Slamming Mike’s front door shut, I walked slowly on the slick pavement, trying my hardest not to slip. James met me at his car, umbrella in hand. He looked nice in jeans and white v-neck. He placed the umbrella over me and guided me inside the passenger seat.
I sat down on his warm leather car seat and leaned back, sighing. I was covered in rain and I was cold as hell. The driver’s side door opened, and I looked up at him. He shut his umbrella, threw it in the backseat and looked at me.
"You look and smell like crap." And he put the car in drive and sped on down the street.
I smiled as he cranked up the heat. "Thank you. Not for just the heat, but for coming to get me. It’s got to be past midnight and I’m sure the last thing you wanted to do was get out of bed for me."
"I was still at Sam’s. Angie had come back over, frantic that she couldn’t find you. She said your dad was going to call the police, but before that, he was going to give Aiden Roswell a piece of his mind."
"Jesus Christ," I muttered.
"It didn’t come to that," he said. "I called you and it went through. Surprising."
He glared at me, eyebrow raised. "Everyone had called you about a billion times, B. I didn’t even think you would answer me before you answered Sam."
I bit my lip. "She’s totally going to hate me."
"Well, she wanted to. Except Angie relayed all the details about the Roswell’s as well as everything that went down at the gala." He shrugged. "Sammy understood. She also understood why you ran, even, as we all did."
Glaring down at my phone, I scrolled through frantic texts as well as fifty phone calls. I shot my dad a text telling him that I was staying at Samantha’s for the weekend and that I would call him tomorrow when I woke. I texted Sam an I love you and that I would fill her in when the morning came.
Just as I was going to close my phone out, I got a notification that Mike texted.
I apologize. You shouldn’t have left.
I sighed and looked up. I noticed James glare at me and then at my phone briefly.
"So, that’s where I picked you up from?" I noticed his grip get tighter on the steering wheel.
"Yeah," I muttered. I pressed the power button on my phone and placed my phone in the cup-holder. "But no worries, there’s nothing there anymore."
James looked at me. "Anything you want to discuss?"
I sighed. "I don’t even know where to start." I shook my head. "Actually, yeah I do. He’s with Amelia." James cut me a look. "That’s why she wasn’t upset that I was helping Adam, because she was sleeping with Mike behind my back."
"But that’s not even the same thing. You didn’t hurt her nor are you sleeping with Adam."
I shrugged. "Mike’s not my problem anymore. I burned any hope in his mind that we were getting back together ever again." I looked at James and he was staring at the road, not meeting eye contact with me. "It’s the right decision, I think."
I leaned back in the seat and stared forward. What did I think? I had finally gotten the closure that I need, to say what I needed to say to him, but there were still those underlying feelings that I will always have for him. I love him and that wouldn’t change; I would never be able to stop loving him. But I could not forget the past or the fact that he was with Amelia now.
Five minutes later, we pulled into James’ house. It was a one-story house right between Milton and Coxton. He got out of the car and like a gentleman, he came and opened my car door. We walked up the steps to his house and he unlocked the door, letting us in.
His home was just how I remembered it: quiet, peaceful and always smelled of lavender. His mother was quite the free-spirit. She had a little flower shop in town that had done so well she was looking to expand her flower business elsewhere, to other cities. She had different plants hanging from the ceilings as well as just chilling around the house. She also used a lot of different oils around the house, but her favorite was the lavender kind. It was the most abundant smell in James’ house for that sole reason.
I leaned down and placed my shoes by the door as he placed his umbrella down by the jacket rack.
"You must want to shower and brush your teeth or something?"
"Yeah, I threw up. So, lead me to the bathroom."
Chuckling, James led the way. He took me to his bathroom which was down the hall. In it were more plants, but it was also sparkly clean. He reached into the cabinet, handed me a big towel, small towel as well as a toothbrush.
"Shampoo and conditioner are in the shower." I nodded.
He smiled and made his departure.
I turned to the shower. That’s all it was; there was no bath attached to it.
I leaned over, twisted the knobs on and stood back as it got hot. I placed my jewelry down on the sink and then took a good look at myself. My makeup had stuck on well considering the vomit and rain. My hair, on the other hand, looked terrible.
I jumped in the shower and began to scrub away everything. I used the towel and soap and scrubbed my body clean as well as my face to make sure that I got as much makeup off as possible. Glancing around, I noticed he had face wash lying on the bottom of the shower floor. There was only a glob left and I used that last glob on my face. I shampooed my hair twice before I conditioned it.
Stepping out the shower, I felt like a new woman.
As I was drying my body and hair, I noticed that James had left a big t-shirt as well as a pair of boxers on the cabinet for me. He also had a little plastic bag that had dirty clothes written in sharpie on the front.
I placed my bra and underwear in the plastic bag and tied it shut. I used the toothbrush he had for me and scrubbed my teeth twice before I put on the pajamas.
I grabbed the huge towel and slung it over my head Carmen Miranda style, placed my plastic bag and jewelry in my hand and grabbed my dress before I exited the bathroom.
I walked down the hallway to James’ room where he was standing. He had on pajama pants as well as a black shirt. As you guessed, there were nothing but plants in there as well. He turned and glared at me.
"Boxers suit you."
"Hey, don’t try me. I may just keep them." I smirked and so did he.
I sat my plastic bag down on the floor beside his bed and sat my jewelry on his nightstand.
"Here, I’ll take your dress." I slid it off my arm into his hand. He grabbed a hanger from his closet, slid the dress on it and then hung it up. Turning to me, he looked around. "Um, you can sleep uh…"
I raised an eyebrow as I took the towel off from my hair. It fell down my shoulders in a cascade. James stared at me intently for a second and I stared back.
"I can sleep on the couch," I said. I laid his towel across the chair of his desk. "I don’t mind." I sat down on the edge of his bed. "I’m not at all sleepy yet."
He shrugged. "Neither am I."
I leaned back on my elbows and glared at him. "Want to hear about my night?"
"Sure, if we can do it over vodka."
"Everything’s better over vodka."
James smiled and led me back into the kitchen. I sat down on his counter as he reached below into a cabinet. He moved some pots and pans out of the way and he was left with the bare-bottom of the cabinet. He used his palm and flicked up the ending part of one of the wooden boards and it popped up.
I raised an eyebrow as he emerged with a bottle of bourbon.
"No vodka, but whiskey should hit the spot."
We ventured into the living room. He sat the bourbon on the table and then went to work on the fireplace. I started looking around at the different plants that were in his house as well as the dreamcatchers, a tapestry and quilts that his mom had made.
"Your mom is awesome," I muttered as I touched along the tapestry. "She made these things, right?"
"Yes, she did." He was still working on the fireplace as I ventured over and looked at the family wall of photos. "She made the quilts, the tapestry, and of course you know about the plant obsession."
"All too well. There she blows!" I turned and looked, and James had finally gotten the fireplace lit.
He and I settled on the floor right in front of the fireplace. He twisted the lid off the top and took the first gulp. His face went sour as he passed the bottle to me.
"I do not know how people drink these strong liquors straight."
"We’re going to figure it out tonight." I took a sip of the whiskey and it wasn’t so bad. The moment it reached my throat and raced down was the bad part. It felt like my throat was aflame, but five seconds later it was fine.
I cringed a little. "Doable." I passed the bottle back to him and that’s when he looked at me. "If you don’t drink alcohol like this, how do you have this bottle?"
He leaned back against the coffee table. "Justin, my older brother, lives in New York."
"I know this," I said, smiling.
"Right, of course you do. Anyway, he only comes down for holidays and birthdays. Every holiday and every birthday, he brings me alcohol. Vodka, tequila and more recently since summer passed, which he considers a holiday—" He held up the bottle and shook it.
He took another sip and then passed it to me and I chuckled.
"Such a nice brother."
He shrugged. "Only when he wants to be." I took a huge swig of the bourbon and handed him back the bottle. He raised an eyebrow at me. "You must have some demons."
I leaned back against the couch and stared at him. "Clay, the rapist, danced with me tonight at the gala." James paused and looked at me. "He basically threatened Cynthia and myself with the fact that we would be placed in a mental home. They knew that they had the money to write her and I off as crazy." I took the alcohol from him and took a long slug of it. "I’m sure her father relayed her the same story, so she went back home."
"Fuck." James grabbed the bottle back from me and in turn, took a huge slug. "That’s why you ran?"
"That and Mike and my father. My father, who has been on the gala council for fourteen years; my father who has been friends with Aiden Roswell and knows that he’s a heinous man; my father who wants me to stop fixing." I sighed. "And Mike. The man I will love until I die." I looked at him. "I ran because I was overwhelmed."
"As you should be."
We sat in silence for a while, swishing the bottle between us both for a few minutes before he looked over at me.
"Why did you and Mike end things?"
I sighed. "That story… is a hard one."
James bit his lip. "I don’t want you to say something you don’t want."
I looked at James, his light blue eyes had a hint of green in them. His face hadn’t been shaved in weeks and his hair was tousled everywhere. He was one of my best friends. He was one of the people who I could trust.
"We were almost at that year mark in our relationship. That summer, early July a bit after my birthday is when we got together. I was so naïve. I was so young. But, I met him a bit after in July. He was a summer counselor here at school because he was well-liked. After that, we just hit it off. We spent almost every day together for the rest of summer and as much time as we could during school. During football season, I was his number one fan. I spent a lot of time with his friends and at the parties. Sam, as you remember, was a cheerleader at that time and so we were always with him. She adored him; thought he was a good fit for me."
I took another sip of the bourbon and sighed, long. "It went on like that for a long time, until his senior prom. My dad let me go and stay in a hotel room with Sam. She was going to prom with one of Mike’s friends." James was staring at me, enveloped in the story. "Prom was fun and all of that. Sam decided that she was going to her prom date’s room for the night, so I invited Mike over." I stared into the fire, feeling numb to the story that I was telling. "And we…" I glanced at James and he nodded, allowing me to skip over this next part. "And that happened. That Monday at school…" I cringed.
"There was a picture of me going on around the football guys. I was covered in the bed sheet, so nothing was shown, and he was there with me. His football buddies took the picture from his phone and ran with it; their imaginations about what we did soared. The same men I had once called my friends were rubbing my name in the dirt. He had given them the story about how it happened and how easy I had been." I bit my lip. "Sam had been my comfort. Her as well as her friends from cheer helped clear my name and my reputation, but that wasn’t enough for me."
I paused for a second and that’s when James spoke up. "What did you do?"
"I confronted him." I took another swig of the alcohol. "Friday night, Sam and I as well as some of her friends from cheer went to his house. He was having a party. We met him in the living room of his parents’ home. I tried to get him alone, but his friends wouldn’t allow that. So, I confronted him in front of everyone. He remained cool, but never said a thing to me. I slapped him and left. After that, he tried getting into contact with me, but that never happened. I cut him off."
"And that was the last time you spoke to him?"
I shook my head. "After his graduation, he came to my house. He apologized and begged and pleaded for my forgiveness." I shrugged. "I told him everything hurt because I still loved him. I knew that it wasn’t his fault that the picture was passed through. His friends had gone snooping and found something that wasn’t theirs. They urged him to say something about what had happened, but he remained cool responding, ‘The picture speaks for itself.’ He never once stood up for me. That’s why I was angry."
"So, the first time in over two years you spoke to him was when you asked for help with Adam?" James asked.
I nodded and looked at him. "I have had no intentions to get back with him. He was my first love. That’s how I would like for it to stay."
We sat in silence for a while, James and I both looking at the fire.
I had shared so much tonight that I never thought I would share with anyone besides Sam, but something about James was different. Something about him seemed so open. And I didn’t know if it was because I was drunk or because we were both here, but some mixed feelings started stirring up in me.
I looked at him. "Have you ever been in love?" I spit out.
He raised an eyebrow and then placed his blue eyes on me. He observed me for a while, took one last swig of the bourbon and shook his head.
He shrugged. "Not really. Just scoping my options." He leaned back against the coffee table.
"Have you ever even kissed a girl?"
"I’ve been with a few." He looked at me and I was confused, until he smirked.
"Wait, seriously?" He chuckled as I playfully pushed him. "And you’ve never told me!"
"It was never something that really came up in conversation." He smiled at me. "But they weren’t any girls that I ever wanted to continue to be with." He looked down at the empty bourbon bottle and smiled. "In one night."
"I’m so drunk," I muttered, laughing.
"You and me both." He stood, wobbling a bit and then helped me up.
He and I made our silent trek to the kitchen, but before we got there, I stopped him. He turned and looked at me.
"But, why weren’t there any girls that you wanted to be with," I asked, quietly.
James looked at me and that’s when I realized how close we were. He was gazing deep into my eyes.
"Because none of them were you."
I felt my insides burn and I knew that wasn’t the alcohol.
But I couldn’t act like I didn’t know.
When I was with Mike, James was always jealous, constantly wondering where I was and if I were safe. I wrote it off as him being a concerned friend, but I knew that there was more to it than that. I knew that there was something else there that I had missed.
He walked towards me a little and I let him. He placed one hand on the side of my face and observed me.
"May I?" He asked. I consented and that’s when he kissed me, hungrily. I kissed him back, placing my hands on his hips. He kept one hand on the side of my face as the other snaked around my waist. His lips found my neck, his arms pulled me closer and his body pressed upward against me.
James pulls back, alarmed. "If this is not what you want, tell me. I don’t want to feel like I’m taking control of you."
I felt myself smiling. "I do want this."
James nodded, and he returned to my lips, desperate yet tender. I felt my heart beating fast, a mile a minute and I closed my eyes, falling into his kiss. His hands searched my body until they reached my thighs. Forcefully, he pulled me up and I wrapped my arms around his waist. Carrying me to his room, we continued to kiss as if our lives depended on it.
In his room, he sat me down. As my feet hit the floor, I felt us both reaching for one another’s clothing in the dark. We took breaths, only so that he could get my clothes off and so I could get his... off. I leaned back, and he looked at me, our eyes observing one another.
We were really doing this, weren’t we?
I saw the satisfaction evident on his face.
James leaned back in, slowly, sweeping me into a deep kiss and picking me back up. Slowly, he laid me down on the bed, our bodies so close to one another. He hovered over me, smiling briefly before he leaned back down and kissed me. My fingers ran through his soft hair as he placed himself between my legs.
As he pressed his chest to mine, I could feel his heart beating fast. He had been waiting for this. He leaned back, pulled the sheets around us and then leaned back down to kiss me.
He removed his lips from mine and fluttered kisses slowly from collarbone and down. I felt my body arch in pleasure. I felt him kissing against my neck, warm and wet. He leans up and I find his lips again with mine. His kisses melt in my mouth, leaving me hungry for more and more.
I wanted him.
I felt his hips lock in with mine and he slowly eased into me. My body matched his movement as he rocked slowly against me. I heard a silent moan escape his lips as well as mine as we moved together, tangled in the sheets.
We melted together in pure bliss.