Belén: I’ve loved Luciano ever since I can remember, desired him before I even knew what it meant. He’s always been the only man in my life—my constant protector, and his rejection only intensifies my need.
Luciano: I’ve never known a love more fierce than the one I feel for Belén. But I force myself to deny her no matter how much it hurts.
Our love is a sickness and both of us are infected.
Because there’s no cure for being from the same family.
Four garbage bags full of old clothes and books for the Goodwill. I promised Mami I’d clean out my room so she can use it as a real guest room. I leave the boxes under my bed for last; they’re filled with letters and pictures, yearbooks and school notes from when I was a kid.
Every letter from Lucky that I ever received lies under this bed. I’m afraid to even touch them. Irma says it brings bad luck to touch things that belonged to the dead. So all I really end up doing is shuffling the boxes around, dumping some half-filled ones into others to consolidate the mess. I’m emptying one when a letter floats to the floor. Lucky’s handwriting. His words. My heart and all of my skin immediately catch fire.
I stare at it without breathing for what seems like an eternity’s worth of cascading memories scrolling through my mind. I pick up Lucky’s words with a trembling hand and hold the yellowed paper to my heart first before raising it to my eyes.
You got me chewed up and spit out, girl. I can’t do this anymore. I’m twisted and fucked up, thinking about you more than is normal.
So what if I’m lit, who gives a fuck if I’m violent? Ese dolor is filling up inside me, sometimes spilling out and taking prisoners wherever it can find ’em. I’ve fucked people up for less than looking at you the wrong way. I can’t live my life like this. But I can’t stay away.
See, part of me wants to run and hide and take back everything we ever done, but there’s another side that won’t quit—that ain’t afraid of no shade they throw or no one.
Anybody would say that me and you ain’t right, that it’s evil—that we holding hands with the diablo mismo, going against God and what’s natural. I been around long enough to know that what I feel for you is real. People don’t get to feel that way, shit, sometimes never in their lives, so even if it’s wrong, I still want it—whatever it is that we got.
I know I’ll never give this to you. You got enough to deal with—y no quiero meterte en esa vaina. But still, for some reason, I need you to know how I feel about you.
Course we always been tight, you always been a mi lado far back as I can remember. Fuck. Then one day it changed and there was no going back from where my mind had taken me, from where my body was going. My feelings were moving forward no matter how much it cost me. Like the bridge done fell all the way down and there ain’t no going back across that water.
Sometimes I’m so lost, sometimes I get so fucking angry. And there’s nothing in this world that can soothe me ’cept the sound of your voice or the way that you touch me.
It’s like there’s a war taking place and the battleground is my life—there’s two sides to me, and all they ever do is fight.
Bey, I’m not a bad guy, it’s just that nobody gets me. I swear to fucking God. I’d do right by you if someday you’d let me.
No soy malo, sólo malentendido.
But you set that straight, Belén, you douse out the fire.
Ain’t shit in this world that can touch me when I know that you love me.
I don’t remember reading this note and I wonder if I was supposed to, or if it was left here by accident. Maybe Mami found it and put it with my things. Maybe it’s been waiting here this whole time for the exact moment when my eyes would finally be ready to see it.
The bowl of milky, honeyed water fits right next to his photo. I light the white candle and with its flame, burn the note. I want to break the tether and set Luciano’s spirit free. He shouldn’t be chained to my memories, my need to hold onto the pain. God gave me a son and Luke is more than enough; I’m grateful. I’ve got to let go.
Lucky and I ignite one another’s hearts and I’m the only one left to put out the fire.
The flames lick higher and graze my fingertips, sending sharp bites of heat and singing the baby hairs on my wrist. I plunge the flaming letter into the bowl of goat milk and honey.
Go free, Luciano. You don’t belong to me.
My Lucky, born with fire on his heart, gave me the most exhilarating love for the first twenty years of my life. But it’s not fair to him, my husband or my son, for me to keep holding on to this so fiercely, clutching what’s now and forever left me.
My love spells didn’t work.
She corners me in the stairwell as I’m escaping to the park. Backpack on her shoulder, hair pulled up in a messy bun, a pencil shoved in, barely holding it all together.
“Lucky, get this, we share anywhere from seven to almost thirteen percent identical DNA. I’m actually surprised because I thought it would be higher than that.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I say, then look over my shoulder to hide my anxiety and the automatic smile that pops up on my face whenever I hear her voice. “Why’d you think it would be more?”
“I don’t know. ’Cause siblings are fifty percent and – don’t you remember the unit? It was only last year. Double cousins are higher and –”
“Wait, hold up. What the fuck are double cousins? What are you talking about, Belén?”
I’m automatically worried she knows something. Somebody has been talking to her and she just figured it out about her mom and her uncle?
“Double cousins. Like if our moms had married siblings, but they didn’t so we’re not.”
“If they married their siblings? Who the fuck does that?”
“Not their own, like if they’d married brothers. Forget it, Lucky. You obviously don’t remember. Go hang in the park with your friends.”
My heart is thumping because I thought she was onto something. But Bey is just rambling about science class and I’m already expecting the worst that could happen from her knowing how related we are.
“Shit, Bey. You crazy. You know that?”
“I obviously got the genes for brains and you got the looks.”
She smiles at me like she’s making a joke but I don’t laugh or think it’s funny. How come she doesn’t ever see how pretty she is? She has no idea how hard I can get from just staring at her lips.
“What do you mean, Bey? You’re beautiful.”
I can’t believe I said it. Our eyes connect for a second and so much moves between us that words aren’t necessary. A flash in her eye shows fear, but there’s more emotion there than that. I get the urge to grab her, slam her up against the wall and kiss the living fuck out of her. Oh God, Len, what you do to me with a look. Eye contact and I’m gone on fantasies of what I could do to her. She’s delicate and so young and better than my dirty thoughts.
And sometimes I swear she’s the only person who really sees me. I can hide shit from everyone, my own mother included. But Bey’s got this crazy way of looking right through me. She can see the good parts and the bad parts, read my feelings like a fortune teller and recognize my bullshit from a mile away before I even try to cover it up. She can hear the truth in my lies like nobody else.
“Go study, little girl. I got stuff to do.”
My feet start to jog away down the steps with a mind of their own. I can’t stick around or I will pull her into my arms. I only want to kiss her sweet little nose—but it would lead to something bigger, I’m definitely capable of worse. I don’t know what I’d do to her if we were alone and left to our own devices. But I got an idea and it makes me get the hell out of the situation.
“Where are you going, Lucky?” she yells as she leans over the railing. I’m running away from her, I’m always fucking running away from her.
“Out, Bey! Go finish your homework.” I stop and look up at her. My heart’s pounding, I feel dizzy. I don’t need drugs with Bey around, I get a high from just talking to her. She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Flushed cheeks, need in her eyes and a body that is never far from my mind.
“We’re thirteen percent the same, that leaves eighty-seven percent that we’re different,” she says and smiles down at me. Her smile is the key to unlock all that’s good in the universe. I grin back like a fool as happiness flows through me from basking in it. I’m love-drunk on Bey and stand and stare like an idiot. If anything ever happened to her, I think I’d die of loneliness. No way I couldn’t handle it. I want to protect her from corruption and at the same time, unleash my worst on her. It’s a fucked-up feeling and it’s got me tripping in circles. If I can’t have her, sure as hell I won’t ever let anyone else touch her.
“You know what, Lucky? You’re weird,” she says and opens her notebook. She tears out a piece of paper and folds it up in front of me.
“You know what, Bey?” I ask. I’m about to say something dumb. Something that will play over and over in my head and I’ll regret the moment it comes out my mouth.
“What?” she says and drops the paper; the folds give it weight and it lands at my feet.
I lean down to pick it up and I hold it in my hand. I can’t tell her how I feel. What if she’s over it? I gave her her first kiss—maybe I was a just a person she could trust, someone to practice on.
But Christ, that kiss in front of the fridge was like no other kiss. I think about it every time I see her, every time I look at her lips. I’ve kissed a whole hell of a lot of chicks and never felt anything like it. A shot of heroin straight to my heart and a bolt of lightning to my dick.
Maybe she’s moved on to other guys? Even the thought makes me want to punch something, or better yet, someone. I’d pound his fucking face in, whoever thinks he can touch Belén and dirty up her innocence. My anger and frustration are always two steps ahead of me.
“What were you going to say, Lucky?”
I shove the note in my back pocket and start walking down the stairs.
“Naw, Bey. I’m not gonna tell you. I don’t want you to get a big head.”
“Like you? Luciano, you are impossible,” she huffs, and I can hear her feet march up the stairs. I chuckle at her attitude, but at the same time my eyes are watering and I wipe them with the back of my hand. I’m such a fucking pussy. I got to get myself under control.
I unfold the note and read it, her doodling in pink pen.
“Lucky is thirteen percent of me and I am thirteen percent of him.”
Thirteen is an unlucky number, I think as I crumple the piece of paper and toss it out an open window in the stairwell.
About the Author
Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.