On news radio, Buena had heard about a lone male wolf that was traversing the countryside in the northeast. Researchers had been trying to repopulate the area with his species, and their hope was that he would find a female wolf and mate. He had a tracking device around his neck, and the researchers were interested to observe that, even after years had gone by, the wolf still hadn’t found a mate.
“He’s just picky, I guess,” Buena heard the woman’s voice joke on the radio.
“There’s no rush,” another said. “He’s waiting for the right woman.”
“Aren’t we all?” The woman sighed.
Buena and I frequented a discount movie theater. If it was a hot day, we arrived hours before the movie started, and we hung out in the lobby eating dollar popcorn and drinking a single jumbo soda, which we shared. We enjoyed the air-conditioning, because our own houses didn’t have it, and we watched back-to-back movies. Sometimes, we’d take an intermission and buy some french fries next door.
On one of those early autumn Saturdays, when the unchanging weather lagged and sweat still collected on our lips, a skinny lady from Germany cornered us in the lobby and, without our asking, told us that men liked blondes with big hips and full bodies.
“And girls like that are asking for it,” she continued with a harsh accent.
She had short black hair and was twig skinny. She adjusted her earrings, which were bold and plastic, and licked her bright red lipstick off her teeth.
“Asking for what?” I spoke up.
“That’s what the German men like,” she repeated to herself. “That’s all they like,” she mumbled, stumbling away.
The theater was mostly empty, except for an older beer-bellied man who decided to sit at the end of our aisle. We saw the glow of his wet eyes in the dark, reflecting the light of the screen. His eyes moved between the screen and our legs in our shorts.
“Why is he here by himself?” I whispered. “Isn’t this movie for girls our age?”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Buena said.
That just confused me, but then, Buena looked over at him and said audibly, “Ew.”
Soon after that, he left.
Around that time, our church had started a weekly gathering for young people, which was open to the public, and because it was in the city, it filled with neighborhood youth. April Sandy was one of the new girls and she was developed. She had small breasts, but she had them. We all had them to some extent, but April Sandy let them hang out of her tiny shirts. She dyed her hair normal colors, like lighter shades of brown. She liked to hold babies.
“Who lets her out of the house looking like that?” I overheard a conversation between my mother and Buena’s.
“That girl’s asking for it.”
April Sandy looked too dumb to ask for anything. She wasn’t smart or fun, but boys preferred to kiss her over Buena and me, because she wore these black shorts that went right up to the tops of her thighs. She wasn’t particularly athletic, but she showed her legs shamelessly, which were long and meaty, in a healthy way. She had beauty marks up and down them that led our eyes straight to her center. And what was under those shorts? I knew and I didn’t know. I knew she had space under there for men, and so did I, for that matter. And that the boys that licked their lips and followed her around had less and less space in their pants when they thought of her. What they did with all the tightened space? That, I still didn’t know.
We took April Sandy to the discount theater one night. While killing time walking around the lobby, I noticed people’s heads turning to look at her. This never had happened before, when Buena and I hung around in the lobby. For the first time, my shirt felt extra-large and unnecessarily loose, my hair super short, my face too bare.
After the movie ended, April Sandy decided she didn’t want to wait for Buena’s mom to pick us up, so she walked home in those black shorts.
“Why? It’s getting cold.” Buena pleaded with her, “Just wait.”
“I like the fresh air.” She took off.
“You’re asking for it!” Buena recited.
“Asking for what?” I persisted.
“It!” She half-yelled impatiently, hands on her hips.
There were no forested areas in the city, but while Buena and I waited for her mom, we imagined that April Sandy’s walk went through woods that pressed against that main city street. We didn’t know what happened exactly, but we imagined what everyone said was true, that she would get what she was asking for. That on her walk home, a whirlwind of loose leaves caught her and tangled her hair with dirt and spider webs. The ground shifted beneath her feet and she fell, sprawled on the ground. Dirt, stale feathers and twigs filled her mouth, nose and ears. Cars on the main street stopped, the doors flung open, and dogs inside smelled her, raced to her, and April Sandy was theirs.
Buena and I thought of the northeastern wolf reading a newspaper in the Mediterranean restaurant. He sat in the back of the restaurant, wearing a fedora and trench coat, eating a falafel, and peering over his newspaper out the front window. He tried to go unnoticed, but after April Sandy had gotten what she was asking for, after all the dogs had their way with her, the wolf tore off his coat and with his quick stride, the wind blew his hat from his head. His freed ears heard her barely breathing, and once he spotted her body in the dirt, he approached her slowly. She was almost unrecognizable, and the wolf couldn’t bear it, her character forever blemished, so he ate what was left of her, her heart still beating in his belly.
April Sandy made it home that night without a scratch on her body. Having only driven the distance, we didn’t realize how close the theater was to our houses, only four longish blocks. At the time, however, it seemed unthinkable that a girl our age would walk home at night in those shorts. We weren’t sure what it meant, but over the months, Buena would ask me with a silly smile on her face, “Remember when April Sandy walked home?” And we’d laugh nervously at first, because of what could have happened. Then we’d laugh openly, because nothing ever did.
Regina M. Ernst studied her MFA in Fiction at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has had flash fiction published in Portland Review and Adult Magazine. She currently lives in Philadelphia. Follow her here: @reginamernst