Never Lo by Dolores Storey

Lo Grant lay still in her bed, nearly asleep. She was never called Lana – her real name. By friends and strangers alike she was known as just Lo. She stared at the stack of books on her nightstand, most of them were average dystopian fiction that any other fifteen year old would be reading, but scattered through were random classics novels that any other teen would have been assigned to read for school. Her parents once asked where she got them from, she simply said a friend. It was a friend, sure, but not from school, not really.
Never Lo
Never Lo by Dolores Storey
His name was Jem, whom lived in a tiny apartment hanging over his father’s pharmacy, looking over the local high school. He’d be sweeping or stocking shelves while little girls and boys would come for candy and soda pop during their lunch breaks. He was thirty when one day, while stocking shelves a group of young girls came rushing in. “I kicked his ass!” yelled one of them, her yells caught Jem’s attention and what he saw surprised him. Two girls were trying to shush a battered, bleeding brunette. A short blonde led here to an old metal chain and asked Jem for a box of bandages and some rubbing alcohol. “I’ll pay ya in a second, I promise,” she said, her Boston accent thick with irritation. “And a bottle of whiskey, by God!” Said the victim, or perhaps even the perpetrator. Jem didn’t pay to much attention, grabbing a cheap bandaging kid and a few bottles of cola. “Well sorry kid, I think you’re a little young for whiskey but-” his heart stopped when he looked at Lo. Bloody knee highs, a short blue dress and a look that could kill. “How about some morphine then? Or vicoden?” She scoffed, crossing her arms over her still developing chest. Jem handed her the bottle of Coke, hands shaking while her two friends grabbed the other bottles from the crook of his arm. “How about some Tylenol?” Lo rolled her eyes. He stared, supervising while the blonde poured alcohol over Lo’s scraped knees and a redhead stuck on bandages. Lo explained that Parker was trying to flirt with the red girl, now named Annie and instead of a kiss, he got a clean punch to the nose. “Sure I’ll get suspended, but fuck it, that little bastard deserved it.” Lo growled, swallowing tablets of Tylenol with the bottle of Coke. “I’m not sure a kid like you should be swearing like that-” “I just kicked a senior’s ass, I got all the right to say what I please! And I ain’t a kid.” “Don’t mind Lo, Mr. Jem,” said the blonde, “She’s not a nice talker.” Lo scoffed again, “Ain’t got a nice talk, but I got a nice kick, just ask Jim’s balls!” She looked up at Jem, bright smile and neon pink lip gloss shining up at him, “My name’s Lana Grant, but everyone calls me Lo. Lana just won’t do sir, that’s the name of some rich bitch, Lo’s the name of a gang leader.” But Jem would never call her Lo, not ever. He gave the girls the bandages and ever the snacks for free and waved them a goodbye when they left. Every day afterwards, at lunch time and her way home Lo would stop by, asking for a spare band-aid and a bottle of Coke. She considered him her friend and usually sat up on the counter when no one was around, plucking at the hem of her short skirts and asking him questions. “Got a girlfriend, wife? I don’t see a ring on your finger.” she asked, he told her no. “Hm, like to read books?” He said yes. She swung around, pink panties barely coming into view as she plopped down her backpack between her legs. Lo swung it open and pulled out a book, shoving it into his hands. “Here then!” She watched as he read the cover and the summery of the back page, bright blue eyes glowing in anticipation, waiting for his response to it. “Sounds interesting.” He said at last and in return a big smile came up on her lips. “Good! Got it for ya, library was having a sale.” They’d talk for a few hours before she’d leave for home. Their conversations were typical and had no real meaning but with every word Lo said, Jem found himself more and more drawn into her beauty. “Why do ya call me Lana?” She asked on his birthday, grabbing a bottle of lip gloss for sale and using the mirror on the back wall to apply it. “I think it’s a pretty name.” Jem said, watching each swipe of the brush hit her smile. “Hm, boring reason. Mind if I sit here and read a while?” “I’ll be closing up soon, but sure.” She grinned back at him, crossing her legs and grabbing her backpack. He couldn’t help but watch the hem of her dress fall down, nearly around her hips. She grabbed a stack of books from her bag and tossed him one. The image of heart-shaped glasses on a shiny cover hit his lap. Lolita, he read and his chest felt like it collapsed. He looked up at her brown braids as she turned back to him, brows raising a pair of tinted hearts. God, she wore the same glasses, plucked off the rack beside her. She had the same pigtails as Lolita, the same filthy language as Lolita… the same nickname. “Ms. Price said the book was bad reading so I told her anything she wanted us to read was worse off and read it anyways! Wanna read it too?” Lo asked, voice in a beautiful sing-song tone. “Sorry to disappoint you Lana, but I’ve already read it.” “Own a copy?” “No.” “Well now ya do!” He didn’t expect that months later he’d be lying beside Lo Grant, in her bed, with her parents so close by. He didn’t expect wanting to kiss her young lips, the taste of cheap strawberry lip-gloss seeming stain his soul to the core. He loved her, this young, bright, bad-mouthed, trigger-happy nymphette. He felt awful, it was almost as strong of an emotion as the happiness he’d feel when she’d tell him she thought he looked adorable when he had to wear his reading glasses or tug on his shirt to tell him it wasn’t tucked in. He didn’t let himself touch her anywhere else, he didn’t want to be thought of as a pedophile, a disgusting, dirty old man who got off from little girls. He didn’t want to love her, he just did. Lo had called him – like she had many times before – and told him she had a nightmare. This time, she refused to take his kind words as an answer and demanded Jem to come over. “Pleaseeeee,” she begged, “Jem, I’m scared, really, really scared.” “Can’t you get your mother or father?” “No!” He drove over and climbed into her window, promising her that he would stay by her side until she fell asleep again. He felt dirty laying in her bed, like a mud stain on a new white dress. He stared at her posters of miscellaneous singers and movies, painted blue walls and plastic glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. It was indeed the room of a child and he had to constantly remind himself that she was just a young teenager. However, in the dark silence of Lo’s room, with nothing but the scent of cheap perfume in the air, Jem found a hard time keeping his feelings at bay. He wanted to talk to her, like she was an adult, to tell her that he loved her… but he couldn’t. And so, instead he cautiously moved his hand to hold hers and she took it, her tiny plastic rings slipping between his callused fingers. “Jem.” She whispered, like a little girl telling her friend a secret at a sleepover. “Lana?” “Thanks for coming over…” “No problem.” There was a quick moment of silence before she rolled over to face him. God, her smeared eyeliner, smudged deep around her bright blue eyes were breathtaking. “Ever had a girlfriend, Jem?” she asked suddenly, voice perking up. He nodded, plenty of girls, none under the age of eighteen of course, and mostly during his college years. “What do you do to tell someone you looooove them?” Jem shrugged, “Do what you feel is right.” And for Jem, that was doing nothing… Lana scoffed, rolling her doe eyes, “That’s a shit answer Jem!” she mocked. “Sorry.” “Well, what did you do when you liked a girl?” “Depends, sometimes I’d get her roses and a kiss on the cheek and a ‘would you go out with me?’.” “Ever work?” “Usually.” That wonderful grin popped onto her face once more and in an instant she jumped up, bed springs leaping with her and with delicate chap-stick ridden lips, Lo Grant kissed his cheek. “I ain’t got a rose, but wanna go to the movies with me Friday after school?” “You’re quite a bit younger than me you know, half my age.” Jem said, but it felt more like a recording he set in his voice box for moments like this. Lo sighed, a frustrated look on her doll face as she sat up, clutching her knees. “Is that your way of saying you don’t like me cause I’m not old yet?” Jem couldn’t lie anymore. “It’s not like that at all,” he said, sitting up beside her. He allowed himself to touch her shoulder, “Lana, people don’t like when someone older loves someone who’s much younger than them. It doesn’t matter if there’s love involved, people are against it.” “I’m not people though, Jem!” Cried Lo, “And I don’t care what they think!” “Do you care about me?” She pouted, “Yeah.” “If I even dared to kiss you I could end up in prison Lana…” Lana looked up at him then, a sorrowful look staining her beautiful face. “It’s not fair.” She mumbled into her knees. Jem sighed, wanting to agree with her. He hated to see her upset, he hated to see those eyes fill up with tears. He didn’t chose this, he didn’t chose to love her… and she never chose to love him. He pulled a chain from his pocked and wrapped it around her neck, pinning the clasp close over her hair. She jumped looking down at it. “How about that then, Lana?” Said Jem while she looked over the tiny pendant. It was a thin silver ring, engraved with Lana Delores Grant on the very inside. Jem engraved it himself, keeping the ring away under floorboards like a secret. A fantasy that one day he’d marry her with it, that she’d be an adult, that they wouldn’t be looked down upon when she dressed in white and he kissed her lips. “I’ll marry you on your eighteenth birthday Lana, wait until then, it won’t be long.” But it’d be an eternity to Jem, each day a living hell with only a dream of her kiss just out of reach. The smile returned to Lo then, “I love you now though.” “I love you now too, Lana, and I’ll love you tomorrow, and the day after that, and after that, and even after that.” He combed a hand through her tangled brown curls and he went against everything he ever told himself. His fingers cupped her jaw and brought her close, finally after what seemed like an infinite number of years, he kissed those soft, virgin lips. It was the closest his soul would ever get to heaven. It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight, he had read from Lolita days before. The idea that their love story was a page pulled out of this book pained him and when he finally admitted it to her she turned over, grabbing the book and chucked it across the room. “Fuck the book.” Lo said, “as long as you ain’t gonna marry my momma, everything’s fine!” Hours later he left her, moments after she fell asleep. He picked up the book from the floor and pulled out a random page. With a pom-pom topped pen he wrote, Lana, We aren’t this book, you’re not that Lo, and I’m not that Humbert. Throw it away, ignore it, never use it for reference again. Love, The one who loved you since you the first time you told me to get you a bottle of whiskey. He tucked it back into the book, slipping it into the stack beside her bedside. With a kiss on her soft temple Jem left her room and went back home, awaiting to see her pigtails and pink lip gloss skipping into his store the next day. Lo was the light of his life just like the book said, she was his sin and his soul, but she was always Lana. Never, ever Lo.

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