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Drag Me Along This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I always liked that you smoked cigarettes. Tears in the edges of my eyes from the smoke, a husk in my throat from breathing in the clouds you exhaled, the remnant taste of nicotine on your lips that transferred to mine.
I especially liked the nights you would tell my parents we were going to Wednesday night youth group at the Presbyterian church, but drove right past it to a graveyard a few towns over. You’d drag me by the hand across plot barriers and alongside headstones, scanning the words and numbers and occasional bible verse or quote.
“I bet she had big brown eyes and dyed her hair purple just because she felt like it.” You said to me, standing over Theresa Hamilton, born 1965, died 2007. Flecks of ash falling from your cigarette and landing on Theresa in the most disrespectful way.
“Probably, but I’m thinking more like blue hair dye.” My words were soft, whispering because graveyards gave me the skivvies, but you loved them.
You moved the tip of your Nike shoe to touch the words on Theresa’s headstone. “I don’t think I believe in God, Erica.” Fear was pushing at your eyes, looking straight into mine, looking for spirituality I assumed.
“Why don’t you think you believe in God?” I asked, moving my hand to yours, trying to hold it but you snatched it away from me.
“He hasn’t given me any reason to,” I think you felt bad for rejecting me because you took one of my fingers and then consumed my whole hand with yours.
“But He hasn’t given you any reason not to either.” My eyes were serious, but my mind focused on the freckle beneath your left eye, I’d never noticed it before.
“True,” you breathed out the words and metallic breathe.
You moved backward, leading me by the hand to a nearby rock with words that meant something to someone, but nothing to me.
We stopped above someone from somewhere who died sometime, I moved my chin to rest on your stiff shoulder, covered with a soft t-shirt rubbing against my skin.
“You smell like a tree,” I said into the folds of your neck.
You angled your chin down, I heard the sound of your lungs taking in my scent from your nose. “You smell like peaches,” the words seemed to hang in the air, probably because I liked them so much I wanted them to stay, but they didn’t.
“I taste like them too,” partially kidding but mostly not.
“I don’t believe you.” Your chin was now resting on the side of my face, digging into my temple.
“See for yourself,” I challenged.
You accepted, forcing your lips over mine.
You pulled away, a look of surprise on your face, quickly relaxing all the strained muscles so you wouldn’t alarm me. “You don’t taste like peaches.”
A pang hit my heart square in the middle, shaking everything in it around, internally bleeding. I moved to turn away from you, but your hand grasped my jaw, gently keeping it in place, aligned with yours.
Sweeping stray hair from face, you focused on my freckles, mentally connecting the dots like I was a kind of puzzle. “You taste like heaven.”
Frozen, I stood in front of you. Your grip on my face, our shoes a few feet above a dead person, tripping and stumbling into love.
And then I fell, completely and totally into the void the tension between us made, a deep black hole.
You struck a match against the side of a stone that hung over someone’s dead head, you hated lighters, claiming that feeling the fire start in your hand made the experience that much more authentic. Moving the flame to the orange tip hanging from your cracked lips, you took it in. A few puffs in and out, then I felt your fingers on my face and smoke circulating around, I wrapped my lips around the white paper, took a deep breath in and let it all out. I hated cigarettes, but I loved you.



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