Cider Lips

"It doesn’t matter what happens to you in life," Ruth said. "Just know that God loves you and that this love sits inside your heart like hot cider on a winter day."
Although only 12 years old, Jacob thought this might be the stupidest thing that had ever been said.  And while he had the utmost respect for his grandmother, who had raised him on her own, he had no use for love.

Nearly every day for the last 6 months, Jacob had written a love letter to Georgette Lang.  He drafted them on rose-colored stationery, stolen from the vanity that once belonged to his mother.  Jacob labored over them for hours at a time, writing flowery prose that described the scent of her hair, which always smelled of green apples and almonds, and the minute details of an imagined life together—the names of two daughters and a son; the cool shade of a cyprus they would plant together in their yard; and long, lazy drives to Big Sur for no reason but to pass the time.  
Jacob had never been to California. All he knew of the west coast was found in the photographs from Ruth’s travel brochures.  

There were some letters he wrote only in his head, spelling out sentences with his tongue on the roof of his mouth.  These were words he felt too ashamed to write, conjured in the night under bedsheets or huddled in the back of a closet.  It was better to just imagine the sweet and salty taste of her saliva on his lips, and the floral print of her underwear. 

On the day before Thanksgiving, Jacob presented a stack of love letters to Georgette Lang.  He had bound them in pink ribbon with a sprig of pressed Ironweed, given to him by Ruth.  Georgette laughed awkwardly as she weighed the letters in her hand.  She forced a smile as she hurried off toward the school bus.  Jacob had seen that sort of smile before.  
It wasn’t a smile that said “thank you.”  
Rather, it was a smile that said, “You’re creepy and weird.”
He watched Georgette as she walked away, discreetly dropping the stack of letters into a garbage can before she stepping onto the bus.

Jacob walked home from school that day.  He left the letters in the trash. What good is a love that only sits in your heart.

© gibson grand

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