all ribbons and curls,
Hand on the door, head down, Jenny sighs. "Out? Mom - "
"What would your father say? Jennifer, you know what we said about school nights. Do you want the whole town talking about you the way they talk about that Monroe girl?"
She's still got her apron on, vivid flowers over gingham pink and orange under the kitchen lights, but Jenny's mom looks tired and pale. It's Monday, wash day. It'll be ironing day tomorrow. Wednesday is baking. Thursday is dusting.
"Mom," Jenny whines, hating the little-girl neediness in her voice.
"No," Carrie Ackles says. "And, Jennifer, did you wear your girdle? It wasn't in the wash."
"It's so stupid, Mom - none of the other girls wear one. Can't I - "
"You're my daughter, and while you live in this house you'll do as I say. Do you want everyone thinking you're easy? I've seen the way you watch that no-good Padalecki boy, Miss Jennifer Ackles - "
"Mom, please - "
"Panting after him like one of those scarlet women. I'm not having it, you hear me?"
"Mom - " Jenny says, and the anger and resentment in the word is blatantly obvious.
"That's enough. Go to your room."
"When I'm at college - "
"Who said anything about college?" Carrie Ackles says, and her eyes are narrowed and her mouth compressed.
Jenny has to put a hand on the door to keep herself upright. She feels dizzy and faint. For years the thought of college, escape, has been the one thing keeping her going, head bent over her books, homework always neat and in on time, extra lessons, extra assignments, always tidy, always with her hair ribbons ironed and her shoes polished and a smile on her face. Even when it hurts so bad she might die, Jenny smiles.
"What?" she says faintly.
"Where do you think the money's going to come from, huh, little miss high-and-mighty? You think we've got the dollars to waste on you, with your father spending every cent down at the Bar and Grill? If you were a boy - "
Only boys play out in the street. Come on, Jennifer, let your father watch the match in peace. Help me with the ironing. Just fold the eggs into the batter - gently now. Brush your hair before you go out. Aren't you a pretty girl, then? Such a help to your mother -
"I'm going out," Jenny says abruptly, yanks the door open and slams it shut on her mother's astonished, angry face.
She needs to run. She does, stumbling in her Mary Janes, panting before she gets down to the end of the road, and by the time she gets to Main Street she's walking with one hand pressed to the stitch in her side, but she can't go home. There's a lump in her throat she keeps trying to swallow down and what feels like a hungry animal clawing at her stomach, because if she can't get free, can't get away - she can't, she can't spend her life just like her mother, cookies and church bake sales and flower arranging classes and sighing over Gone with the Wind like Rhett Butler would make everything better if he'd only appear and sweep her off her feet. "I can't," Jenny says to herself, and her voice sounds thin and hopeless to her own ears.
"Can't what, honey?"
Shocked, Jenny spins around and takes two steps backwards, pulling her cardigan defensively over her chest. It's a woman's voice, deep and smoky in a way that makes Jenny think of the scarlet-smeared cigarette butts she's seen once or twice in the ash tray of her father's car. She can smell nicotine and gardenias.
"Who are you?" Jenny asks, short and scared, because it's dark, and no decent women would be standing on the street corner at this time of night, smoking in public.
Under the street light, posed like a pin-up girl in a dress that clings to a cantilevered bosom and stretches over generous hips, Ruby Monroe takes a long pull on the cigarette held between her red-tipped fingers and lets the smoke trickle out of her nostrils. Hanging in the cold air, it swirls slowly around the stiff, smooth waves of her permed hair and wreathes her silk-stockinged knees.
"Well, hello, Jenny Ackles," she says, smiling.
"Have you been following me?" Jenny asks, thin, weak voice. She glances around, but there's no one else in sight.
"Not tonight," Ruby says. "But how could I resist a damsel in distress?"
Jenny nearly runs, then. Ruby's mouth is wide and red, her teeth pointed, and although Jenny's not a fanciful girl she thinks the expression on Ruby's face is little short of predatory. But from around the corner comes the harsh, stuttering growl of a motorbike engine starting, and Jenny turns towards the sound as she always does, hoping hopelessly as every time that this will be the one time Jared Padalecki rides past and <i>sees</i> her. It's never happened. In her neatly-ironed school uniform with her hair pulled into pigtails, Jenny's so far from being one of the laughing, lipsticked girls that sit on the back of his gleaming Indian that she might as well be invisible. Yearning, she listens to the sound of the bike roar as Jared guns the throttle, then settle to a steady bone-shaking grumble. She can hear high-pitched laughter and shouting - it's the Bar and Grill. Her father will be there. Or - she doesn't know what the time is - stumbling home, smelling of beer and cigars, feet up on the living room table, Jenny fetch me the ash tray -
"I can help you with that," Ruby says, behind her.
"Sorry?" Jenny says, turning.
"That. You've got it bad for that boy, haven't you? Jared Padalecki," Ruby says, and her voice lingers on his name, makes every syllable a separate word.
"What - how?"
"Call it an educated guess," Ruby says, and smiles. "Do you want him, Jenny Ackles? Want to feel the wind in your hair, big bike throbbing between your thighs?" She's got her head on one side, and now she looks nothing but brightly interested, almost like they're sitting in the diner talking about the new Everly Brothers single and not standing in the dark, on a street corner.
And Jenny - Jenny, suddenly, feels giddily reckless. If she can't get what she wants one way, she'll get it another, and Jared Padalecki with his bandanas and his bike and his booming, wide-mouthed laughter is the freest thing she's ever seen. But she's careful by nature, and even though Ruby looks exactly like the kind of girl Jared would know, the sort of girl who knows things Jenny doesn't, like there's some grown up secret she's yet to discover, she asks, "Why would you help me?"
"Why not? I've got my reasons," Ruby says, dismissively. Her eyes flick over Jenny's school dress, her thin cardigan, down over her knit stockings to her polished Mary Janes. "If you're brave enough, meet me outside the diner tomorrow morning. Ten o'clock. We've got work to do."
"But it's - " Jenny starts, but Ruby's walking away, high heeled shoes echoing as they strike the pavement, trail of smoke lingering behind her.
"A school day," Jenny finishes, under her breath. Over by the Bar and Grill, the sound of the bike growls as Jared pulls away.
By a quarter of ten she's convinced herself Ruby isn't coming. This was a stupid idea. Jared's never going to look twice at her, mousy, quiet, ordinary Jenny Ackles. She could get a job. Pay her own way through college. Pick something she actually wants to do, something that doesn't involve shorthand or typing, find a room-mate, get out of town.
Before she sees it she can hear the car, a deep rumble that sounds nothing like the civilized chatter of her father's Plymouth, and when Ruby pulls up by the alley as if she knows Jenny's there she's somehow not surprised to see that Ruby's driving a little red convertible. Ruby's got sunglasses on, her hair tied up in a scarf, and she's smiling as she opens the door to let Jenny hop into the front seat.
"I've been hearing whispers," she says, "Seems like your boy's been looking back. Bet you didn't know he knows your name." She winks at Jenny then, a slow, amused grin on her face as she spins the wheel.
"How did you - " Jenny's so astonished she doesn't even think to say, as she'd planned, this isn't a good idea. Please, just drop me at the school gates.
"I know some people," Ruby shrugs. "Now. Are you ready for this? No pain without gain, Jenny, and we're gonna do some stuff that goes against that gentle nature of yours. Things good girls don't get to do. But we're going to get you your boy, honey, trust me."
Five hours later, clutching onto Ruby's hand as the tattooist sticks a pin through her right nipple, Jenny isn't so sure. "Are you sure this is - " and then she yelps because it hurts, and Ruby's got a little smug smile on her face as she watches the needle go through while Jenny just pants. Then it happens all over again, and Jenny wants to curl up with the pain of it, doesn't dare look down, fixed her eyes instead on the coarse, brightly colored images pinned to the wall. Lots of roses, gothic lettering, a dagger, skulls, the patterns swimming in front of her as her eyes water with the pain.
"Hang on in there, honey," Ruby says, "One more," and Jenny's got no words left to protest as the the tattooist lifts up her skirt and oh that was why Ruby got her take off her knickers. She'd felt so dirty and thrilled, in the little changing room surrounded by piles of clothes Ruby had pinned on her, frowned at, taken off, until Jenny's head was spinning and she'd lost any will to object to the skin-tight, low cut blouses and the pencil skirts, the scandalous leggings and the high-heeled pumps she could never, ever show her mother. Now, though, she feels dizzy and frightened and somehow, more alive than she's ever done in her life before. Like there's someone new under her skin, someone confident and attractive, someone in whom Jared would be interested in.
"Oh my God," she says, claps a hand over her mouth in absolute horror and can't move, Ruby's hands suddenly holding her down in the chair, and it feels as if an animal's bitten her down there. She hasn't even touched herselfthere, and now it feels like she's on fire, throbbing with pain, like nothing exists but the space between her legs. "Stop," she says weakly, "Please stop," and Ruby smiles down at her, wicked and certain, while the tattooist does something else that hurts even more. "Please," she says, and he sits back on his heels, looking between her legs. It's awful, she's bright red with embarrassment, and she tries to close her knees and shuffle the skirt down but it hurts.
"All done," he says cheerfully, and stands up, while Jenny lies back in the chair, shamefully exposed, while the tattooist talks to Ruby. "Aftercare," she hears and, "Don't let her scratch - " but she feels detached, floating, so very, very odd.
Faintly, ridiculously, triumphant. The Jenny lying back in the black leather chair is a very long way from the Jenny who huddled in the alley. She's got hotpants, scarlet pumps, nail varnish, mascara, hairspray, lipstick. She's lost six inches off her hair and it curls softly around her face, no longer dragged back in pigtails. She's got rings in her nipples and... somewhere else... and a whole new vocabulary - call it a dick, honey, that's what it is. And don't let him see your teeth. "Bad girls swallow," Ruby says, and grins. "Good girls don't." It's obvious what she expects.
Ruby's tugging at her shoulder. "Let's go," she says, and Jenny blinks up at her, bemused, before pushing herself up onto wobbling legs. She starts for the door, and behind her Ruby says, laughing, "Best put some clothes on first, Jenny Ackles."
When Jenny looks down, she's half naked. "Oh my God," she says again, scrambling for her new nylon underwear and her blouse, and already the words seem almost familiar. Ruby helps her ease everything on - "Don't bother with your brassiere, honey, it's only going to hurt more." - but the tattooist has gone back to the magazines he was leafing through when they came into the parlor, and Jenny feels oddly let down. She'd thought that all boys - men - were desperate to see a girl's naked body, that was why good girls had to be so very careful, because men couldn't be trusted if they got excited. But there she is, almost naked, and the first man who's ever seen more than the curve of her neck or the turn of her ankles isn't interested.
"You're just not what he's after," Ruby says, and nods up at the wall where covers from Men's Health and Physique Monthly line up in rows of bulging biceps. "But don't worry. Your boy's gonna appreciate the view, believe me."
She's taking a good look herself, and for all the changing room laughter, just us girls, Jenny feels for a moment just like she did when Zachariah wouldn't stop looking the week she got her first training brassiere. "Ruby?" she asks uncertainly, and Ruby shakes herself and smiles quickly and does up four buttons on Jenny's new crimson blouse. Then undoes one.
"Come on," she says. "Places to go."
They're pulling into town, wind in Jenny's loose hair, piles of bags in the back seat, and the pain has faded to a dull throbbing ache. Jenny's still a little dizzy and the ride's felt unreal, towns and farmland flashing by at blurred speed. She's not even quite sure where they've been.
"Uh," she says. "The diner's still open?" She doesn't know the time, but it's got to be well past when her mother was expecting her to walk in the door.
"I think we can do better than that," Ruby says, and pulls up outside the Bar and Grill. "Let's take a look at you," she says, and straightens Jenny's hair. "Roll your skirt up, hon, shame to waste those legs." Then she frowns. "Honey, you're too pretty to give yourself away for free. Make him work for it."
It's only then that Jenny realizes Jared's bike is leaning on its sidestand next to the car. "I can't," she says, panicking.
"Sure you can," Ruby says. "Big smile, now. Back straight."
If there was one thing Jenny knew how to do it was smile. She did, walking stiffly into the bar on her new high heels, so very carefully not gawping at the shadowed interior with its small tables and stools. Ruby didn't even hesitate, like going into bars was something she did every day, and when she walked past the line of men at the bar Jenny could see them turn to watch the curve of her ass. For a moment she thought, 'I can't do this,' and then - then it was someone else, someone new, who took control of her legs and walked her down the same aisle with a toss of her hair and a wriggle Jenny had never even dreamed she could produce. She could almost feel the eyes on her back, and the thought of it sent the blood flushing to her face, embarrassed and gratified at the same time.
"Good girl," Ruby says, and then looks up at the girl already waiting for their order. "We'll take two martinis," she says. "Dry."
The drinks come in long-stemmed glasses with salt crusted around the lip, like nothing Jenny has ever seen before, but she isn't sure if she likes the bitter taste. The French Fries she loves, piping hot and hard at the edges, soft in the middle, and she eats most of the bowl and licks her fingers between every bite. Leaning back in the booth, her eyes focused somewhere behind Jenny's shoulder, Ruby sips her martini and smiles to herself. Faintly, Jenny can hear laughter from the bar and the pool table beyond, but it seems blurred and pleasant and nothing to do with her and when she's done she sits back, smiles, and closes her eyes.
"Hey pretty baby," someone says, so close that she flinches as she spins around. "That was some show you put on. Wanna take a ride with me?"
What she sees, shocked, is a Live free, die hard belt buckle the size of her hand. Then she looks up. And up. Over the tight stretch of a dirty gray undershirt and the trailing ends of a red bandana and between the silver zipped edges of a battered leather jacket, all the way up to Jared Padalecki's smirking face. Looking at her.
The smirk broadens. "Well, darn," Jared says, the words drawled out low enough to make her shiver. "Jenny Ackles, as I live and breathe."
Jenny says nothing. She's almost shaking. Jared's looking at her. Looking at her like he really sees her, like she's someone, like she's something special enough for him to notice. And up close, Jared's overwhelming, towering over her, smelling of oil and fresh sweat and tobacco that's spicier and harsher than the cigars her father smokes.
"Hey Jay," Ruby says, and gives a little wave.
Jared flicks his eyes up and nods, and then he looks back. The smirk's fading, and Jenny desperately tries to think of something to say, Anything. He's going to think she's stupid. He probably does think she's stupid.
"Almost didn't recognize you," Jared says, "New clothes and all." He waits, but Jenny's got nothing but a weak smile to offer. She doesn't trust her own voice.
"Jay!" Someone shouts. "Jay, baby!"
Jared doesn't even turn his head. He's letting his eyes travel down over the curves of Jenny's new blouse - oh no, Jenny thinks, he'll think I'm easy, should have done up that button, and there's a secret hot thrill that comes along with the thought she's never felt before - over the tight stretch of her skirt and then her thighs and her knees right down to the toes of her new shoes. Then he looks back up. Slowly.
"Took her shopping," Ruby says laconically.
"Can see that," Jared says. "Babe, you clean up so good I almost didn't recognize you." He's frowning now, as if he's puzzled, and he's really looking, as if Jenny's actually a person, like he wants to figure her out. As if she's done something interesting.
Jenny wants him to look. She leans back against the table, keeps her back straight, tucks her elbows in and knows that the blouse has tightened over the soft curves of her breasts. She's not wearing a brassiere. Jared's going to see everything. She can see his eyes drop, flicker of eyelashes, and she arches her back and can feel her nipples tighten. It hurts a little, the metal rings hard and unyielding, and she knows that Jared must be able to see the shape of them under the thin satin fabric.
"Jay, what're you - " It's one of the girls from the bar, a girl with tumbling black hair and a red blouse so low-cut Jenny can see the curves of her breasts, creamy white skin, as she presses up against Jared's side. She's popping gum, pink mouth, half-closed eyes contemptuous eyes. It's the girl Jenny's seen most often on the back of Jared's Indian, although there have been other girls, redheads, blondes, the female mechanic from the garage her mother frowns over. Lots of girls.
Like Jared, the girl looks her over, but it's a dismissive stare. "Bobby's waiting for you, Jay," she says. "Game ain't gonna play itself."
Jenny sticks her chin up, drops her eyelashes, and smiles. It's a small smile, it says, I've got secrets, the first grown-up smile of her life.
"Sweetheart," Jared says. "Give me a minute."
"Why're you wasting your time? You know she ain't gonna put out, Jay, not the way you like it - "
Jared takes a step sideways and leaves the girl hanging. He's still looking. "Dolores," he says. "Leave it."
Ruby leans forward. "Ain't nothing here for you, girl," she says, and under her eyes Dolores frowns and flounces and walks away with an angry glare over her shoulder. As she goes, Jared shakes himself all over, keys jangling, and runs a hand through his floppy hair and looks Jenny in the face again. Eyes darker, pupils big and there's a huskiness to his voice that's new. "You gonna ask me to sit down?" he asks, like it's up to her what he does.
"Uh, yes?" Jenny says, and Jared pulls out the chair next to her and sits down, so close she can feel the heat from his body.
"Well," he says, drawing the word out, and then looks down. His bangs fall over his eyes - he's got long hair, so different from the crew cuts of her father and of every other boy she knows - and for a moment he looks young and vulnerable.
'He's just a boy,' Jenny thinks, with a dawning sense of wonderment, because Jared's been an untouchable figure to her for so long it's almost strange to think of him as a real person. In that moment, she feels oddly powerful, as if it's her choice what happens next.
Jared's got a rose tattooed on his wrist. It's as vivid as the cartoons on the wall in the tattooist's, but the colors flex and move with Jared's skin, living where the images were flat. Under her fingers -
"Can I touch your tattoo?" Jenny asks, and Jared looks up and smiles.
"Baby, you can touch anything you want to," he says, "Which one?"
She hadn't thought. "The, uh, the one on your wrist?" And then, daringly, "What else have you got?"
"What do I say to that?" Jared says, laughing, and Jenny doesn't understand why, blushes, looks down. She feels so young and stupid, she doesn't understand why he's amused.
Jared touches her cheek. His fingers are warm, the skin hard and calloused, but he's gentle and Jenny lets him tilt her face upwards. "You're not like the others, are you?" Jared says.
"Why did you laugh?" Jenny asks, braver with Jared smiling down at her. He's got little gold flecks among the hazel-green color of his eyes.
"Babe, I should have known better. I know you're not that kind of girl," Jared says, and he lets go and leans back. "Shouldn't have - "
"I could be," Jenny says, surprising herself. "I could be that kind of girl. For you."
"You've got no idea what you're asking," Jared says, and there's a trace of anger in his voice that doesn't scare Jenny at all.
"How do I know unless someone tells me?" she says, cross and frustrated. "It's like there's this great big secret, and everyone knows, and no-one's telling, and all I hear is how I'm supposed to be good and I hate it and then Ruby said I could be bad if I swallow, but umph - " Big, warm and fleshy, Jared's hand covers her mouth.
"That's not the kind of thing you say in public, sweetheart," he says. "Not even in here. You wanna know, I'll tell you, but not here." When he moves his hand away, he's looking at Jenny's mouth. "You know, there's girls in this town scared to take a ride on my bike," he says. "But for you, darlin', I'm offerin' for free. I'll take you away from here, babe. You brave enough?"
"Try me," Jenny says, staring back, and then Ruby - Ruby! Jenny had forgotten she was there - taps the table.
"School night," she says, warning.
Jenny opens her mouth to say that it doesn't matter, that she'll go anywhere Jared wants, any time, just let him sweep her up in those big arms and she'll say yes to anything -
"How about I pick you up after school?" Jared says, just like it's normal. Like she's one of those girls she's always despised and wanted to be, wearing their boyfriend's letter jackets, class rings on their fingers, bubble gum happy. "Tomorrow?"
"Yes," Jenny says.
touched my hand, my heart went pop,
All that day, she's on edge, alternatively too hot and too cold, the piercings adding an edge of pain to a day that passes far too quickly and drags on to the edge of forever. Jenny's got absolutely no idea about what novel she's supposed to be reading, why carbon monoxide reacts with oxygen or Thomas Adam's economic policy, and today she doesn't care. She's floating. Even if Jared isn't waiting for her, she'd still had last night, the first night of the rest of her life, the first time she felt like a real woman. Even her mother had taken one look at her, bundled in Ruby's jacket to hide the new clothes, and said nothing. She'd gone straight to her room, folded all her new clothes carefully and stacked them away, and then she'd looked at herself in the mirror. Cheeks flushed, hair down, she looked like a girl with secrets. She looked like the girl who had interested Jared Padalecki.
And Jared is waiting for her. Right at the school gates, like he's happy to be seen with her, leaning against his bike with his leather jacket hanging loose and a bandana tied around his long hair. "Is that - " Judy Lambert whispers and then, "Oh my gosh, it is, who do you think he's waiting for?"
Jenny smiles to herself and ducks her head, and then she remembers the way Ruby walked into the bar last night and straightens her back. There's a swing to her walk that's new, and she can hear the whispers behind her back as she walks straight up to Jared.
"Hey," she says.
"Hey, babe," Jared says. Then he smiles back, a little crooked. "You know, I've been tellin' myself all day, Jay, you're an idiot. She's never gonna want to come out with you, you big oaf."
Jenny laughs. The day's bright. She's happy. Right in this moment, she's happy. "I don't think you're an idiot," she says, and Jared's smile brightens.
"Well," he says, and steps back. "You ready to take a ride, sweetheart?"
She has to hike her skirt up to squeeze onto the bike - she hadn't thought of that - but Jared pats her knee absently and doesn't seen to mind that her legs press up against his. "Hang on tight," he says, and when she looks down - there's nothing to hang onto, nothing - he reaches back and pulls her hands around and clasps them right over his belt buckle. Her chest is pushed into his back, she could rest her chin on the broad expanse of his shoulders, and there's a fluttering feeling in her stomach Jenny's never felt before, but when Jared smiles at her she grins right back. Then Jared boots the kick starter and the bike roars into life. It doesn't just growl, so loud her ears ring, it shakes and trembles between her legs, and the piercing there throbs in response, and her heart misses a beat as Jared flips the throttle and lets the engine sing out.
He starts slowly, but it's school out: the road's lined with people and every face turns to watch them go by, the boys envious, the girls shocked. Everyone's going to know Jenny Ackles went off with Jared Padalecki on the back of his bike, and they're going to be saying the same things about Jenny that they do about the girls at the bar. Fast. Loose. Scarlet. Clinging onto Jared's belt, warmed by the heat of his back, Jenny doesn't care. She feels special, and she tightens her hands around Jared's waist and thrills when he reaches down and covers them with one hand. "You ready?" he shouts back over his shoulder, and Jenny nods into his shoulder, and as they reach the end of Main Street Jared lets go, spins the throttle and lets the bike scream.
The force of the acceleration rocks Jenny back, and the wind of it whips her hair free and stings her bare legs with road dust. Scrunched down over the tank of the bike, Jared's weight crushes her hands into the zip of his jeans, but his back's the only windbreak Jenny has and she ducks her head down and has to slit her eyes while the world blurs. Every rock and dip in the road sets the bike shuddering and rattling, as if it's alive, and rubs her nipples against her blouse and Jared's back and adds to the throb of the piecing between her legs. The speed is intoxicating, magical, so much more immediate than sitting in a car, and when Jared turns off the highway and starts to take the bike through the sweeping curves of the mountain road it's absolutely terrifying and wonderful all at once. The bike dips into every bend, so close to the ground Jenny flinches, and swoops back upward with a roar as the straights open up in front of them. Right bend, left bend, lovely flying chicane with Jared gunning the engine and laughing, and Jenny loves this, loves it so very much. Around them the grassland gives way to the dust and stone of the plateau, twisted, windswept rock formations flashing by as the bike climbs higher. And higher.
By the time Jared pulls over, Jenny's half numb, half tingling, flushed with fear and excitement. Nothing in her life had felt like that. She hadn't known there was a feeling like this in the world, like she was flying. When Jared turns off the engine her ears are ringing, and then he spreads his long legs, boots braced in the dirt, and rocks the bike playfully and Jenny hears herself squeak and has to grab at Jared's jeans to keep her balance. There's a heated bulge under her fingers she's never - what - and then Jared kicks down the side stand and peels her hands away, swinging off the bike and pulling her with him. She stumbles, trying to stand, her legs shaking, and ends up with Jared's arm around her waist, her nose pressed into the leather of his jacket. He's laughing at her, but it's a warm, fond laugh and the close rumble of it feels like it's almost as much hers as his. When Jared spins her away, she's smiling, not minding her rumpled clothes or tangled hair.
"So?" he says.
"Oh," Jenny says. "Ooooh," and then, "Can we do that again?" and Jared throws his head back and really laughs, open-mouthed and happy.
"You're something else, Jenny Ackles," he says, and then he looks down at her, head to toe. "Who'd have thought... "
"What?" Jenny says defensively.
"You'd clean up so well." Jared says.
Jenny blushes. "You like it?"
"Yeah," Jared says, and Jenny leans back against the strength of his arm and drops her eyelashes.
"I hoped you'd notice," she says demurely.
"Oh, I did that," Jared says. Then he drops his eyes to her nipples and reflexively, she pulls her cardigan closer. Jared's laughing. "Uh, I noticed, sweetheart. I noticed." Then the smile fades. "I've never... " he says, and shakes his head. "I've never met a girl who'd do that before," he says. "I couldn't... " When he looks up, his eyes are dark again, and Jenny shivers at just how focused he looks, like she's the only thing that matters in the world. "Can I touch?" Jared asks.
She's supposed to say no. That's what good girls do.
"Yes," Jenny says, and leans back, letting her cardigan fall open.
It makes Jared gasp. "I'll stop," he says, even as he reaches out and one hand hovers over her breast, so close she can feel the warmth of it against her skin and her nipples tingle, tightening, as if they're stretching for his touch. "Swear to God, I'll stop if you tell me to."
She wants to feel the whole heat of his hand, wants it badly, but Jared touches her first with a single finger and the shock of it curls her toes and makes her shudder. He brushes the tip of her nipple, so gently she can barely feel it, and she has to move - she arches up, and Jared's knuckles knock against the piercing, and that hurts and burns and feels so good Jenny cries out.
"Good?" Jared asks, his voice tight, and Jenny nods and then Jared runs his fingers over the steel ring, circling, and the tug of it, fingers on fabric on steel, feels so good it robs the breath from Jenny's lungs and makes her throw her head back, panting.
"Jared," she says, amazed at her own body, it's never felt like this, her skin goose bumped, her heart pounding. It's all brand new.
Jared mutters something under his breath and glances up under his eyelashes, checking her face. Whatever he sees there, it's good, because he smiles, and then he lowers his head and, amazed, Jenny looks down and actually sees Jared close his mouth over her nipple. Hot and wet, the shock of it jolts through her, she had no idea, she's helpless against the strength of it, and then Jared tilts his head and <i>sucks</i>.
Beyond her control, her own hands tangle in Jared's hair and pull: her back arches, and she moans. The sound of her own voice is unfamiliar, low and wanton, but she can feel Jared smiling against her skin as he takes a breath . That, the feel of cold air against the damp shirt, is almost as intense as Jared's mouth. "Oh God," Jenny moans, and one of Jared's hands toys with the buttons of her shirt. She can't imagine how good that would be, and she says, "Yes, do it, go on," and Jared doesn't unbutton. He rips, and the blouse falls open and lays her bare to the sun and Jared's mouth. Broad enough to cover her chest, his hands cup her breasts, squeezing gently, one thumb toying against her nipple while his tongue plays with the other. Every touch makes her shake, tightens her hands in Jared's hair, makes her arch her back even more until Jared slides a hand into the small of her back and holds her still for his tongue. She's not the only one affected. Jared's breathing in short, sharp gasps, and the rhythmic squeeze of his hands and the pull of his mouth makes her want something more, something else, as if there's something amazing her body's asking for, some massive and unknown secret she doesn't just want but needs.
"Never," Jared says, and rolls his head so he can look up. "Love these. So hot, baby." His thumb pushes at one nipple ring, and the lick of his tongue against the other is amazingly heated. "You like this?"
"I love it," Jenny says truthfully, and Jared smiles and runs his hand down, over her stomach, over the folds of her skirt, and he reaches between her legs where she's so shamefully damp.
"Know something else - " he says, and then his hand stops and Jared freezes, his muscles tightening across his whole body so suddenly Jenny thinks something's wrong.
"What - "
Cupped between her legs, Jared's hand shakes. Instinctively, Jenny moves her legs apart to give him space, and Jared hisses through his teeth. "You're... " he starts, "You've... " and then his hands push her backwards, down on the ground, gentle and forceful, and he shoves her skirt up around her waist and crooks a thumb in her panties, pulls them open and looks down.
"Oh my God," he says. "Oh God," as Jenny scrambles to get her elbows under herself and catch her breath, exposed, splayed open - no one's ever, she's never -
Then Jared pushes her thighs apart with his hands and ducks his head and licks, licks, over her third piercing.
Stabbed with pleasure, so mortified her face is burning and her hands are clenched so hard her fingernails dig into her skin, Jenny screams. It's the dirtiest, most shocking thing that has ever happened in her life, she can't believe Jared - "Stop," she says. "I'm, it's, that's not clean, Jared. Jared!"
Jared does it again, a long, slow lick of fire against her flesh. "Sure?" he says, and his fingers spread her open, his thumbs sliding through the wet on her thighs from her own body. "You sure, Jenny?" and his mouth presses against her while he talks, so the vibrations of it meet the throb of her piercing and it's so wickedly good Jenny can't help the arch of her back or the way her thighs tremble, the horrible, sick flood of liquid from her... from down there. "So wet for me," Jared says, and his thumbs press harder and deeper, as if he knows how this feels, and his voice is not condemnatory but approving.
"That's... " and Jenny has to stop and gasp again as Jared flicks the ring with the tip of his tongue. "That's normal?"
"Baby," Jared says, his voice warm and muffled. Then he rolls his head against her thigh and looks up, while his thumbs do wicked and wonderful things to her, stretching and pulling and stroking. "That's fine, that's good. It's just your body making space for me."
"What?" Jenny says, shocked all over again.
Jared ducks his head. Obscenely heated, his mouth closes again over the piercing, and as he - oh, oh, oohhh - as he sucks, his fingers wriggle and push and suddenly, amazingly, he's inside her. That's... that's...
"What are - what - "
"Jenny," Jared gasps, and his hands shake against her skin while she can feel her own flesh shiver and contract around the finger inside her. "I can stop," he says urgently, and equally urgently, he pushes inside her, his finger thrusting rhythmically, sliding in on the liquid fluids of her own body.
It's the last thing Jenny wants. Her head is spinning, her skin feels electric, so alive she's not sure she's actually herself and not someone completely different, and she feels as if she's close to something secret, something Jared's hands and Jared's mouth are sending her towards with every new sensation. She wants to know, and her body twists against Jared's grip, fighting to ask for more and hide at the same time. Nobody told her it was like this. Nobody said that this, this was how it felt to be bad.
"You can... oh," Jenny says. "Do that again."
And Jared laughs, breathy and gusting against her skin. "Didn't know you'd be like this," he says. "Jenny. Jenny. Jenny." Then he leans back, draws his finger out of her body, slow and regretful, and sits up. "Give me your hand," he says, and Jenny does.
Jared drops a kiss on each knuckle. Then he spreads her fingers, holds her steady, and spreads her hand under his over the bulge in his jeans. It's incredibly hot, and as Jared pushes her hand down she can feel the shape of Jared's flesh, hard and rounded under her fingers. There's almost a pulse to it, like the beat of Jared's heart.
"That's me," Jared says. "That's the part of me that wants to be inside you. So badly, Jenny. So badly it hurts. You gonna let me?"
He looks up at her from under his lashes, and Jenny says, "Yes," without even thinking about it. She can't say no to Jared.
But when Jared pushes her legs even further apart, so sure and confident that he must have done this before with other girls, with Dolores, with Ruby even, Jenny starts to feel scared.
"Will it hurt?" she says, and despises herself for the fear in her voice.
"Yes," Jared says, and stretches himself on top of her, his weight shocking and steadying, his forehead tucked into her neck, his hand doing... something... down between her legs. "But it'll feel good after. Swear to God, Jenny, I'll make it good for you - "
Then he pushes against her, where his finger was, but what she can feel now is blunt and emphatic and there's no way, it can't possibly fit, he's too big, this can't be natural. Jenny opens her mouth to say no, and Jared shoves, and something gives way inside her own body and hurts. Her whole body flinches with the pain, her back arching, her hands pushing at Jared's shoulders. "That's it, good girl, done now, Jenny," Jared mutters, his hands petting her back and spread legs.
"Hurts," Jenny says weakly, as Jared doesn't move, stays inside her big and hot and uncomfortable, and at the same time his hands stroke her skin so very tenderly.
he says. "Baby girl. So good. Feel so good."
Again. And again, so that they're moving together, sweaty and panting, touching all over, physical in a way that is utterly new and strange and good. Jared's still balanced awkwardly, his fingers rubbing around, between, over the piercing, and the throb of it is echoed by the thrust of his body, inevitable and controlling. It feels as if he's waiting for something, testing, trying different strokes and patterns, and Jenny rolls her hips and gasps and suddenly it's so good and she says "Yes!" on an gasped breath and something -
It feel as if her soul cracks open. Like nothing else she's ever felt. Like nothing - it's all gone, the sun on her arms, Jared's weight, the feel of her skirt tangled around her waist - gone. Nothing but stars behind her clenched-shut eyelids, and Jared. And everything - as if she's purely, at last, herself alone. She gasps and heaves and can't decide if she wants the feeling to stop or go on forever, but it fades unevenly, little bursts of sensation echoing the last judders of her hips. As it fades, she realizes she's got her hands clenched on Jared's back, and she's so wet down there it feels as if - no. No. "Get off!" she says. "Get off!"
"Eh?" Jared says. He feels softer inside her, now, and he's not moving, his hands comfortable clasped under her shoulders and his head tucked beside hers. When he speaks, the noise of it rumbles straight in her ear. For the first time, Jenny realizes quite how heavy he is, just how immovable. And strong. She tries, but she can't push him off. "What? What is it?" His voice is sleepy, content.
She gives up. "I'm wet."
"So you are," Jared agrees, and then turns her face to his. He's smiling, just a little. "That's normal," he says. "Maybe there'll be a little blood. Not much. And I swear, it won't hurt like that next time."
"Next time?" Jenny says, disbelieving.
When she lets herself in the kitchen's dark. But her mother and father are waiting for her in the living room, lined up on the couch.
She has a moment to wonder at how much older her father looks, his face sunken in and groved, before Carrie stands up and slaps her in the face.
"You little slut," she says. "You're no daughter of mine."
Jared takes her back to the rooms above the garage he shares with his older brother and that night, sore and afraid, she sleeps in the same bed as someone else for the first time in her life.
She doesn't see Ruby for another six months. Her life is so changed she almost doesn't notice. It's hard work, looking after two men, and she tries to fit her homework around the ironing and the cleaning and the cooking and it doesn't always work. Her grades slip, and school is a nightmare of rumors and spiteful laughter, and although she graduates it's not with the honors she'd been hoping to achieve. She doesn't go to her graduation, but Jared and Jeff take her out to the Bar and Grill to celebrate and for the first time, she gets tipsy, hanging off Jared's arm just like Dolores used to do.
When Ruby knocks on the door, she's doing the washing.
"Hey." The little red corvette's out in the street. Ruby looks immaculate, her hair perfectly styled, her make up striking, the dress fitting like a glove. Jenny's all too aware that her hair's a mess, she's wearing her only apron and her arms are covered in soap suds.
"Hey," she says, and leans against the door. She's not letting Ruby in, the place is a mess.
"How're you doing, kid?" Ruby asks, and lights her cigarette.
"Okay," Jenny says, and thinks of the pile of mending still to be done. Then she thinks of Jared's smile, and the way he feels against her skin when they're making love, stifling the noise because Jeff's in the next room and the walls are paper thin. The way Jared likes her cookies, and sometimes helps with the washing up even though he works all day at the garage. What it feels like to curl into Jared's back on the bike, or walk into the Bar and Grill knowing he's waiting for her. She's been thinking of getting a tattoo with his name, to match the one he has of hers, but Jared's not sure she should.
"Yeah," she says, and smiles. "We're doing okay. I never did thank you, you know. For the clothes, and the... other stuff."
Ruby tilts her head, considering, through the haze of cigarette smoke.
"Is there anything I can do?" Jenny asks, although she can't imagine anything she's got Ruby would want.
"Tell you what," Ruby says. "There is one thing you can do for me." Thoughtfully, she takes a drag from her cigarette, holds it in, and then exhales slowly, looking Jenny in the eyes. "A year from now, there's going to be someone knocking on your door looking to make a deal. Hear him out, Jenny Ackles. Consider it a thank you to me."
"Sure," Jenny says, puzzled, and then she hears the sound of Jared's bike, the way he guns it coming off the highway, and Ruby smiles and rattles her car keys.
you around, kid," she says.