The most wanted, p.23
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       The Most Wanted, p.23

           Jacquelyn Mitchard
 

  “No,” I said. “No way. We don’t know each other well enough.”

  “Don’t know each other well enough? Honey, I’m your husband.”

  “Doesn’t mean I know you.” I couldn’t figure out what to do. That couch felt bigger than a basketball court. I didn’t know whether to roll over or curl up in a ball. The radio was playing “You Never Can Tell,” and the fabric under my face, its plaid of yellow and red, suddenly seemed as loud as the song. But Dillon lifted me up—I still wouldn’t open my eyes—and kept me right beside him while he opened the couch into a sofa bed, and then I lay down and he lifted the sheet and put it over me. Through my eyelids, I could see the light change, and so I kind of looked. The light from the guard tower was sweeping and gliding, and now it was the only light in the room. It swept over Dillon, who had nothing left on, and I took in my breath. He was so beautiful, I had to shut my eyes again. But I’d seen his dick standing up full and purple against his belly—not like I’d imagined, though, but really straight up.

  No way is this going to work, I thought, sweat breaking out on my wrists. This sure as hell can’t work, because if he tries to put that thing in me, it’s not going to bend, and it’s going to sprain or I’m going to get bad hurt, one of the two. But then I figured he’d know, so I just opened my arms, and he lay down with me. I put my mouth against his shoulder. He tasted like the mouth guard I used to wear playing field hockey—like clean rubber, pliant and smooth. He told me that he wanted to kiss me down there, and I begged him not to. I couldn’t imagine him wanting to, even, though I’d heard plenty of boys did it. “Don’t be scared,” he said. “I’ll touch you first, just a little, and if you don’t like it, we’ll stop for a while.” And he ran his hand down my belly and laid his finger flat against me, rubbing at first gently, then a little faster. It doesn’t sound very beautiful, but I can only describe it as a sting. And before I knew it, I was turning my body to follow his hand, making sounds like I was straining to breathe. “Arley,” Dillon said, “are you crying, honey? Are you afraid?”

  I didn’t think I’d be able to talk, but I said, into his shoulder, “I’m not crying.” He started to rub on me again, little slow scrubbing, and this time I tried not to make the noise, but it kept coming.

  “I’m sorry,” I gasped.

  “Don’t be sorry, Arley,” Dillon told me. “It means I’m pleasing you. It’s good.” He put his mouth on my throat, then on my left breast, and I flashed on the sight of Cam and Elena. This was it. And happening to me. To Arley Mowbray, who never even let a boy kiss her except Curtis Melby in second grade. I opened my eyes and peeked down, at Dillon’s blond head swiveling away, at my breast rippling, and then I shut my eyes and stopped making pictures in my mind at all, and wherever he went with his mouth on me, my brain went to that part and called out for me to come over, and there I stayed. “I’m going to kiss you now, honey, suck on you a little.” And though I didn’t really want him to, I let him. It didn’t seem so strange, after all, by then.

  I watched the guard-tower light sweep, sweep, searching like an eye, and felt Dillon’s mouth tugging, his tongue inside me, nerve explosions like little darts across and up and down, feeling things done to me I never imagined you could even let happen, much less describe to yourself at the same time. And then there was the knock at the door.

  I pulled the sheet up over my head, and Dillon jerked his jeans up over his hips and went to open the door.

  A big hefty man in a green uniform was standing there, his hands in his pockets. He was the same man I’d seen in court. He wore no gun. “I am here to check on your welfare, Mister LeGrande, and that of Missus LeGrande, as required. . . .”

  “She’s fine, Mister Southwynn,” Dillon said, his voice reedy and nasty. “She ain’t no different from how she was when the other folks left. I’ve done nothing to change her.”

  “Sorry to disturb you. Beats us looking through the observation window, though, don’t it, Dillon?” the warden asked softly.

  Dillon waited a moment and then said, “I reckon.”

  “Please sit up, Missus LeGrande.” I poked my head out, with my eyes closed tight. “Are you all right? Do you need anything?” The warden’s voice was tired and kind.

  “I’m fine,” I said. And then the door clicked shut. Dillon came back, and we lay there side by side.

  “Touch me,” he said. “Bring me back to life.” Of course, I’d never touched a boy, but I figured it would be okay so long as I didn’t look. “I’ll guide your hand,” he told me, and he wrapped my hand in his. It was hotter than the rest of him, and soft, so soft, soft as rose petals, really. I don’t know how they can call it hard. It felt like its own thing, like it was living, moving; it filled under my hand and Dillon’s as he pushed roughly up and down.

  “Don’t hurt . . . yourself,” I told him.

  “Honey, it don’t hurt,” he told me. “A man can take a lot of friction.” And all of a sudden he stopped, and sucked his breath in, and rolled away and said, “I want to make love to you now, my wife. Is that okay?” I just nodded my head up and down. He rolled his leg back onto me, his silky hairs tickling and brushing my thigh. And then I remembered.

  “We have to use the . . . things,” I said, sitting up, my hair springing out of my braid all at once. “We have to.”

  Dillon sighed. There was a loudspeaker announcement outside; I couldn’t make out the words. Then the lonesome sound of a whistle. Night call, Dillon murmured. Recreation was over, and it was time for a cell check. This is prison, I thought. This is prison. Jesus Christ. I wanted Annie. I reached for Dillon’s hand. “Arley,” he said, sharper, rubbing my palm as if it were stained. “I don’t have any diseases or . . . anything.”

  “I know.”

  “It’s not as nice with one of those. You can’t feel everything. I want to fill you, girl.”

  “I can’t get pregnant.”

  “Are you sure?” he asked. “Then what are you worried about?”

  “I mean, I can’t, I won’t, I don’t want to get pregnant. Not tonight. Not now.”

  “You’re a married woman.”

  “I’m fourteen, Dillon. And I live at home and I have no money at all. And my mama would kill me deader than Elvis. No fooling.”

  “You don’t have to stay there. You could live with mymama.” We both went silent. “Well, okay, maybe not. You could go on the state.”

  “I won’t do that.”

  “Why not? You’re just a kid. And just ’til I get out.”

  “I won’t be a welfare mother. Like in the magazines. No.”

  He got the condoms out of the box. “Let me put it inside you first. Once. So it’s really me who goes into you the first time.” I lay back. “Open your legs, honey. Open for me.” He kissed me soft. I felt it, like someone at a door. Pushing, blind. He steadied it, with his hand. “Arley, honey, this will hurt some.” His face was hot, his cheek hot against my cold one. The red ribbon I’d used to lace in my French braid snaked over my shoulder and caught in my mouth. Dillon nudged it away, then took it in his hand and slowly wrapped it around one finger.

  “Just do it,” I told him. And he did. Like a needle as thick as a knife, for an instant. I dug my fingers into his shoulders and he yelped, and then the pain started to melt and my muscles to melt, too, and he started to rock me, and while it didn’t exactly feel normal, it was working. I am fucking, I thought. Me. Arley. My God. “I would wait for you, honey,” Dillon said through clenched teeth. “But I can’t.”

  “Get it, then!” I told him. He ripped the packet open with his teeth and fumbled to slip the condom on. It didn’t feel any different to me, except his body changed as it got more serious for him. He skimmed over in sweat, cool as a porpoise, and bucked and arched, almost like I wasn’t even there. Then he shook drops off his hair and stared down at me.

  “You get the number of the truck that hit me?” he asked. When he got up, he looked like he’d been in a fight. “Arley, Arley, Arley,” he s
aid. “Now you’re mine.” I started to get up too. But Dillon motioned me over, raking through his pale hair until it stood on end, funny. “Now I have you, I’m not done with you yet.” He came back with a cigarette, and he stroked my belly while he smoked it, and then we did it again.

  I had to use the bathroom after that. There was a toilet and a sink with some towels behind a screen. It was open at the top. I guess they assume that if you can make love with someone, you also can pee in front of him, but I had no idea how I was going to manage to go in front of Dillon. “I have to go to the bathroom,” I told him. “Can you go outside and wait? I’m too embarrassed.”

  “Honey,” he said, laughing, “we all are locked in here. You think they want me and you to get up and walk on out of here and catch the bus to Laredo?” Of course, he was right. “I won’t pay no mind,” Dillon said. “I understand. In here, you got to use the toilet in your cell with the bars open out there. I like to had me a locked bowel for two months. A person likes his privacy. What I’ll do, I’ll turn the radio up loud.” So I pulled on my shirt and stood up. And then I saw the blood. Not a little bit, like Elena and Annie said. Rivers and splotches and maps of Argentina made of blood.

  “Dillon,” I said weakly. “Look here.”

  “Oh, for Pete’s sake,” he said. “Shoot. Did you bring anything?”

  “What do you mean? Like, a transfusion?”

  “No, I mean, like . . . pads.”

  “Actually, I . . . yeah.” I thought of Annie’s packages. “But . . .”

  He went behind the screen and wet a washcloth with warm water and told me to lay down. He washed me gently, and then he played the radio high so I could pee. The bleeding was just on the surface. It didn’t last. We ate chips, and we sang along to Brooks and Dunn; one of the guards came back to check us, and I put on my nightgown with the clouds, and Dillon smoked and clapped when I modeled it for him. Then I sat cross-legged on the bed and read all of “The Highwayman” to him, looking up and repeating the parts I knew by heart. He applauded at the end of that too. “My wife the poet,” he said. “That ain’t nearly as good as ‘Every Bride,’Arley.”

  “It is so. It’s totally better. He’s famous.”

  “Arley, listen. You write like an adult. No joke. I know about these things, Arley. I’m a big reader, from way, way before us. And you really write. You should go to college someday and be a famous poet.”

  “So should you.”

  “It looks like I’m going to the school of hard knocks, girl.”

  “Not forever, though.”

  “No, baby, maybe not forever.” He looked so sad then, I got up and sat on his lap. He pulled off my nightgown and unbuttoned his shirt, and we sat with our chests pressed together, his nipples standing up rosy just like mine, his breastbone as hairless and soft as a girl’s, though packed tight with his muscles. His skin was fair, almost golden, and mine’s dark. We looked like complementary fabrics, pretty. You were supposed to like men with hair all over their chests, but I liked Dillon’s smoothness. Eric has a furry chest—not that I’ve ever seen him really undressed. You can see a curl of his hair over the neck of his T-shirt, though, and feel the crackle of hair against a dress shirt when you press against him. It’s not that I think it’s unattractive. But when I look at men in magazines, it’s always the smooth ones that catch my eye and make me wonder how their skin would feel on mine. Even months later, when it was torment to think about that night, I could still blush remembering what I did then. And I could still get wild on it, so wild that, though such thoughts shouldn’t even have possessed me, given the shape I was in, I would have to roll on my own hand in the dark, and I’d end up crying.

  I raised up now like I was on the vaulting horse, and reached with my hand and put Dillon inside me, and I felt him grow and fill me until it was really frightening. By then, between my legs felt like I’d been peeled. But after a moment, the pain gave way to that purring sting. You knew you had to get rid of it or die. Every few minutes, Dillon would start to move faster, and the sting would fade away, and I all but got mad at him. “Wait!” I told him. “Stay just how you are for a minute, okay?” And I balanced myself on my long, strong, track-cured legs and rode him until I wouldn’t have cared if the guard came in and poured himself a Coke right then. I wouldn’t have stopped. “Get the condom,” I told Dillon, panting. “Get it.”

  “Arley, we already done it twice. I don’t have enough spit in me left to make a baby chicken, much less a real baby.”

  “Get it anyhow,” I told him. “Annie said for us to use them.”

  “Annie.” He spit it out, disgusted, stopping altogether. “Annie ain’t your husband.”

  “Come on, Dillon,” I said, wanting the stinging to begin again. “Come on.” But instead, he took me by the hips and pumped me slowly, his green eyes looking light-to-light into mine, his lips a firm line, almost angry. He’d draw away from me so long, I thought he would never move into me again, and then he’d ease back in, staying a long time, pulling away again. I should have stopped him. But pretty soon, there was no me left to stop him. That spreading hot sting was the center of the world; it was all that was, and all that mattered, and fucking was all I ever wanted to do, then or ever again. It drew all my reason down into it, and splashed that reason over until it drowned, and I was holding my breath and biting on Dillon’s lower lip and pounding on Dillon’s shoulders, crying, “Please, please, please, please,” until I fell forward, fighting for air, feeling my insides jumping and dancing all on their own, my hair falling across his back and mine like a tent, big enough to hide us both.

  It was horrible that we had to wake up in the morning. I wanted it to be the night before. I wanted to brush my teeth. Dillon looked terrible, like an old man, in that faded-out wrinkly T-shirt we found under the couch. His eyes were hollows of madness, like it says in “The Highwayman.” “You’re going to leave me,” he kept saying.

  “I never will,” I kept saying back, as the sun rose up, making the inside of that little trailer, so golden and homey the night before, look dirty and tired. When I finally put my skirt back on, didn’t blood gush again and seep all over the back of it. Then Warden Southwynn knocked to bring me out, and I was crying and wouldn’t come. A guard came, and when I heard them put the leg irons around Dillon’s feet, I started to cry even harder, so I could hardly kiss him good-bye, and finally the warden went and got Annie. She brought a blanket from the car, so when I had to walk between the buildings again, past those prisoners watching me with swivel eyes, that blanket was wrapped around me, hiding me down to the tops of my shoes. Annie walked right beside me, feeling to me bigger than Dillon, bigger than the guard, bigger even than the prison, walking me right out the door, out the gate, and into the backseat of her car, where I lay down and fell asleep and slept curled up all the way home, just sometimes waking to make sure I could see the back of Annie’s head and to wonder, in a haze, why I could feel my heart beating in the bottom of my stomach.

  A Sound of Bells

  I’ll always remember our first night

  together, you so flushed and shy,

  me knowing what I know but

  scared too because you are the first one

  I loved. We poured our loneliness

  into each other and filled the emptiness

  and dark corners of this place with joy.

  Seeing you naked made me feel so tender.

  I think of your long straight back,

  your strong legs, see your hair on the pillow,

  your dark eyes close, and say your name

  over and over. Arlington. It is the sound of bells.

  Dillon Thomas LeGrande

  The Terrain of Love

  I thought love would be something so large

  and bright I could not contain it, like an armful

  of exploding firecrackers. I see now

  that the terrain of love is small scale. There

  are the fine golden hairs on the backs
r />   of your hands, your voice as it thickens

  when you say my name, your thumb

  on the pulse in my throat, the day we first

  stood together, not touching, just knowing.

  Arlington Mowbray LeGrande

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  Annie

  I LOVED THE terrier quality Stuart had. He thought he was such a tough guy.

  I think it was the reason he was a death row lawyer.

  After all, death is the biggest adversary. It’s bigger than the cruel blank corporation. Bigger than racism, even bigger than malpractice. Death’s the biggest bully of all, and it gives a five-foot-nine guy from Hoboken a definite swagger potential, being the one who beats death back. But for Stuart, there was even more to it. He could make cutting remarks about the mothers-of-many who were my clients at Women and Children First—telling me that the quid pro quo for legal services should be getting spayed—but could always find compassion for the most heinous criminal on death row. No one got there by choice, Stuart said. No one chose to be evil. The Talley kid’s father died in Vietnam, and his mother’s crack dealer boyfriend beat her senseless in front of him. Kim McGrory was five when his grandma locked him in the barn and had a stroke the same night. It took four days for the police to find the child.

  “See?” Stuart would ask people, “See what I mean?” He could understand voters supporting the death penalty in the abstract—but specifically? Up close? How could you? The pity and pain and rage were just too great. He didn’t even see it as a liberal-conservative split. It was humans against the inhumane. Stuart played sports with more intensity than skill, followed the major leagues with the reverence of a boy who got his first pair of thick glasses in fourth grade. But his job was really Stuart’s World Cup, his U.S. Open, and his Final Four.

 
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