Introducing Cora Tate who offers this short story to read while you travel. Contains adult themes.

Vanishing Act

I was fifteen and horny as hell. You were ancient, 26 or 27, too old to be cool. You worked with my mom, when I first met you, which was seriously uncool. Mom invited you over for dinner, and you came over to visit occasionally after that. At first, you were just another guy chasing Mom’s tail. I don’t know why you two never ended up in bed. She seemed to keep you at a distance, but she was disappointed when you quit and moved away and she was always so happy to get your letters.

Your letters. That’s what started everything. My mom and I weren’t getting along. She got all freaked out that I’d had sex with a couple of high school boys—not at the same time, of course. Mom and I fought about that, and that fighting led to more fighting about everything else. She needed a break from me, I guess, and maybe I needed a break from her. I needed her love, but I also needed love of a kind she couldn’t give me, and she was way uncomfortable about that.

Mom knew I had my eye on this one boy at school, and he freaked her out more than any of the others. I don’t even remember his name now—Vance or Lance or something like that—but he was big and tough and eighteen, and I thought sex with him sounded like just the ticket. Mom even took time off from work in order to pick me up after school everyday to make sure I couldn’t get together with him. The constant babysitting wore her down, but she made sure I never got a moment of unsupervised time.

Summer vacation presented a much bigger problem, but Mom put all her energy into keeping me away from the hunk I wanted. She ran out of ideas about the same time you replied to one of her letters with an offer to let me stay at your place for a month or two. Mom bundled me up and had me on my way in less than a week.

As soon as you picked me up at the airport, you began acting like a male equivalent of my mother. You were determined to be the perfect father figure. I was sort of OK with that, ’cause I kinda wanted a mom or a dad to look after me even though I rebelled against it. My mom was more than six hundred miles away, and I needed somebody to fill that role. You did a good job of it. That pissed me off, ’cause I wanted freedom, I wanted to get laid. I wanted to be all grown up.

I was grown up, dammit, but you and Mom wouldn’t recognize that. I mean, you did, eventually, but the whole time I was at your place you treated me like a child. Well, until the very end, when I was leaving to fly back to Southern California, back to Mom. The night before that.

Those times I wanted to spend the evening with that guy Frank on the beach—do you remember them? I was so horny I coulda honked like a truck. I said I just wanted to walk on the beach with Frank a little bit. That was bullshit, of course, and you knew it. You said, “No way.” I argued, but you played the Mom role and wouldn’t let me go out. For three or four weeks, I kept trying, and you kept saying, “No”—nicely, but still, “No.”

That last night, before I had to fly home the next afternoon, I was desperate. I’d wanted to get laid the whole time I was there, but that night I needed to get laid. I told you I’d just have a quick walk on the beach and come right home to your place. I didn’t fool you for a minute, and you, of course, said, “No.” I was on fire. I felt so egregiously horny, I threw my arms around your neck and said, “Alright, then, if I can’t have Frank, you take me into your bed.” You gently held my shoulders at arms’ length and said that word I’d begun to hate: No.

I was angry and hurt. I was about to say, “You must be queer,” when I saw the look in your eyes and stopped. I had never really noticed what a beautiful blue your eyes were, but that wasn’t all that caught my attention. It was as if your eyes were an opening where I could look inside you, and I saw your heart and it was on fire. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’d been around enough to distinguish between affection and passion, but in your eyes there wasn’t any distinction. I realized at that moment that I really did want you, even more than I wanted Frank.

You hugged me but said that hated word again, then gently held my shoulders at arms’ length again. Looking at you, I realized what people meant when they wrote about someone’s eyes smoldering—but your eyes weren’t smoldering, they showed a raging inferno.

“No,” you said again, but I was too distracted by what I saw in your eyes to resent it. Then, you continued, “Not here and not now.”

I didn’t know what to say, but you continued before I could’ve said anything anyway—and you caught me totally by surprise. “Kerry, I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone, but I am not going to have sex with you tonight.”

By then, I wanted to talk you into it—I don’t know if it was the challenge or if I had begun to realize how wonderful you are, but I really did want you more than I had wanted Frank or that guy at school. I started to say something, and I started to reach for your crotch. You intercepted my hand and placed a finger across my lips and said, “No,” of course.

And of course I objected again, but you gently and patiently heard me out and then said, “OK, I don’t mean ‘No’, I mean ‘Not now’,” and somehow got me seated on your sofa and yourself seated in your armchair near the front door. I listened as you talked about your feelings and your intentions, how you would not commit a felony even for me—at least, you said, not that felony. I remember threatening to climb into your bed after you were asleep, and I remember your saying, “Don’t—not tonight.” And I remember talking about my feelings and saying I didn’t want to wait.

You said—I remember this so clearly—“I don’t want to wait either, but I’m going to. If you still want me for your lover, when I can be your lover legally . . .”

“I’m not going to wait three years for you, dammit!” I said.

“OK, but please be careful.”

I wanted to react angrily but couldn’t, ’cause I felt like crying. Before I could think of what to say, you continued, “The thing is, Kerry, I want to share more with you than just sex. I’ve had a great time with you these last few weeks even without sex—talking, hiking, listening to music together, sharing thoughts about books we both like, exploring the countryside—and I’d like that to continue, y’know, all that sharing.”

“With sex added in.”

“Yes, of course, but without throwing away everything else.”

When you said that, I wanted you more than ever. But I recognized that I wasn’t going to change your mind or get you into bed that night. I went to bed alone, aroused, and frustrated. As we ate the simple breakfast you’d fixed the next morning, I felt different, new. I was in love. On the drive to the airport (did it really take two hours? It seemed to go by so fast), we talked nonstop. Always so careful, you made sure we arrived an hour early, so we sat and talked after I checked in for my flight.

You hugged me, but you weren’t even going to kiss me good-bye, until I pulled your head down and forced the issue. While I enjoyed your embrace and the joining of our mouths, I could feel you growing hard against me. That was nice, but it left me uncomfortably aroused for the entire three-and-a-half hour flight.

Then, our letters, and our ‘phone calls. You wrote to me more than you ever wrote to my mom—and better, too. I went back to school, of course, but never seemed to get caught up in all the school social whirl like I’d done before that summer. Every time I’d meet some guy, I’d compare him to you. None of ’em ever survived the comparison.

My mom turned out to be right about that big guy, too. He turned out to be a total loser, never even graduated. Not only that, he got busted for a bunch of stupid stuff, and even beat up his girlfriend. I hated to admit Mom was right, but I did, and thanked her.

When you or I found out—isn’t it funny…I remember everything else (well, almost everything else) so clearly, but I can’t remember if I found out and told you or you found out and told me—but when we found out that the legal age in Washington was sixteen, we started making serious plans. You said you were willing—I remember you corrected yourself, “not just willing—eager,” and I said I’d hitchhike to Washington anytime as long as I knew you’d be there to meet me. You said, “Don’t hitchhike. Fly or take a bus.”

After we settled that question, I reminded you that I’d be sixteen in two months and said I’d be on a bus to Seattle the next day. You told me you’d be there waiting, so, after two frustrating months with lots of wonderful ‘phone conversations, that’s what I did.

By the time the bus arrived in Seattle and I stepped down with the backpack you’d bought me the month before, I’d been sixteen for two days. I was so happy to see you waiting there patiently and even happier when you whisked me away to the little house you’d rented southwest of Chimacum. Thinking about those first few months still gets me all aroused. We hardly did anything but make love, and neither of us gave much thought to anything else.

My mom was furious. I remember how she would hardly speak to you at first. She was barely civil. I think she was mostly just envious. She knew you were hot, and she kicked herself for not grabbing you when she could’ve. She behaved better after I told her she wouldn’t get to see her grandson if she treated you badly. She still doesn’t get to see either of ’em much—or her granddaughter—but that isn’t her fault. It’s just such a long flight. She’s talking about coming over a third time this year, though, so that’s nice.

Mom’s threats convinced us we needed to get out of the country. You and I had our first, our only, argument, because you insisted we take separate flights to Vancouver. When you said, “I don’t want anyone to be able to claim that I forced you to go, that you didn’t go of your own free will,” I knew you were right, but I wanted so much to fly with you by my side. I also remember how much you worried about me and the baby, because I had to wait four hours for your flight to arrive.

The only downside came from having to stay in the transit area. Because we didn’t intend to stay over in Vancouver, I didn’t want to go through customs and have to go back through their passport control to meet your flight. That meant I couldn’t get to the nursery room, with its cribs and everything, but at least they had family bathrooms and lots of changing tables. I just sat and nursed Robbie and read Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue, which you’d given me the previous week, but I remember feeling relieved when I saw you walk out of the corridor into the transit area.

We were a family of three, when we arrived in Queensland twenty-four hours later, although we learned the following week that we would soon have a fourth member. What a life! I was deliriously happy, and I think you were, too. Just like you’d said, we shared so much—everything, really: sex, gardening, books, sex, music, hiking, sex, cycling, our little but burgeoning garden, sex, conversations at all hours of the day and night, surfing, volleyball on the beach, and, of course, the kids. The kids made it even better, and they still do. I don’t know how I could go on without them.

Many people talk about losing a piece of their heart, when they lose a loved one. That makes sense to me, but I seem to have lost a piece of my mind, too. No matter how often I try, I can’t remember why you aren’t here with us. I seem to remember that the constable said a tourist had crossed the center line and run into you, when you were driving home from a gig late one night. But, then, it seems someone told me you were surfing and a great white shark attacked you. But I know somebody said a log truck had lost its load right into the front of the van, as you headed to a gig one afternoon. No, a bomb blew up the ‘plane you were in, the police told me, when you were flying back from that festival in Melbourne.

But maybe you just needed a break. One day soon, you’ll come walking through the door. I don’t know. I feel so confused. Didn’t the man from the government say you were the hero who threw yourself on top of one of the terrorists who blew up that part of Sydney’s Central Railway Station. The government representative said they killed forty people but would have killed at least twice that many, if it weren’t for your bravery. You were just about to board the train home after your big concert in Sydney, they said, when the terrorists came up from the station’s unused subterranean platforms wearing their suicide vests. But I’m sure one of our friends told me you threw yourself between our sons and a big saltwater croc that lunged out of the water, when you took them fishing. You see why I’m confused?

My mom keeps saying I should come back to California, that I can straighten my head out at her place. I think she just wants the kids close by, more than anything else. She misses her grandchildren, and fair enough. But would I even want to go back to California, could I stand to live there now. I might never see you, if I took the kids back to California. Here, I see you all the time. I see you buying smoothies for us in that little shop, whenever I take the kids up to Mt. Tamborine. I hurry into the shop to talk to you, but you’re always gone before I get there. I’ve been to a few music festivals, but I always seem to arrive just as you’re finishing your show—and by the time I hurry through the crowd you’ve left the stage.

Last month, I got the idea into my head to take the children to Far North Queensland, so I could show them the house we lived in when it was just you and me and the boys—that lovely spot between Mareeba and Dimbulah. Les and Sue had invited us to spend a week with them—they’re so nice—so I seized the opportunity to visit FNQ. I rented a car for a day and drove the kids up to Mutchilba and thought I’d visit Kuranda on the way back. As I drove along Coondoo Street, I saw you on the sidewalk. I parked illegally in a taxi stand and told the kids I’d be right back. I ran after you, but you didn’t see me, and I lost you again, when you disappeared in the maze of little shops in the Kuranda Market, so I hurried back to the kids.

One of these times, I’ll spot you sooner and I’ll catch up with you and we can be reunited. That probably couldn’t happen if I moved back to Southern California, so I’d rather be here. Why, just last week, I saw you buying greens for us in The Organic Shop, the co-op in Maleny. I parked the car and hurried in, but you’d already left. I thought you’d stepped into the UpFront Club, but they’ve closed. Sad. But I’ll find you soon, so I think I’ll stay here until then.

About Cora Tate

Educated as a scientist, graduated as a mathematician, but a full-time professional entertainer most of her life, Cora attempted to escape the entertainment industry, working as a librarian, physics teacher, syndicated newspaper columnist, and city planner. Cora lives and writes in Bhutan. In the past four years, her short fiction has appeared in the Galway Review, Indiana Voice Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and forty-three other literary journals and won the Fair Australia Prize.