Merle and Lucia


“Lucia, it’s me.” Merle said. “I’ve done something.” His voice cracked as he spoke.
“Merle?” Lucia held the phone close and turned her back to the room. “It’s late. My dad says I need to be going to bed.”
“I’ve done something, Lu. Something bad. I need you.”
“Can’t it wait? I’ll stop round on the way home from school tomorrow.”
“No, it can’t wait.” Merle appeared to be crying. “I can be at your house in about twenty minutes.”
There was silence on the line before Lu spoke.
“Let me ask my dad.”
Merle listened to the muffled voice of Lu’s dad: he didn’t sound happy. After a moment, Lu spoke again.
“Dad says you’ve got to come and get me. I’m not allowed out on my own at this time.”
“Fine. Give me twenty minutes, but be ready to go when I get there.”
The line went dead.
Merle wiped the blood off his phone and stuffed it back into his jeans. He looked at his reflection in the window of his car. He would need to wash his face before he went to Lu’s. It was hard to tell which bits were bone, which bits were skin, and which bits were, well, brain. Hayley had not been the brightest of girls he had known, but Merle guessed that intelligence was not a contributing factor in the size of a brain. She had been the first girl that had agreed to have sex with him, so that has to count for something.
He scraped the biggest parts of whatever it was, off his face and flicked them into the grass. Leaving evidence wouldn’t be a problem if he could get to Lu quick enough. He hated using her like this, like a personal do-over switch, but she had a gift for it, and a man had to use all the tools in his box, didn’t he?
The car would need to be moved, so Merle slipped into the driver’s seat and turned the engine. To his surprise and relief, it started first time. They had parked up in a fairly remote spot. Trees blocked the view from the main road. This was a popular spot for lovers – well, perhaps lovers was not the right word. It was a spot where people parked when they wanted a shag. People in love tended to be in relationships where they had access to better facilities than a twenty five year old Ford Fiesta.
Merle shivered as he looked around at the car; the passenger seat was still fully reclined, the windows still fogged over. Parts of Hayley dripped from the door handle, the ceiling, the dashboard, in fact Merle couldn’t see a part of the car that didn’t have Hayley dripping from it. Her white pumps seemed to have survived and lay in the passenger footwell, although they were no longer white, now they were a mixture of dark red and pink. Merle thought he could still see part of a foot in them, but he could not say for certain. She hadn’t been wearing any trousers, just a skirt to allow him ease of access and to his surprise, no knickers, which seemed to make it even worse for Merle, as he figured that this meant that she had come ready to do the deed. He didn’t know if he was her first, but if he wasn’t, she must have received advice on how to appear ‘in the mood’, as that was the message he got. Part of her sweater was draped over to back seat, caked in God knows what.
Merle took a moment to look at himself: his jeans were covered in bits of Hayley, as was the jacket he wore. He looked in the mirror and winced at the sight of his face, covered in blood, his hair plastered to his face, stained red. Mr Bennett, Lu’s dad, would have questions if he turned up looking like this. He would need to clean up.
He rolled the car a few hundred metres along the road and pulled off into the thickest part of woods, where he killed the engine. He got out and locked the car, although if anyone cared to look in, they would surely think twice about driving off in it. He headed off towards the little stream that ran through this part of the woods and when he found it, he stripped of his jacket and t-shirt and knelt at the water’s edge and began to splash water over his hair and face. For a few minutes, the tiny stream ran red, as he washed bits of the first girl he had ever stuck it to, out of his hair.
He had promised Lu he would be there in twenty minutes, and he had already spent five minutes – albeit five well spent minutes – cleaning up. His jacket had taken the worst of the blood, and he pulled on a mostly clean t-shirt and began to run back towards the road. It took him longer than he had guessed, but even accounting for avoiding other people he made it to Lu’s house in under half an hour. He knocked on the door and retreated into the shadows to wait for Lu. It was only seconds before she opened the door and stepped outside. She turned back to the house and shouted back inside.
“Merle’s here, I’m going. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She pulled the door shut and walked along her garden path, Merle falling in stride beside her. Before they reached the gate at the end, they heard the door open, and Mr Bennett’s voice shout after them.
“What have you done this time son?”
That was clearly aimed at Merle, who turned back, staying in the shade. “Nothing sir, well, nothing really. I’ll have her back before you know it.”
“I’m sure you will Merle.” He paused for a moment, silhouetted against the light of the open door. “I’m not going to remember any of this, am I?”
It was Merle’s turn to pause while he shifted his weight. “No sir. I don’t think you will.” At that Merle put an arm around Lu. And together they moved off along the road.
When they were out of earshot, Lu looked up at Merle. He had been like a big brother to her. She had a younger brother, but he couldn’t really do much yet.
“What have you done, Merle?” She knew there was something. There was always something, but this was new, even for Merle; his face said this was big.
Merle didn’t look at Lu, instead lengthening his stride. He put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her along with him.
“It’s bad Lu,” was what he said, “bad.”
“I get it, Merle, I get it. Can we go a bit slower?” Merle’s arm around her, and his longer stride was forcing Lu into a jog to keep up.
“I don’t think so, no.”
He kept up the half-run pace for another five minutes, before Lu pulled away from the arm around her shoulders. She stopped and took several deep breaths. Merle went on several strides before he realise Lu was not at his side. He turned back to see her sucking in air. He held a hand out to her, but she shook her head.
“Merle, can we walk slower for a bit?” Her chest heaved as she spoke.
“Not really. You’re a bit unpredictable. If we get there faster, it will be easier.” He had walked back to her. His arms were open, imploring. “Please, Lu.”
“If I say yes, will you tell me why you need me?”
Merle nodded and held out his hand, which Lu took. They resumed walking, Lu alternating between, walking and running.
“Lu,” Merle said looking straight ahead as he walked. “What do you know about babies?”
“Babies?” Lu looked up at him. “You mean like my brother?”
“No. Not like your brother. He’s a bit old to be called a baby.” He walked a few more steps before continuing. “No. Babies. Like where they come from.”
“From my mum’s tummy. Didn’t you know that?”
“Right. But do you know how they get in there?”
Lu was quiet for a few moments as she jogged alongside Merle.
“Not really. I’ve never really thought about it.”
“You haven’t covered it in school?” This was exactly what Merle feared. This was a conversation for a mum, possibly a dad, but certainly not for friends.
“No. Mrs Grainger said we would do something about it next term. I took a letter home for my parents about it. Apparently I need to get their permission.”
“Right.” Brilliant. Merle took a few moments to frame his answer. “Well, when a woman has an egg inside her. Not an egg like a chicken’s egg,” he said as he saw the question on her face, “a real tiny one.”
“How did that get inside my mum?”
“It just did, okay?” He did not want to go into all the biology of the matter. He wasn’t even sure he knew the answer himself. “Anyway, a man has sperm which wants to get to the egg.”
“Where does this sperm live? Does my dad have it?”
“It lives in his bajimbas.”
“His nuts. It lives in his nuts, okay?” He pointed between his legs to clarify his point. She was several years away from needing this knowledge and describing the actual act would be hard. He laughed at his own crude pun.
“Right.” Lu appeared to be trying to make sense of all this. “Is this all relevant?”
“Yes. Indirectly.” Looking back down the road, Merle pulled Lu across and into the woods. The car was only a short walk now, which was good, as Lu was tiring; pulling her was becoming harder, and she had started to stumble every few steps. “Anyway, you know your vagina, right?” He didn’t know if Lu knew the word. He hoped to God she did, because he was unsure what word she would know. “Where you pee from,” he added, sure that she would know that.
“Yes. My pee-pee.”
“Yes. Well when girls grow up and want to have babies, the man has to give his sperm to the woman to fertilise her egg.”
“How does he do that?”
Merle sighed. This was getting harder. Perhaps when they reached the car it would be easier. Perhaps he could make something up. Did he really have to introduce Lu to sex before her parents had even raised the subject? He thought not, but he wanted to explain. He would try to keep it basic.
“Well, the man’s sperm comes through his penis. You know that word?”
“Yes, of course!” said Lu. Why she knew a man’s bits but not her own baffled Merle, but it was a discussion for another time.
“He puts his penis into a woman’s vagina –”
“What?” Merle heard Lu squeal in disgust. He didn’t need to look back to see the face that she would be pulling.
“Well, the sperm comes out of the man, into the woman and looks for the egg.” He slowed his pace gradually and then stopped. Through the trees ahead, he could see the red of his Fiesta. The trees hid it well, and you would struggle to see it from the path, unless you were looking for it. He positioned Lu so her back was towards the car. He didn’t know if she had seen it already, but he needed a few minutes before he showed her. Hell, he needed a few minutes before he saw it again. He hoped they had made it in time. He took hold of Lu’s arms and bent forward until his eyes were level with hers. “I know what you’re thinking. Gross, right? Well, in a few years, you’ll change your mind. Trust me.” He spoke softly now. “Well, that’s what me and Hayley were doing.”
“Hayley from the store?”
“Yes, Hayley from the store.” Merle had met Hayley on a visit to the local store. They had struck up a conversation over a few cans of soup. She had a soft voice and soft lips. He closed his eyes as he remembered her. She was four years older than him, at twenty-two years of age, probably – certainly – wise in the ways of adult relationships. They had started going out after that, and it was their fourth date that they had found themselves in his car, him with adolescent dreams, and her with her short skirt and no knickers. It was a match made in fantasy heaven for a young man.
“So you had your – ”
“Yes,” interrupted Merle. He knew what he was doing. He didn’t need to hear it from a girl too young to know what her vagina was. “Well, I had just got to the point where my sperm was coming out,” he said and hoped that Lu wouldn’t ask any more questions. She didn’t, so he continued, “and Hayley gripped my arms tightly. She dug her nails in. Look.” He pulled back his t-shirt revealing his upper arms. There were four small, semi-circular marks, red and angry. He dropped the sleeve; this wasn’t important. Hayley was. “Her eyes got real wide, and she said my name.” He stopped talking; his eyes began to tear up.
“She blew up, Lu. She got fatter and fatter, and blew up.” Merle covered his eyes as he began to cry.
“Like exploded?”
“Exactly. Look at my jeans. She’s all over me!”
For the first time, Lu noticed the stains on his jeans, and she stepped back.
“Oh, I get it,” she said, turning around. Merle grabbed her arm and turned her back.
“It’s messy, Lu. You don’t need to see that. Can you just help me?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Reset. Take me back before…” He waved an arm in the direction of his car. “Can you do that for me?”
“It’s not like resetting a menu choice at a café.”
“I know it isn’t. Lucia, please help me. She didn’t deserve this.”
“Why did you do it?”


“Why did I do it?” Merle grasped two handfuls of his hair. “Why did I do it?” He wasn’t screaming just yet, but he was close to it. “I didn’t do anything! I’ve never done this before, but I’m sure this is not how it’s meant to go!” He had started shaking. “Please Lu!”

She had never heard or seen Merle like this before. He had done stupid things before, but they had mostly consisted of poor choices. A five-minute jump back had given him a chance to try again. That was easy; five minutes was nothing. An hour? It was longer than she had ever attempted, but Merle was her friend, and he needed her help.

She had never heard or seen Merle like this before. He had done stupid things before, but they had mostly consisted of poor choices. A five-minute jump back had given him a chance to try again. That was easy; five minutes was nothing. An hour? It was longer than she had ever attempted, but Merle was her friend, and he needed her help.

“Why did you bring me here? You could have told me over the phone.”

“I needed to be with you. I need to hold your hand. If you’d reset over the phone, I’d have forgotten all this and probably made the same choices I made here. And they didn’t go well.”

“Okay, but we could have done this at my house. You could have held my hand there.” Lu was a smart eight year old.

Merle smacked his forehead. She was right. She was usually right.

“I didn’t think of that,” he said. “We’re here now, though.” He held out a hand to Lu, and after a moment’s contemplation, she took it.

“I hope you realise this is not as easy as making a wish. I don’t really have control over it.”

“I can imagine,” Merle said, smiling despite his predicament. “But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try –”

“No.” Lu spoke sharply and pulled her hand out of Merle’s grasp. She stepped backwards, shaking her head. “Can’t. Won’t.”

“Why not? I need this, Lu.”

“Mum and dad say I can’t.”

“They won’t even remember any of this. Where’s the problem?” Merle was shuffling his feet restlessly. He glanced at his watch. “It’s been almost an hour. Can we just do it?”

“I will do it once, but that’s it. More than once, and there are,” she paused searching for a word, “strange consequences.”

“How do you know? Your parents could be talking bullshit.” He clapped a hand to his mouth. “Sorry,” his muffled voice said. It didn’t occur to him that he had already told this eight-year-old how babies are made, not to mention the description – albeit brief – of his lady friend’s demise. Teaching her a bad word was low down on that list, but he apologised anyway.   “Sorry Lu,” he repeated, “don’t say that in front of your dad. He’ll have my backside. I don’t think he likes me anyway, and all I need now is for him to find out I’ve been using bad language around you.”

“I think my dad thinks I can take care of myself. Why else would he have allowed me out with you tonight?”

Merle thought about this for a while, before slowly nodding.

“True, true. But that doesn’t alter the fact that your parents might’ve lied to you.”

“No, Merle, they didn’t.”

“How can you be sure?” Merle looked at his watch again, and began his restless twitching again, throwing a glance in the direction of his car every few seconds.

“I tried it.” She stared at Merle for a moment before continuing. “Well, we tried it. Me, my mum, and my dad.”

“And?” Merle was practically hopping on the spot now. He knew an hour would be hard, but he also knew an hour and a quarter would be harder still. He could have just trusted Lu and had it done by now, but he’d already proved his thinking wasn’t that clear at the moment.

“Well, we wanted to see what I could do; if I could redo a moment over and over.” She made a face as she talked, as if she had smelled something bad. “Let’s just say the dog didn’t tolerate it very well.”

Merle frowned and scratched his cheek.

“You don’t have a dog.”

“Not that you remember, anyway. His name was Whisky. He was a Yorkshire terrier. I loved him.”

“Really?” It was Merle’s turn to make a face now, and he half turned away in imagined pain for a dog that he never knew. “Ok, just once then, but please make it a good one.” He once more held out his hand to Lu.

“Just wait. It’ll take me a few minutes to get prepared.” Lu began taking in huge lungful’s of air. Occasionally she would burp, but mostly she kept sucking in air. After perhaps five minutes, she held her hand out to Merle who took it gladly. He looked at his watch: one hour and twenty minutes had passed since Hayley, well, passed, was what it told him. Lu tightened her grip on his hand for a moment and squeezed her eyes shut. Merle followed suite and screwed his own eyes tightly shut. There was a moment of silence, and Merle held his breath and waited for what he hoped would be a second chance.

Lu let out a long fart. Not especially loud, but it turned Merle’s nose up.

He felt Lu let go of his hand, and he opened his eyes.