Illustrations by Hugo Yoshikawa

She follows me around the kitchen, tracing my steps but offering me enough space to move about. I like that she follows me, it instills my actions with purpose and Margot has the look of someone who is impressed. I rinse the rice, scrubbing with my hands until the water goes from milk-white (Margot’s skin!) to clear. The color of bathwater before my mother bathes. I cut loudly, chop, chop, careful to keep my fingers clawed so I don’t slice any extremities and embarrass myself. Then I whisk the salad dressing, and I beat until I feel the work and heat in my shoulders. The dressing looks like mayonnaise. The cooked fish is dry and hard under my thumb. No, who cares! Mother not here to scold me, parents on their getaway.
We are sixteen, but there’s no age for this. All men should tend to kitchen matters!

Buckteeth, long neck, short eyelashes, legs like chopsticks. This is the Margot I look at while the math teacher spits on us from his blackboard. I like to stare at her snail ears from the back of the classroom. Today, I have her in my house. I’m reminded of the first time we kissed at the swimming pool and she swam away from me very quickly like an agile siren.
I’m worried I’ll have to convince her to stay, but she crawls into bed as if she owns it, finding her nook. Exuberant feeling! Margot in my bed, Margot breathing steady, Margot tasting like the food I cooked for her—fried rice, pickled daikon, oven baked salmon—probably my taste too, not bad I hope. She rolls her smell into my sheets. Not that I lacked confidence, but now I’ve hit the moon’s ceiling. Let’s see how long I stay there, she stays here, her bumpy spine under my clever fingers. She combs my short hair with her nose. I don’t sleep a wink at night, nor does she. And yet I don’t feel tired, no bags under my eyes, her eyes are clear too, no shades beneath, eyes the same yellow pigment even though they’re more star-plum colored if you like, nothing catlike or sinister. Her lips a little dry. I lick them and they look pink again. She touches my navel. Her skin is unevenly smooth, some parts grainy, small hairs, and other sections are soft like silken tofu.

She tells me about her father’s death and how her mother refused to brush her teeth for days. We don’t dare ask Margot at school. I tell her I feel spoiled with two parents. She says that it’s not unusual, having a mother and father.
I’ve sobered up since she left. The bed sheets will smell Margot scent for another day if I’m lucky. I make the bed carefully hoping she won’t escape. I’d dissipate her smell if I flapped them in the air. Windows kept open because in the morning, the sun hits oven-hot on the wooden floors of this apartment, and the breeze is cooling. Hugo, ten years old and all elbows, stomps into the bedroom and dances in a circle, says he’ll tell the parents. Ha ha ha, I reply, no you won’t. He gives me a glum look. Okay, fine. Does she have a little sister, Margot, for me? He asks.

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