January 17, 2013 by Vee Villarreal
It was Lucy’s birthday and Kopi had spent the last month planning a present for her with Auntie. He wasn’t sure what you were supposed to get a sixteen year old girl for her birthday, he didn’t even remember when his own birthday was, just that it was sometime in June.
He found more and more that he enjoyed spending time with Lucy. She was the only person besides Kai, and Auntie sometimes, that seemed to understand him. When he was quiet, she’d speak for him; when he said something that didn’t come out the way he meant it to, she always knew what he was trying to say; and, when he couldn’t figure out how to act around her, she’d step up and show him. She was patient and kind, even when he was too frustrated to see straight, and it comforted him. No one had had that effect on him since he was child and his mother still sung him to sleep. The fire that raged inside him; that made him want to scream and see the world light up like a blazing torch; the unquenchable smoldering flame that started in his gut and could rise up and overtake his senses in the blink of an eye, stilled around her and the relief from its absence made him feel almost human.
Her large, almond eyes and full cheeks made her appear so innocent and childlike, though he was becoming more and more aware of the womanly aspects of her anatomy lately and the idea of them was arousing. The sensation was like being on fire, vibrant and exhilarating; threatening to grow out of control. This feeling was less likely to draw attention though and Auntie called it attraction. She said it was normal for him to feel that way, especially about a girl he was seeing. When he tried to describe the feeling to his brother, Kai didn’t seem interested. He shrugged and suggested Kopi try something more pleasant sounding, but he knew that Kai just didn’t understand yet and when he felt it finally, he would know why Kopi didn’t want the fire to go away.
On their last ‘date,’ Lucy took him to a secluded pool in a wooded area, not far from the home he shared with Auntie and Kai, to go swimming, but it was dark already and they hadn’t brought any swimsuits with them. Kopi and Kai often swam naked in the ocean out of convenience and general indifference toward the restrictive clothing people seemed in a custom of wearing. However, Auntie had made it very clear that it was generally inappropriate for men and women to be naked with each other, especially in public. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around and Lucy had urged him to strip and jump in. She herself had taken off everything except her underwear. He’d caught a glimpse of her nearly naked body before she entered the water. His body had responded dramatically and involuntarily to the sight, making hot blood rush to his face. When he undressed, he tried to hide himself behind his hands, afraid of how she would react to seeing him. She had blushed shyly when she saw him standing at the edge of the pool in the dark cupping his privates, but she still insisted he get in and he had. His anxiety was only grew after he had slipped into the cool water. She tried touching him, drawing close beneath the surface of the water. Being so close to her, bare skinned and excited was more than he could take and within minutes he had crawled back on to the soft earthen bank pulling on his pants shortly after. She’d been quiet the whole walk back, and too ashamed to think of any excuse he could only hope that she wasn’t too upset with him.
Kopi got dressed in his good shirt, the one he wore to work, with buttons down the front, and a pair of cotton slacks. He only had two pairs of shoes, his work boots and some leather sandals, well-worn from use. Brushing off his boots as best he could he slipped them on and tucked them under the legs of his pants. Before he left for her house he picked up the bouquet of pink and yellow wild flowers that he’d picked for her. They smelled pungently sweet like the little plastic-wrapped candies they stocked at the general store, which in turn covered him in a similar fragrance. Lastly, he picked up a small package wrapped in plain brown paper, something he’d asked Mr. Murtugh to order from a catalog for him and that hadn’t come in until just the day before, right in the nick-of-time. Placing the package in his shirt pocket he left the house, closing the door behind him.
Lucy met him on the porch of the little town home she shared with her parents and sisters. He smiled at her genuinely, mildly giddy with the secret gift burning a hole in his pocket. She was dressed in a long coral dress that fell softly along the curves of her body and a white sweater with little pink flowers embroidered along the breast.
“Hi,” she responded meekly, her eyes cast down at her feet.
“I brought you flowers.” Kopi thrust the bouquet, tied with a bit of purple ribbon, toward her unceremoniously. Accustomed to his awkward gestures and knowing that he meant well, she looked up as she took them from his hand.
“Thank you, Kopi.” Her eyes were bloodshot, the skin around them tender and puffy. She’d been crying. He felt a pang of guilt, as he realized she was probably upset from the night before. Without thinking he touched her cheek gently, just as a tear was preparing to crest and fall.
“Lucy, I’m sorry about last night at the pond. I-” He stumbled a bit, trying to explain himself and as he did her eyes glistened and relinquished flesh tears that trailed across her sweet, sad face.
“Oh, Kopi, it’s not you. Well, it is, but not what you did.” She sniffed, clutching the bouquet of tiny flowers to her chest.
“Why is it me, but not me?” If it wasn’t about last night, what else could it be, he thought to himself. Why were people always presenting him with strange social riddles to figure out?
“My parents, they don’t want me to see you anymore. They say you’re too,” she paused, holding the word on the tip of her tongue, “Dangerous.” The last word was barely a whisper and her eyes fell towards the ground again.
Neither of them said anything for a bit, he let his hand fall to his side. The cool night air surrounded them and for a second he thought he smelled the damp, clean stench of rain.
She broke the silence first. “I’m just supposed to say goodbye and tell you to not come and call on me or walk me home anymore.” The distant, teary look on her face and her lip which she bit to fight it from quivering gave him a sharp pain in his chest. He desperately wanted her to stop making that face.
“Do you think I’m dangerous?” He asked. He did. Kopi knew that he was a living hazard, a killer, but it was not a side of himself that he embraced. She looked up at him then and threw her arms around his waist, holding him tight and one moist cheek pressed to his chest.
“No, of course not, but I can’t convince them that you’re not.”
At first his arms had moved up and away at her approach, the suddenness of contact had startled him, but now he slowly drew them around her body. He spoke, his mouth nuzzled against hair which was perfumed with some kind of oil. “I don’t want to stop seeing you.” He felt her sigh heavily and reach up with one tentative hand to wipe her face.
“You wanna take a walk real quick, just to the corner and back, so I can say bye without anyone watching?” She motioned with her head to the window overlooking the porch. He could see the shadow of a figure there, but couldn’t make out anything else through the curtain. He nodded in agreement and took her hand as they turned to walk down the dirt road. She interlaced her thin, delicate fingers with his large and calloused ones. As they approached the corner she spun around to face him with a serious grimace.
“I’m sorry I can’t go out with you anymore, Kopi.”
“It’s-I don’t want you to get in any trouble on account of me.” Remembering the present, he pulled the little box out of his pocket. “I got you a present.” He tried to smile as best he could to lighten the mood. “Happy birthday, Lucy.” He handed the paper wrapped parcel to her.
“Oh.” She sounded surprised, but pleasantly so and she lit up a little when she took it from his hand and began to peel back the corners carefully. Once uncovered, she removed the lid and pulled out a fragile looking gold chain with a small, shining charm at the end. She examined it more closely and flashed him a grin, her eyes shiny with tears again. Panicked that she might resume crying he tried to think of a way to comfort her, but before he could she spoke.
“Kopi, thank you! It’s beautiful.” She lifted herself up on her toes and wrapped her slender arms around his neck, pulling him into her their lips touched. His eyes bolted wide open and he was at a loss for what to do, but the feeling of her lips against his soon won over any rational thought. His whole body was tingling with sensation and he closed his eyes, fully submitting to the supple pillows of her lips. It wasn’t until she pulled away that he realized he was holding her, she licked her upper lip gingerly looking to him for a reaction.
All at once he felt elation and then the crushing weight of knowing he might never feel that way again. His heart was pounding at the idea that now she would turn and walk away, never speaking to him again. She was one of the very few friends he had, and now she was much more than that. Lucy was the only girl he’d ever kissed. He couldn’t loosen his embrace just yet.
“Will I really never see you again?” Kopi asked her timidly.
She kissed him again and the warmth of it spread pleasantly over him. “Of course you will, I’ll come into the store still and we’ll find some other way to see each other. I don’t know what yet, but we’ll figure it out.” She moved to press her lips to his again, but hearing the creak of a door opening she turned and ran toward her house, looking back once over her shoulder to see him watching her retreat, the necklace balled up in her fist.