Amile sat across the room from him, sipping a glass of clear moonshine. He watched her, watched the warm glow rise in her cheeks, so much like a blush. She sighed contentedly and opened her eyes. She looked at his glass of clear liquid and frowned.
“Are you sure you won’t try some?” she asked. “It’s amazing.”
He didn’t need her to tell him that; he could see it on her face. He took a sip of his water and smiled back. “Moonshine?” he asked, stalling. “Like hillbillies make?”
She laughed a little. “No, this is Catdaddy Moonshine. It’s a very special type of whisky from a distillery in my hometown. I’ve been saving this bottle since Christmas. Here, take a sip. You’ve never had anything like it.”
It was a conversation he avoided by policy. It had ended friendships. But he suspected this could be different. He knew her well enough to hope that it would be.
“Thank you for the offer, but it’s fun enough watching you.”
“But it’s so good!”
Here it comes, he thought. Can’t avoid it now.
“I don’t drink. Never developed a taste for it.”
“Oh,” she said, and looked at the glass, embarrassed. She started to set it down, but he stopped her. It wasn’t going how he wanted.
“No, it’s not like that,” he explained. “I don’t mind when people drink. No judgment at all. In fact, I like it when people are happy. It makes me feel good to watch you enjoy something so much. I just don’t like the taste of alcohol myself.” It was the truth. It just wasn’t all of it.
She brightened up. “You just haven’t tried this yet,” she said, and leaned forward to offer the glass. “It’s warm and sweet and so smooth you can barely taste the alcohol.”
“My family…” he started to say, then stopped. He’d avoided sharing the truth with anyone else for years. Knowing it changed the way people looked at him, and he liked the way she looked at him.
What the hell, he thought, tired of censoring himself. Either he trusted her, or he didn’t. Either she liked him for who he was, or she wouldn’t.
“My family is susceptible,” he said in a rush. Once it was out, he slowed down to explain. “For me, learning to like the taste is like rolling the dice. Never could let myself take the risk.”
He smiled, outwardly calm, cool, and collected, but inside he clenched his stomach and waited for the response.
“No worries,” Amile said, sitting back. She relaxed and took an unselfconscious sip. When he saw that she was both free of judgment and still comfortable drinking herself, he let out a breath and his stomach unknotted.
“I understand,” she added, licking her lips. “I just wanted to share it with you. It’s really good, absolutely delicious, and I thought if you tasted it…” Her voice trailed off and her eyes widened as if an idea had just occurred to her. She looked at him, studying him, then at her glass. He could see her working through what she was about to say.
She took a swig, gathered her courage, and asked, “I have an idea. Do you trust me?”
“Of course,” he answered, and he meant it. That surprised him. He imagined this was what it felt to walk on a nude beach for the first time. He had risked ridicule and rejection and been rewarded with that look in her eyes, that look that felt like warm sunlight on bare skin.
Having reached a decision, she stood up and she stepped across the room to where he sat. With a crook of her finger, she beckoned him to lean forward in his seat. She took a sip and let the moonshine rest in her mouth for a moment. Then she swallowed, and, leaning forward before he could reconsider, Amile kissed him. Her soft lips touched his, and together they parted. She invited him inside, letting him taste the sweet moonshine on her tongue. He was exceedingly gentle at first, but then he drank as if tasting water for the first time. It lasted five seconds. Or it lasted all afternoon.
Eventually, they parted slightly, remaining close enough to feel each other’s breath on their faces, each exhalation tinged with cinnamon and nutmeg and warm spices.
“That,” he said, eyes still closed as he savored the experience, “tastes amazing.”
H.K. Slade grew up fascinated by storytelling, the magical process that allows one person to transport another back in time, across the universe, and into the middle of danger, mystery, or adventure with mere words. Some of his favorite practitioners of this art include Sir Terry Pratchett, Raymond Chandler, Tony Hillerman, Steven Pressfield, Christopher Moore, Tamora Pierce, and Jim Butcher. His works of fiction have been published in Alien Skin, Down in the Dirt, Peridot Books, Allegory Magazine, and Mystery Weekly.