Land stretched out far as the eye could see and kissed the sky out ahead as if the world were flat and precariously curved at the same time. Endlessly connected and lying low, like a patchwork quilt of blue and white, the cloud shapes hovered and languished in the early morning, low enough to capture in her hands.
Still and quiet, the wind made no sound, just tiptoed over the flowers like a dance of ghosts. Moisture was everywhere she looked, clinging to the flower petals like tears. Moisture too was on her eyelids and her belly, and her legs were slippery and stuck together like a suction cup. The whole world was alive with purple flowers; it was recklessly wide, the world, and covered in a ground of yellow and white.
She kissed the boy’s neck, salty against her tongue. His deep brown hair stuck to his flesh like wet pieces of string. A small pool of sweat sat at the tip of his nose, a glistening puddle about to fall and splatter into her eyes.
His breath was sapid, like ginger candy, and his heart pounded wildly. She had the thought that he would fly away, propelled by the beating of his heart. She met his eyes, intensely dark, yet crinkling up at the corners in an offering of fondness and of pleasure.
There were no regrets for what they’d done, what they’d been doing all summer long, ever since she’d found the condoms. He’d slipped inside her easy like, and she held the grass in her hand and pulled it up as she opened for him like a kaleidoscope turning. He was pumping her, and she was losing all sight, all knowledge. Feeling was absolute; feeling was a sovereign drug, overtaking thought. Her legs shook under him as if the blood were leaving, and her heart beat as fast as his.
“Don’t be sorry ’bout what we’ve done,” he said. “I love you.”
Their bicycles hung over each other on the grass in an embrace of metal. His was blue and hers yellow. Couldn’t tell what bell belonged to which handlebar. The seats kissed, the leather lightened by the sun, made warm.
She ran her hands down his back, so thin to her touch. His shoulders narrow, his body snug against her, their heights were the same.
He kissed her again. The shadow over his lips was not quite full enough to be called hair. He was barely old enough to shave.
She smelled the earth under her, sweet and musty. His faint body odors that might have stunk to anybody else filled her with excitement. She put her legs over him, and he grew hard against her. She bent down to where he was stiff and self-assured. She took him slowly. It was a new sensation of taste, of gratification. In the distance the flowers swayed, as the wind picked up and their misty tears began to drip and catch the daylight. They glistened with enigmatic conversation, like stars in the night sky. Her mouth played him like an instrument, and his sighs were music that landed deep, and her heart captured his satisfaction in enveloping wings.
“Will you love me forever, Pierce?” she asked as she swung his hand in hers and they walked their bikes down the path, not really wanting to get where they needed to be.
“Uh-uh,” he said. “Forever.”
It was July, and they were off from school, doing nothing during that lazy summer but finding each other’s bodies to explore, swimming by the swimming hole naked, feeling the water as it came up inside them and cleaned where they had just been wet and sticky.
“Think your daddy will mind that I came for you this early?” he asked her.
“He won’t mind,” she said.
They neared the hill that dropped down to the house she lived in. It was large and white, eminent in stature, with a horse fence that ran the length of it. Large oak trees stood tall, protective armies of alpine presence, gracing the property like obedient soldiers. Manicured grass, verdurous and well maintained, proudly sparkled with the morning’s dew like crystal glass.
She could see her father coming down off the porch with Sadie, their old setter. He looked up and saw her, and she noticed the frown gather over his eyes.
Dalton had followed his father out. Trailing him for no good reason but to trail him.
“What you doing up so early, Lily?” her father asked.
He looked quickly at Pierce, and then back to her. She watched as his frown became more pronounced. His skin looked bristly and rough, and the bones beneath it, tightly drawn.
“We wanted to see the sun rise,” she said. “It made the whole sky look like fire.”
“Bet it did.” He kept his eyes on her. “You want to help your mother with breakfast, Lil?”
Dalton shyly kicked the dirt under his feet and glanced at Pierce.
She looked at Pierce too. His T-shirt fell out over his jeans, and he’d forgotten to put his socks back on; they must still be out there in the field. He looked guilty as he glanced past her toward the hills.
“Best be getting home, Pierce,” her father said.
Pierce nodded. He met her gaze for just a moment. “Can I come by later?” he asked.
“About five,” she said. “We can take a walk before dinner.”
“Can I come?” Dalton asked, and Lily jumped in quickly.
“No, you can’t come.”
She felt her father’s movement, as if he might say something, but he didn’t. He looked away.
Pierce hopped on his bike and took off down the road. She watched him till he was out of sight. She smelled him on her clothes; she felt the sweat he’d left on her. She didn’t meet her father’s eyes as she walked past him and into the checkerboard squares of the kitchen where everything was red and yellow and scents of spice sweetly contradicted what was emanating through her pores. Pierce was inside her skin, up under her underwear, and his cologne was in her hair. Her father would know; if she got too close, her father would know she’d had the ecstasy with Pierce Monroe.
Rose Cassidy was at the stove frying bacon, and the grease filled the air with smoke. Lily could almost taste the cinnamon and butter on the red–and-white oil-skin cloth. She licked her lips. Her mother wore a scarf around her forehead, red with white triangles. Her curly brown hair crept out the sides, obstinate and rebellious, and flew down her neck, enjoying their sprightly freedom. The kitchen was large, and the stove was all the way over at the other end, where it didn’t belong. It just kind of sat there, looking lonely.
“Where were you?” her mother asked.
Dalton picked at the bacon lying on the paper towels, draining grease.
“With Pierce,” Lily said. “We went to see the sun rise.”
“Why didn’t you take Sadie? She could have used the exercise.” Rose wiped her forehead with her wrist. The fan in the window made a sound like flying planes up in the sky when they’re high overhead.
“I don’t know,” Lily said. She looked back at the door. If her father came in, she’d run to her room. But for now, she was safe, with her mother leaning over the bacon, making it crispy and dry, the way she liked it; she’d have nothing in her nose but that. And the stove was too far away for her mother to pick up the odor of excitement, stimulating and lustful. Lily blushed at the memory of it, too close to be that far. She blushed again.
“Was it pretty?” Rose asked.
The smell on Lily was his, was theirs together. It made her tingle, but it stunk, would surely stink to anyone else. She moved further away.
“Well, maybe you’ll take Sadie out in the back and play with her later. I don’t want to see her get fat like me. You and Dalton need to play with that dog more.”
“I’ll take her, Mama,” Dalton said.
“Can I take a shower, Mommy? I worked up a sweat.” Lily grabbed a piece of toast from the table, lightly crisp, the butter sat in a dollop across the top, melting slowly. She took her tongue and worked the butter across the toast till it was nearly spread. She ate it fast, and the crispy brown crumbs stayed on her lips as she flew up the stairs.
“You got about ten minutes before breakfast,” Rose called out. “I’ll keep the bacon warm.”
Ryan Cassidy came back inside and sat down at the table. He reached over and took a banana from the fruit bowl. He peeled back the skin. Dalton took Sadie out the side door and started running around the yard, teasing her.
“You don’t think he’d try anything with our daughter, do you?”
“Who?” she said.
“Who do you think? Pierce Monroe.”
Rose Cassidy took a long breath and turned back around to stare at her husband. “She’s barely sixteen, Ryan,” she said. “I doubt it.”
“Yeah.” He considered his daughter’s age and then his own age the first time he’d had a girl. “Maybe so, maybe so.”
Rose watched her husband drive off after breakfast. He’d kissed her at the sink before leaving, as he always did. She tucked the hair that had fallen down her face back behind her scarf. There was sweat on her neck and under her arms. She’d shower again before her meeting. Stockings would be so hot but she had no choice but to wear them; bare legs were out of the question no matter how much she’d prefer that. The polka dot dress that buttoned down the front would be the coolest: she could keep the top two buttons undone and the sleeves were short. She looked good in light blue. Blue made her eyes stand out and appear fierce.
She put the last plate in the soapy water and turned off the faucet. She’d have Lily dry and put everything away. The glass salt and pepper shakers on the window ledge sparkled; they were green, apple green. She loved the greens and the yellows the best. Sometimes she brought the colored glass close to her eyes and peered through at the world, giving it a new slant. Sometimes she sat outside and looked up at the trees, how the colored glass changed things, made the world less acute.
“Lily,” she called. “Finish up for me in the kitchen.”
The girl came running down the stairs. Her hair looked wild. She hadn’t brushed it since the shower. She was wearing shorts and some top that barely covered her midriff. Rose thought she looked sexy and then caught herself. Her daughter was only sixteen; how could she possibly look sexy? She stared at Lily, wondering if it was true, that Pierce Monroe was getting away with things.
“Why can’t Dalton tend to the kitchen? Why do I always have to do it?”
“Dalton tends to the yard; you tend to the house. That’s just the way it is.”
She watched her daughter’s expression, fire behind her eyes, boldness in her attitude that sprung up like wild weeds, daring to be stomped out or cut.
“I want you to watch your brother this afternoon. I’ve got my ladies club.”
Lilly rolled her eyes. She never liked watching Dalton. He bored her, she said. Only wanted to do stupid boy things like pitch a basketball or play with trains.
“Yuk,” she said. “Take me to your ladies club.”
Rose smiled. She’d fit in fine, her daughter would. Bored as a canary in a cage.
“You wouldn’t like it,” Rose said. “We only talk about recipes and gardening and all the stuff you hate and find so terribly mundane.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish