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These reservations register the way the deepest fear does, like fingers squeezing her heart, but they cannot overcome her desire. She pulls open the door. Boy cries as if he’s been wounded, leaps from his cave in the palm tree, and flies over her, his wings filling her hair with a warning wind.
Too late. Black Heart is at her side, so close she can feel heat coming from him. She thinks, I’m going to die. At the same time, exhilaration fills her. She feels like she owns the night. She turns, singing, and walks to the middle of the garden. Black Heart circles her, a slow loop on the grass, his eyes never leaving her. He might be dancing with her. Or he might be a lion circling its prey.
The moon blazes above her, and she feels powerful and magical and adored. Every so often, she touches Black Heart’s back, at once smooth and rough. I can sing all night. But after a minute or five or ten — she has no watch, the night tells no time — her exhilaration fades into worry. She doesn’t know how long she can stand here and sing. Perhaps she can make her way back to the house, open the door, slip in. It is only fifty feet from where she’s standing. But when she steps toward it, Black Heart quickly moves in front of her and issues a clear, low sound, less a growl than a warning a human might give.
When Black Heart is at the farthest point in his circle away from the house, she again moves toward it. Again, he moves swiftly to block her. This time, his warning is louder and more insistent. She backs up to her original spot. She hears nothing but her voice against the inside of her ears and the swish of Black Heart moving in the grass. My God, she thinks, I’ll have to sing all night.
She wonders if she should run toward the house. She wonders if she should shout Maria’s name. But she fears — she knows — that if she broke off her song even for a second, Black Heart would attack her, devour her.
As she sings, she prays Daniel will come home. She prays Ed and her mother will become bored at the dinner and will drive the car into the middle of the garden to save her. She prays Maria will step outside and Black Heart will charge her, and this will give her the chance to flee. But the night radiates with brilliant indifference and fatigue weighs on her like something living, something growing. Her song has lost words.
When they find me, they won’t know he loved me. They’ll think I was a stupid girl who thought she could play with a mean dog.
She feels her eyes flutter from fatigue; she feels herself stagger. As in a dream, she feels Black Heart at her side, his head butting her thigh, insistent and strong. He prods her toward the vineyard’s open door. A moment later, she is surrounded by grapes, silver-blue in the moonlight. Her arid mouth craves their delicious juice, but Black Heart jabs her and she keeps moving. She hears Maria calling her. She hears Ed’s car limp up the gravel drive. She even hears, or thinks she hears, Daniel, or perhaps it’s her father, singing in the distance.
The sounds fade. She wants to scream, but, so deep in the vineyard, she knows no one would hear her.
I’ll find my way back, she vows, but stumbles, collapses. On her back on the grass altar, she sees, as if on a different planet, the snow-capped Andes. She discovers that, remarkably, she is still singing, in a voice charged with emotion. I’m safe. But — no — it is Black Heart, mouth at her ear, who is singing.