Checking Out

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Chapter 17

When I woke up, the room was dark, the only light coming from the television, which was on, but muted. It was turned to some sitcom or another, and it looked strange without an accompanying laugh track. I sat up, tossing the blankets to my waist.
“Hey there,” Jason said, from his position next to me.
He was stretched out on top of the covers, his legs crossed at the ankle, the remote in his hand.
“How long was I out?” my voice was rough with sleep, but my head felt better.
“A few hours. I didn't want to wake you, you looked exhausted. Paler than usual, even.”
He turned the TV off and leaned back against the headboard, “I've been waiting impatiently to hear what the parents had to say.”
I smiled. He was probably pacing for half of my nap. Patience was never his strong suit, but he always held out when I needed him to.
“It was pretty much what I expected,” I said, putting him out of his misery, “David was like me right before he vanished. I'm guessing Amy's looking for him, trying to find a cure, maybe.”
“So that's why she sent us to Wyoming?”
Maybe. I still couldn't figure that one out.
“Do you think the guy in Wyoming was like you too?”
“That's why I have you around,” I said to Jason, turning to look at him, “I hadn't really thought of that. Maybe he had some answers because he was like me.”
Jason dropped a kiss on the top of my head and handed me a glass of water from his bedside table. I drank it down, making my mouth feel less like it was wrapped in a sweater.
“That's why you love me,” he said, and I grunted my agreement.
He looked away, his face turning red, and I had to think about it for a moment, before it even occurred to me. Jason had let his feelings about me slip out and I had run away. Oh man, this relationship was already full of land mines.
“Look, Jase,” I said, intending to clear the air, but not really sure how that was going to go.
“Sorry, it's okay,” he mumbled, looking at me out of the corner of his eye, his face still red.
“I do love you.”
Okay, well, that wasn't what I had expected to say until it came out.
He looked at me sharply.
“I've loved you for, well, ever. You're my best friend. I just...”
He nodded, and I could see by the neutral expression that he had been hoping for more. For a confession of my undying love. I didn't want to make things worse, but, well, I was a coward.
“I think maybe, after all this is over, we should give it a chance.”
The hopefulness was back. He smiled and nodded, kissing the top of my head again. I kept meaning to put him down easy, but always ended up saying things like “after this is over”. I was starting to believe it myself. Maybe after this was over, I would be able to figure out what we were to each other. It was a comforting thought.
“So we'll stay in a holding pattern until then,” he said, still watching my face, trying to see whatever it was he was hoping to see in my expressions.
“Yeah,” I couldn't help but mirror his grin.
“But with more touching.”
I laughed, slapping his arm. He grabbed my hand before I could take it back, and pulled me into a hug.
“Now I'm really motivated to figure this out.”
I laughed again, the sound muffled against his chest.
“Okay, so, I know I sound like a broken record, but what's the plan?” he asked, letting me go back to my side of the bed.
Sleeping in the same bed was going to start getting confusing soon.
“We need to find Amy, but I have no idea how.”
Jason looked thoughtful, staring at the blank TV screen, “how did she find you?”
“What do you mean?”
He looked back at me, and I could practically hear the gears turning in his head, “you said you saw her in the alley that night, so how did she know what was going to happen to you?”
“She isn't like me, that much I can tell,” I said, not sure how I was so confident in my conclusion, but confident nonetheless, “maybe she was following her brother and he was around too.”
“Maybe he's the one who did this to you.”
“You think?” I asked, suddenly wondering exactly what role Amy played in my little soap opera.
“Well, it had to happen somehow, right? And it had to have something to do with Kim and Marci.”
I saw where he was going with this.
“And they were stabbed too, but they didn't, I mean, they just died,” I added to our train of thought.
“So maybe Amy knows how it happens.”
My desire to find her spiked. I needed to know how it happened. And why I wasn't dead. And if she had found any answers in her search for a cure, if that was what she was actually looking for.
“I have no idea how she found me, but if it ended with two deaths, maybe there were others.”
Jason nodded, “so we look for other stabbing victims. And it hasn't been very long, so we can look in a pretty small area.”
“I hope so,” I replied, and the most disturbing part about the whole thing occurred to me.
I turned to Jason and looked him square in the eye, “and I want to know who stabbed me.”
He was nodding now, his face deadly serious.
“I want to know who stabbed me, and I want to clear our names.”
It was too late to go back to the library, so we decided to hit up a nearby laundromat, lugging our bags down the street, choosing to walk the short distance. The cost of gas was eating into my cash more than motel rooms, and I was still trying to cut corners to keep us from having to sleep in the car.
The laundromat was well lit, but empty of people. It was situated next to a convenience store, and contained a back wall of dryers, with washers filling the middle of the room. I used the machine to buy us detergent and some sodas for the wait. I loaded all of our clothes together, separating them into two machines. Jason watched with interest, and I rolled my eyes, knowing he had never done his own laundry in his life. Back home, I had always lugged my and my dad's clothes to a laundromat that was one bus stop away, washing them late at night, when I got off work, usually doing homework while I waited. I envied people who had machines in their homes. Being able to throw the clothes in and walk away, not worrying about someone coming along and messing with them, was something I dreamed about. And not having to stock up on quarters would probably be a nice benefit as well.
Jason closed the lid on one of the washers and hopped up to sit on top. He closed the lid of the one next to him and patted it, in invitation. After I had started our washers, I handed him his soda and hopped up as well. We listened to the clothes wash, swinging our legs.
“So,” Jason began, drawing out the word, “when this is over, what exactly do you intend to do about us?”
Oh, Jesus, of course he couldn't leave it alone. Might as well get into it. Maybe living vicariously through my possible future self would be a nice change from the present.
“Well, I guess we'd go on a date. You would pay, of course.”
Jason laughed, “of course.”
“And then, I dunno, we'd have to see.”
He was still smiling, obviously enjoying my awkwardness at having this conversation.
“And if it goes well?”
“I don't know, Jason. We've known each other forever. I just don't want to screw it up.”
He grew serious at this, “Trish, you're not gonna screw it up. It'll all work out.”
“And you're sure of that?” I asked, half seriously.
“Yes. Of course. We're awesome, so it's only natural we'll be awesome together.”
He had me smiling again, “well, at least you can use your blind confidence to make yourself feel better.”
“I'm serious, Trish. You're amazing. This isn't out of nowhere for me.”
I knew that, had known that for a while now, but had been working so hard to ignore it.
“It isn't for me either,” I said, and waited for his reaction.
He looked surprised, and then before I could say anything else, he was kissing me again.
The hormones were to blame again when we completely forgot we were in a public place. Jason tugged on me and I moved over to straddle him, not caring about how hard the metal washer was under us, just wanting to get closer. He continued to kiss me, and I was an active participant, both of us breathing heavily. I could feel his hands digging into the short, dark, still unfamiliar strands of my hair, and I rubbed my hands over his head, his hair feeling soft, but rough in its own short length.
“How can we not be amazing together,” Jason said into my ear, his voice an octave lower than normal.
He moved his hands down, pulling me even closer, and kissing me again. If I had stopped to think, I would have been mortified at the idea that anyone passing by would have been able to see us quite clearly through the large windows in front, but the only thought going through my head was “more”. His hands reached under my shirt and rubbed my lower back, warm on my skin. We only broke our mouths away from each other to suck in breaths in between kisses, and I put my hands on his shoulders, feeling them move under me as he stroked my skin. I could feel what I was doing to him, and instinctively ground my lower body down once, eliciting a gasp that I swallowed into my mouth.
“Oh god,” he said, pulling me so tightly against him, I lost my breath for a moment.
I had no idea how far it would have gone, right there under burning spotlights, for anyone to see, if one of the washers hadn't chosen that exact moment to shut off with a bang, followed quickly by another quieter bang from the second washer.
We broke apart, both sucking in needed air, and stared at each other, wide eyed. I had lost myself for the last 20 minutes, and the world came back to me in sharp focus.
“Shit,” Jason said, letting me pull myself off of his lap and onto the floor, “I'm sorry.”
“I'm not,” I replied, “but that's probably a really bad idea right now.”
He grinned at me sheepishly, and jumped down himself, presumably to help me move the clothes. I looked over at him, and quickly looked away, my face now the one turning red.
“Uh, Jase,” I said, motioning in the general direction of his crotch.
He smiled, completely unembarrassed this time, probably because I was so embarrassed.
“Sorry,” he said again, this time in amusement, “I'm a guy, and I just had a hot girl all over me.”
I rolled my eyes, trying to save a little face, and opened the washer to start pulling clothes out.
We managed to get all the way through the drying cycle without jumping each other, which was a huge victory of my senses over my out of control hormones. Oh yeah, sharing a bed was definitely going to become an issue.
I had to take control of the situation when Jason tried to stuff his clean clothes into his bag, after a few lewd comments on my underwear, grabbing it all from him and folding everything neatly. I chose not to make lewd comments back, mostly because his boxers weren't really lewd comment-worthy. Romantic-interest Jason was quite possibly even more infuriating than sexual-tension-just-a-friend Jason.
We got back to the motel room late enough to change into our pajamas and settle in for the night, and our hormones were under control, at least for the moment. As we watched TV and filled in our usual scathing commentary, I was again assailed by doubts about what was to come. It would be harder to admit defeat now that things had changed between us. It would be almost impossible to let go. I fell asleep with dark thoughts circling my mind.

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