Charlie Ever After

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15| Charlie

Tanner was right, the food here is absolutely amazing. I practically scarf down my pancakes and hash browns. I ask Tanner some more about his aspirations and what he sees himself doing in ten years and his answer surprises me. It’s not that men don’t have the same dreams as he does, it’s just that I feel like not many men admit to them. I’m completely intrigued by him and how different he is from any man I’ve ever met- besides Isaac, he’s one in a million. I watch as he smiles when he talks about how he wants to be a vet, and how he wants a big home with two or three kids. My heart melts a little more with each word.

As Tanner is taking care of the bill, I catch myself thinking about how I’m not ready to go back to that stuffy, lonely dorm room just yet. I catch myself missing Lydia and Isaac, but the time I’m spending with Tanner is making it a lot easier to shift them to the back of my mind.

We stand up from the booth and make our way outside, stopping briefly for a super sweet exchange between Tammy and Tanner. I can’t help but smile at how nice he is to her. The evening sky has me transfixed. I stand motionless for a moment before I make my way down the stairs and into the open parking lot. There’s only a few cars sprinkled here and there. The pure giddiness must be getting to my brain because I make a stupid comment about forgetting the beauty of the Arizona sunsets and twirl around in place, holding out my arms to catch the wind. My hair whips around my face and for a moment I feel weightless, on top of the world, on cloud nine- all wrapped into one.

When I was with Gavin, I never felt this way, not even in the beginning. Gavin was fun when we first met, but after the honeymoon phase ended for us, the abuse started and it only got worse from there. I inwardly cringe at the memory and try to soak in every ounce of this moment that I can. I feel his hand slide into mine and it pulls me right out from the rabbit hole that my brain was diving down. My eyes shoot to his and my breath gets caught in my chest. After he spins me my eyes travel right back to his and in that moment I’m so intoxicated by him that I know I’m not thinking clearly. I want him to kiss me. He’s already so close, all he’d have to do is lean in another inch or so, and I’d have to just tilt my head up to meet his lips. It would be so easy, so delicious. I watch as he pulls his bottom lip between his lip and I have to fight the urge to lean up and take his lip in my own teeth.

Him complimenting my beauty sends chills down my spine as he tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. So close. I’m mentally cheering him on, begging him to just lean in a little bit closer- but he doesn’t and I’m left slightly disappointed. I know we just met, but god am I so drawn to him.

I’m taken aback by the words that escape my own mouth, telling him what I’ve been thinking this whole time- that I don’t want to leave him just yet. My brain has a mind of it’s own and it didn’t have any intentions on letting me end the night early- not when I’m enjoying myself this much. His face lights up and I have to conceal the fresh color that spread along my cheeks and neck. His response flatters me and answers my question all in one. I think about it for a minute or so before reaching between us, finding his hand with my own and lacing our fingers together and giving our arms a slight swing.

My heart swells, hearing him talk enthusiastically about this spot that he has in mind. My mind starts wandering, wondering what this special place looks like. I give his hand a small squeeze as we start the journey.

It’s starting to get darker out, the bright colors in the sky dimming to a navy blue, stars already glittering above. We near a field and make our way up a grassy hill, the grass nearing my shins. I feel him come up behind me, covering my eyes with his hands and for the first time in years I don’t flinch at the sudden contact- even with Isaac and Lydia it happened from time to time. Neither of them questioned me about it, but I’m sure they had their suspicions- especially now knowing what kind of a guy that Gavin really is.

My thoughts start to wander again and I curse at myself under my breath. My brain feels like it is actively trying to sabotage me and every ounce of happiness that I possess. I make a silent pact with myself, promising that I’ll stop thinking and start living in this beautiful moment that I’m living through right now. Any other girl would be lucky, and here I am ruining it- ruining it for myself. I try not to sigh, and try to focus on melting into his embrace and miraculously it works- his warmth and the smell of his musky cologne instantly quelling my wandering thoughts.

I feel his hands fall from my face and I slowly open my eyes, a gasp escaping my lips as I stare out into the city skyline. Buildings upon buildings light up the sky in the distance, casting their glow all around us. I’m speechless, all I can mutter is, “Holy fuck.” As my breath is stolen right from my lungs.

My thoughts are interrupted by his laughter and I turn to stare at him. My cheeks flame over and I try to think of what I said or did to make him laugh so hard. I bite my bottom lip and watch his Adams apple bob up and down. The words flying out of his mouth stun me. He loves my potty mouth? My blush deepens and I want to almost run and hide. I usually try to keep the cussing to a minimum unless I’m around Lydia and Isaac.

His gentle and sudden caress on my cheek sends my mind spinning and I feel like I’m going to pass out in the best of ways. Fuck. My mouth opens just slightly and I can feel his breath glide across my cheek, causing goosebumps to raise all over my body- and just as I think he’s going to kiss me, he lays the most tender kiss to my cheek and that does nothing to help the dizziness I feel because I’m about ready to explode.

My breathing is heavy and ragged as he pulls away, the built up anticipation of his kiss making it impossible to catch my breath. “Tanner.” The words fall from my lips so quick that I can’t stop them, but he just smiles and leans his forehead against mine, his arms loosely wrapped around my waist.

I didn’t want the time with Tanner to end. His presence made me feel like a completely different person- the exact same feeling I’ve been dreaming about ever since college became a possibility for me. The feelings that cloud my brain are all new to me. I just met this guy and already I’m fantasizing about what his lips taste like, and what his skin feels like under my touch, how his body reacts to... I stop myself before I get in too deep with my thoughts.

I throw the door open to my dorm room and notice a figure laying under the covers in the bed opposite mine. “Well nice to meet you.” I say under my breath as I crawl into my own bed, not even bothering to change. I pull my blankets around my body and a text chimes in through my phone.

Good night, sweet dreams :)

The text message causes my stomach to flip flop as a wide grin spreads across my lips. “Oh my god.” I whisper to myself, containing the squeal that was bubbling up in my throat, threatening to spill out. I open up the message and reply a simple goodnight and thank him for an amazing night as well as for buying dinner, he replied a moment later with a no problem, and see you soon (hopefully)- and his cheesiness brought back that innocent childhood crush feeling that I haven’t had since second grade when Johnny Robinson kissed me on the lips. I giggle to myself and open up my messages, pulling up Lydia’s thread. Normally I’d send any message through our group chat with Isaac- but this is purely girl talk.

OH MY GOD I send to Lydia

Not even a minute passes by when her text chime dings. TELL ME EVERYTHING!!!

I’m up until one in the morning texting back and forth to Lydia, spilling the “tea” as she calls it.

Well, I’m happy for you Char. I love you. Just be careful, okay? Now get some sleep!

I love you too. Miss you already.

No other text pops through from her so I finally let the heaviness in my eyes take over as I drift off to sleep, Tanner’s beautiful smile blessing every minute of my dreams.

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