Summer Skin

Summer Skin

There are times when I sit down and just write because it makes me feel alive and free. I don’t usually post the results of those writing sessions because they’re often private and in my opinion, unworthy of the public’s eyes. But this I think you all might like…

SUMMER SKIN

She felt like today was the right day – it was too warm to sit in the house and the summer sun beckoned to her. She had been feeling for days as though her books were smothering her and perhaps that had been the real impetus for her leaving the house. Baby’s skin had always gleamed a pristine, almost porcelain white from her days in the windowsill. She rarely ventured outside where the world could surround her because it always seemed too big. She was so very small after all – such a naïve little girl, even at seventeen. She wondered if womanhood would feel any different than this, but figured it couldn’t possibly if the constant loneliness remained.

It was an ache inside of her that Baby could not forget and it was encouraged by her mother’s constant inattention. The girl was reminded daily how unwanted she was both at school and at home with little respite. It was only when she found herself immersed in some book or in the midst of some painting that the sadness receded enough for her to see clearly. There had to be more than just this dull pain in her chest and the close walls of her lonely bedroom. Hadn’t she been meant for more than cigarette ashes and tear stained pillows? Sometimes she thought that she could hear something calling to her, but Baby was never quite sure what it was. It was something dark, something silent that called to the most primal part of her – the part that wanted out.

That was the part that pushed her out the door, a blank canvas under her arm and a bucket of paints swinging precariously in her free hand. She was without shoes because she despised any kind of confinement and her too small dress mimicked that belief. She looked rather like the dolls she had abandoned years ago, with her short hair untamable and her big blue doe eyes bright. But there was still a marked somberness about her that hung in the air, weighing Baby down. She could never quite shake it, no matter how hard she pretended that everything was okay. The loneliness, that familiar sadness would always be her closest friend.

The lake was far enough from their little home that no one would find her for hours, especially if they didn’t know she was gone. Baby supposed that was one good thing about going unnoticed – she could do whatever she pleased whenever the inspiration struck. Saeran and her mother seemingly never noticed Baby’s absence and while it could be a curse, today it would be a blessing, of that the girl was certain. It would be easy to get lost in things out here, with the sun wrapping her in its arms and the breeze playing with her hair. For a moment the girl felt important, like maybe she mattered or made an impact, even just a small one.

The grass was always long this far into summer so Baby had to smooth down a spot to lay her canvas. She’d wanted to paint the lake as an aside; one last attempt to show them the world through her eyes, but Baby was sure it would go unseen. Her art, much like her was rarely if ever acknowledged for its inherently dark beauty. The sadness made her see things in a way that no one else could really understand so they brushed her off easily and without a thought. Her silence about everything made people think that Baby didn’t care, but she drew into herself to protect what little softness remained.

And really, Baby didn’t even need to look at the lake to paint it, she had been out here so many times, just staring, waiting for someone who would never come. She was always alone out here and the familiarity of that startled her suddenly. She shook her head to banish the thought and hunkered down, all sharp elbows and knees in the prickly grass in a flourish of flowered dress. Her paints were always too thick, thinned out by tears or cigarette smoke and she mixed colors into hues that did not exist in their world. The water, which was usually a thick murky grey green became a deep blue, but the sky remained clear – a perfect summer slate. Everything was always hazy, even if it wasn’t in the summer heat and three quarters of the way through Baby threw herself into her back and stared up at the sky. It was empty of its customary clouds, and she peered through the curtain of tall grass that surrounded her head, looking on into the endless abyss of blue.

She knew what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to take it; not this, not something so private and so close that she could nearly taste it. But she had to finish the painting first, because that was her last goodbye, even if no one was going to care. So she swirled some more blue into the sky, and when she was satisfied with the jumble of colors and tangled emotions Baby stood up and brushed her dress off. Paint forever lingered under her fingernails and she wandered over to the water and scuffed her toes into the soft, cool mud right at the edge. She liked how it felt when little dots of paint covered her skin – it gave her the impression of a thousand tiny fingers putting just the slightest pressure on her. Baby closed her eyes, letting the diminishing sunlight caress her face as she walked a few steps into the water. Was this how it would be – silent and beautiful and easy?

“Baby?”

She didn’t hear him; she was too wrapped up in thinking about endings to be thinking about possible beginnings. But she opened her eyes and there he was, standing a few feet away, looking at her like he’d just seen a ghost or a strange little girl. Baby knew him only because he made himself known and she looked at him now like she had always looked at him, with a little bit of fear in her eyes. She had seen what he was capable of – broken noses, bloody lips, tears from boys who should never have cried, but that wasn’t what scared her. She wondered about him, wondered why he was angry all the time, why he was so loud when he didn’t need either thing to be noticed and that was dangerous. Interest in anyone was dangerous; it made her far too vulnerable to attack. And she stood still, taking care not to breathe while he looked her over, much in the same way she had studied him at school.

“What’er you doin’ out here?”

She could have asked him the same question – at least she looked like she belonged here with her dirty feet and messy hair and curious eyes. He was out of place, ragged in wrinkled jeans and a tee-shirt that was slightly askew, like he’d just thrown it on for the hell of it. Baby let her head fall to the side slightly, studying him as he took a few steps closer, bringing a cigarette to his lips. She wanted that, the ability to be so casual and easy with someone she barely knew. She hadn’t answered him because she couldn’t, because he was Jett Morse and she was Baby Lynn and Baby watched Jett, she didn’t speak to him. She had noticed him earlier in the year when he’d been sitting quietly by himself, waiting for someone she’d supposed. He had not been the boisterous, unnecessarily loud monster that she’d seen in the hallways – this was a subdued creature that looked as out of place as she felt. And that had begun it, watching him in that one quiet moment had made Baby wonder about him. So she watched him every chance she got, that familiar fear fading into a burning curiosity that could never be satisfied.

Baby stood rooted to her spot, silence still the only thing on her lips as Jett walked past her and over to the painting on the ground. He leaned over to get a better view of it and she blinked at the way his shirt pulled up over his bare, boney spine, slowly walking over to where the boy stood, intent but careless.

“You’ll get ash on it.”

Her voice was high and childish and she reached a small hand out to take the cigarette from his fingers, in an utterly brash move for someone who had been silent just seconds ago. She lifted the cigarette to her own lips, licking them before she took a long drag, closing her eyes against the familiar burn in her lungs. He watched her as she did it, probably wondering where a little girl took up smoking, but didn’t say anything, just chewed on his lower lip. Jett had wondered about this porcelain girl who always sat by herself so quiet and unassuming. She didn’t seem so unassuming now – there was a vibrancy to her that could only be seen up close and he was sure it was the first time he had ever actually heard her voice. Standing up straight the boy held his hand out, beckoning for his cigarette which she relinquished only when she had taken another drag, and let a smile play at the edges of his mouth. She was something that had to be treated delicately, like a small child and he found himself quieter than normal, just because she was close.

“Were you going for a swim?”

Baby looked at the water then, all of her plans coming crashing down around her because of his sudden appearance and shrugged her shoulders. What did he care what she was doing? What if he did care? She glanced back at him for a moment, taking a step towards the water, and crossing her arms around her body.

“What if I was? You gonna come too?”

She waded halfway into the water before she pulled her dress up over her head, throwing it back onto the half wet earth, leaving her in nothing but the wetness. She was suddenly unafraid for some reason and turned around, as the water reached her collarbone. Baby didn’t beckon to him, she didn’t need to because she saw him fighting with his too tight jeans and tripping over his boots and she laughed to herself before he could see her. She treaded water, letting her head tip back and looking at the sky again. Where had this sudden streak of boldness come from? She looked back up to see him too close to her and moved back, ducking under the water only to come up with saturated hair in her eyes. He was watching her, unashamedly and Baby pushed paint stained hands through her wet hair and stared back.

“You’ve got something-“

He made a vague motion towards her cheek with his hand and Baby didn’t shy away, just let him wade closer and try to brush the dry paint from her skin. It was such a soft, unfamiliar gesture that shocked Baby into blinking water droplets from her girlishly long lashes. She smiled at him, and opened her mouth part way to speak but never got the chance because he pulled her into a kiss. It was unexpected and Baby’s brain told her to resist but his warm skin against hers wouldn’t let her. She let him pull her closer, his hands on her slightly protruding ribs and wrapped her arms around his neck. The water cradled her, making the small girl nearly weightless and he wondered for a second what he was doing. He didn’t even know her, but something in him had made this newly discovered need to kiss her unbearable. She was such a delicate little thing – he wanted to protect her, to keep her right here in the safe circle of his arms forever. And he kissed her until his lungs screamed for air, the water seeping into his skin and her smile seeping into the cracks in his wall.

She tried to catch the breath that he had stolen, and she thought she could feel him shaking under her fingertips as he leaned his forehead against hers. Her heart was nearly breaking out of her chest it was beating so hard and Baby pulled back just slightly to look at him.

“Jett, I-“

She faltered, worrying at her bottom lip where she could still taste him. What could she possibly say after she had been silent for so long? She looked down at the space she had created between them, the water filling the gap between their skin again like a wall. Baby ducked under his arm, splashing awkwardly, trying to get away as best she could because it was suddenly too much. Her bare skin was hot from embarrassment and she was glad that he didn’t follow her as she ripped her dress over her head, her hair matting as she shook it out of her face. Baby turned around once she’d dug her feet back into the mud and looked at him (clearly stunned and wondering where he’d gone wrong) out there in the water for a moment, confusion written in every small crease on her face. And then she ran. Ran for home because it was safe and because he couldn’t find her there and force her to feel whatever it had been that had made her heart race and her skin tingle.

She couldn’t do it now, he’d put too many fucking questions back into her head. He had opened up a part of Baby that had never been touched before and the girl needed time to figure out who she was in lieu of these newly discovered things. He’d ruined her and saved her, scared her and made her new all in the same breath and Baby didn’t know exactly how to feel about that. How had Jett Morse done something no one else could?

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