The day goes by without a hitch. There are no awkward silences and we all kind of just fall into rhythm after a while until we finish lugging the boxes up to her dorm room. About half way through the day I had suggested to Isaac that we go check out my new apartment. We both agreed that the girls would appreciate the alone time to say their goodbyes and spend some last minute time together.
By the time we head back to campus it’s three o’clock. The day went by way too quick. When Isaac opens Charlie’s dorm room door, I almost feel like we walk in on something private. Lydia is holding Charlie. Not in a romantic way, but one of comfort. Charlie’s eyes are red and slightly puffy, and Lydia’s also have a sheen to them. I bite the corner of my lip, shoving my hands in my pockets as I stand there awkwardly- feeling as if I’m not privy to the bond they share.
Isaac has to leave, so we’re saying all of our goodbyes but it occurs to me that I don’t really want to leave, yet. Spending time with them is just so easy, carefree. I wasn’t babysitting Collin or getting into pissing contests with Jace- I love them both, but they will one day be the death of me. With Isaac, Lydia, and Charlie it was just easy and careless. The conversation flowed naturally, we didn’t run out of things to talk about, and even with doing such a mundane task such as moving- we all had fun.
Throughout the day I kept catching myself looking over at Charlie; noticing her mannerisms and the way she talks about the things that she enjoys, such as reading- when I commented on her extensive book collection she looked as if she was nearly going to explode with excitement. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
I look over at her as we stand side by side on the curb facing the parking lot. She’s waving off Lydia and Isaac as he peels out of the parking lot. I see a faint tear making it’s way down her cheek and I’m so tempted to reach forward and brush it away, but I don’t want to overstep any boundaries.
I admire the way her skin glows with the late afternoon sun, the copper highlights in her hair glistening. I bite the inside of my cheek to stop myself from smiling when she looks over at me and catches me staring. I don’t want our time to end, but I also don’t want to be overbearing.
“So...” I rock back on my heels, my hands shoved into my front pockets. “I’m sure you’re dying to get inside and get settled in, I know it’s been a long day-” I look down at my feet then back over at her, meeting her eyes. “But I was wondering if you’d possibly want to grab a bite to eat? I’m starving.” I chuckle nervously, almost under my breath because it feels like I can’t fucking breath. She’s so close to me, and the wind is blowing strands of hair across her face that I desperately just want to tuck behind her ear.
I’m finally able to suck in a deep breath when her stomach growls and her laughter flutters around me, breaking me out of my own thoughts. I catch her studying me and the nerves are back like little fire ants causing a muck in the pit of my stomach.
When she tells me she has to grab her wallet, I instinctively reach out and gently wrap my hand around her wrist to stop her. She goes rigid before pulling her wrist away, looking stunned as she turns around and stares at me. I catch a slight flicker of fear behind her eyes and my stomach fucking plummets. Her cheeks instantly flood with color as she tries to apologize. I curse myself as I remember the little that I do know about her and her past.
I cut her off before she can ever try to apologize. I tell her not to worry about her wallet and tell her about this amazing spot I know within a ten minute walk from campus. It’s this small diner called Rosy’s. It’s a staple for students at UA and it is my go too place for food when I’m missing Trish’s cooking.
I hold my hand out to her once she agrees, letting her take it if she felt comfortable. She hesitates for a moment but when I feel her soft, small hand encompass mine the fire ants turn into butterflies and all of a sudden my stomach is filled with them- making me feel queasy.
I take her through the small little town square and watch as she peeks in the windows, pointing out certain things- an excitement so pure you’d swear this was her first time walking around, window shopping. It ignites an inferno inside me that I didn’t know was even possible. Just the smile that lights up her face to her giggle that reverberates my very being. My heart swells and I can’t keep the smile from my face.
We finally make our way to the diner and Tammy greets us at the front. I don’t necessarily play favorites, but she’s by far my favorite waitress. Her personality is bubbly and bright and even on my worst days she had this way of making me smile. I give her a small wave before she escorts us to my favorite booth in the back. She takes our drink orders and I can’t help but to study Charlie from under my eyelashes as we both scan our menus.
I question her about her family and I can tell it makes her uncomfortable because her body goes rigid again and guilt surges through my veins as I curse myself. I listen intently when she finally speaks and when she puts herself down, another pin prick to the heart. This poor girl thinks so poorly of herself- I just met her and I can already tell that under all of the invisible scars is an amazing, beautiful and brilliant girl and it kills me that she doesn’t see that in herself.
I offer her a smile and when she finishes- after she tells me that she’s not an interesting person, I reply with the only thing that makes sense to me in that moment. “I beg to differ.”
Our food comes quick- I order a burger, and she orders pancakes, I always appreciated breakfast for dinner. It’s one of my favorite meals that Trish cooks for us.
We eat our meals in peace, going back and forth with small talk. She asks me a few more questions including: what I’m going to school for- to become a vet, where I saw myself in ten years- married with kids (hopefully), with my own veterinary practice.
Her questions catch me off guard. I enjoy answering them, just for the pure fact that most girls don’t ask those sort of questions- I know Alicia never did. My answer to her last question also come easy with her- where as with anyone else I’d stutter, have to think about it for probably twenty minutes and then still have no clue. With her I feel like I can truly open up, even though we just met.
Dinner quickly comes to an end and I still don’t want to leave her. I pull my phone out of my pocket and check the time- it’s six pm and I know she’s probably exhausted, but I selfishly want to keep her out longer.
Tammy comes to the table and I take care of the bill, giving her a soft smile as we leave. “See you in a few days, Tammy.”
I look down at Charlie and she’s just as confused as I thought she’d be. “I come here quite often, she knows as soon as I come in exactly what I’ll order to the T- but I like to change it up every so often... keep her on her toes.” I chuckle and hold the door open for her as we head out into the night air.
The sun is just barely starting to set, painting the sky in pinks, purples, and oranges- making the world around us look as if it’s on fire. I look over at Charlie and her hair is the color of crimson, her eyes and skin glowing with the light casting around us. My breath catches in my throat as she looks over at me, catching me staring at her for probably the hundredth time. I turn my face, trying to hide the color rising to my cheeks as I follow her down the steps and into the parking lot.
“It’s beautiful out right now. I always forget how amazing Arizona sunsets are.” Her smile is so pure and wide. She gives me one look before she twirls in her spot, arms stretching out at her sides.
I can’t help but chuckle as I watch her. I catch her hand, pulling her slightly closer as I hold our hands up into the air, spinning her again. “You look absolutely stunning.” I say as her spin comes to a stop. I pull her into me- a few inches separating us. I pull my bottom lip into my teeth, the sunlight catching the corner of her eyes, lighting them up.
I find it hard to breath as I’m completely in awe of this beautiful woman standing in front of me, and all I can do is reach forward, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. I want to kiss her, I want to so bad- but something in my gut tells me to wait. I don’t want to move too quick, there’s something about her that is special, too special to fuck up- and with what I know about her past, I want to take it slow, I want to respect her- but I still can’t help the pounding in my chest and the insatiable urge to pull her in and taste her full lips.
On the walk back to campus she looks over at me. “I don’t really feel like going back yet.” She almost looks sad, and as soon as I notice she diverts her gaze to the ground in front of her.
My face must instantly light up because as soon as she looks back up at me a wide grin spreads wide across her lips and she reaches over and grabs hold of my hand. She intertwines her fingers through mine and gently swings her arm. I look down at our interlocked hands and smile to myself. “Well, we don’t have to go back yet. I know this really nice look out. It’s just a few minutes up the road. Just wait until you see the view.” I say as my smile widens.
“Yes, that sounds perfect!” She agrees and we take a left onto one of the side streets..
When we near the hill I hesitantly wrap my arms around her, placing my hands softly over her eyes. “I want it to be a surprise.” I whisper lightly against her ear. There’s no tension in her body this time when I touch her and it makes me smile. “Just trust me.” I whisper again as I walk forward with her, covering her eyes and guiding her body with mine.
I feel the heat of her body radiating against mine, and the soft breeze blowing sends a shiver down my spine as I’m intoxicated by the smell of what I can only describe as some kind of jasmine and vanilla combo. It’s driving me wild