|Posted by CornelleKeveen on January 18, 2012 at 10:10 PM|
People who take their shots and do as they're told have nothing to fear. Right? Right.
The Rabies Z epidemic began and ended in Miami this past summer, didn't it? And that guy my daddy saw at the Jacksonville airport last week was just having an epileptic fit. No cause for alarm. Epilepsy always causes an eighteen-hour hazmat shutdown at a major airport.
The dorm's safety rules echoed in the back of my head. Never leave campus with someone you've just met. If you see anyone walking strangely, having convulsions, or standing too still, run as fast as you can to where the people are. Never approach anyone lying down, or anyone sitting in the wrong place. Stay on well-lit streets. Let someone know where you're going, who you're with, and when you'll be back. Keep a phone on you at all times, and never
turn it off.
And I, the careful one, the most timid freshman in the quietest dorm on campus, didn't give a shit.
I had my hand on the top edge of Risa Ruiz's gauzy skirt, feeling her flank muscles stretch and contract.
We reached another corner and turned into one of those dark cul-de-sacs that don't even rate a single working streetlamp. I blinked, trying to see.
She pulled me off the sidewalk.
I wondered for half a second, but then a bicycle whispered by.
She was paying attention—something I should be doing, as well. But there we were, off the sidewalk, away from the streetlights and headlights, and the crickets rasped as if giving coded messages, only all the messages overlapped and competed with one another, and the moonlight glittered on Risa's pectoral of claws and fangs while it shimmered on the swirling lace below.
"I want to kiss you," I said, my voice a stranger's. I swallowed, waiting for her to laugh at me, to push me away.
Instead, she pulled me closer, hip-first, and tilted her head. "What's stopping you?"
I reached up and gathered fistfuls of that hair, cool and warm at the same time, and I pulled her face down into reach, and I touched her lips with mine. And there it had to end, because I'd never opened my mouth to a kiss without wanting to gag.
But there it didn't end. She cupped my head in her hands, opened her mouth, and gently sucked my bottom lip between hers. My pulse pounded in my lips, in my temples, in my breasts where they nestled against hers. For what seemed a long time, she played with my bottom lip, licking it, then licking inside it.
She tasted of popcorn, or maybe that was me, and she smelled of something deep, woody, and rich—sandalwood or cedar, or both, or something I'd never encountered before. I desperately wanted to wash in whatever soap made her smell like that.
She pulled back, disengaging my trembling fists from her hair. "You're not used to this, are you?"
My skin shrank against my face. "I'm sorry."
At least I hadn't gagged on her. Hadn't had the first inclination to gag, come to think of it.
She brushed a kiss over my cheekbone. "Don't be. Don't be nervous, either. And whatever you do, don't hesitate to tell me to slow down if I take this too fast."
She gave my hands a brief squeeze, then led me past an overgrown camellia and turned up the walk to a bungalow with a screened front porch and a bedspread for a front window curtain. Light glowed through the gold-and-red mandala design, barely illuminating the porch swing.
The door opened onto a narrow, dark foyer, with light angling from the other end. I smelled scorched popcorn and espresso, and Risa's woodsy scent. Women spoke quietly, in the English and Italian mix that means music talk has gone all technical. Worse, I heard a ripple of notes from what had to be one of those huge harps.
My soul shriveled, remembering my sister's tutor telling Mom I had all the musicality of a rusty typewriter.
I hesitated in the foyer, with one hand on the door and one on the lock. Ahead of me, Risa glided into the light from the room, then paused and looked back at me.
The conversation stopped.
My face burned. I was a dork and making her look awkward in front of her friends.
She took two steps back into the dark with me and laid a warm hand on my shoulder. "What's wrong, Camie?"
"I—" I couldn't talk. I shook my head and swallowed. I'm shy, okay? I just am. It's not a crime and it's not a mental illness. It just is.
She touched my hand. "Come on in. If you don't know music, I can tell you what to listen for. It will be good."
Learn more about the works of Amber Green at www.shapeshiftersinlust.com