Chapter 30 - Tell Me Baby
“Tell me, baby, what’s your story / Where you come from / And where you wanna go this time? / Tell me, lover, are you lonely? / The thing we need is / Never all that hard to find” – Tell Me Baby, Red Hot Chili Peppers
I guide James through the front door, happy for the silence, that the lights are out, and that it’s finally just us. I kick off my sandals and flick on the lights and James locks the door.
“Something to drink?” I ask.
“Water would be great,” James says. I walk into the kitchen and James follows, but he stops in the living room and flops onto the couch. I return to him with two glasses of water and he drinks the entire tall glass in one gulp before setting it on the table.
James laughs. “Running after you all night tested my cardio. And it’s not like people are offering me drinks all the time.” James comes up close to me on the couch and puts a hand on my thigh, rubbing softly. I take a drink of my water before putting it on the table so I can give him all my attention. “You feeling alright, Arya? You didn’t drink any more than those two shots?” He’s trying to gauge if I’m even a little bit drunk and he just doesn’t notice it.
I shake my head. “Too busy refusing drinks,” I say and James laughs, and then he pulls my knees on his lap. James brushes my hair over my shoulder, running his hand along my neck, my chest, my shoulder, anywhere there is exposed skin. He plays with my white spaghetti strap, running his finger underneath it until he touches the sweetheart neckline and then takes his hand away.
“Did I tell you that you look beautiful tonight?” James asks.
“Maybe a couple of times,” I say and then he puts his head to my neck, kissing me along my collarbone. He pulls the spaghetti strap over my shoulder so he can kiss all along my collarbone, undisturbed, but then puts it back as he comes up to kiss me on the lips. I run my hand through his hair, and he responds by running his hands over my shoulders and then down my back.
Moving over my hips to my thighs, he grabs hold of my thighs, lifting me on top of him to get me to straddle him. I grab onto my skirt, freeing it of any snags so it can just fall around me, feeling my bare inner thighs against his jeans. I kiss him hard, pushing myself up against him, hearing him groan. I put my hands to his chest and feel his fingers on my back slide underneath my crop top. He touches me all over and I do the same. I could stay like this forever with James.
I run my hands down his torso and put my hands underneath his shirt, feeling the skin of his flat stomach.
He tenses at my touch, pulling back from me, and I know it’s because I have abnormally cold hands. I can’t help it. There either cold or sweating, there’s no in-between.
“I’m sorry,” I smile, continuing to warm both sides of my cold hands on his warm skin.
“It’s okay,” he breathes.
I take my hands off him, so he doesn’t have to feel the chill of them anymore and just grab hold of his shirt instead. Grinding into him as I kiss along his jawline, slow kisses, all the way up to his ear. I put my lips to his earlobe, sucking on it and then bite it softly.
“Arya,” James says, grabbing me on my shoulders to pull me away to face him, which surprises me. Did I do something wrong? Why is he stopping me? I sit back, looking at him, and he reads the unspoken question on my face.
She thinks she did something wrong, which is the stupidest thing she could ever think. She did nothing wrong. She did everything perfectly. And that’s the reason I have to stop her. I have to stop her because all I want to do is run my hands underneath that skirt, I want to put my hands under her tight tank top and feel her naked breast. I want to slide my fingers into her underwear and make her moan into my mouth and bite my lip. But I don’t want to do something she’s not ready for. I don’t want to automatically assume she’s all in, just because she invited me to her empty house. She means everything to me and I’m not going to screw it up in one night, because we have all the time in the world to do this. “Arya, you don’t realize how much I’m holding myself back from you now. You are everything to me.” I take a breath and look into her soft eyes. “I only want to do what you are comfortable with.”
Arya shimmies herself closer to me and I let out a groan in response. Her hair is falling over her shoulders in front of me and I just want to grab hold of it. “What are you comfortable with?” she asks. I didn’t expect that question.
“You said you only wanted to do what I’m comfortable with, but I’m asking you what you’re comfortable with,” Arya says, pulling a piece of hair behind her ear, placing her hands on my chest.
“Most girls don’t ask a guy that question,” I say.
“They just assume that the guy is always the one who wants to go further or all the way?” Arya says, raising an eyebrow at me.
“Something like that,” I smile at her.
“So do you want to go all the way?” Arya asks.
“I want to go at your pace,” I say.
“Which you assume is slower than yours?” Arya asks, teasing me by playing with my belt buckle.
“Well considering I wanted to sleep with you at that abandoned house on our first date, yes, I do assume that!” I smile at her and she just laughs.
She wraps her arms around my neck and is sitting as close as possible to me, my hands on her waist. Her breasts are right up against my chest and her face is close. “I want to be with you, James,” she says, “but I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet.”
“And that’s fine,” I say, expecting that this is how it would go. We’ve only been together a couple of weeks. When she told me about her empty house, I was just happy that we could have a whole evening to ourselves with no interruptions.
“I don’t know how it’s all supposed to work,” Arya says, “timing and everything in a relationship.”
“There is no timeline,” I tell her, rubbing her hips. “Just whatever works for us.”
“I’ve never been in a relationship before,” Arya says.
“Neither have I,” I say. She raises an eyebrow at me. “I dated girls in Grade 9, but none lasted longer than two dates.”
“Does that even count?” I ask.
“I had a ‘girlfriend’ in Grade 7 and another one in Grade 8,” I say, “that’s it. But I don’t think they should count as a relationship. I was a kid and had no idea what I was doing back then.” She laughs. “What I’m saying is that this is all new for me too, Arya. And I’m just happy to be with you.”
“Even if my pace is a bit slower than yours?” she asks.
“Slow, medium, fast,” I say, “I don’t care. We can go turtle slow if you like.”
I laugh. “Well I don’t want to go TURTLE slow,” I say. I lean into him, as if to kiss him, and bite his bottom lip.
His hands travel along my hips, down my thighs, to my knees. He runs his hands up my bare thighs under my skirt slowly, feeling the soft skin I just shaved today. “Are you wearing shorts, Arya?”
“Spandex shorts,” I say to him and he laughs at me. “What?”
“Nothing,” James smiles.
“I feel safer with them on,” I say. “In case the wind blows up my skirt or some guy grabs on it, there are many things that could happen, James. Not something I expect you to understand.”
James runs his hands up to my hips under my skirt, grabbing hold of them, his hands on my spandex shorts, not touching any skin.
“Do you want to go upstairs? I think it would be more comfortable.” I say.
“I’m very comfortable here, Arya,” James smiles and I give him a look. “But I’d follow you anywhere,” James says, and I get off him. I take his hand and lead him up the staircase to my room. “It’s nice,” James says looking around. I close the curtains and then grab PJ shorts and an old baggy t-shirt from my closet. “I’ll turn around,” James says, looking away. I smile to myself at how sweet he is. I change into the less attractive but more comfortable clothes and throw my hair in a bun. James is still looking away, so I come up behind him and hug him. He turns around in my arms as I let go of him and looks at me. “You look beautiful, Arya.”
“Funny, James,” I say, turning away from him but he grabs my wrist to pull me back to him.
“I’m serious, Arya,” James says. “You look beautiful no matter what you wear. I like seeing you like this.”
“Baggy shirt and PJ shorts?”
“Comfortable,” James says. “You’re always dolled up whenever I see you. It’s nice to see another side of you.”
“Well, if that’s how you feel, maybe I’ll just wear PJs to class from now on,” I say.
James laughs. “You’d still be the most beautiful girl at school.”
“Let me take my makeup off and then you can tell me if you still prefer me like this,” I say, leaving him in the bedroom while I go to the bathroom.
When I come back, James is lying on my bed looking at an old photo album. “Is this you?” James points to the book when I walk in.
“James,” I say, grabbing the album from him and putting it back on the shelf.
“Hey!” James says, reaching out his arm, “I was looking at that!”
“You were trying to find embarrassing photos of me,” I say, coming up to sit cross-legged at the foot of my double bed by his feet.
“Unsuccessfully,” James says, smiling at me, and then sits up, giving me a serious look and I know he’s about to tell me something that I don’t want to hear. “Arya, I want to ask you about something…” James takes a breath before looking back at me, “just please don’t get mad.”
“Are you sure you should be asking me then?” I ask.
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to, James” I warn.
“You’re deflecting,” James says.
“I’m not,” I say. “Go ahead, ask.”
“You know you can tell me anything, Arya,” James says, “anything about your past. You don’t have to keep it a secret from me. I want to know. I don’t care what you’ve done or who you’ve been with before me.”
“Where’s the question?” I ask, wanting him to get to the point.
“I know that you told me that all that happened between you and Lexi was that you kissed,” James says, “but be honest with me, Arya.”
“I didn’t lie,” I say, “we never dated. We kissed once James, that’s it.”
“But you two clearly mean a lot to each other,” James says, “at least you did. I’m not blind, Arya. Strangers kiss, friends kiss, couples kiss, it can mean anything. What was it between the two of you? You can tell me, Arya. I told you, all I want to know is what I’m up against.”
“James,” I say, looking him straight in the eyes. There’s no point trying to brush Lexi off as just an innocent kiss anymore. “Lexi and I started becoming close towards the end of last semester, but no one knew about it, we kept it to ourselves. We had feelings for each other and shared an intense kiss but then I left West Side shortly after. James,” he wanted the truth, so I’ll give it to him, “if I had stayed at West Side, I’d be dating him now.”
“So he thinks I took his girl,” James says.
“I was never his,” I say.
“But he saw you as his,” James says sternly. “He thought of you as his girl, that he could have you back when he saw you tonight. And now he sees me as the guy that took you away from him.”
“It makes sense now,” James says. “I knew there was more between the two of you than you let on.”
“I don’t like him like that anymore,” I say. “I like you, I want to be with you.”
“I know,” James says. “But please, Arya, please warn me next time. Warn me that the guy you kissed is someone who was going to be your boyfriend instead of making me believe that it was just a harmless kiss.”
“You knew that’s how I saw it,” James says, “you tried to brush him off as an innocent kiss when he was more than that. He might as well have been an ex-boyfriend for all I knew. Worse actually. An ex-boyfriend that wanted you back.”
“I’m sorry, James,” I say, “I didn’t want you to worry about a guy I don’t have feelings for anymore.”
“I forgive you,” James says. “But I want to know these things, Arya. I know you want to be with me. I’m not jealous of any of these other guys and I’m not worried about them. I just want to look out for you and protect you.”
“Lexi is a good guy,” I say, “he’s not going to do anything to interfere with us anymore. He’s sorry about the bet.”
“Had a nice chat with him?” James asks sarcastically.
“I had to, James,” I say.
“I know, Arya,” James says. “You trust him, so I trust that he cares about you enough that he would back off.”
I crawl on the bed up to James to lie next to him and rest my head on his chest, wrapping my arms around him, and he puts a hand on my back.
“You’re important to me, Arya,” James says. “I want to keep you safe. I know we come from different worlds, but I enjoy the challenge.”
“I’m sorry about Lexi,” I say. “But I can promise you that he’s the only guy I’ve kissed other than you.”
“I feel so honoured,” James says in jest and I slap his stomach. “There’s something else I wanted to ask about.” I grip onto James tighter, waiting for the next question, hoping it’s not what I think it is. “I know you don’t talk about it, but why’d you leave West Side? Something happened, didn’t it?”
I just run my hand along James’ torso, wondering how to respond. Lexi told me to tell James. Told me not to leave him in the dark. But I can’t tell James the truth. I can’t bring him into this mess. The less he knows, the better. For everyone. “James, I don’t want to go into it.”
He gets up to lie next to me so that we can face each other, propping himself on his elbow. “You know you can tell me anything. Any secret you have is safe with me.” It’s better if you don’t know, James. Safer.
“James,” I say, “can I please have this one thing to myself? Please. Please don’t make me talk about it.”
“Are you safe?” James asks, just like Lexi did. How did I get so lucky with these two guys that want to protect me above all else?
“I am,” I say.
“I can’t force you to tell me,” James says, “I wish you would, but people are entitled to their secrets and as long as you are safe, that’s all I care about.” Lexi had said that if I was his girl, he would have forced me to tell him. But James isn’t going to do that. Who’s right? I don’t know, but I am grateful that James isn’t forcing me to tell him. I think part of why Lexi would have forced me is because he was there, and he feels responsible. Feels like there was something he could have done to keep me at West Side.