Prose: Kirie Pedersen

Jared and the Llamas

From the moment she met Jared, she knew their entire future. It swirled before her eyes: sex, betrayal, longing, and hurt.

In the beginning, he was simply a student in her class.

Later, Jared said he, too, saw their future before him. “What did you see?” Elisa asked.

“This certain place in the middle of your chest,” Jared said. He touched her breast. “Right there.”

“You mean you were a horny kid.”

“I was fascinated by that spot. I thought about it all the time. Ask Chip.” Chip was Jared’s best friend. They were taking her statistics class together. “We talked about you all the time.”

“I was your teacher. Of course you talked about me. You had exams to write.”

“You gave me a B.”

“I gave you what you deserved.”

Elisa breathed into his shoulder, inhaled the sweet and pungent smell. Was he the baby she never had? A perverse baby brother?

“I’m legal age,” he said.

“You’re immature,” Elisa said. “But a gentleman. I’m a sucker for those Southern manners.” When, in the first moments of Statistics 101, Jared said “yes ma’am,” the way her first husband Danny did, something happened in her chest.

“If you were twenty-eight, we would be together.” Jared wrapped himself around her.

“I wouldn’t be with you.”

“You would.” Jared ran his hands over her thighs.

“You’re too nice. When I was in my twenties, I didn’t like nice guys. It’s the other way around. You need to be forty.”

“I don’t want to be forty,” Jared said. He rolled over onto his back. “I’ll never be forty.” Elisa stroked the thick blond fur of his back and kissed him all over, but he refused to turn around.

Elisa had never been interested in a student. Not once. Her late husband, Moss, accused her often enough. “He just wants to fuck you,” or “You just want to fuck him,” were his favorite accusations.

“They’re too young,” Elisa always said. When she was with Moss, or any man she slept with, he was the only man for her. At that moment.

“Men must be different,” she said. “They’re attracted to everyone, all the time, and so they think women are the same.”

Moss wasn’t attracted to anyone. Elisa was never jealous, because she knew Moss didn’t really like women. “I have secrets you know nothing about,” Moss said. Only after his death did she learn he was one of dozens of altar boys molested by a certain local priest. She found three handguns, and in a journal, he wrote if she ever became involved with anyone, he planned to dust her.

“His priorities were his motorcycle, his computer, and his truck,” Elisa told Jared. “Marybeth and I weren’t even on the list.” Marybeth was his daughter from his own previous marriage. His ex-wife, Sofia, was as constant a presence in their lives as Marybeth, but Elisa wasn’t jealous of her, either.

Jared was only a few inches taller than Elisa. He was stocky, and had thin blond hair he wore in a straggly pony tail. He was handsome, but not movie star handsome like Moss.

“He just hangs around because you tell him he’s intelligent,” Marybeth said.

Jared’s nickname was Sparky because he smoked so much marijuana. Elisa was naive about how to spot these kinds of details. The first time he met Sofia, Jared said, “She’s on crack.”

“So what are the signs?”

“Disappearing into the bathroom for twenty minutes every half hour,” Jared said. “Staying awake all night, and then falling asleep fully dressed.”

Elisa was in big trouble herself. The president of the university called Elisa into his office. He closed the door behind them, and sprawled back in his chair, his feet on the desk between them.

“Are you drinking?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’ve heard rumors,” he said.

“I don’t drink.”

“Well, to do what you’re doing, you must be doing something,” he said.

“What I do in my private time is my business,” Elisa said. But as she left his office, she read her doom in the eyes of his secretary.

Jared invited her to Virginia to meet his parents. This was a bad idea, and Elisa knew it. But she agreed to go, in part because Jared’s father had already purchased the airline tickets, though later, he demanded the money back.

When it ended, as it had to end, Elisa was devastated.

Elisa lost her job. Moss died.

Although she had not talked with Jared for over a year, Elisa begged him to visit. “I’ve never asked you for anything,” she said. “Now I’m asking for this one night.” Reluctantly, Jared offered last rites. He held her in his arms, and retrieved her body, briefly, from the fog.

Three days later, he emailed. He was addicted to sex with her, and he could never see her again. As if making love with her was a sickness he had to overcome. “It’s an addiction,” he wrote. “Addiction to crazy sex.”

“This is normal sex,” Elisa said. Too bad for Jared. Too bad for any other lovers he had. If their love-making was crazy, what on earth did other women do? The only crazy part about the sex was that Elisa was fifteen years older than Jared. That, pure and simple, was the crazy part, the part he could not face, and even less, could she.

Elisa decided to just commit suicide slowly, one breath at a time. From the day Moss was diagnosed, he wanted Elisa and Marybeth to throw themselves onto his funereal pyre, to die in his place. As his life diminished, and theirs continued on, his anger increased.

“When people grow ill,” Sofia said, “They become more of what they are. Nice people become more nice. Mean people become evil.”

Later, in the light of forgiveness, or whatever, Elisa visited Jared and his girlfriend, Heather. They raised llamas and sheep, and Heather carded and weaved the wool. Heather said, “Now that I’ve met you, I know Sparky isn’t such a loser as I thought. He actually dated someone classy.”

She also said, “I don’t see what the big fuss about sex is. I could take it or leave it.”

As she drove away, Elisa broke out in hives. Her arms were covered with red welts that itched unbearably. She wanted to shoot her arms off at the shoulders. The next day, Jared emailed. After Elisa left, one of the llamas escaped onto the highway beside their house, and was killed by a speeding car.