by Matty Groves
We’ve been driving since yesterday morning. It’s so very tempting and strange and perfect, captured there in the rising dreams and rising fog of the morning sun, so perfect…and then you’re on the road and you can smell the gas and the car’s full of artifacts of your past five or six meals eaten on the run, on the lam…
I fiddle with the window and wonder if it was worth it.
No, it’s nothing so dramatic or romantic as carjacking, or drugs, or embezzling. We just slept together. I wish we had embezzled something, high spirits and the rush of freedom still won’t pay for food and gas, and right now we’re starting to feel it. I look over to Miska, I know she’s hungry, even if she won’t say anything.
Miska, oh my, Miska. Always the sweet girl I wanted to be, never speaks thoughtlessly, never complains. And definitely the religious one, I’d almost say getting married means more to her than it does to me. And a lithe little body with her adorable little face to go with it, even now while the damp cotton droops from her shoulders and a rumpled blue ballcap slouches on her strawberry-blonde curls.
She mentions her studies. We talk about the future. We talk about the wedding. We stop, and wonder what our parents will think. We stop wondering, we know already. We play a car game to not think about it any more.
Same as the past hundred miles.
A little town comes bristling out of the hills, just the water on one side of the freeway and this little hippie town on the other. As we come closer, it looks like a couple of houses climbing up the hills and a lot of people milling around the one gas station. I stop rubbernecking and turn to Miska, chewing my lip and ramping up the dewy eyes. She’s already slowing, shifting us back down the gears. We cross the train tracks just beside the freeway, both of us with two fingers on the roof or we would surely perish. She pulls the car informally to the side of the informal main thoroughfare. I get out and smooth my skirt a little, after hours of sweating down my ass in our little car. I definitely shouldn’t have worn white three days ago.
Miska’s already looking out over the gas station, what I thought was a gas station. Maybe a dozen people are standing or sitting around in it, sprawled out of old Volkswagen vans or lazing among their baskets like they grew out of them. It’d been a gas station, once, maybe back in the fifties, but it was farmer’s market now, a whole three or four vendors. They didn’t even bother taking out the pumps, just boarded up the little shop and put out their baskets. Easygoing, unconcerned, a place where Miska and I wouldn’t raise any eyebrows.
“Heya, ladies.” One guy, about our age, Indian-looking, leans forward on his ice cooler. “Need something?”
“Yeah,” I said, crossing the non-busy street, “starving. Know where we could get a cheap sandwich?”
He gives me an appreciative glance, and I become aware of exactly how sweaty and disheveled I am.
“Nothing like a restaurant around here.” He said, a smirk forming on his face. “I could probably toss something together for you, if you like.”
“Would you, really?” I said, grinning. Miska calls it the “morning sunshine” grin, something between happy and surprised. She slides up beside me, our skirts brushing, and without thinking I take up her hand.
The Indian guy gives us a weird look and leans back on his ice cooler. Something tense, not sure what.
“Where are you girls going?”
“Out to California.”
“Oh,” he says, trying not to sound suspicious, “what for?”
I hesitate, and Miska just squeezes my hand. The look is all over his face now, the mix of curiosity and vague disgust.
Oh, says his face, you’re gay.
“We’re going to get married, next Tuesday.” Miska says, matter-of-factly.
I kiss any thoughts of a sandwich goodbye and slip my hand out of Miska’s, grabbing my arm.
“Can we get gas here?” Miska asks, sounding polite but disinterested.
“I don’t think so. Now are you ladies going to buy something, or not?” He asks, folding his arms. He fixes his eyes on something behind us, and cocks his chin.
I don’t like this.
“We’ll … just be on our way then.”
We don’t talk for the next ten miles.
We find a grey little fishy-smelling motel on the edge of the sand, and I butt in with “twin, not single” while Miska makes reservations. We bring up our purses and the two backpacks, while my mind is whirling and it feels like everyone’s watching us for the tiniest slip of less-than-sororal feeling. The door shuts behind us and it’s the same round of wordless questions and body-language answers, but the space between the two beds seems to yaw open. Miska gingerly steps between them, looking from one to the other.
“Maybe we can push them together.” She says, trying to clear things up.
“Yeah, maybe, push them together yeah, you take the other one and I’ll just take this one and yeah.” I say, racing around to the far side of one bed and pushing. I don’t go anywhere, so I start pushing more frantically, huffing and puffing and spinning out. Finally, with some primal cry of futility, I drop my ass on the side of the bed. I start to cry, and I’m completely at a loss for why…or, rather, which ‘why’ to pick.
Miska’s still standing between the two beds, watching me curiously. She walks around to the foot of the bed I’m sitting on.
“Laurel?” She says, calling my name. She sounds like she’s down a well. Or I am. Or we both are. “What is it?”
“It’s just…it’s been three days and all we’ve been eating is a couple of burgers and sleeping in the car or in these dingy motels where you can hear people crawling next door and I’m three states out of my way to get married! To a girl! I mean, I don’t even know if I want to go through with this, you know?” And I shut up, one sentence too late.
Miska’s standing just to my left, withdrawing ever so little, the air cooling just a bit.
“I…” I stare at the crooked sailboat painting. “Sorry.”
“It’s just … we’re eloping, and I know your mother’s going to kill me when we get back and oh my god we’ll be married you’ll be my wife I’m going to have a wife and it’s going to be Muscetta Schmidt and…what are we gonna do, Miska? What’s gonna happen?”
Her hand on my shoulder, tentatively, lovingly.
“What do you want to do?” She asks, her voice low and cautious.
“I don’t know. Finish college, I think. Get a job. I love you and I want to be with you forever, Miska, but…aren’t we too young to get married anyway?”
My hand on top of hers. She sits down next to me and the vinyl squeaks. There’s a long, pregnant moment.
“God already knows how much I love you.” She whispers next to my ear, her voice full. “No one else needs to know.”
Her body is a hair’s-breadth too far. God…
“I’m just afraid.” I said at last. “I’m afraid of everything ahead of us and everything behind us.”
And then I look at her again, and I see how hungry, and tired, and afraid she’s been, too. And I reach around and take her cheek, and let my fingers trail on the little hairs on the back of her neck, and kiss her right between the eyebrows.
God knows, I love you too.
And all the hours and miles of car games, and apprehensions, and conversations that circle like buzzards…they’re all washed away and I’m back where I started, exclaiming in our living room that we have to get to California and get married right now, with or without our families behind us, an old fashioned elope.
Miska’s looking at me, the stripes of light between the blinds lighting her up like a femme fatale.
“Everything ahead of us…” she said, her breath hot and quick on my cheeks, “everything behind us…”
I’m looking into those great green eyes, color of an old forest from a postcard.
“…is nothing on what’s between us.” I feel my fingers entwine in hers, and my lips embrace hers. And there is no one else in the room, and I live in right now.
I feel every twitch and tension across her warm, inviting lips, and when her tongue sneaks out and runs coquettishly across mine…mmm. I’m nibbling on her lip now and I can feel the little tensions rolling all over her body.
I know every inch of her body. In all the little way she doesn’t twitch, in the way she leans in, I feel her out. My fingers brush against her ribs and my lips along her jaw. Her hands are light, almost feathery, on me, but she stops just short of tickling me…she knows me just as well. We wrap and entwine each other, drawing closer around that old married kiss.
And our lips part, and together we take a breath and come back to Earth. My brow tips, and meets hers. I find her hand and hold it.
“I love you, Muscetta.” I say, and she breaks into the smile she has right before she cries. The first breaths hitch as I kiss her again, a lover’s peck on the lips.
She breaks our hands and throws her arms around me. My nose is buried in her peach-smelling curls, and I feel my way along her neck with my mouth. Upright seems too much, and together we topple back onto the bed.
I feel tremors on the vinyl while she kicks her shoes off and wraps her legs around me. I put both arms around her and hold her close, while she nuzzles my t-shirted shoulder. She reaches up and kisses me again, and holds it for dear life as her limbs loosen their grip on me. I slide down and let my hands up and under Miska’s blouse, feeling all those inches of skin, the familiar curves and shapes, reading her like Braille. Her hands come up and cup my face, stroking around my ears as if playing with lost strands of hair. I feel a warm glow growing in my stomach, and reach up along the long, lean field of Miska’s back. I revel in the skin-on-skin.
She reaches down, under my shirt, and strokes the tattoo on my lower back, tracing it and making a little noise come out of my chest. I feel her mouth in mine, tensing and drawing back into a smile. That one little movement feels as thunderous as an orgasm.
I feel her begin to rock, her weight shifting back and forth along my belly. I shift out from between her legs and leave my thigh there. She takes the opportunity to slide my t-shirt over my head, leaving me there in my skirt and bra and staring at her across the little space between our two bodies. I glance at her shirt, a slip of the eyes, and she takes it off, too. She reaches over and I can feel the flesh of her arms along my ribs, her lovely breasts pressed against my own, while she undoes my bra. I reach around for hers and feel her bare skin on mine. We slide each other’s bras off, and there we are: me laying back on the bed, her sitting on my thigh with her legs splayed to either side of me, her skirt puddled up around her lap and under her hips. I take her face in my hand and she slides up my leg to kiss me, our bare torsos coming together and lighting up from the touch.
I run my fingers, unimpeded, all over her body while she does the same to me. When her fingers breeze along the sides of my breasts, down the back of my neck, up my belly, I shudder. She slides up and down my thigh, grinding her hot, wet heat into my leg. I catch little moans with my mouth, start playing around the waistband of her skirt. I press one finger down just above the curve of her ass and draw it, slowly, deliberately, all the way up her spine to her neck. I can practically feel the orgasm welling up in her. As my finger passes between her shoulders, I break the kiss and lay my mouth, softly, gently, on the curve where her shoulder meets her neck.
When my finger makes it all the way up to the base of her neck, I bite down and roll the flesh between my teeth. She catches hold of my thigh and clenches down. I feel the tremors of her orgasm all through my leg, even before I feel the cotton of her panties grow warm and wet on my bare skin. Her arms wrap around me and nearly squeeze me to death, and I let go of her hickey.
She looks at me, panting, and I look at her. Eye-to-eye, where it all starts. She smiles at me, and I can feel the ghost of it on my lips. I look at her, she looks at me. And we don’t have to say anything.
I stir in the bed, half awake. I feel Miska’s body heat, the place and position of every atom of her body seared on the back of my eyelids. I draw up close to her, wrap my arms around her, and smile. My Miska.