Lucifer lived in a cave in Hollis Woods. His head was equine in both size and shape, and he stood upright on taloned feet while his hands were hooked claws, misleadingly short of reach, it seemed, for in fact he could snatch your soul before you were even aware of its being in eternal danger. The trail leading to the cave was well known but strictly off limits.
Such was the legend that the children grew up hearing, told to them by elders who had grown up hearing it too. Francine and her father moved to the village from a northern county, and she did not know where Lucifer lived until one day when Rebecca told her. It was summer, only a few weeks after Francine and her father had moved in to the old O'Brien house, and Pastor Phillips had his daughter befriend Francine to ease her transition into the congregation, community, and eventually school, which would begin after Silvanus's Day.
Francine preferred to be called Frankie though here it struck people as undignified and even unnatural. Rebecca thought her restless to the point of being angry, but an anger that was just under the surface of an outwardly calm, disinterested demeanor. She thought Frankie's anger was like the white carp in the pond on Old Man Stevenson's farm. They swam beneath the surface milling about until the slightest thing disturbed the water--a grass blade, a skimmer bug, a crust of sandwich bread--then the fish would break the surface, their mouths greedily agape, foregoing their natural world for the unsustaining air. It seemed little would be required to call forth Frankie's anger. Rebecca assumed that what was at the heart of Frankie's anger was being transplanted here, to this backwater little village, when she was used to a more bustling kind of life.
They had been to Shirley Donaldson's for lemonade and to listen to music on the radio. If the conditions were right and if Shirley's antenna was just so, she could pick up the city station and hear the newest releases. Shirley's parents did not wholly approve of her listening to the station, with some of its unwholesome and unchristian song lyrics, so the heavily freckled redhead was indulging in a bit of riskiness for her guest's sake to tune the radio to the city station. Frankie made only a halfhearted attempt to mask her boredom, so after an hour Rebecca claimed to have some chores undone at home, and she and Frankie left the Donaldsons'.
They were walking along the village square, totally abandoned at this time on a summer afternoon, and Rebecca suddenly ran into the gazebo on the square and sat in the shade. After a second or two Frankie reluctantly followed. There was room on Rebecca's bench, which ran the length of one of the hexagon's sides, so Frankie sat there too.
The girls were both fifteen, with bodies that were only just beginning to hint at the women they would become. They sat quietly, knowing that each was listening to a wasp that bounced along the rafters, apparently unable to find its way out in spite of the structure's openness.
Shirley's nice, Rebecca said, picking at the hem of her shorts. It was nice of her to have us over.
Opting to neither agree nor disagree, Frankie turned her attention fully to the wasp. Upturned, Rebecca noticed for the first time the green of Frankie's eyes--green like the underside of the leaves of red maples, the side that only reveals itself during a summer storm. She thought that they complemented her dark skin and hair--hair that Frankie merely swept to one side, allowing it to continually fall across her face, with her right eye constantly obscured. Just as it was now, and Rebecca was irritated to the point of wanting to sweep it into place and tell Frankie to get a barrette or a headband, something.
She understood, at least vaguely, what bothered her was that Frankie allowed herself the freedom to wear her hair however it fell, and that her clothes, like this blue-striped skirt and white cotton blouse, were worn as loosely and carelessly as if she had had to borrow them from someone in a pinch. While Rebecca put so much effort into taming her blond curls, and matching her headband to her blouse, and ironing a sharp crease in her shorts and skirts. Yet no one seemed to notice or care--she rarely received a compliment, and Rebecca could not help but notice how the boys in the village looked at Frankie, some of the married men too, even Rebecca's father.
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Primitive Scent (Lesbian Stories)Short Story
"Primitive Scent" is part of a series of related stories that I spent about four years writing. They are all set in the same unnamed Midwestern village, and nearly all are in the 1950s. They have reoccurring characters, themes, images, and specific...