Chapter 18 : R-E-S-P-E-C-T... the Sea Horses
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by Savoed at TDA
I wake up, and for a moment don’t realize where I am, or remember anything from the day before. Keeping my eyes closed I listen, trying to figure out where I am. I hear breathing beside me. James?
And then, everything comes back to me.
I’d asked Dick to take me somewhere, where I could rest and be alone. It wouldn’t have worked with anyone other than Dick. He’s so uncomplicated, it was refreshing. I remember falling asleep, and then…and then…
He, Jimmy, kissed me, on the mouth; I remember waking up and kissing him back. I knew it was Jimmy right away, even though I can’t really explain how. And it felt so good.
I slowly open my eyes, and see Jimmy lying next to me, fast asleep. Wait…I CAN SEE! I’m so excited by this that I grab Jimmy by the shoulders and shake him awake.
“Whaaaat?” He asks groggily, trying to pull away from my death grip. “Wassamattah?”
“I can see you!”
“Well, that’s great, Max…OH!” His eyes suddenly light up. “I forgot!”
“And you’re the first person I see…” I whisper, looking at him, soaking him in. I crave more, wish I could see everything at once, let all the light in the world soar into my eyes this very second. I open them wide, so glad to see again I’m laughing. “That’s gotta mean something, right?”
“I don’t know. Does it?” He asks carefully.
I look at him for a long time, and without really meaning to, start leaning in, until our foreheads touch and we’re looking into each other’s eyes.
“Honestly, Max? This scares me. You scare me,” Jimmy says softly.
“Well, you’re quite the charmer, aren’t you!” I say grumpily.
“No! I mean, I know…I know you have the power to break my heart, and it scares me. Because honestly, I don’t know how I’m supposed to compete with anyone. James is athletic, and funny, and popular…and I’m the weird kid with dreadlocks.”
“James…” I pull away, feeling the color drain from my face. “I’m going to hurt him so badly…I can’t do it! He’ll hate me forever!”
“Well, then, forget it. Pretend like last night never happened,” Jimmy says, standing mechanically and turning away from me.
“We should get you back to the castle.”
It’s a very long walk back.
“WHERE WERE YOU?” Hattie screeches, hugging me the minute I’m back in the dorm.
“I CAN SEE!” I screech back.
“SHUT UP!” Brigit yells, louder than me and Hattie combined.
“Okay, okay! Sheesh!” I grumble, dragging Hattie into bed with me so we can talk alone.
“So, were you really with Jimmy all night?” Hattie asks, eyes sparkling.
“And…we may have kissed.”
“I knew it! Did he kiss you?”
“At first…but I kinda kissed him back. And I liked it.” I bow my head, ashamed. I’m the worst girlfriend ever. “I have to tell James.”
“WHAT? Are you crazy? Wait, don’t answer that…but come on! Seriously, there is no reason James ever has to find out. Unless…unless you want to leave him for Jimmy.” She looks hopeful.
“I don’t know,” I say, sighing. “I mean, this is so messed up! I go from having no guys to having a bazillion!”
“You mean two?” She asks, laughing. “I’ve had more guys than that go on a date with me. In a day!”
“Thanks a lot, you’re really helping!” I say, but can’t help laughing. “But seriously, what should I do? I obviously have a responsibility to James. And…I really, really like him. But Jimmy…Jimmy is hard to explain. He’s…different. And I’m attracted to different.”
“Well, you can’t help who you’re attracted to!” Hattie says. “I think Dick is a hottie; do you think I’m proud of that?”
“Dick is very good looking,” I say, shrugging. “Of course, so is a shark, and I wouldn’t want to go sleep with one of them,” I say, shrugging.
“You compare his looks to a shark’s?”
“You’re right…too dangerous. He’s more of a…a sea horse.”
“A SEA HORSE?”
“Yeah. Cute and friendly-looking. I respect the sea horses; the dudes understand us. They’re the ones who give birth, you know.”
“Great. My boyfriend reminds you of a sea creature. Wonderful.”
There’s a long pause.
“Boyfriend?” I ask slowly.
“I know it’s weird…and that you don’t like him very much, but…”
“No, no! I do, I’ve…changed my mind about him, actually. Since when have you guys been going out?”
“Oh, for about four hours now,” she says, shrugging. “He’s actually really smart, you know…I mean, nothing compared to Jimmy, but Dick definitely puts on an act. He’s thoughtful, too.”
“I know. You don’t have to convince me, Hattie. I’m happy for you.” I pat her hand, smiling.
“Everything will work itself out, Max. Everything always does.”
“’Everything’ never does anything for me. I hafta do everything myself. And the only way to solve this is to..make lists.”
She looks at me like I’ve finally lost my mind. Maybe I have.
“Yes. Positives and negatives, you know. Do you have some paper and a pen? Or..quill, I guess. Damn you and your feathers that are so hard to write with.”
“Here!” She shoves some parchment in my hands, and a quill with ink already on it.
“Okay. So. Positives…for James, first.
WHY I SHOULD DATE JAMES
1. I’m already dating him
2. He’s really hot
3. He’s an athlete
4. He’s funny
5. He’s nice to me
6. He makes me happy
WHY I SHOULDN’T DATE JAMES
1. There’s a part of him that probably still loves Lily
2. He can be kind of mean to the little Slythies sometimes
3. He cares too much about his hair
4. His kissing is good but boring, sometimes…?
“Really? I always figured he’d be really good at kissing,” Hattie says, surprised.
“Well, I have a theory, actually. He spent so much time mooning after Lily he didn’t have time to practice kissing other girls. Time can do wondrous things, though; I’m sure I could teach him well.”
“So, now it’s time for Jimmy, right?”
WHY I SHOULD DATE JIMMY
1. He has dreadlocks
2. He’s super smart
3. He’s really funny
4. Kissing him is amazing and exciting
5. I’m incredibly attracted to him
6. He’s mysterious and spontaneous
7. We’re good friends
8. He’s a painter…so hot!
WHY I SHOULDN’T DATE JIMMY
1. I’m already dating James
2. He was dumb enough to date Lily
3. He can be moody
4. His maturity kind of scares little old immature me
5. He doesn’t play a sport, or have any interest in playing a sport
6. There’s the whole friend-turned-boyfriend issue that could get tricky
“So, there are more reason’s to date Jimmy than there are to date James,” Hattie says pointedly.
“Yeah, but you’re conveniently forgetting that there are more reasons not to as well.”
“Yeah, I bet. So…I guess I already know what you think. I need an unbiased opinion, from someone who’s really honest.”
Our heads both turn in unison to where Brigit is sleeping.
“Oh, Brigit! Wakey-wakey!” I say, sidling on over to her.
“Leave me alone, whore,” she grumbles; I grin, unfazed by her name-calling.
“I need your expert opinion on something.”
“If it’s clothes-related you’re doomed anyway so leave me the hell alone. I’m sleeping, goddamnit!”
“Someone’s not a morning person,” I mutter. “Please, Bee, you’re the only one who can help. And…there might be a shopping spree in the works…” I bribe. She opens her eyes and sits up, glaring at me.
“What is it?” She asks, and I hand her the two lists.
“Who should I go out with? James, or Jimmy? Based on these lists, I mean.”
“Definitely James,” she says. “Or you could dump both and go out with Sirius Black. He’s a hottie.”
“EWW. That man-hussy? No thank you. Uggh. Eww.” I shudder at the thought.
“Well, I stand by what I said, then. Stay with James. Why end something good? All you’d be doing would be causing drama, which Hogwarts does NOT need. And another thing, your feelings for Jimmy are mostly physical, right?”
“No…we’re friends, too. But yeah, I am very attracted to him…”
“Well, that’s good, but it won’t make you a relationship. Can you imagine taking him places? On dates? By yourselves? Does that not sound incredibly awkward to you?”
“Not if we were kissing,” I say, shrugging.
“Not enough. Date James. Trust me.”
“Thanks. Sorry for waking you up.” I pad back to my bed. “She thinks I should stay with James,” I say. I don’t know how I feel right now. I might be disappointed. It’s very possible.
“And, what do you think?”
“I think she’s right. I’m staying with James.”
“Well, I tried. Just…let Jimmy down easy, okay?”
“That’s the thing, Hattie! He’s already let down. He thinks I’m not attracted to him. He thinks—“
“Don’t go getting yourself upset now. Come, let’s get ready for breakfast.” She helps me up, wiping some stray tears from my cheeks, and then heads over to our wardrobe. “Okay…something casual today, I think. How about your pink hoodie? And these,” She says, handing me one of my favorite pairs of pinstripes. I hug her.
“You know I love you, right? And…you’re the only really girl friend I’ve ever had.”
“Woah, there, lezzy, don’t go getting all weepy on me now.” She sighs. “Everything will be fine. You’ll see. I’ll talk to Jimmy.”
“Thank you. I love you.”
“James!” I say, the moment we enter the caf. He turns, and then hurries over to me, grinning.
“There you are! It feels like I haven’t seen you in forever!”
“I know. I—can we talk? Outside?”
“Uh-oh. This doesn’t sound good.” He follows me outside to a little corner of the hall and takes both my hands in his.
“First of all, I love you. And second of all…I may have kissed Jimmy. It was…a mistake.”
He pulls his hands away from mine, and runs them through his hair, looking pale.
“When did this happen?” He asks thickly.
“Yesterday. In the shrieking shack. Look, I know you’re angry, and I don’t blame you if you never want to see me again, but…but I just thought you should know. I’m not a big fan of secrets.”
Funny, coming from me.
“I’ll…need some time. To think about this.”
“Okay.” He walks away, probably back to his common room, still running his hands through his hair manically.
I don’t sit with Jimmy and Hattie for breakfast; instead I go and sit beside Remus.
“Remus, I need a friend,” I say, teary-eyed.
“I’m here,” he says, putting an arm around me and looking concerned.
“I think I’ve done something terrible.” I rest my head on his shoulder; he smells comforting, like books and…and home.
“Where is James?” he asks quietly.
“I k-kissed Jimmy. It was a m-mistake, and…and I told James. I had to tell him, Remy, I just had to! All the lies, they j-just tear people apart.”
“You accidentally kissed Jimmy?” He asks, looking at me.
“I never said that! I said…I said that it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have. I realize that n-now. But then…I was all alone, and James was playing Quidditch…”
“You bitch! I can’t believe you cheated on James! I told him! I warned him this would happen! You can’t keep your slimy American lips to yourself!”
And once again, Lily reeeeally succeeds in pissing me off.
“There’s no need for that, Lily,” Remus says sternly, pulling me closer to him.
“I’m going to comfort James. Because that’s what friends do for each other. I never cheated on him, not once!”
“HELLO, but you never went out with him either, so I hardly think that’s relevant—“
“Max, just leave it.”
Lily storms off, her bag swinging at her side, looking oddly smug.
“I really hate that girl,” I growl. “Who is she to judge me? She doesn’t even know me!”
“Max? Are you okay?” Ben comes wandering over fom the other side of the table, looking worried.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine.”
“You’ve been crying! Who hurt you? If it was Lily I swear to god—“
“It wasn’t Lily, Ben. Nobody hurt me. I told you, I’m fine.”
“Well, why aren’t you sitting over with Jimmy and Hattie?”
I turn and look over at my real House table; Jimmy is sitting in between Hattie and a Slytherin girl who must be Eira. He looks sullen and moody.
“I needed some time away,” I say quietly. “But Ben…can we go somewhere? On a walk or something? I miss spending time with you.” And suddenly I realize how true this is; Ben and I have hardly spoken to each other the past couple of weeks. I miss him.
“Sure! Right now?”
“Great.” He helps me up, and after saying bye to Remus I head outside into the breezy autumn air with my big brother. It’s getting colder as winter approaches, and I have to pull my jacket tightly around me to keep from shivering.
We walk in silence for a long time, but it isn’t like one of those awkward silences, it’s a comfortable one.
“I really miss you,” I say suddenly, my eyes filling up. “And I miss home, Benny. I wanna go back. I have my inhaler, please can we go back?” And suddenly I’m crying softly, and Ben is hugging me, and he’s shaking too.
“What’s the matter, Max? Tell me. What happened?”
And soon, against my better judgment, I’m telling him the whole story. About James and Jimmy and me, and me kissing Jimmy, and Lily comforting James. He just listens, and when I’m finished there’s a huge smile on his face. I frown, confused by his reaction.
“This isn’t funny!” I say darkly. He laughs, trying to turn it into a cough. I punch him in the arm.
“I’m sorry, okay! It’s just, I never thought you’d be getting this worked up…over drama! You’re not this type of girl, Max. What are you doing? Where’s the confident girl that I grew up with? You chose James? So go for it. Give it your all. And be proud of your decision, or else you’ll end up losing both of them.”
I raise my eyebrows. “Who knew you had it in you to be so insightful!” I say. He punches me now, lightly.
“I’ve been in more relationships than you have. Speaking of which…how’s that friend of yours—Hattie, was it?”
“She’s dating Dick,” I say. “Sorry. Ya snooze, ya looze, big bro.”
“Dick!” He says scornfully, and I don’t know if he’s saying Dick’s name or something else rather more colorful.
“So…what should I say to Jimmy, oh bearer of all knowledge?”
“Well, if I were you, which I’m not, thank god…but if I were, then I would tell him that you want to be friends with him, because you love being his friend, but that you don’t think a relationship will work right now. He’ll be down about it for awhile, but if he really values your friendship, he’ll come around soon enough.”
“Thanks, Benny. You know, it’s been awhile since I had an attack…”
“No. Whatever you’re about to ask me for, no.”
“I wasn’t going to ask you for anything! Okay, I was, but…oh, you’re unbearable!”
“I try. Hey, about your attacks, though…after the last one, when you fell, it got me thinking, and I decided that we need to take a bigger precautions. Like…I mean we can’t just rely on your inhaler. I’m not stupid, Max. You may think I haven’t been watching, but I have.”
“Are you trying to sound like a creeper?”
“No, what I mean is that…you’re getting weaker. I know that. And it worries me a lot. I wrote to Mrs. Potter after your fall—“
“You didn’t!” I say, horrorstruck.
“I did! And she agrees with me.”
“AGREES WITH WHAT, EXACTLY?” I ask exasperatedly.
“You need surgery.”
I stare at him, and we both stop walking.
“This isn’t funny, Ben,” I say angrily.
“I’m not laughing. I’m serious, Max, we need to take bigger measures to protect you. Soon.”
“How soon, exactly?” I ask, my heart pounding in my throat.
“Over Christmas break. It will give you time to heal so that you won’t miss too much school. And after this year…maybe we can go back. Go back home.”
“Christmas break…but that’s really soon! That’s only in, like, two months!”
“Less than two months, actually,” Ben says quietly. “And we’ll need to go to Mrs. Potter for some examinations before then. Like…next weekend is your first.”
“That’s what I said. Please don’t be mad, Maxi, you know I’m trying my hardest!” And he looks like he’s about to cry, so I stifle my rage and fear and anxiety and comfort my brother instead. Because I have to be strong. For him, if not for anyone else.
My hands shake as I reach out to knock on the door to the Head Students’ room. I knock three times, loud and clear.
Lily opens the door, looking more casual than I’ve ever seen her. She’s in sweatpants and a sweater, and her hair is up in a loose knot.
“Is James here?” I ask softly, not looking at her for too long.
“He doesn’t want to see you,” she hisses. “You hurt him, Max. How dare you show your face here?!”
And I can’t be mad at her now, because I know she’s telling the truth. It was a really shitty thing for me to do, coming back here so soon.
“I know, Lily. I know. Please…” And there must be something in my voice that reaches her, because she slowly lets me in.
“He’s in his room,” she says, nodding towards it. “And if you hurt him again…I swear, you will regret it.”
“You…you really love him!” I say wonderingly, looking at Lily through new eyes. “You’re in love with him!”
She blushes crimson.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” And she runs back to her room.
James’s door is opened a crack; I knock first, and then slowly push it open. He’s lying on his back, looking up at the ceiling of his canopy bed, playing with what looks like a snitch.
“James?” I ask, my voice full of emotion. I walk over to him and sit down on the bed; he refuses to look at me. “James, I know that there’s nothing I can ever do to make this up to you, and I didn’t come here to apologize more, or to beg…I came here to tell you that…well, my condition has gotten considerably worse. And your mom and my brother have decided that I need surgery. It’s a pretty dangerous procedure, and I’m really scared, honestly. My point isn’t to ask for pity, trust me. I just—just thought you should know.” I stand, because I’m not sure if I can stand him ignoring me for any longer. But he grabs my arm.
“When?” He asks, and his voice is calm. Like the calm before a storm.
“Over Christmas break. But I’ll have regular check-ups on weekends.”
“I know. I-I can leave now. I know I shouldn’t have come; I just had to tell you. Because I…I love you so much, and—“
He pulls me to him suddenly, forcefully kissing me. And this kiss isn’t boring in any way; the minute his mouth is on mine, it’s like a fire is lit inside me. And there’s so much suppressed passion in both of us that’s all coming out at once, like a wildfire, that it’s almost too intense, too fierce.
He pulls me on top of him, almost roughly, his hands moving up and down over me. He kisses me like he hates me, and loves me all at once, like he’s letting out all his anger into my mouth. And I match his passion, and his anger, and all the anger I’ve felt in the last few weeks, and I grab onto him, holding on for dear life, afraid that if I let go he'll leave me.
Because, despite the vibe I tend to give off, I don't want to be alone.
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