by The Juicer
It was nothing like the movies. Nothing like Cecilia said it was. The grass plastic under my back, legs awkward like crooked twigs caught in the wind. His breath pushing in my ears, wet and urgent. I looked up at the sky, its black face with a million white eyes.
Someone could have heard us over the squeaky night but the town slept soundly like Ma. Tomorrow, the sun would shine and I would have to tell them. Aunt Beth would laugh till she choked and Ma, what would Ma do? Go to her room and shut the door to hug Pa’s photograph? Or ride to the farm in a shiny blue car? Would I tell her where? We had stolen up the crooked hill like thieves. When we reached the top, we kept on walking down until we found flat land.
I thought of the ostrich in the farm nearby. There had been a sign on the trail for tourists. But there were no tourists in Tulla, except one. The one who had overstayed. I imagined the male bird rocking and gnashing in the ground. His head swiveling from side to side, neck puffy, the wings flightless. How it would hiss first, then call with a hollow boom. All for a yellow hen.
“Did you hear that? A boom!” Gerrard was suddenly still, head tilted sideways.
“No. What?…The ostrich!” Did I will the birds? I was laughing now. A light uncontrollable laughter that didn’t hurt. I pulled myself away and started to roll. The disco sky whirled about. The grass licked my skin with its sharp blades. When I turned, Gerrard was lagging behind me on all fours, knees pink like a baby’s. His small belly flopped this way and that, his white skin milky even on a moonless night. His dyed black hair like a sleepy child’s. He begged me to stop.
“I am sorry. I didn’t know. Are you alright?”
“You didn’t know what? That I am nineteen years old? Is it so uncommon where you come from? How old are you Gerrard, forty? Forty-five?”
“Put these on. It’s cold. And no, I didn’t know.”
“You said you love me. It was love at first sight!”
“Why bring it up now? I told you I do.”
“Then it’s alright, isn’t it, to get engaged?”
“Are you sure you want to? You never said…”
I nodded. I had thought over it for days. And now, this night. “I want to change my name when we get there. From now on, call me Paris.”
Gerrard smiled. Trees jutted from the hill’s outline like sentries. We should sleep right here, I thought. The sky’s eyes as witnesses, lest he change his mind. I slipped my arms under his, dragged them up the moist back and kissed him hard.