around my shoulder, but otherwise we just sat there next to each other, staid and polite, while Cody’s breath quickened, as Mickey Mantle scored another home run. And for a moment I thought, “This is all?” All that talk about the sinful things happening at Lovers’ Lane, and yet we just sat there next to each other, his arm round my shoulder, with the gearshift as a safety barrier between us.

Truly, I had seen more sinful going-ons at the local drive-in, when a monster movie was playing and I averted my eyes from the horrors on the screen to see Judy Burns and Archie Simpson engaged in some very heavy, very sweaty kissing and groping in the car next to ours. By comparison, what we were doing was positively harmless and wholesome. Of course, Judy Burns had always been a slut — everybody in town knew that — but nonetheless, the discrepancy was striking.

Or maybe we were doing it all wrong? After all, how could I be expected to do anything sinful at Lovers’ Lane, when I didn’t even know what the sinful things people supposedly did there were? Maybe I was just… unentrancing. Maybe Cody was just waiting for me to do something, only I didn’t know what?

But that slut Judy Burns, she sure as hell knew what to do. Maybe I should have asked her what to do before coming here tonight. There was only one problem. I didn’t speak with Judy, since Judy was a slut and one did not speak with sluts. Never mind that Judy hadn’t even been at the sock hop that night. She preferred the company of boys with motorcycles in black leather jackets these days.

On the radio, Mickey Mantle scored another home run and then a commercial came on. A commercial for mouthwash — so your husband will be happy to kiss you good-bye in the morning and welcome home in the evening. Briefly, I wondered whether I should have used mouthwash. For what if my breath smelled bad? What if that was the reason why Cody didn’t want to do any of the sinful things people supposedly did here?

But then Cody suddenly pulled me close and kissed me. The knob of the gearshift pressed into my ribs and Cody obviously hadn’t used any mouthwash either, for he still tasted of the overly sweet punch they’d served at the sock hop. But we were kissing and the stars were shining overhead like so many rhinestones on a chorus girl’s gown and the moment was absolutely perfect.

We kissed, until we both had to come up for breath. And once we had — taking hasty, panting gasps of air — we dove right in again.

It wasn’t long until I felt Cody’s hands on my body, not wrapped around my back, where they belonged. No, his left hand was on my breast, its warmth radiating through my Maidenform bra, while his right was on my thigh, working its way up beneath my petticoat, both places where they definitely did not belong.

Feeling his hands on my body — in places where they shouldn’t be, at that — gave me a jolt as if I’d just touched a live wire. I sat bolt upright, stiff like on of the chairs in my grandma’s parlour. On the radio, Mickey Mantle scored another home run.

Cody was jolted out of his awkward fumbling as well — or maybe it was just the impact of Mickey Mantle, winning another victory for the Yankees.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, his breath coming in short, laboured puffs.

“I… I don’t think we should do… this,” I said, backing away, until I came up hard against the passenger side door.

I noticed that my skirt — the wide, full, polka-dotted skirt of my very best dress — had hitched up and so I self-consciously smoothed it down again, drawing the stiff organdy down over my knees again. I remember how my mother had admonished me — years before when I was still a tomboy who liked to climb trees and catch bullfrogs — about sitting cross-legged on one of the chairs in our kitchen, my gingham dress hitched up, knickers in full view. “A lady…” she’d said — and I heard her voice echoing in my ear, as if it was yesterday, “…never sits with her legs apart.” And though I didn’t know why, I pressed my knees together tight, as if my life depended on it.

Cody’s face was flustered, pimples standing out like bright pinpoints of red on his cheeks and his nose and his forehead. “Why? You… you like me, don’t you? I mean, you said that you liked me. Said that you want to go steady. I gave you my ring, for heaven’s sake. And now you suddenly don’t want to put out?”

“It’s wrong,” I said, though I didn’t know how I knew that. All I knew was that the feelings I was feeling — the itch, the excitement and the throbbing warmth spreading from my breasts all the way down into my belly — that it just wasn’t natural. It was sinful… and wrong. The very thing my mother and grandmother had warned me about.

“We… we shouldn’t do this.” I crossed my arms over my chest, while another Yankee — Don Larsen this time around — scored yet another home run.

“So you don’t love me?”

“Of course, I love you. But…”

There was a roar on radio, as Joe Black of the Dodgers scored a home run. In my mind, I heard my mother’s voice. “Never trust a man when he says he loves you. Cause men lie. It’s in their nature. So always demand proof that he’s serious before you put out.”

Did being here in a car with Cody Barrett on Lovers’ Lane count as “putting out”? I didn’t know. But my Mom was always going on about girls who lifted their skirts too quickly and how no man would want them afterwards, no proper man at any rate. And Cody had tried to shove his hand under my petticoat, so I guess it did count. Besides, better safe than sorry.

“…it… it’s just not proper, not right.”

“Why not? We’re in love, so how could it be wrong?”

My mother’s voice echoed in my mind again. “Love is not enough. Demand commitment. Demand proof.”

I looked at Cody’s high school ring on my finger, the rhinestone gleaming dully by the dashboard light. Was a ring commitment enough? Oh, a diamond ring sure was, but a gilded high school ring with a fake jewel made of cut and tinted glass? And how did you demand commitment anyway?

I reached out and took both his hands in mine, as much as a gesture of love as to keep him from shoving them under my petticoat again.

“I love you, I really do,” I said, hoping that he’d understand, “But first I need to be sure. I need to know if it’ll last, if you’ll love me forever.”

I hoped that he’d say it. Hoped that he’d drop to his knees right there and then and declare that he’d love me forever and ever till the end of time.

But Cody disappointed me, disappointed me for the first time since the day I’d seen him chatting with that slut Judy Burns at the counter of the soda fountain. And that had been a mistake, cause Cody had sworn to me that it was all perfectly harmless, that she’d only asked him about the homework assignment for the American history class they had together.

This time, however, it was no mistake. For instead of declaring his eternal and undying love for me, Cody shrank back. His face was pale, his hair tousled and scattered red pimples on his cheeks stood out like pinpricks in the artificial light cast by the dashboard.

“I… I don’t know.”

“But I thought you loved me,” I said, “You swore that you loved me. So why can’t you say that you’ll love me forever.”

“I… I don’t…”

“Say it,” I demanded, “Either say it or take me home, now.”

“I don’t know, okay. Forever is a pretty long time. And if I get a scholarship, I’ll be going to college next fall.”

“And once you’re in college, you’ll just forget all about me?” I demanded.

Mom had been right. Men did lie. They told you they loved you and then they just forgot about you, just cause they’d gotten a scholarship for some fancy college full of fancy and sophisticated college girls.

“No… that is, I don’t want to. But lots of things can happen in a year. I mean, you could forget me, once I’m away at college.”

“I won’t forget you,” I declared, “I love you. I love you forever and ever and till the end of time.”

“And I love you, too,” Cody said, but his voice sounded weak, his words half-hearted, “I really do. But college… that could change everything.”

“If you really and truly loved me, you wouldn’t hesitate. You’d say that you love me and wouldn’t wait for college. You’re just a liar, a goddamned liar, like all the other guys.”

I reached for the door handle, but it wouldn’t open. Plus, I suddenly remembered that I was at Lovers’ Lane, in the middle of nowhere, far from the next highway, let alone a bus stop or a payphone. I’d have to walk home, in my bobby socks and my very best saddle shoes. And I’d be damned if I would walk home, just because Cody Barrett was a liar, a dirty, stinking rotten liar, like all the boys.

So I turned to Cody, my hands crossed over my chest. “You’ll take me home,” I said. My voice was dripping with ice and so loud that I even managed to drown out Mickey Mantle’s latest home run. “Now.”

“But Betty, that… that’s not fair. After all, I gave you my ring and you said you’d drive out to Lovers’ Lane with me after the dance. You can’t just say no.”

“Either you say you’ll love me forever and ever or you’ll take me home,” I said, “Your choice.”

Cody considered. He considered, as Jackie Robinson of the Dodgers scored a home run, quickly followed by Don Larsen of the Yankees.

“Okay,” he finally said, “I swear that I’ll love you forever and ever until the end of time. I swear by my life and the life of my mother and father and my little sister. And should I lie, then may the Lord strike me down right here and now.” He paused, out of breath. “There. Satisfied now?”

I nodded. I was satisfied. And if the thought that Cody might be lying just to get me to lift my skirt ever entered my mind, I quickly pushed it away.

Besides, he’d said, “May the Lord strike me down” and the Lord hadn’t struck him down yet, so I figured it was all right. But sometimes, the Lord only needed a little more time. And a little bit of help…

I don’t actually remember much of what happened next. There are flashes. My organdy skirt hitched up, the stiff petticoat sticking up like a halo. My panties tangled between my legs. Cody on top of me, huffing and panting. His hand on my breast, squeezing as if I were a grapefruit. My bare skin sticking to the vinyl car seat. The knob of the gearshift digging into my back. A flash of pain and a bit of wet, as Cody entered me, huffing and puffing like a ramrod. Cody crying out incoherently and shooting a load of hot and wet into my body.

And all the time, while I lay there, I kept thinking, “This is it? This is what everybody is so excited about?”

Cause even though I don’t remember more than flashes, I remember only too clearly how underwhelming the whole experience was. But then whose first time isn’t underwhelming?

It didn’t take very long. Two home runs only, one by Mickey Mantle and one by Jackie Robinson. And when it was over, Cody just collapsed on top of me and lay there, heavy like a sack of flour. After a minute or two, he started snoring.

And still I lay there, vinyl sticking to my skin, gearshift digging into my back, Cody snoring on top of me and Mickey Mantle scoring home run after home run on the radio. I lay there and looked through the car windows up at the stars above and wondered whether this was all, whether this bumpy fumble in the dark truly was what love was all about.

I was a hussy now, I realised with a pang, a hussy and a shameless slut, just like Judy Burns. Briefly, I wondered whether this meant that I, too, could wear pencil skirts and too tight sweaters now and smoke in public and hang out with the boys in black leather on their motorcycles.

But no, I couldn’t be a slut and a hussy. I was a good girl, after all. I was going to go to college and get married and have a lot of babies and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence.

And besides, Cody loved me. He’d said so, hadn’t he? He’d sworn he loved me, sworn it by his own life and that of his mother and father and little sister. Or may the Lord strike him down…

***

The radio gave out first, static drowning out Mickey Mantle’s latest home run, before it suddenly went dead altogether.

I sighed under my breath. It was going to be a long night.

Next came the humming, a low and ominous rumble in the distance, like an oncoming thunderstorm.

Finally came the light, brilliant, blinding, streaming in through the windows and blanking out the night sky, almost as if we’d parked right next to a floodlight.

“Crap,” I thought, “It’s the cops.”

For the cops sometimes patrolled Lovers’ Lane and shone into the parked cars with their flashlights. And now they’d found us, Cody and me, doing sinful and dirty things here at Lovers’ Lane. And everyone would know…

My poking and the radio dying hadn’t woken up Cody, but the light did. He suddenly jerked upright, banging against the steering wheel in the process, and stared out of the car window, blinking against the lights.

“What… the… hell?”

I was still pinned underneath Cody, so I couldn’t see. “Is… is it the cops?” I whispered.

Cody shook his head. “No. Something a lot weirder.”

He shifted aside, so I could finally sit up, could finally see. So I crawled right up to the driver’s side window and pressed my nose against the glass.

“Oh my freaking God!”

For there, hanging in the night sky above the town, was a flying saucer, a bonafide flying saucer. It was enormous, its diameter easily eclipsing the entire town, and lit up like a Christmas tree all over. On its bottom, there were more lights, gigantic spotlights brighter than the floodlights at the Yankee Stadium in far off New York City, where Mickey Mantle was probably still scoring home runs. And all of those lights were trained on the town, lighting up the streets brighter than the sun on a midsummer noon.

We both scrambled out of the car. I pulled up my panties and smoothed down my skirt or rather I tried, for my best dress was hopelessly wrinkled by now. Even worse, the once pristine white organdy skirt was now marred by an ugly bloodstain. I swore under my breath. Of all the stupid times to get my period.

I hoped, prayed that Cody wouldn’t notice. But I needn’t have worried, for Cody’s attention was riveted on the UFO floating above the town.

Together, we stepped up right to the very edge of Sighing Pine Ridge and looked out across the town below and the saucer hovering above.

Under the bright spotlights of the saucer, we could see the people of the town running about in the streets, looking so much like those little miniature toy figurines in my little brother’s train set.

Occasionally, beams of red light would stab down from the underside of the saucer. They looked quite beautiful really, surprisingly beautiful. When one of those beams hit the street, it would explode in a shower of gravel and dust. But should they hit a building instead, that building would suddenly burst into flames.

“Death rays,” Cody whispered, “They’ve got death rays.”

“More like fire rays,” I whispered back.

They were doing their job, too, for several houses in town were already in flames. The general store was burning, the first Baptist church, the movie theatre and the bank as well as several homes. Another beam stabbed down from the saucer and the gas station exploded in a shower of sparks and flames, hurling cars all over the street. One hit the front of the post office and got stuck halfway through the red brick façade.

“Oh shit!” Cody suddenly exclaimed and it was testament to the fact how extraordinary the whole situation was that I wasn’t even shocked by this display of profanity.

“That’s my house.” He pointed at a spot down in the valley. “And it’s on fire.”

My gaze followed his finger, but unlike Cody I couldn’t make out any individual houses. Instead, it looked as if all of Cypress Avenue and Cherry Crescent were burning. And Cody lived on Cypress Avenue.

It was that sight more than anything else that brought back the reality of what was happening. Our town, our homes, our whole way of life was on fire and all because of an alien invasion.

Cody was still staring helplessly out at the town and at the quiet little street where his house was burning.

I tugged on his sleeve. “Let’s get away from here,” I whispered, “Before they see us.”

Wordlessly, Cody turned around and marched back towards the parked Chevy, back towards salvation. I followed and barely even noticed, let alone cared that the full skirt of my pretty polka dot organdy dress got caught on a bramble and tore.

I assumed Cody and I would get into his Chevy and drive away, away from the town and the saucer and the horror. But Cody didn’t get into his car. Instead, he opened the trunk and took out a flashlight and a tire iron.

“Cody, what… what are you doing?”

“I’m gonna show ‘em,” he muttered, more to himself than to me, “I’m gonna show those little green men they picked the wrong family to mess with.”

“But you can’t take on the aliens,” I pleaded, “They’ve got death rays.”

“They burned down my house and attacked my family. I’ve got to do something.”

“Please, let’s just drive to Whispering Palms Air Force Base,” I said, “They’ll know what to do.”

Cody marched back towards the edge of Sighing Pines Ridge, flashlight in one hand and tire iron in the other. And God alone knows what he hoped to achieve wielding a tire iron of all things against a flying saucer equipped with death rays.

Cody pointed his flashlight up at the saucer. He waved his arms and yelled, “Come on, you Martian bastards! Look at me, damn it.”

Cody got his wish. The Saucermen noticed him.

For an instant, he stood transfixed in a cone of light, yelling “I’m gonna show you…” up at the saucer, while waving his tire iron. Then one of the familiar ruby-red death rays stabbed out of the saucer, so blindingly bright that I had to close my eyes against the glare.

When I opened my eyes again, Cody was gone. And where he had just stood, there was only a pair of smoking shoes and a discarded tire iron glowing red hot.

I stared at the smoking shoes and the glowing tire iron. I stared and remembered what Cody had said to me in the car, barely an hour before.

“I swear that I’ll love you forever and ever until the end of time. I swear by my life and the life of my mother and father and my little sister. And should I lie, then may the Lord strike me down right here and now.”

But sometimes, even the good Lord needed a little help. And so he didn’t strike down Cody himself, he got the Saucermen to do it.

“You lied,” I screamed at the smoking shoes and the tire iron, “You lied, you goddamned bastard!”

I kicked the ground where Cody had stood. I hit one of his still smoking shoes. It went over the edge of Sighing Pines Ridge and tumbled into the valley below.

Far above me, the saucer was still spinning, occasionally shooting death rays down at the town. The Saucermen paid no attention to me. I wasn’t important enough to bother with. After all, I hadn’t lied. I hadn’t challenged the good Lord to strike me down and invited flying saucers and death rays to scorch the whole town.

I ran away then. I didn’t even try to take the car. First of all, because I couldn’t drive. And secondly, because the keys had been in Cody’s pocket when the Saucermen struck him down.

And so I just ran. Away from Lovers’ Lane, away from the burning town and away from the pair of smoking shoes and the glowing tire iron that were all that was left of Cody Barrett, the boy who’d lied to me and brought down the wrath of God onto the whole damned town.

***

I don’t know for how long I ran. I know that I stumbled blindly through the undergrowth. Once or twice I fell and landed face first in the dirt. Twigs and brambles tore my dress, my beautiful polka dot organdy dress, but I was beyond caring.

Eventually, I hit upon the road, the road that led from the town up to Sighing Pine Ridge. I followed the road until it met the highway and just kept walking, away from the town and the saucer.

Only once did I turn around to look back and immediately wished that I hadn’t. For behind me, the entire sky seemed to be on fire, lit up by the blazing town. And above it all floated the saucer like a vengeful god descended from heavens.

I’d known before that I couldn’t go back, that I could never go back. But the sight of the burning sky brought it home more sharply than ever before. So I just kept walking. Somewhere along the way, the heel broke off one of my brand-new saddle shoes, so I just took off both shoes and continued to walk along the highway in my bobby socks.

I would go to Whispering Palms Air Force Base, I decided, and ask for help and sanctuary there. They’d know what to do. And then they’d shoot that damned saucer from the sky.

Whispering Palms Air Force Base was twenty-five miles away, much too far to go barefoot in a single night. But in the end I didn’t have to walk that far. For when I was maybe three miles from the town, I suddenly heard the roar of a car engine coming down the road behind me. And not just any old engine either, but the rumbling whine of a hot rod.

A few seconds later, a Deuce Coupe modded within an inch of its life skidded to a halt beside me. A door emblazoned with bright orange flames opened and out popped Judy Burns and her black bouffant.

“Betty? What are you doing here? Get in.”

If I’d still needed proof that this was the worst night of my life, the fact that I actually got into a car with Judy Burns, the town slut, and three of her beaus would have been it. I barely hesitated, too. I just got into the car, squeezing in next to Judy and a boy I didn’t know, self-consciously smoothing down my skirt, even though it was hopelessly ruined.

Judy noticed it, too. “Oh my God, Betty, you look a fright!”

Judy, of course, looked like she always did, with her pencil skirt, too tight sweater, too red lips and black bouffant. But then even the end of the world could not faze Judy Burns.

“How did you get out?” Judy wanted to know, “We thought the whole town was lost.”

“There were bodies in the streets, people getting zapped, houses exploding into flames,” the boy next to me said. Somehow, he made it all sound very exciting. “The only reason we made it out was because Hank’s hot rod really packs a punch.”

“Damn right, it does,” the driver added.

“I… I wasn’t in town when the saucer came. I… I was…”

Oh, what the hell! The world had just ended, flying saucers had attacked us, so there was really no reason to worry about my reputation anymore. Besides, this was Judy Burns, the town slut. If anybody had no right to judge me, it was her.

But I still blushed and lowered my eyes. “…I was up at Lovers’ Lane with Cody Barrett.”

“Cody? Did he make it out as well?”

I shook my head. “He’s dead. The saucer got him.”

“Oh, Betty, that’s awful,” Judy said, “I’m so sorry. I mean, I know that you and Cody…”

I kept my eyes on the floorboards of the old Deuce Coupe, because I found that I couldn’t look at her. “This is all my fault,” I whispered.

“A fucking flying saucer from outer space came to our town…” Judy replied. And of course, she used the f-word like it was no big deal, “…and started zapping everything in sight. How on Earth can this possibly be your fault?”

“Mars needs women,” the boy in the passenger seat piped in, before the driver silenced him with a pointed glare.

“We… we went up to Lovers’ Lane….” I whispered, “…and we… we…”

“You made love,” Judy supplied, as if it was the most normal and everyday thing in the world. And who knew, maybe to her it was.

Judy suddenly grabbed my hand. “You did make sure he used a prophylactic, didn’t you? Or at least pulled out? Cause you might be in real trouble, if he didn’t.”

I just nodded, though I had no idea what Judy was on about or why she was suddenly so nice to me, when we’d never as much as exchanged a greeting since junior high.

“Before… before I let Cody… touch me, I made him swear that he really loved me and would love me forever…”

From a corner of my eye, I caught Judy rolling hers.

“…and he did. He swore by the life of his family that he loved me. And if he was lying, then the good Lord should strike him down.”

“God, I can’t believe Cody’s still pulling that whole ‘Cross my heart and may the Lord strike me down’ shit,” Judy exclaimed. She even managed a pretty good imitation of Cody’s voice, which was odd, because I had no idea that Cody and Judy even knew each other. Apart from that American history class, of course.

“And then the saucer came and struck him down and burned down the whole damn town in the bargain, too.”

At this point, I finally burst into tears — hot, angry, long delayed tears. And Judy — bless her — actually put her arms around and tried to comfort me.

“Listen, Betty, if a flying saucer showed up every time a guy swears he’ll love you forever and lies, the whole world would’ve been conquered by Martians ages ago.”

“But Cody wasn’t just any guy,” I sobbed. The boy who was sitting next to Judy handed me a handkerchief. “He was my guy.” I sneezed into the hanky. “We were as good as engaged.”

Beside me, Judy sighed. “Listen, Cody gave me the exact same ‘I love you or may the Lord strike me down’ spiel as you, when he took me to Lovers’ Lane last year. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.”

Now I did look up, though my vision was still blurry because of the tears. “You mean, Cody was a… a cad?”

“Trust me, Betty, most guys are cads.”

“Not me,” the boy in the passenger seat piped in.

“And me neither,” the one next to me added.

“Shut up,” Judy said good-naturedly.

“So you mean I… I gave myself to a cad? I gave up the flower of my womanhood to a cad?”

“Try to see the good side,” Judy said, “If the saucer gets us and we die tonight, at least you won’t die a virgin.”

“Unlike Charlie,” the boy in the passenger seat exclaimed and was promptly swatted for his troubles by the boy next to me.

“I’m soiled now,” I said and the realisation brought on a whole new surge of tears, “Soiled and dirty. Damaged goods.”

Judy squeezed my hand. “Betty, you’re not soiled, you’re not dirty and you’re not damaged goods. You had sex. Big deal. People do it all the time.”

“Except for Charlie,” the guy in the passenger seat added. Again, the boy in the backseat swatted him.

“And it’s fun, too,” Judy continued.

I shook my head. “It wasn’t even that. Actually it was pretty uncomfortable.” At the memory, I burst into tears again.

“Oh yes, the first time usually isn’t all that great,” Judy agreed, patting me on the back, “But it gets better.”

“Uhm, far be it from me to interrupt this fascinating discussion…” the driver said, “…but there’s an intersection up ahead and I need to know where we’re going.”

“Whispering Palms Air Force Base,” I said, “That’s where I was going. They’ll know what to do.”

The driver briefly turned around before focussing on the road again. “Great idea, uhm… what was your name again?”

“Betty,” Judy replied, “Her name is Betty.”

The hot rod turned onto another road with such vigour that it left skid marks on the asphalt.

“All right, Betty, then Whispering Palms it is.”

***

In the end, we never actually made it to Whispering Palms Air Force Base, because by the time we got there, it was a smoking ruin, since the saucers had gotten there first.

But on the way there, we met some soldiers who had gotten out of Whispering Palms just in time and were headed for a command bunker they hoped was still safe. So we joined them and picked up some other survivors along the way. Together, we were one of the seeds from which the resistance movement grew.

Nine and a half months later, my daughter was born into a very different world. I always told her that her daddy was hero, that he had died fighting the Saucermen. It wasn’t even a lie, though I never mentioned that he’d tried to take on the Saucermen with a tire iron or that he’d been a lying cad. Some truths are simply too cruel for a child to bear.

Though I did tell her that she was conceived on June 9th, 1956, the day the saucers came. And coincidentally, the day I lost my virginity to Cody Barrett, who turned out to be a lying cad.

The End

I hope you enjoyed this installment of First Monday Free Fiction. And if you want to know just how Betty’s frenemy Judy Burns made it out of Stillwater Creek, she tells her story in Double Feature.

Check back next month, when there will be a new story available.

PS: The baseball game is as fictional as the alien invasion or the town of Stillwater Creek.

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