I can’t stop looking at the Bible. We kiss. There, on the back-window ledge of the car, in the light of the moon. And kiss. Corners of its burgundy cover curved up, away from the Word on gold-edged pages. I close my eyes and kiss, imagining the gold edges flinching under the rain beating the slanted window. And kiss, feeling Andre’s big bottom lip between my lips.

We’re naked, sitting on the passenger side of the front seat in his mom’s Cutlass Supreme, windows steamed, rain playing the metal roof like a drum. My legs are tingling from straddling Andre for too long. I rise to my knees, reach back between the two front seats; Andre holds onto my ankles, and I stretch, take the Bible off the rear window’s ledge, and hide it under the dry cleaning on the backseat, where countless nights between kisses I’d prayed: God, give me strength. He pulls me back to him—calves, thighs, hips, waist—his hands sweaty against my bare skin, and holds me close for a while, his neck smelling like spring soap. I sniff his neck for a spot to kiss like a dog looking for a spot to pee, and he tucks his long chin, giggles. It tickles. He reaches behind me, takes down the pink furry dice hanging from the rearview mirror, and holds them to my mouth. I blow, and he tosses them into the driver’s seat. The pair of pink faces read seven: four and three. We kiss at our luck. He reaches for the long, gold necklace still hanging from the rearview mirror. I reach for his hand and he leaves it: gold cross swinging.

Pressing into my scalp, he pushes my hair off my face and looks me in the eyes, wide open. We skip a few blinks. Once I give it up, I can’t claim it, can’t wear it like a badge: VIRGIN across my chest, off the tip of my tongue, between my praying hands. I place my hands on his chest, my light brown skin against his dark, and feel his heart—love beating fast as a tambourine on Sunday. Same love drumming up and between my thighs. He kisses my lips and I close my eyes: same sweet beat inside.

The sound of a thousand-pound bat cracking in the sky makes me pull away from Andre, open my eyes, and see our naked bodies; makes me want to run home with the rain sliding into me—baptizing me clean.

“What’s wrong?” Andre asks, tilting his head to the side. “I thought we were going all the way this time.”

I want to assure him that we are, but the fear of burning forever won’t let me.

He bows his head, kisses my hand, and I feel his wet lips, soft on my skin. Another bow, and I see the raised, kidney-shaped birthmark on his shoulder I always trace with my tongue. His lips come back to my chin and I feel the heat between our hips, hear the rain spilling down from its bowl in the blue-black sky and beating the hood of the car. Another kiss, closer to my bottom lip, and I feel a space open between myself and the fear, like I am witnessing the fear outside of me, banging on the door, trying to get back in. Wet lips on my neck—it tingles—and I lower my chin, close my eyes, and dip back in.

We come together. At first there is pain, but it goes away, obeying a deeper impulse, a swelling pleasure. I obey it too, moving my body where it tells me—ten ways at once, all going under and under, itching for heat, for violence, beating its crazed wings at the root of my flesh, trying to break through, beating and plunging and beating and plunging and beating and squeezing his buckling bones, his suckling tongue, his hardening heart, beating him under and under.

Andre chokes my waist. Grunts. Freezes. Shakes. Lies back in the seat, eyes closed, at peace.

But I am still beating.

* * *

No song playing on the roof or in the car, we ride home with the windows down—black wind whipping my face. I close my eyes to the blasts and try to pray. How dare I pray for forgiveness for something I want to do again? I open my eyes and look at Andre, who looks cool (his first time too, but what do boys have to lose?), then down at the pink furry dice in his lap. Luck, huh? There’s a chance we might die (people die in car accidents every day) and go to hell. Wouldn’t be so lucky then. I take the necklace from the rearview mirror and slip it over my head—gold cross cold against my chest. My whole body goes cold, except for my left hand, held by Andre’s right. He squeezes it at every stop sign and kisses it at every red light. I rub the gold cross all the way home and it finally warms.

At my front door, Andre asks for his mom’s necklace. I want to keep it, sleep in it, wear it to church in the morning—be able to pray for grace in my pew with gold still warm on my chest. But I bow my head, and he reaches behind my neck, takes the chain, hangs it on his wrist, and hugs me close for a while, the cross beating my back.

He releases me and looks at his watch: ten fifty-nine. One more kiss, and I unlock the door, step inside—cold. I want to run back outside, let Andre hold me longer, but I lock the door, and set the alarm. Through mini blinds, I watch Andre return the Bible to the window ledge and hang the necklace on the rearview mirror: gold cross swinging in and out of the streetlight.