We ride together in silence. Mitchell glances at me but says nothing. I wish he would speak to me. Open his mouth and say something, anything, even if it’s to curse me for relapsing back into the binge drinking habit I’d promised to give up for him, for God.
Nothing good ever happens when you drink, he always says. Noah cursed his own son for not looking away from his father’s naked drunkenness, and the brothers have been warring ever since. According to the New Testament, drinking only leads to wild orgies. Hell, Lot slept with both his daughters! I wonder how that conversation played out—his daughters pregnant after both his sons-in-law were already dead—when he learned that his grandchildren were also his sons.
The way Mitchell explains biblical stories to me is the way I want for him to talk to me now. I know one day he’ll become a minister. He has that calling over his life. I sensed it the day he recounted his own salvation to me, with such vigor and enthusiasm, remembering ever detail, despite his youthful age of seven years old at the time. Reverend Murphy has already taken him under his wing, inviting him to the bi-weekly ministers classes he holds at the church on Thursday nights. He practices his sermons on me, speaking with boldness, his speech seasoned with salt. I love that part of him, but is it selfish of me to, every now and again, remove his cloth and ask him to just be Mitchell, my fiancé, my husband, the man I fell in love with?
He stops the car, and the glare from the red light illuminate’s his face. Every feature enhanced, from the natural arch in his eyebrows I’ve often envied, to the downward curve of his eyes and the puffiness of his skin around them that often causes people to mistake him for Pacific Islander. I look down at his nose, his tiny little rabbit’s nose. While mine curls up, the tip of his nose dips down toward the center of his upper lip, his nostrils slanting inward. His nose quivers when he breathes, like a little bunny sniffing the freshly cut grass in the spring air, and I remember how I nibbled on his nose last night as I lay on top of him, joking that a wet nose meant you were happy and that all my slobber signified he was the happiest man in the world.
And when I said that, as if in confirmation, I felt him rise and harden inside of me after momentarily going limp, and it was so gratifying that I dropped my jaw and released a slow and steady exhale as I rocked my hips back and forth in a rotational push and pull like rowing a boat, as we drew nearer to the both of us letting all our liquids flow.
The light turns green, and I grab the steering wheel. “Do you love me?” I ask.
“Of course I do.”
“I want to hear you say it.”
“I love you.”
I shake my head. “That’s not good enough.” A car behind us honks the horn, and he presses his foot down on the gas lurching us forward as the light turns yellow and then red again. “Pull over,” I tell him, and I am surprised when he does so, without question or complaint, just stops the car on the curb, shifts the gear into park, and rests all his attention on me, staring deeply into my eyes. If he were searching my soul, he would find himself, my mate, my second half, I the very rib missing from his side.
“I want to hear you say it, and mean it.” I close my eyes and bite my bottom lip as I prepare for his words.
He sighs, and I’m so deflated that he sighs. Was our night of lovemaking so disgraceful, so scandalous, that he can’t bring himself to say the one thing that keeps me breathing? But just as I am about to lose hope, he opens his mouth, and I am pulled in by his words.
“I love you, Natasha. You know that. I’ve love you for so long. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. That’s why I want to fix this wedge between us, bring us back to where we were, before we— I want to start fresh.”
While he speaks, I’m drawn to his lips. Full, glistening like a moist brick of melting fudge in the night light of the Christmas street decorations. I long to feel them pressed against my neck as they were the night before. How intoxicating they were, caressing my weakest points, until my knees gave way, and I collapsed into his arms and allowed him to lay me on the bed and continue with his kisses, his smooches, his wet pecks of love, marking his territory down my spine, and on my thighs, and when he flipped me over, both breasts, and on my stomach, and around my navel, and below my navel, and oh, how my gut did a somersaulting dance to have his face in such close proximity to where my legs parted.
“Kiss me,” I say.
“Don’t think, do.”
And he swoops in and kisses me, the urgency in his lips pressed firmly against mine, and I graciously accept him, open my mouth and let his tongue flood in. He briefly tries to break away, I assume, because he tastes the liquor lingering on my breath, but I take him by the neck and pull him closer, and he doesn’t relent. We stay like that for what feels like an eternity, until I can contain myself no longer, and I climb over the armrest and straddle his lap. We separate for air, breathing heavily, and I watch him for hesitation, wait for him to protest that we can’t do this again, that this is how it started last night, that we’ll hate ourselves after—I wouldn’t; I could never hate him.
But he surprises me by initiating contact. Our lips meet again and he wraps his arms around my waist, pulls me deeper into his lap, my bent knees hanging off the edges of his seat awkwardly. We sit like that, kissing, lapping up the taste of each other, and I savor every moment, not wanting him to break away and come to his senses that everything we’re doing is wrong, when everything feels so right. I slip my hand underneath his coat and pull it off over his shoulders. He follows suit, yanking his arms out and lifting my sweater over my head. We continue to undress each other until we are both naked from the waist up, and the chill inside the car draws us closer together like magnets. Without the barriers of clothing our movements become more animated, generating heat. We cling to each other, as if to let go meant to lose the other forever. The sweat on his chest moistens my breasts against it, and out hearts beat in synchronization.
I run my hand along his belt buckled and wonder if he will stop me, but he beats me to the top button of my own jeans, and before I know it his hand is inside and his fingers inside of me. And I let out a breathy moan, dig my nails into his shoulders, lean back against the steering wheel, and I wish I was wearing anything but pants because it would be so much easier just to hike up a skirt, give him less time to change his mind. But when I open my eyes and look at his face, he’s considering options too, and finally he tells me to lean over the armrest. So I do as I’m told, even more aroused at the sound of his commands, no hesitation or fear in his voice, only brash determination.
I sit up, pull my leg closest to the door in, and bend over the armrest, my elbows planted firmly in the passenger seat, my stomach pressed against the cushioned hump in the middle, my knees sunken in the space between the cup holders and the driver’s seat, and my behind arched in the air. He positions himself between my legs behind me and slowly pulls my jeans and panties down together over my hips. Again his fingers slip between my most delicate places. They’re cool to the touch, refreshing like quenching one’s thirst on a hot summer day. It makes me crave for him even more.
“I love you,” I whisper, but with my face down in the seat, I don’t think he can hear me. And it doesn’t matter because soon after, there is a tap on the window, and my pants are being forcibly dragged up over my hips, my sweater shoved in my face. I inadvertently kick the steering wheel and honk the horn trying to climb back over to my side of the car, and when he rolls down the window, we are both greeted by a blinding light.
“Is there a reason why you’re pulled over to the side of the road?”
“No problem, officer.”
“I’ll say. Looks like I interrupted a party!” I can’t see him for the bright flashlight he shines in our eyes, but I suspect there’s a mischievous smirk on his face. He sticks his hand inside, curls his arm around the driver’s side door and slides his index finger down the glass of the back window to show us how much we’ve fogged the windows.
“She’s my fiancé,” Mitchell says.
“For the night, right?” There’s a chuckle in his voice, and Mitchell and I exchange worried glances at how this may look, especially on South Tatum, where there’s a hooker on ever corner.
“Can I see your license, please?”
“It’s in my back pocket.” Mitchell leans to the side toward me to retrieve his wallet from his left back pocket. He holds it open to slide his license from the clear sleeve, but the officer reaches in, snatches the entire wallet and bolts behind the car, down a darkened side street and into the trees.
“Hey!” Mitchell screams. He opens the door and sprints after him. He is halfway down the street before I can call him back.
“Just let it go, baby. They could jump you. You don’t know who is with him.”
He hesitates, as if considering his options—to risk our lives chasing after the cop impersonator for an ID and a couple bucks, or to get back in the car? I sit anxiously as he stands balling and unballing his fists. The street lamp and the snowflake decoration attached to it hang over him, casting a blue spotlight, as if he were about to perform a solo in an urban musical. As if the fake police officer and his posse would soon emerge from the woods snapping their fingers and beatboxing.
Finally logic wins out and he reluctantly returns to the car, slamming the door.
“I hate South Tatum,” he growls.
I reach up and squeeze his arm. “At least you have your life. We’ll go home, call the real police, and cancel your card before they can take anything.” Thankfully, Mitchell doesn’t believe in credit cards—what’s appealing about going into debt with money you never had, his reasoning—so there’s only the one debit card to worry about.
He nods and merges back onto the road. I keep my hands on his arm, curling one under his armpit and massaging tenderly. Selfishly my mind drifts to the night’s possibilities, what still remains of our activities interrupted. As if reading my mind, at the next light he turns to look at me, his eyelids hanging low. He dips his head down and kisses me, soft as a breeze, our lips barely touching, and I squeeze him tighter, eager to get home.