Porcelain Skin

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Are You Flirting With Me?

“Okay, so the only things that I can find an interpretation for would be the blood on your hands and the rock climbing,” I say.

I’m laying across Trevor’s bed again, scanning through various websites. We’d been at this for awhile, but we weren’t getting very far since we kept getting distracted. Trevor had stationed himself on the floor at the foot of his bed since he claimed his butt was numb from his desk chair.

“What do they symbolize?” he asks while turning around to face me, his laptop sitting lazily across his lap.

“Uh...” I scan through the article again. “Okay, the blood on your hands represents guilt,” I say with a shrug since it’s pretty obvious why he might feel guilty. “And, it says that rock climbing can represent determination.”

“Hm.” Trevor doesn’t seem too impressed as he turns back to his own search. “Makes sense I guess. I was somewhat responsible for how James died, and maybe I’m determined to, I don’t know, overcome that guilt?” He doesn’t sound too sure.

“Ooh, wait,” I say as my gaze lands on another possible meaning. “Says here that climbing something could also mean that you are trying to, or you have, overcome a great struggle.” I look up at him where he’s turned watching me. “So maybe you’re not determined to overcome your guilt after all, maybe you already have.”

“Works for me,” he responds with a shrug and proceeds to jot down the notes on his notepad. “Okay, next. Let’s just do both of mine first and then yours. We can just write up reports for our own dreams and then proofread each other’s when we’re finished. Sound good?”

“Yup.”

“Okay, so I was in a dark room being chased, and then I was in a field surrounded by rocking horses, and one turned into a cougar.” Trevor quickly gives me a recap on his dream.

“Right, so how about we find what a dark room would mean.” I’m speaking while I type in the search and wait for the results.

Trevor grunts and I look up just as his head vanishes from view.

“You alright over there?” I ask.

He responds with a groan.

I army crawl towards the end of his bed and peek over the edge. Trevor is sprawled out on the floor with his computer lying next to him. He squints at me through one eye as I stare down at him.

“I’m just really tired,” he answers with a moan.

“Why?”

“Some friends and I played cops and robbers last night, so I probably didn’t get to bed until four this morning,” he explains.

“Aw, poor baby.” I pout with fake sympathy. “Do you need a wittle nap?” I ask playfully.

Trevor is glaring at me now and I’m wondering if I should be worried because he definitely has a gleam in his eyes.

“I would love a little nap, but you’re on my bed,” he tells me with a hint of amusement.

I fold my arms and rest my chin on them as I continue to watch him.

“Hey, I claimed this spot first,” I defend.

Trevor turns so that he’s facing me and then pushes himself into a relaxed sitting position with his arms propping himself up. My gaze jumps to the strength of his arms as they strain beneath his weight.

I blink a couple times to focus and notice that Trevor is watching me, and it’s not the kind of watching where he’s noticed that I’ve been staring and is waiting for me to snap back into it. No, the way he’s watching me it’s like he’s in a trance of his own. His gaze is flickering between my features. He’s looking at my hair, my quirked eyebrows, my curious gaze, my available lips, my bare shoulders, and then back up to my eyes.

Our gazes lock for a moment, along with my ability to breathe. We’ve had small moments where I’m vaguely suspicious that he may find me attractive, especially when he held me after my near drowning experience at the lake, but it’s so brief that the idea dies almost immediately. This time, though, it’s as if he doesn’t care that he’s just revealed a hint of interest. Or is it just curiosity? Is he trying to decipher some hidden meaning behind my personality?

“Uh, do you...” I lift my chin from where it’s resting on my arms and tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “Did you want to join me up here?”

I’m disgusted by the insecurity laced behind my words, but I’m currently still working to get my breathing back to normal and it can’t be helped. Trevor nods slowly, eyeing me carefully, before standing.

I scoot over to make room as he stands, picking up his computer in the process. He moves around to the side of the bed, where he rearranges his pillows to make a backrest and plops himself down. We’re at completely opposite ends of the bed, not sitting any closer to each other than we were before, but somehow the energy in the room has changed. It’s stifling. I’m very grateful for the sleeveless shirt I chose to wear, or I’d be sweating buckets. I shift myself so that I’m once again in front of my computer, but my thoughts are scattered. The project is the last thing on my mind.

“Says here that a rocking horse might mean that I’m stuck; not making any progress.” Trevor’s voice breaks the awkward atmosphere like a piece of glass.

I snap back to attention, as I sit up to face him. I cross my legs and place my laptop over them.

“Uh...” I’m still having a bit of trouble getting my brain back into ‘homework’ mode. I blink at my screen a couple times before actually reading the article I’ve got displayed. “A dark room could symbolize that you’re curious about how a certain scenario might turn out.”

“Okay?” he says, but he doesn’t sound sure.

I glance up to see Trevor clicking away on his computer. He doesn’t seem affected even the slightest. It’s like he was momentarily distracted, but now he’s back on track and even more focused than before.

“What else can we look up?” he asks and then snaps his fingers. “Cougar.”

He’s already typing in the search so I just sit and wait for him to find the interpretation.

“Cougar. Okay. Says that cougars represent a—” He cuts himself off before finishing.

I look up to find his eyes glued to his screen.

“A what?” I ask.

He doesn’t respond for a couple seconds, and I’m wondering if he even will.

“How about your dreams,” he suggests, very obviously trying to change the subject.

Curiosity surges through my veins. I shoot Trevor a pointed look and smile before setting my computer aside and crawling towards him.

“Tell me,” I say as I approach him. I sit back on my legs, pleading with my eyes for him to spill whatever it is that he found. “Represents what?... Let me guess, an older woman? I knew it!”

A smile tilts up one side of his face, but he remains silent. I inch my way a little closer, but Trevor quickly shuts his laptop and sets it on the nightstand.

“Nope.”

“Come on!” I beg.

He crosses his arms over his chest and smirks at me.

“I’ll just look it up myself then,” I inform him as I turn around.

Suddenly a pair of hands snake around my waist, pulling me back towards a hard chest. I squeak with shock before realizing that I’m currently wrapped in Trevor’s steel hold with no escape. But, I don’t mind at all. Especially when he smells like cinnamon and spicy cologne. He is hmm hmm good!

“No ya don’t,” he whispers into my ear, and I involuntarily shrug my shoulders up around my neck to ward off the shivers.

I never thought that Trevor would ever treat me with even the slightest hint of kindness, but he had proven me wrong, and now here he was with his arms securely folded around me.

“Let me go,” I laugh as I struggle to be freed.

It’s not that I actually want to get away, but it would be extremely weird if I just sat there reveling in the feel of his arms wrapped around me. I can’t just assume that he’s flirting with me. It’s very possible that he was just, what, being playful? Isn’t that still flirting? What exactly are we doing? What is he doing?

“Trevor Nixon,” I giggle as his hold tightens. “Are you flirting with me?”

And then my stupid mouth had to go and break the spell.

I feel his muscles grow taut and his arms fly away from me in a sign of panicked surrender. I move away from him just enough to escape the discomfort of such close proximity, and then glance up at him sheepishly.

“I was kidding,” I mumble. “I know you weren’t flirting. We’re barely friends, right?” My breath catches as another possibility dawns on me. “Are we friends?”

Trevor looks at me closely for a moment, while I hold my breath waiting for him to confirm that we are friends - besties even. But instead, he laughs. He laughs! And I can’t help but wonder if he’s laughing at me or just at the uncomfortable situation.

“I’m sorry,” he says with a couple huffs of laughter. “I was just messing around. I didn’t mean to make you think that.”

My shoulders fall, and I realize it’s obvious when concern flashes across his features. What exactly did he not mean to make me think? That he was flirting? Or that we’re friends?

“Emma,” he begins, his voice husky as he tries to speak gently, “I like you. I do. You’re a cool person. I just... we can’t.” He ruffles his hair in agitation; all humor has been forgotten. There’s a long, heavy silence that I refuse to break as I wait for him to continue. “We’re just partners...” another pause. “Right?”

The question throws me off guard because something about the way he says it doesn’t make it feel like a question. It’s like he’s trying to convince himself of his own words. It’d be similar to someone saying, ‘We’re gonna die, aren’t we?’ while fighting an apocalyptic war with flesh-eating zombies closing in on them. Trevor wants me to confirm his words; yet, it doesn’t feel like he wants them to be true.

And though there’s insecurity laced within his question, my mind quickly dismisses the hopeful possibilities. Instead, it snags on the words themselves rather than the likely underlying connotation.

It’s that stupid word again. Partners. Sometimes I worry that we will never get over this speed bump. And once our project is done, then what? We’re no longer partners, so then what are we? Friends?

Are we friends?

He never confirmed or denied my question, so there’s no way for me to know. My heart sinks just a bit further. I had thought that we had come so far. Lindsey had planted so much hope in me yesterday that I really thought something more was possible. I thought he might actually like me.

Reality hits me like a bus. Of course he wouldn’t. I’m still that stupid little girl who hurt his baby sister. And, though he claims to have put that behind him, I’m wondering if he ever really did forgive me.

I realize he’s watching me as I examine my fingers. I glance up to meet his gaze and force a smile onto my lips. There’s guilt written within the tint of his pale olive eyes.

“Right.” I try and sound confident but it’s a failed attempt.

He obviously knows that he’s hurt my feelings as disappointment creases his brow, but apparently, he meant what he said because he’s not in any hurry to correct himself.

“Okay, partner,” I say. “Let’s just finish this project then.”

“Emma, listen...” He reaches out and gently touches my knee.

I look down at the contact before meeting his gaze.

“I know this is the most cliche, overused line on the planet, but...” he pauses briefly. “It’s honestly not you. I’ve seen that you’re not who you used to be. You’re nice and friendly and caring, but it just can’t happen. We can’t happen.”

I feel my chest pull inwards, as my wild heart pushes back. The flicker of hope that had started to sparkle to life dies, but I nod as if I completely understand.

We decide to spend a few more minutes doing research, but my mind is too preoccupied to even care. I’m lazily browsing the internet until the clock hits two p.m. and then I’m bolting out of there. Apparently, Trevor has a shift at the Kid Discover magazine place. I guess they asked him to fill in for just a couple hours since someone was out sick. He said we could meet up later tonight to finish what we started, and though I agreed, I’m dreading it with every fiber of my being.

The tension in the room slowly fades as we both become absorbed in our own searches. I’m messaging Lindsey to see if she wants to meet up after this, but apparently, she’s got plans with Mike. That boy better not steal my best friend away, or I’ll be hopelessly lonely. Mercy’s about as comforting as a sea urchin, so there’s no going to her when I need a hug or someone to feed me ice-cream while I blubber my emotions all over the place. I obviously need to make more friends because my life is looking pretty sad.

I’ve given up on homework and somehow stumbled across an odd article about why exactly it is that men have nipples, when Trevor shifts positions, stretching his legs out in front of him. His jean clad knee brushes my elbow and I nearly wilt into hysterics. A simple touch from a human being should not paralyze a person. This is just getting ridiculous. Maybe Trevor isn’t human because I don’t think it’s physically possible for someone’s touch to light a person on fire, or simple eye contact to cause a heart-attack, or a smile to detonate a bomb inside my stomach. No, he’s definitely an alien of some kind.

“Sorry,” he says as he quickly pulls his leg away.

“It’s fine.” I shoot him a quick glance, but he’s focused on his computer again.

I know he can feel my eyes on him, though, because I’m right in front of him. All he’d have to do is shift his gaze slightly to the left and he’d be looking directly at me. But he doesn’t. All he does is tighten his jaw and continue reading whatever stupid article has captivated his attention.

“Hello!” I hear someone holler from the living room.

I glance back at Trevor, and he’s mirroring my look of confusion as we both look at each other for a moment. Trevor pushes his computer to the side and hops off the bed. I watch him as he exits his room to greet whoever just arrived.

“Hey man! I didn’t realize you’d be getting back so early,” Trevor says.

“Yeah, class got out early.” The voice is vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite place it. “I’m joining Pete, Sam, and a few other guys in a bit to play some soccer. You coming?”

“Naw, man. Emma’s here, and then I’m leaving ’cuz I got roped into working a couple hours at K.D.” Trevor explains. I’m assuming K.D. is the magazine place.

“Emma, huh?” his friends repeats, and I can hear the suggestive humor in his tone.

The fridge opens and I can hear someone rummaging inside.

“I’m pretty sure she can hear—”

“Orange Juice!” his friend gasps, cutting Trevor off. He sounds as if he’s just found out that it’s raining skittles. “Hi, Emma!” he yells a second later.

Laughter begins to bubble out of me as I return the greeting. Now that I’ve been acknowledged, I feel that maybe I should introduce myself.

I emerge from Trevor’s room to find the guy that I assume is Andy pouring himself a glass of OJ. I send him an awkward wave, the kind that is very stiff-handed and looks as if I’m wiping down a window with robotic movements rather than offering a friendly greeting.

“Ah, and there she is!” He’s grinning widely, and I’m distracted by the shimmer of his impeccably white teeth. He’s got dirty blond hair and bright blue eyes that match his bright personality. “Trevor here has told me much about you. It’s good to finally meet.”

I shoot Trevor a threatening look, before offering Andy a smile.

“Good to meet you too,” I say while reaching out to shake his extended hand. “Andy, right?”

“Yep.” He smiles as he takes a large gulp of orange juice.

I notice Trevor smiling wickedly from the corner of my eye just milliseconds before Andy spews orange juice everywhere. Thankfully, he had the decency to turn his head away from me before ejecting the contents of his mouth.

Shock rockets through me before I realize that Trevor is bent in half, clutching his stomach as he shakes with unleashed laughter. I can actually hear him wheezing like an old smoker as he tries to control himself, but then he glances up and gets a look at Andy’s horror-struck face and his laughter explodes everywhere. A smile tugs my lips upward when he hits those high-pitched laughs that just prove how out of control he is. It’s the kind of laughter that should be embarrassing but is actually more humorous than whatever he’s laughing at.

Though I was unhealthily crushing on the guy, over the past few months I’d come to the conclusion that, at times, he could be rather dull; unemotional like a puppet. But this experience proved me wrong. He was bursting with life, and I had to wonder how much effort he put into controlling himself around me. What was it about me that forced him to hide who he really was?

I find myself beginning to giggle as my gaze shifts between Trevor’s hysterical demeanor and Andy’s stoic one. Andy notices and turns an unamused gaze towards me. He’s got one eyebrow lifted like he can’t believe I’ve joined in with Trevor’s display of madness. And then he breaks, and I hear him start to chuckle. It starts off softly and begins to grow. Soon all three of us are giggling like children high off of sugar and Looney tunes.

I look back at Trevor to find him attempting to control his laughter between gulps of air, and for a moment jealously invades my circulatory system. To see him like this, smiling and laughing freely, makes my heart fold in half because I have never seen this side of him. Sure, he’s laughed and had fun, but there was always something holding him back, like he was guarding himself against feeling too much. I never thought much of it because I just assumed that was his character. I thought he just had a strong hold on his emotions and was able to control his reactions to life so easily. And yet, here he is, joking with his buddy, and I can’t help but wonder how many people have gotten the privilege of seeing him really laugh. When I’m not here is this apartment always filled with the glorious sound of his laughter?

As soon as the envy shoots through me it’s gone. The only thing making me jealous is my own selfishness. Just to know that he is happy should be enough. I’m just hoping that eventually, I can be a part of bringing him that happiness, to make him laugh unabashedly like he is right now.

He must have sensed my eyes on him because he glanced my way, and almost immediately sobered when he saw me studying him. He had let down his walls without realizing and I knew he regretted it the moment his eyes connected with mine. He was bent over with his hands on his knees, but straighten up when he caught my gaze. He watched me intensely for a brief moment before turning back to Andy with a smile.

“I was so hoping I’d be home to witness that,” he tells Andy as he watches him grab a rag from the sink and start wiping up the mess.

“What the heck was in that?” Andy asks. “That was horrible.”

Trevor laughs again before answering. “Cheese from a box of macaroni. Just mixed it with water,” he replies with a simple shrug.

Andy just grunts in disgust as he continues to clean up the mess. Trevor leaves the room for a moment, and I’m shocked by his inconsideration in not helping clean up a mess he caused. Instead, he just leaves it for his friend to—

“Here.” I turn to find Trevor reentering with a mop in hand. “This will work better,” he says while wetting the mop under the kitchen faucet and swiping it across the floor. As if water alone will do the job. Leave it to a guy to not feel the need for cleaning supplies.

Once everything is clean, Andy stands and shoots me a triumphant smile.

“Well, I’m sorry we had to meet this way.” He throws the rag into the sink and runs a hand through his hair.

“Yeah.” I smile. “But it beats how we met the first time.”

He looks at me confused for a moment before realization dawns on his face. “Yes, that was not ideal.” He’s referring to the time he witnessed me running out of Trevor’s room in near tears while he gaped at me helplessly. “We won’t count that one since we didn’t officially meet.”

“Good call,” I respond with a small laugh.

“Well, I hate to rush off, but I must go drown my tongue in Listerine,” he says and disappears into the bathroom.

I turn back around to find Trevor leaning against the kitchen counter with an unreadable expression tightening up his face. His eyes are squinted at me like he’s trying to figure something out while I stand there gaping back at him. I never thought of myself as an awkward person until I got to know Trevor, and now I notice myself feeling a battle between insecurity and giddiness so often that it’s humiliating. At this moment, insecurity is definitely winning.

“I’m just gonna...” I use my thumb to point over my shoulder before turning and making my way back into his room.

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