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Lips touch three times, p.2
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       Lips Touch: Three Times, p.2

           Laini Taylor
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  TWO Butterfly Rape

  On Monday, there was a new boy at Kizzy's school. "Yum," said Evie weakly.

  "Be praised, O lords of boy flesh. We thank thee for thy bounty," whispered Cactus. "Amen," said Kizzy, staring.

  They weren't the only ones staring. Even Sarah Ferris craned her neck over Mick Crespain's shoulder to get a better look as Saint Pock Mark guided the new boy down the hallway.

  He was tall and graceful, with a frame of broad shoulders lightly fleshed with muscle. Wheat-colored hair curled down over his collar, uncombed and lustrous. His lips were red as angels' lips in Renaissance paintings, and full and soft like angels' lips too. His eyes, very dark, canted elvishly upward at the outer corners and were surrounded by delicate bruises of sleeplessness, bluish and tender, giving him the look -- Kizzy fancied -- of a poet who had been up all night with a candle and a quill, memorializing a beautiful lady who had fallen from the aristocracy to die penniless of a fever, perhaps in a snowbank, leaving, of course, an ethereal corpse.

  "Hell's he wearing?" Cactus asked, breaking into Kizzy's romantic reverie. "He raid his grandfather's closet?"

  "That or he stripped a dead hobo," said Evie.


  "Nah." Cactus shook her head decisively. "It's old-man. Look at those suspenders. Total old-man fashion."

  "Old men have fashion? Do they have, like, a catwalk?" mused Evie.

  "Yeah, and he totally just stepped off it."

  "Please," Kizzy said, glancing at the boy's strange tweedy trousers, loose at the waist, too short, and upheld by suspenders. "That boy could wear a banana leaf and a propeller beanie and look beautiful."

  "That how you like your boys, Kiz?" asked Cactus.

  "Oh yes. All my boys. I'll issue him a banana leaf and a propeller beanie at once and induct him into my boy-harem."

  Evie snorted. "Boy-harem! Imagine -- their little propellers all spinning around as they fan you with palm fronds."

  "While they satisfy my every whim," added Cactus.

  Kizzy snorted. "Forget it. I don't lend out my boys."

  "Come on, no one likes a greedy slave owner."

  "My boys aren't slaves! They stay because they want to. I give them all the elk meat they can eat. And Xbox, you know, to keep their thumbs nice and agile."

  "Spaz," said Evie, laughing. They leaned against the lockers and watched the new boy out of sight. Just as he rounded the far corner with Saint Pock Mark, he glanced back over his shoulder. A thrill went through Kizzy. She imagined for a second that his eyes had silvered like a cat's. And she imagined he had looked right at her. She blushed instantly, even though she was sure she was wrong. Boys' eyes didn't find her in a crowd. Boys' eyes didn't even find her when there was no one else around. They sort of glazed over or fixed on some fascinating object in the distance.


  "Wonder what his name is," she murmured after he was gone.

  "Beautiful Boy, capital B, capital B," said Cactus with a sigh. "But, you know, Mr. Boy to the likes of us."

  "Yeah," said Kizzy wistfully. "Welcome to Saint Pock Mark's Finishing School for Cannibals, Mr. Boy."

  She went to her class wondering how long it would be before some leggy girl was sitting on his lap, snapping his old-man suspenders and tossing her silky hair. Probably by lunchtime. Jenny Glass was temporarily between boys; she'd be the lucky one. It was the natural order, Kizzy thought with a flash of bitterness at the life and hips and hair and ankles she had been dealt. Like attracts like, beauty finds beauty, and freaks look on from the smoking section, aching.

  But lunchtime brought an upset to the natural order.

  Kizzy met Cactus and Evie in the usual place, behind a low wall at a corner of the quad where some sort of steam billowed from a vent to disguise their cigarette smoke. They slouched there and drank Cokes and ate flat sandwiches they'd brought from home, and they could see through the cafeteria window to the corner tables. Mick Crespain's lap was vacant, and usually Kizzy's imagination would have slid her phantom right into place there, breasts resting on knuckles and all, but not today. Mr. Boy had stolen her phantom out of Mick Crespain's lap. She wondered if he had stolen Sarah Ferris out of Mick Crespain's lap too. She furtively lit a cigarette and looked around, wondering where he was.

  He was much closer than she had expected. He was standing on the other side of the low wall, looking at her. Their eyes met and Kizzy instantly blushed to beet. His gaze was like physical touch, like a grabbed hand, interlaced fingers, a squeeze. Like it


  went through her eyes and entered her bloodstream. Her face felt molten hot.

  "Hello," he said.

  "Hello, Mr. Boy," she heard Cactus, behind her, say with a chuckle.

  He didn't look away from Kizzy, who began to feel acutely uncomfortable. He was just looking at her. She felt entirely purple with blushing. "Hi," she murmured.

  "Those things'll kill you," he said, shifting his eyes to her cigarette. His voice was low and a little raspy.

  "Yeah, well ... maybe," Kizzy said, looking at it too. Her heart beat fast against her ribs as she fumbled up something to say. "But at least I'll die looking older than my age, wrinkly and dry with a gross phlegmy cough."

  He laughed. "When you put it like that, I'm surprised anyone doesn't smoke."

  She was relieved to have said something, anything, instead of just staring at him and stammering. Making him laugh was a bonus, which made her blush deepen. "Me too," she said. "Plus, people are always, like, buy American. And what's more American than cigarettes?"

  He cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. When his hair shifted, Kizzy saw the glint of small gold hoops in both his ears. "You know," she explained, babbling, "tobacco plantations? Delightful American traditions like slavery?"

  "Uh huh," he said uncertainly.

  "Nothing to do with me, though. Only slaves my people ever kept were their own children."

  He gave her a bemused look and held out his hand. "May I?"


  "What? This?" With a quizzical look, Kizzy handed him her cigarette and watched as he raised it to his red, red lips and took a long suck. Her insides shivered a little, watching his lips close over her own lipstick prints. It was the closest she had ever come to a kiss. It was a kiss by proxy. She reached for the cigarette as he handed it back. "Do ... do you want one?" she asked.

  "No thanks. I'll just share yours."

  Kizzy could hear Evie and Cactus stifling giggles. She glanced back at them and saw their eyes were merry and astonished. She turned back to the beautiful boy, more beautiful than she had even first realized when he walked past. His face, his bones, were perfect as a statue's, like he was some Greek god's loving, handmade paean to mortal beauty. Mr. Boy was art. Plus, those tilted eyes gave him a sly, vulpine look that Kizzy liked. A lot.

  Her hand trembling a little, she lifted the cigarette back to her lips and tried to seem nonchalant, but her eyes went back to his red lips as her own closed over the moistness of the filter. Exhaling, she handed him back the cigarette and pressed her lips together. Then she thought she probably looked like she was trying to kiss herself, so she hastily unpressed them.

  "I'm Jack Husk, by the way," he said, holding out his hand.

  "Kizzy," she said, reaching for it. His hand closed over hers and he squeezed gently, then trailed away, his fingertips light on her skin. Then, right then, Kizzy decided this had to be some beautiful boys' evil club initiation: to tease a freak girl and kill her heart. It was the only explanation. She hardened herself as well as she could toward Jack Husk's startling beauty and said, "So, like, who are you?"

  He shrugged. "Husk comma Jack. Age seventeen. Nonsmoker."

  "Yeah, right."


  "No, really. You just corrupted virgin lungs."

  Words like "virgin" had a way of hanging in the air, but Kizzy did her best to ignore it. "Seriously, who are you? I mean, did you just move here or something?"
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  "My uncle died. I came to take care of his Christmas tree farm until after the holidays."

  "Oh. Out on the Isherwood road?"


  "I live right by it. I didn't know the old guy died. Sorry. He must've been, what, like, eighty or something?"

  "Actually, he was only thirty-five, but he'd smoked since he was sixteen."

  Kizzy gave him a wry smile. "Right."

  Jack Husk smiled too. He passed back the cigarette and said, "Really. You should quit. Cigarettes make people taste ... yellow."

  Taste? Kizzy's mind did a cartwheel. Taste? Was this Jack Husk thinking about tasting her? Great God Almighty, she did not want to taste yellow if that happened, whatever yellow tasted like. She bit her lip. She didn't want to seem to be doing his bidding either, especially since this was all certainly some cruel prank, like in Carrie, sure to conclude with pig blood at prom. Defiantly she took a last drag of her cig and dropped it, crushing it under her heel. "So how do nonsmokers taste?" she asked, trying to appear unruffled.

  "Like licorice," said Jack Husk promptly, the left half of his red lips pulling into an asymmetrical grin.

  Kizzy could think of nothing to say but, "Huh. I like licorice."

  "I guess you should taste a nonsmoker, then," he said, looking into her eyes in that way that made Kizzy feel he was slipping in


  through them to her blood and heating up her veins from the insides.

  Luckily the bell rang then and she didn't have to think of a reply. She just said, "See you around, Jack Husk."

  "You will," he said, cocking his head to one side and looking at her a moment longer before walking away.

  Kizzy turned around to find Cactus and Evie staring at her, round-eyed. "Did that just happen?" she demanded of them.

  "Thanks a lot for introducing us!" pouted Evie.

  "Jesus. Sorry. I was just trying really hard not to faint or start crying. Jesus. Seriously, that did just happen? It wasn't, like, a really realistic daydream?"

  "Oh, it happened," said Cactus. "Kizzy! You just mingled saliva with the most beautiful boy ever to tread the hallways of Saint Pock's. Saliva. There's DNA in saliva. You're, like, carrying his cells in your mouth like one of those weird frogs that incubates its eggs in its cheeks!"

  With a squeal, Evie added, "You could have his mouth baby!" "God! Only you guys could make his saliva sound gross. I mean, did you see how perfect?"

  "Oh, I saw," said Cactus.

  "He was totally staring at you, Kiz," marveled Evie.

  "Hell would he want to do that?" she muttered.

  The girls climbed back over the low wall and headed inside with the student herd, and Kizzy floated through the rest of her classes in a daze.

  She saw Jack Husk after school, leaning against the flagpole in his long-limbed, easy way. She wondered if he was waiting for her,


  and then felt ridiculous for wondering. Of course he wasn't. But he was. He straightened up when she came out, and tilted his head to motion her near. "Hey, Kizzy," he said softly. "Hey, Jack Husk."

  "Listen, I was wondering," he started, but paused, seeming a little sheepish. "I have this clothing situation." He motioned to his old-man pants.

  "Yeah? Don't worry about it. Probably half the sheep here are going to show up tomorrow in their grandparents' stuff."

  He laughed. "Well, I need to get some clothes anyway. I thought maybe you could show me where to go."

  "Oh, sure," Kizzy said, a little disappointed. For a second she thought he'd waited to walk home with her, since they were going the same way. "There's this second-hand store I go to, it's pretty cool and cheap. It's up by the gas station and the pizza place with the solar system hanging from the ceiling." She started to point the way, but Jack Husk caught her hand in the air and held her fist inside his own for a moment like it was some small delicate thing, like a tulip bulb or an egg.

  He said, "No, I meant, I thought you could show me, and ... help me."

  "Oh," said Kizzy faintly.

  "Unless you have somewhere to be."

  "No, I just have to be home in time to make dinner. But I can go with you for a little while."

  "Great." He smiled. Not the skewed half-smile, but a full and lovely one that dazzled her.

  They started walking, and Kizzy turned around to wave to Cactus and Evie, who flashed her quick maniac grins behind


  Jack Husk's back. As they passed through a crowd that included Jenny Glass, Kizzy heard someone whisper, "What's the new guy doing with Butterfly Rape?" and her heart instantly cinched into a tight knot.

  She hoped Jack Husk hadn't heard, but as soon as they were clear of the crowd, he looked at her with one eyebrow cocked and asked, "What did that girl just call you?"

  Kizzy grimaced. "Forget it."

  "Okay." He paused, then looked at her again. "Because it sounded like butterfly rape."

  Mortified, Kizzy nodded. "Yep," she said, popping the p sound. "That's me."

  He looked puzzled. "Why?"

  Turning purple once more, Kizzy chewed her lip and finally said, "Well, freshman year, before I learned not to participate in class discussions, we were talking about human nature or something in Life Science, and this girl Heather Black starts saying how humans are the only violent species, and how noble the animal kingdom is, blah-de-blah-blah, only killing for food, and the only species that has, like, war and murder and rape, is humans."

  Jack Husk snorted. "I guess she hasn't met any orangutans."


  "Orangutans rape. They even gang rape."

  "Oh. Well, I'm glad I didn't know that then. My nickname could be worse."

  "What, you told this girl that butterflies rape?"

  "Yeah. Well, they do. Some kinds, anyway. The males will, like, wait for a female to hatch out of her chrysalis and rape her before she can even fly. Like, welcome to the world, lovely butterfly. Then, as if


  that's not bad enough, they secrete this stuff into her that hardens like a plug, so she can't mate with any other males -- though, after her first, you know, date, I don't know why she'd want to. Then the males adapted these things on their feet for gouging out the plug, so they adapted again, and started secreting, like, a whole shell over her abdomen, like a chastity belt that can't be gouged off. Isn't that insane?"

  "Did you make that up?" Jack Husk asked, looking a little repulsed.

  "Could anyone make that up? There's crazy shit in nature, like these spores that invade a caterpillar's body and turn it into a vegetable, and then cannibals use it to make tattoo ink. How sci-fi is that? I told Heather Black she watched too many cartoons. Animals do too murder. Chimpanzees even kill each other's babies sometimes. Humans are not the only species to kill for territory, for dominance --"

  "For fun," added Jack Husk.

  "Ooh." Kizzy wrinkled her nose at him. "Serial killer comment."

  "Not me" he said, elbowing her playfully. "I meant cats" "Yeah. Weirdo. Anyway, that's where I got my charming nickname." "Sucks."

  "Yeah. I shouldn't even have argued. Heather Black might be a stupid cow, but I basically agree with her. Humans are totally the worst. We're vile."

  "Yeah, you can be," Jack Husk agreed. "The thing is, you throw brains and souls into an animal and stir, you don't really know what you're going to get. If humans are going to be vile, they're


  going to be a bigger and better kind of vile than, like, a dog could ever be."

  "When they were good, they were very very good, and when they were bad, they were horrid" said Kizzy.

  He laughed. "Yeah, totally. I like that. Which are you, Kizzy? Very very good, or horrid?" He cocked his head and squinted at her like he was trying to decide.

  "Oh, horrid," she replied at once.

  "Yeah," he said, his eyes seeming to flash silver again. "Me too."

  They reached the thrift store and he opened the door for her.

  This was where Kizzy always shopped instead of the mall, partly because her parents barely gave her any money, and partly because it had a trifold changing screen of embossed, moth-eaten velvet that looked like a remnant from Marie Antoinette's boudoir. She loved to sling an armful of cheap dresses over it and try them on one by one, with mismatched gossamer scarves, platform boots, and cat glasses. Sometimes she even bought that stuff, though she only ever wore jeans where anyone would see her.

  She steered Jack Husk away from jeans, though, and dressed him like the sleepy poet she'd first imagined him to be, in a black velvet jacket with threadbare elbows, a white shirt with a little bit of red embroidery to look like a drop of blood, and pinstriped pants the proper length for his long legs. They picked up a broken pocket watch from a mosaic bowl full of junk jewelry, and Kizzy had him put on some old leather aviator goggles for fun, and he liked them and bought them too.

  "This stuff's even weirder than what I was already wearing," he said, looking at himself in the mirror. "I look like I live in an attic."


  "That is exactly the look I was going for," Kizzy said, pleased. "What about you?" he asked. He held up an emerald silk scarf with fringe.

  "Nah." She waved it away.

  "Nah? You've got me in goggles. You can at least try on a scarf. Here." He threaded it under her hair and tied it into a floppy bow on top of her head. Her whole scalp tingled from the gentle probing of his fingers in the thicket of her hair.

  She looked in the mirror. "I look like a drunk cleaning lady," she said flatly.

  "Try it like a gypsy."

  She did, and kind of liked it.

  "I'm going to buy it for you," said Jack Husk.

  "No," Kizzy protested. "It's way overpriced. And I won't wear it."

  "Why not?"

  "You don't understand. There are girls at school whose only purpose in life is to make up nasty nicknames when anyone does something the slightest bit out of the ordinary."

  "Come on, Kizzy. It'd have to be a step up from Butterfly Rape."

  Kizzy laughed and it came out as a throaty chuckle, almost a purr, the closest she had yet come to the sultry voice she would grow into as she grew up and learned how to wear her skin. If she grew up. She relented on the green scarf. "Okay, then. Thank you."

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