1 : a solution of a medicinal substance in an alcoholic solvent
2 a : a characteristic quality :cast
b : a slight admixture :trace
4 : a heraldic metal, color, or fur
She knelt cleanly. Like an animal I thought; without any hint of clumsiness. She knelt cleanly and her shorts rode up and bunched at both ends and I had to look away. The house was silent throughout. Summer birds beyond the window and electric static. Not a sound more and when she slid the cabinet open it bumped and complained and I winced somewhat.
Would you relax? she said. You’re so tense, Christ.
I’m not tense.
Like hell you’re not.
You said keep watching I’m keeping watch.
Relax, she purred. There’s no one coming. Ah.
She leaned into the open cabinet and seemed to roll into it. Like a contortionist or creature climbing through foliage, bending easily and flowing into the space.
One, two, two, that one, three, she said.
I stood awkwardly over her with my shadow like a clumsy lump, somehow in her way. I shuffled. Tried to stand naturally. She paused and looked back at me. Just one eye, a cheek, a flick hair, the furthest verge of lips. Perhaps a smile.
Come look, she said.
Can we just hurry up?
Re. Lax. Come look.
I looked once out the window and sighed and knelt beside her, craning my head into the cabinet. Her bare elbow touched mine. It smelled like dust and her skin and the proximity between us and I could feel the air drift as her hair moved it. The bottles stood before us laid out and lined like a choral stand or attentive congregation.
What do you fancy? she asked. She already had three bottles propped between her fingers.
We don’t need that much, I said. Put some back, we don’t need that much.
And we won’t take that much. Just a little of each. Look at this, this is lemon. Oh, it’s like Russian or something. How old is this bottle, look at this, this must’ve been here for years.
I leaned further in and twisted the bottle she’d touched back it it’s original position.
You remember where you got them from?
No one’s gonna notice.
You don’t know that.
It’s a mess in here, no one’s checking.
You don’t know my dad.
He ain’t gonna notice, quit fidgeting.
She put her hand on my arm. Her hand on my arm. Steadying herself as she leaned further in. Her body rolling away from me like liquid and her palm hot and living against my skin and I swore she’d feel my thumping heart beating beneath the surface. Swear my whole body must be pulsing with the drum of it.
I know one thing about your dad, she said. He’s not much of a tequila man. Everything in here is brown. This’ll be fine. This’ll do.
She leaned back and stood and breath hissed between my teeth. I felt her shadow pass me, the hot sun through the window breaking for a moment between her slender form. I knelt a moment longer before the open cabinet. The contents somehow sacrosanct. Like an ancient alchemical store or assassin’s poison stash. Dark and still with but a hint of sunlight tracing the edges and all the bottles stood in judgement of me. I heard her feet on the floorboards, passing out the room. Heard the glug, the rush of the kitchen tap. A hiss at a time, cautious and measured. Slowed close to stillness and held a moment before quieting. I stood from the cupboard and looked out the window at the empty driveway and fields beyond. It wasn’t noon yet. The house would be empty for hours. I thought about the others, waiting for us out there in the field. I thought if I could convince her to stay here. Not forever, just for a while. An hour or two perhaps, spent away from everyone else. Just the two of us. I thought of the long summer day laid before us and wondered what would be different come sunset.
She came back into the room with the three glass bottles in one hand and a plastic 12oz filled and orange in the crook of her elbow.
Cocktail, she said, under-arming the 12oz to me. I took some juice too, she said. From the fridge.
That’s fine, do they look ok?
They’ll be fine, she purred. No one’ll ever notice. Our secret.
I crouched back down before the cabinet and held my hand out to her.
Pass them here, I said. I’ll put them back.
Before that – she said.
I felt her next to me. Felt our knees touch again.
I want to try the Russian one.
We’ve got enough.
I know, I just want to try it.
She leaned forward and came back with a bottle of vibrant yellow liquor, turning the bottle slowly in her hands. The bottom was full of sediment and a thick, separate syrup which ran slowly under the surface.
Just a little bit, she said, catching me eye. Just a taste.
The cap came away with a scrape and sprinkled sugar with it. Like sparkling dust in the sunlight.
Just a little, she said again. A taste. I promise.
The bottle went to her lips and tipped slowly. The tiniest taste. A tincture, a thimbleful.
I watched quietly as she ruminated on the taste. Her top lip shone, reflective.
That’s nice, she said. It’s sweet. I could drink that.
She proffered the bottle toward me.
Try it, she said. Her tongue ran once over her lips. It’s nice, you should try it.
I took the bottle and put it to my lips. I could already taste the lemon, the sugar. Sweet, like she’d said. She just drank this, I thought. This is what she just drank. This is what her lips taste right now. I closed my eyes and tipped the bottle, determined to hold onto the flavor for as long as I could, hoping to hold it forever.