After a second, maybe two, she breaks away. “I'm sorry.”
I stand up, put the guitar to the side, wrap my arms around her and kiss her again.
This one lasts longer, enough time for the thrill of adrenaline that the first kiss brought to die down a little and enough time for my mouth to become entirely familiar with hers. Soon, it feels like I've been kissing her forever.
I force myself to pull back and look into those gorgeous eyes. “You sure this isn't too soon?” I whisper, hands resting on her hips.
She smiles. “I'm sure. It's not.”
I let out a sigh of relief and kiss her again.
I pull away again, scared this time.
“Why did you keep this old picture of me? I look terrible.”
I chuckle under my breath. “You looked beautiful. And you still do.”
The kisses become deeper and deeper until she loses her balance and we topple onto the bed, sending several sheets of paper sliding to the floor. We laugh and look into each other's eyes again.
“You're sure it's not too soon?”
She puts a finger over my lips. “I'm sure,” Her eyes dart to the door. “Are we alone?”
“Wood's out there...” I'm pleasantly aware of her chest pressed against mine.
Her eyes come back to mine and a mischievous twinkle (which happens to be the subject of a nearby poem) appears in them. “The park?”
I nod and we get up, getting our stuff together in silence. Tanya's already curled up in the backpack, as if she knows what's coming and I slide the bag over my shoulders and open the window. We tiptoe down the fire escapes with nervous smiles – the first romantic act of rebellion of my life.
We don't say anything on the way to the park, but we both walk fast and make it there in a fraction of the time.
As soon as we duck under the chain at the entrance, Melissa explodes. “Oh, Dash...you're so sweet! Oh my god, I can't even believe I didn't see it before! You hid it well, I guess. I'm so sorry for all those thoughtless things I did to you...I was pretty awful...and you're just so...so...and...” She gestures uselessly and falls back onto the grass with a sigh. “You're a really good kisser...”
“Thanks.” I smile and kneel down next to her, letting Tanya out and still trying to convince myself that this is really happening. “You're a great kisser.”
She sits up and kisses me so softly her lips barely brush mine. “How long did you – ”
I wrap an arm around her waist, knowing I should keep an eye on Tanya but unable to pull my eyes away from this girl. “Ever since the sea has reached the shore, ever since the mountains have touched the sky...”
She punches me on the shoulder.
“...ever since 7th grade.” I grin and tighten my grip on her waist.
“And you never...come here.”
I can't explain how it feels to finally be able to do everything I've ever dreamed of doing with her. I'm finally able to curl my fingers around hers, to brush back her hair, to kiss her neck, to hold her...
Fifteen minutes later, we sit back and smile at each other, both severely out of breath.
“You know...” She wraps a piece of grass around her finger. “I think we should forgive Rock.”
It's a relief to hear her say it. “Yeah.”
“I mean, he's pretty lonely and even though he deserves it...” Her face darkens for a minute. “We're his friends. We should be there for him, right?”
“Right,” I lean in and nuzzle her cheek. “As long as I don't have to stop doing this.”
She giggles. “Never.”
We sit, holding hands and watching Tanya chasing a weird-looking butterfly for a long while before we get up again. I call Tanya, get her into the backpack and squeeze Melissa's hand.
“This has been...one of the best days of my life.” She hugs me. “Thanks.”
“Thank you.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see something moving in the long grass, but when I look again, there's nothing.
Wood's gone again by the time we get back to the apartment to drop off Tanya. I give Melissa her Christmas present and she promises to give me mine tomorrow.
“You've already – ”
She puts a finger over my lips. “Don't say it.”
I kiss her instead.
I walk her home and stop by the grocery store on my way back. I have a couple of dollars in my pocket and I get one of those microwave dinners – at least it's not stale pizza.
I jog back, guilty for ignoring Tanya for most of the day. Well maybe, since she likes Melissa so much, she'll start liking me more.
I sigh. “Hi, Owen.”
Cheryl's right by his side, as usual and still holding that cat. I still don't believe she's “always had it”. Then again, I haven't seen much of her until recently.
Owen winks. “I heard about you and Missy. Nice going.”
How could he hear about it? It just happened! They weren't in the park, were they? “Uh...thanks.”
Cheryl strokes the cat, which starts to purr. “There's a party at Sabrina's again. You should bring her.”
For a second, I startle myself by almost saying yes. Then, I shake my head firmly and start to back away. “Thanks. Maybe some other time, though.”
Owen nods and laughs. “One of these days, you'll have to come through, Dash! Otherwise, how can we trust you?”
I smile and turn away. “Trust me...” I mutter. “I don't expect you to.”
I call Rock after I'm done with my dinner.
“Hey.” I can almost hear his fingers drumming on his collarbone.
“Sorry about earlier,” I don't know why I'm apologizing. Maybe to make him feel a little better. “I was still half-asleep.”
There's a pause.
I let out my breath, wishing this weren't quite so awkward. “You were right, you know. About me training. I'm a little out of shape.”
“No, you're not.”
“Well, I should be running more anyway. Do you think you could come over tomorrow and we can train a little?”
Another pause. I wonder if I should tell him about me and Melissa.
“Yeah, okay. I can be over by ten thirty. Make sure you're up by then.” He's using his coach voice and it makes me smile.
“All right, see you then.”
We hang up and I walk back to my room feeling like an enormous weight is lifted from my chest. Things might be a little strained with Rock and Melissa at first, but at least we're friends now. Everything will be normal again.
“Fuhbix?” Tanya purrs and wraps herself around my leg.I chuckle and bend down to rub her head. “Well, almost normal.”