It was the shot of glimmer above her eyes melting deep into her pores, running through her eyelids, landing in a pool of blood inside her belly. It was the shot of her perfect porcelain stomach. Freckles arranged in a circle around her bellybutton, framing it like wedding picture, a marriage not yet broken. It was the shot of two full-grown watermelons resting on her chest, the tops of a baby bottle posing as nipples. They made me want to close my eyes, forget the times when sweat dripped down my cheek, hit her pillowcase and soaked deep into the fabric. Or those pie eating contests at family cookouts, her white shirt stained red from artificial cherries. Our uncle would spray her down with the hose before she went inside. Her shirt soaked, nipples hard as ice. I couldn’t forget her. She filled my mind like ivy. I was in love.
The moon sunk deep into the valley and I took a sip of my cola, slouching into the plush seat of my grandfather’s Buick. It smelled of aftershave and his thick sweat. She rounded the back of the car. I watched in the rearview mirror as she tugged off her heels and shimmied out of her corduroy mini-skirt, tossing both on the ground like an unwanted pregnancy. She caught my stare through the mirror and winked, first tearing off her shirt before unfastening the clip to her front-hook bra. She was nearly naked.
“Better not tell your momma,” she yelled. I could do nothing but shake my head.
“If she ever found out and told mine, well, we’d both be screwed. Yanno, cousins aren’t supposed to be foolin’ like this.” She finally slid off her cotton undies.
“You’re lucky I like you.” She smiled at me, gum sticking out from behind closed teeth. The door screamed when she yanked it open. She plopped down on the passenger seat and started twisting her golden hair. A few seconds passed, and I couldn’t do it.
“Look at me.” She demanded. A car passed, red taillights bleeding like an open wound, bleeding onto the street, my grandfather’s car, my face, her breasts. Blood flooded everything. But only for a second. Only until the car disappeared around the corner. I knew she would kiss me, I knew what her lips felt like. They were moist, smooth, like any girls lips. But they were plump, and always painted a shimmery pink. I used to study them at family barbecues and after-church suppers. At our Aunt Tilda’s funeral she wore a lavender lipstick. It drove me wild.
“Just do it already, Elliot.” I lifted my left hand and placed it on her breast, squeezing it gently. I didn’t want it to explode. I didn’t want a mess of white gunk and blood and flesh to cover the inside windshield. Then she would scream, so hard her lips may bleed. “Elliot, come on.” She moved my hand slowly down her stomach. “You’re acting like we’ve never done this before.”
“I love you.” I blurted out. I watched her face, her eyes changing, the twinkle in them slowly drowning.
“Well, I love you too.” She replied, “I mean, I love you like family. Elliot, you’re acting so weird.” She half-smiled, attempting to move the moment along and cover the discomfort. I almost couldn’t say it again, but I had to. “I love you, like, I love you.” I stuttered.
“Oh god…” she pulled away from me, covering herself. I turned to her, ran my eyes across her naked body illuminated by the thin crescent, hanging by a thread, above us.
I thought about the time we went on a family vacation to the beach as kids, she lost her pail and shovel in the tides, so I offered her mine, and she lost those too. I remember watching her run, her chubby little legs pushing her body down the wet sands. When she got to the water she gave up, tears rolling delicately down her china cheeks. I thought about our first kiss, beneath a willow tree at Woodman Pond, after a cookout. We were fourteen and curious, misunderstood. We twisted our pinky fingers together like a pretzel. The first time I saw her naked was at sixteen, when we went skinny dipping in my uncle’s pool after he had fallen asleep. She let me touch her beneath the black water, and it felt like magic.
“Elliot?” she finally said, “How long have you felt this way?”
It felt so wrong to tell her, “Fourteen.”
“Fourteen? God, Elliot. That’s almost five years.”
In a flash thick blood attacked my head. It ran down my cheeks, specks finding their way into my open mouth. They tasted like a cold beer, a piece of salted ham. I tried to dart my eyes around the inside of the car, but they were frozen. The windshield shattered, glass falling on our laps like snow. I could hear her screaming, sharp cries poking at my eardrums. What was happening? My mind had caved into itself, shock blurred images of my mother, bending over the sink, holding something. Was it a plate or a sponge? Was it me as a child? My sister bounced on the trampoline, the squeaks of rusty springs filling the space around us. It started to rain, she yelled something, but I couldn’t hear her. I was in the car and my leg was bleeding, perhaps severed. She was next to me, whimpering. Her heart pierced between the seat and the dash. I didn’t know how it happened. There were thoughts, then a bright orange hue, screeching, smashing. I knew she was dying, I knew I was dying. I turned to her, longing for that look of love twinkling so brightly in her eyes. They were instead, empty. The twinkle had drowned. No one ever came for us. Her and I, we died, together, in the front seat of our grandfather’s Buick.