Can I kiss you?
The gymnasium had finally simmered down at four o’clock in the morning and silence stretched throughout. I listened to the mingling sounds of heavy breathing as I lay wedged in between Harris and Tia snuggled down in my purple sleeping bag struggling to drift off.
Put your phone on silent.
The screen of my phone came to life and I quickly grabbed it to shove it under my cover so the light didn’t disturb anyone. It was from Liam who lay on the other side of the room next to the jocks but I didn’t understand the message.
It is. X
Gutted your phone was on silent, I wanted the text tone to go off and wake everyone up.
You’re sick X
Everyone’s asleep, even the chaperones. Follow me out in five minutes. Bring your sleeping bag.
I turned to see movement as Liam scurried out of the gym. Nobody reacted to him leaving. The clock on my phone ticked down five minutes and I stood up grabbing my bag ready to follow Liam. He wasn’t in the corridor but the door was open to the outside soccer pitch so I assumed he had gone out.
The cool air hit me as soon as I stepped out but it wasn’t cold. The pitch was lit up by four powerful floodlights in each corner radiating a decent amount of brightness to the center where Liam stood laying out his opened sleeping bag on the grass. As I approached him he handed me one of his hoodies and I must have looked befuddled because he offered an explanation.
“Put it on, your PJs are always so skimpy.”
I curled my lip upwards with distaste at his insult but slipped the navy blue Adidas hoodie over my head. Pulling up the collar over my nose and inhaling deeply as I closed my eyes high off his fumes. Then I realized I had just done that right in front of him so I dropped the hoodie instantly and opened my eyes mortified.
“Did you just smell that?” He looked at me blankly like he couldn’t quite comprehend what he had just seen. And I could feel my cheeks betraying my coolness.
“I was checking to see if it was clean, it is.” I lied while I mentally face palmed myself.
“You’re so weird” he said lying down on his sleeping bag and patting the space next to him indicating for me to lay down. He then threw my sleeping bag over us like a blanket and turned to face me slipping prayer hands under his face for a makeshift pillow. I copied his stance putting our faces merely a few inches apart.
“I’m sorry.” He started, leaving me bewildered.
“For what?” I asked
“For walking out.” My heart started racing, so now he wanted to talk. That happened hours ago and I’m honestly over it now.
“It’s been on my mind all night, it was such a shitty thing to do. Its just... seeing you drink to that made everything so much harder.”
“Why?” My voice was low as hopeful anticipation built up in my chest.
“Because...” he trailed off.
His beautiful eyes glowed the brightest of blues as different shades beamed through soft flecks. He was hesitating to finish his sentence, I knew he wanted me to help him out but I needed to hear him say this on his own.
“Because?” I encouraged.
I watched as his cheeks turned pink right before my eyes like he was ashamed of admitting that he actually had emotions somewhere deep down inside.
“Because... I think I’m developing feelings for you too and it ... scares me.” I exhaled X amount of breath that I didn’t even know I was holding in. I’m so proud of him for admitting that and I felt a burning urge to lean in and tenderly kiss the vulnerability right out of him.
“Why does it scare you?” I ask, not really sure I want to know the answer.
“You know Ruby was my girlfriend once?”
No I did not, but way to ruin a moment. That maybe explains why she is so hooked.
“No, but she would scare off anyone for life.” He giggled at my joke, lightening the mood.
“No it wasn’t that. We were twelve and I was still figuring myself out. She pestered me for weeks to get into a relationship and I finally accepted. It lasted six hours. She kept holding my hand or hugging me and I just couldn’t handle it. So I dumped her at the end of the school day telling her she was too needy. But she wasn’t needy, she wasn’t excessive. She was just doing what any other girlfriend would do in a relationship, I’m just too damaged for that.”
I could see the hurt behind his eyes as he told me his truth and I just listened without saying a word.
“After that it was rough for a while, soccer helped but let’s face it I was a teenager with a lot of frustration and nowhere to put it. When I was fourteen I was with the guys at the park and some girls approached, they flirted and I ended up having sex with one of them. It was elaborating. I got what I needed, I released my frustration and I forgot about everything for the shortest time. The best thing was that she was a complete stranger who I never had to see again. I don’t even remember the name of the girl I lost my virginity to.”
I shudder at his words, thinking of a troubled fourteen year old who desperately needed affection but the only comfort he could get was from a stranger in the only way he knew how. Images of him with Ruby against the principal’s desk came flooding back to my mind. How cold and calculating the encounter was, nothing like the boy sitting before me right now.
“That night opened up a world of possibilities for me, I wasn’t getting into as many fights because I had somewhere to release my anger. There’s no doubt sex helped me cope. But then I got sat next to you in social studies and all of a sudden the random girls... they wasn’t enough.”
I could see silver breaking through the blue as his voice started shaking. I think he was forcing himself to continue as the fear bubbled up inside him.
“You were always dangerous to me. I watched you, you know? Before we met. I was maybe four and I managed to escape Jax, I wandered around the street because I had nowhere else to go and that’s when I noticed you.”
I could see his eyes filling up reliving the moment and it made my whole body tense.
“I thought my life was normal, I thought every child went through what I went through. But then there was you, you looked clean. You had shoes on. You sat in the garden playing with toys and then your dad came over and planted a kiss on your forehead, he sat with you pretending to give your dolls little cups of tea. Your mom came out and you asked her to push you on the swing, she didn’t complain she just did it. I remember being so astonished by this sight, it was the first time I realized what a shitty hand I had been dealt.”
The tears silently streamed down both of our faces as he retold the emotional story. I literally had no idea.
“I came back and watched you for months, waiting for them to mess up this perfect picture but they never did. Not once. When I was five I finally plucked up the courage to meet you. I stole shoes from the thrift store, they were a size too small but I wanted to make an impression. I stood in your yard trying to force myself to speak but I couldn’t, then you noticed me.”
“And I said ‘hello’ and told you to come play with me” I whispered, remembering the first encounter with Liam.
“Yeah. We played together and you were so nice to me, your parents were so nice. They gave me snacks and I ate them all because I was so hungry. For the first time in my life I felt safe. I locked onto you, every time I got a beating from Jax I ran away and waited in your treehouse. You would always come and sit with me, making me feel okay and you became what I needed. One day, I was about seven. Jax had crushed my collarbone with his big boots, I was hurt pretty bad. I went to your tree house and you wasn’t there. I think you had gone on vacation or something because you didn’t come back for days. In that moment I knew I had to let you go, because I relied on you too much. So I stopped turning up.”
My eyes stung from all the crying and my heart ached as I wiped each tear away with the sleeve of Liams hoodie.
“Then we started at the same high school, I recognized those vibrant green eyes instantly and all of these memories came flooding back, the good and the bad. I tried so hard to make you hate me because if you didn’t I would of crumbled. I treated you so badly, my friends treated you so badly and I’m so sorry for that.”
His tears fell faster as the guilt shadowed his face but I waited for him to regain himself and continue with his story.
“Everything about you was comforting to me and I felt myself needing you again which spiraled me even further out of control. I started going back to the tree house whenever things kicked off at home, just to be close to you. Things got worse when I had to sit next to you in social studies, just being close to you ignited a hunger inside of me that I hadn’t felt for a long time. You look at me with this disarming expression like you know exactly what I’m feeling and thinking, it’s terrifying. But then you gave me a ultimatum, let you in or let you go and i knew letting you go again wasn’t an option.”
In that moment I wanted to connect with Liam in a way I have done twice before. My eyes were glued to his lips, watching how slowly they moved with his softly spoken words. I needed to feel close to him and the urge I felt was overbearing.
“Can I kiss you?” I whispered.