“Oh, don’t,” Sally says. She moves closer to him, pulled by gravity, pulled by forces she couldn’t begin to control.
“I just do this,” Gary says in that sad, deep voice. He shakes his head, disgusted with himself. This time he’d prefer to do almost anything but cry. “Pay no attention.”
But she does. She can’t help herself. She shifts toward him, meaning to wipe at his tears, but instead she loops her arms around his neck, and once she does that, he holds her closer.
“Sally,” he says.
It’s music, it’s a sound that is absurdly beautiful in his mouth, but she won’t pay attention. She knows from the time she spent on the back stairs of the aunts’ house that most things men say are lies. Don’t listen, she tells herself. None of it’s true and none of it matters, because he’s whispering that he’s been looking for her forever. She’s halfway onto his lap, facing him, and when he touches her, his hands are so hot on her skin she can’t believe it. She can’t listen to anything he tells her and she certainly can’t think, because if she did she might just think she’d better stop.
This is what it must be like to be drunk, Sally finds herself thinking, as Gary presses against her. His hands are on her skin, and she doesn’t stop him. They’re under her T-shirt, they’re into her shorts, and still she doesn’t stop him. She wants the heat he’s making her feel; she, who can’t function without directions and a map, wants to get lost right now. She can feel herself giving in to his kisses; she’s ready to do just about anything. This is what it must be like to be crazy, she guesses. Everything she’s doing is so unlike her usual self that when Sally catches sight of her image in the cloudy side-view mirror, she’s stunned. It’s a woman who could fall in love if she let herself, a woman who doesn’t stop Gary when he lifts her dark hair away, then presses his mouth to the hollow of her throat.
What good would it do her to get involved with someone like him? She’d have to feel so much, and she’s not that kind. She couldn’t abide those poor, incoherent women who came to the aunts’ back door, and she could not stand to be one of them now, wild with grief, overcome with what some people call love.
She pulls away from Gary, out of breath, her mouth hot, the rest of her burning. She has managed to exist this long without; she can keep on doing it. She can make herself go cold, from the inside out. The drizzle is letting up, but the sky has become as dark as a pot of ink. In the east, thunder sounds as the storm moves in from the sea.
“Maybe I’m letting you do this so you’ll stop the investigation,” Sally says. “Did you ever think of that? Maybe I’m so desperate I’d fuck anyone, including you.”
Her mouth tastes bitter and cruel, but she doesn’t care. She wants to see that wounded look on his face. She wants to stop this before that option is no longer hers. Before what she feels takes hold and she’s trapped, like those women at the aunts’ back door.
“Sally,” Gary says. “You’re not like that.”
“Oh, really?” Sally says. “You don’t know me. You just think you do.”
“That’s right. I think I do,” he says, which is about as much of an argument as Sally’s going to get.
“Get out,” she tells Gary. “Get out of the car.”
At this moment, Gary wishes he could grab her and force her, at least until she gave in. He’d like to make love to her right here, he’d like to do it all night and not give a damn about anything else, and not listen if she told him no. But he’s not that kind of man, and he never will be. He’s seen too many lives go wrong when a man allows himself to be led around by his dick. It’s like giving in to drugs or alcohol or the fast cash you’ve just got to have, no questions asked. Gary has always understood why people give in and do as they please with no thought of anyone else. Their minds shut off, and he’s not going to do that, even if it means he won’t get what he really wants.
“Sally,” he says, and his voice causes her more anguish than she would ever have imagined possible. It’s the kindness that undoes her, it’s the mercy in spite of everything that’s happened and is happening still.
“I want you to get out,” Sally says. “This is a mistake. It’s all wrong.”
“It isn’t.” But Gary opens the door and gets out. He leans back down, and Sally makes herself look straight ahead, at the windshield. She doesn’t dare look at him.
“Close it,” Sally says. Her voice sounds fragile, a shattered, undependable thing. “I mean it.”