by Hannah Pass
Christine has fangs and it’s happened again. We’re just friends but somehow our “friend” label has changed. I let her put her hands on me, slip off my shirt, touch me in tender ways. It’s these sexual interactions that keep happening and happening.
“Do you feel comfortable with me?” Christine says. “It’s important to me you feel safe.”
“I feel safe, Christine,” I say. “I’m good.” I open a yawn, clasp my bra and tell her she should get going. “Work at noon,” I say. Thing is, I don’t really like her that way. I like to think about poking my finger on those two bottom teeth. Not sexually, I simply like touching. When I see Christine’s face I never want to touch it or call it beautiful or anything like that. It’s not like my heart skips, but wouldn’t that be great? There’s also that white skin, dark half moons under her eyes. Bones, veins and elbows. Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, it’s called. “Vampire disorder.”
Christine checks her phone, I spring up from my bed. “I don’t know what to wear,” I tell her.
She stares at me, blinks. I’ve pulled out jeans, a denim top. Two different blues. “I look like a 5- year-old train conductor,” I say.
She says, “Lets take a look at your closet, shall we?”
The thing that really gets me: I’d rather spend time with Christine than spend it solo. You can only collage so many photos alone before boredom sets in and you need a human being. And here I have a someone. A person? I suppose I like Christine’s mind. Her mind is neat. But something about her simply repulses me. Her rounded posture, the way she chews, I suppose it’s all relative.
I sit on the bed and Christine swishes through the hangers. “No, no, no,” she says.
“Christine,” I say, “do we need to talk?”
“Talk about what?”
“You know, what’s going on with us.”
She pulls out a black dress with thin straps. Something I would never choose because I can’t wear a bra with it. But Christine doesn’t know that. She dangles the dress in front of me, pulses her brows, two pointy whites sticking out from her mouth. “What do you want to talk about?”
I bounce on the bed, glance at her canines. It’s tough not to look. Christine puts her hand on my thigh, says, “I think you’re a really wonderful and kind-hearted person.”
“And I am,” I tell her.
“So why all of a sudden this need to define?”
“I’m curious!” I say.
After Christine leaves, I make my bed and her scent is all over. It’s a scent I can’t name or put with other memories. I can’t place it next to my ex’s bedhead or my first kiss. It’s like holding a muddy shoe with nowhere to set it down. I un-hug the sheet corners from my mattress and drag them downstairs, into my washer. Bathroom mirror, I slip down my dress straps to reveal skin. Two little red punctures from when her teeth sank in. I take out hydrochloric acid, a cotton ball. Dab. The skin transforms, puffy and pink.
I call Christine. “We need to talk,” I say. “For real.”
Ten minutes later she’s at my door. Big grin. I grab her wrist and lead her into the living room, sit her down on the couch. She goes straight for my National Geographics. Gothic issue. Sunlight pushes in. I once asked Christine what her childhood was like, if she had any friends, how she felt about those pointy teeth, if she wishes she could yank them out for good. She told me it’s the only thing that makes her stand out from other people.
“Stand out in a good way?” I asked. “Don’t you feel uncomfortable in public?”
“Sure, but I manage.”
She tugs my arm to sit, so I do. She unzips me. We kiss a lot. Then there they are, the pricks. I feel them as slow-sharp pressure until they break the skin. I feel ashamed. It’s easy to forget: people have feelings. People have feelings and we don’t care if we hurt them.
I sit back. “Christine,” I say, “this has to stop.”
“You’re my friend,” I say.
“So. That’s why it’s perfect.”
“Is it the fangs?” She cups her hand to her mouth. “I know it’s my fangs.”
“No,” I tell her, “it’s not the fangs.”
“Then what?” Her face, all cheekbone and eyeball.
“Your friendship is important to me,” I say. But as soon as I said it, I felt the lie, deep the pit of my being. I don’t know what’s more important: Christine’s heart, or pure fleeting pleasure.
Then Christine says my name. She says it in a way that makes the world spin. I rub the skin on my neck, feel the holes where her lips touched.
Hannah Pass currently lives in Portland, Oregon with an MFA from Pacific University. Her stories have appeared in Two Serious Ladies, American Short Fiction, Tin House and The Kenyon Review Online among other places. She is the Nonfiction Editor for Silk Road Review. Her chapbook, Our Reincarnated, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in Summer 2016.