by Mara White
Publication Date: July 22, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Taboo, Romance
Whatever force made Lucky, either God or the Universe, wrapped him so tightly around my heart that sometimes I’m suffocating. Biologically, we are made of too many similar parts, yet our chemistry is like a meteor shower, raining bright sparks of light into the dark night. But it’s not our biology or chemistry that worries me the most, it’s the physics of our love that goes against the cosmos.
My thoughts:I just have to say - the love between Lucky and Belen is so strong, so intense, so pure, so visceral... It sort of ruined me. At one point, I was reading and Lucky is talking about how he sometimes sneaks into Belen's room to smell her sheets, and instead of thinking "that's hella creepy," I'm giving my hubby the side eye wondering if his love for me is that desperate. Mara White is a genius. Plain and simple. The way she told this part of their story: from the before and after (antes and despues), to the slightly non-linear manner in which is told (which was sort of mindblowing to me once I figured it out), to the little introductions to the story that just gave us hope that maybe, just MAYBE, Lucky and Belen could have their HEA, not to mention the delicious perspective of Lucky. Then there was the way she resolved the slight obstacles in their way (like death, distance, and a HUSBAND) - it's just genius. Not to mention she's a word goddess; I literally highlighted entire paragraphs because I couldn't narrow down the passages of gold that just stole my heart, mind, and spirit. Malentendido is just perfect. So insidiously, gorgeously, pervasively PERFECT. ALL THE STARS. Forget five - the WHOLE GALAXY.
She corners me in the stairwell as I’m escaping to the park. Backpack on her shoulder, hair pulled up in a messy bun, a pencil shoved in, barely holding it all together.
“Lucky, get this, we share anywhere from seven to almost thirteen percent identical DNA. I’m actually surprised because I thought it would be higher than that.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I say, then look over my shoulder to hide my anxiety and the automatic smile that pops up on my face whenever I hear her voice. “Why’d you think it would be more?”
“I don’t know. ’Cause siblings are fifty percent and – don’t you remember the unit? It was only last year. Double cousins are higher and –”
“Wait, hold up. What the fuck are double cousins? What are you talking about, Belén?”
I’m automatically worried she knows something. Somebody has been talking to her and she just figured it out about her mom and her uncle?
“Double cousins. Like if our moms had married siblings, but they didn’t so we’re not.”
“If they married their siblings? Who the fuck does that?”
“Not their own, like if they’d married brothers. Forget it, Lucky. You obviously don’t remember. Go hang in the park with your friends.”
My heart is thumping because I thought she was onto something. But Bey is just rambling about science class and I’m already expecting the worst that could happen from her knowing how related we are.
“Shit, Bey. You crazy. You know that?”
“I obviously got the genes for brains and you got the looks.”
She smiles at me like she’s making a joke but I don’t laugh or think it’s funny. How come she doesn’t ever see how pretty she is? She has no idea how hard I can get from just staring at her lips.
“What do you mean, Bey? You’re beautiful.”
I can’t believe I said it. Our eyes connect for a second and so much moves between us that words aren’t necessary. A flash in her eye shows fear, but there’s more emotion there than that. I get the urge to grab her, slam her up against the wall and kiss the living fuck out of her. Oh God, Len, what you do to me with a look. Eye contact and I’m gone on fantasies of what I could do to her. She’s delicate and so young and better than my dirty thoughts.
And sometimes I swear she’s the only person who really sees me. I can hide shit from everyone, my own mother included. But Bey’s got this crazy way of looking right through me. She can see the good parts and the bad parts, read my feelings like a fortune teller and recognize my bullshit from a mile away before I even try to cover it up. She can hear the truth in my lies like nobody else.
“Go study, little girl. I got stuff to do.”
My feet start to jog away down the steps with a mind of their own. I can’t stick around or I will pull her into my arms. I only want to kiss her sweet little nose—but it would lead to something bigger, I’m definitely capable of worse. I don’t know what I’d do to her if we were alone and left to our own devices. But I got an idea and it makes me get the hell out of the situation.
“Where are you going, Lucky?” she yells as she leans over the railing. I’m running away from her, I’m always fucking running away from her.
“Out, Bey! Go finish your homework.” I stop and look up at her. My heart’s pounding, I feel dizzy. I don’t need drugs with Bey around, I get a high from just talking to her. She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Flushed cheeks, need in her eyes and a body that is never far from my mind.
“We’re thirteen percent the same, that leaves eighty-seven percent that we’re different,” she says and smiles down at me. Her smile is the key to unlock all that’s good in the universe. I grin back like a fool as happiness flows through me from basking in it. I’m love-drunk on Bey and stand and stare like an idiot. If anything ever happened to her, I think I’d die of loneliness. No way I couldn’t handle it. I want to protect her from corruption and at the same time, unleash my worst on her. It’s a fucked-up feeling and it’s got me tripping in circles. If I can’t have her, sure as hell I won’t ever let anyone else touch her.
“You know what, Lucky? You’re weird,” she says and opens her notebook. She tears out a piece of paper and folds it up in front of me.
“You know what, Bey?” I ask. I’m about to say something dumb. Something that will play over and over in my head and I’ll regret the moment it comes out my mouth.
“What?” she says and drops the paper; the folds give it weight and it lands at my feet.
I lean down to pick it up and I hold it in my hand. I can’t tell her how I feel. What if she’s over it? I gave her her first kiss—maybe I was a just a person she could trust, someone to practice on.
But Christ, that kiss in front of the fridge was like no other kiss. I think about it every time I see her, every time I look at her lips. I’ve kissed a whole hell of a lot of chicks and never felt anything like it. A shot of heroin straight to my heart and a bolt of lightning to my dick.
Maybe she’s moved on to other guys? Even the thought makes me want to punch something, or better yet, someone. I’d pound his fucking face in, whoever thinks he can touch Belén and dirty up her innocence. My anger and frustration are always two steps ahead of me.
“What were you going to say, Lucky?”
I shove the note in my back pocket and start walking down the stairs.
“Naw, Bey. I’m not gonna tell you. I don’t want you to get a big head.”
“Like you? Luciano, you are impossible,” she huffs, and I can hear her feet march up the stairs. I chuckle at her attitude, but at the same time my eyes are watering and I wipe them with the back of my hand. I’m such a fucking pussy. I got to get myself under control.
I unfold the note and read it, her doodling in pink pen.
“Lucky is thirteen percent of me and I am thirteen percent of him.”
Thirteen is an unlucky number, I think as I crumple the piece of paper and toss it out an open window in the stairwell.
by Mara White
Publication Date: June 22, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Taboo, Romance
Belén: I’ve loved Luciano ever since I can remember, desired him before I even knew what it meant. He’s always been the only man in my life—my constant protector, and his rejection only intensifies my need. Luciano: I’ve never known a love more fierce than the one I feel for Belén. But I force myself to deny her no matter how much it hurts. Our love is a sickness and both of us are infected. Because there’s no cure for being from the same family.
There ain’t too much that can shake me. I was born into the belly of the beast on a blazing hot day in July. A heat-wave scorcher that brought the caps off the fire hydrants and everyone out on the street. Old men pulled their wife-beaters up over their bellies to cool off and the girls wore even less clothing than normal, which ain’t much, in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. Air conditioning was a luxury afforded to the rich; the only place to cool down was either at the hospital or the car service on the way there. Just don’t bleed out from a bullet wound before they get you through the lobby.
My ma says her water broke while she was walking back up the stairs to take a piss. Being that I was her first, she thought for a second she’d peed her pants. She hobbled back out onto the street and yelled for somebody to get her a cab before she gave birth to her son on the makeshift corner domino table.
Ma likes to say that she carried so big with me that she could barely walk—that she knew I was macho from the very first kick in her gut, knew that she’d call me Luciano after the first light of the morning sun.
Like I said, ain’t too much that can flap me. South Bronx, Spanish Harlem, then to West Harlem and the Heights—I’d seen it all by age ten. Seen it all and then some. I ain’t no stranger to violence.
But war is different when it moves from rival blocks and gang-claimed school yards to open desert or caves and tunnels dug two miles deep into a mountainside. Out here you’re not fighting your own war. You’re part of a machine that is unimaginably bigger than you are. When you’re out on a mission, you pray with each footstep that the machine will take care of you.
One thing is for certain—whether you’re ready or not, the machine will make a fucking man of you.
Out here under the white-hot sun, I think about that scorching day in the South Bronx in ‘89 when my Ma brought me into this world. And who knows if she was ready, but she struggled alone, like a roach on its back, her whole life just to take care of me.
The sky is empty and an endless, deep blue. What I wouldn’t give right now for the propeller beats of an army chopper to break the monotony. My warm, sticky blood seeps through my fatigues and the sand soaks it up like it’s been waiting its whole goddamned life to get a drink of me. Alls it would take is a single sandstorm for me to get buried out here forever—no record, no closure, no body to recover and fly home for an honorable funeral service.
So I think about how she would describe to me the day I made an entrance: hot, sleazy summer. Beaches too polluted—no swimming, no air but the devil’s own to breathe in the city. She swears the bachata music stopped when she hit the street and screamed she was in labor.
That the old men upset their domino game as they all stood simultaneously in attention.
That the sky momentarily lit up with a flash of heat lightning. She thought for a second, rain, but then realized the sensation was only her own water dripping down her legs.
That the temperature broke one hundred and five on that day. She said the heat made labor easy, that it helped to loosen all of her muscles. She said she knew I would be a boy and that the heat would make me just as stubborn as I was strong.
And she knew that I would take care of her—that we would take care of each other.
My ma told me the story whenever there was a heat wave passing through the city. Nothing could ever compare to my heat wave in her head. I couldn’t know that day better if I’d been there to see it. My Luciano’s heatwave was worse, it was better, we were lucky we survived it. That the heat was a blessing disguised as a curse, that her boy would be hot-blooded and naturally drawn to the fight. But my ma wasn’t scared. She clenched down on her teeth instead of screaming in pain.
In Spanish, for giving birth, they say, giving light. My ma swears up and down that I was born to save her life. Luciano, she named me, the giver of light.
That night a five-alarm fire burnt down almost our whole block. Faulty wiring, they said. Six people died, all of them in our rundown building. Everything she owned became ash. The only reason we weren’t too was on account of my spontaneous entrance.
We moved less than a mile away into a tiny apartment my Tía Betty shared with their uncle. A year later, Belén was born, and from that moment on, we slept in the same crib. It seems like my whole life my cousin has always been right next to me. I would wake up when she’d cry and drift back to sleep as she did.
Now I lie on my back, wounded, probably mortally. Alone, unarmed, in prime enemy territory. What I wouldn’t give to be by her side now.
Belén. My cousin. My own heat wave. The flame to my fire.
About Mara White
Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.