“Sex and Spatter” by Ayanda Msibi

Flecks of red dot his face and shoulder. I move to remove them, but stop. Somehow, they make him more beautiful.

“What are you staring at?” he says with a grin, feigning ignorance. His breathing is still ragged, quick breaths in and out swelling his chest intermittently. I try not to faint.
I want to make a joke, lighten the mood, but it’s unnecessary. The moment needs nothing more, so I let the words drown in our perfect silence.

He gives me his version of a smile, a red-speckled grimace with teeth. Trey’s never been a smiler; the ability was lost to disuse a long time ago. I giggle at the attempt and he fakes a frown. Usually, I’d have been afraid to make fun of him like this – I know too well that he hates it – but right now, I have an unspoken pass. His euphoria has eclipsed his temper.

Trey kisses me, gently. His hammer falls to the wooden floor with a clunk as he raises his right hand to my face. I scooch closer, awkwardly. I’ve always been awkward. And a little strange, if you believe the talk. I’ve never really believed it possible that someone as perfect as Trey would give their heart to someone as imperfect as I am. Maybe that’s why every moment with him is like some kind of dream, a fantasy that I’m almost sure I’ll wake up from at any second. Everything I do and say is flawed, but it doesn’t matter because this is my dream, and Trey thinks it’s great – that I’m great – and nothing else matters.

Not even Genni Gunston.

For once, I don’t concentrate completely on Trey. I run on autopilot as I think of Genni’s face that night, the way her stubby legs carried her as she ran away, her mousy brown hair trailing in the slight breeze. The sight of Genni running marked the exact moment I knew that I would do anything for Trey Barker. Anything.

Trey was walking away already. He didn’t care. I tried to calm my heart rate down enough to hear myself think over the pounding in my ears. I kicked the man’s feet. He didn’t move. The thought that he might be dead was less a cause for alarm than an annoyance. What were we going to do with him? The smell of urine seemed to get worse then, as though it were concentrating itself around my nose, taunting me with the fact that I’d have to touch him. Trey was nearing the end of the alleyway.

“I need your help, Trey,” I said, half calling to him and half whispering.
I was almost afraid to ask. He was unpredictable when he got like this.
He turned to see what I was talking about. “Just leave him there, Tuts.”
I hated that name. Trey loved it. It stuck.

He registered my silence and stood there, across the alley, staring back at me until his patience wore out. I always win games involving patience.
“This kind of thing happens every day,” he added before turning and walking out onto the street opposite me.
I looked down at the man at my feet. The smell of urine was laced with a sticky, metallic smell now. I’d have to carry him myself.

We were close enough to the harbour for me to hear the waves, smell the fishy ocean, but too far for me to walk alone, carrying a homeless man. I set him behind one of the huge dumpsters Genni’s dad’s restaurant used for their trash and left to find Trey.

“You smell like crap,” he said when I caught up to him.
I laughed. “It’s the month-old sweat.”

Trey’s lips are on my neck now, his sticky hands tracing uneven crimson lines over the small of my back. I’ve replaced the specks on his face with lines of my own; war paint where my fingers have been, preparation for battle: us against the world.
My mind drifts back to Genni. US: 1, GUNSTON: 0.

She didn’t say anything right away. She watched us in the corridors at school, not in the usual, curious way that others did, as one might look at a sideshow performer. Genni looked into us, made eye contact. I know what you did, she almost seemed to say, and I’m biding my time until I can use it.
I spent my days afraid that SWAT might swoop in on our school and seize Trey, and my nights afraid that he’d be taken while I slept. What is the penalty for murder? I dreamt of Genni Gunston’s pug face smiling as Trey was taken away forever. In my dreams, logic and democracy were myths, and Trey was hanged, beheaded, lynched, every night, right in front of me. I woke on a Sunday after one such dream and knew for certain: Genni Gunston would not go to the police. Genni Gunston would not take Trey Barker from me.
I’m not sure what time it was when I knocked on Trey’s door. He said nothing when he saw me. His face was an empty mask until I spoke. He listened to me babble, cry, babble, silent. I told him my idea. Then he grimaced, with teeth.

Barking breaks me out of my memory. I’m lying on my back now, sticky liquid in my clothes, matting my hair. I’ll have to wash it out when I get to Trey’s house. I’m probably never going back home. Trey has stopped kissing me. Marks across his shoulders and down the front of his white tank track where my hands have been, the brighter ones fresh and the older darker, browner. He is listening, too.
Genni’s dog has woken up. I didn’t hit it with enough force. The neighbours will be here soon, asking questions.

“We should get out of here,” I say. Trey gives me a ‘five minutes more’ look. He’s a kid in a candy store. I shut my eyes tight and try to make my brain shout over my beating heart. Trey is still looking at me. Shout, brain, shout.

“Trey,” I can barely hear the words over the rushing in my ears, white-hot in my head against the cool floor.
I carefully peel him off of me and stand up. I step on Genni’s hand as I do, by accident. I didn’t know she was so close by. That cools my blood a little; Genni is still good for that.

I grab the items we came with: Trey’s hammer and the knife I took from our kitchen – my mother’s favourite: sharp and new. I step over Genni’s body twice as I go and a part of me, somewhere deep in the shadows of my mind, cringes. I expand the shadows and shut it out. I have to think now.

“How about,” I say, flashing Trey my most alluring smile, “you and I get into your car and take a very long road trip, Bonnie and Clyde style.”
He grabs me by the waist, and I know it’s a yes. No persuasion necessary. Thank God.

We step over Genni’s body together on the way out. Trey went a little hard on her face, smashed her skull in. I tried to be precise, aim for the heart. Bloody arcs smear the floor where she writhed, where Trey and I made out. I lose the distinction between Genni’s handprints and ours somewhere across the floor.

We leave the front door open and walk straight to Trey’s car. He revs it a few times, for the fun of it, before backing out onto the street, in the opposite direction to both of our homes. I want to stop time and keep us here, like this, forever.

The dog is still barking.

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