I was out of the rotation last week, so we decided to have me lead off this week’s round of COVID Chronicles. I was inspired last week by Paul Bennett’s romantic tale, so I took a go at it myself. I can’t tell if this story is Hallmark Channel genre or maybe one of those After School Special’s about a very important subject . . .
I almost titled this, “I’m Really In Like With You” but decided to go with something more provocative. Enjoy!
Let’s Do It
A COVID Chronicle Short Story
Jamie D. Greening
“I’m ready,” Kristin hit send on the text message.
“Are you sure?” Dakota’s response came back to her so fast she hadn’t time to exhale the breath she’d been holding.
“Yes,” she typed. “We’ve waited long enough.”
What she meant was she’d waited long enough. Dakota had wanted to after their second Zoom date, and he wasn’t shy about it either. He told her in several colorful ways what he wanted.
Kristin wanted to as well. But she was afraid. Her fear was ebbing as the hot summer got to her. The longing wouldn’t go away.
“Where?” her phone lit up. Just as fast a second message came in, “Can you get out of the house?”
That would be the tricky part. Her mother and father kept everything tight. Her older sister snuck out last week to meet friends in the park and got away with it. Kristin suspected their mother knew what happened and let it slide to keep the police out of it.
She was certain her mother wouldn’t let this slide.
At fifteen Kristin was two years younger, but she was smarter than her sister. Her plan was better. She’d make it out of the house without any problems.
“Yes,” she fingered the digital keypad faster than an aging GenXer can think. “Meet me at the stand of trees behind the abandoned elementary school at ten.”
Dakota sent a heart emoji in reply.
A half hour before their rendezvous she went downstairs. Dad was watching news in the recliner. Mother was already in bed. The situation was perfect.
“Have you seen Zuko?” she asked her father.
“He probably needs to go out one more time before bedtime. The book says new puppies need lots of encouragement or they may regress and leave a boom boom on the floor.”
“We don’t want that?”
Kristin laughed, then walked through the house as if looking for the dog she knew was asleep on her bed.
She walked through rooms, one eye on Dad. His attention went back to the television report about destabilization of the Korean Peninsula due to COVID-19 outbreaks. She took the leash from the entryway table and rattled it so her father’s subconscious mind would register the sound, and then she went out the front door. She left the leash on the porch.
The day’s heat radiated off the sidewalk and street. It felt good on her face. The elementary school was only five blocks away. The distance felt like traversing the Rocky Mountains. All she could think about was Dakota. He was a year older and oh so cute. She imagined what it would be like to run her hand through his curly hair.
She spied him sitting underneath the oak tree next to the playground fence. It took everything in her not to run to him. An overhead safety light from the playground shined on him like a spotlight in a theater. He wore a pair of blue jeans and an Aeropostale t-shirt. Her heart fluttered. He was the most gorgeous thing her hazel eyes had ever seen.
Social learning kicked in as she stopped walking about six feet away from the object of her affection.
“Hi,” he said and waved.
“Hi,” she smiled. Her head looked down and then back up.
“You look pretty,” Dakota told her. “Prettier than on my screen.”
He shifted his weight on his feet, and then his eyes enlarged. “I’m ready to this, but I don’t want to have any accidents.” He pulled something from his front pocket. “My parents taught me to be safe.”
“Me too,” she said as she also pulled out a vial from her own shorts pocket. “I believe in being safe.”
In the forest of the abandoned schoolyard the two teenagers both applied large quantities of hand sanitizer to their sweaty palms. Each one took a lot longer than normal, uncertain about the commitment they were about to make and what it might mean for their relationship. Both aware of the rules they were breaking. Both aware of what might happen. Both not caring. The urging was too great.
Dakota made the first move, stepping closer to Kristin until he was right in front of her. “I know what a big deal this is,” he held out his left hand, palm up. “If you’re still unsure, we can wait. I will wait for you.”
“I don’t want to wait any more,” Kristin said as she brought her right hand toward his extended palm. She touched his thumb with her index finger. Her hand trembled while she traced the rest of his fingers and then his palm. She moved her finger up along the edge of his wristband and then came back toward his palm. In one motion, she plunged her hand into his and wove their fingers together the way she had been practicing in her room under the covers for two months. Electricity shot through her. She tingled from head to toe.
It felt like they stood for an eternity, young love engaged in forbidden physical contact before God and all nature. Hopefully, that was all that saw them.
She spoke first. “I’ve never held hands with anyone not in my family before.” She looked into his eyes, “You’re my first.”
She assumed he had experience because he was older, but he didn’t say anything about it. Instead, he said, “I think we should walk. That is what they do in all the movies and television shows from before in the old days. They walked when they held hands.”
“That sounds good,” she said. “I’d like that.”
They walked through the woods, talking about everything and nothing. Eventually the woods ran out, and without deciding to, they found themselves walking along the sidewalk.
“Youve told me your family moved here last year, but you’ve never said why.” Kristin said.
“My mom got a job. When my father died, she needed to make more money. She found a job here working for a lawyer. She does all his filing for him.”
“Does she go to a real office?”
“Only twice a week. Her busy days are Monday and Thursday when she has depositions and video conferences with judges and lawyers and stuff.”
“Sorta,” he said. “If she knew I was here, she’d give the lecture about how this kind of thing,” he held up their intertwined hands, “could get her fired.”
A car came around the corner. They thought nothing of it until the vehicle stopped. The doors flung open. It was then Kristin saw “Sheriff” written on the side.
“Freeze,” a woman’s voice came through the darkness as lights flooded them. “Detach your hands and step six feet away from each other. Now.”
It was the hardest thing Kristin had ever done, but she let go of Dakota’s hands and obeyed.
The officer spoke into her radio, “I found ‘em. Tell her parents they are in custody.” She brought down her plastic faceguard and proceeded to wrap Kristin in a plastic gown. “Put this mask on,” she told Kristin. “You too, Romeo.” She tossed one to Dakota and then she made him put on the same plastic gown. “Stand still,” she told them as she baptized them with an aerosol disinfectant.
“Have you kissed?”
“No!” Kristin and Dakota said at the same time.
“Did you do anything else?”
Kristin couldn’t think of anything else. “We talked”
“Talked?” The officer said. “Are you sure you didn’t do anything else?”
“No,” Dakota said. “We just talked and held hands.”
“Hand holding,” The officer said, “with anyone other than immediate family requires a permit from a judge and a doctor’s signature and can only be done by consenting adults over the age of twenty-one.”
She forced them into the back of the squad car. Plastic dividers separated every seat in the car from floor to ceiling.
An intercom came on as the officer said, “Your parents are recommending the maximum penalty for the two of you.”
“Why? We used hand sanitizer.” Dakota’s eyes narrowed.
Kristin said, “What does that mean? Maximum penalty?”
The officer spoke again into the intercom, “It means after your two weeks of decontamination and isolation in the county jail you will have a month in-residence community service at the coronavirus wing at the hospital. Following that will be three more months of re-education training.”
Three other officers stood outside the building, waiting. Two of them took Kristin while Dakota was taken the other direction. Kristin twisted her body, pulled her arms away and ran toward Dakota. She clawed at him, ripping away his plastic gown as she tore her own gear free. They embraced.
The four officers pulled them apart, cuffing their arms behind their backs.
“It was worth it,” Kristin said, tears streaming down her eyes. “It was worth it.”