We made love under the stairway on the poison-green couch and on the floor. In the attic, in the basement, in the hall, in the library, and once in my father’s bed. He had stopped sleeping there after my mother died. Jason and I turned off the lights, and the moon shone in the high window, a sliver of weeping silver.
In May, the rain had poured down on us and we ran through it, holding hands. It pattered on our heads and soaked our hair and shirts. It soaked my little leather purse. Jason pulled me along and slipped in a puddle and fell; I grasped his warm hand and drew him up, warm in the warm rain. This was not blood but water. We were walled off from the world by sheets of water. I kissed his sweet face and he tasted like rain. “You’re burning up,” he said to me. I kissed him again. I was trembling in the rain. “We’ll be fine,” he said. “We’ll be fine,” I said.
But I got sick with bronchitis and didn’t see him for a week. I woke every morning with my chest on fire. I wandered through the house missing Jason. We decided that we didn’t want to be separated again. Even though my father forbade Jason’s visits, we would cling to each other until the universe unraveled.
I heard singing. I looked out of my upstairs bedroom window, and saw Jason waiting below. He threw a bunch of daisies up toward my window. I caught a stalk and pulled some of the petals off, and released them so they haloed him. He serenaded me: the song was about a sailor in love with a princess.
Last night in the dark of the bedroom, Jason’s body was blue, and mine too, of course. My diamond bracelet, one that had been my mother’s, glittered in the moonlight. I pulled at his t-shirt. “Not so fast, Maddy,” he said. “I need your help, Maddy,” he said. “My old man is killing me.”
I understood about fathers: my own was a beast. After Mother died, he became a grieving dragon. Don’t marry a sailor, my mother had said; Father owned a fleet of ships. Don’t become a pharmacist, she had said because that’s what she was. My younger brother didn’t remember her. I told him she loved him and left him diamond cuff links for when he grew up and a toy boat to play with. When he was little, he threw the cuff links up and caught them, juggled them in the air, and let one drop and then the other. The toy boat he kissed and held to his chest. When he grew older, he told Father that I knocked over and broke a favorite lamp, a present from my mother. My father took my kitten and gave it to my brother. This night my father and brother were visiting my aunt, and I pleaded sick.
“I need to get away,” Jason said. “Let’s borrow your father’s money and elope.”
“Okay,” I said. I saw the oval bruise on his cheek and the purplish stripes, where his father had gripped his wrist. I kissed the ring of bruises. Jason could not kiss my scars, which were in my heart, so he kissed me on the lips. We sealed our love.
This was high summer. We’ll live happily ever after, we promised each other. Jason brought out the peaceful person in me. Jason brought out the fire in me. “Let’s go,” he said.
We left the bedroom and went downstairs to the library with its leather-covered books, pretending we were the lord and lady of the manor. We drank my father’s fiery bourbon. We danced in each other’s arms to imaginary music. We heard the door slam. My brother had come home early. He saw Jason’s motorcycle in the driveway and shouted that Jason was a loser, a hustler. He picked up a fireplace poker. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a knife and stabbed my brother in the back, and when he turned, in the chest. He slumped to his knees, then lay down on the carpet, and I knew I had killed him. Blood streaked my t-shirt. I looked at his body and ran to the doorway. I threw up: there was no return from the country my brother had traveled to. Jason wiped my face and brought me a glass of water to take away the bitter taste in my mouth.
We’ll live happily ever after, we promised each other.
We’re leaving this one-horse town. We’ll burn the house down and escape. We’ll fly to Mexico or Greece. Here’s the match, here’s the gasoline. Jason, come help me. I’m dropping the match. Whoosh!
We set fire to the house, we burned it, we burned it all down, so nobody could find my brother’s body. I grabbed his toy boat as we ran out. I put it in my purse for safekeeping. The rooks flew in the boiling smoke above the house. There would not be a moon tonight. The sun set in colors of flame–streaks of crimson, orange, and in the distance, amethyst. I was sorry to leave my soft cat mewing in the yard.
Cezarija Abartis’ Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Prime Number, Underground Voices, Waccamaw, and New York Tyrant, among others. One of her flashes was included in Wigleaf‘s Top 50 list of flash fiction of 2011. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.