Lydia turned out the light, picked up her backpack, and opened her window. She was expecting the gust of cool night air, the smell of freedom, and the call of the dance floor. She was not expecting the shower of gold.
“Ow!” She threw her pack up as a shield from the heavy, glittering hail. “Son of a — ow!”
Lydia swung her backpack through the air, swatting at the golden projectiles until they stopped falling and coalesced into the shape of a slender boy wearing a white sheet. Her wild backswing caught him behind the ear and sent him tumbling across her bedroom floor.
“Ow!” The boy sat up, rubbing his neck. “What was — ”
“What are you doing?” She hissed, hoping her father hadn’t heard. “Get out of my room!”
“What? No, wait! I’m here to seduce you!”
“What?” She raised her backpack for another blow, but paused at the heavy creak of floorboards outside her door.
“I’m — ” the boy started, but she slapped her hands over his mouth with the kind of grip only a desperate teenager can summon. The door to her room opened slightly and a thin wedge of light fell across her bed, where carefully arranged pillows and an old wig made a hopefully convincing outline. Lydia crouched behind her desk, pinning the boy, both arms wrapped around his head like iron bands.
“Get out of here!” She whispered again when the door had closed and the footsteps were gone.
“No, wait, please…” He looked up at her with pleading eyes. He had very long lashes, the kind Lydia wished she had, and she hated him for it. “I can’t go yet!”
He ran his fingers through his tousled hair. “Well, I’m a god! And you’re a beautiful maiden, locked away by your tyrant father. We have to… I’m supposed to…”
“Oh, no.” Lydia backed away. “This is not happening.”
“Was the gold too much?” The boy asked hopefully. “’Cause I could be a swan, or a bull, if you like that better.”
Lydia shook her head. “Okay, first of all, no. Second, I am not beautiful. And third, eeew! A bull? Seriously?”
“Um… maybe not. But I — ” He stood up, got his feet tangled in her computer’s power strip and lunged face-first across the room.
Lydia caught him before his face-plant could wake the neighborhood. “You’re not very good at this god thing, are you?”
The boy deflated. It was like watching a pile of rakes collapse. “I’m sorry. My… my dad says I have to… well… you know. Make him proud. Or he’ll turn me into a sea pig and banish me to the pits of Tartarus.”
“My dad will do a lot worse than that if he finds a boy in my room.” Lydia glanced at the door. “So, look…”
“Pêlos.” He smiled.
“Pêlos. It’s my name. And also my specialty. It means ’dirt’.”
“Dirt?” she raised an eyebrow. “I’m being wooed by a god of dirt?”
“But not for long! I’m going places. My dad just says I have to start out on the ground floor. So to speak.”
Lydia sat down on her bed, massaging her temples. “Well, you can go right back there, and find some other window to jump through. Try Becky Hamilton’s house. Most boys do, sooner or later.”
“I can’t do that!” He sat down on the floor, slowly. “I mean… you’re the most beautiful girl in the world. It has to be you.”
Lydia rolled her eyes. “Oh, barf.”
“I saw you,” he went on, “by the edge of the fountain, in the park. You spent the whole day there, with your sketchbook. You drew the tall woman on her phone, and the old man sleeping on the bench, and the pigeons, and on every page there were dragons. And as you drew them I watched you. I watched the sun moving across the water, painting dapples on your sparkling cheek. I watched the way your skirt fell across your knees, the trailing edge of your hair, like a raven’s feathers, and the speckles of dirt between your perfect toes. I knew it then.”
Lydia pulled her feet under the bed, suddenly very self-conscious. “I… like to draw.”
He sat down next to her. “A great hero will spring from the union of our loins.”
She jumped up. “Whoa! Okay, that has to stop right now. There will be no unioning of any loins today, got it? And… holy crud, haven’t you people ever heard of safe sex?”
Pêlos blinked. “My aunt was born from some sea foam and an oyster.”
“Point,” Lydia said. “But you can’t just go popping into a girl’s bedroom and expect her to… It doesn’t work that way!”
Pêlos looked up at her with those dark, guileless eyes. “How does it work?”
Lydia looked at the window. “You… talk. And go out. You bring her flowers or something, or go dancing.”
Dancing. Sara was probably at the club by now, waiting for her. Retard Creed would be playing, but at least they had a dance floor.
“Look, Pêlos…” she looked him over. He did have very pretty eyes. “I don’t suppose you have a car?”
The pile of pillows and the old wig were still feigning sleep when a pair of ravens landed on the windowsill.
“Oh my god!” Lydia stifled a giggle. She stumbled into her room, suddenly clumsy on tired, booted feet. “That is so much better than a car! I could fly like that forever!”
Pêlos opened his mouth, but she put her finger across his lips. “Not literally. I’m just saying I had a good time.”
“Then…” He licked his lips. “You’ll see me again?”
“Maybe,” she straightened the ruffles on his dark coat. “If you call first next time. And if your dad doesn’t turn you into a sea pig.”
He smiled at her with those dancing, bottomless eyes. “I’ll call you.”
Aaron Bilodeau has had the usual assortment of jobs writers are rumored to have had, including a stint as a soldier, a scientist, a singing, strumming songwriter, a security guard, a salesman, a screwball, and always, always a student of language, life, love, laughter and all the lovely lies, little and large, that make up our world.
He is also a bit over-fond of alliteration.
Aaron lives in Lafayette, Indiana with his fiancée. This is his first published story.
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