CHARLOTTE MANDEL WAS A QUIET, bashful young lady; unassuming in many respects, except one—she was gorgeous. However, no one respected her because she lacked respect for herself in all aspects, no expectations, no predilections, or exceptions. You see, the lovely Miss Mandel was a slut, but not just any slut, but a doozy of a floozy.
Needless to say, we made fun of Charlotte for her promiscuous lifestyle choice when we weren’t trying to hook up with her—when no one was looking, of course—but that goes without saying. We were horny tenth graders; she was a slut. Charlotte wouldn’t strike you as that type, a slut I mean, by the way she dressed. In fact, I always thought she dressed nicely, in a rather typical manner. The way she dressed was indistinguishable from the rest of the girls at that time. All the girls wore miniskirts and platform high-heel shoes. The only thing that distinguished her from the rest was that she looked much better in them.
She had long blond hair that was either perfectly straight by nature or made that way by one of the many contraptions that most likely clutters the aptly named vanities of most every female under the age of seventy. I don’t know specifically what the contraptions are called.
Charlotte seemed to wear the perfect amount of makeup to highlight her delicate features, which included beautiful blue eyes that sparkled like diamonds, highlighted with tan eyeliner. Her golden hair covered approximately half her face most of the time, which only seemed to add mystery.
The one thing that always made me notice her more than her competition was the choker necklace she always wore. I’m not exactly sure what you call it, but whatever it’s called, I am sure it was there to accentuate a lovely neck. In any case, she was hot!
Charlotte wouldn’t strike you as being particularly slutty by the way she talked either, not at all the way the media portrayed them at the time. The stereotypical foul-mouthed, battle-axe, hooker-type who poured lewd, sexually suggestive innuendoes from her mouth like a sailor on shore leave was not her manner, or any other slut that I actually knew, come to think of it.
In fact, she had a rather sweet manner of speaking, with a subtle simplicity that, coming from anyone beside her, would convey innocence, except we knew she wasn’t innocent. She was naughty, yet nice, and some of us were glad of it, her naughtiness I mean.
I was one of them. For it was she to whom I owed the great pleasure of eliminating my name from the very unpleasurable list of the uncool guys. Yes, those guys. The ones you didn’t want to associate with; the hapless ones that meander the corridors of every school and who carry upon them the very uncool stench of virginity.
This specter was unshakable on a young man in those days and no amount of cologne or stylish hairdo or even a make-believe swagger could pose as an adequate substitute for the real thing: that you had actually had sex with a girl.
The greatest benefit of that accomplishment, that once seemed unattainable, is that a certain confidence exudes outwardly in your walk and your talk. It announces to the world, or at least to the tenth grade, that I am no longer a virgin. I am cool, and being cool is fantastic. I was most appreciative to the lovely Miss Mandel.
My appreciation, however, ran a little deeper than the usual show of gratitude. I used to watch her when she didn’t know I was watching. I watched the way she did the little things on her way to her locker. I’d find myself drifting off into romantic reveries.
I watched for her to smile at someone; how pretty she was when she did that. How could someone from around here be that pretty? I often wondered. A certain feeling of importance filled me as I allowed the thought to enter my head: This beautiful girl had sex with me. Me! And I mean something to her. I had to mean something, didn’t I?
And I watched her some more, waiting for her to flip her hair to one side when she wanted to see with both eyes. I watched her golden hair that was so shiny it reflected the fluorescent light like a mirror in the sun. It seemed to radiate, instead of merely shine like it did from most girls.
And I watched her longer still, for the one thing that set her apart even further from the other girls who were just merely pretty: her choker necklace. It accentuated her persona. It matched her, from head to toe; it belonged on her, around her luscious neck. On the other girls, the ones who wore them, they didn’t seem to go, but on Charlotte the choker was in place. It made her … her.
The peculiar thing about my reveries regarding Charlotte was that for a sixteen-year-old high school boy with rampant hormones, and whose object of his obsession was known for her sex appeal, I hardly thought about having sex with her. How odd, I thought, that this would happen, that I would hardly think about having sex with a slut. Then I’d have to admit something I didn’t want to admit, not to myself, and certainly not to anyone else. I was in love with Charlotte Mandel, and I was sad because of it.
This was not a little thing, or it didn’t seem like a little thing at the time. I was hopelessly in love. I should have shared my thoughts about these feelings with my best friends, and they would have rejoiced with me, or teased me. I wanted it, but I knew I couldn’t have it with her.
It should have been a happy time, a glorious time instead of one of the worst times of my life. How could I be happy about being in love with a slut? I even began to feel anger toward Charlotte for causing me to feel this way because she had robbed me. She robbed me of the bliss I should have experienced through my first love affair.
She robbed me of the opportunity to share thoughts and feelings I had saved for years, just so I could share them with someone I loved. Mostly, she robbed me of the greatest thing about being in love—the wonderful sensation of specialness, that I was special to someone else, that she thought enough of me that I held a special place in her heart. And then the ugly but true thought entered my mind and ruined everything: I wasn’t special … but merely next.
That harsh reality was reinforced every time I saw her flirting with the next guy in line—the next guy who would get the privilege of knowing her pleasure to which I was privy. The next guy who would experience what I had experienced, and come to know what I knew. I was jealous of the next guy, and I was ashamed of it.
I desperately wanted to talk to someone about my predicament, but whom? I couldn’t very well talk to Pete or Bart, or any of the gang. You don’t talk to guys about being in love. You talk to guys about having sex, not about being in love with the slut. The teasing would have been unmerciful. There was only one person I could talk to about this, and I dreaded it like a dental appointment.
Jesse was not the easiest person for any of us in the gang of twelve to talk to. He seemed to expect us to know more than we knew. Anyone else could talk to Jesse, and he was meek and soft- spoken, and had more patience. With us on the other hand, it was different. He seemed impatient and grew weary of our ignorance almost immediately. Needless to say, we avoided him.
None of us even knew how to talk about the subject of Jesse among ourselves. We were afraid to say who we really thought he was. If four or five of us were ever together, the conversation would eventually get around to Jesse and then end abruptly, just like it always did, with each one wondering what the others were thinking and afraid to say it. So the conversations ended, with uncomfortable stares at each other.
However uncomfortable talking to Jesse seemed, there was one irrefutable fact: Jesse was always right, whether we wanted to hear it or not. I knew Jesse had the answer, but I dreaded the fact that he would wonder why I didn’t. The fact that I would walk away feeling dumb didn’t outweigh the pain in my heart of forbidden love for a slut that I carried around my neck like a yoke. I bit the hard bullet and found that it was softer than I had imagined.
* * *
“Jesse, I need to talk to you about something,” I said rather loudly as he was about to turn a corner.
“I can tell something is bothering you, Matt,” he answered without turning to look at me. “Let’s sit in the library. No one is there now, and we can talk.” He was right, no one was there. We sat, and I began cautiously.
“You told us to talk to you about our troubles, and I’ve got one. But it’s hard to talk to you sometimes, Jesse. You said you’d teach us things about life and how to live it, but you kinda scold us like we’re children. So it makes it hard to talk to you.”
“I see. And what are you but children? You have just begun life, and life has just begun you.”
“I’ve been around for sixteen years,” I said rather defensively. “Don’t that count for something?”
“Yes, it counts. It means you have sixteen years to come to the conclusion that you know nothing.”
“How come you don’t talk to other people this way?”
“I teach each accordingly, but for you and the other eleven, you have a different road to travel, a more difficult road. Therefore, the lessons are sterner so that you may buffer what comes against you.”
I wasn’t about to ask him what road, not without the others with me to hear it.
“I have a problem that’s bothering me. I don’t understand why people are the way they are.” The frustration and concern were in my voice.
“What is your problem?” Jesse looked amused. “And who is it that has you so perplexed?”
“There is a girl in the tenth grade. Her name is Charlotte Mandel.”
“I know who she is.”
“Then you know about her?”
“I’m curious what you know about her, and the nature of your concern.” Jesse peered at me closer. After a considerable pause, wondering if I should tell the truth, and coming to the inevitable conclusion that Jesse seemed to know the truth anyway, I decided to be truthful.
“She’s a slut, and I’m in love with her.” I just blurted it out.
“I see, and this is why you are so distant? You’ve been near yet far away because of the thoughts latched hold of your conscious mind?”
“Yes, because I know I shouldn’t. I can never be seen actually dating the school slut. What would everybody think?” I no sooner got the words out of my mouth than I knew I had said the wrong thing to the wrong person.
“I see.” Jesse had that smile on his face that meant a lesson was coming. He leaned in and began to teach.
“So, Matthew, you have taken advantage of this girl’s vulnerabilities, yes?” He had me.
“And since then, you have a certain attraction?”
“You are now drawn to her loveliness, the subtleness of her manner, the sweetness in her voice.”
“For the first time you see her as someone whom you could love, as a mate for life perhaps. If only it weren’t for those blasted others whose judgment would accompany your friendship and fellowship? Do I state it correctly?”
“Yes.” I was waiting for a lecture about being a whore-hopper.
“There are two great forces at work simultaneously. Both were created by the Father, so both are right. One force is the animal, which is in man, just like all the created creatures that walk the planet. There is the relentless pull at the center of his being that urges him to mate so as to perpetuate the species. This is man the animal.
“There is another force which is at the essence of mankind. You were also created with this essence from the Creator. The scriptures say that is the image of the Creator. They are different words for the same force.
“This essence has merely manifested itself outwardly in your conscience, and you are now bearing the fruit of what you know in your essence, in your very being, is wrong.”
“Are you saying that I’m being punished? And this is why I’m depressed?”
“It’s all part of the growing process, Matt. Everyone experiences this same process. It’s what is gleaned from it that is important.”
“I don’t like this part of the process. Why is it in me, the process I mean? What am I gonna learn from being in love with a whore?” I was really puzzled.
“Sympathy, empathy, insight, clarity, and wisdom. Isn’t it a glorious world, Matt?” Jesse was beaming; me, not so much.
“How am I going to learn all this from her? How am I going to learn why she is a slut?” I was to the point of complete frustration. I didn’t quite understand what Jesse was saying. The philosophical way he talked was over my head.
“You are going to ask her.”
“What?! I’m just gonna walk up and say, ‘Excuse me, Charlotte, but I was just wondering, why are you a slut?’ And she is going to tell me?” I was frustrated and growing more so.
After a long pause, in which Jesse stared into my eyes for what seemed an embarrassingly long time, he rose from his chair and said, “YESSSS,” and with that he left me at the table to ponder my own unsure thoughts.
* * *
Charlotte was standing at her locker looking absolutely stunning as always, but today, especially so. She had on a short dress, which made her luscious legs the object of desire of any male with the slightest drop of testosterone, arousing them where they stood.
Every inch of her is adorable, I thought to myself as I approached; every inch from the top of her shiny golden hair to the tips of her hot-pink-painted toenails. I wanted her right there, right then, and for a moment I didn’t care who knew it.
“Charlotte, I have to ask you a question.” I got her attention. She turned in slow motion revealing the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.
“I have a question I want to ask you, Matt.” She had a mischievous tone in her voice.
“Sure, what is it?” I was curious.
“I want to know if you would drive me home after school today.” The mischievousness of her voice was even naughtier. She stood there flirtingly, seductively, hot—red hot.
“Do you know where I park my car?”
“Mmm hmm,” she said sultrily as she leaned back against her locker and her miniskirt leaned with her, exposing even more of her tantalizingly sexy thighs.
“OK, I’ll see you there.” I had to turn and leave abruptly, for obvious reasons.
* * *
I really didn’t know for sure if she would actually come to my car. With flirtatiousness comes flightiness, and I knew it. But, to my delight, she was there waiting, more alluring than ever. At the moment I didn’t know if I was lucky or cursed. At that moment I didn’t care. All I knew was that I wanted her, and I knew I was about to have her.
The ride over to her house was even more tormenting. She sat there in my car seat with her miniskirt pulled up so far that her exposed panties made me proud of my driving skills. I was literally driving with one eye on the road. The other was totally fixated on the luscious strumpet that I had sampled in this very car a month ago, and who was now mesmerizing me.
I didn’t believe I could hold out long enough to make it the last mile to her house. I knew she wouldn’t have invited me to her home unless no one was going to be there. Fantasies of pure unadulterated lust filled my consciousness. I began to imagine the very first move I was going to use, more like fantasize actually.
I was going to grab her around the waist, whirl her around and at the same time run my hands up her miniskirt and pull her panties off in one swift, well-orchestrated move that would put James Bond to shame. I wasn’t thinking about anything as we walked to her front door, not about me and my problem, not about her and her sluttishness, certainly not about Jesse and any would-be reason for any of it.
She opened the front door to her home and stepped inside, turning slightly sideways. I entered at the same time. I looked hopelessly and haplessly through the prism eyes of a boy in love and in lust at the sensuous smile that captured my heart. It gave me the reassuring confidence that I was about to experience something I would never forget. I was fixated on her sparkling blue eyes when, suddenly, they disappeared before my stunned eyes. One second she was there, the next she vanished into thin air.
I looked down, and there where Charlotte had stood was a child who looked to be about a five-year-old girl wearing a grownup’s clothes.
The little girl took my now trembling hand and said in her sweet little girl voice, “Come on in, Matt. What ya standing in the door with your mouth open like that for? Why ya look so funny all of a sudden for gosh sakes. Hadn’t you ever seen a girl before, for crying out loud?”
The little girl pulled me by the hand, and I followed. I was in such shock, and I didn’t know what else to do. Her tiny feet filled less than half the high-heeled shoes. They made a steady flopping sound with each of the little girl’s steps. Her little toes slid down almost completely through the open end with each subsequent step, exposing hot-pink-painted toenails.
The miniskirt she wore dragged on the floor, and the excess fabric from her blouse draped from her tiny frame. The sleeves hung a foot beyond her hands. Then I noticed something that made the blood drain from my face—a choker necklace hung loosely around her slim little neck.
“My God,” I said out loud. “It’s you.”
“Of course it’s me. Who did you think I’d be, for crying out loud, when I invited you over here to play with me? Gosh almighty, but you sure are a dumb ol’ boy.”
She continued to tug me along by the hand, and I reluctantly followed in a daze of utter confusion. I looked about the house and saw no one at first, but as I was tugged into little Charlotte’s room I caught a glimpse of a woman passed out on the couch with what appeared to be a three-fourths empty bottle of liquor on the floor, one hand hanging lifeless beside it.
“Sit down in that chair, and I’ll make the tea,” she said sassy-like. She started assembling a plastic tea set on a tin platter that had flowery pink and blue drawings of teapots on it. “How do you like your tea? I forgot to ask.” She giggled in the same sassy little girl tone.
“Go on and set down for gosh sakes. You can’t drink tea standing up, you big dummy.”
I figured I had two choices: Go screaming out of the house like a lunatic or sit down and enjoy a nice cup of tea with a five-year-old Charlotte, who sixty seconds ago had been a fifteen-year-old Charlotte. Either way, I was going to wake up in the same place: either in my bed at home, or wearing a straitjacket at Belleview.
As I took my place in the tiny chair, she poured me out a hot cup of make-believe tea, and then she poured out her heart.
“I sure am glad you could make it this evening. I don’t get to have much company. My mother doesn’t allow me to have company over. She sleeps a lot, especially when she drinks her tea. She wobbles around and says mean things to me, but that’s OK ’cause I can’t understand her most of the time ’cause her tea makes her talk funny.”
“Where is your daddy?” I asked the loquacious Charlotte with my knees uncomfortably pressed against my chest and wondering if the tiny plastic chair could support me.
“Well, I have a daddy, but I don’t see him much. He came over last Christmas. That’s the last time I saw him. But that’s OK too, ’cause he don’t like me much anyhow.”
“Why doesn’t he like you?” I was wondering why she would say something so odd.
“Well, he don’t ever come to see me.” A sad look appeared on the talkative little girl’s face. “He said he don’t like little girls. He wanted me to be a boy so I could do boy stuff with him. But I don’t mind that though. I’m a girl, and that’s just that.”
She continued, “I must be ugly. Do you think I’m ugly, Matt?”
“No, I think you’re pretty, Charlotte.” I was caught off-guard by the strange question.
“Well, my daddy thinks I’m ugly. He told me so … and he told me I had better learn to be a good cook if I was ever gonna get a husband someday. I tried to show him I could make good tea last Christmas, but he said it weren’t worth fooling with. Why don’t you try some of the tea?”
I picked up the tiny cup and made a slurping sound with my lips.
“Mmm,” I said and smiled at the sad little girl.
“Do you think I make good tea, Matt?”
“I think that’s about the best cup of tea I’ve ever had, Charlotte.”
Her sad blue eyes began to tear up. She lunged forward and hugged me around my waist as hard as her tiny little arms could squeeze me.
“If I make you tea will you come back to see me some more, Matt?”
“I’ll come anytime you want me to, Charlotte.”
She still held on to me tightly.
“Do you promise, Matt? Oh, please, say you promise. My daddy said he would come to my birthday party this year, but I guess my bad tea made him not want to. You really like my tea, don’t you, Matt?”
Her hug finally loosened.
“I really do think you are a great cook, Charlotte.”
“Do you think that other people will like my tea?”
“I think everybody is going to love your … tea.” It was at that point I realized she told me what Jesse said she would.
“I have to go home, Charlotte.” I got up from the miniature table and started for the door.
“Oh, don’t leave me now, Matt.” She wrapped herself around my leg and was crying. “Please don’t go now. Please don’t go now. Look what I can do.”
She jumped up and ran to her little tea set. “Look, I’ll make some more tea if you won’t leave.” She frantically reassembled the cups and the little pot.
I ran out the door and got in my car and sped off slinging gravel and making as fast a getaway as I possibly could from the crying, frantic little girl, who was desperately trying to please me with her make-believe tea.
I would never look at Charlotte again without seeing the desperate little girl offering the only thing that would bring her the attention she never received at home: a make-believe cup of herself
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