When we reach our street, I hesitate to let her go. She has held my hand firmly throughout our walk and I could swear the goosebumps on my skin haven’t faded away yet.
We reach her door and she reluctantly takes her hand away.
“Thanks for walking me home.“, she teases softly.
The lights on the street make her look like an angel, half in shadows. I try not to fidget. “It was a pleasure.“, I say, my hands itching to ruffle up the hair she has combed back so perfectly. I realise that I like it when her gorgeous red locks are left down, wild and free. Waiting for my fingers to comb through them.
We both just stand there, looking at each other and then away quickly.
“I guess I should go.“, she says, touching the side of her hair. I feel a spark of hope at the hesitation in her voice.
I grab onto the first excuse I can think of.
“Hey, um, if you don’t have anything planned for tonight... do you want to come over for a while? My parents are out on date night and my sister’s having a sleep over. We could watch a movie or something. ”
The darkness doesn’t let me see her expression very clearly. But I see her pause and then she nods her head.
“Yeah, sure. That’d be fun.”
The uneasiness in my chest flutters away when she gives me a radiant smile.
We go over to my house and I unlock the door. Standing back so that Isabel enters first, I flick on the porch light and the shadows around us disappear.
When we’re inside, I help her take her coat off and place it on the stand, followed by my own. I turn on the lights and gesture to the couch in front of us.
“I’ll get us something to eat.”
She’s halfway through taking a seat but jumps up when I turn away.
“I’ll help you.”
My manners tell me I should try to make her stay there and sit comfortably. But then she brushes my arm as we make our way into the kitchen and my protest dies in my throat.
She’s here. With me.
I need to make the most of it.
“Thanks.“, I say and then I pinken when she turns and smiles back at me.
Why wasn’t I tanned or something?
I catch a glimpse of her fair creamy skin when she lifts her hands to loosen the knot of her hair and a bit of her lower back is exposed to my hungry gaze.
I halt right when I see the light brown splotch on her skin. It’s a birthmark and I want to kiss her there. Grab her hips and kiss the cheeks of her plump, full ass.
I feel lower than a worm when she turns to look at me. And then the thought vanishes when I see her face. Her hair is let down and she’s flexing the hair band between two fingers.
She’s fucking beautiful.
When she reaches up to tie her hair again, I blurt out before I think better of it.
She pauses and stares at me with wide eyes, the deep green almost startling.
I can’t read her expression and I try to amend the blunder I just made.
“I m-meant you look great when you’re hair is down. Not that I’m trying to tell you what to do or anything-”
“Roman.“, she silences me with an amused but shy smile.
She puts the band into the pocket of her jeans and tucks the loose strands of her hair behind her ears.
“I’m hungry.“, she says and I realise she’s teasing me.
My pants suddenly feel stifling but I feel like I’ve just been given the sweetest gift.
She let her hair down for me.
After a while, we’re seated in front of the flat screen, a bowl of chips in front of me and a bag of popcorn between us. Two cans of diet coke are on the table and we’re a few minutes into Boss Baby.
Isabel had insisted I choose what we see and when I’d selected that one, she told me that she hadn’t watched it. We had immediately agreed on it and now here we were, watching the deceptively cute baby being delivered to the family.
She was focused on the screen and I, on her.
I hadn’t told her that I’d already watched it three times before, twice with my sister because she thought that she was a part of Baby Corp and was searching for her colleagues too.
I tried not to be too obvious as I watched Isabel put popcorn into her mouth, the tips of her fingers brushing her lips each time. Asking her to come over had turned out to be a torture for myself, since I couldn’t glance at her once without thinking of the birthmark I had spotted on her skin and how I wanted to cover it with my lips.
If she had any idea of the dirt going through my head right now, she’d slap me in the face and never look at me again.
I fix my gaze back to the screen.
“Have you decided whom you’re going with for the Winter Formal?”
The can of coke threatens to slip from my fingers as I almost choke on my sip of the liquid.
I cough a bit to clear my throat and I realise she’s staring at me.
“Are you okay?“, her voice is concerned and she leans forward trying to look at me.
“I’m fine.“, I say immediately, looking up so that the urge to cough goes away.
When I’m okay, I look back at her.
“Are you going to the dance?“, I ask, evading the question.
I’ve been wanting to ask her out for the past five years now and I feel so hopelessly skeptical about whether or not she’ll agree to go with me.
She looks back at the screen.
“I don’t know. I might skip it.“, she sounds dejected and my heart plummets.
We both stare at the TV, but I’m not really seeing it.
“I might skip it too.“, I say softly and I see her hand freeze midway to her mouth.
“What about Pinky?“, she says abruptly.
I frown. “Who?”
The light flickering on her cheeks isn’t bright enough to let me see her clearly.
The shrug she gives me though, is far from casual.
“I meant the girl you were with today.”
Was that jealousy in her voice?
I try not to let my hopes get too high but they’re already soaring!
“The brunette in the pink dress.“, Isabel explains.
I want to laugh. “That was Clare. She’s on the debate team. We were just discussing the upcoming competition we’re taking part in.”
Her shoulders visibly relax and I give a brutal stomp to my expectations that are screaming that she might, just might, like me too.
“Oh, I didn’t know that.“, she says softly, her eyes not leaving the screen.
It lets me look my fill of her and I don’t object. My gaze flickers to her hair. It’s quite long and the tips of it lie on her front, grazing the curves of her breasts over the tshirt she’s wearing.
I want her hair in my face. I want to bury my nose in its softness and inhale the sweet, warm scent of her.
Can I ever get up the courage to tell her how I really feel? What if I don’t see her again once high school ends?
My throat closes up at the thought.
We sit in silence for a while.
I notice when she takes the bag of popcorn and places it on the table, then curls her feet below her, shifting her position. It brings her closer to me and now we are separated by mere centimetres.
I try not to tense up and work to regulate my breathing. The loud thump of my heartbeat threatens to betray how badly her nearness is affecting my composure.
Fifteen minutes pass by and then I see her yawn. She folds her arms across her chest and I think that she might be cold again. I wonder if I should turn up the heat.
But then she speaks, “I don’t think we’ve hung out like this before.”
Yes , that’s because I’m too much of a coward to tell you exactly how deeply I feel about you. That I spend most of my days hoping to catch a glimpse of your sweet perfection.
"Yeah. We should do it more often.“, I’m desperate to make amends, however small they might be.
She yawns again but there’s a smile in her voice, “We definitely should. I had fun.”
My heart stops altogether when she suddenly leans to her side and places her head on my shoulder. She presses her side to mine lightly and the breath leaves my chest.
I’m afraid to speak and spoil the moment. So I calm myself down, then inch by inch, I move my arm, trying not to shake her off.
To my surprise, she lifts her head and looks at me and I feel sick to think that she’s going to pull away.
But Isabel gives me a tentative smile, picks my arm and wraps it around her shoulder. Then she leans down and places her head back where it had been resting.
I realise that I’ve stopped breathing.
“Better?“, she asks softly.
I nod, not trusting myself to speak. I briefly touch her hair with my lips, keeping the touch light so that she doesn’t feel it.
Isabel snuggles closer to me and I suddenly feel like the happiest man alive.
When I drop her off at her place later that night, she reaches up on her toes and gives me a soft, gentle kiss on my right cheek.
Then without a word, she goes inside and shuts the door.
In my bed, I can’t go to sleep.
I keep touching that spot where her lips had touched me. When sleep finally catches up, I dream about having her lips on mine the next time, my fingers caressing that perfectly placed splotch.