(photo by Lawria)
(Part of Project Unicorn: A Lesbian YA Extravaganza, updated twice weekly, on Mondays and Fridays, with a free, original, never-before-published YA short story featuring a lesbian heroine. Every story is a work of genre fiction [Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Post-apocalyptic, etc.].)
by Jennifer Diemer
When our lips touch, bits of myself float away, like iron shavings drawn to some kiss-activated magnet. There goes my fretting about next week’s chemistry test, drifting off, up, fragmented and forgotten. There goes my stress over the upcoming family reunion, where I’ll have to see Aunt Peg for the first time since she found out I was gay and posted that Bible verse (something about being “detestable”) on my Facebook wall. Floating, floating… And there go all of my worries about not being smart enough, pretty enough, normal enough to ever make my parents proud.
All of my brain junk vanishes, just like that, and what remains is only this, this moment, her mouth pressed against mine, her arms curved around my waist, her heart beating against my chest. (It beats, really beats.) The nearness of her—aligning, allaying, quenching.
What else matters? Nothing else matters. Because I know, now, right now, that what we have is beautiful, that we are beautiful, that the whole world is beautiful.
The beauty is so palpable: I taste its sweetness, smell its roses, feel its velvet settle over me like a fitted cloak.
I lean back against the tree and sigh into Ailsa’s hair. It moves with my breath, her baby-fine hair, moves just like my hair, like anyone’s hair, and she feels warm, vital against the length of my body, but I know—we both know—that the moon is yawning, the sun is waking, and we are running out of time. Again.
“I don’t want to go,” she whispers, lips brushing my neck, hot tears sliding over my shoulder. “I want to be with you. I want to leave this place. I want to—”
“Shh,” I whisper, holding her close, because I’m near tears myself, and we only have a few minutes more. Tears are best saved for later, shed in a locked room and muffled into a pillow. I overlooked the pillow once, and my mother heard me, knocked on my door—What’s wrong, Tam? Why are you crying? Is it a boy?—and I couldn’t help it: I laughed. She thought I was hysterical (I was) and jiggled the knob until I leapt out of bed and swung the door open, said, “No, it’s definitely not a boy.”
And then I told her. I finally told her, and she said she didn’t believe me, that I was just going through a phase, but now she was the one crying, and she called Aunt Peg while I fell back on my bed and stared at my ceiling and left through the window when purple light filtered through the curtains, when twilight came.
“There must be a way,” Ailsa insists, and she pulls me in and kisses me hard, desperate. It’s like this every night. We hold on to each second, hold on to each other, afraid to let go, because when we let go, we disappear, both of us. She evaporates. I watch her trickle away. She fades, and then I go back to my faded, half-alive life. But at least it’s a life.
For Ailsa…there’s just the dark.
We’re on the ground now, lying curled together on our mossy bed, and she’s bending over me, still crying, but softly, valiant, trying to smile. You’re a miracle, I think, because she is, because somehow we found each other, despite impossibility, despite time and physics, and she loves me. I never knew I could love someone so much.
Her eyes—grey, like the stones surrounding us—gleam in the dreaded, rising light. “If only,” she says.
“Yes,” I sigh, and we kiss again, and her weight presses upon me, grounds me, anchors me to the moss, to the earth, deeper.
And then the pressure’s gone, and I open my eyes, squint at the yellow rays filtering through the leaves, and my arms, holding nothing, drop to my sides.
Alone, I rise and walk between the gravestones, my hands dangling, scraping against the names of people no one remembers, people buried in this forgotten place to be forgotten. The cemetery surrendered to the green invasion of the forest decades ago, and a network of vines trails from grave to grave.
I crouch in the pine needles, and my fingers trace the eye of the peacock feather chiseled crudely into the headstone before me, but my gaze is fastened to the name, her name: Ailsa Merrick. There’s no date, no epitaph. Just those two words. My heart stops every time I read them, every time she leaves me.
I never meant to fall in love with a ghost. I never meant to fall in love. But when I found this place, when I saw her standing beside her headstone, beneath the moon, hands clasped, patient, as if she were waiting for me, as if she’d always known I’d come, I knew that I was already changed, just by the sight of her.
She was so real, more real than anyone or anything I’d ever encountered. And in this wild, neglected place—with her, my Ailsa—I feel alive, truly alive. Only here.
In cemetery lore, peacocks symbolize eternity, immortality. I looked it up on the Internet once. Maybe that’s why Ailsa wakes every night, why her sleep is splintered. Maybe the person who engraved her headstone knew her sad story, wished her more time, another chance. Love.
But I’m greedy: I want to watch a sunrise by her side; I want to watch the newborn light play over her skin, paint her golden. Someday, I’ll unbind her from this grave, this forest, from the darkness that takes her away from me, dawn after dawn.
For now, though, the stars are kind to us, and they keep our secret safe.
I press two fingers to my lips, touch my fingers to the headstone.
Then I run away from the woods, keep to the shadows on the streets, and climb in my bedroom window, shower and dress for school. I’ll sleepwalk through class, nap before dinner, and when the sun dips below the trees, I’ll find Ailsa, silver-eyed, waiting at the cemetery’s edge. Beautiful. Mouth to mouth, we’ll resurrect by moonlight.
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