I heard Joy singing through the open window of my bedroom, that silly little nonsense song she used to sing when we were kids drifting in on warm night air. I put my book down and cocked my head, listening, not sure I really heard it.
I’d been thinking about her a lot lately, and thought maybe I was just imagining it when I heard it again. She made most of the words up every time she sang it, but it always started with my name. Sometimes it was “Oh, Billy, go lompa lomp a nilly”, or something like it. A nonsense song she made up when we were kids, when we were still friends.
But she was down there, all right, standing between the pair of elm trees in our backyard. Joy’s own house was east, past a scrubby thicket of briars and tall weeds. Behind Joy was the woods, the real woods.
Her dark hair drifted behind her, stirred by the breeze, and she wore a flimsy white thing. I could just see her nipples through the thin fabric. The kind of thing I imagined she wore at night these days.
“Joy, what are you doing?” I leaned over, out of the window.
She smiled and twirled, arching her back and pointing her tits at me.
“Billy, come down here,” she said. “I want to show you something.” She gripped the edges of her nightgown, pulling it up slowly, so slowly, showing me her smooth thighs. Joy bit her lip and giggled.
I looked over my shoulder, and listened to the quiet house around me. Mom and dad were asleep, had been asleep for hours now.
“Hold on, I’ll get my shoes,” I whispered, but she was gone. Only empty night air hung between the two elm trees, and I imagined I could just catch her voice on the wind, blowing through early spring leaves.
I saw her the next day, in the halls between classes. I tried to catch her eye, but Joy was walking with her friend Aimee Parks, talking loudly about their plans for spring break.
She didn’t sit anywhere near me at lunch, but she sat behind me in AP Biology in the afternoon. Joy was always in her seat before I walked through the door, but I hurried to class. I wanted to find a few minutes to talk to her before class started.
“Hey,” I said, my voice low enough that Mr. Crenshaw couldn’t hear. He was old with big, watery blue eyes, and he didn’t tolerate students talking in class.
“What’s up,” she said, without looking up from her notebook.
“What were you doing at my house last night?”
She brushed a strand of dark hair back behind her ear. Her forehead wrinkled.
“What are you talking about?”
“Last night. You came by, singing under my window.”
She recoiled a bit, her eyebrow raised, as a half-smile crept across her face. The look I remembered when she thought someone was being ridiculous.
“It wasn’t me,” she said. “I wasn’t even home last night, Billy.”
I was drifting, half asleep or more, not sure I’d actually heard anything. A breeze stirred an open book on my desk.
“Billy, Billy, come here.”
I was out of bed then, and looking down into the yard. She was there, glorious in the moonlight, swaying back and forth beneath my bedroom window.
“What are you doing?”
“Billy,” she said, and arched her back. “Billy, I want to show you something.”
“What was that shit you pulled in class?” I hissed,
“Forget about that,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. Just come down here and see.” She came closer, and pressed her body against the side of the house. She looked up at me with big, dark eyes and giggled. Joy’s voice was a welcoming liquid purr.
“Ok, fine,” I said. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“Hurry, Billy,” she said, and giggled once more.
I flew through the dark house, not caring if I woke my parents this time. I left the front door open, and my heart pounded in my chest as I circled to the back of the house. I thought I could smell her, a mixture of the light perfume she wore, and something else. Something like sweat. Something that made my mouth dry up.
But she was gone. Of course she was gone. I looked through the opening between the pair of elm trees, at a single bright window in Joy’s house. Her bedroom.
The next day, Joy wasn’t laughing with her friends in the hallways between classes, and her seat in Biology class was empty.
I waited for her that night. I paced back and forth between the two elm trees, and jumped at every sound coming from the woods between our houses. Twice I thought I caught her perfume on the wind.
Her bedroom window was dark, and Joy didn’t come visiting that night.
She caught my eye in the hallway outside of the cafeteria the next day. Her friends followed behind her, laughing and talking. She didn’t look through me, like I wasn’t there. Like she used to. Joy only had eyes for me. She gave me a little half-smile, like we had a secret.
And she was waiting for me in class that afternoon. My heart pounded once more as I made my way down the aisle and sat in the seat in front of her.
“Did you miss me last night, Billy?” she asked. She drew the question out and her breath tickled the back of my ear. Beneath her perfume, I could smell sweat and something else. Something like dirt. Like the ground after a long rain.
“I’ll see you tonight,” she said. “I want to show you something."