The sky was the brightest blue, with not a single cloud in sight. The air was still, for not a single leaf on any of the brilliant green trees wavered. Children rode their bicycles merrily up and down the sidewalks outside, and their laughter drifted through the open window Kate and I presently sat beside. The sound mingled with that of birds tweeting and water splashing – caused no doubt, by a few lucky neighbors who were fortunate enough to be able to cool down from the sizzling summer heat in their swimming pools.
I happily let the hot sunlight fall upon my shoulders and heat the top of my head. Any excess sunshine poured past me onto the table top, and decorated it with pretty patterns of light, which were only interrupted by our steadily emptying breakfast bowls and their shadows.
‘So I was definitely dreaming?’
‘Well I definitely wasn’t doing Tai-chi last night’ I said, shaking my head at her as if it was the most ludicrous idea ever. She giggled.
Kate was in a great mood. After all, no-one had despised those thunderstorms as much as she had. From the very moment she had opened her eyes this morning, and saw the sunlight passing through the curtains, it was the very first thing she thought of.
For me, it was merely the second.
‘Mmm’ I said, nodding with my mouth full of cereal. I swallowed it and brought my spoon down to the bowl, swirling the last remaining cheerios in the milk around. I cleared my throat ‘So when does Ry–‘
‘So are you getting picked up later then?’ Kate said, over my question. She pushed her chair back with a scraping sound and stood up to pick up her cereal bowl and take it to the sink. She also picked mine up on the way, despite the fact I hadn’t actually finished yet. Not that I cared enough to protest.
I twisted myself round and clutched the back of the chair as I spoke to her whilst she washed up. ‘Um yeah, I kind of need to call my mom first – I don’t actually know whether she’s working today. Maybe she can pick me up on the way back. But if she finishes too late I can always walk – I’m walking loads better today. I don’t even think I’ll need my crutches any longer’ I said, nodding as she looked at me skeptically.
‘With all your stuff?’
‘It’ll be fine’ I said, flicking my hand dismissively.
Kate rolled her eyes and put the bowls upside down on the draining rack. Ok, so perhaps it wouldn’t be all that easy to limp all the way home under the weight of a sleeping bag and such, but their dad was due to come home from hospital today and I didn’t want to get in the way.
‘I could give you a lift back.’
At hearing his voice, I stiffened. Kate turned around and looked at the doorway to my right. I copied, and my stomach erupted with the usual butterflies. And then some.
My imagination never did him justice. He always looked better in real life than I expected him to do. And I expected him to look pretty great in the first place. Unlike Kate and me, he was dressed – sporting simple skinny jeans and a tight fitting white top. I couldn’t help but notice how tired he looked. His eyes looked rather red and irritated, and ever so slight shadows hung beneath them. His hair was also a little messier than usual. The butterflies I held inside me danced. He really was unquestionably and undeniably, the utterly most gorgeous boy on the face of the Earth.
And he had kissed me.
‘I mean, I’ve got to pick our dad up from the hospital soon and it’s on the way, so if you don’t mind leaving in like' - he glanced up at the clock on the wall behind me- 'an hour…’
I shook my head ‘Um n-no’ – and then switched to nodding it -- ‘that’s fine. Yes please.’
He smiled and nodded - ‘cool’- and walked past me and over towards one of the
cupboards ‘coffee anyone?’ He said, taking the jar out.
‘I’m alright’ Said Kate, who was drying her hands on a towel ‘Steph?’
‘Oh, no thanks – in fact, I should probably start getting changed’ I said, standing up from the table as he nodded. I probably needed an hour, considering the state I was in. Hopefully Ryan was currently too tired to have taken in too much of my dismal appearance yet.
Kate followed behind me out of the kitchen, where my ridiculous smile was not visible to her ‘Be ready in time!’ he called as we left.
‘Always am!’ I called back, as Kate snorted.
‘Yeah yeah…’ I heard him say, before I practically levitated up the stairs.
_ _ _
‘How do I look?’ I asked, stepping away from the mirror and turning to face Kate, who looked up from her cell phone and blinked at me.
‘Fine’ she said.
My shoulders sagged ‘Just fine?’
The way I saw it, this was a crucial, crucial moment for me. Soon, I was going to have the chance to ask Ryan about the kiss – about what it meant and why it happened. I didn’t want to be sat facing him looking just fine. The last thing I wanted was for him to regret it.
‘No, you look nice’ She said ‘Why, where are you going today?’
‘Nowhere’ I shrugged. ‘Thanks again for letting me use your shower.’
A series of three knocks sounded on the door and Kate looked up at me expectantly. I gave my hair one final, frantic touch up in the mirror and walked over and opened it, coming face to face with a now relatively tidy-haired Ryan. We exchanged precisely four blinks between us. ‘Hey’ I said, glad I managed to contain the sigh that had threatened to escape with it.
‘Hey’ He said with a smile that lit up the entire room ‘You ready?’
‘Uh, yeah… I just need to get my stuff…’ I said, walking over to my sleeping bag and night bag.
‘Here’ He said, walking in behind me. ‘I’ll get it’ and he bent to pick them up from the floor.
‘Oh – Thank you!’
Kate mouthed ‘see?’ over his shoulder to me. I shrugged and nodded. Earlier, Kate had been completely baffled as to why there was such a sudden change in Ryan’s mood, and even more so because I didn’t seem that surprised by it. I had tried to shrug it off and say I’d simply forgotten how he had acted yesterday. Only Kate would buy a lie as pathetic as that.
I knew he was just making an effort to be nice to me, after claiming to feel so guilty about how he acted unjustifiaby. It thrilled me a little.
He stood up and looked at me, and indicated with a sideways tilt of his head for me to go before him, as his arms were occupied.
I smiled, clutched my hands together and walked past him, and he followed behind me. I wish my foot hadn’t made the whole walking down the stairs ordeal so awkward. I tried my best to be brave and go for it normally, instead of hopping down them slowly like I would have preferred doing. I didn’t want to hold him up; he was presently buried under my crap.
I was thankful to reach the bottom at last. I stepped into the hallway and turned around. Behind Ryan, was Kate, and she was carrying my crutches down, which I had forgotten about. ‘Oh, ha, thanks!’ I said, taking them from her. I placed my hands through them for convenience.
‘Am I staying or coming?’ She asked, looking at Ryan.
The two of us exchanged quick, worried glances.
‘Uh…’ He said ‘There’s no need for you to come really… it’ll only take like two minutes to get him out the hospital and into the car so…’
‘Oh’ she said ‘OK’ and I hoped we didn’t make our expressions of relief too obvious. ‘Well bye Steph’ – she stepped forward and hugged me – ‘Thanks so much for coming’
She stepped back and smiled widely ‘No problem’ I said, beaming back at her.
‘We should meet up soon and go somewhere – finally start enjoying summer’ she said, gesturing towards the window that held a lovely summery scene of kids walking past with ice-creams behind it.
‘Ahh’ I said ‘that sounds nice.’
‘I’ll call you.’
‘Oh, I’ll open the door…’ And she darted forward and did just that.
‘Byeeee’ I said as I hobbled out of the door, and she gave a small and happy wave before closing it behind Ryan.
His car was only a few feet away. I stopped in front of it and he joined after.
‘Jesus’ I murmered, placing a hand against my already moistening face ‘It’s boiling’ – I tried to lean my other hand against the side of the car but quickly retracted it, clutching my scorched fingers ‘Ow!’ -- He laughed lightly as he opened the back door and put my sleeping bag and crutches upon the backseats -- ‘Thank you’ I said, as he proceeded to take my night bag from me.
‘It’ll get even worse later’ He told me regretfully as he closed the door, and I gaped at him.
‘Are you serious?’
He nodded as he opened the front door and gestured for me to get in. I groaned, thanked him and sat down in the passenger seat. Oh the car was almost worse. I wound down my window as far as it could go. I needed air. And then thankfully, it came -- in small, cool bursts when Ryan turned the engine on and switched on the air conditioning.
The feel of the cold air upon my face, combined with the relaxing humming sound and sweet smell of grass being mown which currently wafted through the window, calmed my nerves a little and made me feel relatively at ease and somewhat serene. Two things I hadn’t felt in a while, and I decided to savor it whilst it lasted. How ever long that may be.
To drive to my house from Kate’s takes what I’d estimate to be about 4 minutes. I assumed we would have this ‘talk’ he guaranteed me last night once we’d pulled up at my house as it didn’t seem exactly practical to do so during the journey. We made light conversation; I mentioned how tired he looked, and he rubbed a hand across his eye and said ‘Yeah, I didn’t really get much sleep last night.’
He glanced over at me. ‘Did you sleep ok?’
I think I had actually. I mean, I would have expected to have been lying awake a lot longer than I actually had done considering what happened. I guess my many, many complicated thoughts must have exhausted me. ‘Not too bad’ I said.
Oh God, there was my house. My stomach twisted. We were nearing it by the second. I could see my mom’s car in the driveway; she was home after all. I presumed her shift mustn’t have started yet. Either that or she’d slept in, which wouldn’t be in the least bit surprising.
We pulled up beside it. The moment I hadn’t even really dared to think much about yet had come. I had no idea how the following conversation would go. I had no idea how I would feel leaving this car.
Ryan turned off the engine – making the air between us quiet -- and let his hands drop to his lap. He looked at me. ‘I owe you an apology’ He said. They were words I wasn’t expecting.
I straightened and gave him a puzzled look ‘For what?’
He faced forward again and blinked in the bright sunlight. ‘I spent the evening acting pissed off with you because I thought you were messing me around; Kissing you, when I’m still with Jane made me feel like a hypocrite. It’s not really fair on you. I’m sorry.’
I had been far too overwrought by the fact alone that he had kissed me to have given much thought to Jane, but the reminder made my stomach sink a little. My throat had suddenly become quite dry and I could’ve really done with some water. I was stuck on what to say, but in the end I decided the burning question that had been ricocheting back and forth in my head couldn’t wait to be voiced any longer.
‘Why did you kiss me?’
I felt like I had just handed my heart to him on a platter. His answer now, would determine what happened to it. When he looked at me again, I met his eyes, and I tried my best to give off silent signals to him somehow – mute pleadings, begging him not to break it.
After a moment -- or maybe it was a couple of moments -- he blinked and swallowed hard. ‘I’m sorry… I-I didn’t really think it through at the time; I just kind of… did it. It was like I couldn’t help myself.’ He said, and he took his eyes away from his lap and redirected them towards me. ‘I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t --’
He closed his mouth and gulped, and looked away from me. I became a little aggravated. ‘If you didn’t what?’ I prompted him, eager for him to continue -- desperate to know what he was going to say.
He slumped back in his seat and tilted his head back slightly, so that he was now squinting up at the brightly lit sky through the window.
‘Like you so much.’ He said.
It was the best feeling which overwhelmed me then.
It was a perfect mixture of relief, disbelief, giddiness, excitement and much, much more rolled into one. Circumstances aside for a moment, the guy of my absolute dreams had said the words I had been anticipating since the moment he kissed me, and the words I had been wanting since practically the day I had met him. I was nothing less than sky high. I couldn’t remember the last time I had worn such a wide smile on my face. It was in danger of exceeding the boundaries of my head.
He looked at me again and nodded, a little bashfully.
It made no sense. It was just wasn’t comprehendible. How could someone so smart, so gorgeous, so sensible, so… perfect like someone like me? I could apply none of those traits to myself. What on Earth did he see in me? When he already had a girlfriend who was so… right for him?
I would never understand it.
At the moment it was a little like what now? He looked at me as if waiting for me to say something, but I had no idea where to begin. I sat there flushed and heated; only partly due to the fact the air-conditioning had stopped. What did this even mean? I liked him and I’d just discovered he liked me back. Usually in these situations it’s pretty mandatory what happens next. But we had to add his girlfriend in the equation, and Spencer, and of course Kate who has no idea that her best friend and her brother hold feelings for each other. And I didn’t even know how strong his were.
Once you included all of these factors in the mix, it became very hard for me to be able to tell exactly where I came amongst it all. It was all so goddamn confusing! ‘What does this… mean then?’ I said finally.
He bit his bottom lip and ran a hand through his hair, in the way which always manages to make my heart flutter a little ‘What…’ He said, dragging his eyes up to meet mine ‘do you want it to mean?’
That was a very easy question to answer. I had decided my ideal interpretation a while back. ‘I want it to mean that… you want to be with me’ I said ‘I want it to mean you’ll choose me over Jane. And I want it to mean that you want kiss me again.’
But surely that was obvious?
The chances of us ending up together seemed quite slim though. There were three main factors preventing this from happening easily; His girlfriend – who he seemed quite happy with right now, Spencer – my ex boyfriend of like one day and his best friend and band-mate, and of course Kate -- who knew how she’d react to it?
To me, these obstacles were worth it. But what really mattered was if it was the same case for him.
I sat back, waiting and preparing myself for his reply. I took a lock of hair and twirled it slowly round my fingers, admiring how the strands were appearing almost golden in the sunlight and becoming slightly entranced by it. I wasn’t as high spirited as I had been previously; not after my realization of just how unlikely it was that I would actually get what I wanted. And it was something I wanted a lot.
The strands of hair slipped suddenly from my fingers. I jerked my head towards Ryan, who looked back at me. His face seemed expressionless, and his eyes were still bloodshot and tired.
‘What?’ I said, blinking at him in shock.
‘I do want to be with you. More than I want to be with Jane. And I do want to kiss you again.’ His bleary eyes scanned my face making already burning cheeks heat up even more ‘But it’s not fair on Jane, wanting these things when I’m still with her.’
More than he wants to be with Jane.
‘Y-you’re going t-to break up with her?’ I stuttered.
Please, please, please say yes.
‘Yes’ He said, and then as if it were an afterthought he added ‘Tomorrow.’
He wants to be with me more than he wants to be with Jane.
‘She invited me round hers.’
‘And'...and th-then what?’
My heart thudded loudly as I waited anxiously for his answer. He was going to break up with Jane. He was going to break up with Jane… for me. Was it fair to say that? It seemed so. He said he wanted to be with me. He said he wanted to kiss me again.
‘And then’ He said slowly, and he narrowed his eyes as if in thought. ‘… I will call you.’ -He met my eyes ‘And then we can meet?’
He said it as if he was asking my permission, and I nodded enthusiastically to give it. ‘Ok.’
He smiled ‘cool.’
And then the conversation had ended. I realized this and sat up ‘I’ll um…I’ll let you go pick your dad up... then’
He nodded as I opened the door ‘Wait’ He said, and I turned back to look at him before getting out ‘Do you need help with your stuff?’
‘Oh, yes please.’
So Ryan kindly followed me to my front door carrying my things whilst I struggled up the steps with my crutches, which, once inside my house, I leant upon the wall in the hallway, hoping that from now on I would not have to use them again; that they were now a thing of the past, just as much as the thunderstorms were.
Ryan wanted to kiss me goodbye. I knew he wanted to kiss me goodbye. It was unlikely he wanted to as much as I wanted him to however. He didn’t. I guess it was something along the lines of his morale stopping him. It didn’t surprise me and I wasn’t even disappointed. Because now – now I was certain we would kiss again. In due time. Maybe tomorrow, or whenever it is that we are going to meet up. When he doesn’t have a girlfriend to guilt trip his conscience.
And that was more than I could ever have really hoped for.
We exchanged shy goodbyes and hesitant advances, which turned into a brief embrace. He told me ‘So tomorrow yeah?’ and I looked up at him as we released each other and nodded. He walked away; I watched behind him, and then closed the door.
It was a beautiful morning.
Oh God. I don't even know how I feel about this one. It was really hard to write. Sorry it took so long :\ Hopefully the next one will be faster.
Chapter dedicated to Hot N Cold because I loooooved your review.