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Where the Heart Is

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On Tuesday, Luke wakes up even before his parents leave for work. In Africa, he had gotten used to waking up with the sun; apparently now his body’s finally gotten used to the new time zone. He follows the scent of coffee downstairs and into the kitchen.

“What are your plans for today?” his dad, dressed in suit and tie, asks from across his cup of Folgers.

“I don’t know,” he admits. He and Lexie have been playing it more or less by ear so far.

“You should get out of the house,” Dad advises. “It’s not good to spend all your time inside.”

Luke nods, thinking that Dad is right. He and Lexie should get out of the house. He’s trying to convince her to go to West Africa with him, and what has he done? Stayed in all the time. Admittedly, the sex was fantastic, but he knows he has more to offer her than that.

Once Mom and Dad have both left, he lets himself into Lexie’s room, sits down on the edge of her bed, and gently shakes her awake. She groggily blinks awake, looks at him, and smiles. “Good morning,” she says. “Care to join me in here?”

It’s tempting, but he wants to stick to his newfound determination to wine and dine Lexie. “Get dressed,” he tells her. “Put on something nice. I’m taking you out.”

Lexie studies him for a moment, then nods. “Okay,” she agrees, “but I get to decide where.”

Since Luke hasn’t figured out yet where he’s going to take Lexie, that trade actually works out in his favor. “Deal.”

Lexie seems to consider for a moment, then comes to a silent decision. “Go change into something nice,” she tells him, echoing his earlier request. “But not too nice. You’re going to want to be comfortable.”

That sounds vaguely ominous, but he’s agreed to do whatever she’s chosen. He returns to his room, puts on a pair of khakis and a polo shirt, then heads downstairs to wait for Lexie as she gets ready, bringing his copy of Tail of the Blue Bird down with him. He sits down on the couch, opens the book to the page he had dog-eared to save his place, and starts reading, quickly getting caught up again in the exploits of Kayo and Constable Garba.

He’ll leave the book with Lexie if she doesn’t go back to Africa with him, he decides. The blend of magical realism and mystery fiction is really right up her alley.


He becomes so engrossed in the book that when he suddenly realizes Lexie is standing in front of him, dressed in a v-necked sweater and a corduroy skirt over white tights, he’s not sure how long she’s been there. “Ready to go?” he asks, putting down the book.

“Yep,” says Lexie with an ominously pleased smile and leads the way out of the house to the driveway, grabbing a winter jacket out of the hall closet on her way out. Luke grabs his as well.

Luke waits for Lexie to unlock the doors, then gets into the passenger seat of Lexie’s yellow ‘96 Jetta. The car had been a sixteenth-birthday present from their parents. The past five years have not been as kind to it as they have been to Lexie herself, Luke notes.

Still, it starts up without a problem, and within minutes Lexie’s stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for them to grab a quick breakfast. Once they’re back in the car, Lexie pulls onto the interstate. Luke still doesn’t know what their destination is.

“If I go with you to Africa, am I going to have to learn French?” Lexie asks. Luke’s heart leaps with the knowledge that she’s still actively considering his offer.

“Well, no,” he says, “although it would help. It’s a lot easier to learn by immersion than from Mme. Bienkowski, though.” Mme. Bienkowski was the French teacher at Immaculate Conception High, the Catholic high school both Luke and Lexie attended.

About five minutes later, Lexie pulls into the parking lot of GreatSkate, the closest ice skating rink to their house. Luke suddenly notices the pair of broken-in ice skates in Lexie’s size sitting on the back seat of the car. Had she put them there while he had been engrossed in his book?

Luke pays for their admission into the rink, and then goes to rent a pair of skates for himself. “It’s been a while since I’ve done this, you know,” he reminds Lexie as he laces up the skates.

“You used to play ice hockey,” Lexie points out.

“Yeah, in high school,” says Luke. “That was almost a decade ago now.”

“Don’t worry,” says Lexie. “It’s like riding a bike.”

It’s a little bit more difficult than that, but Luke manages to find his balance again on the skates, and soon the two of them are making laps around the rink, hand in hand. He’d forgotten just how much he had loved the sensation of gliding gracefully across the ice, he realizes. Whether it’s chasing after a puck or just leisurely making his way around the rink, the sense that he’s eluded the normal restrictions of movement is a powerful high.

They continue to skate like that for hours. Sometimes Lexie will say something about her classes, or Luke about his job in West Africa. Other times a random non sequitor gets them going off on one topic or another, be it Renaissance literature or Bollywood drama, and they chase down the tangent until they’ve exhausted it. Often, they just skate in a comfortable silence, enjoying the moment and not letting themselves be troubled by the future, not worrying whether they or brother and sister or boyfriend and girlfriend or both or neither. Or at least, that’s what Luke’s trying to do, to focus on the immediacy of the now, the feel of Lexie’s hand in his, the sound of her voice, the beauty of her face, the air whistling by as they skate. To be in the moment, and try not to think about how in three days he’ll be returning to Africa, either with Lexie or without her.

If only this moment could last forever, he muses. In some ways, it’s even better than their sex. Well, almost as good, at least. In some ways.

Okay, sex with Lexie is totally better, but this is still pretty damn good.

Then, suddenly, Lexie gets a mischievous look on her face, lets go of his hand and darts away from him, skating at what Luke is sure is far too fast during a public skate. He races to keep up with her, but he’s not nearly as stable on his skates as Lexie is on hers, and loses control as he takes a turn. He goes flying into a small child, and as both he and she fall to the ground, his head hits the ice and for a moment, everything goes black.


“Are you all right?” Lexie asks as Luke pulls himself to his feet, uncertain on his skates.

“I’m okay,” Luke answers. “I’m just--”

“Jack and Jill went ’round the rink,” a dark-haired woman singsongs in an English accent as she skates by, “faster and still faster. Jack fell down, and broke his crown, and Jill went tumbling after.”

Luke blinks. “Let’s get you off the ice,” Lexie says, leading him to the rink’s exit.

“So Jack caught Jill, took hold of her and kissed her,” says the dark-haired Englishwoman as she passes by them once again. “This was odd in th’eyes of God, ’cause Jill, she was Jack’s sister.”

“Wait,” says Luke, turning to get a better look at the Englishwoman. “What?” He turns back towards Lexie--

--only to find himself in the kitchen of his appartment, back in Côte d’Ivoire. “Luke?” Colette’s seductive contralto calls out from the bedroom. “Reviens au lit, mon cher. Allons avoir du plaisir orgasmique ici de nous amuser, toi et moi, non? J'ai une surprise sexuelle très spéciale pour toi ce soir.

Une minute,” he calls back to her, trying to take stock of himself. Colette had broken up with him, hadn’t she? And now he is trying to court Lexie--

Colette exits the bedroom, dressed in zebra-print lace panties and a sheer camisole. “Prêt à prendre ces hors moi?

Luke opens his mouth, then closes it again, uncertain what he could possibly say. Instead, he simply makes his way for the front door and exits his apartment, only to step out into the hallway of his old school, Immaculate Conception High. The hallway is filled with students, so it must be passing time in between class periods.

He looks around, trying to regain his bearings, and sees Lexie and Gwen, the way he remembers them before he left, as teenagers. They’re dressed in their Catholic school uniforms, pleated tartan skirts and patent leather shoes and kneesocks and white blouses with the Immaculate Conception High insignia embroidered on the breast pocket. Lexie is getting something out of her locker while Gwen is speaking to her animatedly, the tresses of her chestnut hair flying through the air as her head shakes with excitement. He can’t quite make out what she’s saying, though.

He tries to make his way through the sea of schoolchildren to try to get closer to his sister and his cousin, but the mass of bodies presses against him as they make their way down the hall, pushing him further and further away, like by an ocean riptide too strong to swim against. Then the bell rings, and suddenly the hallway is empty as the students quickly disperse, with Lexie and Gwen nowhere to be seen.

“Women,” a familiar voice says from behind him.

He turns around to see Luke from Ghost Soup Infidel Blue, just like he was on the show, in fuzzy black-and-white.

“Women,” the Infidel repeats. “Fuck them.” The voice is recognizably Marcos Johnson’s, down to the campy acting style with overdramatic pauses, and while the language is a little more R-rated than would have been allowed on the television serial, the sentiment behind it is not exactly out of character. “That’s all they’re . . . good for.”

“Forgive me,” Luke answers, “if I don’t take relationship advice from a womanizing fictional character.”

Infidel Luke gives a quick “whatever, man” shrug. “Just don’t say . . . I didn’t . . . warn you.”

“You didn’t see two girls, brown hair, in school uniforms?” Luke answers. Of course, that description would fit a good quarter of the student body at Immaculate Conception.

“Two?” Infidel Luke asks with a raised eyebrow. “Way to go, man.”

Luke grabs the other Luke by the collar of his Infidel uniform and slams him against the lockers, before it even occurs to him that physically assaulting a space opera action hero might not be the wisest of plans. “That’s my sister and my cousin, you’re talking about,” he practically growls at the monochromatic spacer.

“Sorry man, I . . . didn’t know,” the Infidel apologizes, still in Johnson’s overdramatic cadences.

Luke releases him and steps back, to realize that there is another figure--another Luke, even--in the hallway. Saint Luke, just like he looks on the parish sign, his colors faded and washed out, is watching them from behind kind, weary eyes. He’s leaning on his staff, the dove perched on his shoulder.

“Sorry,” Luke apologizes. “I’m just worried about Lexie and Gwen.”

The evangelist nods, then quickly examines Infidel Luke. “There doesn’t seem to be any harm done,” the saintly physician decides.

“Of course not,” the Infidel agrees, puffing out his chest. “I . . . don’t damage . . . that easily, . . . you know.”

“Of course not,” St. Luke agrees easily, then turns back to Luke. “Now you, your hurt runs a little bit deeper, I suspect. A malady of the heart, if I’m not mistaken.”

“My sister Lexie,” Luke answers. “I’m in love with her.” For some reason, it never even occurs to him to hide his incestuous love from the saint.

“Now that’s . . . just fucked up,” Infidel Luke says, but immediately backs up, his hands up, when Luke glares at him. “Just saying.”

St. Luke nods thoughtfully. “Love is a powerful thing, lad. ‘And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three,’” he quotes, “‘and the greatest of these is love.’ Did I write that? No, that was Paul, wasn’t it? How about ‘Love and be free’?”

“That was St. Augustine,” Luke offers helpfully.

The saint nods, stroking his beard. “It was, wasn’t it. ‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not--’”

“St. Paul again.”

“‘For God so loved the world--’”

“St. John.”

“Well, ‘the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little’--that was me, I’m sure of it.”

Well, it was him quoting Jesus, but Luke decides not to nitpick with the evangelist, and just nods.

“Be sure to keep all these things,” St. Luke says to Luke, not a little pompously,“and ponder them in your heart.”

“Thanks, St. Luke,” Luke answers the saint, even if he didn’t actually so much say much of anything at all as just quote Bible verses at Luke. “I promise I’ll light a candle for you next time in church. But right now I need to find my sister.”

St. Luke smiles indulgently and shoos him away with a gesture. “Seek and ye shall find, my son.”

“St. Matthew,” Luke mutters under his breath, as he makes his way down the hall, looking into classroom after classroom, trying to find Lexie. In one classroom, a chimpanzee is lecturing on Euclidean geometry. In another, a Catholic sister is teaching a theology class--only she doesn’t resemble the sisters Luke remembers so much as a woman wearing a “sexy nun” Halloween costume. Or possibly a burlesque stripper dressed as a nun. He quickly moves on.

He turns a corner and comes face to face with Colette still dressed in just the camisole and panties.

“This is a high school,” Luke says. “You can’t be here, dressed like that. There are children here.”

Colette doesn’t say anything, only shoots him a significant look, and Luke glances down at his own body to see that he is completely naked.


It takes a few seconds for the world to come into focus after Luke opens his eyes. When it does, it takes the form of a red-haired thirty-something woman in an E.M.T. uniform kneeling over him.

Ce que le baiser?” he asks, uncertain, disoriented.

“You had a bit of a fall, I’m afraid,” the woman answers cheerfully, answering the question in his voice rather than the question itself. Or at least he hopes so, he thinks as his grip on his own mental processes begins to return.

“Have you ever had a concussion before?” she asks as she shines a small flashlight in his eyes.

“A couple,” he admits, “back in high school. I used to play ice hockey.”

“Well, this one doesn’t look to be too bad,” the paramedic admits reluctantly. “Try to be more careful from now on, though.”

“Promise,” Luke agrees easily.

She looks up at Lexie. “You his girlfriend?”

Luke desperately hopes the paramedic can’t read the panicked indecision suddenly written across Lexie’s face. “His sister,” Lexie answers, after only a second’s hesitation.

“Well, stay with him for the rest of the day, and don’t let him drive,” the paramedic instructs her. “He can take a Tylenol for the pain, but if the headache gets any worse, or if there's any dizziness or confusion, you're going to want to call a doctor."

"Gotcha," says Luke, as Lexie nods to indicate she's understood.


Lexie watches Luke carefully as the two of them walk back to her car, as if she’s afraid he might suddenly collapse without warning in front of her. It’s only about 3 in the afternoon, but the hazy winter sky makes it seem much later.

“Sorry,” she says. “I know ‘traumatic head injury’ isn’t usually good first date fare.”

“It’s not your fault,” he tells her as he gets into the passenger seat of the Jetta. “Had a pretty strange dream while I was knocked out, though.”

“Oh?” asks Lexie as she starts the car up.

“You and Gwen were in it, except you were in your high school uniforms.”

Lexie raises an eyebrow. “Kinky.” She takes the car back on the interstate.

“It wasn’t like that,” Luke says, although now he totally is thinking of it like that, and--yeah. It takes a force of will to banish the question from his mind of whether Lexie still owns any of her old school uniforms. He’s virtually certain Gwen still does. “It was you the way I remembered you, before I left. Gwen was still a brunette and everything.”

“Except you still totally wanted to jump my bones back then,” Lexie points out.

“Well, okay, yeah,” Luke admits, because she’s not wrong.

“Any other random cameos?” Lexie aks.

Luke decides not to mention Colette. “St. Luke, like from the parish sign? And also Luke from Ghost Soup Infidel Blue.” He pauses, something falling into place. “And possibly also Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I really don’t know what was up with that one.”

“And the other two made so much sense?”

Luke shrugged. “Well, you know, Luke-Luke-Luke, so I figure it was a reflection of the self, mirror of the soul kind of thing,” he answers. “Like, St. Luke represents my higher, pious self while Luke from Ghost Soup is my lower, more animal self. Or something. Although to be honest, they both were sort of assholes, just in very different ways, so I don’t really want to think about what that says about myself.”

“I may have possibly written Ghost Soup fanfic when I was in high school where Luke and Angela were secretly brother and sister,” Lexie admits.

“Really?” Luke asks, surprised. “What was your pseud?”

Lexie laughs. “Like there’s any chance in hell of me telling you that. I was fifteen, and it was horrible.”

She’s gotten off the interstate and pulled into the parking lot of a small park about half a mile from their house. “Fancy a walk?” she asks.

“Sure,” Luke says, getting out of the car. “The winter air will do me good.”

There’s a lake at the center of the park, partially frozen over, and a large hill at the south side that several children, still off of school for the Christmas holiday, are sledding down on plastic toboggans. Luke can remember him and Lexie sledding on it themselves in their younger days.

They stroll leisurely along the cleared paved paths which circle the lake, and watch the children play as the sun slowly dips below the horizon.


“So, Parker’s for dinner?” Lexie asks, as they get back in the Jetta two hours later. “Or Luigi’s?”

“Actually,” Luke answers, “I was thinking of L'Étranger.”

Lexie whistles. “Isn’t that a bit pricey?”

“I do have a job, you know,” Luke says. “And besides, you’re worth it.”

L'Étranger has always struck Luke as a strange name for a restaurant, but he supposes it could have been worse. They could have called it La Nausée. Inside, one wall is covered by a mural of Sisyphus pushing his boulder up his hill in Tartarus.

Luke orders in French and the waiter, a young man who can’t be much older than Lexie, just looks at him blankly. He repeats the order in English and the boy nods. “And the lady?”

Lexie looks up at Luke from her menu. “You pick for me,” she says.

“Okay,” says Luke, and hastily re-scans the menu, trying to decide what she would like. “The lamb niçoise with spinach ratatouille,” he decides. “With the Cabernet Sauvignon, I think.” He glances at Lexie. “Sound good?”

She makes a gesture which is halfway in between a shrug and a nod.

Luke hands his menu back to the waiter. “And we’ll have the charcuterie plate as an hors d’œuvre.”

“Great,” says the waiter with another quick nod, and leaves them alone at the table.

“So Sartre is sitting in a cafe,” Lexie recites, “when a waitress approaches him: ‘Can I get you something to drink, Monsieur Sartre?’ And he says, ‘Yes, I'd like a cup of coffee with sugar, but no cream.’”

“And the waitress says, ‘I'm sorry, Monsieur Sartre, we are all out of cream,’” Luke finishes the joke. “‘How about with no milk?’”

Lexie smiles. “Heard that one already, huh?”

Luke just shrugs. “How many French existentialists does it take to change a light bulb?”

“I don’t know. How many?”

“Two,” Luke answers. “One to change the lightbulb and one to observe how the lightbulb symbolizes an incandescent beacon of subjectivity dans un enfer du néant cosmique.” He speaks the French slowly, so she’ll have a better chance of being able to understand him.

Lexie laughs, and, a second later, the waiter returns with the wine and the charcuterie plate. He takes a sip of his wine--a fruity Merlot with notes of mocha and molasses--then takes some andouillette and pâté from the charcuterie plate. Lexie takes some saucisson sec as she looks skeptically at Luke’s pâté.

As eccentric as the idea of an existentialism-themed French restaurant might be, the ambience is nonetheless quite good, comforting but not boring. Luke and Lexie exchange idle conversation as they pick away at the charcuterie plate, finally taking some time out to rest after what proved to be an unexpectedly exciting day.

About a half an hour after they order, the waiter returns with their meals. Despite the questionable quality of the wait staff, the food itself really is quite good. Luke’s canard au Riesling is quite exquisitely decadent, and Lexie’s lamb is just as delectable; they end up eating as much from each other’s plates as from their own. For dessert they share a sinfully delicious crème brûlée.


About halfway through the trip home, it suddenly occurs to Luke that they're not actually headed towards the house anymore. Things become clearer when Lexie pulls off the road by the Podgorski woods. It’s a favorite spot for high schoolers to go to make out, he knows. Heck, he took a few girlfriends here himself. “What are we, teenagers again?” he asks, trying to keep his voice light.

“It certainly feels that way,” Lexie says, as she turns off the engine and kills the lights, “with all this sneaking behind Mom and Dad’s backs.” She leans over the center console and quickly presses her lips to his, and he just as quickly is kissing her back, and just as emphatically.

It’s not long before his hands are slipping up under her shirt, or she is undoing his khakis. Once his pants are open, she grabs onto the back of his seat with her right hand for balance and, still kissing him, slides her hand inside his underwear and takes hold of his dick. It may be too small in the Jetta to comfortably have full-blown sexual intercourse, but her fingers and palm right now aren’t exactly leaving him with any complaints.

It’s still an awkward angle, especially using her non-dominant hand, so he knows Lexie’s not about to do anything too involved or intricate. But a handjob’s not exactly something that necessarily requires all that much expertise or artistry if the situation doesn’t allow for it. Lexie’s hand against his dick is pretty much guaranteed to do the trick no matter what.

She slides her fingers lightly up and down the shaft of his dick, unhurriedly, almost teasingly, as they continue to attack each other’s mouths with their own, their tongues exploring mouths which, despite just how much contact they’ve had with each other these last five days, still contain the flavor of the new and the exciting.

He gently bites down on Lexie’s lower lip and pulls it back a little before releasing it. She bites his chin, less gently.

“Careful,” he says, slipping as many fingers as he can manage inside the cup of her bra. “Don’t want to have to explain to Mom how I ended up with bite marks across my face.”

She bites him again, even as the heel of her palm grinds against his frenulum and her fingers lightly tickle across his scrotum. His hips almost involuntarily thrust up and forward against her hand, desperate for her touch and the satiation it can bring. The need for release is quickly overtaking him now, powerful and undeniable, restricting his entire world to just Lexie’s hand inside his underpants. A second later, he comes, squirting ejaculate against her wrist. He lets out a sigh as his entire body suddenly relaxes.

Lexie breaks their kiss to open the glove box with her right hand, then pulls out a tissue which she uses to wipe off her wrist--after which she reinitiates the kiss as if there had been no interruption.

Luke shifts their positions in the Jetta, lifting himself out of his seat and using the leverage to push her back down against the driver’s seat. It takes him a good half-minute trying to figure out how her skirt works so he can get his hand inside her panties, but eventually he manages it.

It is an incredibly awkward angle, damn it, and his task isn’t nearly as simple to pull off as Lexie’s had been. He’ll always wonder why God had to make female anatomy so much more complicated. But it’s not as if Colette, as adventurous as she was, hadn’t taught him to pleasure a woman in all sort of unlikely (at least a younger, naïver him had thought them unlikely) scenarios and positions, so he attacks the challenge of getting his sister off with as much enthusiasm and skill as he can, and neither is in particularly short supply.

At least he gets to work right-handed, he thinks, as he uses his left hand to balance himself against her seat. Trying to do this with his left hand would be--well, probably not impossible, but a hell of a lot more difficult to be sure.

Unfortunately that means he doesn’t have any hands left underneath her shirt to grope her breasts. What sacrifices he is willing to make for her, he thinks. He’d better make sure she appreciates it.

With that aim in mind, he slips two fingers inside her, slowly, gently. Now that Lexie’s hands are free, they are up underneath his shirt, one pressed against the small of his back, the other on his chest, massaging his nipple.

Once he is reasonably certain his fingers are positioned correctly, he begins moving them, slowly at first but with constantly building speed. Based on the way that Lexie is responding beneath him (well, sort of beneath him, sort of next to him, due to the awkward way they’re positioned in the Jetta), he figures he can’t be too far off.

He must be right, because Lexie’s breathing only gets heavier as he works even more quickly now, with even more force. “Don’t stop,” she whispers, which is good, because that option never even occurred to him, not before he brings her to climax, even if the pose he’s striking right now might not be the most comfortable one in the world.

He sees her body go tight one last time under his touch, and then she goes limp for a moment--but only a moment, because before he knows it, she’s back to kissing him again.


An hour and a half later, the yellow Volkswagen pulls up in front of the Matthews family residence, and Luke and Lexie make their way into the house.