Issue 75 Aug 2019
April 11, 12:06 AM
The booze smelled sour on his breath as he stumbled into her and asked, “Want to get out of here?” She had given him no signs that she was interested, in fact, the only reason Jess was even out tonight was to celebrate her friend’s birthday. She had been guilted. There had been puppy dog eyes.
Then an arm circled her waist from beside her and a clean-shaven man that did not seem like he had spent the better part of the last three hours doing shots with his buddies said, “Sorry man, she’s taken.”
August 18, 8:31 PM
“Honey, it’s not that we don’t like Cole it’s just that, well, it’s only been four months. How much can you really know about a man in four months?” Jess’s mother was trying to keep the panicked pleading from her voice.
“Mom, I love him. He loves me, that’s all I need to know.” Her heart was filled with warmth for the man who entered her life a stranger and had since never ceased to show his love for her. The way he would pull her tighter whenever they were out and another man seemed to look her way. The way he would show up unexpectedly to surprise her with lunch at work. And of course there was the proposal, no one saw that coming.
The cherry of his cigarette makes the darkness incandescent. We’re also eating cherries. At least I am. All he does is crush them in his fists until the pulpy juice drips between his fingers.
It’s no secret why he asked me to his family’s orchard, though we’re both very good at pretending. My heart spiked as I walked here and hasn’t stopped thudding since. I don’t know if I should feel sad or relieved that he can’t hear its telltale arrhythmia.
“Want a drag?” he signs one-handedly.
I’m about to give my token answer for everything: I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t kiss other boys. But I want to touch the place his lips touched, so I take the cigarette from him and curl my mouth around the damp cylinder.
I cough, and his laughter is a quiet vibration next to me.
“Graduation’s a week away. What will you do afterward?” Asking this is a distraction, a way to stop overthinking about what we’re doing here, and what my parents would think, and—
He gestures around at his kingdom. “Anything,” he signs. “Anything but this.”