Outside, the wind is whirling past Twelfth Street making the Pin Oaks tremble and the branches of the Norway Maples bow. Scattering those many conduits of seed across the sidewalks. The rain has stopped and the clouds hang in the sky like cobwebs stretched between the streets.
William sits on the couch and picks at a jagged edge of purple nail polish on his pointer finger. It’s satisfying to single out a fragment of the hard polish from the existing island and eradicate it. He inspects the liberated chip between his pointer and thumb then flicks it off.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” he says.
“Too late to back out now.” He watches his mother’s white socks walk through a pool of light on the oriental carpet.
“It’s no big deal,” he slouches further into the couch. He dislodges some strands of pink hair from behind his ear so that they close over his left eye like a curtain. He shifts his attention from his fingernail and elects a new piece of foam to be tunneled from under the tear in the vinyl of the couch.
Rubbing a piece of foam between his pointer finger and his thumb, he looks out to the garden and feels a seismic surge of distress. The garden path is almost completely gone from sight. He flicks the foam with his nail and observes it bouncing across the rug. He brings his pointer finger to his upper lip to inspect for bristles among the downy hairs. Nothing. A bird shrieks outside, one sharp loud cry and then silence but for the distant hum of traffic.
In the bathroom, William unties the gold tassels of the purple bag of cologne his mother gave him. He slips out the slight square bottle and plies the miniature cork off the top. He caps his thumb over the opening and shakes it. He tugs on the waist of his jeans and dabs the perfume in a semi-circle under his bellybutton. He looks in the mirror, at the masculine line of his jaw.
The buzzer rings. His mother greets Violet. Their voices sound like chimes knocking against each other. Violet’s footsteps are light coming up the stairs and he wonders if she is wearing her Chinese shoes, the ones with the black strap over the top of her arch.
He hears a small knock in the middle of the door. He freezes.
“I know you’re in there William. I can hear you breathing.”
He holds his breath.
“Let me in or I’ll blow this door down.” Violet puts her mouth between the crevice of the doors and blows. Last week at the dance, they went outside and sat under the basketball hoop. She lay on the ground like someone having fallen several flights, palms up, one arm bent around her head, a leg bent at the knee, her foot in line with her hip.
“Come on. Open the door,” she says.
William slides into a sitting position using his side of the door as a backrest.
The doorknob above his head turns
“Let’s live in the moment,” she says and claws at the door with her fingernails. “Meow,” she says.
He unlocks the door and leans forward to let her in.
“Oh. Hello,” she says pushing her way past him. The florescent light flickers. She eyeballs the toilet. “Is that yours?” In the toilet bowl, toilet paper is floating like jellyfish in urine.
He glimpses her eyes and shakes his head, swiftly mute.
She flushes the toilet and props herself up on the edge of the bathtub. The space between her knees and his is a thin barely visible line, like holding your fingers as close together as you can without letting them touch.
“My mom wouldn’t want both of us to be in here,” William says.
“She won’t notice.”
He watches her breathe. Her lips part so the air can go in and out. He pulls his knees tighter into his chest, to gain a little distance. Her wet dog eyes watch him, her left eyelid drooping.
“It doesn’t bother me that it smells weird in here,” Violet says and lets her knee fall against his thigh. She smiles at him and ducks her head down towards his. He jerks his head away. Instead of contact with his lips, he feels her nose up by his temple.
Violet slaps her leg and laughs.
“I think we should try that again,” she says.
“What about our noses?”
She tilts her head and then puts her hands on either side of his face and tilts his head so that when their lips meet it is a sideways meeting. He closes his eyes and slowly readjusts the tilt so his lips cover more territory. He moves them around, squishing his into hers. He opens an eye. The way her eyes are shut tight makes him retract. He considers stopping. Though he’s not sure how to stop. Should he just pull back his head? Violet is trying to open his mouth with her lips. She is pressing hard on his mouth and opening her own. Which is resulting in a small battle. He wants to keep his mouth closed, but she has a strong tongue and she pushes it through his lips. He backs his head away. She is pressing harder; she has risen up and is now in a kneeling position. He has to place his palm on the floor behind him in order to support himself. Her hair is brushing the sides of his face and neck. He raises his free hand to itch the spots where the hairs have tickled his skin. He stretches his head away from hers. It is oddly difficult to disentangle from her. Finally, she pulls back but so suddenly he bumps his head against the wall.
“Sorry,” she says and sits back down on the edge of the tub. “I guess I got carried away.”
He looks at the dirty bathmat and then at the three staggered hairs around the drain of the tub.
Violet’s lips are blushed. Her eyes flick over his. “Thanks. That was nice,” she says, rising.
William follows Violet down the hallway. She trails her hand along the wall. Her hand squeaks and halts its way across the wall from the sweat on her palms.
Outside in the garden, a seed ball from the Sweet Gum tree steadies itself against the wind on two spiked tips. Then it wobbles, rights itself again and in a sudden burst of wind, is lifted off and flung into more fertile ground.
- Lila Cecil