DISCLAIMER: Ó 2006 MF Vinson All rights reserved.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
This Will Change Everything
Whether we mean it to or not, our decision today will change everything. Even if we choose to delay. Because that will mean we're thinking about the future. Our future, together or apart.
I know what I want, but does she? I can even tell you the moment I knew. It caught my breath, when we hugged and I realized how our bodies fit, like they were made to. Then it was a revelation. We were 15 or 16 and it didn't scare me until later. I ran then, far from her literally and emotionally and metaphysically, but I kept writing her those inane letters. So she'd know we were still friends.
The time came when I had to stop running. Then the time came that she needed me. And now the time has come for us to say how we want our lives to be. Together or together. I don't think I've ever been more afraid. That she'll want what I want. Or that she won't.
Maybe you can talk too much. We've been doing it for weeks. Instead, on my part, of kissing her. We'll kiss tonight, hello or goodbye, and either way a dream will die.
So I'm waiting for her, like I've done all my life. She's never on time, and I never get used to it. My palms are sweaty, and I pick at the label on the bottle and my heartbeat doubles up when she slides in the booth next to me. Her lips graze my cheek hello and I smile.
"Sorry I'm late."
That's almost always the first thing she says. This is almost always the first thing I say. Shrug and tell her, "No problem."
The waitress is there before we can say anything more. She knows us, and she must have seen Joy come in, because she slides a fresh bottle in front of both of us. We both smile and say thanks and she tells us to signal when we want something more. Then it's just us again. Neither wanting to start the discussion we're here to have.
We start with easy stuff and suddenly we're there.
"I've always known how you feel about me," Joy says. "And I knew you would never push me. You've always been here for me, and I know you will be. However I want you."
She stops and I wait. Remind myself to breathe. She studies the tabletop like it's interesting.
"I don't know what to do," she says quietly. Sadly. "I can't see my life without you."
"But," she starts, stops. "I don't know how...I mean, I know how to be your friend. I want to try but I don't know how." She trails off, still not looking at me.
I put my hand on her arm to get her attention. "You know I love you, right?"
"And if this doesn't work, we'll still be friends."
She nods again.
"All you ever have to do is say no." I lean over and kiss her temple, then her cheek. "I won't lie to you. I won't hurt you on purpose. I won't leave you, no matter what." I tell her these things quietly, promising them so only she can hear.
Her eyes close and she takes in a ragged breath. Her hand covers mine on her forearm and she turns to face me. She whispers, "Ok," and her lips touch mine fleetingly.
We rest forehead to forehead for a few moments before she squeezes my hand and turns away.
"Want to eat here?"
We both know the menu, so I wave for our waitress. She makes her way over and we order and then we're alone again. Joy keeps my hand trapped between her forearm and palm, but doesn't say anything.
I squeeze her arm a little. Startled, she lets go. I put my hand on her thigh. Again, she covers it with her own. Neither of us knows what to say. I want this to be easy, so I ask an easy question. "What do you want to do when we're done here?"
"I don't know."
"Want to get some movies? I've got that shiny new DVD player."
She smiles. "Sure. As long as there's popcorn."
Her smile widens, and the last little bit of scared drains away from me. "You trying to spoil me or something?"
"Always." I smile back. "I'll even let you pick the movies as long as you get one that doesn't require tissues."
"Deal." She squeezes the hand on her thigh. "You working tomorrow?"
"No, I'm off this weekend."
"Good. I want to go to the flea market tomorrow. You know, the big one up the road."
"Sure. And if we don't get worn out, there's a nice state park close to it. We can do a little canoeing."
She wrinkles her nose. "Another time?" she asks.
We watch two movies. We start out at opposite ends of the couch and end up with her head on my thigh. I don't care about the movies. I watch her and play with her hair, rub her shoulder and arm. At midnight she says she should go. I walk her down to her car, to make sure she gets there. My neighborhood's okay, but it's late. We hug and she kisses me chastely and I assure her I'll be ready to go at 9. She gets in and I close the door and stand there until she drives away.
I'm ready Saturday morning; sit on the steps with a cup of coffee, enjoying the morning while I wait for her. She's on time and I resist the urge to tease her, instead lean across the console to kiss her. She surprises me, meets my lips, and it takes a surprising amount of control to stop. But I do, fasten my seatbelt, and smile.
She drives with one hand. The other is on my mid-thigh, covered loosely by my own. Today is better. The tension that was between us last night is gone. Joy is laughing at herself, and at me. She's happy, like I haven't seen her in a long time.
She takes my hand when we begin to walk the aisles, and I let her pull me wherever she wants to go. I don't even realize how long it's been until she asks if I'm hungry.
"There's one more section. After that we'll go, ok?"
"Sure." I shift the bags in my free hand.
We're on our way back to the car when some stupid man growls, "Fuckin' dykes," at us. She freezes for a second, then whirls toward the direction he was headed. "Hey, asshole."
I close my eyes for a second, hoping he doesn't respond. When I open them, he's asking Joy, "You talkin' to me, dyke?"
"You the alternative, shithead? Cause I'll choose her every time."
I step between them just in time to catch his fist. I drop the bags and Joy's hand and tear into him. He gets one more lucky shot and I know I'm bleeding when my knee connects with his balls. When I bring it up again, I hear a crunch sound and I push him away. He stays curled around his testicles, ignoring the bleeding mess that was his nose.
I'm breathing hard and I whip around when a hand touches my shoulder. My fists drop when I see Joy.
"You ok? "
"Uh huh," I tell her, but it isn't exactly true. I'm still mad, at that moron, and that this happened to ruin our day.
She thanks someone who hands her the bags I dropped, and takes my hand and pulls me to her car. She sits me in the passenger seat, feet still outside, and disappears for a minute. She comes back with a first aid kit, a bandanna and a bottle of water.
She doesn't say anything, just moistens the bandanna and starts cleaning my face.
"How bad is it?"
"Your eye's gonna shut soon, but nothing needs stitches."
She's slow and careful not to hurt me while she finishes my face and starts on my hands. When she's satisfied, she pulls a chemical cold pack from the first aid kit, activates it and holds it against my eye.
"Does that happen a lot?"
She closes the first aid box, takes it and the other things she used back to the trunk, returns to me. "Still want to get lunch?"
I think about it for a few seconds, decide to try to salvage the day. "Sounds good. You got some place in mind?"
"Yeah. But we can go home if you'd rather."
I reach for her hand, pull it from her side. "Nope. I want to have the rest of the day you planned."
She smiles a little, so I squeeze her hand and let go as I swing my legs in. She pulls the seatbelt across me, and after it clicks, she brushes her lips across mine. Before I can react, she's closing the car door.
We're quiet during lunch. She's trying not to look at my face. I excuse myself to the bathroom. There's a cut in my eyebrow over the eye that's all ready turning purple. My lip is swollen and there's dried blood. I must have caught it with a tooth. I've looked worse. But not that she's seen. I sigh, turn away, to go back to her. Back to things she doesn't know how to bring up, and that I won't.
We spend the rest of the day going from shop to shop. It seems like she touches me somehow the whole time. Dinner is at one of the places on the river. We sit on the deck outside and share a bottle of wine and watch the sunset. She plays with my hand, examining it. It's sore from the fight, but she's gentle.
"I'm sorry you got hurt. "
Her thumb brushes over my knuckles. I shrugged. "It's no big."
"I couldn't let him get away with that."
"I know." And I do, having been on the receiving end a few times. Joy always calls people on their stupidities.
"I didn't think he'd hit you."
"I'm pretty sure he was aiming for you. I just got in the way."
"My hero." She leans toward me. "Thank you."
I smile at her. "You're welcome."
"Ready for dessert?" She pulls some money out and drops it on the table.
"Maybe you'll be ready by the time we get home."
"Maybe," I agree. "You got something good?"
"I think you'll like it." She pushes the door open, holds it for me.
"Chocolate?" I ask hopefully.
Joy laughed. "Better than chocolate," she teases.
"We both know there's only one thing better than chocolate, and even that's better with chocolate."
"You started it." We both get into the car.
"Yup." She fastens her seatbelt, starts the car.
It takes too long to get to her house. I get the things she bought today from the trunk, carry the bags inside. I ask her where to put them and she gestures toward the doorway, so I drop them on the dining room table on my way to the living room. I turn on the lights, and go to the CD player, pick some quiet music.
She comes in while I'm doing that, and when I get to the couch, there's a tray on the coffee table. Wineglasses, a bottle, whipped cream. "How's your face? Want some Advil?"
"No, I'm okay."
"Good." She's smiling at me. "Ready for dessert?"
She uncaps the whipped cream, shakes the can, sprays a line down her index finger, and offers it to me.
I raise my eyebrows, ignore the discomfort it causes, and look at her. Then I start on her finger. Slowly. Lick it clean, suck it into my mouth. Watch her face. She has this odd smile, eyes focused on my lips. I grin at her. "Better with chocolate, not better than."
"So you don't want more?"
"Didn't say that."
She nods, leans toward me. "I want you to stay tonight."
"My pleasure." And hers, I hope.
She kisses me, gently. My hands go to her face. It steadies me, to feel her and know this is real, and I kiss her. Drawing her tongue in. Her hands are on my sides. She's kissing me and I'm kissing her and it's everything I wanted for so long. She pulls her tongue back and mine follows and it's too hard to think. I just feel. Feel her. And want nothing more.
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