I'm a sucker for kissing stories. I just am. Here's my latest. The inspiration was a line I forced myself to cut from another story I was writing. It described the world as "an overwintering spot for migratory angels." It didn't fit in that other story, but I loved it, so I gave it its own story. More Sunday Scribblings here.
MIDNIGHT AT THE SIDEREAL
sidereal -- stellar, relating to stars and constellations
Emily hiked her silver dress up around her waist to climb over the balcony railing. It was cold against her bare legs, winter cold, and she shimmied quickly along the length of her balcony and leaned way out, four stories up, reaching in the dark for the balcony next door. She knew exactly where it was; she snuck out every night. She leapt across. Cadence was waiting for her in a silver dress of her own, and together the two girls tiptoed through the apartment barefoot and out the front door, quiet as cats. They only giggled when they reached the beach and slid their toes into the cold sand.
They could have walked along the curve of the road, the frontage of the beach clubs all boarded up for the season. But from the road side the Sidereal didn’t exist. You could only get there if you walked in the sea with the icy waves up around your knees and the moon high overhead. It had to be midnight and it had to be winter. Then you’d see the lights, glimmering as figures passed before them, dancing. Then, you could go and dance, too.
Emily and Cadence, thirteen and fifteen, wish-filled and dream-heavy, soaked the hems of their silver dresses in the sea as they made their way, already dancing though they couldn’t yet hear the music. The wind danced with them, and the lights of the Sidereal shimmered into view. They went up the beach with their dresses slick against their skin and their faces hot with hope. The season was almost over. One day soon they would come at midnight and the Sidereal would have vanished, and all its winter tenants with it.
If they were to be kissed, if they were to be wrapped in vast wings and cradled, if they were going to weep with the beauty of it and feed their human tears to an angel’s soft tongue, it would have to be soon. The star path was aligning itself against the black. The angels had overwintered well, tended their wounds and unclamped their fists from their sword hilts, danced and supped and drank their honeyed drinks, and any day their migration would begin anew.
They were greeted wordlessly and swept into the dance. Sometimes cool hands held theirs. Always wingtips and feathertips brushed their arms and legs as they moved within the close sweet throng. Occasionally -- rarely, achingly rarely -- an angel clasped them in an embrace and spiraled them upward, skyward, spinning, and the sand shook from their toes as their silver dresses flared and glittered in the moonlight.
The angels always set them down again.
They were beautiful, of course. They pierced you with their beauty and made you weak. They were golden or pale or brown as earth, blue-eyed or black-eyed, long-limbed and sinuous. They were perfect, and they were as cold to the touch as a balcony railing in winter. Sometimes they held their smooth hands against the girls’ cheeks as if warming themselves at a fire.
Emily and Cadence each had a favorite they gravitated toward in the dance. Cadence’s was sky-dark and dazzling and powerful as a warrior. He could toss her into the sky like a bird and catch her as easily as a feather. Emily’s was fair and as slim as Donatello’s David, seeming almost a child like she was. But his eyes were no child’s eyes; there was infinity in them like all the others.
Emily thought she saw wistfulness in them tonight too as she found him in the crowd and took his hand. He gave her a sad smile, the kind you give from a doorway, looking back over your shoulder, and Emily knew the time had come. Tonight the Sidereal would close for the season. The sky felt huge and heavy overhead, an alien and endless sea empty of islands, with nowhere to rest and no honeyed drinks and no music. And how cold it would be! She wanted to give the angel her warmth to carry with him. She wove her fingers through his and squeezed. His eyes widened slightly in surprise, and Emily felt him squeeze back, and after, neither of them let go. They danced together hour by hour, their fingers clasped tight, until the black of the sky began to pale.
Never had Emily so hated a dawn. Some of the angels had already stopped dancing and were walking down toward the water, stretching their wings. She gripped her angel's hand tighter. It was almost as warm now as a human hand. The music faded away. Young and ancient and sad, he shook open his wings to follow his fellows. Emily began to cry and he paused and swept her close. He curved his great white wings around her and his breath on her lips was like the breeze over the sea, cold and pure. Awkwardly Emily thrust her face forward, unable to bear the space between their lips, and like that they kissed, the chaste, cold kiss of an angel and a child. She held herself against him until her lips warmed his and then they parted. He left her standing there and took the memory of her warmth with him as he embarked on his long stellar migration.
When even the flashing white of their wings had vanished into the sky, Emily found Cadence. She was sitting in the sand, looking up at the sky with her fingers pressed against her lips and Emily knew her friend was feeling the same thing she was. “They’re so cold, poor things,” Cadence whispered, then began to sob.
Emily sobbed too, holding the memory of her first kiss against her lips with her fingers. They sat there shivering as the sun came up, forgetting to go home and slip discreetly into their beds. Their parents would be frantic and furious when they straggled home later in their sandy silver dresses. They would be punished. Extra locks would be installed. Emily and Cadence wouldn’t be slipping out again by moonlight, not any time soon. But it didn’t matter. Winter was over. The Sidereal was closed.
And somewhere in the black ether beyond their world, angels were flying, their lips still tingling from human touch.
P.S. When I was thirteen and lived by the beach in Southern Italy, my neighbor Jennifer and I snuck out exactly as described here, though maybe not in silver dresses. Our "angels" were young men serving their obligatory time in the Italian Army by being lifeguards at the military lido of which the Navy families, American and Italian both, were members. Imagine being 13 and having huge crushes on 12 lovely boys who lived in a sparse barracks at the beach only two blocks away. And you know what? They were sweet and totally appropriate with us, like big brothers. It's been more than twenty years (ulp!) but I still remember many of their names and faces.