(It’s better with Muriel. Thank you.)

Asters, part 1: Brush

Near the window, bathed in twilight, already in her nightdress, a girl is sitting—a girl only because she is not yet convinced she’s a woman—her hair being brushed and braided.

She closes her eyes, wrapping herself in the sensation of the gentle tugging at her scalp, the incidental fingers on the skin near her temples, near her ears, near her neck; almost imperceptibly, the brushing slows, pauses, and quite barely she feels breath grazing the shell of her ear.

Her own breath hitches.

Sensation floods from her ear down that entire side of her body. She opens her lips to take in more air. Does she dare turn around?

The brush clatters to the floor. Both of them gasp.

“Sorry,” says her friend.

The girl turns. Her friend’s face, usually the color of nutmeg, is suffused with pink. Her eyes are wide, and her mouth is… almost plum. The girl’s thumb is touching her friend’s lips before she’s even aware of the impulse.

They both remember themselves and move apart suddenly, but the moment is indelible.

Their eyes meet, and each is keenly aware they have been staring at each other’s lips. The girl moistens hers, then realizes what she’s done.

“Can I—?” they say simultaneously.

“Sorry—” they say simultaneously.

Neither breathes.

“Can I touch your hair?” asks the girl.

Her friend’s brow creases for a moment, then she nods. The girl takes several of the chocolate and ginger corkscrews into her hands, as if they are water, as if they are tiny delicate living creatures. She looks into her friend’s eyes.

“It’s beautiful,” she whispers, “Can I brush it?”

Her friend shakes her head, then, “Can I—”


“Can I touch your lips?”

The girl, barely perceptibly, nods. And her friend does, brushing the girl’s lips with her own.

Asters, part 2: Skin