red

Priscilla Thomas

It’s hard work—the nets chew Ro’s palms to leather and the constant, salty, gritty wind scrapes at her skin. Apple, they call her, chuckling at the thin scold of her mouth between her shiny red cheeks. Apple, what have you got in your basket? She hefts the basin of woven seagrass, ties the axe to her hip, and hauls her catch into town. The wind at her back flips the red hood of her scarf over her hair.


In the market, she trades for cloth and oil and milk from the goats that graze on the rocky hillside. Sailors cluster at the produce stand, ignoring the tart, thick-skinned fruit in favor of drawing smiles from the sisters. Bella the younger and Lucia the older, brown ropes of hair swinging between their shoulders. “Fangs as long as your arm,” one of the men tells Bella, trailing his fingers from her elbow to her wrist. She shivers and steps into the half-moon of sailors. Her eyes are wide and round. Their gleaming teeth surround her; Ro’s breath thickens in her throat.


The smooth skin of a rock pear presses into Ro’s palm and the answering smile unspools at one corner of her mouth. Lucia’s fingers rest against hers for a moment. Then she is moving away, shooing the sailors and beckoning to the waiting customers. When she glances back, Ro buries her grin in the scarf pooled at her shoulder.


In the evening, they lie in a warm tangle of limbs and breath and fingers, sharing the pear by the bite and listening to the airy moans of the wind threading through the seagrass. “Tell me again,” Lucia says, rising onto her elbow to touch her lips to the pale scars streaked across Ro’s shoulder. “Tell me about wolves.”


Ro brushes the backs of her fingers along Lucia’s spine. Lucia, the first time, had laughed: only four legs! Her monsters bore tentacles and stingers, mouths like tunnels of dagger teeth. Smirking, she pointed to the goatherd’s mutt dozing in the sun. They sound kind of cute.


Ro had dreamed of her after that: her wide open smile, the column of her throat, her teeth lengthening like her laughter. She woke with the throbbing howl echoing in her ears.


She touches the place where her pendant used to rest. When they met, she said it was a souvenir. Lucia thought it was a shell, a worn crescent still clinging to its luster even with its edges rounded smooth by the restless sea. Ro traces the shape of its memory, searching for the words that will unroll the wet, airless dark, surround them with the thunder of that wild heartbeat and the bones shifting, whispering beneath them.


Lucia’s mouth presses soft against the base of her throat, melting hot before the hungry nip of her teeth. She pulls back the drape of her long, loose hair and bathes Ro in lamplight, the better to see her with.

About the Author

Priscilla Thomas (she/her) is a desi teacher and writer living in New York City. Her work is published in Ferine Magazine, Nerdy Book Club, Culturas, Salty, and The Margins. Her first book, Gathering, is available now. You can find her on Instagram as @anpatha.