Baby Girl

By: C.M. Stunich

Something is wrong.

I know it; I just can't put my finger on what or why. My best friend, Phoenix Benoit, glances my way with his brow raised, pale blonde hair catching the golden rays of the dying sun. We're standing in the front yard, off to the side of my parents' cars so my mom doesn't catch him smoking. She never says anything when she sees Phoenix with a smoke between his full lips, but that woman knows how to send out waves of disappointment without even opening her mouth.

“Codrick should be here already,” I say as I cross my arms over the shimmery pink of my mermaid dress. “He's been waiting for this night like a kid at Christmas. He's more excited about prom than I am.” Glancing over my shoulder, I check to see if my mother's peeking at us out the window. When I see that she's not, I turn back to Phoenix, pluck the cigarette from his fingertips and take a long drag.

He smirks at me, crossing his muscular arms over his chest. For an eighteen year old, he's seriously ripped, much bigger than my fiancé, Codrick Landry. Since Phoenix lives in the bayou with his dad, we always joke that there must be something in that swamp water that's bulking him up. He's like the friggin' Hulk.

“He'll be here, mouche a mielle,” he grumbles, his voice thick and heavy, almost like a purr. And with that Cajun accent of his? No wonder the girls at school are all over him. They have been for years, since junior high really. It took me and Codrick ages to get him to actually go out with someone. Yet, despite our pushing, he still doesn't have a date to prom. Instead, we're going as a group of three.

Doesn't bother me. My sisters have been teasing me mercilessly about it, but Codrick is the love of my life and Phoenix is our best friend, has been since we were kids. Hell, I'd marry them both if I could.

My mouth twitches and I laugh at the same time I cough. I don't smoke much and holy crap, my lungs are burning.

“What you thinkin' about over there, you?” Phoenix asks, dressed in a sharp black suit. It sits nicely against his sun-kissed skin, an intriguing dichotomy of rough-and-tumble bad boy mixed with the clean professional lines of his clothing.

“Nothing,” I say, passing back the smoke. My fingers tangle with Phoenix's, but I'm too distracted by the fact that Codrick isn't here to pay much attention to the strange sort of spark that happens between us when we touch. I've always felt that with Codrick, always. From moment one, I knew he was meant to be mine. And Phoenix … I love Phoenix like nobody else in my life except for Rick. The Three Musketeers, that's what we are. They're my family before family, really. I know sure as shit that I like these two men more than I like my own sisters.

To be fair, my sisters are bitchy as hell.

“He wouldn't miss this for the world, no,” Phoenix whispers, his eyes focused on the empty field across the street from my parents' place. There used to be a trailer park there, but it burned down and nobody bothered to come back. My parents were smart—when firefighters were still damping out the flames, they put in an offer on this lot and got it for pennies on the dollar.

Now, there's a glorious empty field, the grasses bathed golden in the strange gray-orange light of the stormy afternoon sunshine. The edge of the property dips into marshy water that then morphs into an old cypress forest. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

“Should I text him?” I ask, but I always try not to bother Codrick when he's driving. He has a tendency to check his messages and I don't want him to crash. I told him he's not allowed to die until we're old and gray; almost everyone thinks we're idiots for getting engaged in high school, and I want to prove them all wrong.

“He said he was stopping to get flowers,” Phoenix says, pulling his phone from his pocket and flashing the screen in my direction. “I bet he stuck at the florist, that couyon. He lets everyone and their Maw-Maw talk his ear off.”

“He's getting flowers?” I ask, feeling my cheeks flush. As soon as Phoenix sees the color pink up my cheeks, he grins, big white teeth in a handsome face.

“You can't be that surprised, bumblebee,” he says, using the nickname mouche a mielle in English this time. “Dat boy would do anything for you.” He rises to his feet, this gentle giant with huge biceps and a wide chest. You haven't really lived until you've gotten a hug from Phoenix Avit Benoit. “Let's go get his ass. If we pass him on the way there, he'll see us.”