On our way out of the restaurant, Joseph stopped in front of me. There was a serious, yet tender look on his face. “You alright?” he asked.
I sighed. “Alex told me she talked to her dad, and I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t press for more details about it, she wouldn’t have had a panic attack.”
He braced my shoulders, looking down at me. “Don’t put this all on yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were only being a concerned friend.”
“I just want her to be okay,” I told him, staring at my feet.
“And she will be, baby,” he said, tipping my chin up to meet his eyes. My cheeks heated at the pet name.
“Let’s get out of here. We’ll drop by Alex’s sometime soon. For now let’s let her rest, and let me take you somewhere,” he added.
We exited Giovanni’s hand in hand.
In the car, I lay my head on the window and peered out at the open road ahead. The sun had melted into the horizon, orange hues streaking the navy blue skies. Occasionally, I glanced over at Joseph, who tapped his finger on the steering wheel as he hummed to an old R&B song that played faintly on the radio. Hm. And I thought the sky was a nice view.
About 15 minutes later we were pulling down a familiar rocky dirt path. I was then led down a familiar trail and that’s when realization dawned on me. Joseph took me to the cliff. That's where it all began.
I wasted no time heading over to the edge and taking a seat on the cool rocks to admire the beautiful scene before me.
“Were you expecting me to take you here?” Joseph asked.
“Honestly? No, but I recognized the route.”
He chuckled. “Oh, right.”
“I’m really glad we’re here though. This is where I had the best night of my life.”
“Ow. Was prom not the best night of your life?” he asked, clutching his heart in feigned hurt.
“Prom may have topped our first night at the cliff, but for me this place is really special. This is where I finally pushed myself to take a risk and be present in my life.” I smiled to myself. “Thank you.”
“Mm, for what exactly?” he asked.
“For helping me break free from my chrysalis.”
We shared a laugh, remembering the day in his kitchen where he promised to help bust me out of my shell; that, and everything else leading up to this very moment. We’d been through quite a bit together in such a short amount of time.
“I also wanna thank you for making me happy and being there for me even when I tried to push you away. But more importantly for allowing me to be there for you.” I placed my smaller hand on top of his and gave it a squeeze.
“You opened up to me about Charlotte and let me comfort you when your dad was in the hospital. That meant everything to me... I want you to know that I’ll always listen to you, no matter how good or bad whatever it is you have to say . I’ll hold your hand and fight any battle with you.”
When he didn’t respond I began to panic. I started to think what I said was way too much. Curse me and my big mouth.
When he finally spoke, his voice was low pitched and uneven. I didn’t miss that he called me by my name, either. It was something he did on more serious occasions, and it made me wonder what he would follow up with.
Suddenly all words were out the window. Staring had become our only form of communication. Joseph, he never looked at me so much as through me, like my head was transparent and he was fascinated by an object two inches behind my skull. Those long looks said worlds more than words ever did.
With his right hand still resting on my left, he raised the other to caress my cheek before letting it slip down to my chin. I sealed the space between us and captured his lips. He kissed me back with something powerful that had my skin prickling with goosebumps.
Deepening the kiss, Joseph snaked an arm around my waist. It was difficult to ignore the heat enveloping me as his hands roamed freely about my body and loosened my tucked shirt. His fingertips danced along my spine and I arched into him, intoxicated by his touch.
His lips then left mine so he could tend to the sweet spot on my neck that he loved to tease. My hands found his hair and tugged eagerly. I didn’t want him to stop, but he had to.
“Jo...Joseph...” I murmured.
“Mmm,” he answered.
His kisses were now on my shoulders and in my hair. I was close to losing all control, fingernails digging into his shoulders, forgetting we were very much outside in the open.
“Someone could find us like this.”
“I’m sorry. I just can’t resist you sometimes, especially right now in this sexy-as-hell skirt.” His voice was whispered and came out in hot gusts.
He removed his hand from underneath my shirt and smoothed it down.
“It’s not too late. How about we cool down and watch a movie at my house? I got hella snacks.”
I laughed, but ultimately agreed. Joseph and I had never actually watched a movie together, and I figured it would be a really nice way to end the night. The two of us made our way to his car, enjoying the cool air and the giant moon sitting above us.
⋅. ✯ .⋅
In the comfort of Joseph’s cozy living room, we sat on his furry L-shaped sofa with blankets and hella snacks, just like he’d promised. Mission Impossible played on a wide screen TV mounted on the wall, and I enjoyed a spoonful of double chocolate brownie ice cream as I anticipated Tom Cruise making his way off a snowy cliff alive.
It was awfully quiet until I looked over to my left and discovered why. Joseph wasn’t paying attention to the movie, but instead his attention was on me. When I completely turned to face him, he began laughing.
“Last time I checked this isn’t a comedy.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Then what’s so funny?”
“You have ice cream all over your chin,” he said, grinning.
“And you didn’t tell me earlier??”
I forgot to put the ice cream down before I attempted to clean myself up, which resulted in a thick stream of chocolate dripping all over my white t-shirt and down onto my denim skirt as the container tilted sideways.
“Ugh! Are you kidding me!?” I exclaimed, dropping the pint from my sticky hands.
I ran to the bathroom feeling like a complete fool, pushing the door closed — or at least I thought it was closed — and stripped off my t-shirt. The last thing I wanted was for the chocolate stain to set, so I put the shirt in the sink, turned on the faucet and pumped a generous amount of the cucumber and citrus hand soap that sat on the corner of the sink, on top.
I scrubbed at the stain furiously with my hands until the dark brown color became creamy. That was the best it was going to get. Next was my skirt. Standing in just my underwear, I repeated the cleaning process, though the stains weren’t as noticeable on the denim fabric.
“Sienna, where’d you go?” Joseph voiced in the hall.
He knocked on the bathroom door when his footsteps stopped in front of it. I didn’t get a chance to respond before the door nudged open.
“Oh... sorry.” Joseph’s wide eyes momentarily locked with mine before he backed out and shut the door behind him.
I looked on the top shelf near the shower for a towel, thankfully finding one. After wrapping it around my body, I wrung out my wet clothes and hung them up along the side of the tub to dry.
When I looked out into the hall, I found that Joseph didn’t go too far. He stood against the wall right outside. I invited him in with me.
“Sorry about barging in.”
“It’s okay. I thought I closed the door all the way, but I guess not.” I laughed dryly as I took a seat on the edge of the tub next to my clothes.
He leaned against the sink. “Why’d you run off?”
“I don’t know, I got embarrassed. I’m so freaking clumsy,” I said, unconsciously hugging my body.
“Is that why you’re hiding from me right now?”
At first I was confused by his question, but then I realized he was talking about me covering myself. I mean, he did witness me hunched over his bathroom sink, scrubbing chocolate ice cream out of my clothes. I’m pretty sure anyone would be embarrassed.
“Listen, you don’t ever have to feel shy or embarrassed around me, Mariposa. Nothing you do will make me view you any differently than how I already do.”
Joseph pushed himself off the sink and walked over to where I was sitting on the tub. He knelt before me. I never tore away from his gaze.
“Call me annoying for saying this so often, but right now, just like any other time, I view you as beautiful. So fucking beautiful, from the inside all the way out. Every curve, edge...” his thumbs traced the distinct patterns on my outer thighs. “Every stretch mark on you makes me lose my breath.”
I felt tears threatening to spill from my eyes hearing the reverence in his voice. This time I let them flow free. He talked about me as if I were a precious piece of art.
My crying grew heavier once I realized I could no longer ignore the fact that I was head over heels in love with Joseph. It terrified me.
I scooted away from him, so far away that I fell backwards into the tub. He tried to reach for me, but I had already hit the bottom. I was baffled when he climbed into the tub after me.
“Mírame,” (Look at me.) he said softly, holding my chin. I reluctantly looked up, and he searched my eyes, looking for some sort of clue. “Baby, what’s wrong? You can tell me anything.”
Letting out a deep, shaky breath, I uttered three powerful words. “I love you, Joseph... so much that it scares me.”
“Are... a-are you serious?”
Joseph suddenly let go of my face and moved away from me. It was only a couple of inches, but to me it felt like a hundred feet.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to- I mean... I did. I do. I’m so sorry.”
Once my words seemed to sink in, he stood up from the tub. “Come here,” he said, extending his hand to help me up.
We were eye to eye and it was a little difficult to maintain contact with his piercing hazel orbs. But he held on to me tightly, fearful of any chance I’d try to run away. For a minute I was afraid I’d run, too.
“When I moved back here, I wasn’t myself. I was broken. I tried looking for something, anything that would make me feel whole again...” Joseph looked away before refocusing his eyes on me.
“But I ultimately failed. The last thing I expected was to run into you. Even though you’re the one who was knocked to the ground, you managed to trip me up and figuratively knock me right off my feet.”
I sniffled. “Really?”
“Yes. You completely captivated me. Without Alex, I don’t think I could’ve come up with so many excuses to see you.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Remember the day I told you Alex was helping me with a personal project?”
I nodded my head in response.
“That ‘project’ was just the two of us spending the morning talking about you over a pile of bacon, for Alex, of course. I didn’t know how to approach you, and I guess- okay, I realize I’m getting sidetracked.” He cleared his throat.
“It’s like this. You are what makes me feel whole. You’ve helped me slowly put myself back together. I love you too Sienna and I feel like an idiot for prolonging this... but will you please be my girlfriend?”
My pulse quickened and my lips parted slightly. I couldn’t believe this was really happening.
“Yes, hell yes! As long as you’ll be my boyfriend.”
“It’d be an honor.”
The stars in his eyes twinkled as he wrapped me in the tightest hug he’d ever given me. It was as if he was trying to transfer every ounce of his love to me through this single hug and I swear I felt it.
Back on the couch, we gave each other lazy kisses as the movie credits rolled on screen. I had to get back home eventually, but as I lay happily snug in his arms, in his clothes, I couldn’t help but think of how my life would be if I hadn’t met him. He must have known I was deep in my head because he whispered the most perfectly corny thing to make those scary thoughts vanish.
“Mariposa. Since we’re a couple now... does this mean I give you a necklace with my initial or you give me a scrunchie to wear on my wrist? I know girls like to mark their territory.”
I did nothing but laugh at him as I settled my head on his chest. Joseph was my special person. He was my home, and the sound of his heart beating was my metronome, keeping the rhythm of my soul at a steady pace.