“He broke away from my mouth and trailed his lips down the front of my throat. I felt his lips close around my scars. He kissed away their ugliness. His lips parted in tingling butterfly kisses that drained the strength from my knees. I realized he was mouthing words against my skin.
Not words. Just one word.
“He always knew what I would have liked to say, and with startling and increasing accuracy as we spent more time together. One time, for example, I was wondering exactly how he had lost that tooth at the back of his mouth when he saw my eyes on his waning grin and replied, "Ran into a fence when I was twelve." And then I wondered how the heck he could have missed the giant fence standing right in front of him and he said, "Shut up.”
“Each person is just an imprint of the many people who have crossed paths with us over the years, some more than others. Most of us never think to say thank you. I know I never had.”
“I was shaking when our lips parted and he leaned his forehead against mine, his fingers carding through my hair, my hands on his face.
"I won't let them," Rafael said. "I won't let anyone take you away. I'll protect you. I'll always protect you. I don't care how. I just will.”
“It struck me as kind of crazy, kind of amazing, that one person could make me feel so serene just by being.”
“I grabbed his hand and dragged him down the street to a convenience shop. I abandoned him once inside and went down the stationery aisle. I'd already known I wanted to get him some colored pencils, but now I finally had the occasion to do it. Not long after I'd picked out a big box of them, I heard Rafael call out from another part of the store, "Trojans? Like The Iliad?"
I didn't waste a second finding him and pulling him out of that aisle.”
“I glanced over his shoulder to get a look at his latest drawing. A wolf and a coyote stood side by side beneath a dual sky, sun and moon shining at the same time.
"They're brothers," Rafael said. He laid his charcoal on the grass. "Wolf is wise and judicious. Coyote's a trickster. They're the two faces of God. Everything in the world is dual-natured. Even God isn't all good or all bad."
He told me about how the sun used to be married to the moon before they quarreled and parted ways, leaving the sun to rule the world at day and the moon at night. He told me how the Wolf had sewn us all out of seeds and put us in a cloth bag to keep us safe, but the Coyote had clawed the bag open and everyone had spilled out, landing and taking root in different parts of the world. He told me about the girl with Two Faces, one half of her face devastatingly beautiful, the other half impossibly ugly, and the man who lover her anyway. He told me about the days when death lacked permanence and ten different generations lived together beneath the same stars.
He talked, as he always talked, without any real purpose, clearing his head of the cluttering thoughts that had gathered and built up until he could pour them into me.”
“I don't know what you're talking about. I just like animals," Rafael said. "So does Sky, except he's kind of a hippie soulbonder about it.”
“What?" he said. "You let me draw all over your arm in permanent ink, but I hand you a vegetable and you chicken out?”
“He turned his head and gazed at me, eyes dancing and blue, remnants of a smile dancing on his face.
How beautiful he looked. Unsullied by the world's darker secrets; privy to its innocent ones. I could almost believe he was inhuman and had never known anything beyond the profound simplicity of nature, tameless and wild, and the animal hearts that beat within each and every one of us. He was Pan and I was Daphnis. I never stood a chance.”
“Nor had I realized until that moment how much of a group project it was to grow up. ”
“Some dumbass outside the reserve thinks you're wearing a butterfly on your arm, you'll get your ass kicked," Rafael said.”
“I noticed something else, too, that I hadn’t before: As the sun trailed slowly west, the clouds hanging low in the sky crept closer to the canyons and the cliffs. The air all around us was misty and cool. I wondered if Heaven was like that, the clouds all around you, your best friend at your side.”
“How horrible uncertainty was. How cruel.”
“I kissed him like he was air and I couldn't breathe.”
“I liked Rafael. I liked listening to Rafael. I liked touching him. I liked it when he took me in his arms and made me feel like I belonged to him, like our hearts ran together as one, indistinct. Rafael was beautiful. Rafael was my heart's friend. I didn't understand how that meant I liked boys. As far as I knew, it only meant I liked Rafael.
More than liked Rafael.”
“I want you. I want you so much. I think I want you more than anything and that scares me, sometimes.”
“won't let them," Rafael said. "I won't let anyone take you away. I won't let anyone hurt you. I'll protect you. I'll always protect you. I don't care how. I just will.”
“Nor had I realized until that moment how much of a group project it was to grow up. Each of us is just an imprint of the many people who have crossed paths with us over the years, some more times than others. Most of us never think to say thank you. I know I never had.”
“Each time someone laughed, each time Annie elbowed me or Rafael prodded me or Aubrey asked me, wheedling slightly, to take his side in an argument, I had this feeling of floating on air, miles and miles above the clouds. Each laugh was like a song I’d always wanted to learn without ever realizing I didn’t already know it. Each laugh was a new experience on its own, and yet a familiar one, and I felt that I should be thanking someone for it, but I didn’t know who.”
“Relieved and overjoyed, I felt kind of like a five-year-old, too. I felt like a lamb that’s found its way home again, or the small child each of us secretly hides at heart.”
“We’d held each other before, on lazy summer days, between private kisses and languid touches, but never anything that I would have considered a true hug: selfless support not instigated by desire, comfort for comfort’s sake. This was different.”
“I won't let them," Rafael said. "I won't let anyone take you away. I won't let anyone hurt you. I'll protect you. I'll always protect you. I don't care how. I just will.”
“We linked arms, and the Titan-man led us in prayer. He called out to the Great Mystery of the universe and thanked it for the bounty by which we all lived, the generosity of the growing land and of the animals who gave us their lifeblood, and most importantly, he said, the compassion of the human heart. The prayer, I thought, was profoundly touching, and maybe more meaningful than anything I had ever heard in a church.”
“I don't know how your dad could have left you alone, anyway," Rafael said indignantly. "It's obvious you're the coolest person on the planet.”
“Sometimes the only way to know how far you'd come was to return to where you once had been.”
“I got to give mom credit for how she handled it.She didn't try to pry and get all the details. All she said was that I should try to do "the right thing" because it's our choices that make us who we are. I figure that's pretty decent advice. But I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do tomorrow.”
“I lay on her bed with my arms wrapped around her, wondering how on earth we'd managed to end up like this. I'm not sure what'd been on my mind when I came to see her, but this wasn't it! Strange the way things turn out. When I'd come into her room I'd been burning up with desire to smash her and everything around her. And yet here she was, asleep and still holding on to my arms like I was a life-raft or something. There's not a single millimetre between her body and mine. I could move my hands and, and, anything I liked. Caress or strangle. Kill or cure. Her or me. Me or her.”
“There are moments that you'll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you'll remember for the rest of your life, and it's not often they turn out to be the same moment.”
“As I drifted off to sleep, I could hear him breathing, and that definitely helped me relax.”
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