Just a simple, wistful thing I wrote while work was dead today.


The air smelled like summer, and lemons were bursting on my tongue. Not real lemons--Lemonheads, actually, which I think have cocaine stuffed somewhere in the middle underneath all that sour candy goodness. I don't normally eat candy, but these are okay, because they're sour, and I like sour things, and salty things, and Naruto's tongue which doesn't really have a taste yet tastes like all of those things combined. It's strange how I can remember how he tastes even though we've only ever kissed once, and it was a long time ago, when we still rode our bikes to each other's houses every day after school, and sat on the veranda for hours where I'd listen to him play his guitar and smell the summer air.

It's strange how every year of high school seems to encompass a new existence, how Sophomore year you'll be one person and come Junior you'll be another. That awful pretentious thing called puberty snuck up on us, and our trips across the street became less frequent, the summer months fading into grey and cold. Aside from occasionally meeting by our lockers at school, we hardly talked anymore.

The last time I'd really spoken to Naruto was when I came into school with a black eye, after coming home with a failed report card to show my father. He'd looked at me with sad eyes, which I couldn't stand; his eyes were watery and blue, so when they were sad they looked like rain. It dulled the sun in his hair and I couldn't stand it. He had reached up with surprisingly gentle fingers, tracing them over my cheek briefly before drawing back, disappearing down the hallway to class.

The touch to my face had reminded me of our kiss and I was too afraid, too afraid of my father's voice grinding out words like 'fag' and 'slut' as his belt pounded all over my back, too afraid that he'd stop taking his anger out on me and hurt Naruto instead. So I gave up, falling back into that flimsy plastic ice-cube tray in the back of the freezer to rot with all the leftovers my mom insists on keeping for years on end.

The days dragged on, and I looked for more and more places to hide as the beatings continued, often rendering me unable to attend school. On the days when I managed to come to class I could feel Naruto's eyes watching me from the other side of my head, scraping under my skin and drilling tiny holes in my skull. I could almost hear it scratching away, and I felt like throwing up.

Autumn dragged into winter until spring peeked hopefully over the horizon, reminding me that the days would keep coming, no matter how hard I tried to will them away. Puberty continued to wage its war on me. I began to notice girls more, but not in the way the guidance counselers and health teachers prescribed. Instead of watching how their breasts started to bounce as they walked down the hallway or trying to peer under their skirts, I noticed how their faces looked like plastic when they talked to me, trying to earn my approval by flashing fake smiles and tossing their hair. I watched as they wrapped their skinny arms about their boyfriend's necks and I wanted to be like that, to fit so perfectly in a man's embrace.

I remember sitting there in Naruto's room, listening to him sing softly as he played some soft indie rock tune I'd never heard before, which was perfect because I liked to pretend that those songs were his. I had been lying on his bed, my head pillowed against his knee, and he had put his guitar down and lay back next to me before I even realised he had gone quiet. He murmured softly against my mouth, moving closer and closer until I tasted heat and Lemonheads against my tongue. His hand had been massaging my neck, fingers brushing my hair, and it felt like nothing would ever hurt anymore.

I had gone home late that night. I still have the scars.

Once I returned to school after that I immediately began to look right back at those plastic faces smiling at me, trying to assure myself that I wanted them to hold onto my neck, to be that strong embrace. I was only fooling myself, and every poor girl whose heart I broke when I realised I couldn't be what they'd always dreamed I'd be. I kept moving on, trying to fill that gaping hole inside myself with empty calories like cute little smiles and soft kisses and it was like a hangover without the drinks. I just wanted to throw it all up, wash it off and swallow it again.

Junior year came and left, and nothing had changed.

Tap tap tap. My shoes continued to move over the pavement and I reached into my pocket, dumping a few more Lemonheads into my hand and popping them into my mouth. Walking hurt. My back was covered in sores and my legs were bruised.

He didn't even need a cause to hit me anymore. I failed a test, broke up with another girlfriend and realised I had been pretending for far too long, and there was only one place where I could hide.

Very tentatively I reached up a hand, knocking lightly on the varnished wooden door. The door opened and a tall, blue-eyed man answered, eyeing me curiously before merely stating, "He's upstairs in his room."

It felt like I had returned home after a long, long day. Everything was exactly like I had remembered; the walls of the hallway painted light blue, Naruto's house plants scattered over every possible surface. I climbed the stairs with determination, wincing as my body throbbed with pain and I just needed--just needed him.

He looked up at me when I entered his room, eyes wide for a moment, and there was this awful silence like a vat of butter had been spilled on us and hardened, greasy and thick. It all melted away when he said my name.


The songs he played rang in my ears, although it was silent, and I could feel his breath warm against my ear. My body was stretched over his flannel sheets and his arms were around me, his fingers moving softly over the scars on my back. It was as if all those years separating us had sprung back together, melting into the one moment when our lips had first touched. His were hovering close to my ear, his breath tickling the inside of it and causing flies to swarm in my chest. I had missed his voice.

"You can...come here, you know. Whenever you need to, and I'll...I'll protect you, if you want."

I closed my eyes and relaxed, fitting neatly in his arms, and smelled the summer air drifting through the open window. It would be all right.