I tasted summer on her lips. Cotton candy, chapstick, cherry Coke with rum.
Her hands met the shorelines of my hips and I was done for. I would let Juliet crash into me any day, any night, whenever she liked.
The flashing lights of Coney Island had never seemed more romantic, despite all of the cacophony that swallowed our words whole. “Kiss me?” I asked, and her enthusiastic “Of course” was nearly devoured by the overenthused screams from the coaster. –Beautiful, I heard her say amidst it all. My heart thrummed in my chest. Grew three sizes too big and could barely stay inside of me. Maybe it bled out in my smile, wide enough to make my cheeks hurt.
Our hands grew too clammy and sweaty to hold onto one another, but we did not let go. Her thumb brushed my knuckles with a tenderness I’d not known in years. For a moment, my eyes averted downwards to this holy union of touch and I silently marveled at it.
“Are you okay?” she asked, her voice resonant like a song blaring through an old radio.
“Huh?” I looked back up. She caught me right under her thumb. Deep woodland eyes stared back and saw the sky in me somehow. My heart skipped a beat, and that shit never happened. Not ever. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m great. Never been better.”
She arched her sharp brows upward and didn’t take a single moment to look away. “Arabelle.” She scrunched her nose – and my eyes wandered there too, over the full and slightly crooked slope of her nose. It was begging to be kissed.
“Juliet.” The three syllables of her name slipped off my tongue like it was the only thing I knew how to say anymore.
“You’re thinking a lot, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question, not in that tone of hers. Conviction was her second language.
I exhaled slowly and gently swung our hands back and forth. “Yeah.” I was too aware of how my heart still raced. Of how the sweat beaded along the crown of my forehead. Of how this wouldn’t last. “What gave it away?”
Her features softened. She squeezed my hand and began to lead me away from the crowd, and out onto the sand. “You get this look in your eyes. Like – I know you’re here, but you’re also a million miles away. Sorta glazes over.” She paused, however, and shook her head. “It’s not a bad thing, by the way. I’m just nosy. If you don’t wanna tell me though, don’t worry about it.”
I almost didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure of the last time someone bothered to give me space for myself. Not to mention, this was the last person on Earth I wanted to leave me alone. The sun could have been closing in on us right there and then, hurtling towards the planet, and I still would have wanted to hold her hand.
The tears that burned at the corners of my eyes were warm too. “No. It’s okay. Just – sometimes it feels like you aren’t real. Like none of this is – or will stay – real,” I admitted quietly, almost hoping she wouldn’t hear.
She did, though. I knew that because she closed in again and pressed her lips to the curve of my cheek. Her arm gently wrapped around my waist. “Do you wanna talk about why, or –?”
“Not now.” I frowned as Juliet frowned, but she nodded back anyway. “Not yet. I wanna pretend for a little longer like I’ve got my shit together.”
Her fingertips fidgeted with the linen of my dress. She opened her mouth, like she wanted to say something, but then it shut. She tucked her head into the curve of my shoulder instead and pressed a kiss into my throat. My eyes shut. A small, private smile appeared on the curves of my lips.
Moments went by before I finally opened my eyes, and before she spoke up.
“It’s too fucking hot still,” she admitted, a dry laugh trailing off of her words.
“Yeah.” I smiled up into the night. I looked out into the night sky, and wondered if any of those were actually stars, or just friendly satellites. “It’s disgusting.”
Summer would end but the skies would stay the same. The world continued to burn and melt away, but – she stayed.