What More Could You Want?

The ice cream shop didn’t have air conditioning. Our boss claimed it did, but because we weren’t responsible enough to remember to close the windows in between customers, he said that turning it on would be a waste of money. In any case, the point remained: we baked inside that tiny, yellow box of a building. The sun streaking through the windows burned us like ants under a magnifying glass. Our boss required us to wear denim shorts, claiming they made us look more professional than wearing ones made of cotton. But this was in 2016, a time when denim shorts hugged girls’ asses so tightly that the pockets couldn’t even hold change.  I knew as well as our boss did that we were selling more than just ice cream.  

My Jeep didn’t have air conditioning either. At the end of every night, I ripped off my shirt—an ugly shade of orange with CARTER’S DREAMY CREAMERY printed across the front in shimmery bubble letters—and drove home in my bra, sprinkles stuck to my thighs, my hair stiff with dried sweat and hardened ice-cream. Between the sun beating my face and the customers’ gazes scorching my body, I spent that whole summer hot, angry, and overexposed. After each shift, I left sunburnt, scrutinized, and, on a busy night 20 dollars richer. 

Along with the dress code, our boss set other rules, too: No chewing gum or mints. No using our phones. No discounts for boyfriends (when I asked about girlfriends, he said, “Be serious.”). And we certainly weren’t allowed to eat the ice cream without paying full price. He made this clear, explaining that if we wanted a scoop of mint chocolate chip, for example, we had to fill out a paper IOU for $2.95—nearly half our hourly wage—and pin it on the corkboard next to the staff exit. At the end of the week, he would add up the IOUs and subtract each item from our paychecks.  

The IOUs system wasn’t as much about honesty as it was about shame. They created a paper trail of guilt, proof of our lack of control, an embarrassment none of us wanted. And it worked. For the entire three months I worked there, I ate no ice cream at all. Not a single lick. 

Put plainly: I couldn’t stand that fucking place. I would have loved to watch a tornado rip it apart, plank by plank. But then, I’d just need to find another hopeless summer job.  

It’s just for the summer, I tried to remind myself. But at 19-years-old, the distance between June and September seemed impossibly long, each day a lousy replication of the last. My classmates went farther east for the summer, either padding their resumes with unpaid internships or traveling under the guise of self-discovery, some as far east as Shanghai.  

Shayna, my first-year roommate, scored a position as a temp with a law firm and stayed in the city. “Someone owes my dad a favor,” she told me when I asked how she, an undergraduate fashion merchandise major, acquired a job reserved for law students. Shayna was my East Coast Liaison. I hated to think of Shayna in the city without me. I worried she’d find someone more interesting, or God forbid, a boyfriend. Through her, I saw what life could be. Her East Coast was one of weekends in The Hamptons and Thursday night dinners at The Harvard Club with her grandparents. She carried purses more expensive than my first car. During the second week of the semester, when she asked me what my favorite European city was, I admitted I’d never traveled out of the country. She looked at me sadly, her thin eyebrows low enough that her mascara-coated lashes almost reached them, and determined right then that I’d be her project. “Don’t worry, Skylar,” she said, looping her arm through mine as we walked to the Student Union. “Just think of all the great things you get to experience for the first time. The world is ours, babe!”   

The rest of the year we spent almost every day together. People knew us as “Shay and Skye.” She taught me how to play squash and tennis and when it was acceptable to drink gin and water (at a house party) versus when it was necessary to order something more sophisticated, like a martini, always extra dirty (on a first date). Whenever her dad put money into her bank account, he specified, “Treat Skye to brunch!” In return, I taught her how to make puppy chow and play Euchre, more to humor me than out of genuine curiosity, I suspect, but I appreciated her effort either way. She didn’t laugh when I  mispronounced things I’d never said aloud before, like “Audi” or “bourgeois” and the one time I used the word “pop” in front of a group of people at a first-year mixer, she waited until we were alone, brushing our teeth before bed, to tell me people call it “soda.”  

“Well, at least here people call it ‘soda’,” she looked at my reflection in the mirror instead of my actual face as she told me. “When I visit your hometown, I’ll be sure to say ‘pop’. She smiled, toothpaste running down her chin and spit into the sink. If anyone else had corrected me, I might have felt humiliated and replayed the incident on a loop all night, trying to remember every single person who heard, worrying about how many other times I made a similar mistake. What other words did I use incorrectly? But because Shayna told me, in her gentle Shayna way, reeking of sincerity, I found myself laughing instead, the laughter folding me in half.  

Shayna was, I believed, in many ways my savior. Like my life had been waiting for her before it could actually begin. Just to be near her felt like a gift. 


At the ice cream shop I hated working the drive-through window most of all. The exhaust from the cars made the air so dense and suffocating that it seemed possible to slice it with a knife. It was there, at that window, one day in the middle of June that Dominick Steed rolled up and shattered the monotony of my summer.  

“Oh, hey,” he said. “Skylar, right? You’re back in town for summer, too, huh?” 

“Here in the flesh,” I said. “What do you want?”  

He ordered a medium vanilla cone and when I came back with it, he offered me a three dollar tip and an invitation.  

“I’m having a party tonight. Why don’t you come by after work?” He gave the ice cream one smooth lick, holding his tongue steady while his left hand twisted the cone. “It’ll be nice to catch up.”  

That Dominick knew my name, let alone that I went away for college, surprised me. I imagined myself as a featureless face in his life—a body that he occasionally bumped into as I left AP History and he left the general class across the hall. And, to be fair, I didn’t give him much thought either. Though we graduated together, the most I knew about him was as the kid who won a $1.1 million-dollar-settlement when it came out that he’d been having sex with the athletic trainer for two years, money he used to buy his way into a big state school. I avoided boys like Dominick in high school, guided by an eerie anxiety that if I didn’t protect myself from them, they could rip my future from my hands or, worse, give me a future I didn’t want. To me, high school and this town were never meant to be enjoyed; They were just meant to get through.  Better things waited for me on the other side. 

“Yeah, maybe,” I said.  

He grabbed a pen and wrote his number on a napkin. “Text me when you’re out. I’ll send you the address.” 


During my fifteen-minute lunch break I grabbed a cheese-filled soft pretzel and checked my phone. Three messages from Shayna:  



Skye! Had the most wicked night last night—just now waking up lol. Call you 

tonight to catch up?  



Don’t hate me, but I retroactively take back the offer to call tonight. Something  

came up! About last night: let’s just say it involves Elixir Lounge, 5 vodka 

sodas, and Tom Hanks’ son 


I closed the messages without replying. I didn’t want to hear about Shayna’s encounter with Tom Hanks’ son. I didn’t want to hear about her with any guy. I wanted to imagine her sad and missing me as much as I missed her. Maybe if I ignored her, she’d crave me the same way I craved her. I finished my pretzel, already hardened, and went back to work. 


At 11 pm, we finally clicked off the cone-shaped pylon sign, the neon going cold in an instant. We flipped the window signs to say CLOSED and I stood at the sink scrubbing solidified hot fudge from spoons, watching my pink nail polish dissolve in the hot water. I thought of Shayna flashing her fake ID at a bouncer and sipping cocktails on a rooftop bar overlooking the city while I spent my birthday doing what? Sitting at my parent’s house, eating vanilla cake with fat flowers frosted on top, purchased at the grocery store bakery? No, I couldn’t return to school without a story to share—something that would add a layer to my life, something that made me a more interesting girl—and though Dominick’s party wouldn’t compare to clubs so exclusive you need a password to enter, at least it offered the possibility of something. 


At the party, people from my past littered the yard, smoking cigarettes and playing drinking games. I wouldn’t have come a year ago, abstaining from the reckless fun of highschool for the promise of something better for us well-behaved girls. These were the parties I heard about only after they happened, the following week at school, when rumors laced every conversation: Who Did What With Who. 

As I walked through the crowd, my neighbor Mya shouted my name from across the yard. She jogged towards me, beer sloshing out of her solo cup, and enveloped me in a hug, pressing her cheek to mine.  

“Skylar! You’re the last person I expected to see here—How’ve you been?”  

I babysat Mya when we were children, which only makes sense if you don’t think about considering I am only three years older than her. Still, her mom paid me ten dollars so she could run an errand—the post office or picking up take-out. The entire time Mya would make us play Wedding, a game she made up, in which I’d stand on one side of the room and watch her walk towards me, the entire length of her basement, in painfully slow steps. We would cover our mouths with  two fingers, lean in and press our covered lips together. Our fingers, the only barrier between our lips.  The whole thing made the 10 dollars feel wholly deserved. 

Before I had the chance to respond, someone called for her. When she hugged me goodbye, her body sort of fell into mine, loose and heavy from the alcohol, and we staggered backwards until she let me go. I stood, watching her jog towards the bonfire where the group split up, half smoking cigarettes, the other half chanting while people did keg stands.  

The mistake of coming started to set in my gut; I belonged here even less now than I would have in high school. I walked to the edge of the property, away from the noise, where the grass gradually receded into dirt and row upon row of soybeans unfurled. I studied the ever-expanding sky, the stars so close I could prick one with my finger.  

“Glad you made it.” I turned to see Dominick offering me a beer. “Really thought you wouldn’t show. I don’t exactly remember seeing you at parties in high school.”  

I grabbed the can but left it unopened, “Yeah, guess this isn’t quite my idea of fun.” 

“Well you’re here, aren’t you?”   

“Because there’s nothing else to do in this town.”  

Sure.” He took a swig and then sat on the ground, then crossed his ankles and leaned back, resting on his elbows. He wore dirty Timberlands. I thought how ridiculous he’d look anywhere but in the country. He glanced up at me and gestured to the field with his hand. “I don’t think this can be beat. Land. Fresh air. Quiet. What more could you want?”   

Instead of answering I just sat down beside him. The grass made my legs itch.  He scooted closer to me, until his thigh was touching mine. I closed my eyes and imagined it was Shayna’s thigh pressed against mine instead of his. I was certain that if I could rest my head on her shoulder, being home wouldn’t be so lonely.  

There was no preamble. No smooth transition or sweet talk. One minute, we were sitting in silence while he sipped his beer, and the next, I reached over, grabbed his chin with my fingers, and tilted his face toward mine. And just like that, Dominick Steed, the retired star athlete, the high school bad boy, pinned his whole body against mine.  


When I arrived on campus last autumn, it seemed like everyone had already had sex, started doing it ages ago, and the fact that I still hadn’t surprised them. We placed bets on when it would happen for me. I bet never and called myself cursed. Instead of laughing along with everyone else, Shayna shook her head and said, “Don’t say that about yourself. It’ll happen.” Which flattered me, really, because no part of me screamed sex. No part of me even whispered it. In high school I acted sick to get out of going to prom; the thought of dancing with a boy made me nauseous, and the thought of not getting asked to dance by a boy made my chest tighten, my breath shallow, the entire room disappear. The potential for embarrassment smothered any smidge of desire.  

By the time classes wrapped in the spring I still hadn’t slept with anyone. I’d had a chance, though. There was the boy from my Chemistry class who, during one of our last study sessions on my twin bed, placed his hand on my thigh and ran his thumb up to my crotch. 

All our study sessions prior were leading to this. I was even guiding them. I thought I wanted to have sex with him (or at least to get sex over with), and he seemed like a safe option. Quiet, kind. With Shayna’s help, I learned to flirt. She told me to touch his arm playfully when I talked and laugh at his jokes whether or not they were funny.  She styled my hair before he came over. First, by straightening it with a flat iron, then she tousled it with her hand, so it wouldn’t look so neat. She said it was important to look a little disheveled, in a sexy way. She picked out my outfit: a tight white tank top that showed just a sliver of my stomach, and ripped jeans. And it worked. Or, well, it nearly worked, but when he touched me, I froze. His hand on my body distracted me so much that I couldn’t even finish my sentence. It didn’t make me feel how I expected to feel. There was no excitement, not even nerves. There was nothing. When I didn’t respond, he pulled it away quickly, apologized and stood, said it was getting late and left without even taking his notes.  

Shayna came back, hours later. I still hadn’t moved from my bed. His notes were still scattered next to me. It embarrassed me to admit what happened, but I couldn’t think of a lie quick enough. He’d done nothing wrong—so what’s wrong with me? I asked Shayna. She crawled into my bed beside me. We sat side-to-side, with both our backs against the wall. She pulled my head against her shoulder and stroked my hair, smoothing away all the tousles. It’ll happen when it happens, she said. I hated Shayna seeing me like that. Pathetic, childlike.  


But I thought—hoped—having sex with Dominick could change all that. I could go back to campus having lost my virginity. A complete shedding of my old skin.  

Dominick didn’t touch me so much as paw at me. Every time his mouth found mine, he bit my bottom lip, hard, and laughed when I winced. He made his tongue sharp and thin, prying my lips open and wrestling against my own. The sex happened quickly, he was inside of me and then he was out. I wondered, as he lay there with his chest rising and falling at a pace that made it unbelievable he’d once placed second at the state track meet, if this had been enjoyable for him. I almost asked him, but looking at his satisfied smile, like he was pleased with himself, I realized he probably wasn’t concerned if it was enjoyable for me, and it suddenly all seemed terribly uneven. Like sex was a game and I just lost. 

 My body felt tenderized, like a piece of raw meat. My hug with Mya felt more intimate than this. 


When we rejoined the rest of the group, Dominick tried putting his arms around my shoulders and holding my hand. Tried putting his fingers through my belt loops like I was his puppy on a leash. My body lost its fluidity. Having sex was supposed to crack me open—make me someone new—someone grown. I wanted Shayna to see me differently. But I was the same lost girl, only sorer.  

I shrugged myself out of his grip and told him I was leaving.  


“It’s late and I have work tomorrow morning.” 

“Whatever,” he said and walked towards a group of girls sitting around a bonfire. 

Driving home I had to admit Dominick’s question pounded in my head: what more did I want? 


I don’t remember falling asleep that night. I remember sobbing so hard my bed rocked under my heaving. The next thing I knew, I woke up confused, misplaced. It took me a second to recognize my room—baby blue walls, glow-in-the-dark stars stuck on the ceiling. I checked the time. 11:35. Already twenty minutes late for my shift at the ice cream shop. I considered calling in sick, but I knew my boss would request a doctor’s note and, anyway, the thought of spending my birthday in my childhood bedroom, seemed sadder than spending it repeating “Welcome to Carter’s Dreamy Creamery. May I suggest a turtle sundae?” So I showed up to the ice cream shop wearing the same crusty shirt from the previous night’s shift.  

When I pulled into the gravel parking lot, I noticed my boss’s truck. I realized, then, that it was the end of the pay period; he’d be in the office tallying up our IOU’s. My stomach felt queasy, and I wasn’t sure if it was fear of my boss or from last night’s alcohol or a mixture of both. 

“Nice of you to join us, Miss Skylar,” he said when I walked through the employee entrance. He glanced at me briefly before returning to his calculator. “Wearing a dirty uniform, too, I see. Classy.”  

I apologized and clocked in. He didn’t say anything else and left shortly after, his truck creating a storm of dust. I thought, maybe God was finally sparing me—that I’d been through enough already. Maybe one more thing would just break me. 


After a slow and hazy shift, our boss returned at closing time. “Sorry, girls,” he said. “Because Skylar here decided to show up 45 minutes late, we’re all going to have to stay later in order to make up for it.” He leaned against the counter. “Our choices impact our coworkers, you see.”  

We spent the next forty-five minutes cleaning while he sat in his back office. Once we finished, he stalked through the shop, squatting eye level with the counters, running his thumb along them for any stray crumbs or stickiness—a cruel pleasure in his eyes when he noticed any mistake—my body became unbearable with exhaustion. Maybe it was because I’d been working on my feet for nine hours with only three hours of sleep. But maybe, more likely, it ran deeper than that. Been building since before Dominick’s party. Before I applied for a stupid job filling cone after cone with ice cream.  

Finally, our boss said we could leave and offered a smile like he expected us to thank him for his salvation.  

“And Skylar,” he said as I grabbed my car key from my purse. “I won’t be so forgiving next time.” 

I thought about Shayna, at once longing for her comforting presence and vowing to never tell her about this. What would she think of me meekly doing whatever my boss demanded? Or  last night’s party thrown inside a barn, or having sex with Dominick next to a field? Worse, what would she think of the fact that it made me cry later that night alone in my childhood room. Thick, embarrassing tears like globs of glue running down my cheeks, and in the morning, it took over an hour of ice packs pressed against my eyes for the puffiness to finally sink.  


One month later and the first night back on campus, the girls on my floor opened bottles of wine and swapped stories of summer.  

“It was insane, you guys,” I said when it was my turn. I recited the story I spent weeks rehearsing. I told them I didn’t keep cleaning when our boss demanded us to. Instead, I grabbed a cone, and filled it with chocolate ice cream. I told them I licked it once before I threw it on the floor. I took my shirt off too, shoving it in my boss’s hand and said, “I quit.” I told them I drove home that night, with the windows down, letting the wind tangle my hair. I told them about Dominick’s party, too—how we had sex like animals, raw and ravenous in the outdoors. “I broke his heart when I moved back here,” I lied. 

“Of course you did,” Shayna said and winked at me. That Shayna believed I was capable of such things made me think maybe I was and I just didn’t know it yet. I wished I saw in myself  whatever she saw in me. Whatever it was that kept her around. 


  Shayna and I shared a bed that night and, under her pink quilt, lay shoulder to shoulder, talking about upcoming classes and weekend trips we planned on taking. She told me about all the clubs that opened that summer, how she couldn’t wait to take me to them so we could dance under the flashing lights and drink lime green cocktails that made our heads pound the next morning.  

“Honestly, why even leave the city?” She asked. “Everything we could possibly want is right here.”  

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Maybe it is.”

Photo by Brianna Tucker on Unsplash.

Morgan Kovacs

Morgan Kovacs is a writer based in Washington DC. She recently earned her MFA from American University. Her writing can be found in Rattle, The Banshee, and Constellations. Her work explores the way geography impacts gender, power, and desire. While she is an East Coaster for now, she will always believe 'Midwest is best.'  Find her on her website and Instagram.