She is sixteen years old and still young enough to want to follow him down January paths in cold frost-glory.

"Just one won't kill you," he says, flipping the beer bottles around his fingers lazily, like a gunslinger. "I would never make you do anything you didn't want to do." The contours of his cheek are moonlit and sleep-deprived, he is beautiful like winter. Intoxicating, intoxicated.

She didn't trust him then, she doesn't trust him now, drunk on starlight, and she doesn't plan to trust him, ever, but she almost believes him because it is five o' clock in the morning and she just want to know that she's not alone, that other people can feel this way, too. The iced pines and his strong fingers make her almost nauseous with delight and trepidation.

She wants to be eleven years old with him again, naively flirting. She wants mexican rice breakfasts and poking each other in stairwells and "You're pretty, you know."


He leans in to kiss her in the dark stillness of the room and she jerks back clumsily. He presses her body towards her, his hands twist against her waist, her thigh, and she shudders.

"I have a boyfriend," she protests, her mouth tripping drunkenly on the words.

His mouth is sharp, like a gash in his face as he laughs. "Well, he isn't here now, is he?"

His eyes are glittering in the dim glow of his lava lamp, his fingers are lithe and cold as he slides them around the soft tender part of her throat. Just one little kiss," he says, voice soft and coaxing, and she tries to stand. He catches her arms in his spider-fingers with surprising speed and liquid grace. This is not happening, she thinks. She watches him trap her like she watches a car accident on TV. This isn't real. This is one of those college horror stories This isn't happening.

"You're not going anywhere."

She wants to shout or cry or hit him but she is afraid and so she does nothing. She is a marble girl.



What he does not have to say: I am weak.
What she does not have to respond: I know.


He swings her up and into his arms in the middle of the parking lot, twirling her around and laughing. A truck idles nearby, and a man peers at them curiously from the half-opened window. They giggle and slide into his car, cold-cheeked and tangled by their need for this strange companionship.

"You can take me home whenever you want," she tells him, afraid to let this strange rendezvous go on too long. She has to keep reminding herself that he is a stranger, that this is the first time she has ever touched him in person. She doesn't know him at all.

"Is that what you want?" he asks her. His smile is sad.

"I want whatever you want, I suppose."

"Is that a fact?" he says quietly, not looking at her, and she is confused. It's late and the stars make her giddy.


"Good," he says, and leans over and kisses her. The moon shines through the mist on the windshield, casts stream shadows across his face. like tears. She feels like crying, and so she does.

He punches the car into drive and tears out of the parking lot, neither of them speaking. At the light she offers no direction, so he veers to the left and drives for miles, finally pulling off into the middle of a strange road. They don't say anything, don't look at each other, just exist together.

"Look," he says, and pauses, obviously stumped for what to say. "Don't be afraid."

"I'm not," she says.

"Good," he replies, and leans over to smile against her lips. "Because I am."


They lie in quiet companionship, the TV glowing softly in the background. The canned laughter buzzes as he lazily strokes her cheek with an idle finger.

"What are you thinking?" she ask hims. His face is inches from hers, his hair is tickling her forehead.

"That I want to do this," he says, and his body is warm and strong and tangible as it covers hers, and it is the perfect thing to say at the perfect time and she feels so perfectly happy that she pulls away, because if there is anything she has learned, it is that if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

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