REALLY

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The Golden State

JUDAH’s POV:

“If you just want some cake, you could’ve just told me. Don’t have to kidnap me all the way to the other side of town,” I said playfully as I followed her deeper into the woods.

“Ha-ha, very funny,” she ignored me and just kept on walking.

“Seriously, what the hell are we doing here?”

After a good mile or so, we finally arrived at the waterfall. The same one that we went to after the homecoming dance. We got a little drunk and she and I went skinny-dipping. That was fun.

Maybe she’s taking me here to finish what we started before…

“Well, we’re gonna be leaving Kauai in just a week. But there’s still a few things I wanna do before I go, so…” she started.

“You wanna do it with me in the waterfall?” I blurted.

“Judah! No!” she gaped.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t mind,” I smirked and she rolled her eyes at me.

“Keep rolling those pretty eyes, and I’mma show you something that’ll roll your eyes so far back…”

“Judah!” she pleaded for me to stop, and of course I noticed the hint of red on her cheeks.

“Okay, okay, so what are we doing here?” I said finally.

She bit her lip and cocked her head to the side, pausing for a few seconds before saying, “Just follow me,”

She then turned to her heels, racing over to the rocks by the waterfall. I followed her cautiously from behind, waiting for her next move. She stopped for a minute as she stared up at the wall of rocks in front of her, debating on what to do. I never thought she had it in her, but suddenly her hands reached up and she propelled herself off the ground, holding onto the rocks.

“Whoa, what are you doing?”

“Come on,” she said breathlessly. She was slowly and cautiously making her way up the waterfall.

Shaking my head in disbelief, I quickly followed after her. I was able to jump higher and climb faster, and I reached the top within seconds.

“I thought you’re scared of heights?” I said as I looked down, giving my hand out to her.

“I am, which is exactly why I’m doing this with you,” she said as she took my hand and I pulled her up.

“Doing what exactly?”

We stood tall on the edge of the waterfall. The sound of water rushing below and the cold air sent chills to my bone.

Meanwhile, Taya wasn’t answering me, and a playful smile crept up her face as her hand reached for the strap of her dress. The next thing I know, the little dress was already thrown on the ground, and she was smirking at me.

I was still trying to process everything, when she already reached for my shirt and she was pulling it up, forcefully.

“Whoa, not even a dinner and a movie first?” I said as my shirt was thrown to the ground, exposing my skin to the cold air.

“Ah, shush,” she rolled her eyes again, and of course I noticed her checking me out before she looked away.

“What are we doing now, seriously?”

“We’re jumping down,” she said with a glint in her eyes, “Together,”

“Say what?”

“I’m facing my fears, Judah. And I wanna do it with you,”

“Aw, that’s hella romantic Blondie, if only you’re not trying to kill us both,”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” she said as her hand reached out to slap my arm.

I leaned back to dodge her hand, but that sudden movement caused her to lose her balance. Quickly, I grabbed her arm and held her in place. She looked scared for a second, but she quickly recovered and gave me a reassuring smile.

“You sure this is safe? I’d love to make it to California in one piece,” I said to her.

“I’ve seen people done it before. Most of them survived,”

My eyes widened at her response and she just laughed away.

“Kidding,” she said in between laughs, “Come on Judah, live a little,”

She was using my own words against me, touché. And when did she become such a brave soul and I become such a wimp?

“Ah, fuck it, let’s do it,” I shrugged.

“On three?” she asked.

“Don’t you dare chicken out at the last second,”

“One,” she stated, ignoring my threats.

“Two,” I added, and we both took a deep breath.

“Three!” We both yelled together and I kicked my feet up and jumped.

I was already midway up the air when I heard her screaming, “Wait, do we go on ‘three’ or on ‘go’?”

Fuck.

Within seconds, gravity pulled me down to the waters below. The water was nice and cool, but I was the only one that was feeling it. I swam back up instantly, my head bursting out of the water, and I looked up to see Taya still standing at the edge.

“Judah? Are you okay? How was it?” she yelled down.

“Damnit Taya, you better get your sexy ass down here, right now,” I glared at her as I whipped my wet hair back.

“I didn’t know if we were supposed to jump on ‘three’ or on ‘go’…”

“Just get down here,” I said impatiently.

“But…” the look of bravery on her face was all but gone.

“Just jump. I got you,” I opened my arms reassuringly.

Just like that night.

“There’s no chance that you’d be willing to climb back up and jump down with me, is there?” she laughed nervously. She was giving me her best puppy eye look too, but I just gave her a bored stare.

“You can do it, come on, I know you can,” I said instead as she was taking deep breaths to prepare herself.

“One…” I started to count, thinking that it would help her out. But no—she just jumped right away.

Splash!

She flew down the edge with a scream. A loud and cute one too.

I gave her a little room so her body would hit the water, but I caught her immediately so she wouldn’t drown so far down.

“I can’t believe I just did that? Did you see me just now?” she was beaming at me as her pretty face came up for air.

“Yeah, you were very brave,” I said as I held her still. Her body was shaking a little, maybe from the cold air or from the adrenaline.

“Nice catch by the way,” she said as she linked her arms around my neck.

She was glistening under the bright golden sun above. It was as if she was glowing. And my heart swelled at the thought that this beautiful thing chose to wrap her arms around myneck.

“Nah,” I shook my head and said, “You’re the catch,”

“Smooth,” she laughed, glancing down to avoid eye contact with me.

“Just being honest here,”

“Stop, you’re making me blush,” she flushed her face deep against my chest, trying her best to hide her flared-up cheeks.

“And I haven’t even started,” I said as I tilted her chin up, “What happens if I do this?”

My face leaned down to find hers, my lips standing a few inches away from her and it stopped there, waiting for her next move. When she wasn’t leaning in, I found myself leaning closer to her, my lips arching its way to find hers.

To my absolute surprise however, she decided to swam back and splash my face with water instead. The coldness stung my skin and I groaned in annoyance.

“Oh, you wanna play games with me?” I said lowly as I wiped the water from my eyes. She was giggling as she tried to swim away.

“I swear, you’re gonna be the death of me,” I said as I caught up with her, but she splashed me again, even harder this time.

“Ha, and you still have to put up with me for years and years to come,” she stuck her tongue out as she tried to wiggle away from my grip.

“I have a feeling there will be no boring days with you,”

“What can I say? Gotta keep us both entertained,”

She was gonna splash water to my face again, but I surprised her by diving down quickly and pulling her legs down within seconds. She gasped as I pulled her entire body down below. Unable to escape my grip, I pulled her face towards mine and my lips found hers there. She was trying to protest a little, but it all died down as soon as our lips met. She melted into my arms as her kiss melted away my heart.

When we were finally out of breath, we pulled away and swam back up for air. She was gasping a little, and I waited until her breathing slowed down before I pulled her to my arms again.

“That’s my job too,” I said as I rested my forehead on hers.

Our eyes were just inches apart. Those beautiful chocolate eyes were watching mine in bewilderment, and I could stare at it for days.

“Hey Judah,” she said suddenly.

“Hm?”

“Tell me honestly though, how are you feeling about moving to California with me?” she said as she put her hand on the side of my face.

I responded by putting my hand on hers too, my fingers running gently across her cheek as I said, “To be honest, I’m a little scared,”

“Why?”

“It’s our future together and I just want everything to be perfect. But I’m scared I might mess it up somehow… I tend to do stupid shit, do the wrong things, or say the wrong words—”

“Judah, stop,” she said as her hand went to hold mine, “Don’t worry about all that. We’re not doing this so we can have a perfect relationship. We’re doing this so we can be real,”

Those words struck a chord in me. I couldn’t help but smile at her, and the image of her six-year-old self came to mind. She was always wise for her age. She knew just what to say to make me feel safe and strong.

And she’s right, perfection is overrated.

“I’d take real over perfect any day,” she said again as she leaned closer and her soft lips landed on mine.

“Smooth,” I said in between the kiss.

“Oh shut up,” she huffed as she pushed me back.

“So this is what college is gonna be like, huh?”

“Like what?”

“I’m gonna be working my butt off to raise my GPA and you’ll be distracting me with your cute antics,”

“You mean like this?” her dainty fingers slowly made its way down my body, rubbing against my chest, down my abs, and resting over the lion tattoo on my stomach. She was tracing circles all around it, and sometimes she’d go a little too south on purpose.

“Stop playing games with me,” I groaned.

“You’re the one that taught me how to play. Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” her hand was now resting over my member, and I gulped involuntarily.

Damn. She’s becoming more and more like me. That’s scary.

“Okay, that’s enough young lady, no more games,” I said as I pulled her hand away, trying my best to suppress the massive feeling that was growing in me.

And I’m becoming more and more like her.

“Aw, you’re no fun,” she pouted.

“Come on, let’s go. Game over,” I sighed as I pulled the two of us over to the shore.

The water was too cold and I didn’t want her to get sick, which was why I insisted on getting out of the water. She knew what I was trying to do, but she wasn’t making it easy for me.

“What if I don’t want it to be over?” Looking up at me with challenging eyes, she leaned her back against the rocks, with her elbows supporting her. And her tongue darted out to lick her lips.

“How many times do I have to say this before you understand? Listen to me,” I said as I leaned into her close, and both my hands rested around her, giving her no chance of escaping.

“It’s game over, ’cause you’re my endgame,”

For a moment there, she was speechless. I literally took her breath away.

When she finally gained her composure, she smiled at me and said, “And you’re mine, Judah Hudson,”

There would never be any better words to ever be formed in a sentence. I couldn’t possibly explain what those words mean to me.

All my life, I was looking for a place where I belong. I’ve been waiting for someone to say these words and to actually mean it. Turns out, I don’t have to look too far. It’s been here all along.

Our noses were inches away from each other. I could feel her cold breaths hitting my cheeks. Her eyes grew wide in anticipation as I locked in on her. Our mouths were moving to find each other, but I purposefully left them untouched, teasing her, pulling her to want me as much as I wanted her.

Whoever said ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’ clearly had never met us.

Vary the tempo. Sometimes we go fast and urgent, like you’re the last two lovers on earth. Sometimes you go slow and sensual, like you’re the first lovers on earth.

We weren’t afraid of heights, we were afraid of the fall. We weren’t afraid of playing the game, we were afraid of losing it. And we weren’t afraid to say ‘I love you’, we were only afraid of the response.

And how freeing is it that we don’t have to be afraid anymore?

I pulled away from the kiss slowly, and she looked up at me in confusion. I coughed to clear my throat as I swiped my hands together, getting them clean and dry.

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, and it’s been a long time coming…”

“What is it?” She gave me a puzzled look as I stretched out my right hand to her.

“Hi… my name is Jaden… well, it’s Judah now, but that’s besides the point…” I started rambling.

“Judah, what are you doing?” she narrowed her eyes at me, but she took my hand anyway.

“I wanna thank you for sharing your lunch with me. And for the Band-Aids too. And I just wanna say, you’re the coolest girl in this entire playground and you have the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen…”

Those were the exact words that little seven-year-old me wanted to tell her all those years ago. I had practiced that line so many times in front of my bathroom mirror. Corny maybe, but for a seven-year-old, I thought that wasn’t so bad.

“I’ve waited years to tell you that. I’ve wanted to tell you since the first day we met at the playground, but I was too scared, and then I lost my chance. Until now. And I guess I finally had the guts this time. Sorry it took me a while,”

She looked me as if I was a sight to marvel at. Her lips stretched into a smile and her eyes turned a little glassy.

“I…” her small voice cracked.

“Taya?” I was getting worried, wondering if I’d said something wrong. “Are you okay?”

Nodding her head a few times, a tear trickled down her cheek as she said, “Yeah, I just…” she paused for a moment before saying, “I love you, Judah Hudson, so much,”

Letting out a relieved sigh, I pressed my forehead onto hers, and I locked my eyes with hers. I could feel my little seven-year-old-self smiling brightly from within.

“And I love you even more, Taya Leigh Williams,”

More than I could ever say. And way more than you could ever know.

But I’ll still spend all the days of my life making sure that you at least get the idea.

Starting now.

Ending never.

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THE END.


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