Fiction: The Freckles
The sun was coming up. Nate, who was twenty-eight but still in appearance and spirit very much a boy, was lying on his side, watching for the girl beside him to wake up.
He had spent
the whole night looking at her. He felt wide awake, though he didn’t want to
be. She was lying on her stomach, with her head turned away from him. It had
been hours since she had fallen asleep. At first, he had been anxious about not
sleeping but then he had been thinking all night and he reached the conclusion
that he was happy, his life looking bright. When night blanched to pre-dawn
blue, however, pooling in the lampshade and the corners of the carpet, he felt
his contentment recede. A sudden anxiety crept into his bones.
became worried that the girl was not well. He lifted the yellow sheet—her
yellow sheet, with pale blue flowers—from her body. She had a particularly nice
butt. He lowered the sheet, because he was not a creep.
had a very delicate set of neck and shoulders. How terribly lovely. And a
little sad! Why this was sad was unknown to him. Scrunched up and crushed in
sleep, her neck was no wider, it seemed, than his wrist. Her brown hair had
fallen over her neck and gently he swept it away.
shoulders were six freckles. They looked like a close cluster of stars, like
some real constellation, but he could not say which. It was not the sort of
thing he had any interest in.
was, however, in his second year of medical school, and from the anatomical
standpoint, this girl was very elegantly made. Now what was her name? For the
life of him he couldn’t say. He pictured her from the night before, her mouth a
black hole under the orange street lamp. I’m blank. Her voice a cheerful trill.
He was about
to lift the sheet again, to peep at her anatomically perfect butt one last
time, when something caught his eye. Something had changed. He frowned. Now,
between her shoulders, there were only five brown dots. They didn’t look like a
constellation at all; the lost star made it all fall apart.
He looked at
the mattress, as if it had fallen off like a crumb.
as he would to an elderly patient with fragile skin, he pulled her skin taut,
to see if the mark was hiding in shadow. But the girl had exceptionally firm,
full flesh. There was nowhere to hide. Where there had been six dots were now
his hand across her skin to look for abnormal texture. Any change in beauty
marks was cause for a second look.
amazement, two of the beauty marks came off onto his index finger.
He rubbed his
thumb over it and one fell onto the bed and looked like nothing more than a
particle of dust. The other dot remained on his index finger and would not come
off. He rubbed it harshly with the blanket, turning his skin red. The freckle
didn’t move. It was embedded there, as if it had taken root. It had fused to his skin. It was a little
raised on his finger, a little raised and round, and he could feel it with his
returned to his study of the girl’s back. Now only three dots remained, in a
triangle shape closer to her right shoulder. Not wanting to wake her, he
reached into the pocket of his jeans, which were crumpled on the floor by the
bed. He took out his phone. When he opened the camera on it, and positioned it
above the girl’s back, he was astounded to find that the triangle of dots had
vanished, as if into their own Bermuda Triangle.
woke up. Her smile faded as she turned towards him and saw his camera.
She put on
her shirt. Then she got out of bed and pulled on her skirt from the night
He felt very
aware of his nakedness.
you taking pictures of me?”
“I was—” He
paused. “I wasn’t.”
“But I saw
your camera out,” she said.
was edged with something flammable.
Nate put on
his clothes, trying to gather his thoughts. “I thought I saw something on your
back,” he said, wondering how drunk she had been when they were discussing how
he was a doctor, or almost. This made the girl pause. “What’s on my back?” she
puzzled him. He slowly put on his shoes.
have—you had some beauty marks there…and I thought I saw them change.”
changed? You saw them change?”
I thought I saw your freckles—” he stopped. He had no clothes left to put on.
He felt his pockets for his phone and wallet. “You should go to a
dermatologist,” he said, using his doctor-in-training voice.
you were a podiatrist,” she said, her
tone setting his cheeks aflame.
The girl was
now making her bed, looking at everything suspiciously as if for evidence. When
she heard her door, she opened her mouth as if to stop him. But then she sighed
and shook her head.
As the boy
walked down the street, the birds were still noisily lighting up the trees. He
was looking down at his hand. There it was—the freckle—on his index finger
where it had come off the girl’s skin.
Christine Kwon is the author of A Ribbon the Most Perfect Blue (Southeast Missouri State University Press), which won the Cowles Poetry Book Prize and debuts in spring 2023. Her stories have appeared in Joyland Magazine, X-R-A-Y, Cheap Pop, Sad Girls Club, and other places. She lives in New Orleans, where she serves as literary editor of Tilted House. You can follow her on Instagram @theschooloflonging