Twice, by the Well, by Day Jamison

“You like kissin’?”

My hands slipped from the well crank and the full pail plummeted. I reached for it, like a simpleton, and yowled as my fingers raked at thin air.

“You sound like a prairie cat in heat, girl.”

I snatched my spare bucket and whirled, ready to strike. The boy peered at me, head ducked under the hitching rail, elbows propped above, seeded grass stem hanging from his mouth. He held himself like some grown man talking to a baby.

I scowled. “I don’t give any part of a rat for kissin’.”

The boy hoisted himself over the rail, though he could’ve gone under just as easy. “Ma says I’m gonna need a woman with a lip, and I reckon yours is about the biggest I ever heard.”

“I will thank you and your ma not to opinionate on me or my lip.”

“Ma’s always right. He pulled the stem from his mouth and tossed it away. “So you must be the girl for me. That means we should be fianced, and when folks get fianced, they give a kiss.”

I stalked forward and shoved the bucket into his chest. “There’ll be no fiancing for you this day or any other because I don’t like kissin’.”

“How d’you know?”

“Just know.”

“Ever tried?”

Silence yawned across the yard.

“You wanna?” He cocked his head and let me ponder.

He rankled me to boiling and I had no use for kissing. But, anyway, he had all his teeth, which was not something could be said by most. I dropped my bucket. This best be good.”

He leaned forward.

To be honest, I don’t remember a blessed thing about what happened next until he stepped away.

“Well, your lip is a good one. For squallin’ and kissin’.” He nodded, stuck his hands in his pockets, and sauntered away like nothing.

“You call that a kiss?” I grabbed up my bucket hurled it at his backside. It hit its mark with a thud, but he didn’t even stumble. “Good luck catching any woman with a sorry kiss like that!”

He turned, but kept walking, backwards. “I promise you.” He swiped my bucket off the ground and tossed it back to me. “I’ll come back here some day and give you the best kiss you ever had. And when I do, we’ll get a preacher and swear on the Holy Bible to be fianced forever.”

“I’ll swear on the Holy Bible you’re fit for hell!”

That was ten years ago.

I kissed some since, but nobody ever spoke appreciation of my lip either way.

I’m drawing water from the well, again, when a hand comes from behind and covers mine. It’s strong and brown and turns the crank back, letting the bucket down gentle. Then the hand moves to my waist and spins me around.

He’s still chewing on a blasted grass stem. Holding me to his chest, he grins down at me. “Why ain’t you screaming, girl?”

I square up, prepared this time, but he doesn’t lean in.

“What are you waiting for?” I ask.

“Well,” he says, scratching his head and squinting into the rising sun, “my ma’s been wrong a few times in the past years. Don’t know what’s up or down anymore.”

“You come all this way to talk about your ma?”

Kissin’ or squallin’, he’s going to get a piece of my lip today. I grab the back of his neck and tug.

All around is quiet that I can’t hear. Turns out he has a good lip, too.

He pulls away and looks at me.

“Now I’m calling the preacher,” I say, tugging at the front of my apron. “You have ’til then to decide how to swear.”

Day Jamison reads and writes YA and speculative fiction in the Provo Valley at the foot of Mt. Timpanogas. She is a freelance copy editor with Lawrence & Jamison Editing Services and a first reader at Fantasy Scroll Magazine.

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Balloon, by Evan Guilford-Blake –>

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