“No, no,” Amma said, “this one’s just a candy heart, Camille. Itsy-bitsy little bit of pastel sugar, smooth and sweet.” She put it on the tip of her tongue and brought her mouth to Camille’s, teasing the heart past Camille’s lips. “You know what that says?”
Camille had her eyes half-closed. She had the prettiest fucking eyelashes, a lot fuller than Momma’s. When Camille got all stirred up, she didn’t want attention, oh no, she didn’t pull her lashes out so the tears would come faster. She cut those words in secret. Amma had secrets too. A mouthful of teeth bared only in a smile, hell yeah: bring it on, baby. Camille didn’t take anything away from her. Amma liked her. She grabbed her shoulders and shook her a little, jarring Camille’s eyes all the way open like she was one of those baby-dolls that blinked for you.
“You know what that says, Camille?”
Camille got that little glint in her eyes that she did sometimes. “Be Mine?” Her voice was lofty in a way that made Amma’s toes curl up.
“Sweet Home,” Amma said. “It’s new. This year’s model. Like me.”
“Just like you.” Camille struggled upright. The sleeve of her shirt had gotten pushed up and Amma could see a word on her forearm: TWIRL.
Amma said, “Do you want to dance with me? I want to dance with you.”
“Don’t do that. Don’t do that little-girl voice on me, Amma.” She rubbed her forehead. “I shouldn’t be doing this with you—letting you do this. You’re too young.”
“That’s right, young and fresh.”
Camille laughed. Triumph surged in Amma’s stomach.
“Dance with me,” she said again, holding out her hand, and Camille obediently stood—there’s a girl, Momma sometimes said when Amma got into the tub and let Momma pet her wet hair, there’s my girl—and held Amma lightly, letting Amma turn in circles around the spoke of her, like Amma was the ballerina spinning on the music box. “Watch me twirl.”
Camille glanced down at her arm, at the revealed scar, and even moved her hand to cover it. Then she stopped and raised her chin. “I’m watching you twirl,” she said, and she had those pretty blue eyes all level and brave. “I should get you home. Home sweet home.” But she didn’t move.
“Maybe this is our home,” Amma whispered. She toyed with the shower curtain. “Maybe the world ended and it’s just us left in this little bathroom with these fucking barf-colored bathmats.”
“Perish the thought.”
“You know why we’re in here?”
“You had to pee?”
“No, silly.” Amma twirled some of Camille’s hair around her finger. “Because the door’s got a lock. And there’s a mirror.”
“I’m not such a big fan of mirrors.”
“You don’t like to look at yourself,” Amma said. “But you should. I like to look at you.”
She stroked up Camille’s arms, turning Camille to face the mirror so Camille could see Amma holding her. Could she feel some of the scar tissue through Camille’s sleeves, or did she just think that she could because she wanted to? She felt like she was shaking all over, hot and cold. She wanted to fuck. She wanted Camille. She put her mouth against Camille’s neck, all smooth and unmarked; she bet Dickie-boy had kissed Camille here but he hadn’t left her with anything to remember him by. Boys never knew what you wanted. Amma wanted to write herself all over Camille. She wanted Camille to love her.
“I want to make you happy.” She kissed Camille’s neck again, flicking her tongue there, feeling the twitch of Camille’s skin.
“Amma, stop.” Camille was shaking too. They were almost the same—Camille was the only person in the whole world who was like her, but Amma was better. Marian died and Camille ran off but Amma had Wind Gap in her pocket like a marble, Amma wouldn’t let anybody scare her or make her all waxy and still.
She would do what she wanted. Camille needed to do what she wanted.
“Hush,” Amma said firmly. “We’re not doing anything. I’m not doing anything. Everybody knows it doesn’t count with another girl, it’s just like practicing kissing.”
“I have enough practice. And so do you—too much. You’re too young.”
She kept saying that. Amma looked at the shape of her own mouth in the mirror, the pink-glossed pout. Camille was still talking to her like Amma just didn’t understand, like Amma was playing a game. It almost hurt her feelings. She’d shown Camille all these different parts of herself and now it was like Camille hadn’t even been paying attention. She pushed Camille gently, bumping Camille’s hips up against the countertop, wrapping her arms around her, burrowing her face against Camille’s throat.
“Don’t go away,” Amma said. She didn’t know what she meant, but she knew she meant it. “Don’t leave me.”
“I’m not leaving you. Amma, you just don’t understand what you’re doing right now. You’re high, you’re confused—”
“I think you’re so pretty.”
Camille’s body softened just a little, like wax melting under her hands. Momma thought Camille was difficult, but Camille just wanted to be loved. Everybody wanted to be loved.
“I mean it,” Amma said. She unbuttoned Camille’s shirt. Words on her breasts, raised like Braille under Amma’s fingertips. VALENTINE, she read backwards in the mirror. Pink on white. Camille was her Valentine, her candy heart against her tongue. Everything Amma wanted, and hers. Camille was like the dollhouse—all that history and all that Momma and all that beauty shrunken down and condensed until Amma could play with it. Until she could do whatever she wanted.
Camille’s bra was ugly. No lace, no pretty color. She didn’t take care of herself. Amma wanted to take care of her and she could, she knew she could. She turned Camille around so Camille wouldn’t have to see herself if she didn’t want to and she unzipped Camille’s jeans. Camille caught her hand, but what did the music box have to do with the ballerina? The ballerina danced. The music box just got performed on and sang its pretty little song.
“I need you to stop,” Camille said.
“Why? Because you’re wet? Because you want me? It’s okay to want me, you know. Everybody does.”
“No, Amma, you’re wrong. You’re not just—this thing to be wanted, this thing you have to make available to people. I don’t want that from you.”
But Amma wasn’t the thing. Amma was the person, one of the only people there even was.
She had pity, though. She wanted Camille to enjoy this, at least a little. “It’s all right. You don’t have to do anything. I won’t touch you there. You don’t even have to do anything, not even lift a finger.” Though the thought of Camille’s fingers was really something. Her clit throbbed. Later, later, later—if Camille stayed, if Camille moved back home, everything would be fine. They would take care of each other all the time.
She pushed Camille’s jeans down. So many words here. Further away from the glow of the little night-light, Amma couldn’t even read them. She had meant it when she’d said Camille was pretty. Amma loved her like this, all chewed-up by her past, all decorated with pain. She hiked her own skirt up. Camille had gone away somewhere inside her head and was looking at the shower, at the tiles on the wall that would need some new grout because this place was falling down around them, rotten from the inside-out. Amma wasn’t wearing any panties. She’d been thinking about this.
She straddled one of Camille’s bare thighs and rubbed herself along it, gliding over those scars. She was all hot and wet and delicate there, sensitive to even the littlest bit of puckered, damaged skin, and she liked to think of her pussy reading all these words, the dictionary of Camille.
Imagine if they had met on some deserted island and they didn’t speak the same language and this was how she had to learn the alphabet, fucking herself against Camille’s leg. Making Camille slick with her.
She could see where Camille’s underwear had gotten a little darker, where the smell of her being so turned-on was stronger in the air. Amma grabbed her shoulders and rode her faster, harder. She bit Camille when she came and she felt the kick of Camille’s blood in her mouth.
There was a mark, there was something Dickie-boy couldn't ever compete with. There was one more thing Camille would have to cover up. Now they had a shared secret, like sisters were always supposed to have.
“I love you,” she said, making shapes on Camille’s skin, little bloody kisses. “I love you, I love you so much.”
Because Camille was the only other one who understood what love meant. Amma wanted to grow into her the way a tree grew into another tree, all their branches tangled up. Wasn’t that what family was?
Camille got dressed slowly. For Amma, it was easier: she just pushed her skirt back down and then she was ready to go. She washed Camille’s blood off her lips but left a smudge on her teeth, up by her gums: vampire girl.
She practiced things to say, forgiving things: it was always better to convince someone they were the one who had done it. You were so wasted. You were so high. I’m sorry, I just felt so crazy. Sometimes I just go right out of my head. Not true. Not untrue either. She took out another candy heart—MY BABY—and bit down.