Carbon

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Chapter 14

Someone knocked on my bedroom door as I prepared for another jam session on a Monday afternoon. I glared at the door and turned back to my shoebox of CDs. I filed through the disks searching for nothing in particular—something provocative, powerful.

The knock resounded again, and I finally welcomed, “Busy, leave a message.”

“Hey, Devin,” a melodic voice evoked.

I turned from my CDs and smiled. A pain in my stomach erupted, a cringing cramp and an uneasiness. I choked back the urge to vomit and turned back to the disks. Not eyeing his green eyes seemed to be the cure to my nausea. A stupid sneer couldn’t be wiped off my face, and the sensation constructed a pile of guilt. Ever since Ned kissed me, I had been craving his attention like a love-sick schoolgirl. Part of me begged for him to embrace me, and then another part longed for me to abandon this silly relationship. Get him away from me because he would use me, just like every other relationship.

He closed the door behind him and strolled across the floor. Holden snuck his way out the door, and I wondered why he abandoned me when I needed someone there to keep me in check, keep me logical and steady. Because my brain scrambled whenever Heath had me like putty, and Ned was beginning to force me to mold to his hand. Ned nestled down next to me on the bed, staring at my box of CDs incredulously. He pulled a CD from his back pocket and gently placed it in my box.

“How’s the girlfriend?” I whispered as I tediously went through the CDs again. In my periphery, I noticed Ned slid the CD player behind my back, sliding across my back with his arm—electricity. He kept his hand at the side of my far hip and watched over my shoulder my movements.

“You know I’m single.”

“Because you kissed me?”

“Because I like you.”

My fingers combed through my hair nervously, wondering if I should ask him to exit, pondering the many different scenarios that would happen if I allowed for him to stay. Normally, if he hadn’t kissed me, I would have offered him to stay and hang out, but I wasn’t sure anymore because that intimate act was intense. “You shouldn’t.”

He pulled his arm back to his side, sliding his hands in between his knees, leaning forward nonchalantly. “Why?”

I eyed him for a moment and then turned back to my task of strategically ordering my CDs based on the order I received them. My timid fingertips thumbed through the cool glass as I glanced at each of the titles. “You know why.”

“Heath?”

I froze and smirked. Heath would have been so proud of me to actually have an intimate relationship with someone, but I was too afraid, petrified of the consequences of such a ritual. I would have been proud of me for somehow having a healthy relationship despite all of the faulty ones I had participated in, but my childish fears threatened me to lose my sanity if I did delve into this.“No.”

Ned leaned forward and rested his chin on my shoulder. He pouted his bottom lip animatedly and whimpered, “Why?”

I shook him off my shoulder and murmured, “You’ll figure it out. There are much better girls out there for you to stalk. Go and begin, young criminal.”

“Fine, fine, I’m taking a nap then.” He pounced on my bed, curving and maneuvering around my body. His arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me backwards onto the bed. I leaned against his chest like a pillow and continued to rifle through the CDs. “Take one with me,” he whispered delicately into my back.

I ripped my gaze away from the box and folded my brow incredulously. The compulsion in my stomach grew and deepened in intensity. His thumb gently rubbed my t-shirt against my skin in soothing circles. His green eyes nailed me in my stoic position as my conscience debated between ignoring him and submitting to his wishes. I think he could sense my apprehension and my caution surrounding him, and he leaned back and closed his eyes.

I removed the box from the bed and snaked it underneath the bed along with my CD player. I jerked the sheets from underneath him, and he snickered at my aggression. I slid underneath the sheets and curled up beside Ned, gently closing my eyes. He wrapped his strong arms around my abdomen and breathed on the back of my neck. I wondered if he would be able to sleep because I was so uncomfortable I could barely relax.

“Devin…”

“Yeah?” I breathed.

“I like you.”

“I like you, too.”

“No, like like you.”

I stared at the wall across the way and the books stacked about waist-height against the wall. I imagined the stacks toppling over with just the smallest gale of wind whispering calming words to the text. I imagined the pages splaying open and wide for the outside world to defile them and force them to fade.

I didn’t know how to properly respond.

We stayed in the position for about ten minutes based on my alarm clock on my nightstand. I wondered if my mom would walk in on us, but I brushed the thought away when I remembered she was working late. Esther probably left to go see Leslie after letting Ned in the house. She was always supportive of me reaching out to others, but surprised described my reaction to allowing me to be alone with Ned after my history.

His lips pressed against my neck and slithered up my jawline like the flutter of someone’s lashes. His hand mildly caressed my jaw as he tilted it towards him, and his lips traced my chin and fell upon my bottom lip. His lips folded over mine, and I became lost in him. My body responded as my lips danced against his. His hands folded around the back of my neck, pulling my body toward him.

I used my abdominal muscles to pull away from him and admitted, “I don’t know if this is okay.”

Ned pulled away for a moment, his enticing eyes nailed into mine. He whispered calmly, “You tell me what you don’t want me to do. You tell me when to stop. I’m not forcing you to do anything you don’t want to do.” His eyes fell to the corner for a moment before he gave me a smile. He silently nodded and leaned back in, his sweet taste overwhelming me as his embrace tautened, our bodies pressed against each other.

One hand tapped down my back and rested on my hip, sliding down my leg and ceasing as his hand nestled between my clenched knees. I didn’t know what to do with my hands and simply held them against my chest, terrified of what he wanted and what I wanted. His fingers interlaced around mine and pulled one arm around his neck. My heart hardily pulsated against my chest, and I pondered if Ned could feel it against his. He pulled away from me and chuckled as his eyes traced my features.

“What?” I sighed, vulnerable and frightened.

“God, I don’t know.”

He leaned into me and unfolded into me. The aroma of vanilla titillated me as his lips intertwined with me. I smiled into him as a chuckle escaped his throat as he pulled me on top of him. My hands cradled his jaw as I kissed him back, shyly ashamed and abashed. I finally hid my face in the crook of his neck and collapsed into him. “I’m… I don’t know.”

He separated from me for a moment, staring down aimlessly into my eyes for what seemed like perpetual anticipation for the next taste of him. His fingers brushed my hair away from my face lightly, gently gliding against my skin.

“Ned,” I silently moaned. I couldn’t breathe, and my fingers curled into the sheets as his lips fell upon my neck. I bit my lip hard to prevent a scream, and I peeled away from underneath him. I turned over, my back flat against the mattress. My respiration hastened to a rate that worried me into wondering if I was hyperventilating. His hand on my back slid up under my shirt and then slid under my sports bra, immediately peeling away from my bare skin as I arched my back.

His hand slithered up in between my legs, and his fingers rested against my crotch. His fingertips explored and searched for an opening, and I quickly sat up. I slapped his hand away from me and peeled myself off of him. I sank into the wall, pulling my knees into my chest.

Ned sprung up and stared at me innocently with his narrow green eyes. Alarmed, he begged, “What’s the matter?”

I shook my head, trying to fight back the onslaught of memories bombarding me. My eyes widened as his hand fell on my knee, and I immediately batted him away.

He leaned in towards me and sat next to me, mirroring my pose, folding his arms around his legs. His green eyes embraced me as he murmured, “You know, if there is anything you don’t want to do, just tell me.”

I turned to him, staring incredulously at him.

He smiled and admitted, “I am not here to make you uncomfortable. If there is anything that I’m doing that makes you uneasy, just slap the shit out of me. You know boys—we’re all a bunch of whores.”

I laughed.

He rested his chin on my shoulder, looking up at me with those beautiful pools of sea foam. “Is this okay?”

I nodded with a smile.

“How about this?” He pressed his lips against my hand.

“Yes,” I giggled.

“And this?” His kisses trailed up my arm up to my cheek.

Laughter caught in my throat as he peeled away from my face, finding his chivalrous, classic acts as humorous and extreme. I gently pushed him off and found myself staring at his angled jaw and his sharp cheeks. I memorized those features because I wasn’t sure if this was a dream—because he was.

“I like it when you laugh.”

His lips quietly pressed against mine. I closed my eyes, letting him travel down my neck. He gently pulled my t-shirt below my collar bone, pressing his lips against my bone. “This okay?”

“Yeah,” I breathed, flustered.

His tongue massaged my skin as he wrapped his arms around my trunk, pulling me underneath him. His lips pressed against my bone, and the blood rushed to my face. A lightheadedness overcame me, and my body curled under his touch.

He peeled away from me and gave me a peck on the lips. He whispered, “Promise me you will tell me when you want me to stop.”

I nodded, staring straight up at the ceiling, pretending he wasn’t touching me so lightly, and he wasn’t “liking” me this way. Who was this guy to just prance into my life nonchalantly without reason? Who was this guy to control me so easily?

He smiled and leaned back into my lips. He whispered something into my lips. “…Whatever you’re afraid of, I will protect you.”

My heart stopped, and I sat up. He peeled off of me, leaning against the wall. His smile embraced me in comfort. “Who said I was afraid?”

“The way you look at things sometimes. I can tell you can’t decide.”

“Indecision isn’t terrifying.”

“Not if it doesn’t affect your life.”

I smiled and buried my face into the curve of his neck. His arm wrapped around my shoulders, and he gave me a peck on my forehead. I smiled and burrowed into him. He laid me back down upon the bed and lay beside me. He intertwined his fingers with mine, staring at our hands in the dull afternoon light. “We’re crooked,” I whispered.

He twisted our hands in the sunlight, and he retorted, “Just you.”

“Oh well, you like the crazy girls, right?”

“Those are the best.”

“Hit the jackpot.”

I found myself incredulously mesmerized by this guy that I barely knew. He could be trusted—he wasn’t there to hurt me. He talked miles upon miles about his family—about his little sister and her school. He never asked intrusive questions and just droned about mindless facts he knew about sports and pop culture. I never added to the conversation, too scared to mar the beautiful, hearty voice escaping from his throat. I was hesitant to blink to miss any movements or any qualms he shared through his facial features. His eyes lit up when he talked about his passions—innovations regarding computers and technology that went way over my head. He talked about shows I never heard of, but I remember he said his favorite alcohol was Fireball.

I missed Heath.

His profile had been facing me for so long, and then he tilted his face against the mattress. He smiled as I just blankly stared at him. “Boring you to sleep, huh?”

I fervently shook my head, “No, no, no! It’s all great—fantastic.”

His cherub lips reverberated, “What do you like to do?”

I pointed to him and then back to me. “This.”

He furrowed his brow.

“Just talking. Like this.”

“Oh yeah—I like this better.” He crawled on top of me and kissed me passionately. He knotted his hand in my hair, stealing my breath. He snatched the back of my shirt and lifted me from the mattress, dropping me on top of my pillow. I laughed suddenly, and he put his arm to the left of my face.

Next thing I knew, I heard him crash into my floor. I sat up quickly from the bed and stared down at him. “Are you okay?” I asked, frantic.

He shot to his feet and scratched the back of his head. He laughed, “Twin beds weren’t made for teenage shenanigans.”

I smiled and patted the mattress beside me. “Serves you right. Why don’t you just sit down and just talk? Maybe you won’t hit the floor then.”

Ned pulled himself onto the bed beside me and nestled against my body, pulling my shoulders against him with his arm. A small grin overlapped my lips as his thumb gently massaged my shoulder as if everything was going to be okay. We slid back against the mattress and lazily dreamed of surreal figments that could never be. I caught him staring at me after I told him about how crazy it is that humans are made of the same things as stars. He smiled and turned back to the ceiling, tracing and drawing constellations. He pointed out different stars in the imaginary map he created in his mind, and I ignored that lecture, just watching him melt back into his world of comfort.

Eventually, he sat up after looking at my clock. “I gotta go.” He rustled his hair and crawled over me to get off the mattress. I sat up and grabbed his sleeve. He fell back onto the bed. “What?”

I released his sleeve and turned away from him, embarrassed I tried to keep him there.

“What?”

I shook my head and grabbed his hand, leading him to the front door. His hand tautened around mine, causing me to blush deeply. I was hoping he wouldn’t glance at me and see my reddened features. I came to the door and quickly opened it, having to pivot and step around Ned to fully open it. I gave an awkward bow and showed the door like a gameshow model.

He laughed and took a step over my doorstop. He glanced over his shoulder, and his brows rose as he recalled something suddenly. He stepped back over the doorstop and rested his hands on my shoulders as he leaned over and folded his lips over mine. He peeled away slowly and smiled, “God, you’re awkward.”

I shrugged my shoulders and halfway shouted, “Surprise!” And of course, I realized that was stupendously awkward. Crap, I thought.

The lights of a car readying to pull into the driveway shone against his lanky silhouette, and he glanced over his shoulder. He turned back to me and grabbed my face with both hands, giving me one last kiss before scurrying to his car and pulling out of my driveway, allowing for the car in the street to pull in. I leaned against the doorframe and dreamily watched him pull away, and then I turned back to the car.

Mom stalked out, the engine still running, and marched up to the front porch. She whipped her head back and forth from Ned’s car to me. She finally interrogated, “Who was that?”

I shrugged silently, rolling my lip underneath my front teeth.

Mom folded her brow and scowled deeply, daring me to lie to her, daring me to trick her.

“A classmate.”

She threw a distressed glare at me and brushed past me, pausing long enough to call me a whore before shuffling off to the kitchen for her daily glass of wine.

It wasn’t fair that she could easily seek comfort from a bottle while my drug was suddenly another person.


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