Chapter 22: Altered states

Myra hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but she stirred awake when Alex traced his fingertips along her hairline. “Hey, sleeping beauty,” he whispered. “Hey,” she mumbled. “What time is it?” “I know, I didn’t mean to take so long,” he said. “The boys had these terrible little welts on them. Spider bites? They were all complaining about itchiness, so I got them vinegar like you used on Zoey.” “Oh. Thanks,” she said. “Are they okay?” “Yeah,” he said. “They smell like fish and chips, but otherwise fine.” She was still lying down. He sat next to her, stroking her hair. “What were you dreaming about?” he asked. “Nothing. I don’t know.” “I was dreaming about you,” he said. “There I was dabbing crabby little kids’ spider bites with vinegar in the middle of the night, and I was thinking of you floating on your back in the lake.” “Mm.” He touched a finger to the side of her neck, below her ear. “You’ve got blood on your neck,” he said, tracing the finger over her skin. “Do I?” He lay next to her on his stomach. His face fit into the crook of her neck. He sucked on the place he’d touched. She squirmed as his tongue worked the thin skin. After a long moment he released her. “That’s not my blood,” she murmured. “Yeah?” he said. He glanced down at her neck, then caught her gaze. “Whose is it?” he asked. She shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “Hm.” He sat up, rummaged in the pocket of his sweatpants, and produced a handful of button mushrooms. “I picked these,” he said. “I noticed them on the hike today.” She groggily sat up too. “What are those?” she asked. “Mushrooms,” he said. When she frowned, he smirked. “Of the genus magic.” “What? No,” she said. “You just saw them in the woods and recognized them?” He grinned. “You know astronomy, I know botany.” “Jesus,” she hissed. “Want one?” he said. “No!” she said. He had five round little mushrooms in his outstretched hand. “No,” she said again. He shot her a wistful, playful look, then popped one in his mouth. “Mmm,” he said, chewing. He swallowed and said, “Earthy.” “Oh my god,” she said. He ate another and then held out the remaining three for her. “You sure?” he coaxed. She picked one up. The cap felt like taut rubber. She raised it to her nose and sniffed the aroma of moldy fruit. “Yes I’m sure!” she cried, flinging the mushroom out into the lake. It landed far away with a watery plop. He pouted. “You didn’t have to throw it away,” he said. “I picked all the ones I could find.” He stuffed the last two back into his pants pocket. She eyed him. “How long until you start feeling it?” she said. He grinned again, but it was different than before, less cocky and more candid. “Oh, I already feel it,” he said. “Yeah?” she said, horrified yet fascinated. “What does it feel like?” His smile was pure bliss. “Like my blood is melted chocolate frosting.” “Wow.” His fingers were trailing over the knee of her jeans. “You know what’s the best part of these?” he drawled. “What?” “Everything tastes delectable.” “Yeah?” He gazed at her, his eyes wide and soft, and raised his hand to stroke her cheek. “Let me taste you,” he said. A shiver zigzagged down her spine. She inhaled a deep breath, but instead of clearing her head, the cold night air gave her an over-oxygenated brain freeze. “Myra, I love you,” he said. “I can’t stop thinking about you. You haunt me.” Her lips pulled into a tight smile and a laugh caught in her throat as she compared this moment to her indulgent daydreams. He ran his fingers down the edge of her earlobe. “Please,” he murmured. She wanted to tease him for becoming a sappy caricature, but at the same time her ear was tingling and her heart felt like a ticking bomb. “Yes,” she mouthed. His eyes were two enormous spheres of opal-rimmed onyx. He looked wildly hopeful and also like a lovestruck cartoon. She giggled and said louder, “Yes.” He immediately kissed her on the mouth. When they parted, she stared at his eyes in the dim light and hoped his skills were as impressive as his immense saucer-like pupils. As she unbuttoned her jeans and tugged them off, he shed his own jeans and sneakers and slid down into the lake. Sitting in her underwear on the dock, she called out, “Changed your mind?” He laughed and said, “Not yet.” He was standing next to her in the water as she sat cross-legged on the dock. “Okay,” he said, swaying slightly. “Legs over the edge.” “I’ll take off my shoes,” she said. “They’d take forever to dry.” She kicked off her sneakers and swung her legs over the side of the dock. “Nearly there,” he said. “Panties off, please.” His uninhibited chivalry amused her, but she still blushed as she stripped off her panties. “Excellent,” he said. He gently massaged the soles of her feet. “Relax, leave the rest to me.” She lay back on the dock. The wind hit her bare legs as she spread them. Her knees folded over his shoulders. Her ass rested comfortably on the edge of the dock. He tucked his head between her thighs. His cheeks brushed against her sensitive inner thighs. When the tip of his nose tickled her, goosebumps prickled over her legs. He kissed her, mouth closed, lips soft. Then he teased his tongue inside of her. His attentions felt intense yet nonchalant, as if he’d come across her unexpectedly and was taking full advantage of the fortuitous circumstances. She reached down for his head. When she laced her fingers through his hair and tugged to guide him, he hummed and his enthusiasm surged. He kept his endeavors focused as her back arched off the dock and her hands pulled harder at his hair. As he tongued capricious curlicues in the dark, she felt herself melting as if under a searing sun. She was losing control of her body and her thighs were shuddering around his head. When she came in a sweet rush, he gripped her bucking hips and lapped her up. Once the fiercest pulsing ebbed and her locked muscles loosened, he eased her down and kissed her knee. With some deft upper-body strength, he pulled himself out of the water and up onto the dock. He helped her turn and slide her legs onto the dock as well. Then he sat behind her so her head rested in his lap. The lakewater on his legs cooled the back of her neck. As he massaged her shoulders, she gazed up at his flushed face with half-open eyes. “My Myra,” he murmured as his thumbs worked her tense shoulders. “My lovely starlit goddess.” She was immersed in a pool of setting caramel whose syrupy weight held her immobile. Barely moving her mouth, she asked, “What did I taste like?” “Oh, my Athena,” he proclaimed. “You taste like a savory meal to a starving man. You taste like mussels bathed in butter, with a juicy slice of lemon and a crisp white wine.” “You’re ridiculous,” she said in a voice as thick as honey. “You’re delicious,” he said. His hands worked down her chest. He massaged her breasts through her sports bra until her nipples showed through her shirt. Her whole body felt heavy with intense relaxation. His hands were sending waves of contented unconsciousness pressing down upon her, and she felt herself drifting off. Summoning up her energy, she mumbled, “I can’t sleep here…” He caressed her neck and said, “Sure you can. I’m here.” “No…” she said, her voice trailing off into a sigh. “The kids. Carry me back?” “I would,” he said. “You okay to?” she said. She giggled and asked, “Not too high?” “I’ll carry you like a glass vase,” he said. He leaned down and kissed her mouth. She tasted herself. She licked her lips and said, “What’s it feel like now?” He gazed at her, a beatific smile spreading across his face. “I can see the energy in the air, like threads of lightning.” He drew zigzags on her cheek. “It’s like a web of life force.” Gesturing across the lake, he said, “The trees have sparks, the water lilies have sparks…” He traced his finger up and down the bridge of her nose. “And you’re an electric angel.” When she couldn’t stand his vacant charged eyes any longer, she turned her head and looked over the rippling black glass of the lake. The dock jutted out into the water like a black fissure. She shivered and said, “Take me back.” He stroked the tender skin below her jawline and said, “Now?” “Yes, now.” He dressed himself and her, then scooped her up and cradled her against his chest. She lay her cheek against his shoulder. He smelled feral. He strode up the hill with no more effort than if he were carrying a child. She felt the muscles in his arms and chest contract easily. When they reached the girls’ cabin, he held her tightly with one arm and opened the door with his free hand. He crept in and eased the door closed behind him. He took tiny steps forward in the dark room, feeling forward with each foot on the uncertain expanse. Finally he reached her bed. He laid her down, slipped off her sneakers, and tucked them under the wooden bed frame. He whispered “Goodnight, Myra” into her ear, gave her one last buttery kiss, and left.
For the first night that week, she fell asleep immediately.