Wasn’t that incredible? Holly says. We deserve a medal for that!
Elatia doesn’t know what to say; she’s never stolen anything in her life.
They are riding back to their apartment in Park Slope on two new bikes and Holly thinks of that day, almost six months ago, when she surprised Elatia with Lucky. She almost wet her panties when she recounted the story of where she’d found them.
Around the corner, she said. Right around the goddamn corner!
Elatia sat there, calmly, nodding her head sadly, saying very little. Her bottom lip trembled. Holly slapped her hard across the face, which seemed to work magic; she knew what to do with this one.
Holly pedals swiftly, passing children with balloons tied to their wrists, and grown-ups with cell phones, and she growls through her teeth, Breeders, go home. Normally, she doesn’t mind the women. She looks at them, the mommies, with their oblong faces and strained postures, their expressive eyes pinned back like butterflies, and thinks, I am giving Elatia back to you.
Ride faster, she calls. RIDE.
At the entrance to the park, she dismounts. Calm, alone, in the sun, needing this moment before they go back to the apartment, before Lucky needs his walk. She kneads her left shoulder, the tattoo - a rose - that Elatia gave her on her fortieth birthday. The skin is still raised, tender from the needle. Massaging it, Holly waits for Elatia, who finally emerges, huffing and puffing like a soldier. God, she is a goddess, Holly thinks. The sun blares down, turning the asphalt gooey, and Elatia says, Let’s go. Your skin - the tattoo.
Holly burns easily. Always has. It’s a fact as inscrutable as what Elatia knows awaits her back in the apartment. And Holly can tell that even in the rush, Elatia wants to savor the moments before it happens; she doesn’t know when it might happen again. In her eyes, Holly can see things: how weird she’s been lately, as Elatia rolls up beside her and smiles broadly.
Going my way? she asks.
Holly slams a hand against Elatia’s thigh. She winces.
It’s like they’ve never met, or perhaps once before in some smoke-filled room.
They ride side by side down Union Street toward the brownstone on President and Seventh Avenue: Elatia’s apartment. When Holly agreed to move into the two-bedroom apartment, she made Elatia write out the names of the streets, the restaurants, the delis. She needed to know where she was. Holly thinks about that list, gathering dust somewhere. The names of places.
This is her only place, cramped with one girl, two women, a dog, an apartment in Park Slope.
The traffic heaves and chokes the closer to Seventh they get, but Holly likes the noise, the congestion. She tries to remember the first restaurant they ate in - but she can’t. She can barely remember anything these days, much less why she’s decided to leave Elatia. There doesn’t seem to be enough reasons left in her head to explain why she’d forfeit this steady, uncompromising life for something else. Something new. But maybe that’s just it - something new. And she remembers the time during sex, early on, when she accidentally called Elatia Marjorie - the name of her last love. Elatia went silent as an infant asleep, weeping through the sex. Which made Holly want her all the more. Now, when Holly likes to get really rough, she teases her, and says, "What’s your name, Little Girl?" Each time Elatia answers with a different name, Holly screams no and hits her again.
It’s a game she plays with her - a game she used to play with her own sister. Recently, though, the game has taken on different rules. Instead of answering now, Elatia retreats into the bathroom, runs the water, and doesn’t come out for hours. This seems to happen a lot, especially when Holly threatens to leave. Which she does often. Holly let’s her ride ahead this time, because she knows it’s the last.
Upstairs, Elatia prepares herself for Holly. The bikes are neatly tucked away in the closet, the windows are open just enough to let in the stench from outside. Elatia knows how much Holly likes bus fumes when they fuck. There, she’s said it. Fuck. She thinks it again. Fuckfuckfuck. Holly would be so proud, she thinks, holding her nose. She hears Holly’s keys in the door, hears Lucky come tumbling down the hall, his paws click-clacking against the hard wood. Hey, baby, Holly calls from the bottom of the stairs, we got any beer?
Elatia calls down, In the fridge! and returns to the application of makeup - the rouge, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara. She likes to wear makeup because she knows how much it turns Holly on to be fucking this femme, this lipstick glamour girl with long blond hair and a tight little cunt. She feels like an Amazon warrior, and applies more foundation, more blush. A wetness forms between her thighs, her perfectly smooth thighs, and Elatia brings a finger to her mouth and sucks it in, rotating it around and around like she would a pencil or candle. Then, when she hears the TV go on from the den and she’s sure that Holly is busy getting drunk, she pulls out that finger and softly, gently, massages her clit. She knows how much Holly likes a greasy clit, a tangy labia to suck and knead with her tongue, so she fondles herself lovingly.
Her thigh still hurts from the last threshing, but that was an accident, a misplaced elbow. The bruise it left behind a series of concentric rings of yellow and blue with a splash of purple around the edges and although Elatia can barely see it, she knows it travels deeper, down to the bone, to the marrow itself. She dabs some cover-up on it now, to hide it. She wants her body without any blemishes, wants it to be completely free of mistakes. And so it is when Holly stumbles, one foot slowly after the other, up the stairs past Lucky, who wags his tail at her. Not now, dummy, Holly says, stroking the dog’s head. The beer she has in her hand is warm, almost empty, and she sips it quickly as she enters the bedroom.
Elatia is sprawled out on the bed, her head dangles off the edge, and her hair touches the floor. Spread eagle, I like that, Holly thinks, and swaggers closer to her lover. Tell me you want it, Holly says, tell me what you want and bending over Elatia, she takes a finger and traces a line on her lips. Elatia, breathless, nearly erupting with pleasure, opens her mouth to engulf her.
They face one another now, the muscles of Elatia’s face sucking ambitiously on Holly’s finger. She makes slurping sounds, like a child on a lollipop. Oh, baby, that feels good, Holly moans, removing her finger and replacing it with her tongue. The two kiss, their tongues find teeth and gums and Holly shoves Elatia onto the bed, into the sheets and pillows. Their bodies are heating up now, sweat drips off them. Elatia and Holly are panting now in the Saturday afternoon sunlight. The sounds emitted from the room are enough to frighten Lucky away and he scurries downstairs and out the makeshift door into the backyard, where he begins to howl.
Dumb dog, Holly says. Oh, he’s just worried about us, Elatia says. He thinks someone’s attacked. And then Holly snaps back, remembers where she is. That everything in the place is Elatia’s, that all the furniture, all the books, the movies, are not hers and that the only thing she has is the exhaust, the crying babies and the frantic mothers. To her, it is better than living in Manhattan, free to be whoever the hell she feels like being - a hardened dyke, a militant lesbian, a feminist, an anarchist, a man. She dreams of fucking Elatia now, with the Stanley hammer, the one she bought with her very own money, the one she used to build Lucky’s doghouse.
On all fours, Holly says.
Will it hurt?
Only if you struggle.
It’s so hot.
Do you love me?
Elatia’s face is under the bed now, hiding in the darkness. She sees the hammer, the glint of steel, and shudders.
Is that for me?
I won’t let you.
You already have.
I love you.
No you don’t.
Lucky howls again from outside.
You just think you do. We don’t fit anymore.
Lucky is running around and around in circles in the backyard. He is digging up bones, bones he buried years ago. Elatia hears him, his collar jangling.
Do you think Lucky’s all right down there?
Elatia rises, looks down.
Holly and Elatia stare down at the backyard, at Lucky’s bones. At first neither one speaks. Then, slowly, the word forms.
Lucky, they say.