Darkness on the Edge of Town by Cassandra Rittenhause

My boss was the catch at work, with his robin’s egg eyes, and big, beautiful nose, his classic tawny hair in a ponytail. Russell ran our whole place in Princeton, like the WASP that he was, only on occasion checking out the pretty girls.

Gail, the blonde from Howell, was his favorite. Sandra was the second one: a black haired, Olive Oyl skinny girl, heading into her 30’s, and we all wondered if she was toying with him. He gave her books on Indian religion.

Princeton was a catch all for rich kids. And a lot of Asians. On the crisp unfolding of autumn, I strolled the park and stared at the cocoon of college students in Abercrombie sweaters. They were just teens, on the cusp of greatness. I was a ripe 25 now, a big girl, an NYU grad, but it all seemed like something I had finally left behind.

Russell barely looked at me. I was nothing to him. When I gave him the reports for the day, he would look up at me, as if not sure I had even worked with him. Our relationship was cloaked in mystery, like two strangers forced together, rather insidiously.

I remember Sandra offering me a ride home to Point Pleasant at 6 pm. She leaned over my cubicle, smelling of patchouli. Her short hair was damped by sweat. She wore a tank top, unprofessionally, but she was the bad girl of the office, dating whoever she wanted.

She was a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. She had seen him play, and she even had a tape, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” which she played over and over obsessively in her Volvo- especially his haunting “Something in the Night.” She had the photo of young gorgeous Bruce and his leather jacket on a poster in her cubicle.

“I love rock stars. Once you date one you never go vanilla. I do what I want,” she said, and I gazed at her profile as we drove the Parkway. Her skin was like porcelain, the blackness of her hair. I was astonished that Sandra had no idea how beautiful she was.

Cassandra Rittenhause has been in over 20 journals, among them Eunioa Review, and White Ash Review.