Under an afternoon splintered with gold and thorns, wind and clouds as fleeting as angels billowing above our hair, we pressed our hands into the new-churned earth on West Magnolia Road and claimed it as ours. The damp ground dried up and honored these birthmarks; to this moment, she still bears the hollow stars of our tiny hands, keeps our names engraved into her nethermost. This was our kingdom, epicurean cathedral of wild nights and firesides. The bougainvillea wove itself into verdant circles and we crowned ourselves emperor and queen, sacred groundskeepers and young scions of unbridled acres.
Under the star-washed violet sky, we sewed wings onto our sneakers and kicked off the ground. We believed in fantastic, impossible things: dragons and spies and imaginary friends that lived in the attic, we believed in forever and the infallibility of love. I do not believe we took it for granted. We loved the wet grind of concrete on our feet, spraying the garden hose in the driveway on summer afternoons, the cells of blackberry flesh bursting over our tongues, our shadows that always moved two-by-two. Above everything, we loved the dangerous flick of bonfires, their ravenous orange tongues, the shimmered dance of the trees seen through rippling grey air. What a luscious thrill, to beget the spark and flame, to coax it into scarlet rapture and delight in the midnight dance of mortal light, to smother it with cool streams as we licked the last embers from our fingers. In the morning I painted with the ashes. You raked the refuse strewn from the burnmark on the yard’s green face. We walked back inside together and slept soundly, the smoke in our lungs keeping us warm.
Sometimes I still dream of it, our own secret Manderley burning up while we watch from the road, windows coughing out heavy clouds of smoldered brick and pine. Sometimes we still drive and sneak in through the broken back door, trace the letters of our names still stuck in the ground like we own something to be proud of. Once upon a time there was you and me cast in pure gold, wrapped in the deep blue walls of our newfound castle. Sound asleep while black harbingers swooped through the tremulous ramparts with malice in their wings. And just look at us now, Joshua, and isn’t she a sight for jaded eyes, forlorn grandeur draped in ivy. We’re waking in outskirts of cold Magnolia, her petal scent and smoke lodged in our throat like swallowed lockets.