Lucas and Bailey
Bailey’s been chained to the fence for hours. She’s all I can think about. Well, other than him of course.
Outside the window, I can’t even see one star twinkling in the cold October sky.
Hot tears fill my eyes and I fight hard to quietly blink them away. Hiding my face behind a curtain of my long blonde hair, I desperately search for a distraction. Him. It’s always him.
Perched on the edge of my chair across the table from Lucas, I blush when he catches me staring into his bottle-green eyes and, when I feel the heat bloom across my cheeks, I lower my gaze to his calloused hands stained with grease and motor oil. Lucas fixes cars for a living, and I’ve been told he makes money hand over fist, even though he’s only nineteen.
My moment’s slashed away when a guttural bellowing makes me flinch.
“Somebody go kick that mongrel in the head and tell it to stop its damn barking.”
When earlier today my Aunt Vera returned on her loud motorcycle madder than a swatted hornet, because the newly inked scorpion on her giant hip didn’t turn out the way she wanted, it was like sticks of dynamite blew up our house. Which is also her house, technically, because she hasn’t any place to live and my mom, her older sister, took mercy on her and invited her to stay with us.
One night I dreamt the Harley she straddles, like a cow on top of a mound of manure, sent her wheeling into the air, high above the moon, and then crashed into her green, brown, and rust‑orange body as it landed back down to earth, onto the pavement.
I sobbed when I woke up.
But at least Lucas is here having Thanksgiving dinner with my family of fourteen parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins. No kids though. Aside from me, they’re all adults ranging from the ages of thirty-eight to sixty-two. Except Lucas of course, but he doesn’t count because he’s in no way related to any of us.
I watch half-heartedly as he shuffles his deck of playing cards, fanning them out, turning them over in his palms, cutting them in half and waving them in front of people’s faces.
“Please sign your name right across this ten of spades Mrs. Dixit,” Lucas tells my mom.
He slides the card into the middle of a full deck, snugly into the depths of it, packs it in so it’s swallowed up, hidden. Then he immediately pulls a card off the top of the deck, turns it faceup, and shows us that it’s my mom’s card. There are oohs and ahhs all around.
He then folds it in half, putting a bend into that signed ten of spades and shows everyone the slight dip when he places it flat onto his hand. We can all see the card is now signed and bent. He asks my mom to slip it randomly somewhere in the very center of the deck. Again, he uses one finger to pull it off the top of the deck. Same signed and bent card.
Eyes open wide, lips curve upwards, they all want more.
Aunt Vera is sprawled out in a chair right next to me, her long, massive legs stretched wide underneath the table, her rancid sweat glistening on her upper lip. Fascinated by Lucas’s card tricks, she seems to have forgotten about my little dog.
Bailey is a mini-Eskimo with the softest, most kissable fur I’ve been pressing my lips to since I was ten years old. I’m sixteen now.
I continue watching as my uncle reluctantly tears a big chunk off the corner of a twenty-dollar bill. Lucas takes that corner piece and eats it, he literally chews it up, and swallows it down. He then places that same twenty in his mouth where the tear is.
When he slowly pulls it out, voila, the corner is back. The bill is intact once again.
“How the fuck did you do that, you snot-nosed kid?”
Butterfly wings flap like crazy in my stomach. Aunt Vera is going to be relentless now.
“A magician never reveals his secrets,” Lucas winks, placing her under the hypnosis of those exquisite eyes.
“But don’t worry Ms. Dankworth,” he says, “there’s much more to see, so relax and prepare to be entertained,” he points to our family room with rows of chairs and a makeshift stage we set up earlier today.
Just like magic, Aunt Vera shuts her mouth for once.
Dinner winds down and Donna, our housekeeper, clears away dishes and offers coffee, dessert, or brandy. Everyone agrees they’re full and will wait until after the performance.
I barely touched my food.
Yesterday, I hid outside, watching in horror at the things my aunt did in our kitchen.
She placed a bowl of dogfood on the floor and when Bailey began eating, Vera’s leg shot out and kicked her right in the face. My angel squealed in pain and jumped back.
Before I could react, Aunt Vera offered the food again. This time when Bailey timidly approached the dish, she roared and kicked her in the ribs. That’s when I barged in, begging her to stop like my life depended on it.
“We were just playin’, weren’t we, mutt?” she cooed like she’d done nothing wrong.
“I’m just tryin’ to teach it obedience Jaimie, don’t be such a baby.”
I shudder at the memory and my tears fall again when snowflakes dance down from the moonless sky.
For his next trick, Lucas asks quote the most beautiful girl in the room, Miss Jaimie Dixit to assist him on the mock stage. I walk carefully so as not to trip over my own two feet.
Lucas requests the assistance of six volunteers and has me place them all behind the black curtain.
“My dear guests, tonight for my next magic trick, I feel like I need a mesmerizing and lovely shot of inspiration,” he announces, his voice so deep and smooth, I want to savor it.
It’s my turn to be spellbound when he pulls me in.
Something bubbly shoots through my stomach and a tenderness bounces like sunlight along the surface of my skin. His lips brush mine and his tongue pirouettes in my mouth. I’m dizzy with rivers of champagne fizzing through my bloodstream. It’s my very first kiss, my sweet-sixteen kiss. It’s daring and warm, and I never want it to end.
Sadly though, the show must go on, I can hear the din of various reactions mixed with impatience resonating from the audience.
Amidst all of that, I’m suddenly reminded that the tips of Bailey’s ears and her sweet little paws could be frostbitten by now.
My heart is no longer in the magic though I do my part until Lucas opens the curtain to reveal all six volunteers… gone.
“Where are they?” asks my grandfather, wheezing with concern.
“They’re ok sir. Everyone, please come down now,” Lucas calls out and, one by one, they descend our spiral staircase.
But someone’s missing.
A search of the entire house turns up nothing, she’s nowhere to be found.
“Lucas, can you make her reappear, dear?” asks my mother.
“I’m afraid not Ma’am, I’m pretty sure this might be… permanent. Unless maybe she just went for a bike ride…?”
“Maybe,” says my mom absentmindedly.
There’s a lightness in her voice when she claps her hands and sing-songs “Now, who’d like coffee and dessert? And Donna, could you please go fetch our darling Bailey from the backyard, and feed her the turkey leftovers in the kitchen by the warmth of the fireplace?”