“Is there something you’re looking for in particular?” I ask. It’s not that I’m in a rush to get out, but I’m hungry. And antsy. I skipped my run and now I have all this built-up adrenaline, and I don’t know what to do with it.
She smiles up at me, and the adrenaline doubles.
I smile back. “You have a list, don’t you?”
“It’s only a small one. I promise,” she says quickly, her hands on my chest as if she’s trying to calm me. Now she’s biting her lip, her full, strawberry-tasting bottom lip, and an image flashes into my mind with what I could do with all that built-up adrenaline. It includes her, her bed, and her lack of clothing.
Blink. Push out fantasies. Breathe.
I say, “Take your time. Honestly.”
“You can sit over there,” she tells me, removing her hands from me and pointing to a chair covered in yarn. Put your hands back on me, Laney. “Go on your phone or something. I won’t be long.”
“I left my phone on your bedroom floor.”
“I’ll help you find what you’re looking for. What’s your next project?”
She seems to hesitate. “A cross-stitch.”
Without so much as a flinch, I say, already making my way to the right area, “So we need to find all the right colored threads, right?”
Good. I can do that. It’s time-consuming and mind-numbing and it’ll take my thoughts away from her, her bed, her naked in her bed.
She told her dad she’d dated. Oh, hey random thought I tried to forget about. Nice of you to sneak up on me like that.
I place my hand between us, palm up. “List me.”
We spend two and a half hours in the store without so much as a single complaint from me. Maybe because I still feel guilty about last night, or maybe because she’s smiling and happy and no longer sad, because I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t like seeing her sad. Or… maybe because I can’t stop thinking about her “dating” other guys. What does that even mean? She goes on dates, then they drop her off at home and she goes to her room and knits me gloves? Or does she go on a date, sneak the guy back to her room through the basement door and have wild monkey sex with them in the same bed I was just fantasizing about? Wait! Am I sleeping in another guy’s sweat and leftover sex juice when I get into her bed at night? What the fuck, Lane?!
“Are you okay?” she asks, sneaking up behind me. Sneaky Lane. I don’t like Sneaky Lane. Sneaky Lane sneaks guys into her room and does sneaky things to them. “You look lost.”
I am lost, Lane—drowning in visions of you with faceless guys having over-the-top sex in positions I’ve only ever seen on the Internet. Obviously, I don’t say that to her. That would make me insane. “I’m fine,” I tell her. “Did you see anything else you like?”
She nods, her eyes bright. “And now that I’m not saving for college, I can buy all the things!”
I pout, and her hands go to my chest again. I should pout more often.
“We should finish up here and find somewhere to feed you. You look hungry.”
I exhale loudly and place a hand on her waist, the other holding the basket filled with different colored threads. “I am hungry,” I tell her, just not for food. I tighten my grip so I can pull her closer to me. Her arms are at her sides now, her tits pressed against my chest. She got them right after she turned fourteen. Her tits, not her arms. I remember because it was the summer I spent the most time in the lake. I was too embarrassed to show exactly how my body reacted to her body. Stupid uncontrollable body and stupid uncontrollable hormones.
“Where’s the list?” she says, her voice hoarse. She clears her throat, repeats the question. Her cheeks are red. She’s blushing. Fidgeting. Her eyes won’t meet mine. Her body’s reacting to my body. To the closeness. So… maybe not-so-stupid uncontrollable bodies. I like that she’s blushing. That she hasn’t pulled away. That she’s bending over, giving me a clearer view of her tits as she picks up the list from the basket. She turns to face the wall of threads but doesn’t move too far, her back’s to my chest, my hand on her waist, the top of her head an inch below my chin. Coconuts, lime, and Laney. “What number are you up to?” she asks.
One, I almost say. It’s not the answer she’s looking for, but it’s the only number in my head. I have one year left with Laney. One year to make her see me the way I see her.
I’m holding her hand.
I don’t know how it happened, when it happened, but we’re crossing the road toward a diner and we’re holding hands, and not in the way I hold Lachlan’s hand when we cross the road, but in the way I hold my girlfriend’s hand. Because I have one of those… a girlfriend, not a hand. Grace has been my girlfriend for about six months, and she’s the only girl I’ve ever stuck with through an entire summer. Grace is shorter than Lane, blonde, beautiful. She runs track, like me, and knows the demands and the self-control it takes to be where we are. She’s also easy—not sexually, but that, too, I guess—but she’s fun and we get along, which makes me an asshole for enjoying holding another girl’s hand more than hers because like I said, she’s my girlfriend.
“I’m still so full from breakfast,” my non-girlfriend, hand-holding partner says. “I’m probably just going to get a salad.”
I laugh out loud. “You? A salad? You’ll be going straight to the back of the menu—dessert—and you’ll probably order two different ones.”
“Or not!” Laney exclaims, nose in the air. “I’m trying to watch my figure.” She pats her stomach.
“Shut up. You have an amazing figure. Especially considering you do absolutely nothing to maintain it.”
She stops in the middle of the road, causing an oncoming car to brake and swerve slightly. “You think I have an amazing figure?” she asks.
Girl’s blind. Naive. And also completely unaware of her surroundings.
I pull on her hand and drag her off the road and onto the safety of the sidewalk while I wave an apology at the driver who’s cursing at us. “You do. But I’d prefer it if you were alive.” I open the diner door for her and she stops just inside, scanning the place for what I know is a corner booth, a table made for 4-6 instead of just the two of us because I know what she’ll do the minute we sit down. She’ll dump the contents of the paper bag I’m holding and mark off all the items on the list to make sure we got everything she wanted. And she’ll do it alone because she doesn’t trust me, all because of that one time I read her handwritten 5 as an 8 and got the wrong colored threads and the store was closed the following day, a Sunday, and she couldn’t finish her project on the weekend and swear, she acted as though I set her hair on fire.