Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

***From We Danced to Ray Charles--Semi-Finalist in the Works-In-Progress Category of the 2005 William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition***

Moonlight and Revelations

Bill Fullerton


Mark Cahill stood waist deep in the cool lake water, watching through the growing twilight as Amy began unsnapping her jeans. "I don't care how long we've known each other. Y'all turn around until I get in the water."

It was an unnecessary gesture towards modesty. With clouds hiding the full moon, there was little light, and she was standing in front of the campfire. All Mark and the other three men could see was her silhouette.

The request was answered by an irreverent round of boos, whistles, and cries of "Take it off. Take it off." Walt's voice cut through the din. "Come on, Sis. Don't start playing shy on us just because you're the scrawniest person here."

"Walt Marshall, you'll pay for that!" Amy turned her back to them, shucked off the jeans, and began tugging at her sweatshirt. In Mark's opinion, that silhouette in the firelight looked anything but scrawny. Still, count on Walt to come up with the perfect line to get his kid sister moving.

Once she joined them, there was a lot of horseplay, even a short-lived football game featuring an old sneaker Willie found on the shore, but very little swimming. It was during a lull in the action, that Amy suggested Mark "toss" her. "Tossing" was an acrobatic stunt that would involve him heaving her straight up out of the water. If done right, she'd have time to arch forward and re-enter in a controlled dive. They'd done this many times in the past, but never in the dark--much less while skinny-dipping.

"Are you sure?" Mark was both surprised and a little dubious.

"Of course, I'm sure. Come on. It'll be fun."

When everyone else began urging them to give it a try, he agreed. "All right. But you guys aren't fooling me. All y'all want is to get my head under water."

He took Amy's hand and helped her into position standing in front of him, facing away. The dark water lapped at her pale, bare shoulders. When he asked, "You ready?" she nodded.

Placing his hands on her waist, Mark exhaled to offset his body's natural buoyancy and then began pushing his way down toward a squatting position at her feet. To reach that goal, he had to use her body to help propel and guide his descent. As his hands slid down her sides and his body brushed against her skin, Mark found himself struggling to ignore the feel of that warm, silky, and very naked flesh.

Once in position, he tapped on her feet, the signal for her to rise up on tiptoe so he could cup a heel in each hand. When everything was in place, he shifted forward slightly and she leaned back against his shoulder, letting him know she was ready.

That's when Mark lost his struggle. The touch of her legs along his chest, the smooth contour of her thighs resting lightly against his shoulder, the sensation of her hip nestled against the side of his face, it was more than he could ignore. There was an excited churning in his stomach and a dizzy confusion inside his skull. His mind wouldn't work. His body couldn't move.

Amy twitched her legs as a reminder she was ready, but he couldn't respond. It took oxygen deprivation to break the spell. Almost out of air, he began propelling her upward. But the long pause had gotten them out of synch. A knee buckled, a hand, or was it a foot, slipped and while only halfway out of the water, Amy began falling awkwardly back into the lake.

Once the choking and gasping ended, neither of them got any sympathy from the onlookers. "That has to be the most pathetic excuse for a toss I've ever seen," said Willie, his voice thick with feigned disgust.

"Yep, that was pretty sad, you two," agreed Frank.

"You two nothing, it was all his fault," insisted Amy, pointing at Mark. "He even looks guilty."

It'd become so dark, she was the only one close enough to make out his expression. But Amy was wrong. The look on Mark's face had nothing to do with guilt. Its source was a storm of other emotions so strong and unsettling he could barely breathe. It wasn't easy, but he managed to croak, "I'm innocent. And I must have swallowed at least half the lake."

Amy drifted closer and put a hand on his shoulder. "You poor thing," she said, giving him a wink that belied her teasing tone. "Do you need help? What about some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? I think Frank got a merit badge in first aid. Would you like for him come help?"

"Nothing personal," said Frank, "but if I've got to give him mouth-to-mouth, I say let nature take its course."

This strong show of compassion continued until Walt broke in. "I can't stand it. I promised myself I wouldn't do this. But seeing what a shambles you and Mark made of things, I'm wondering if you want to try that overhand toss we used to do?"

The overhand was tougher to pull off because the thrower had to squat with his hands held shoulder high like a weight lifter about to lift a barbell over his head. This made it harder for the person being tossed to keep their balance. But since the thrower could extend his arms straight up during the toss, if everything worked just right, the results could be a high and spectacular ascent.

Everyone but Mark agreed he was unfit for duty. After a feeble protest, he moved out of the way so Willie and Frank could get into position on either side of Amy.

The clouds that promised but again failed to deliver any rain were breaking up. Bright moonlight now bathed the lake. This made it easy for Mark to watch as, after a good deal of talk and shuffling about, Walt disappeared beneath the surface. A moment later, Amy went soaring into the warm, night sky.

It was a high, absolutely perfect toss. Willie, Frank, and Walt were covered with spray which partially blocked their view. Mark was the only one who saw all of Amy's moonlight flight, and he was transfixed.

Whenever he remembered the event, it was always in slow motion. The sight of her wet, nude, nymph-like body soaring gracefully above the lake was beautiful, and erotic, and devastating.

The emotions still battering him instantly coalesced into a total and all-consuming love for Amy Marshall. He'd fought against that feeling for months. Thanks to another girl, he thought he was winning. Now he knew better. He'd lost--big time.

But a guy like him didn't stand a chance with a beautiful girl like Amy. Making a move on her was doomed, and their life-long friendship would never be the same.

Mesmerized, he watched Amy's graceful, moonlit form arch slowly and then begin heading back toward the lake. As she sliced through the dark surface, Mark knew he was in trouble. He could have someone else; the sexy party-girl he always thought he wanted. But he was in love with Amy, his best friend, the beautiful girl he could never have. Or could he?

***

Bill Fullerton has a B.S. from LSU, a Master's degree in history from Louisiana Tech and a Purple Heart from Vietnam. His fiction has appeared in several publications, including: USADeepSouth, DeadMule.com, and Rose and Thorn. Currently living in Dallas, he's just finished his second novel, We Danced to Ray Charles. Read an excerpt.

© Bill Fullerton

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012