by Jennifer Macaire

You must have seen her when you lived on the islands. Her jeans were faded and embroidered. She wore plastic sandals and carried a guitar. She never went to school. She went to visit sick friends or to the beach. What was the funniest thing you ever said to her? Did it make her laugh? When she laughed, did she tilt her head back and open her mouth so wide you could see all her white teeth? If she tipped her head back, her hair would touch her thighs; it would sweep against them as your hand ached to.

Did you hear her sing? When she sang in one of the tourist bars I would go to see her. I would sit in the shadows and drink, my arm over another girl’s shoulder.

I wish I had the foresight to bring a tape recorder with me, but I didn’ t. I have to close my eyes and listen hard now to hear her voice, and often it gets confused with the wind in the trees.

How old would she be now? It doesn’ t matter. I don’ t care—to me she’ll always be a teenager with her mouth folded in defiance.

I’ll tell you a secret.

One day, when we were lying in bed talking, my mother came home from work to check on me. I was supposed to be ill. I was home from school. There was no time to hide; she barely had time to dart under my covers before my mother came in and sat down on my bed. My mother never knew I had a girl, unclad, huddled next to my body. She was so lithe, so slender, that her body melded with mine, the covers stayed obediently bunched over her head, and my mother never noticed a thing.

She put her hand on my brow (damp with sweat and burning with effrontery) and told me I looked flushed. She left after bringing me a cup of tea and some toast. All the while there was a naked girl in my bed, pressed as closely to me as a salamander. When my mother’ s car drove away I pushed the covers back and smiled at her. She started laughing. I didn’t love her yet, but it was a start.

I went to see her in New York City after she’d left the islands. She had cast off her tattered, harlequin jeans and wore a warm sweater. It made her look fragile. She went with me to a party, and she didn’t drink—she never drank. She liked to smoke, though—to get stoned—and by the end of the evening, her smile was as wide as the Hudson River. I tried to talk her into coming back with me to the apartment I’d rented, but she shook her head. She kissed me softly on the mouth, but she was the type to close doors behind her and never open them again.

Jennifer is an American freelance writer/illustrator living near Paris. She was born in Kingston, NY, and lived in Samoa, California and the Virgin Islands before moving to France. Married, she has three children. Jennifer published short stories in such magazines as PKA’s Advocate, The Bear Deluxe, Nuketown, Anotherealm, Linneaen Street, Vestal Review, the Polo Post, Roland Garros Media Guide and The Virgin Islander. One of her short stories was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has written a series of fiction novels based on the life of Alexander the Great – soon to be published by Jacobyte Books.