Sean watched as Jill traced her fingers along the freckles that speckled his arms. They were sitting in the back seat of the station wagon that Kyle had borrowed from his father. Their now empty burger wrappers lay on the floorboard. Up front, Kyle and his boyfriend Chris were munching on stale popcorn and the audio from a decades old horror film pumped through the radio, slightly out of sync with the film projected on to the enormous drive-in screen.

Sean didn’t particularly enjoy horror movies, and he started to think that Jill didn’t either. He had asked her out at Kyle’s urging, and now they mostly ignored the gore being projected into the night and paid attention to each other while keeping a respectful silence for Chris and Kyle, who were both major horror fans. Jill’s brow furrowed as she retraced the freckles on his arm once more. Sean raised an eyebrow at her in question, and she shrugged and smiled at him in response.

It wasn’t until after the movie that Sean remembered he’d wanted to ask her about it. They were sitting in the vinyl striped seats of the Steak N’ Shake booth waiting on their dairy confections. Kyle sat with his arm draped around Chris’s shoulder. Sean turned to Jill as their waitress deposited three shakes at the table.

“I wanted to ask you what seemed to bother you while you were tracing my freckles during the movie,” he said as he plunked his straw through thick ice cream.

“It’s cancer. She saw a malignant melanin on your arm when she should have been watching the movie,” Chris interjected with a grin.

“Melanoma,” Kyle said.

“What?” asked Chris

“It’d be a malignant melanoma, not a malignant melanin,” Kyle responded.

“What’s the difference?” Chris said.

Sean tuned them out. He focused on Jill instead. Jill took the opportunity that the other couple’s bickering had provided to sip on her own milkshake. She blushed as Sean redirected his attention to her.

“It’s nothing,” she said, “I just thought it seemed like there were some letters written in the freckles.”

Sean’s face contorted in bewilderment. Jill sighed and slumped her shoulders before digging into her purse and pulling out a sharpie. She uncapped it and gestured at him for permission to start doodling on his arm. Chris and Kyle stopped discussing the finer merits of vocabulary long enough to watch this new development.

“Draw a penis!” Chris offered as a suggestion.

Sean watched with gratitude as Jill began to trace the outline of freckles on his arm rather than taking Chris’s direction. Slowly a small, cramped scrawl of text began to take form. She outlined some of the freckles on the inside of the shapes she had traced on standing clear and vibrant as the noon day sun were words. Inspected by: Jacob D.; Department 4.

“The hell…” Kyle said.

“What does that even mean?” Chris asked the group.

“How did you even notice that,” Sean half-whispered.

“I don’t know,” said Jill, “it’s just like…pareidolia, or something.”

“Look at the brains on Sean’s girlfriend,” Chris teased, “Maybe you should date her instead of me, Kyle.”

The group conversation drifted away to more standard topics, but Sean couldn’t shake the feeling of terrible wrongness that had settled in the pit of his stomach on seeing the words. He barely touched his shake.

Apropos of: This Prompt


3 thoughts on “Freckles

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