The Myth of You and Me

The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart Read Free Book Online

Book: The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Leah Stewart
Tags: Fiction, Literary
people to touch his things, and found myself in the Hall of Ancestors. I looked at my name on Oliver’s family tree. “I just pretend to be a weak old man,” Oliver had said. “So you’ll let me lean on you a while.”
    I lifted my wineglass and remembered it was empty.
    “Do you have a cigarette?” somebody behind me said.
    I glanced down to see a kid, no more than nineteen, looking up at me. He was not especially attractive, but I had a sudden, fierce urge to take him upstairs and remove his clothes. “No,” I said.
    “You look like you smoke,” he said. “Do you?” He opened his palm to show me two dented cigarettes.
    I shrugged. “Okay.” I set down my glass and followed him outside, where he led me around to the side garden, like we were guilty children, and lit both cigarettes in his mouth. When he handed me mine, I let my fingers linger a moment against his. I had never been a smoker, and hadn’t had even a casual cigarette in years, but I inhaled like a professional.
    “What were you doing in there?” the kid asked.
    “Trying to escape the deviled eggs,” I said. “Why?”
    “You looked like you were thinking about something really cool,” he said. “I saw you earlier, at the funeral. There’s something about you. You really stand out.”
    “I’m six foot two,” I said. “All I have to do is stand up.”
    He laughed like this was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. “I’ve never seen a girl as tall as you.”
    I blew out smoke and raised my eyebrows. “No?”
    He shook his head. “I wonder how much taller you are than me.”
    I took a step closer to him. “Turn around,” I said. He obeyed, and I turned, too, so that we stood back to back. I felt the heat of his skin through his shirt, felt him move to press his back more firmly against mine. I reached around and touched his head, then lifted my hand to my own. “Four inches,” I said, with total authority. I stepped away, disappointed that the warmth of his body offered no comfort. I licked my fingers and pinched the lit end of my cigarette until it went out, dimly aware through my wine-induced haze that I was burning myself.
    The boy looked up at me like he was about to run up a mountain, then darted in for a kiss. He had to reach up to pull my head closer, and when he did I stepped back and slapped his face so hard that tears popped into his eyes.
    “Shit,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
    He pressed a hand to his reddened cheek. A plume of smoke rose from his cigarette, which he must have dropped when I hit him. I stepped on it, bent to pick it up, and said apologetically, “Oliver doesn’t like litter in his garden.”
    “Fuck,” he said, rubbing his eyes with his fingertips. “That hurt.” He sounded plaintive as a child.
    “Good Lord,” I said. “How old are you?”
    “Fifteen.”
    I felt unhinged—drunk and flirting with teenagers like a character in a Tennessee Williams play. “Is this really happening?” I asked the boy. “Am I really standing here?”
    He dropped his hands and treated me to a disillusioned stare. “You seemed so cool.”
    “Yeah,” I said. “I’m good at that.”
     

     
    Back inside, I waited until Ruth’s son wasn’t looking to snatch a bottle of red wine from the box behind his bar. I stopped in the kitchen for a corkscrew on my way up to my room, where I found the box of photo albums I had been hauling, unopened, from town to town for years. I hefted all of this up the attic stairs. The attic was my favorite place in Oliver’s house. Up there, on the other side of that door, I couldn’t hear anything that went on below—no small talk, no platitudes, no come-ons from teenagers.
    I set down my box and my bottle and stood for a moment in the dusty silence. The attic was vast, stretching so far ahead of me that it seemed to grow fuzzy at the outermost edge, like a far horizon. In the dim light everything looked brown, each mysterious shape a rumor of itself, not an object so much

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