For you, Dhee ;) x
I roll over in my bed, feeling utterly and perfectly content. My eyes flicker open and then I shut them again quickly. Ugh. Never mind. I turn away from it, trying to block the light filtering through.
'No,' I hear Dom moan to my right. 'No. Somebody turn off the fucking sun.'
Well. No point in avoiding the inevitable. 'Dom,' I mumble, pushing myself up onto my elbows, rubbing my eyes. 'Shut up.'
'Why don't you shut up,' she grumbles angrily. She throws her covers off and swings her legs over the bed. Running a hand through her wild bed hair, she lands her furious expression on me. 'Why is it morning?'
I grin and get out of the bed. I look at my watch as she mutters some colourful choice words, and see that it's almost 9:30. It isn't even that early, but morning Dom is not a happy Dom. In fact, only drunk Dom is a happy Dom.
'I'm going to take a shower,' I inform her, going through my holdall to find my toiletries bag and my towel. Dom just waves me off irritably and I grin as I step outside into the hallway, shutting the door tightly behind me—and running straight into a body. A wet body.
'Oh, Jen,' says Fred. 'Sorry.'
I open my mouth to tell him it's fine when my eyes involuntarily flicker down over his body. I stare at him open mouthed for a moment. He raises his eyebrows. I can't help it, I'm just staring shamelessly at him. When did he get abs?
'You're imagining having sex with me, aren't you?'
I look back up at him, mortified.
'That—you—I'm not—,' I splutter stupidly.
Freddie just grins. 'It's okay. I know I'm hot. I always knew it was half-naked Weasley men that got you all hot and bothered.'
I clamp my mouth shut furiously. 'I'm going to take a shower. Goodbye, Fred.' I push past him and down the hallway, throwing the bathroom door open furiously.
'OI! I'm still in—'
I come to a complete and utter standstill as, through the thick white steam unfurling out of the bathroom, Luke appears with a towel wrapped low around his waist.
I hate Quidditch.
'Oh—my—GOD. WE NEED TO SET BOUNDARIES!' I step aside Luke in the bathroom and push him out before the slamming the door shut. I whirl around, breathing hard. Dear Christ, I'm going to have to live with them for one entire fucking month. Fuck.
I yank a brush through my wet hair, feeling less irritated. Though, apparently Fred and Luke told Dom about this morning and now she won't shut up about it. She thinks it's hilarious that I can't be composed around a boy without a shirt on.
'Sometimes,' says Dom, a laugh barely suppressed in her words. 'I truly do wonder about you, Jenny. I mean, you must've seen James naked a thousand times—'
'Shut up, Dom,' I say loudly over her.
'—but you're still incredibly shy about the whole thing. You're so innocent.'
'I am NOT.' I glare at her. 'Innocent.'
Dom just smirks as she applies mascara over me. She looks down. 'Right. By the way, whose shirt is that?'
'What?' I say peevishly, glancing to where she points on my bed. My eyes land on the shirt Oliver Gamble gave me. 'Oh. That's Oliver's.'
Dom gasps dramatically. 'Wait, wait, wait—Oliver Gamble's? Why in the fucking pink thong of Merlin's would he give you his shirt?'
I sigh. 'He spilt butterbeer all over me and then ... I think he thought he was being gentlemanly.'
'Why didn't you just use magic to get rid of the stain?' asks Dom. 'He didn't have to give you his shirt.'
'We're not allowed to use magic,' I say. 'Remember?'
'Well,' says Dom decisively, putting her mascara wand back in the tube with pop. 'I think that's super hot. And Oliver isn't like other guys, you know? I can tell that getting with girls isn't the only thing he thinks about—or wants. He seems like a relationship guy.'
'He does?' I say, grabbing her mascara and putting some on.
A sudden and sharp knocking interrupts Dom. We both turn to see who comes through the door.
'Ladies,' Luke says with a wink. 'Breakfast is ready.'
Fred hands me a piece of toast with butter on it and I grab it from him, taking a bite. Luke grins at me from across the island/breakfast nook but turns before he can see the face I make back at him. Dom reaches over me to grab another piece of toast, her expression oddly stony.
'So,' says Luke. 'What's the plan?'
'Well, we should write down what needs fixing … right?'
We all exchange unsure looks.
'…Right?' says Dom again, chewing on her toast. 'Like, let's be honest—we have no fucking clue what we're doing.'
'Fair enough,' says Luke. 'Make the list.'
'Alright. Hold on.' Dom sets her unfinished toast down and disappears for a moment down the hall. When she returns she's holding her journal and pen. She looks up at us, sea-glass green eyes glittering. 'What should we put on it?'
'The hole,' says Freddie with a shudder. 'Definitely the goddamn hole. That needs to go asap.'
'You don't say it like asap,' says Luke. 'It's not a word. It's an acronym.'
'A what? For what?' Fred frowns.
'What does it—'
'Oi, fuckers. Let's get on with it.' Dom clicks her pen and starts scribbling away. 'Fix goddamn hole. Anything else?'
'Get more food,' I suggest. 'I think we were only given food for this morning and we're all out of that.' I stare at the empty plate that was once filled with toast. I'm still hungry.
'And furniture,' pipes up Luke. 'Sitting on the floor is becoming mainstream, fast.'
Dom rolls her eyes but writes it down anyway. 'Okay so hole, food and furniture—what else?'
'Lights are fine,' says James. 'Plumbing's fine. But the wallpaper's peeling off the walls, so I'm guessing we need paint or new wallpaper.'
'Wonderful,' says Dom. 'Paint slash wallpaper.' She looks up again, her face very serious and businesslike. 'Now that that's sorted, we've got to discuss who gets what job.'
'I can do the hole easy,' says Luke, pulling out his wand and tapping his nose conspiratorially with it.
Dom frowns. 'But … magic's cheating.' She looks at me for reassurance.
'Yeah,' I say quickly. 'We're definitely not using magic.'
'Luke is seventeen,' says James, examining his nails. 'No one's going to know, not if we hide it. Plus, I think that hole is mistake—none of the other houses have one. And it's just one thing. We'll do everything else by hand.'
Dom exchanges a worried glance with me, but I just shrug. Jutting out her lower lip, she acquiesces. 'Fine. I'll get the furniture then.'
'Freddie and I can get the food,' says Luke, glancing at me almost too fast for me to register it, had I not been looking at him anyway. 'That leaves—'
I look at Dom firmly. 'I'll go with you to the furniture shop.'
'Fine, I'll get the paint and whatever else we need. Wood, I'm guessing, for the hole,' says James. He sounds bored, as if he doesn't care in the slightest who does what or what he does. Most unwillingly, my eyes flicker to him. I wonder if he remembers last night at all. Suddenly, his gaze meets mine and something almost electric washes over me.
I look away hastily. 'Okay, I'm going to get my purse. Dom, you coming?' I look over at her but she doesn't meet my gaze. Her eyes are overly wide and her lips are pursed. The look she gets when she's planning something. I raise my eyebrows. 'Never mind.'
I get up and head over to the room. I look through my holdall, searching for my purse, but I can't find it anywhere. A flower of panic begins to bloom in my chest. I start to pull my holdall apart, and the panic becomes frantic when I can't find it anywhere. All the money we were given was in there! I look up, thinking hard, heart beating furiously.
Maybe Dom knows.
Trying to keep a cool head, I get to my feet and hurry back down the hall into the living room—and find Luke standing there uncomfortably. A little out of breath and heart still fluttering, I look around and say, 'Where is everyone?'
'James and Fred are in our room,' answers Luke quickly. He avoids looking at my eye.
I open my mouth to ask him where Dom is when—
'Hey, mate, let's go,' says Fred, barreling through the hallway and gripping Luke's shoulder. Fred looks at me and gives me a crooked smile. 'I'm ready. Got a clean pair of underwear on, a healthy sex appeal—'
'Oh for the love of God—' Luke grabs Fred's arm and pulls him away and out the door, rolling his eyes. Shaking my head, I watch them go, a small smile on my lips. The door swings shut just as I remember.
'Hey, wait!' I cry after them. 'Where's … Dom.' But they're gone.
I turn around and fold my arms over my chest. Where the fuck is she? The bathroom? I look down the hallway, at the bathroom. I stalk over to it and knock on the door. 'Dom? Are you in there?' I pound the door with my fist. 'DOM! DOM ARE YOU—'
I whirl around and watch James stumble out of his room, looking extremely annoyed. His eyes land on me. 'Why the fuck are you screaming?'
I stare at him. He doesn't look like he remembers last night. I clear my throat. 'Where's Dom? Is she in the bathroom? Is she in your room?'
'No—she isn't in my room. Have you tried opening the bathroom door?'
I open my mouth and then turn around, snapping it shut. I twist the knob and the door opens easily. The bathroom lights are off and no one's in it. I let out a short, disbelieving laugh. 'She left,' I say to no one in particular. 'She actually left without me.' I feel a stab of annoyance. Why would she do that?
'Um … okay, well, I'm going to go—'
I spin around on my heel. 'Well, what am I supposed to do here? Alone?'
James shrugs. 'I don't know. Clean?'
'Clean what?' I snap. I run my hand through my hair. 'I'm not just sitting around here doing nothing.' My eyes flicker up suddenly to James. 'Wait, do you have the folder? The one with all the directions on it?'
But James is shaking his head before I'm even finished. 'No—I know what you're thinking. Dom tore the directions to the furniture store out and left with them. Luke and Fred did the same.' James waves a sheet of paper at me. 'So did I.'
I cast my eyes skyward. Now I really feel angry. 'Okay. Fine. What then?'
James raises his eyebrows. 'I don't know. I don't actually care.'
'I could come with you?' I offer and almost bite my tongue. James and I both stare at each other in equal mortification; you can't see it on our faces, but we're internally screaming. James starts to blush, shockingly enough. Two red spots, high up on his cheekbones. I know he knows I know he's blushing, so for his sake, I try to pretend like I don't notice.
My eyes dart everywhere but him. 'Or—or not—I could just stay—'
'No,' says James quickly, his voice cracking. I wince. He clears his throat awkwardly and his hand reaches up to his hair but he brings it down hastily. 'No. It's—you can come with me. If you want.'
I shrug jerkily, starting to feel very hot. 'I mean, if you don't mind.'
'I don't mind.'
I look at him and this time he isn't gawking and stuttering, like me. All the awkwardness is gone and his gaze is steady, sure. Though, his cheeks are still red.
'Okay. Let's go then.'
James walks with his hands shoved in his pockets and a few paces ahead of me. I tried to keep up with him ages ago, but his long legs and unwavering stride never gave me a chance. So I gave up, naturally. Plus, I love branches hitting me in the face as James conveniently forgets that I'm walking right behind him.
'Are we—are we going the right way?' I ask loudly, pulling my cardigan around me. We seem to be walking through a clearing in the woods, which we entered from a footpath—which was all well and fine until the trusty little footpath disappeared into some bushes and brambles.
'Jenny,' drifts James' voice, amused and a little irritated. 'Trust me. I know where I'm going.'
'Okay.' I pause. 'I don't trust you.'
James laughs once. Short and fleeting. A beautiful sound. I try not to think about the way he used to laugh. All big and loud and obnoxious. He's changed a lot in the past month. The boy I knew would've never been mean to me. The boy I knew always treated me like a friend, like he … never mind.
Suddenly, I'm talking again. 'Hey,' I say slowly, a memory flooding back into me with a small smile. 'Do you remember last Christmas? At my house when you gave—'
'Your little brother a Playwitch magazine and your mum found it?' finishes James, and I can hear the smile in his voice. 'Yes. I remember very clearly being kicked out and my mum coming to pick me up, apologizing to yours—'
I laugh. 'And your dad was there, too, and they started talking about Hogwarts. My dad was so jealous it was actually sort of disgusting to watch.' I grin. 'But that wasn't what I meant. I meant before, when we were eating and pulling those crackers and you'd never seen a Muggle one bef—'
James stops walking abruptly and turns around, his lips turned down in a scowl. I stop, too, startled by the look on his face because it wasn't what I was expecting. 'I remember, Jenny. And as much as I love reminiscing about the past, I'd … I'd rather not.' Then he starts walking again.
Feeling a little dejected and embarrassed about talking about stupid old memories, I follow after him. Of course he doesn't want to talk about them. I sound like a clingy, weird ex-girlfriend. But, Merlin, this is what I mean. This is the James I don't know. Is it weird to miss someone who's right in front of you? Quite literally?
When I look at him now, I get this insane urge to just run up to him and shake him, as if the real James will be rattled out of him. Why did he turn into something so cold and ugly? He was never like this before. And I would do almost anything to get the old him back, because I don't even know who he is anymore.
And you know what? I'm actually so glad Dom's here. She's honestly the best leader, even if she can get a bit aggressive sometimes and even if she does spontaneously forget that she's part of a team and not running a totalitarian regime. She gets things done, she keeps us on track. And she seems to be the only person genuinely enjoying this trip.
She takes the pressure off things. It feels better to just … not think and go with someone else's plan for a while. I don't want to care about this project or what grade I get—even though I know a small, primal part of me will always care about what grade I get—so it's just nice. To have someone else care for a change.
We finally clear out of the woods when James stops. 'We're here.'
I look up and take in our surroundings. A building, in the middle absolutely nowhere. 'Oh … it looks …'
'Quaint?' suggests James.
'I was going to say shite, but sure.'
It's like a depot/shack thing. Actually, no. It's more like a large wooden barn. With a huge sign that reads PAINT & STUFF.
'Well, let's get on with it.'
I trail after James as he walks down an aisle. I'm barely paying attention as he pulls stuff down from the shelves and shoves them back so when he snaps at me, I start so violently, I almost trip. James' hand shoots out to grab my arm and he jerks me forward, steadying me.
'Crap, sorry.' James shoots me a supremely annoyed look. 'What the hell are we meant to get?' he says letting go of my hand.
'Oh … um.' I look around wildly. 'Paint. Obviously.'
My eyes snap up to James and I frown. His tone is biting and he looks a little … on edge. I glance down at his hands and note that they're fisted at his sides. He randomly snatches something from the shelf and shoves it in my face. 'This? Do we need this?'
It's a pack of Brillo Pads, for cleaning dishes.
I look at him, trying to hide a smile. He brings the pack up to his face in confusion. 'What are these anyway?'
I raise my eyebrows, smirking. 'You've never seen a Brillo Pad before?'
James meets my eyes. 'No … am I supposed to've?'
'No, no,' I say, flat out grinning now. 'They're just used for cleaning.' At his questioning glance, I elaborate. 'For cleaning dishes.' I make a scrubbing motion, to clarify further. When he just grimaces at me, I throw my hands up in defeat. 'Really, James? Maybe this project is really what you need—'
'Alright, alright,' says James. 'I get it. I'm incompetent and stupid and—'
'A boy who's grown up with a pureblood mum and a half-blood dad,' I finish for him. I take the Brillo Pads from him. 'I wasn't really expecting you to know what these were anyway. And yeah, we need them.'
'Great,' says James. He gestures at the shelves. 'What else?'
I scan the area, arm accidentally brushing against James' as I walk past him. I feel him stiffen and my heart twists. I just keep moving and looking, pretending not to notice his blatant revulsion of me. I grab a couple more cleaning things for the kitchen and bathroom and dump them in James' arms. 'Here, take these.'
'Er … maybe we need a trolley.'
James pushes the trolley beside me, his arms folded languidly on the bars. We stop at the paint wall, still having not met anyone or seen anyone at all. I look at him, biting my lip, and he looks at me.
I shrug. 'I don't know.'
'You can decide.'
'Don't you care?'
'About what color our walls are going to be?' he asks, studying me carefully.
I shift awkwardly under his unflinching gaze. 'Er … yeah. It's important.'
'Is it.' He sounds bored.
'Well, I'm sorry I take this project seriously,' I snap.
James grins out of nowhere. A goofy grin that's so … so nice. I can only stare. 'You don't take this project seriously. You hate it. You rue the day you took Muggle Studies.'
'I took it for you,' I say without thinking. Looking at him—God. It occurs to me that I want to kiss him very badly. Or just touch him. Hold his hand or something. The idea chokes me.
'Oh Merlin, yeah …' James' expression becomes glazed as he looks off, remembering and seeing something I can't. 'We were one of those supremely weird couples.'
I feel myself go hot all over. Are we seriously talking about our relationship in PAINT & STUFF. Is he really being so nonchalant about everything. Or am I just too sensitive? Has he really moved on and I'm just being extremely naïve and oblivious about it? I'm just stuck in the past, thinking that he's as hurt as I am. That it's not okay that we aren't allowed to be … be together in every sense of what that word means.
'No we weren't,' I say quietly.
James looks at me, his expression serious. 'No, we weren't.'
'Anyway,' I say, blinking. 'You and Morgan seem happy.'
'Jesus, Jen. You always have to do this, don't you? We don't have to talk about her—'
'Don't we?' I say, suddenly angry. 'I never asked you, because I just never thought about it but—did you—were you—' I struggle to find the right words. 'Was it because—'
'Stop,' says James. 'It wasn't because of that.' He turns away, closing himself off to me, ending the conversation.
'You've changed,' I say spitefully. 'You really have.' I move past him to look at some colour cards. I pick up a green one, acting engrossed.
'Hey, hey, hey …' says James, abandoning the trolley and walking up behind me. 'You think I've changed?' He leans forward slightly. Suddenly, I'm all too aware of his burning chest pressing lightly against my shoulder blade. My eyes tear away from the cards and I stare at a point directly in front of me, forcing myself to breathe normally.
'What do you think?'
'I never know what you think,' he murmurs.
I sigh deeply and turn to face James—and find him barely inches away from me, his face looming over mine, eyes dark and serious. I'm a little taken aback, but I answer him anyway. 'You have changed. Into some, like, moody, brooding intelligent artist.' I scoff, turning away. 'And I know you and you, you are not an intelligent brooding artist. I don't think you can even draw a straight line.' I turn so my back faces him again.
'I can draw a straight line. And I'm very intelligent, I'll have you know.'
'I know how smart you are.' Smart enough to cut it off cleanly with me and make it seem like nothing important was happening.
My hand, trailing on a row of cards, stops abruptly on one that says POTTER'S CLAY.
His hand is at my waist. His chest is rolling waves of heat and it's pressed entirely against my back. His lips are at my ear, and I can feel his breath. My heart is slamming against my chest.
My body becomes suddenly … hot. I feel a blush rise up my cheeks. And there it is again. The flat sun pressed between us. Just like always. The heat from his body radiates off him and my already thin edges are curling with his hazy flames, turning soft and smoky. I press my lips together in a vain attempt not to say something stupid. Dimly, a spark of annoyance flares through me at the effect he still has on me.It's like my body doesn't understand that it's not allowed to react to him anymore. It still responds to his touch, whether I want it to or not.
'What are you doing.' My voice is steady, controlled. Completely the opposite of what I'm feeling.
'I don't know,' he says, voice so low and rough it makes my spine shiver. His hand brushes my hair away, leaving a trail of fire wherever his skin touches mine. Then I'm turning around quickly, pushing him away. Abruptly, whatever haze of glorious midday-sun-burning-my-bare-skin-in-the-Bahamas feeling I had evaporates.
'What are you doing?' I ask again, this time horrified. With myself? At him? I don't know. I don't know.
James looks at me, surprised. 'I—'
Suddenly, I feel beyond furious. 'No, you idiot! Stop, just stop! Stop with your …' I flail my arms around wildly. 'Mindfucking. I know you James, I've known you for way too long to make this easy for you, so I'm just going to say it: you're with Morgan now so you'll just have to get over it. You've made your choice.'
I have to keep reminding myself that James and I aren't a couple anymore. That no matter how much the universe implies the opposite, no matter how much I ache to touch him, to be with him, that I can't. That he isn't mine, that I don't belong to him. And I realize now that maybe James needs reminding, too. That it's hard for him to forget that the space between us, the electricity humming through the air, isn't like a broken toy. It can't be fixed.
Both of us stare at each other, me breathing heavily as if I've just run a marathon and James, still utterly surprised, lips slightly parted. And you know what's the most annoying about this? James looks hot when he's surprised. In fact, he looks hot, period. With his wide, dark eyes, his full lips … James is unfairly pretty. I can't even force myself to look away.
So I reach behind and grab two random paint cards off the rack and whip it in front to show him. 'Which one?'
I look down at the two cards. PORCELAIN EGG BLUE and TENACIOUS SKY BLUE. Good God. They look exactly the same. I clear my throat and meet James' gaze again.
'Which one?' I ask again. 'For the living room.'
James stares at me, his jaw locked. 'Jen—'
'Because I'm not sure what's going to go with whatever furniture Dom buys. Knowing her, it's probably going to be chic, which means it's going to be horrible and—'
'—blue, especially this light blue could be sort of a neutral colour because Merlin knows we're not buying beige or mauve—'
My eyes snap up to meet his, green clashing with hazel. 'What?'
James opens his mouth to say something and then promptly shuts it. 'Sorry.'
My chest constricts painfully. What is he saying sorry for? For interrupting me? For messing with my mind? I can never tell with James. Not this one—the one I can't read. 'Which colour?' I say quietly.
'Are you really insisting on—'
'Look at them.'
'I—I don't really see a difference.' He wets his lips. 'Sorry.'
I stare at him and then my eyes dart down at the two colour cards in front of me. 'What are you talking about? They're completely different!'
James sighs, his eyes rolling skywards. Shoving his hands in his pockets, his gaze slides slowly to meet mine. His lips twist into a grimace of irritation. 'They're exactly the same, Jenny.'
'No they're not!' I lie hotly. I shove them under a light. 'Look!'
'I still don't see it,' he mutters. 'Can you please make up your fucking mind so we can go home?'
I glare at him. 'It's not our home, but fine. I'm going with the egg blue. What about the colour for your room?'
'Red,' he says simply.
I roll my eyes and give him a look that suggests he's being very stupid. Which he is. 'Great. But what red? There's like, forty different versions you can choose from.'
He looks at the rack and snatches a card. 'How about Red Red?'
'Oh, please,' I scoff. That name is so generic it's not normal. Not when there are names like Pine Tree In Winter Green and Pale Gold Saffron Silk. 'There's no such thing as Red R—oh.'
James hands me the card and it reads in fine gold print: RED RED. I can almost feel James's smugness oozing from his pore-less face.
'Alright, whatever. Let's go.' I hand the card back to him without another glance.
James tosses it into our shopping cart and leans over it, grabbing the PORCELAIN EGG BLUE card from my hand. My eyes snap up to meet his, but he's already pulling away, throwing it onto our small pile. I look away and follow him as he starts to stroll down the aisles, looking for more stuff we might need.
We wander down for barely two seconds before I hear James' voice carrying back to me.
'There's a whole aisle on paint supplies that we might need. Like turpentine and stuff.'
'Good.' James turns back around again and starts moving. Shaking my head, I follow him once more, my eyes staring resolutely at the floor, lest they wander up to James's back … and to his perfectly sculpted shoulders, shoulders with a fading, golden brown tan, speckled with freckles, shoulders I've seen, felt—
James' hands shoot out to fist around my the edges of my shirt, pulling me straight into him—and we're too close. Too close in the way I can feel his cool breath wash over me, his heat burning my body. Slowly, I look up at him.
'You stopped. Why did you stop, you nuisance.' Great, word vomit.
James only raises his eyebrows, and I'm all too aware of his light touch, his barely there fingers and the warmth of his callused hands from handling a broomstick, hovering over my arms.
'I'll let go,' he mutters. 'If you want.'
I just stare at him. What in the fucking hell is that supposed to mean. Steadily, my gaze still fixed on his, my hands cover his. My heart sputters before it looses any feeling at all. Then I only feel his warm, smooth skin. I keep my face as expressionless as possible. Gently, I pry his fingers off my shirt and push them into his stomach. James' eyes darken.
My hands start to slip away from his when James' grip tightens suddenly around them. Surprise floods through me. His hazel eyes have turned molten, heavy, and smoky. The place is quiet. So quiet it's almost ethereal (you know, if you ignore the fact we're surrounded by glue and hammers).
'Jenny…' he murmurs, voice husky and rumbling. His eyes flickered down to my lips and back up to my eyes so fast I'm sure I imagined the movement.
'James.' I can't tell if it's meant to be a warning or an invitation. I can see in his eyes what he wants, what he's about to do, and I know what I've just said, that he's made a choice and that choice wasn't me. I want to be that honorable girl that pushes him away, that respects the fact another girl, someone like me, will be hurt. Then it strikes me that we're all hurt. Besides, giving in is so much easier than fighting back.
James leans in and my breath hitches.
I don't know what I tell myself when one of his hands slips behind my waist and presses against the small of my back, pushing me closer into him. I don't know what excuse my heart frantically whispers to my mind as his other hand starts to trail my jaw, his callused thumb, rough and warm, running over my lower lip, as if committing it to memory. I don't know even know how to breathe when he tilts my chin up so I'm looking directly at him.
I've always prided myself in the fact that I'm tall. That I can almost look straight in James's eyes. But honestly, the best thing about being tall, for me, meant that I could kiss him without any trouble. No awkward tippy-toeing, no neck craning …
Right now, however, being tall is proving to be a nuisance. Shards of chipped amber in his eyes swirl with a dark, almost hazy edge. I can already feel myself getting lost. Thoughts scattering, brain whirling, breathing hitching … and almost as if he hasn't broken my heart, almost as if he never left me, almost as if I don't hate him, I feel myself tumbling into him.
His lips brush against mine, featherlight and gentle.
A spark. A single flame of something raw, tangible, flaring. It fills me up with a desperation and longing so strong my body physically rejects the idea—the idea of more heartbreak and pain from a boy who can give me nothing but.
I press myself closer to him and there's nothing else we can do, nothing that no one, not even Morgan could say to stop us. His lips move over mine with such a fierce sweetness, and I'm kissing him back, drinking in the scent of him. A slow, heavy warmth blossoms inside of me, melting into the very cells, the very atoms of my being. It spreads through me body like a painkiller, like the sickening sweetness of an anesthesia.
It's like coming home after walking endlessly in the rain, it's like opening the door to a bed so soft and arms so comforting it makes you want to cry, or sing, and just shut the doors. I want to shut the doors on this moment, I want pull him closer—and I do—I want his skin burning against mine, I want this to be truly, wholly, honestly, mine.
We pull apart like two dazed birds, knocking into each other, my elbows hitting his, our limbs awkward, eyes fluttering there and away. It's like resurfacing, after drowning for years. We stare at each other, not knowing what to say because what can we?
The space between us becomes vast, like there is an ocean between us. The air becomes charged with a flaring energy. We both know that what we've done is inexcusable.
'I won't say anything,' I promise breathily, stepping away, feeling drunk and delirious.
'Jenny.' I'm not sure what he means by saying my name like that. Is he asking something from me? Is he telling me something?'
'James,' I tease, feeling increasingly out of step. One more move, one more word and I'll tumble right off the edge of the cliff I'm standing so precariously on. There is regret in his eyes, and it makes my chest burn with acid and my throat tighten with a pain I haven't allowed myself to feel in a while.
'I never meant—'
'Don't say that,' I laugh. Looking away. Because the sight of him burns my eyes.
'Don't call me that—'
'Jenny—,' he interrupts imploringly.
Then the words are spilling out, tinged with fury. 'Don't, James. Just don't.' Forcing myself to meet his eyes, I'm not the least bit surprised to see pity on his face, that I can see perfectly well the regret burning his eyes, the shame and guilt. The absolute horror he feels. 'I understand.'
'I know. I'm so sorry—'
'Don't apologize,' I lash out, each word frosted and dripping with disgust. Green suddenly clashes with hazel. I feel empty, like someone has gouged out any emotion, any possible sympathy or hope I could have retained for this boy. 'I don't want … I don't want you to. I'll make things worse.'
'I really am sorry, Jen—'
'Please,' I beg, and I sound scary even to my own ears. Like an animal dying, like soul being ripped out of its body. James looks at me, alarm spreading across his features, contorting it, disfiguring it. I want to look away, but I need him to see the effect this entire thing is having on me. 'I don't regret it, but I'm a terrible person. You kissed me because you're a terrible person.' I turn away from him. 'Let's forget it happened.'
I can feel the phantom heaviness of James' white-hot gaze, burning my skin. 'Yeah,' he replies, sounding detached. 'Yeah, whatever. Let's go home. We got everything we need.'
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