Her father bought her a sexy two-seater for her sixteenth birthday. An aquamarine Jaguar, a few years out of date but serviceable. The insurance must have been fantastic. After six years and no accidents, it was manageable. These days it hunkered low in the barn, beside Jon's bike. Like two hibernating predators, hamstrung by a lack of snow tires and not enough time for anything but work.
The jag was late summer road trips. Just a day or two stolen from the fields and a picnic basket stuffed behind the passenger seat. A cooler of soup and a six pack of coolish beer. Guinness, that time, and Martha had laughed through a mustache of of foam. She'd licked it off, demonstrating to a fascinated Jon the range of her tongue.
Wild tongue. Free range. City slick and country serious. Industrious.
She just smacked him with her fork and told him to shut up. Their grins were both miles wide, longer than the backroads they'd flown. A stray sliver of carrot from the pasta salad made it into his hair, and the rest of it spilled onto the scrubby grass that started somewhere under their equally scrubby blanket and ended at the slow lick of muddy river whose name they'd made an effort to forget. They were nowhere and nowhen. Unreachable even by courier pigeon.
Wheat, fine and crackling in the late morning light, wafted all around them. The tufts swayed in the breeze, dandelion soft. It was a dry year but someone was irrigating like a motherfucker, Jon said. She savoured the shape of it on his mouth. She'd always had this idea that farmers breathed profanity like Metropolis cabbies. Jon had shocked her with a primess that outdid white party dresses and short, matching gloves. They'd always smoked furtively in the ladies room, after all. Rows of debutantes playing at vague, cynical disaffection with hard-burning menthols. Jon's mouth was primer than prim. Stuck in missionary position until Martha came along.
Fuck. Motherfuck. Fucking motherfuck. But never around mother. Not that she wouldn't appreciate that scene.
She curled her toes over, scratched the joints on the blanket. This stretched the rest of her, inevitably, pulling her belly taught and exposing a line of too-flat flesh. She was tan, but not too tan. Kissed. She had excellent muscle tone and her bloodwork was impeccable. Love bites and freckles competed for space on her inner thighs. Thick red hair, waved and layered. A lover who appreciated the way his chin fit perfectly on top of her head and the way she curled her toes, and everything in between. A sexy jag, a motorcycle, a six pack of beer and an achingly fertile farm waiting for them to come home to.
She'd woken up with wet between her thighs. Pushed the sheets between her legs and gone back to sleep until Jon shook her shoulder. Baby, wake up. I have to wash the sheets. She let him take them and got up, finally, because she knew they couldn't afford a new mattress. They'd already budgeted all their luxuries. He washed them by hand, with only muffled splashing to indicate his ministrations. He was making them three kinds of clean. Prim, they'd have prim white sheets and she would have to sew some lace on the edges. Or did one embroider lace? She'd yet to tackle lace, was still fascinated by knitting needles and her sewing machine.
He always called her baby at the worst possible times.
Listen, she said. We have to sell the car. She stared up into the hot blue sky. Cloudless blue stretched flawlessly into a horizon of living gold. She traced the not-curve with her fingers. The nails would have needed doing, in the city. For now, unadorned pink, with perfect white crescents was just right.
I thought you fit it into the budget...
More like a question than a statement, but not about the car or her impeccable budgeting skills. Jon's prim mouth could lie about things like intent and sentiment. I thought you fit it into our life. But he didn't say that.
Not as well as I thought, she really did say. The corners of her mouth were still laughing. Her mouth could lie too. She licked at a patch of Guinness-taste until she could taste only her spit.
When do you want to sell it? So nice, the way he didn't ask questions the way her city friends did. When. How. What. Where. Why was rare, saved for real mysteries. Jon was smart enough to not need it much and arrogant enough to dislike. Or maybe he just disliked it becoming a necessity. Square peg in a round hole.
Later this week.
She watched his eyes dart to the jag and back to her. Click, click. Some days they had lazy staring contests, inevitably blinking in time. Click, click. Perfect blue. Whatever you need. The car had been a burden, so it didn't free up any money, strictly speaking, but Jon counted a certain amount of debt as necessary, if she did. If she needed it. There was probably a limit, but she hadn't come across it yet, so she smiled up at him and he resigned himself to another round at the doctor's.
Wanna pack everything up and just drive? He brushed her hair back from her face and leaned in, to rub his nose against hers.
Long as it's vaguely in the direction of home. She remembered the socks she'd left drying on the line.
Kay, he breathed. Words like ghosts, tickling her skin. His skin, so burning hot, close enough to hers that she felt every milimetre of distance. He licked his lips and hers were wet, phantom wet. Flash of white teeth and he was receding, taking his heat with him, so she sat up and let him pull her to her feet. Shook out the blanket, laughing with him at the pattern of squished macaroni stuck to it.
Leave it, he said. No sense wasting perfectly good leftovers.
Jon! He danced out of her reach, all the way to the jag, with more than half their stuff gathered in a teetering pile in his arms. He leaned over the side and tumbled it all into the back with invisible care. So precise it looked careless. Come on already. Drawled out like honey, and a hip cocked up against the car.
Coming! She fussed over the arrangement of cooler, basket and macaronied blanket, careful not to touch metal. It's already so hot. Suddenly her feet were out of contact with the ground and he was tumbling her into the front seat, like so much baggage. My sandals! He dropped them into the back.
She watched him stroll around to the passenger seat, watching her right herself. She watched him melt into the car, skin flushed and damp, watching her slip the key into the ignition and turn it with slippery fingers.
God it's hot.
She laughed and spun the car out onto the road. They became a streak of blue and green and red against gold and dusty black and yet more gold. You know, my father and I used to argue about the colour of the jag.
His lips quirked. Broke into a huge smile. You and your father had a lot of really dumb arguments.
He called it aquamarine and I insisted it was blue.
He stopped smiling but it lurked, became potential. Yeah, but you know. It doesn't really matter what you call it, it's still the same car.
Somebody's going to love it.
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