Fiction: “Eve” by Wendy Elizabeth Wallace

You and Eve became friends the day you had free-reading in seventh grade English class and you both brought the same book, the one about the girl who disguises herself as a boy to become a knight, and has magic that flows out of her like purple fire. Eve told you she would want her magic to be bright pink, and this makes sense, since she’s always wearing shirts the color of bubblegum, that are far tighter and lower cut than your mom would ever let you wear, even if you’d wanted to.

You go over to her house every day after school, and the two of you get through all of the homework as fast as you can, though never looking at each other’s answers, because that kind of cheating never even occurs to either of you.  You are the smart girls, the good girls. Though sometimes you look over when Eve is thinking, and she clicks the lead of her mechanical pencil as far out as it will go, then slides it back in, nice and easy. You know if you tried this, you’d break it, and you admire how graceful she can be.

After homework, it’s straight into her backyard. Sometimes you play lady knights, like in the books, fencing at each other with heavy sticks you shaped into swords with kitchen scissors. You are careful never to really hit Eve, even when you win, which is a lot of the time. You’re taller, and strong in a bulky way you sometimes feel embarrassed of. Eve is smaller, and you think maybe wispy and willowy are the right words for her, because they make thin-soft-lovely shapes in your head.

Sometimes you go walking through the woods at the edge of Eve’s property, gather handfuls of plants and make up names and mystical properties for them. You tie them together into rough green necklaces and put them over each other’s heads and recite the nonsense words you made up that are your incantation that binds you together forever. Although the plants feel scratchy against the skin of your neck, they make you feel warm and safe, a part of something strong.

Lately, though, Eve has wanted to go over to the new development, where the trees have been cleared and the earth has been scraped raw into ruts and mounds. This is where the neighbor boys go with their bikes, pedaling frantically until they’ve mounted the highest piles of dirt, and then bend their legs to spring into the air for a few feet, then land in dust and ecstatic whoops. Eve likes to watch them, get just close enough to be seen but not so close that her pink shirts get dirty. “Come on,” she says to you, as you hang back at the fringe of trees, hooking your toes under exposed roots. You don’t like how jagged it all feels here, how quick and animal, and you remember things boys have shouted at you before, words like freak. These boys don’t shout anything like that at you, because you’re with Eve, and they only talk to her. She teases them, calls them stupid, tells them they’ll fall, and she juts her narrow hips at them and laughs. “Watch this, Eve,” they say. “Watch this.” You watch Eve watch them, and you wonder if the incantation that connects you is strong enough to keep her bound to you, when she seems  drawn to them instead.

The weekends are always sleepovers, and Eve’s mother takes you to the library for movies. You always let Eve pick, and she grabs the ones that look the raciest but are still PG-13.

Eve’s parents let you hang out in  the basement, just the two of you in the dark, sprawled out on the flattened-out futon you’ve dragged within inches of the little TV screen that sometimes goes wild with fuzz. When you get to the scenes where the characters kiss, Eve pauses and rewinds, so the two of you can watch, to see how it’s done. You know she’s imagining herself as the woman, being swept up and tilted back. You try to imagine yourself this way too, but it doesn’t seem to fit. It’s the man you see yourself in, running hands over the woman’s softness and pressing into the woman’s lips. You don’t tell Eve this.

But, as the couple on the screen fall into bed and explore the newness of each other, you allow yourself to run your eyes over parts of Eve, the delicate shape of her arms, follow the patterns of veins through her nearly translucent skin, imagine tracing your fingers over them, then tilting her chin towards you like the man in the movie, bringing her mouth to yours that would taste like pink magic.

You drag your mind back, gather skin between your fingernails and pinch to stop your body tingling all over and your stomach bottoming out.  You won’t do any of the things you’ve only heard of boys doing with girls.  If you did, and Eve pushed you away, everything would be broken, all the green and safe and perfect things. Without Eve, you would crack and crumble. You would become like the earth beneath Eve’s feet as she watches the neighborhood boys, as they rise and rise and, for a terrible moment, fly.

Wendy Elizabeth Wallace is a queer writer who grew up in Buffalo, New York, a city she will talk about for hours if you let her. Currently, she teaches English in Connecticut, and writes when her dog is not demanding walks. She is the co-founding editor of Peatsmoke: A Literary Journal. She met the good people who are willing to suffer through her rough drafts at the Purdue University MFA. Her work has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Two Hawks Quarterly, Longleaf Review, The MacGuffin, and elsewhere.

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