IT WAS JUST AFTER ONE ON A TUESDAY morning when the phone rang. Ben was jolted awake from a dream and picked up the receiver from the phone on the nightstand by his bed. "Hello," he said.
"Come and pick me up," said the voice on the phone. It was Greta's voice.
Ben was not surprised that the voice on the phone belonged to Greta. "Greta," he said, "I'm sleeping."
"Get your ass over here. And hurry before the liquor stores close."
"Greta, really. I'm pretty beat."
"Yeah, whatever. I'll be waiting outside. How long are you gonna take?"
Ben sighed and said, "20 minutes."
"15," Greta said, and hung up the phone.
Ben lay in bed for another few minutes staring at his ceiling in the dim light. Then he got up and put on his clothes. He walked to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, found a beer and drank it. It wasn't particularly unusual for Greta to call Ben at random hours and demand things. It was, in fact, rather standard. It was just something she did, and she got away with it because she was Greta. And, Ben supposed, because he was Ben. Greta was one of those people accustomed to getting what they wanted much more often than not. What it all boiled down to was that Ben didn’t really care. He wasn’t doing anything in the morning and he liked being with Greta more than he liked most things.
Ben finished his beer, checked himself in the mirror and headed over to Greta’s place. Greta lived in an apartment with her grandmother and younger sister just a few minutes away from the house where Ben lived with his parents. Greta’s grandmother didn’t seem to like Ben much. Greta told him it was because she thought him to be a bad influence on her. Ben had always figured it to be the other way around.
Ben was 24 and Greta was 17. They had been friends, or whatever exactly it was they were, for about a year. They had met at a party. Greta had unceremoniously sat down on a couch next to Ben and proceeded to help him drink his six pack of Michelob Dark. Greta smoked and talked as she drank Ben’s beer, and Ben just drank and looked at Greta. Greta was very beautiful. She looked like Jean Harlow. Pale skin, platinum hair and amazing blue eyes. She had a cruel and pretty mouth, her lips always painted a fierce, deep red. As they sat together on the couch they discovered common interests. They liked much of the same music, they both liked to drink, and they both thought Greta was beautiful. Mostly they liked to drink.
They exchanged phone numbers and started seeing each other on a fairly regular basis, usually whenever Greta called Ben demanding that he meet her, wherever she happened to be. Often they just sat in Ben’s car drinking, smoking and listening to the Smiths. It was okay with Ben.
Ben pulled his car into the parking lot of the apartment complex and Greta was there, waiting. She was smoking and looking impatient. It seemed he was always smoking and looking impatient. She wore a fake leopard skin jacket over black legging and a black t-shirt. She stood and waited as Ben got out of the car and opened the passenger side door.
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Moments in Black & White:
by Paramjeet Singh Berwal
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