Thunderheads hung in the sky like gunmetal colored cotton and the night air felt heavy against the bare skin at my shoulders. The stars had all but disappeared except for a tiny sliver to the south, tiny confetti dots of light against the charcoal curtain.
“We should head inside,” Lark mumbled, his head still cradled in my lap. I tilted my own head back to watch the dancing fringe of the storm make its way above us, a late spring breeze caught between my hair and the magnolia blooms. “At least shut my sketch book?”
Lark’s voice was tinged with sleep, all gravel and ragged whisper. My hand paused its silent circles at the back of his neck to close the folio of pencil drawings he carried everywhere with him. The leather cover was worn smoothe from countless caresses and years of being jostled around in backpacks and vehicle seats; I could smell the tiniest hint of paper and cowhide perfume as I tugged the strap closed. Lark’s neck was warm under my fingertips and a touch pink from constant hours spent in the sun as planting season progressed. A fresh haircut sharpened the line at his nape, the short hair as dark as the night blooming around us with infinitesimal specks of silver like the stars playing hide-and-seek above.
Turning my gaze from the stormy masses to Lark’s profile, an involuntary breath froze in my chest. He was classic, black-and-white movie handsome; a sharp jaw with a scar the size of a dime above his chin, the same shade as baby-powder against his olive skin. Coal eyelashes covered irises the color of summer grass and a crooked smile to flood his face with light. Freckles were sprinkled across chiseled cheekbones almost like a dusting of cinnamon. Strong hands were calloused from late-night mechanic work and constantly gripping a pencil. Graphite permanently stained the insides of his fingers; they left smudged, connect-the-dot patterns whenever he stroked my ribs as we slept. His laundry, always smelling of lemon and mint, wrapped his tall frame in faded jeans low on his hips and worn t-shirts across his wide chest.
A contented sigh escaped his mouth, blowing heat against my stomach as I studied him. My fingers slid from his neck to the sleeve of his shirt, tracing the ridges of a new tattoo. Lark was a walking contradiction of black and white elements: a polite gentleman covered in ink, a kind voice bordered with a sarcastic bite, affectionate and giving with a bottled, hot temper. His left arm, tucked softly around my waist, was a riot of forest depictions: jagged pine trees, a crystal moon reflected in a dark lake, a winding road among barren branches leading to his shoulder where it poured down his back as if from an ink filled vessel. Small words were tucked in negative spaces, like little bird nests exploding with hidden poetry. My favorite was a branch on his bicep, blended into a dagger, Dylan Thomas concealed along the blade. Another set of waves in the lake rippled with words penned by James Joyce, one Lark would quote with an impressive Irish lilt as we’d lay together in bed.
My feet were bare, cherry red toenails glistening as the light faded at the edge of the blanket we had tossed on the ground. His porch light was an orange lightning bug in the distance but I could hear the crack of the screen door in the wind. Lark’s dog was most likely asleep by the front steps, with his bloodhound wrinkles like buckskin Play-Doh covering his eyes.
As I watched the breeze cut through the field grass with sharp arrowed gusts, Lark’s hand slid up the exposed back of my dress. He stretched to a sitting position before gently knocking his forehead against mine while a deep, yawn stretched his jaw. I watched his eyes take in the blooming clouds and the steady sway of the magnolia branches, their twisted arms waving into the night as if warning us to flee. Dimples carved tiny holes in his tan cheeks under the grin rapidly spreading across his mouth.
“Why didn’t you wake me up? It’s gonna cut loose any second now,” he laughed, tugging the end of my hair. His voice had lost its sleepy slur, returning to its velvet drawl. “Pretty though. Look at how those clouds over there are layered, kind of like meringue.”
“Only you,” I laughed back, “would see something pie-related in storm clouds.”
The giggle died a quick death in my throat as Lark’s hand slipped under the edge of my dress, trailing a line from the back blade of my shoulder to the dip of my waist. His freehand moved of its own accord to tilt my chin up. The beginnings of a beard rubbed gritty against my cheek but his lips were soft when they kissed the tender spot below my ear. Barely a brush, light as the breeze, but powerful enough to elicit a low whine from my throat.
“What is it, baby?”
His question was nothing but a tease of lips and warm breath against my neck.