1 comment

Fiction Coming of Age Urban Fantasy

This story contains sensitive content

NOTE: This story has to do with a young woman's first sexual encounter.

Charlotte knew he was going to be the first person she slept with as soon as she saw him. Such an archaic phrase she thought to herself even as she was feeling her heart speed up, a flush start creeping up her body from the regions she was planning on indulging, and her voice rise. She was an intern at a radio station and in between her junior and senior years of college. It was part of her scholarship obligation to find an internship in communications and she did at New York’s premier talk radio station

She loved it, every minute of it. She listened to the radio all the time loving the music, the radio dramas, the soap operas, the talk shows. In high school she had been part of the All-City Radio Workshop, a group of 7 or 8 students selected by audition to perform radio dramas broadcast live on Fridays to schools across New York City. What a great year that was. The group gathered at Brooklyn Tech High School on Monday afternoons to read through that week’s script and get their role assignment. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons were rehearsals and then the live broadcast on Fridays. Her proudest moment was in a play about a flood. All week the director worked with her on her speech describing the flood, telling her she sounded actressy, not real. As the Friday broadcast ended and the red ON AIR sign went out, the director opened the mic from the control booth to the studio and told her she had done it, he had seen that flood!

She took that love of radio to her lowly job as an intern at the reception desk in the long section of offices where the show hosts, the “stars”, had their offices: Jean Shepherd, probably the only one from that era whose name is still recognizable today and that’s because of his Christmas Story classic, Arlene Francis, Barry Farber, Art Bell who talked about UFOs and wandered the halls of the radio station talking gibberish.  They were all there in front of Charlotte every day. For a young, impressionable girl hungry for the real life she was as sure she was missing as she was that she was entitled to it, it was intoxicating.

One paunchy man with pasty skin who was not only a radio host but also a newspaper columnist was persistent. Everyone knew him and knew all about his family – wife and two daughters – because he talked about them on the air. Those two daughters, young ladies, he called them curtsied when they were introduced to people on their rare visits to the inner sanctum. Curtsied, at 13 and 14. That appearance he gave of family man, deeply committed to his church and family was a fraud since he had several times caught her alone in the halls and told her she was just the kind of girl he had affairs with. What kind of girl is that, Charlotte wondered? She rebuffed him each time but not because she was such a good girl, she just had her feather set for another cap. In truth, people flirted and slept around all the time. She thought of herself as a good girl wanting to become a bad girl. 

Engaged, by then, to a boy she had met when she was 15, she was also a virgin. By the time Charlotte got to the radio station and the end of her college years was in sight, she knew she didn’t want to marry the guy.  He was nice enough but soft, was the only way she could describe it.  And she knew something that he didn’t know she knew, but she knew she shouldn’t marry him. He was almost a doctor, just another year until his internship. This was what parents of girls growing up in the 50s and 60s dreamt of for their daughters – marry a doctor. 

It was not what Charlotte wanted. She thrived in college, working in the theatre on the four plays a year that were produced in the old Quonset hut building that was a leftover from nearby military bases used for flight training during the Korean War. Or, creating one-woman performances around themes like Edward Albee’s women or Alan Tate’s poetry. She had a voice and knew how to use it. In college, she experienced the heady power of being flirtatious without having to commit to anyone for anything.

But now the world was calling Charlotte and she was so ready to listen. Flirtations at the radio station were a step above – conversation was full of inuendo, lunches were wet and there was always a crowd at the local bar at any time of day. By the end of the summer, they weren’t laughing at her anymore, after she had learned how to pronounce Dewars and knew what she liked to drink. Her own laugh was deep and throaty, and she could manipulate her voice to get what she wanted.

As luck would have it, as the internship was closing, the station manager asked her if she wanted to stay on as a booker on the all-night show. Charlotte didn’t even really know what that was but said yes with probably too much willingness because what she wanted by then was the host of the all-night radio show. And there she was, in the office with him every late afternoon, on the phone with people the host wanted as guests on his broadcast, being as honey persuasive as she could be. With some it was easy, with others she had to really pour it on. She would make eye contact with him as she was on the phone showing him her triumph when the booking was made. They started talking, she leading the conversation to ask him as many questions as she could about himself - what he loved about what he was doing, who were all the famous people he knew in his life - until finally he made a move. They talked around it for days. 

His chuckle revealed that he knew exactly what she was doing. “Look,” he said to Charlotte, “we’re both adults and it would be exciting as hell for me to show you around, so to speak, but you’re engaged, aren’t you?”

“There’s engaged and there’s engaged,” she said, with what she hoped was a bravado she definitely did not feel. “I’m not going to marry him for another two years. I was a child when we met.” She ignored her own thought that, frankly, she was still a child having just turned 18 that May, only barely legal enough to drink the Dewars she could now pronounce.

Finally, a long look. She blushed. “I’ve got a meeting with a sponsor, or someone I hope will be a sponsor. I’ll call you when I’m done. Meet me at the hotel,” he said. He lived in a hotel.

She nodded. He left. One hour and forty minutes later her desk phone rang. “I thought you’d never call.” “Well, I’m calling now.  Look, I can’t do this. I’ve done this before and I don’t want to do it to someone again.” Charlotte was frightened but she didn’t know why. Then she was full of rage, which she managed to contain as she made her case that this had to happen to her sometime and if it wasn’t him it would just be someone else at the station.   “Please,” she said in a whisper. And with a word, she knew he would.

When she thought about it over the years that followed, what she really remembered was the rage she felt when he was denying her, when she thought she might not get her way. Then Charlotte thought about Me Too and what her role was in that. She had pursued him. There was no power involved, on her part, because she had none. After he capitulated, and despite the fact that it was an unromantic and cold experience – he never even took off his shoes - Charlotte kept it up for months. After it was over, she always thought of it as the beginning of her spiral, and her perpetual temper tantrum, mad at herself because she couldn’t help herself; mad because it was really pretty awful.

September 16, 2023 00:55

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Poppy Jackson
16:05 Sep 23, 2023

Loved this, I really liked the part about radio, so interesting


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.