Rachel and Ginger go to bed, and Luke suggests we go down the hill to the fire pit. It’s about one-hundred fifty yards from the house, just close enough that I know I can go to the bathroom in a toilet, but far enough away that it feels outdoorsy, like camping.
Luke grabs a few blankets and brings marshmallows and chocolate and graham crackers. As we walk, he continues talking about how he really is a stellar dancer. He keeps talking about his “elegant side” as he piles wood into the fire pit and creates a burning blaze.
Finally, I say, “Okay, well later, maybe you can prove it.”
“What do you mean later? We have a spotlight.” He waves up to the full moon. “And a dance floor.” He gestures to the grass beneath us. He’s trying to be romantic. It’s pretty adorable.
“But we don’t have any music,” I protest.
He scratches the back of his neck. “What do you call the rustling of leaves and the chirping of crickets and all that shit?”
I laugh. He smiles, proud he made me laugh. He pulls his smart phone from his jeans pocket and presses a few buttons. A familiar song spews out: “She’s in Love with the Boy.” He sets the phone down on the blanket before opening his arms, ready for a dance. His chest looks so good. Like something I just want to burrow into among a lot of sheets.
“I like that they go to the Tastee Freeze in this song. That’s how you know they’re country,” I say.
“I bet there are no Tastee Freezes where you come from?” Luke asks, head slanting, smile gone.
“No,” I say. “We don’t have Sonics or Waffle Houses, either.”
He approaches me cautiously, with his head leaning forward and his forehead wrinkled, like I’m some sort of victim. “How do you survive?”
“We somehow manage,” I say as he takes my hand.
His look is so mopey and serious. I need to break it up. I push him away. “What happened to the modern dance skills you were going to show me?”
He wipes his wet lips with the back of his hand. “Right, well, the main rule of modern dance, as I’m sure you know, is to spend a lot of time on the ground.”
“Oh?” I say as he takes my hand and pulls me over to the plaid blanket. It’s quick. He turns around and kneels in front of me, and soon his hands are around my waist and his mouth is on my belly. He’s kissing me through my dress, which isn’t the same, but the position, it’s just too close. My mind leapfrogs back. I jerk away. I hide my face in my hands and try to keep my balance as my legs shake. I bite my lip and try not to think about the past.
It sucks how horrible memories can ruin perfectly good present moments.
He looks up at me, mouth open, eyebrows in a triangle. “I’m sorry, I…” He starts to get up, one knee kneeling, the other foot on the ground, but I have taken a sufficiently clean breath. I come back to him, placing my hands on his shoulders. His muscles come on strong through his button-down shirt.
“Sorry, it just reminded me of something, that’s all. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“What did it remind you of?” His eyes seem to say over and over again, you can tell me, you can tell me, like the redundant ripples on a lake after you’ve thrown a stone in.
“It’s nothing,” I say.
“It didn’t seem like nothing. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I say more firmly. I respond with a surefire way of making him forget and move on.
I kneel down so we’re almost level and put my arms around his neck. I don’t kiss him again, I just brush my lips against his. And that’s enough, soon he’s back to kissing me. He twists me into a dip so that I’m lying on my back on the plaid blanket as his hand reaches up my thigh and toward my underwear.
Men are so easy sometimes.
“Quinn,” he whispers. “Did Ginger tell you what I do?”
And then, sometimes, they aren’t.
“No,” I say.
His forehead crinkles and he swallows. “Well, a local job came through.” He looks up to something out in the middle of the field. His Adam’s apple shifts again, another deep swallow. His gaze is so focused. I arch my back to see, upside down, what he might be looking at.
Nothing. He’s just hesitating.
Ginger says it’s hard to be a wife of a guy like Luke. Ginger wants us to be serious.
I bring his face back to mine, his scruffy cheeks cupped in my palms. “We’re just having fun, right?” I pinch my lips together.
He nods. He rubs one hand along my hip and delivers a devilish smile that I want to eat up. His pointer finger dips under the edge of my panties. His thumb glides softly over my lady button. “I would call this fun.”