Undeterred by the presence of her mother on the opposite side of the room, Ruby is nearly sitting in the boy’s lap. Together they flip slowly through an issue of Vogue and pretend, for the sake of decorum, that they are admiring the severe beauty of the models. What they’re really doing is pointing out words. He points to “wet,” she points to “hard.” He finds the word “stroke,” and she runs her finger across “shaft.” The heat generated between their sixteen-year-old bodies threatens to set the house ablaze.
The boy adjusts the way he’s sitting; his breath turns ragged in Ruby’s ear. She is repulsed and delighted, just barely grasping at the truth of what’s happening. It goes on and on like this, until soon even the most benign words—words like “blush” or “juice,” “melt” or “under”—come alive, pulsing and leaping off the page they’re printed on. Ruby’s mother looks up from the computer, eyebrows raised, mouth quirked to one side.
“Oh!” the boy says. He jumps from the couch and shoves his hands in his pockets. “I think I left my phone in my car.”
“Did you?” says Ruby’s mother, already sure that he did not. She knew from the moment he stepped across the threshold that it would come to this. He has the profile of an Aztec god; he is sloe-eyed and broad through the shoulders. Ruby’s mother remembers boys like this: the phone calls at midnight, the musk of them.
“I’ll help you find it!” Ruby offers.
They stumble out the front door, puppy chasing puppy, and that is the last time that Ruby’s mother sees her because Ruby never comes back, not really. The girl who returns to the house is another creature altogether, blind and groping and fettered to an enormous, feral love.