First sip: ambrosia.
Second sip: hints of black cherry and he leaned close to whisper into my ear, “How does it taste?”
“Like -” I didn’t want to say cherries or chocolate or any of those things that would make me sound like a wannabe connoisseur. “Like -”
Third sip: “Like a waterfall, or like whirling in circles til your head spins and you can’t find your feet.”
He stroked my cheek with one long, pale finger. “And?”
Fourth sip: “And cherries.” I turned my face and found his lips waiting. His mouth was cool velvet. I sat back, blinking down at my hands. They curled around the stem of the glass and I could see my rings through the amber wine, distorted into arrows of silver. “You make this?”
“My family does.”
I saw flecks in his irises the same color as the wine and I wondered if he drew it from his veins. But I laughed at the notion, drowning the giggle in a quick drink.
Fifth sip: flying. My heart fluttered, buoyant in a sea of honey-wine. My thighs could not feel the soft leather of the sofa beneath me, and I pressed my knees together.
I’d met him at a party in Heatherfield. His smile erased the memory of the shape of his jaw or the cut of his hair. The lights sparkled and the music was just loud enough that I heard what I chose to. I thought I was inviting him to dinner and following him home because I wanted him.
He raised his own glass and held his eyes on me while he drank. Half the cup in one swallow.
Sixth sip: I wanted to dance. I stood, swaying as vertigo swept up from my stomach. He caught me, pulled me to his chest. He smelled like the wine. Sweet, clean, promising.
Hands together, we turned in a miniature waltz, confined by the ocher walls and polished furniture of his slick apartment. I shut my eyes and wind brushed my face, tugged at my curls. He put a hand flat on my hip and stepped closer. He pressed the glass to my lips.
Seventh sip: We spun and I heard music; whistle and pipe and tinny drums. The hum of bumblebees surrounded us, and feathers tickled my bare arms. I opened my eyes and saw only his face, white and shadowed like a half-moon, with that Cheshire smile and honey-wine flecks in his eyes. Behind him a blur of dark forest, of black, narrow trunks and summer-time maple leaves. All around us the flitting giggles of sparrows and toads and fireflies.
My shoes sank into wet earth but in his arms I flew, around and around and my head fell back and my hair trailed, catching in twigs and tiny goblin fingers. They jerked and tugged and I cried out, but he swallowed my fear with a kiss, the way I’d hidden my joy in the wine. Hot lilac and wisps of rose-scent slunk up my nose and clung to my throat like a sticky aftertaste.
Around and around, his fingers cold and hot, his breath sweet. I released him and flung out my hands and they were caught in the whirl of the dancing. Fire licked at my fingers and the music was louder than the ocean in my ear. He held me and spun me. I heard his laugh lace through the melody and my heart was the metronome – they kept time with me. Their drums, their pipes, their tiny footsteps and
My hand slammed into cold glass. I stumbled. The tinkle of glass accompanied me down and my knees hit hard wood.
I blinked. Beneath my hands was the worn floor of the apartment. Shards of glass glittered between my fingers as dim street light melted in through open windows. I pushed to sit back on my heels. Paint peeled off the walls and a ceiling fan dangled from electrical wires. The sofa was slashed and the decrepit coffee table was the only other piece of furniture in the room. I was alone.
I lifted the broken stem of my wineglass. It was solid and refracted red and blue and pale green light back at me. I bent and skimmed a finger through the gritty liquid staining the hardwood floor. Lifting it to my nose, I smelled mud and dank leaves.