Cole is waiting for me after school, leaning against my locker and looking oh so cool. I have to take a few breaths and make myself look cool. When he sees me he smiles, and for the first time I notice that he has a small dimple on his right cheek. I also notice that his hair is black and cut a bit shorter. It’s no longer wavy, but flat and straight, looking like he has jagged bangs framing the right side of his face. He looks so hot.
“Hi,” he says, still smiling. He pushes himself off of my locker, right hand gripping his backpack strap. Just… everything looks good on his right side.
“Hi,” I say sheepishly.
“Are you ready?” he asks me, taking a step back, motioning towards the front doors of the school.
“Ready for what?”
He frowns. “Did you forget?” I look at him, afraid that I’ll embarrass myself if I say something. “We go out today. I ask, you say yes. Ah, ice cream.”
“Oh! Right! I’m so sorry. I feel so stupid for forgetting.”
“You don’t want to go?”
He nods, the smile returning to his face, and leads me towards the parking lot. His palm is spread out on my lower back and I’m freaking out. My mind is racing. I hear the chorus of angels again. We pass Kelsey at her locker and she looks at us. Her eyes go wide and she purses her lips in approval, hiding the lower half of her face behind her green folder. I see her shoulders shaking and I know she’s laughing. She gives me a wink and mouths call me after! With her hand shaping into a pretend phone. I nod and smile at her.
“So you drive?” I ask as he pulls a pair of keys out from his pocket. I know it’s obvious, but I’m not sure what else to say.
“For ah, three months.” He says three like tree.
I’m a bit hesitant. I’ve never ridden in a car that was drive by anyone but my parents, and they always warned me about this kind of stuff, that a lot of teenagers aren’t responsible drivers. I’m not sure if that’s true or not; I’ve never witnessed reckless teenage driving firsthand.
I open the door and stand there for a moment. He’s watching me carefully through the door, already situated behind the wheel, an arm casually draped over it. He seems cautious, yet expecting, so I get in. His eyes smile but his lips don’t.
We pull out of the parking lot with ease. He’s a patient driver. It gets crazy after school; almost everyone in the upper classes drive so it takes a while to finally get onto the road. (I think I’m the only senior that doesn’t drive yet.) Cole doesn’t honk like everyone else, instead easing his foot on the accelerator in the trail of traffic and lightly tapping the brake when necessary. His arm is still draped over the wheel casually and he leans back in his seat as if there’s nowhere he has to be in a certain time frame. Which, I suppose, he doesn’t.
Finally we reach the road and Cole drives at a reasonable speed. He isn’t a nervous driver, either. He knows how to keep his cool. I watch as the trees go by; there isn’t a building in sight for another four miles. Our town is weird like that – the city ten miles from any home and the local high school in the middle of the freaking forest. My first day as a freshman, my mom got lost trying to take me to the school.
Through the reflection in the window, I catch Cole glancing at me anxiously, absolutely unsure of what to say to break the silence. I don’t turn to him; I’m not sure what to say either. My mind draws a blank every time I think about opening my mouth. How useless words can be sometimes. They build on my tongue only to fall off in a quake of apprehension. Maybe the same happens to Cole, too. Maybe he has trouble with finding the right words to say as much as I do.
After a half hour of silence, we pull up in front of Drippy Dip, some wacked out ice cream shop, the only affordable one in town. It’s a small blue and pink shack, the size of an average living room. There’s picnic tables skirting its perimeter because there isn’t enough room to have them inside of the shack. Drippy Dip was originally just a regular ice cream truck and a year ago the owner had enough money to expand.
I pull out money from my backpack to help pay for the ice cream but Cole motions for me to put it away, a stern, but not menacing, look on his face. I got this his eyes say. He smiles and turns to the ice cream vendor, ordering two strawberry-banana sundaes.
Cole hands me mine and I head to the counter with the forks and bottles of Whip It! cream. That’s the best part of Drippy Dip; you can pile on as much whipped cream as your obese heart desires. Cole watches me and smirks, letting a little chuckle slip through his teeth.
“Why are you laughing at me?” I say coolly, handing him the can of whipped cream. He shakes his head, so I put it back. We pick a table to sit at under an oak tree, hidden from the threats of vicious sun tans.
“That’s a lot,” he says, pointing at my enormous pile of whipped cream. It’s almost the size of an ant hill. “You like?”
“It goes perfectly with the strawberry flavor,” I reply, shoveling a spoon full and letting the cool ice coarse down my throat.
“I never had before.” He points to the shack.
“How did you know about this place, then?”
“Google,” he says, smirking as if he’s so darn clever. I smile back and stare down at my sundae.
There’s silence draped over us like a silk sheet once more. I hate these moments. I feel as if I disappoint him, and I just want to hear him talk. He could tell me a story about how the newspaper is printed and I’d be interested wholly. His stuttering makes him all the more desirable I can’t stand it.
“This is good,” he finally says, taking one of the last few bites. He squints his eyes, his perfect eyebrows scrunching together, the skin around his lids crinkling seductively. I want to run my fingers over his smooth, flawless, pallid skin, to commit it to memory, to draw it for the way it is. Cole sticks his tongue out and laughs. “It’s cold. Ah, head hurts.”
“You got a brain freeze!”
“Brain, ah…freeze?” He looks scared, his pupils dilated, wide in fear.
“No! Don’t worry. It’s an expression. It just means that your brain gets cold. Or, it feels like it does. It happens when you eat ice cream, or anything cold, too quickly.”
He looks at me for a moment, blinking, his lashes caressing his skin, and all he says is “Americans are weird.” He says are like ah and my heart stutters. I laugh and flick a chunk of whip cream at him. It makes a splat all over his nose and cheeks and his upper lip. He jumps back, momentarily shocked, and for a moment I wish I hadn’t done that, but the he scoops up the rest of my whip cream in his hand and smothers my face with it. I cry out and jump away from the picnic bench, laughing.
At this moment we have the same thought and we race each other to the counter, reaching for the bottle of Whip It! His limbs are longer than mine and he grabs it first, pointing the bottle at me and spraying it until it sputters, no more cream to release. The cream is in my hair and all over my face, splayed over the palms of my hands. I wipe my eyes, pulling the whip cream out of my lashes. I’m laughing so hard I can’t breathe.
Cole doesn’t help my breathing issue when he steps forward and kisses me, spreading even more whip cream over my face. His lips are soft against mine and they taste like banana. His fingers stroke my hair, flattening it out and rubbing in the whip cream. It’s going to be difficult to wash out when I get home.
Cole and I don’t say anything as he takes me home. All we do is laugh and wipe whip cream off each other’s faces. I can still feel his lips on mine, creating a warm fuzz spread through my body, giving me goose bumps. It was totally unexpected, the kiss, but completely welcome. I still taste his tongue on my teeth when he pried open my lips. The kiss was viscous, needy. He needed to kiss me; I could tell so easily. It makes chills sprint up and down my spine.
He pulls up in the driveway of my home and walks me up the steps to the porch, almost tripping on the top step. He looks at me sheepishly, totally embarrassed. I wipe what’s left of the whip cream from the bridge of his nose and he blushes. He runs his hand through my hair.
“You look like a grandma,” he says, laughing.
I punch him in the arm and he steps back, rubbing his shoulder.
“I had fun,” he says, his smile fading. “We do again sometime?” He rushes his words, in a hurry for them to come out before his beastly tongue strangles them in place.
“Yeah,” I say, kicking air with the toe of my shoe. When I look up at him he’s already staring and he leans down for another kiss.
“I like you,” he murmurs against my lips. His accent momentarily slips away, making him sound all-American. He pulls me close to him, palms delicately wrapped around my elbows, and he breathes down my neck, his warm breath amusing my skin. I cringe and giggle and he kisses me one last time. “I need you,” he says, pulling away. “You’re mine, okay?” He holds my chin between his thumb and index finger, searching my eyes, awaiting an answer.
I nod, an “okay” barely escaping my lips. My voice is so tight, so hoarse. I’m breathless.
It’s hard to watch him go, his body disappearing into the darkness of the evening. I want him to stay, to come up into the house and lay with me and keep me up all hours of the night talking about things that mean nothing to me. I want to hear him speak his own language, speak beautiful words to me that I’d have to use Google translate to understand.
After he pulls away, I start heading inside, but there’s a rustling in the bushes. I jump and see a figure emerge from behind the dark green leaves.
“What the heck, Christian!” I whisper-cry. “What are you doing here? Why are you being creepy and stalkerish, hiding in my bushes?”
He looks angry, his jaw set tight, hands clenched into fists. He wouldn’t dare hit me.
“We were supposed to work on the project. Or did your little boyfriend make you forget?” he says sternly.
“We didn’t agree on anything for today.”
“I call bullshit.”
“Call out all you want! You haven’t spoken to me in a few days since you shoved me into my own bed.”
“It won’t be the last time, Princess. Trust me.” He turns and skulks across the lawn, making a right and disappearing into the darkness.