The moment Marcus Ramos was kissed by his best friend was a weird one. It was raining. He remembered that much as a myriad of drops tumbled from verandas and drowned the insects that cluttered storm drains. Their jackets were soaked, his was one of those overpriced Canada Goose ones he had reluctantly taken as a gift from his mother. He wasn’t one for the high end crap, but he had to admit, it was pretty nice.
Hers was a jean jacket, the cuffs frayed from getting snagged on petty things like door handles, a few buttons had fallen off from unconscious fiddling. The jangling of buttons, plagued with the names of bands and organizations she had found whilst sifting through the ten cent bins at the counter of Second Time Around.
Her name was Aphrodite, the girl who batted her eyelashes at the jocks at school, dragging their attention down the halls with her. When the night swept her up in its cloak of darkness, she became the Mistress of Phobos, if you will. A knife poised in fluttering hands as she ran with her pack, her screams of victory spilled from her bright red lips, howling loudly enough so she shook buildings to their core.
Marcus adored her, but not like that. He didn’t love her like that.
She turned to him that afternoon, her loose raven curls were matted flat and straight to her pale, freckle smattered face.
“Marsy..” She stood tentatively in front of him, a scarlet tinge dusted her cheeks.
Was, the Mistress of Phobos..blushing? At him?
“Yeah..” His voice broke as it rocketed up an octave. “Why’re you looking at me like that, ‘Dite?”
She just laughed her laugh, sweet and gentle. He didn’t have enough time to react before her lips were pressed passionately to his blundering, awkward ones.
She was slammed down to a filthy puddle right by a storm drain, while he ran, ran faster than he ever could have imagined. Were his feet even touching the pavement?
He stopped underneath yet another veranda, and pulled the acrylic nails from his pocket, the ones he had snagged at CVS only a day before.
How could he trust her not to laugh at him, or turn her nose at him in utter disgust? Maybe he would be the one that was pavement pizza on 23rd Street.
Marcus ripped open the package and stuck each glittery neon green nail onto his fingertips with the grace and fragility of the Queen of England, threw the pack into an overflowing dumpster, and balled up his fists so no one could see.
Better safe than sorry, he thought to himself in that moment of bliss, cautious, wary bliss.
The ‘sorry’ part of that statement hit him with the force that only hallway gossip can manage.
“I heard she’s in the hospital; apparently she had to drag herself home and beg her dad to drive her to the ER.” Becca Champlain said nonchalantly to her identically dressed posse as she sauntered down the hall, eyeing Marcus with the slyness of a writhing mamba.
He stopped in his tracks, his eyes had gone wide, with the naivety of a doe. ‘Dite was strong, and he hadn’t slammed her that hard. Besides, gossip was gossip, all of it was real until it was shattered by justice.
He tried calling her cell at lunch. It went right to her voicemail
“You’ve reached Aphrodite Rainsford, I’m not at my cell right now, so I’m probably doing something world record worthy. Don’t bother leaving a message, ‘aight?”
The tone let out a monotone beep.
“Hey, Goddess girl.” Marcus held the sleek rectangular box up to his lips. “I..I just wanted to check on you, after last night.”
Nothing else. Only that? Plastic, empty words that any careless bitch would use? Really, Marcus Ramos. You are an an AP English student, and you string along those words as an apology?
“Get back to me when you can, Lovey. Bye.”
His phone rang with the tinny melody of “Hotline Bling” just as he hopped out of the shower, glistening with steamy wet droplets. He struggled to pick up, just barely pressing the thing to his ear.
“Marcus?” It was Aphrodite’s dad, one of the two. Her biological dad was never around, he was a big-shot salesman, always hopping on and off flights to distant countries. He was never home.
“Mister Everton, hi.” Marcus said hesitantly. “Why are you calling from Aphrodite’s cell?” He dumbly blurted it out before he could stop himself from thinking it through completely.
“Marcus, it was awful. We’ve been at the hospital since two in the morning. He beat her again, hard.” Mister Everton began to sob, and it was clear that he’d been holding in these tears for the past day and a half. A strong man is what he was.
“She came home drenched, and..Adonis was drinking again. He just slammed her to the floor and started from where he left off the last time.”
“Is she gonna be okay?” He turned his head away from the receiver, and hung it low, feeling the shag carpeted world around him spin.
“Her injuries are..harsh, to say the least. I should know, I was the one who drove her there.
“Everything major has been fixed up, but what we’re really worried about here is her fever. It just can’t seem to break; it only spikes higher an’ higher.”
Aphrodite was burning.
His best friend was burning, just because of a goddamn kiss and cheap green CVS stick-on nails.
She looked awful.
Her pale, canvas white complexion was ruined by Pollock style spatters of maroon and purple. Not a freckle was to be seen, only the reddish slopes of heat. Her eyes were half open, but even they had lost their spark, their lust for adventure. Her hair snaked around her pillows like furious serpents, their unending rage was present in the sterile environment.
He brushed his neon green fingertips lightly grazed the knots in her hair that had entangled themselves from days without washing.
Her eyes followed the green nails, and he could see the filmy blue water of realization blur out her irises. They spilled over and didn’t stop.
“This is why I didn’t return your kiss, ‘Dite.” He whispered.
She turned on her side, took one last soft, exhausted sigh, and never moved again.
She died too young, and at the hands of a boy who couldn’t love her back. Just like every heartbreak there ever was, until the words were falling apart, curling with the thousands of times it had been said, over and over again.
This was just another example of a failure. Love was gone, yet again.