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NO ONE IS SAFE
by Susan Tepper

Nothing shy about this guy, I found myself thinking, suddenly uncomfortable. I had on my skimpy, khaki shorts. And because I'd assumed I was alone, unobserved, I wasn't sitting very lady-like. Quickly pressing my knees together. Not fast enough. A change came over his face, a sort of excited flush to his dark, leathery skin. It reminded me of hungry people about to devour cheap food.

Shivering, I turned my head with what I hoped was an obvious get lost! expression, praying he hadn't gotten a look up my shorts.

The man did not get lost. He tried making small-talk. He looked in his late forties, with this mop of jet-black hair that had been styled, but was growing out and badly in need of shampoo. As my mother's generation would say: the man is going to seed.

Probably in his twenties, even his thirties, girls had been after him. Nice girls even - girls who had called him a hunk, anxious to jump into bed with him.

He kept smiling down at me. His eyes almost as black as his hair. I'd noticed his teeth looking dingy. And his white knit shirt all wrong with its wide band of black around the middle where his stomach protruded. A beer belly. I had wanted to tell him I'd never be one of those girls who would go for him. That in his present condition he shouldn't be too optimistic about getting anyone decent. Naturally, I told the police later on, I didn't say any of that.

"You come here often?" the man had wanted to know.

His smile was easy; too easy. It made me feel strange, fluttery. Again I had looked toward the girl and guy on the blanket registering that they were probably within shouting distance. Shifting slightly on the bench I told the man, "Not that often."

"You belong?" He pointed in the direction of the pool and tennis courts.

"No."

Then for some reason I still don't understand, I began wondering if perhaps I should say more - that I used to belong, had belonged for years; that this was the first year I hadn't signed-up for pool and tennis. My head felt fuzzy. For a moment I'd actually considered telling him why. How Ronald betrayed me. Those days it was never far from my thoughts. I'm fair game now, I was thinking on that bench, my bare feet sliding around in the grass for my moccasins.

 

Copyright 2007 by Susan Tepper


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