White Knight(9)

By: CD Reiss

I’d dated men since he left. I’d had some sex with those men, none of it memorable. There was no love like his. I’d tried to find it and come up emptyhanded enough times to give up. I’d given up on him coming back a decade ago, given up on doing more than treading water, given up on dating.

Most days, I didn’t think about him at all. Sometimes when the roses were blooming and the evening wind blew the right way, I’d remember how he made me feel, but not him in particular.

I went to the back of the house and looked at the backyard and the family cemetery. It had been there before the house, when the first Barrington Father bought land by the river and died before he’d amassed enough wealth to build on it.

When I was a girl, the plot had been lined with beautiful rosebushes. After our father died, we’d let them grow over the headstones that Harper had defaced when she was angry, and as the years went on, we’d let it grow into a bed of thorns. Sometimes, in the spring, they bloomed. But the bushes were too thick to be penetrated by a gardener, so they were wild and unpredictable. We just trimmed the edges so the thorns didn’t go past the short white fence around the plots.

Would Chris even care?

Would he laugh or be disappointed?

I didn’t know him or who he’d become, except that he was rich and lived a beautiful life. I lived with a dense thorn bush in my yard because my sister hated our father. The weight of shame I carried got denser and heavier. I could bear it inside Barrington, but in front of Chris, it would crush me.

The note crinkled in my pocket. For the first time since getting it, I thought I should tell him I wouldn’t see him.

Chapter 8


On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays in the summer, Mom went into Doverton to ride horses with the Princes. She showered there, and often got home smelling of soap and perfume. Otherwise, she hovered over us like a hummingbird. She had a staff of nannies and sitters assigned to watch us during the moments she turned her back, but they were no more than moments.

Behind the rose cemetery stood a narrow band of untouched forest, then high grasses, then the river. Daddy had built a bridge over the river. He walked across it to the bottling factory six days a week and stayed there fourteen hours a day.

Soon after Chris and I met at the club, he got a job with Garden Haven. He told me later that getting a job with the company who did our landscaping was part of his plan to see me.

He rode his bike to us on Fridays to prune and water. It had a trailer with his tools. Mom had seen him caring for the roses at the club and put him in charge of the bushes in the little cemetery. She didn’t like being inside the fence herself, because it reminded her that she was destined to lie there for eternity.

“He’s taking a while back there,” Harper said.

We were on the screened-in back porch, under ceiling fans. It was still muggy and thick. My thighs slid against each other as I watched Chris’s body bend and straighten as he worked on the roses.

Harper turned her attention back to her Complete Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She was reading well past her grade level. It was the only respite from her painful social awkwardness. “Twenty-two percent longer, at this point.”

“It’s the heat.”

Our meeting in the back of the pro shop was a week old. I’d seen him twice since then. His lips tasted of salt and cola, and the young body felt tight and hard under his shirt.

Watching Chris, I wasn’t completely sure if it was all sweat greasing the insides of my thighs. He’d led me behind a secret fence at the back of the club. He laid a towel over a tree stump so I wouldn’t get grass or dirt stains on my white clothes, and he kneeled in front of me. When he kissed me, I wanted to spend the rest of my life attached to his lips, tasting his tongue. He’d bought me a soda, and we took turns transferring a chip of ice between our mouths.

That night, I’d run my fingers over my lips to see if I could reproduce the feeling, then between my legs for the same reason. Fear stopped me from continuing to the end. What if someone saw? What if my mother’s voice in my head wasn’t just a voice? What if—when it burst in saying “how could you?”—it summoned her attention by some as-yet-undisclosed telepathic transference and she could see me?