I took a deep breath as I thought about the warm, brightly lit memories of summer and how they'd become the multi-colored golden shades of fall. It was almost time to get back to reality. Yep, I was back in Utah and more importantly soon, I'd be back in high school. The mere thought of it made it seem even closer. But it was inevitable, I was going back to school as a senior and I was so close to the finish line I could see it.
I would be free and no longer would I have to sneak out. I could come in and out of my room as I pleased when I graduated. I would be a college girl, something that I'd dreamed of being forever. I just had to start, and finish, this final year of high school, then real life would begin. Maybe I'd even get a chance with Abe, the boy next door that made my heart jump out of fucking control. It was as if I lost all sense when I was with him. But, I had to get through those first days, before I could think about anything else.
I blew air out of pursed lips as I thought about those first days and how they'd go down. The problem with going back to school after summer vacation was that everyone who didn't see you during summer wanted to know what you did while you were on vacation. Even the teachers made a big deal out of asking you about your summer escapades.
That was fine normally, but this year, my summer vaca-tion was hell, it wasn't a vacation at all. Those weeks of 'free-dom' had been all about spending my time with my dying Gran. Sure, she'd lived with her cancer for a long time and we knew that she'd come to a horrible end. But knowing about it was one thing, it was whole other thing to actually see it, to watch as someone slowly succumbed with pain and sickness marring every moment of their awareness.
I heard a pebble as it landed and bounced off my win-dow followed by my name being called out. Not once, but twice and I knew that whoever was outside was not going to give up any time soon. I sighed as I thought about it and won-dered who it was.
I'd only just got back home and hadn't even told my best friends that I'd arrived yet. I was exhausted from the jour-ney, the funeral, and spending some quality time with my griev-ing mom. We hadn't spent that much time together in a long time.
"What?" I shouted out as I opened the window to see Abe.
Fuck, it was him.
He'd texted me a couple of times during vacation, but I wasn't a fool. Number one: there was no way that the hot base-ball player next door was interested in me, well not in that way. Number two: there was no way that he wanted to be anything but friends.
I had enough friends; I didn't need one more.
He was outside my window throwing stones like a love-sick teenager. It was kind of cute, but I didn't want to appear too eager. I flushed because I'd been thinking about him earlier, before I realized that he was outside my window.
Well, not exactly thinking about him. It was more like spying as I watched his window. I'd wondered if he'd hooked up with anyone during the summer. His light had gone out in his room and so had my curiosity until now.
He was standing by the tree next to my window. One that had grown to the perfect height, with big, fat limbs long enough that I could use them to sneak out of my room from my window. Something that I'd become accustomed to doing this year.
"You could text me?" I whispered loudly to him, which made no sense, because he had done that, and I hadn't both-ered replying. I didn't know what to say, besides my head wasn't really in the right place when he did it. I was either at the hospital or talking to Mom. Something that we hadn't done in what felt like forever.
Automatically, he had a look of annoyance on that per-fect face of his.
I was thinking about what his texts meant and that was driving me insane. I had made up my mind that all he wanted was for us to be friends and I didn't want that. My besties would tell me that I was putting myself down too much, that a guy as hot as Abe could actually be into me. I could tell myself whatever I wanted to, but actions were louder than words. Apart from asking me to tutor him a couple of times, there had been no signs from Abe that he wanted anything more from me. Well, no apparent signs until now.
Anyway, I wasn't ready to welcome him up to my room right now. Not when I was in bad need of a shower and mouthwash. I hadn't eaten in the last few hours, something that I wasn't used to doing. Usually, I would eat regularly like a newborn baby, but today my emotions were so mixed up my stomach had been in knots. Part of me was glad to be back and back to reality. The other part of me was sad about what had happened during the summer and even sadder about the idea of being back in this house.
"So, I shouldn't come up?"
"Okay, come up!" I called down, my face scrunched up in a way that was probably ugly, but I couldn't control my face. It did whatever it wanted. Abe had caught me by surprise, and I couldn't help it, I said the first thing that came into my mind.
It was kind of old-fashion, Abe being down there throwing rocks at my window. Something that they did in Ro-meo & Juliet and I used to wish that I'd been born in a differ-ent era to experience something like that. Now, I was and the only thing that I could think about was mouthwash and shower gel. I wasn't feeling particularly romantic, especially after the last time that I was in this house. The place I used to think of as home was now just a place to crash until I could get out of here and go to college. Less than one full year and nearly one aca-demic year and I'd be counting every single day until it finally arrived.
"Sorry about not replying to your texts or even calling," I said and winced trying to make up for him trying to be sweet and me acting like a bitch.
Please! No one calls anymore. It's all about messaging. Only old people make phone calls.
"Yeah...I should have called you maybe, but I didn't think it through. There was too much going on..." He looked like he really wished I'd called him, and my heart skipped a beat, again.
I wondered through a split second if he'd really wanted me to call him for a particular reason or just to talk? I became mesmerized by his eyes. Those incredibly hypnotic eyes of his put me in a trance whenever he was near. The kind of hypnotiz-ing green eyes that sparkled whenever he was smiling, like he was right now.
He motioned back at his house. "I think everyone's asleep. Calling you might have woken everyone up."
He was right, and at the same time, texting seemed kind of weird when our rooms faced each other. Usually, I would wave to him from my window every once in a while, to let him know that I was home and to see if he was interested in coming over. But he never was, unless it was to be tutored, which had never made any sense to me. His grades were better than mine, even after I tutored him. It made me wonder if maybe he want-ed more from me, silly thing that I am.
Abe was half-way up the tree outside my window when I glanced down again. I didn't know what to do, was there something wrong with me that he thought he could just come up to my window like this?
The last night that I'd spent in this room before going to Gran's had started to make me paranoid once more. The idea of a man being in my room, and what he might to do me entered my mind. Then I remembered that Abe and I had spent many nights in my room. Studying. Or more like I was supposed to be tutoring him. Even if he didn't need it. No, nothing hap-pened back then. Nothing bad. It wasn't about to happen right now either. Abe wasn't like that. He wasn't like him. I shook the idea out of my head. What happened that night was over as soon as it began. I was happy, I told myself, to be back home, not only to see my friends but to see Abe too.
Before I even finished my sentence, we were standing face-to-face. Well, sort of, Abe was awkwardly hanging from the branch and my ledge and I was facing him, wondering if it was a good idea to invite him into my room.
"If you don't want me to come in...," he started but trailed off, obviously unsure of what to do now that he was this far up.
"No, it's fine, you just surprised me, that's all," I said in my defense, thinking that I needed to hide my emotions better. I'd studied with Abe many times in my room. The crazy base-ball player said that he needed tutoring and I knew it was a lie, but I played along with it. After all, he could easily be Liam Hemsworth's identical twin brother. How could I resist?
I was thinking about hitting the shower, brushing my teeth and putting on a hot dress, but I realized that I was too late. Any form of grooming to make my overgrown bangs be-have or doing my nails was out of the question. I was too late, and I hated myself for it.
Why did I open up my window?
I should have turned off the lights. I was eighteen and in the last few days I'd become too scared to sleep with the lights off. Just because as Mom started to count down the days until we came back here, I started reliving the night before we left. My emotions would eat at me in the dark and now I had to wonder if I should have come clean and told my mom about what had happened.
It was like the Cosby case. Everyone said, hey why did those women wait so long to talk? Sure, in my case, it wasn't years, but there was this impression that if women were at-tacked then they should come clean on the night or not say any-thing at all. I wasn't sure who made up this rule, but that seemed to be it. So, I did what women had done before me, like the Cosby women, and just kept quiet. Now, I had to live with my silence and part of me felt guilty for it. This was the reason that I couldn't sleep as Mom counted the days down until we left. I couldn't even begin to think about sleeping to-night, even if it was pretty early.
"Sure. Sorry, I wasn't sleeping. It's not that late even if I do feel a little sleepy," I said and brushed my hands through my hair as if to straighten it. Now, I didn't know who was more nervous? Him or me?
I tried to figure out what to say, but I decided to just step back from the window and smile. As I did, he hesitated for a second as if he wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not.
"Come in. Before you wake Mom and Stuart." I didn't know if they were sleeping, neither did I really care. I just didn't want him hanging outside the window in case my nosey neighbor was watching. If she was, I would be in trouble, be-cause gossip was her forte ever since she retired from being a teacher and decided that she would take up a new job. Some-times Mom knew that I was up late, not because she heard me in my room, but because the neighbor told her, "She looks tired. Maybe if she had more sleep, she wouldn't be so tired. I mean sometimes she's up till the early hours of the morning."
Mom would look at me as if she was shocked about my late, night hours or rather early hours, and I would look at my neighbor with a definite 'what the fuck' expression. She couldn't have mistaken the tone of my glare at all.
Abe slipped through the window and he lifted his legs with ease as he came into my room and stood there, waiting. I backed away from him, unsure whether it was out of fear that a male was in my room after dark or if I was happy that he was there. I was sending mixed signals and I knew it, but between the brown bird's nest that was my hair and my blue eyes that had turned a dull shade of blue, something that I noticed as my reflection caught the light of the window, I wondered if letting in him was really a good idea. If, and there was a big fucking if, he was interested in me before then he sure the hell wouldn't be right now.
Hell, I wouldn't be interested in me right now.
I looked messed up and I smelled it as I lifted my arm up slightly and came to the realization that if I lifted it any higher then Abe would be back down that tree a lot faster than he came up. And if my neighbor was up, hell she could proba-bly smell the stench from across the road. Well, maybe it wasn't that bad, but I wasn't about to find out by lifting my arm any higher and letting the odor escape. It needed to stay nicely tucked away under there.
"Why didn't you just text me, Abe? Why go to all this trouble?" I really wanted him to just go back home, give me time to shower and dress, then come back. I sighed with frus-trations as I looked up at him from beneath uncurled eyelashes.
"Ah, I was worried that you would say no if I text you that I wanted to come up and talk. You didn't act as if you wanted to open the window and I haven't heard from you in over three weeks."
Four. It had been four weeks. But it was sweet that he was counting.
"I was going to call," he said catching his breath and trying to come nearer.
Don't come any closer, or you may regret it. No, make that you will fucking regret it.
The words were rolling off his tongue so fast as his eyes dashed across my room and then it froze on my door. The chair bolting the lock gave him a concerned look and he raised an eyebrow while his finger moved to point at it.
I avoided the thought that was on his mind and tried to distract him as I moved in front of the chair.
"Sorry, I came back last night, and it's just been crazy. School starts so soon, and I need to get ready, you know. And as you can see my hair's a mess." I needed a shower, but, I wasn't going to say that to him, some things I needed to keep to myself.
"And Mom's exhausted from the trip and you know Stuart was home alone for those weeks."
"And I think that they're just catching up. You know. Newlyweds."
And now, I was just talking shit. Them being newly-weds stopped the minute that he put that ring on her finger. He drank and started to hit her while she tried to hide it. But she was bad at lying and I wondered for a split second if I was bad at it too.
The realization made me even more nervous and I start-ed to shift my weight from one-leg to the next, all the time avoiding his stare. He wasn't thinking about the chair, but probably wondering why he wanted to come up and see this craziness when he could have just texted me. A part of me was wishing that I told him that I was tired and kept him down there on the ground before he could climb up to my window.
"You ok?" he asked as he stepped closer to me.
There was so much fucking anger and frustration grow-ing inside of me as I tried to think happy thoughts - him, and my best friends Ava and Teresa - while I tried to push away those bad thoughts that made me feel frustrated and angry, helpless as I thought about that other him.
I shook my head. "No."
Then shook it again. "No." I didn't know if I was ready to confess the pain inside of me to anyone yet, let alone him. I didn't even know if Abe and I were friends or potentially something else, or maybe simply next-door neighbors. It was all so up in the air, and the one thing I needed right then was a lifeline of any kind.
He took my hand and motioned for me to sit on the bed next to him. My bed, the thing that I'd avoided since I'd been home. So much so that last night I'd slept on the floor. It was the only way that I found peace long enough to go to sleep.
"I ..." I started again but stopped with a glance at the chair. I couldn't tell him, I couldn't tell anyone, could I?
I nodded, I wanted to hide the fact, but I wondered if it was written all over my face.
"You and he don't get along, I know that. Is he the rea-son for the chair?"
I saw the way his eyes narrowed as he glanced at the chair and then back at me. He was suspicious, maybe even a little angry.
I quickly shook my head in the negative, maybe a little too quick, but Abe didn't know me well enough to know if I was lying, or so I hoped.
"It's just that Mom and I don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things when we're here..."
I wanted to tell him. Maybe as a man he would be able to tell me, what I already knew. It wasn't really about men, just the man that she'd married.
I felt brave as I continued talking, "And when we went away for summer, I thought that maybe things would go back to the way they were before..." I didn't know how to describe it. Before she dated Stuart, things were fine. I knew that she was in love and wanted to spend every moment with him. That was natural. I kind of felt that way about Abe. Even if we weren't dating.
So, I started to think about how to tell him this story. This nightmare called my life.
I took a deep breath and replayed the speech in my mind, Well, it was as soon as they got married, that was when everything changed. Everything.
Mom wasn't smiling, she wasn't happy. She had sad eyes, bags under them most of the time from not sleeping and from Stuart lashing out at her. Even if she was trying to keep it all one big secret. There was no hiding from the damage he did to the house or even her face. No amount of make-up could hide it at times. He hit her, not just once but several times. She tried to hide it, but she wasn't doing a good job of it.
I decided that I wouldn't tell Abe that part, so I decid-ed that I would tell him about that night. The problem was that I wasn't brave. I couldn't tell Abe what happened that night. We hadn't spoken in weeks and the amount of times that I wanted to pick up my phone and call him or text him was cra-zy, but something always held me back. I didn't want him to get the wrong idea, even though Teresa kept telling me that he was into me. We were friends and if he thought or even knew that I wanted us to be more, then that could change everything and not for the best. It would only change things for the worst.
Was I being paranoid and mistaking what Stuart had in-tended? Was it my fault that he thought he could come into my room?
I couldn't talk to my friends about it, I felt so ashamed, but it wanted to come out of me, the words wanted to leave my mouth, but I couldn't. I couldn't tell anyone.
I opened and closed my mouth a few times, ready to say something, but no words came out as my heart stopped eve-ry time I tried to speak.
"My dad moved out over the summer," he blurted out as he started to stroke my hand. "Kind of the reason that you didn't hear from me very often."
"Sorry to hear that." I sighed thinking that there was no way that I could tell him what happened that night. He had his own issue. His own problems, I couldn't load him with mine.
He laughed nervously. "It happened so quickly and then I spent the whole summer just trying to hold my mom's hand. It's as if she can't stop crying and blaming herself for it. It's not her fault that he doesn't love her anymore. Is it?"
I shook my head.
"She can't stop crying and I hate it. I hate him for mak-ing her cry, but then he's my dad and I love him. I need to be something that I'm not. I'm too young for all this emotional shit."
This time, I wasn't the one pacing in my room, he was as his emotions ran out of his mouth. Something that I admired about him, the fact that he wasn't scared to say how he felt on and off the field. That was what the girls loved about him. And one of them just happened to be me. He talked about his love for both his mom and dad, but the predicament that he'd land-ed in was one that left him in a world of hurt. A world that I didn't envy.
"At the same time, he's my dad and she's my mom. Now, he wants us to connect, but then, I feel that I'm stuck in the middle. You know, betraying her by talking to him and be-traying him by not talking to him. And all of this shit doesn't feel fair. All I want to do is play ball, graduate and take one really great girl to prom." His eyes froze and stuck on mine, as if to impart some knowledge he couldn't say out loud.
Did he mean he wanted to take me to prom?
There was an unnerving silence, but I couldn't break that silence because I didn't know what to say to him, when I had a confession of my own to make. More than one, actually.
"Wow!" He'd taken me by surprise and for some crazy reason it was the only thing that I could think to say. He pushed his hands through his hair again and it spiked up into silver peaks as the moonlight glinted off it.
I loved seeing this side to him, but then I hated the idea that he was telling me something in confidence, so I did what I'm good at and distracted myself. I looked at the clothes he had on and tried not to hum in approval. He wore a black polo shirt with black pants and damn! He looked hot in black.
I blushed as I realized what I'd done. Here he was shar-ing his crappy life with me and all I could think about was how hot he was looking right now as I wondered which girl he was talking about taking to the prom.
"It's tough. I don't know what to say..."
Apart from ask, which girl? I felt guilt tear at me be-cause I should ask him how he's coping, offer him advise, but all I could think about was the fucking prom. What the hell was wrong with me?
"I want you to go to the prom with me," he blurted out, his green eyes peering into mine with an intensity that made me want to step closer to him.
"What?" I couldn't believe he'd said it. I was certain my mind was playing tricks on me.
"This is what I wanted to ask you before you left. Would you go to the prom with me?"
I laughed, too shocked to believe him. Deflect, deflect, deflect, my brain repeated. "It's not until next year."
Again, I ended up saying the wrong thing, I didn't mean to, but his words just came out of nowhere. One minute his parents and now us. Or me? Teresa was right. Fuck! I want-ed to tell her, smile and tell her that she was right, Abe did like me.
He smiled, as he took my hand and came closer to the edge of my bed.
"It's just that between my mom and the situation at home I was really confused and with the coach on my back to up my game for college and all. I didn't have my head in the game."
God, sometimes I wonder if there's anything in my head when it comes to emotions. I'm great at school, my friends and hanging out with them, but when it comes to the opposite sex I had zero clues. Both Teresa and Ava told me that he was into me. I told them that he was meant for a cheer-leader or one of the other popular girls in school. He could have any girl, why me?
As he started to talk, I had to ask the question. "You're smart, funny and I just don't get it. I thought you wanted tu-toring. I mean what else would you want with a girl like me? Every single girl wants you, even the nerdy girls."
He moved a single step closer, his breath ragged as he thought frantically for what to say. "I didn't want you to think that I just wanted to be tutored."
I saved him the hassle of saying what was on his mind, "You wanted a friend. Female friend. I get it. You'd just moved here. You've got all the cheerleaders and even the nerds after you. You wanted..."
Before I could even finish talking, he pulled me close to his chest and kissed me gently. Something that took me aback.
My heart raced as Teresa's words replayed in my mind. "Girl you're blind cause that new boy? He's into you!"
I wanted him to do it again, but he pulled back. It was a gentle kiss. An innocent one. And that's when I realized as he looked into my eyes and his green eyes shone that it was a per-mission kiss. I'd heard about these ones. The type that guys go in gently to see if they have permission to do a lot more. It was cute that Abe was shy, and I wondered for a split second if he was just as inexperienced as I was. Until he kissed me again and gently parted my mouth with his tongue.
My heart started to race as I leaned in closer, I was lov-ing the direction of our kiss and no longer did I regret letting him in tonight. It was the complete opposite, it was turning out to be the best night of my life. One that I didn't even think was possible. Abe was really into me and all my fears and insecuri-ties that I had, before he climbed the tree seemed to disappear as he firmly sat on my bed. This time I was the one making the move, as I moved closer toward him, an open invitation to let him know that I wanted him.
He started to tease me as his tongue gently caressed the sides of my lips.
I smiled, enjoying it. As I started to moan, he drew my lips between his. He had full control, not only because he start-ed kissing me, but he was more experienced than me. I wasn't going to pretend that I'd done more than kiss John Cane in sixth grade. It was a golden opportunity and I wasn't going to let it pass, but the excitement of knowing that this was going to happen and never thinking that it would make me smile as he drew me in closer.
"Vicki you up?"
I pulled away from him.
"She's awake," I whispered and wished that she'd gone out or even been asleep like I thought she was when he came up the tree. I felt comfort in the kiss, something that I craved right now.
It was as if he woke up from a trance as he said, "I bet-ter get down that tree."
I gently kissed him again and then I didn't care what was waiting for me on the other side of the door, now that I had my first kiss with the hot baseball player next door. Every-thing that I thought would go wrong the moment I came back home maybe would go right.