April NorthLawrence Block
Open Road Integrated Media LLC (2010)
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“Block is one of the best!” —The Washington Post
Consumed by passion, a nice girl turned bad goes on a sexual tear that will threaten her reputation, her sanity, and ultimately, her life
Innocent high school student April North gave her virginity to Dan, her long-time steady, an expression of pure love that she thought was the first step to marriage. But when Dan spreads the word, she finds herself marked with a scarlet letter—not A for adultery, but E for easy—and in a town like Antrim, Ohio, a girl with a reputation has no future at all. Ashamed of her newfound passion, she is ready to run away when she meets Craig, a twenty-something playboy with a fast car and fast friends who shows her that sex isn’t something to fear.
Craig’s world of cocktail parties and casual flings is a side of adulthood April never imagined—a lifestyle that, if she isn’t ready for it, may spell her doom.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Lawrence Block, including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from his personal collection, and a new afterword written by the author.
Writing as Sheldon Lord
A New Afterword by the Author
A Biography of Lawrence Block
THE town of Antrim is located in the south-central part of the state of Ohio midway between Cincinnati and Columbus. The population is either 4500 or 6500, depending upon whether you believe the U. S. Census Bureau or the Antrim Chamber of Commerce. Antrim also has a grammar school and high school, a small public library, one supermarket and four smaller food stores, one restaurant and five beaneries, one state liquor store and seven saloons.
The climate is typical for the area. The winter is always a little too cold, the summer a little too hot, and every spring and fall is a festival of rain. With the singular exception of Scherner Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, all the streets of Antrim are peaceful and tree-shaded. The population explosion has not yet affected Antrim, which remains a Main-Street type of midwestern small town.
The season was late October. The leaves had turned color and left the trees and small boys were earning extra money raking lawns. On the athletic field behind the high school, the team was going through after-school practice for the game coming up Saturday against Bryan High School of nearby Yellow Springs. Jeremy Keel was sweeping leaves and debris from the sidewalk in front of his barber shop into the Schwemer Street gutter. John Parson was standing behind the counter in his food shop, wishing the supermarket would dry up and blow away so that his old customers might return to him. They were regular patrons when they needed credit but in these good times they could afford to pay cash at the supermarket.
The girl, carrying two books and a notebook under her arm, was walking north on Schwerner Street, away from the main business section. She was seventeen, five feet four, with sandy hair and hazel eyes. She had a good figure. Her young breasts, mature now after several painful adolescent years of boyish flatness, pushed out against the front of her yellow wool sweater. The Black Watch plaid skirt fell to a little below her knees and hugged hips that were already rounded. She wore thick white wool socks and brown-and-white saddle shoes.
Her name was April North.
She walked steadily and easily, with a fluid movement of her hips. Turning off Schwerner Street at Hayes Road, she headed toward the house where she lived with her mother, her father and her younger brother. Her mother was one of the leaders of the women’s group at the Antrim Baptist Church, her father ran the more profitable of Antrim’s two drugstores, and her brother Link was starting his sophomore year at Antrim High. But she was not thinking about her family as she walked. She was barely aware of where she was going and her feet moved more by instinct than design.
She was thinking about herself, April North. And she was thinking about Daniel Duncan. And—more than anything else—she was thinking about It.
She did not want to think about It. Somehow, It was not the sort of thing you were supposed to think about, when you were a sweet and simple senior at Antrim High. Yet It was important and obviously a lot of people thought about It. She had read quite extensively about It, both in books she took from the public library and from the books her father sold in his drugstore. It was significant. It was important, but still, she did not want to think about It.
She could not seem to direct her mind onto another topic.
Because It had happened.
She looked up. Two boys were tossing a football back and forth in the street. The one who called to her was gesturing as if to throw the football at her. She ducked and spun away automatically. Then she heard his laugh as he threw the football in a lazy spiral to the other boy. She recognized them vaguely as classmates of her brother Link.
“Scared you,” the first one called out. “Must be thinking about something awful important.”
She forced a laugh but they had already resumed their game and ignored her, and she went back to her walking and to her thinking. Suddenly she wished for a cigarette. She never smoked in public, certainly not on the street and hardly ever in her own home. But when she was out with Danny he would give her a cigarette and puffing it helped her relax. And now she wished she had a cigarette.
She could not escape the fact that It had happened.
Her thoughts drifted back to last Saturday night…
Saturday night was traditionally date night in Antrim, as it was in thousands of other towns from coast to coast. Couples who barely spoke to each other during the week went out every Saturday night for months in a row. Like most of the reasonably attractive girls in her class, April was going steady. Her steady was Dan Duncan, a tall, rangy senior who played first base on the baseball team and second-string end on the football team.
And, because it was Saturday night, they were out together. His father had let him use the family car for the night, a dark green Oldsmobile sedan a year old. This evening, April was sitting beside him in the front seat as he headed the car away from town on Route 68. They were alone in the car. Usually they double-dated with another couple, but tonight they were alone.
“We could go to the movies,” he suggested. His tone seemed to indicate that he was not too keen on the idea.
“A western, I guess—Sound of Distant Drums. Something like that.”
He nodded. “Not much else to do in this town,” he said. “Go to a show or sit around the drugstore sipping a soda. No way to get excited about things.”
She said nothing. She had a feeling she knew what he was leading up to, so she was not particularly surprised when he turned off onto the winding dirt road called Cemetery Hill road. This was rather strange because the road ran along flat land devoid of cemeteries. Pretty soon, she thought, he would kill the motor and park the car.
For almost two months they had been in the habit of parking at the conclusion of a date. At first they had simply exchanged a few kisses, then called it quits. Lately Danny had grown bolder, and his caresses had had a more pronounced effect upon her. There were times when, after he had dropped her at her home with a final good-night kiss, she had had great trouble falling asleep.
And now the date was going to begin on Cemetery Hill Road. This marke
d a significant change in their relationship, she knew. And if she permitted him to park now, she would be giving up leverage in a battle designed to deprive her of her virginity.
But she wanted him to park the car.
Inevitably he turned the ignition key and stilled the engine. Then he guided the car, coasting off the narrow road and into the high grasses at the side. He switched off the headlights then abruptly reached for her. There was a painfully awkward moment during which the situation seemed to have been staged and blocked out by an inept director on his first Broadway assignment. Then she was in his arms, her face snuggled tight against his chest, and everything was as it ought to be.
She looked up and he took her face between his strong hands, bringing her mouth up to his. She wore no makeup, only a dab of lipstick on her lips. He kissed her and ground his mouth against hers. She felt desire build within her at a frightening pace. Her heart was beating faster than it should, her palms were moist.
He kissed her again. This time his tongue slid between her slightly parted lips and probed inside her mouth. He had done this before. At first it had seemed silly, laughable. Now it was stimulating.
His arms were around her and his hands rubbed the back of her sweater. Her whole body was miraculously alive with a new force she had never felt before. He kissed her again and this time her tongue seized the initiative, plunging into his mouth and savoring the warm male taste of him.
The kissing went on for a long time. There were moments when she was lost completely, forgetting who she was or where she was, aware only of what she was doing and how good it was to kiss like this. Finally he released her. They separated slowly, moving like creatures in a dream, and he took a crushed pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. He gave her one and took one for himself and lit them with the dashboard lighter.
She drew the smoke into her lungs and fought off the inevitable impulse to cough. Instead she blew the smoke out in a long thin column and watched it hover in the air of the closed car. Then Dan rolled down the window and the smoke trailed out into the darkness.
“Beautiful night,” he said.
She nodded without speaking.
“This is nice,” he went on. “Being here with you. Just relaxing and enjoying ourselves.”
She was glad he had said that. His words seemed to excuse their presence there, to transform a trite petting situation into something reasonable and defensible. They smoked in silence and she listened to crickets chirp in the tall grass. There was a way to tell the temperature from the crickets. You counted the number of chirps in fourteen seconds, added forty, and the result was the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. She considered asking Dan for his watch so that she could find out how warm it was. The thought was quietly ridiculous and she started to giggle.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. I was just thinking.”
“I don’t know. Something just struck me as funny. It’s nothing important.”
He took her cigarette from her and pitched it with his own out the window onto the road. She wondered if the cigarettes would start a fire. Then her thoughts were cut off because he was kissing her again.
She gasped. This time his clever hand had found her breast and he was holding her gently but firmly while his tongue darted into her mouth. His hand moved skillfully and her breast seemed alive and on fire. She could feel the outlines of his fingers as he stroked her and caressed her.
He had touched her breasts before, had touched them through her clothing, but this was somehow different Before, his caresses had been stimulating but not intoxicating, inspiring warmth but not passion. But this was not the same now. This was passion, the first genuine passion she had ever felt.
She knew that she ought to stop him or at least make some pretense of resisting. But if she stopped him the warm feeling would go away and she did not want to lose it, did not want the sweet sensation of his hand upon her breast to cease. It was too good, too pleasant.
And she murmured in reply: “Don’t stop, Danny. It feels so good. Don’t stop.”
He took her at her word.
Her sweater was a long-sleeved cardigan that buttoned down in front. He released her and began to undo the buttons. This, she knew, was clearly wrong. A nice girl did not let a boy take her clothes off. Some girls, of course, were all too willing to let a boy undress them and do other things. But a great gulf separated these girls from nice girls like herself. Boys took these girls for rides, took their clothes off, make love to them. But boys married and respected nice girls.
He unbuttoned the last button and thrust his hand inside her sweater. She felt the teasing fingers on her breast. Only the thin white bra stood between those fingers and her bare flesh.
And she forgot all about nice girls.
She looked at him.
“We oughta get in the back seat. There’s more room back there.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t.”
He shrugged. “Might as well be comfortable,” he said. “It’s not too comfortable here—the steering wheel, and everything. The back seat’s better.”
It was, she decided, quite a night for firsts. It was the first time he had parked right away on a date, and the first he had unbuttoned her sweater. Now it was the first time they had ever left the front seat for the back. The back seat, she knew, was where people did It. In the back seat they went All The Way. But she told herself that they were not going to go All The Way. It was just as Danny said—the back seat would be more comfortable to neck in, so why not use it?
They got into the back seat.
Immediately he kissed her again and his hand found its place inside her sweater. His other hand joined it, and both hands went around her body until they found the clasp of her bra. Again she felt that another milestone was being reached, but again she was unable to offer so much as token resistance. His fingers were clumsy, but he managed nevertheless to unlock the bra and remove it, leaving her firm breasts bare.
His hands fondled them.
“They’re so pretty, April. So nice and firm. Do you like it when I touch them like this?”
She liked it much too much. Her whole body was throbbing with passion now and her breasts were quivering under his touch. Her nipples stood up stiff and alert, and every time his fingers brushed over them a jolt of pure passion went through her, spreading outward from her breasts and engulfing her entire body.
Then his fingers were on the hem of her skirt. He raised her shirt, slipped a hand under the cloth and squeezed her knee. This, she knew, was dangerous. They were treading on thin ice. When he had unbuttoned her sweater they had passed the thin and arbitrary line which distinguishes necking from petting. Now, with the new twist which he was adding by slipping his hand below her skirt, they were traversing another emotional boundary. There was a distinct difference between petting above the waist and petting below the waist. Even nice girls might pet above the waist with their steadies.
But below the waist was something different.
“We’d better stop.” Her voice was only a whisper, and if he heard it he paid no attention. Somehow she could not bring herself to repeat her mild protest. If what they were doing was wrong, why in the world did it feel so good? If it was indecent to let a boy touch your thighs, then why did it make them tingle so nicely?
A good question.
“So smooth,” he was saying now, his tone reverent.
“You’ve got the smoothest skin. So nice to touch.”
It was only a matter of time before her panties were down and he was touching her more and she was quivering like a shimmering bowlful of jelly. It was only a matter of time before she was lying on her back on the car seat with her knees up and her brain swimming in equal parts of lust and fear. It was only a matter of time before he was crouching above her, ready for her.
in he ignored her, and again she did not have the strength to repeat herself. She knew inwardly that It was going to happen and that she wanted It as much as he did. She knew that It might very well be wrong, but that right or wrong It was going to take place.
She watched what he was doing, and she wondered whether he had had sense enough to visit her father’s drugstore, or any drugstore. The thought almost made her laugh and then he was touching her again, and she was beyond laughter and beyond tears, ready for whatever would happen.
Then it began.
There was pain first, sheer pain that tore her in two and made her want to scream out against the night. The pain went all through her—she could not see or think or feel anything but all-consuming hurting.
But then the pain began to subside. And, magically, something else took the place of the pain. The pain gave way to a tide of pleasure greater than anything she had ever been able to imagine, a tide of pleasure that caught her up and spun her in whirling dizzying circles of light and darkness.
Right or wrong, good or bad, clever or foolish—adjectives fell away from her, fell away before the advance of the tidal wave of pleasure. She let herself respond to the fullest, let her body move as it had to move and writhe as it had to writhe. The passion spun her around and raced forward with her and the world began to move with her and It was happening, happening, and nothing on earth could stop It.
It got better, and even better, and she felt his hot breath on her face and the heavy pressure of his strong young body upon her.
Then passion reached its peak. Then the tide of pleasure reached its crest and broke, and she held him in her arms and wept quietly into the night.
She was almost home. She thought about that night, about the way neither of them could speak when they had finished, about the way they sat together in the car and smoked two more cigarettes apiece before he drove her home. They did not stop for a soda at the Pink Pig as they usually did. And when he kissed her goodnight at her door there was something awkward about his kiss.