Porcelain Skin

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It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m freaking out because Trevor has done the one thing I hoped he never would: He invited me over to his house... to meet the family. My guts keep dropping out of my body and basically splattering to the floor every time I remember that I’m actually going to be meeting his parents. I can’t figure out why he thinks this is a good idea. I’m not stupid; I know they know who I am, and what I did to their daughter. There’s no way this can end well for me.

Then I remember how forgiving Trevor and Trinity were and it quiets my nerves just a little, because they obviously learned their behavior from someone, right? Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Nixon will welcome me with bright smiles and warm hugs.

I can only hope.

I fidget with my fingers in my lap as the truck gently curves onto a gravel lane. It winds around several fields of corn before a modest country-style home emerges from behind a small huddle of trees. It already looks inviting, and I’m wishing that the people inside are as pleasant and warm as the house itself appears.

I feel Trevor’s strong, rough hand glide against mine as he wraps his fingers between my own. Fire blazes beneath my skin as tingles erupt across the surface. His touch holds so much power—it’s ridiculous. I glance up at him to see him sending me an encouraging smile. I can’t help but smile back, even though my stomach is tempting to launch my lunch all over the front seat of his truck.

It has been three weeks since Trevor kissed me on the roof of the abandoned K-mart, but he has yet to ask me out or even do a repeat of that night. I’ve been dying to know what’s going on in his head. He admitted to wanting me, but then never acted on it. So now, I’m wondering if he’s regretting his words.

Our relationship has been great though. Any tension that hovered between us before has evaporated, and it’s so nice to breathe freely around him. I don’t feel like I have to watch what I say or do as carefully as before. He’s so easy to get along with, but I just wish I knew what he was waiting for. Does he still feel funny dating the girl who bullied his sister? Or is he waiting to get verbal approval from Trinity first before taking the next step? Or maybe his hormones were speaking when he agreed to wanting to be with me, and now that his brain is working properly he realizes his mistake.

All I know is, I’m not willing to wait around much longer. I’m patient, but only to a certain extent. I can’t just keep hoping he’s going to ask me to be his girlfriend when he really has no intention of taking that step. I’d like to know where we’re at. If I don’t know by the end of tonight then I have no doubt that my curiosity will force me to pull the answers from him very soon.

I feel Trevor squeeze my hand gently, obviously noticing my mental turmoil.

“It’s going to be fine,” he promises, letting go of my hand. He looks at me closely for a moment before asking if I’m going to be okay.

“Yeah, I think so,” I tell him with a nod of my head. “It’s gotta happen sooner or later, right? I’d rather just get it over with.”

“Don’t think of this as an obligation,” he pleads while taking the keys out of the ignition and then turning to face me. “My parents are dying to meet the girl I can’t shut up about.”

My eyes widen as I try to comprehend what this could mean for us. “You speak to your parents about me?” I whisper, suddenly feeling uncomfortably insecure.

“Of course,” he responds, as if my question is absurd. He turns to face me while placing a hand on my wrist and rubbing soft circles into my skin with his thumb. “They’re going to love you,” he shrugs, dropping his hand. “How could they not?”

My female brain immediately kicks into overdrive and begins analyzing the meaning behind his words like a detective trying to solve a murder. I’m looking at all the clues—the fluctuation of his voice, the emphases of certain words, the twitch of his eyebrow, the direction of his gaze. Could he have possibly, very subtly, just admitted his love for me? Or did he mean it in the way you tell a good friend that you love them?

Man, loving someone is too complicated for my brain. For some reason, it feels like it has to read into every single detail. Why can’t it just relax and understand that he was probably just saying something that thousands of people say every day to friends and family—and even pets for goodness sake? It doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything.

I sigh loudly before growing a mass of courage in my gut and swinging the passenger door open.

“Okay, Trev. Let’s go,” I announce, bounding out to of the truck and walking to the front to wait for him.

I see him smiling behind the wheel at me before he follows my lead and slides out of his vehicle. It beeps as he presses the lock button and I’m wondering why he feels the need for security. I hardly remember to lock my car even when it’s sitting in the very busy school parking lot. It must be out of habit because I’m pretty sure there’s not a soul living within miles of this home.

With each step, my determination builds, and when Trevor leads me through the front door I feel like I could take on a pack of coyotes with my bare hands—I’m fearless.

Then his mom comes around the corner and my shield of protection crumbles along with my courage. I force my shoulders to stay high, and my smile to stay genuine, as I watch her approach.

She’s smiling, which is a good sign, but something about it seems a bit forced and hesitant. I can tell, just by looking at the soft wrinkles around her eyes, that she’s kind; but I get the sense that she’s slightly timid and unsure about my presence.

“Hey, Mom,” Trevor says as he grabs my hand and pulls me towards him. “This is Emma White. Emma, my mom, Grace.”

“Hi, Grace,” I greet as I extend my hand. “It’s so nice meeting you.” Her smile brightens slightly as my heart continues to pound away inside my chest.

“You too, dear.” Her voice is soft and sweet.

I kind of want to bottle it up and save it for a rainy day. It’s the type of voice that you’d want to snuggle under a blanket for as it reads you fairytale after fairytale. It’s somewhat deep, yet syrupy—like honey.

“Trevor has mentioned so much about you,” she tells me. “I feel like I know you already.” She smiles and the tension leaves my shoulders.

“Really?” I laugh, not knowing how to respond to this kind of information. “That’s, uh... terrifying.”

“Oh no, dear; it was all wonderful.” She pats my shoulder briefly before wrapping her delicate hand around my upper arm and leading me back the way she came from. “If everything he said was true, then we can understand why he likes you.”

I turn my head to give Trevor a confused look before we turn a corner, and he disappears from view.

“Rick, Emma’s here,” she states as we enter the kitchen. The man standing over the kitchen counter turns, flashing me a toothy grin before wiping his hands on a dish towel and spinning to face me full-on.

“Finally,” he bellows. “We’ve been dying to meet the famous Emma White.” He reaches out to shake my hand.

“Thank you.” I place my tiny hand inside his mammoth-sized one. “It’s so nice to finally meet you both as well.”

“You’re welcome here anytime,” he tells me and then tugs me forward into a firm hug.

I want to melt into his embrace. I haven’t felt this kind of affection from a fatherly figure in so long. I’m having to fight a battle against the emotions welling up inside of me. I feel safe. For the first time in years, I feel safe. I don’t even know this man, and yet, somehow, this small gesture has given me a taste of security and home that I didn’t even know I missed.

He pulls away from me before giving me a wide grin and turning back to the task he had been working on before I arrived. “Has Trevor showed you the rest of the property yet?” he asks over his shoulder.

Apparently, I had nothing to be concerned about. The Nixons are the world’s sweetest family. It’s no wonder Trevor and Trinity didn’t even think twice about giving me another chance. It’s how they were taught.

“Nope, not yet,” I respond.

“Oh, honey, you need to see the farm,” Grace says excitedly. “We just had a litter of piglets and two lambs born a couple weeks apart.”

“Oh, really?” I gasp. “That sounds amazing. I would love to see them.”

In all honesty, I had no clue Trevor even lived on a farm. In a way, it’s kind of adorable. I can imagine high school Trevor shoveling poop out of the horses’ stalls, and sprinkling feed into the chicken coop before gathering up all the eggs for breakfast. It’s a fantastic image of a hard-working boy. Maybe I’ll get to ride some horses with him, and he can lead me down to a romantic pond and declare his love for me under the shade of a Japanese Crab Apple tree.

Yeah, dream on.

“Where did Trevor run off—” Grace begins to ask before Rick cuts her off.

“Trevor!” He yells through the house.

We all go silent as we wait for his response. A moment later he pops his head around the corner. “’Sup?” he grins.

“Show Emma the barn,” Grace says with a tender smile dancing on her lips.

“Sure,” Trevor responds as his eyes flicker over to meet mine. He smiles softly. “Give me just a sec,” he says before disappearing around the corner again.

I watch as Grace shoots Rick a knowing look. He grins as he turns back to the counter where it appears he’s preparing to knead some dough. Obviously, something is going on and it has to do with me. They’re keeping me in the dark on purpose. I feel like I should be worried, but I’m not. I’m excited.

“Would you like some sweet tea?” Grace asks as she turns to face me.

“I’d love some. Thank you,” I tell her, and watch as she pulls a glass from the cabinet and fills it with iced tea.

“Here you are, sweetheart,” she says passing the glass to me.

I smile before thanking her again.

I get the feeling that Grace is a Southern girl with her use of vocabulary. I don’t think I’ve ever been called Honey, Dear, or Sweetheart until today. It’s surprisingly endearing and just makes me feel that much more accepted by this family.

“Hey, loser,” someone calls from behind me and I swivel around to see a smiling Trinity.

So this is what all the secret looks were about. I had been led to believe that Trinity wouldn’t arrive back from visiting her boyfriend and his family until Christmas morning.

“You came.” She sounds genuinely pleased.

“Of course. I wasn’t expecting to see you,” I say, smiling back as I walk towards her and pull her into a hug. “It’s great to see you again. How are you?”

“I’m great,” she tells me, snagging a cinnamon roll from a plate on the center of the counter island, and stuffing a bite into her mouth. “Glad to have a break. Nursing school is exhausting.”

“I can imagine,” I laugh, finally feeling at peace.

The smile on Trinity’s face is proof that she holds nothing against me, and if her parents can see that all is forgiven then I feel that I have nothing to worry about.

The evening goes well. The food is delicious and the conversation light. Occasionally, I feel Trevor’s eyes on me from across the table, only to glance up just in time to watch his gaze jerk away. He shows me the farm, and I even get to hold a little piglet in my arms. I immediately fall in love. Pigs are surprisingly adorable when they’re babies.

It isn’t until Trevor is driving me back home that he informs me about how nervous his parents had been. I guess they’d had a hard time coming to terms with what I’d done and didn’t know if having me over was the best idea.

It was Trinity that had changed their minds. After some convincing on her part, they decided to give me a chance, and thankfully, they were not disappointed. I guess Trevor’s dad had pulled him aside before we left and told him how glad they were that they had allowed me to crash their Christmas Eve dinner.

One day soon, I’ll have to apologize to Trinity’s parents for the things I’d done, but I figure it could wait a couple days. No need in bringing up the past when we’re supposed to be celebrating.

Trevor drops me back at my mom’s place at eleven. He waves before pulling out of the driveway, and I’m only slightly disappointed that he doesn’t give me the typical goodbye kiss that you see in movies. I guess he’s still coming to terms with the idea of turning him and me into an ‘us.’

I yell a greeting to my mom, who lies curled up inside a blanket on the couch. She waves at me before returning to whatever Hallmark movie she’s currently enthralled with, and then I shuffle my way to my bedroom. I’m preparing to get dressed into something a tad more comfy when I hear my phone vibrating from the depths of my never-ending purse. I rummage through it for a frustrating thirty seconds before finally finding the stupid thing shoved into a hidden pocket.

I pull it out and click on the new message.

She said yes!!!!

A smile dances across my face when I see that it’s from Lightning. My heart swells as I read those three little words. Lightning must be on cloud nine at this moment knowing that he’ll be able to spend the rest of his life with the person he loves.

I send him a quick response, letting him know how excited I am for this big step, before brushing my teeth and crawling beneath my sheets. My thoughts drift to how this evening went, and how warm and loving Trevor’s family was to me. I didn’t deserve it, but they willingly gave it anyway. I can’t imagine falling for anyone more special than Trevor. He’s beautiful in every sense of the word.

I’m almost ashamed to say that if Trevor asked me to marry him today, I’d also say yes.

Christmas is pretty uneventful. I spend it with Mom. We exchange gifts and then sit down to enjoy a simple breakfast of egg casserole and peppermint coffee. I bought my mom a set of clear glass mugs because she has a thing for unique dishes. She’s thrilled. I’m pretty sure she squeals when she opened up the box. I, on the other hand, receive a $200 gift card to Galena Day Spa. She knows me so well.

The rest of the day is spent munching on peppermint patties and monkey bread, while we watch Christmas movie after Christmas movie. That evening, we venture out to participate in the Christmas service at Mom’s church before returning home and throwing our pajamas back on.

Mom and I have been professional slugs today. Our energy levels are set at zero and our motivation is somewhere in the negatives. Lounging on the couch while stuffing our faces is pure heaven.

I’m dozing intermittently through our fourth movie when I hear my phone buzzing on the coffee table. An instant energy spike jolts my body into action. I lunge forward and clicked the message in one swift movement. I’m sure Mom doesn’t miss my urgency or the smile that blooms to life on my face when I see that it’s from Trevor.

You free tonight?

Glancing at the time, I see that it’s already eight pm. I’m not sure what he’s planning, but I don’t care.

“Trevor?” my mom asks with a sly grin.

I peer over at her while trying to hide a smile behind my phone. “Yep,” I nod vigorously, before typing in a response.

Yeah. What’s up?

I lean back in the cushions and try to pretend that I’m not counting the seconds until he responds again. I’m fighting the urge to tap the toe of my foot against the floor, matching it to the tempo of my internal clock. Ten minutes pass before I hear a response.

How soon can you be ready to be picked up?

I glance down at my pajamas and frown.

I only ask because I’m here now... Oh, and dress warm. :)

I nearly jump out of my seat as I rush towards my room to change. He could have given me some kind of warning. Luckily, my face still looks half decent from going to church earlier. All I have to do is slip on some warm clothes, some boots, my coat, and I’m all set.

“Mom, Trevor’s here to pick me up. You okay with me being out tonight?” I holler from my bedroom.

I hear her chuckle softly from the living room. “Yes, please. I’m dying for some grandbabies,” she responds, “so the sooner you two get hitched the sooner that can happen.”

“Mom!” I gasp while trying to hold back my own laughter. At least Trevor didn’t decide to wait for me inside. I would have died if he heard my mom say that.

I scurry into the living room to give my mom a kiss on the cheek before wishing her a Merry Christmas and bolting out the door. I see Trevor’s truck idling in the driveway, the headlights bouncing across the blades of grass that make up our modest front yard.

“Hey,” I say breathlessly as I pull open the passenger door and scoot into the warm embrace of his heated truck.

“Hey. Merry Christmas,” he says, before backing away from my house and heading out of town.

“Where we going?” I ask as I pull my seat belt across my chest and buckle it into the holder.

“You’ll see.” He smiles, and for a moment, I’m lost in the way his face changes when he’s happy and comfortable.

He’s like a boy stuck in the body of a man. He can show extreme maturity at times, while other times I want to roll my eyes at his childlike excitement. The day he pranked Andy with a jug of cheesy water instead of orange juice is a perfect example of the boy in him at work. There’s something incredibly cute, and charming about this side of Trevor Nixon. I want to open him like a gift and peer down at all the mystery and beauty that has yet to be revealed.

“You okay with pulling an all-nighter?” he asks, pulling me from my thoughts.

“Absolutely.” I grin, giddiness bubbling up inside. What does this boy have planned?

I pull my phone from my purse as I prepare to punch in my mom’s number, but Trevor’s voice stops me.

“No need to call your mom,” he says, and I tip my head to the side to look at him. “It’s already been done.”

“Did she know about this?” I ask in shock.

No wonder she acted so sly when he texted me earlier; she was already expecting it. Trevor doesn’t answer, but by the smile on his face, I know the answer already.

This was planned.

“Okay, pit stop,” Trevor says a few minutes later as we pull into a gas station. “You hungry? Or need to pee? ’Cuz this is our last stop for a little while.”

Food sounds oddly horrible after stuffing my face with sweets all day. I’m surprised I don’t weigh five hundred pounds, or have dentures. My teeth have got to be a mess from all the sugar I’ve consumed in my lifetime. Ignorance is bliss, though, right?

“I’m good,” I mutter.

Once the tank is full, and Trevor has bought himself three hotdogs and a few other random snacks, we head out. After two hours, I’m very much regretting my decision not to get any food. My gaze keeps landing on Trevor’s bag of goodies until suddenly it’s launched into my lap. My eyes jump up to meet his.

“I thought you might get hungry.” He laughs to himself before nodding for me to take a peek inside.

I pull away the edges of the bag and nearly gasp at the treasures inside. My heart is literally throbbing with affection when I glance back up at him. His eyes are trained on the road ahead until he feels my gaze and looks over at me. He quirks a brow, obviously confused by the sudden glistening of my love-struck eyes.

“You okay?” he asks cautiously, focusing on the road briefly before looking back over at me.

“Yeah, I just—” My throat cuts me off, and I clear it to hide my dramatic display of gratitude. “How did you know?”

Trevor doesn’t respond, but instead, just shrugs with a subtle smirk across his lips.

I return my gaze to the bag as memories explode across the theater of my mind. My dad used to take me to see these symphonies that were in St. Louis as a kid. It was like a six-hour drive for us, so we’d load up the car and set out on a road trip together. The last time we went, I was twelve. We had stopped for gas along the way, and I remember watching him step out of the vehicle and make his way inside the store to pay. When he came back out, he was dressed with a proud smile and a sack of goodies.

My dad throws the bag to me as he settles into the driver’s seat and buckles himself in. My eyes double in size after I peek inside to see dozens of bags of M&M’s and Beef Jerky.

“Why M&M’s?” I ask.

“Well, because... they were named after you.” He smirks, and I just sit in the passenger seat, silently mulling over what exactly he means by that comment.

I don’t piece it together until we actually arrive at the symphony and he calls me his M&M for the first time.

“They don’t make M&M’s as sweet as mine,” he whispers against my hair before kissing the top of my head and leading me inside.

I swing my attention back into the present and realize I’ve been staring at Trevor the entire time my mind wandered back into the distant files of my mind. I’m literally gaping at him. He pretends not to notice as he taps his thumbs against the steering wheel while humming whatever random song is tiptoeing along in the background.

He suddenly peeks over at me, his lips puckered as he begins whistling, and quirks his brow. His whistling comes to an abrupt halt. I smile broadly at him, suddenly feeling shy.

“Thank you,” I say softly under my breath.

He just smiles back and returns to whistling while tapping along to the beat. I’m not sure what has him in such a good mood, but I’m not complaining.

We ride along, keeping comfortable conversation while I pop M&M’s into my mouth. We finally pull into our destination an hour and a half later, and I just stare.

“Uh...” is my response as I gaze through the window at the towering warehouse surrounded by miles of absolutely nothing in front of us.

“I know, I know...” he says, nodding as if he already knows what I’m thinking. “I have a thing for abandoned buildings.” He crosses his arms on top of the steering wheel, hunching over to get a better view of the building looming in front of us. “I ran across this place back in high school, and I fell in love,” he shrugs. “I dunno, call it the kid in me, but I just love the adventure of exploring forgotten places.”

“I get it,” I tell him. “I’m all about abandoned buildings too. That’s why I have Merv.”

Trevor scoots back against the seat to look at me, confusion all over his face. “Merv?”

I giggle at his perplexed expression. “My barn,” I explain.

His mouth forms an “O” as understanding clicks in his brain. “Merv, huh?” He returns his gaze out the windshield, jutting his chin towards the warehouse. “That’s Wilma.”

“Nice,” I say, snorting.

Trevor grins as he swings his door open and jumps out. I copy his actions and walk towards Wilma as Trevor runs to the back of his truck and pulls out a somewhat large box and a duffle bag. I stare up at the decrepit structure before me while taking in all the character it possesses. Honestly, it has about zero character because, let’s be realistic, it’s a warehouse—a windowless block.

“Come on,” Trevor hollers as he glides passed me and into the mysterious body of concrete ahead of me.

I obediently follow and stop dead in my tracks when I step through the threshold.

What I thought was just an empty shell of solid concrete is, in fact, a star-sprinkled paradise. My gaze is fully sucked into the glittery view above me. Though the walls are solid, the entire ceiling is made up of endless windows. I feel like I’m floating through space. Out here in the middle of nowhere, where city lights can’t drown out the beauty of the sky, the stars blaze boldly. I never knew that so many stars existed. It’s completely breathtaking.

“Surprised?” Trevor asks as he watches the awe on my face.

“This is fantastic,” I marvel, walking further into the vast room to get the full view. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful,” I gasp.

I hear Trevor chuckle softly behind me, but I can’t even bring myself to glance back to see his expression. I’m completely enthralled by the twinkling, natural lights winking down at me.

I don’t know how long I gaze at the sky, but when I realize that Trevor has gone silent I turn around to find him watching me as he leans against a cement pillar, arms crossed.

“You’re stunning,” he says softly, his voice deep and raspy.

My chest constricts, and I’m lost on how to respond.

“Thank you,” I murmur awkwardly. “Not as stunning as this view, though,” I tell him, gesturing to the ceiling. I’m aware that I completely ruined that compliment, but I was desperate to take the attention off of myself.

“I’m willing to argue that,” he smirks, before pushing off of the pillar and waving for me to follow him.

He leads me to the very center of the enormous room where he has dropped the large box and duffle bag. He stops abruptly before turning to face me.

“I’ve got something for you,” he says, taking a step towards me.

The air between us grows warm as it buzzes with excited tension. My lungs forget how to pull in air and I’m forced to hold my breath as fingers slide across my cheek to push a strand of hair behind my ear.

His hand doesn’t stop there, though; it continues on around my neck and pulls my face closer. The memory of my father’s bloody hand print tattooed around my neck flashes through my mind briefly before the magnetic pull of Trevor’s touch pulls me from the horror of my past and into the magic of the present. I sink into his caress, allowing him to pull my face towards his own. His lips descend on mine softly before he pulls away to gauge my reaction. I smile, encouraging him to continue, and then once again his mouth captures mine.

His hand slips from around my neck, so he can wrap his arms around my waist, pulling my body closer. My brain ceases to function as his lips work me into a state of mindlessness. I’m swimming in a sea of bliss as a blanket of stars dance overhead. There’s just enough moonlight whispering through the vast windows above to give it the perfect touch of enchantment. I’m floating through a fairy tale.

Minutes pass easily before Trevor reluctantly breaks the connection. He doesn’t back away as he stares at me. He’s not smiling, but I can see the desire flashing through his sharp emerald eyes.

“That’s the best gift I’ve ever received,” I breathe.

Trevor laughs, his voice still husky with longing, and I’m suddenly hit by the reality of this moment. Just thinking back three months ago, I never would have imagined this happening. Back then, I had assumed friendship would be difficult enough and now I’m wrapped in the arms of Trevor Nixon, the man I love, as he tightens his hold around me, not wanting to let me go. I’m almost scared to breathe, in fear that the dream will be broken and I’ll wake up to the harsh reality that this is just a fantasy.

“Nope,” he says, stepping away from me. “That kiss was for my benefit. This...” he points towards the box on the floor before picking it up and holding it out for me, “is your gift.”

I glance from him to the box, and then to him again before taking the box in my hands.

“What in the world...” I ask myself as I squat down on the floor so that I can open the box more easily. It’s not wrapped, which I assume Trevor did on purpose so that I wouldn’t realize that it was a gift until it was time for him to present it to me.

I pull up the tape, curiosity urging me on. The last piece of tape is removed, and I divert my attention back to Trevor, shooting him a grin, before pushing back the flaps and peeking inside.

The vast room around me suddenly feels too small. The walls are closing in on me and I’m not sure how to escape. My emotions are a mixture of awe, elation, and disappointment.

“Trevor,” I gasp, tearing my eyes away from the inside of the box to focus on Trevor’s reaction. “What is this?” I ask cautiously.

He just smiles, apparently expecting this reaction, before responding. “That...” he says, pointing to the box between my limp hands, “is your future.”

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