The girl was a mirage emerging from heat blurred sky and dirt and cactus. She came out of the desert's fire, knobby legs and sandals like leather paws shuffling through the red dirt. I had myself in the shade, leaning back in a chair on the porch of the only convenience store in the desert, sipping a cold soda, feet up on a rail. I watched this girl cross the road to the store and when she got to the shade she halted. She looked right at me.
"Think you could find me a drink?" The girl tilted her head and blond curls fell over one side of her face.
I dropped my feet, leaned forward. "You need a drink?"
What color were her eyes? Blue? Green? Not brown. Melissa would have called them hazel. She would have loved the hazel because hazel wasn't one color, it was many, and Melissa liked to tell me that life wasn't one dimension but several.
Melissa was in another dimension.
The girl nodded. "Yes, please, cold. Like that." She pointed to the soda in my hand.
I passed the girl my bottle. It was my second, after all. The girl looked pleased. Her lips pulled back, exposing teeth‹crooked teeth like mine, sharp incisors. Dust smudged her chin and temples.
Melissa used to hold her lips to my temple and measure the pulse. "You're sluggish," she said and sprang from our bed to practice T'ai Chi. I remained in bed drinking at least two cups of coffee, watching Melissa flutter, sweeping her arms through the air, her cheeks on fire. Melissa reported that coffee was a fire drug my passive ass relied on for motivation. She grabbed the mug from my hand after fluttering, gulped it, then belched.
"Coffee-breathing firefly," I protested.
After the girl who came out of the desert accepted my soda and drained it, she said, "Thank you," and belched: lemon-lime firefly.
We moved inside the store, leaning against the freezer doors until a couple of kids wanted to paw through the ice cream bars. The lemon-lime firefly and I moved to the next freezer over, milk and eggs. She was on her third bottle of soda. I paid as I quizzed her. "You live around here?"
"Hoping for a place to crash."
"I see," and I eyeballed her up and down. The ears were especially appealing: like a baby elephant.
"I saw a documentary about elephants on TV," I told Melissa. "These elephants stood over a graveyard of dead relatives. They caressed the skeletons with their trunks and refused to budge for days. One elephant died standing there."
After consuming too much champagne, Melissa dragged the television set down the gravel driveway and into the road. I hadn't seen her do anything physical like that in a long time, but that night, Melissa gleamed beneath the moonlight, legs flexing, her jaw clenched.
"I hope Sam comes by in his goddamned truck tonight!" she screamed. "I hope the front end slams into this thing and then backs over it, kills it!"
Melissa's eyes floated in front of me like a pair of dragonflies leaving trails of red on the glass of our bedroom after they hit.
I told this girl with big ears and knobby knees, "I have a house a mile up. You can crash if you want." I don't know why I said that. She was a stranger and young, too. What if lemon-lime firefly girl piled dishes in my sink, broke the spine of my books, ate my yogurt, and left the bathroom light on?
"Don't treat my home like you're in high school," I warned her as I drove.
The girl asked, "You think I'm a teenager?" She laughed and it sounded throaty. So I looked at her again. She said, "I'm twenty-five. Okay?"
I didn't let up on her yet. "Shouldn't you be in an apartment in New Orleans sleeping off a hangover in the crook of your boyfriend's armpit right now?"
"No boyfriends," she replied.
"Okay. Sleeping off a hangover in your girlfriend's armpit."
"I don't drink."
"You'll drag my television set into the road sober then?"
The girl looked at me. "She did that?"
"She?" For a moment I had forgotten. And then I said, "She did that."
"I'm tired from walking," lemon-lime firefly admitted when we reached the trailer. I didn't ask from how far she'd come. What left a stronger impression was that she was here wrapped in my sheets, tail tucked up, thumb nudging under her chin. I tried to resent the fact that her sun-browned skin was leaking desert dust on my bed. I tried to resent she was snoring. Didn't I wish her to wake up now and get the fuck out? I sat in a chair by the window, tried reading a book, and then dragged the chair closer, sat watching her sleep. The girl smelled in layers: like fruit and then heat. I drifted off in my chair and woke with a "Hi" in my ear. I felt a kiss--soft, nuzzling, and then warmer: a fiery tongue licking my mouth.
A sigh, a whisper, "So sorry. Look at me."
I opened my eyes and lemon-lime firefly girl breathed over my eyelashes, and then her tongue dabbed the corners of my mouth. She kissed my neck, my shoulders to my elbows, and then the insides of my arms. I shivered, went with it. Her nose pressed my collarbone, snuggled. Her fingers pushed through my hair.
I grabbed the girl's face. "We could start by you telling me who you are."
"You're hungry." And firefly girl flitted to my kitchen. I heard the clatter of pans and utensils as she rummaged through cupboards, set stuff on the stove. I wandered after her, hovering as if I didn't believe it. I sat at the kitchen table and watched some more. We ate. The food tasted steaming and spicy and rich. She washed and rinsed the dishes. I put them away. She led me to a chair and dropped herself in my lap.
"What will you call me?" firefly wanted to know.
"Yeah. If it's your choice, what's my name?"
I reached up to tug on one of her curls. "Sally," I decided. Sally was a good name for a firefly.
Sally slept pressed against my back. I couldn't get comfortable: overheated and itching. I crawled from the sheets, yanked off my tee shirt and underwear, wandered into the bathroom to pee, stared at myself in the mirror. Short, choppy brown hair, brown eyes, full breasts and birthing hips. That's what Melissa had called them because she was a trim dyke, and I was the curvaceous femme.
"I'm not having babies," I told her. It was like telling my mother I didn't like men.
Mother told me that by embracing lesbianism, I decided to make my life hard. Melissa accused me of not living at all. What it was really about was their immortality wishes. My mother mourned the loss of spreading a gene pool. Melissa claimed a baby would keep me going when she was gone.
One night, Melissa screamed, "You can't stand over a graveyard of skeletons!" She was sick then. The cancer. I knew then why she had dragged my television into the road.
Sally was in the bathroom, fluttering, naked, glowing brown. She darted up behind me, turned me around. She grabbed my hands and held them to her breasts. I cupped them; they were warm; the nipples grew three times their size, and my palms rubbed them like dry tongues. Sally moaned. Or maybe I did.
Sally pulled me down so I felt I was slipping underwater. She washed over me like a current, clamoring, knocking against me, humping, and we floated cool and naked on the linoleum floor. Legs lapped over legs, arms entwined. I arched my back beneath the damp pelt of her cunt. We pressed together, deeper and more precise until her clit slipped up to mine kissing, slick, rubbing. Our pubic hair tangled‹wispy blond strands with dense black curls. We moved--rippling, fucking. It had been a long time. My orgasm rushed up on me, was like a burst of flickering blue-orange-red-white flames. I blinked it out, nearly whimpering.
I watched from the window as Sally zigzagged around the yard collecting rocks, sniffing flowers, pushing dirt around with her hands, building towns, or nests, something. She didn't appear to mind the heat or pass out from it. She came inside once and urged, "Come outside! Feel the sun."
"I don't like heat," I replied.
Sally laughed. "Then why are you living in a desert, Helena?"
"It was Melissa's idea."
Sally tilted her head. "So that's who she was." After a minute she added, "You can feel it here, you know."
I slept dreamlessly. Sally came in making a racket. I startled from my spot on the couch. She bent over the sink with her lips to the faucet, drinking noisy. She brought me a glass of water and then touched my bangs as I swallowed. "You're sad, Helena."
I set down the empty glass. "I'm not sad." Then I sighed and touched Sally's forehead, smooth and brown. I got on the treadmill, and Sally said, "You're not getting anywhere on that thing, you know."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I walked faster and faster, and the swamp cooler air stayed cool while my heart worked harder; I felt inner heat edging closer and the room was dim and quiet except for my huffing. The ache began in my legs. I was getting somewhere, after all. I looked at Sally who stuck her tongue out at me, crossed her eyes, wriggled her fingers and looked like a goof.
I tried not to laugh over my huffing. I laughed.
"Let's go for a drive," Sally suggested.
"Too hot," I said.
"We need groceries."
I tried to hide my smile. "We?"
"You don't want me to leave, Helena."
Sally wanted to drive the VW Beetle with the top down. The car took off with Abba's "Dancing Queen" playing on the tape deck and dry earth churning beneath the tires. Inside the convenience store we argued over reduced-fat versus all-fat potato chips. She wanted white bread. I replaced it with seven grain. I threw carrots, sprouts, and apples into the cart and she unloaded an armful of Little Debbie's Nutty Chocolate Bars. She opened one and started eating and then grabbed my head and gave me a chocolate-nut kiss: lemon-lime chocolate-nut firefly girl. I kissed Sally some more.
I sat at the table as she made dinner that night. When Sally leaned over the stove, the freckles on her nose sweat. I told her the sun was going to cook her skin like jerky.
Her freckles wrinkled. "Jerky? What flavor?"
I couldn't help it. I laughed. Later, Sally grabbed the acoustic guitar I never played and strummed some chords, started singing, and I spoke up incredulously. "Neil Sedeka!"
Sally smiled. "Laughter in the Rain," she quipped.
I clapped my hands, feeling slightly drunk on the music, her smile perhaps.
"Okay. My turn." I climbed onto the coffee table and the stage wobbled. Sally was ready to catch me. I managed a heartfelt rendition of Sleeping Beauty, and the hero of the story was a princess not a prince. Hell, make her a stable girl who rode a dragon into the palace, waking the sleeping doll up.
Sally pressed her lips to mine and then whispered something into my mouth.
I think she said, "Wake up."
In the bathtub, rolling languidly beneath the water, knees sticking up, round and shiny, thighs parted, Sally rested a hand on the top of her cunt. She slid the fingers up her belly, to her breasts, neck, and her face. She grabbed the razor and shaved her legs, lifting them from the water, pointing her toes.
I watched for a moment and then got in with her. There was hardly enough room. Water and bubbles splashed over the sides. Our limbs became entangled until we giggled like girls making out in the locker room. I lifted my legs to shave them, pointing my toes, and as black hairs fell on top of the water like old scales for new ones, Sally said, "I meant to tell you you're hairy."
I splashed water at her. She stood out of the tub and toweled off. I stood up, too, gasping when the cool air hit me. My eyes caught sight of my body--naked--in the full-length mirror. I was shining, glowing; dark hair stuck to my head. I could almost see my scalp. I shivered, and Sally grabbed a towel and wrapped it around me, fuzzy blue, and begun to rub me off. I said, "Harder," when her towel-wrapped hand touched my ass, my cunt.
Sally let the towel drop and lifted her hand through the space between my thighs. She touched the wiry threads of brown silk: petting, caressing--sexy, sweet. She moved to the envelope of bath-warm flesh behind the hair. Fingers glided over my labia, across my stiffening clit, and I shuddered. She rubbed me with her thumb, steady. I came hard enough to feel the contractions like blue-red-orange-white flames.
Sally led me to bed. I nuzzled her, ran my hands up and down her sides, her tight breasts, and her legs were like smooth, slim wings wrapped around my shoulders. I lowered my head, pushing my face to her cunt, inhaling her heat, her musky salt liquid. My tongue moved up and down her slit, pressing. Sally came hard enough that she bucked against my chin. I came up breathing heavy then soft. I nuzzled into her back to sleep but then changed my mind. I lifted my face to the opened curtains, bare screen.
"Let's take a walk," I said, and Sally fluttered behind me as we took to the night like
fireflies who'd had enough of hitting windows.
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