Until You

By: Penelope Douglas

I actually smiled with the thought, and my blood rushed hot like I’d just downed two dozen pixie sticks.

I closed my eyes reveling in that warm feeling I’d missed so much. The one that got my heart pumping and shouting “You’re still alive, asshole!”

James veered off into the kitchen, while I headed upstairs to Tate’s room, my legs shaking the closer I got.

The door was open. It was always open. Tate never had anything to hide like I did. Stepping inside with soft feet like I was an explorer on unstable ground, I made a circle of the room and took inventory of what had changed and what hadn’t.

One thing I always appreciated about this girl was her abhorrence for the color pink—unless it was paired with black. The walls were halved—the top was black and white pinstriped wallpaper and the bottom was painted red, a white wooden border separating the two parts. Her bedding was a deep gray with a black leaf pattern all over it, and the walls were sparsely covered with candle holders, pictures and posters.

Very uncluttered and very Tate.

I also noticed that there was nothing of me in here. No pictures or keepsakes from when we were friends. I knew why, but I didn’t know why it bugged me.

I dropped my bag and walked over to her CD player that she’d had since forever. She had an iPod dock, but the iPod was gone. Probably in France with her.

Some fucked up curiosity bit at my insides, so I started hitting switches to start the CD player. I knew she didn’t listen to the radio, because she thought that most music that got radio play sucked.

Silverhair’s Dearest Helpless popped on, and I couldn’t help the shake in my chest from the laugh I tried to hold back. Backing up to the bed, I laid down, letting the music hold me tight.

“I don’t understand how you can listen to this alternative crap, Tate.”

I sit on the bed scowling at her but still unable to control the smile that wants release. I give her a hard time, but I love nothing more than to see her happy.

And she’s so damn cute right now.

“It’s not crap!” she argues, widening her eyes at me. “It’s the only album I have where I can listen to every song with equal enjoyment.”

I lean back on my hands and sigh. “It’s whiny,” I point out, and she puckers up her lips while she plays air guitar.

Watching her—something I could do every minute of every day—I know I’m all bluster. I would sit through a million Silverchair concerts for her.

Things are changing between us. Or maybe just for me, I don’t know. I hope for her, too.

What felt friendly and easy before is different now. Every damn time I see her lately, all I want to do is grab her and kiss her. I feel like there is something wrong with me. My blood runs hot whenever she wears the short, little jean shorts like the ones she’s wearing right now. Even her baggy, black Nine Inch Nails T-shirt is turning me on.

Because it’s mine.

She borrowed it one day and never gave it back. Or I guess I told her she could just have it. One night when I noticed that she was sleeping in it, I didn’t want it back anymore. The idea of my shirt on her body while she sleeps makes me feel like she’s mine. I like that I’m close to her even when I’m not here.

“Oooh, I love this part!” she squeals as the chorus starts, and she rocks out harder on her invisible instrument.

Even a little sway of her hips or scrunching up her nose makes my pants tighter. What the hell? We’re only fourteen. I shouldn’t be having these ideas, but dammit, I can’t stop it.

I mean, shit, yesterday I couldn’t even watch her do her math homework, because the pensive expression on her face was so adorable that I had a strong urge to haul her into my lap. Not touching her downright sucks.

“Alright, I can’t take it,” I blurt out and get off the bed to turn off the music. Any distraction to kill the hard-on that’s growing in my pants.

“No!” she screams, but I can hear the laughter in her voice as she grasps at my arms.

I shoot out and lightly jab her under the arm, because I know how ticklish she is. She squirms, but now I’ve touched her, and I don’t want to stop. We nudge each other back and forth, each of us trying to get to the CD player.

“Alright, I’ll turn it off!” she yells through a fit of laughter as I move my fingers into her stomach. “Just stop!” she giggles, falling into me, and I close my eyes as my hands linger at her hips and my nose in her hair.

What I want from her scares me. And I’m afraid it would scare her, too. I know it will definitely scare her father.

But I’ll wait, because there is no other choice. For the rest of my life, I won’t want anyone else.

It’s time to man up and tell her.

“Let’s go to the pond tonight,” I say softer than I want. My voice cracks, and I’m not sure if I’m nervous or frightened. Probably both.

Our fish pond is where it needs to happen. It’s where I want to tell her that I love her. We go there a lot. Picnics or just for walks. It’s not unusual for us to sneak out and ride our bikes up there at night.

She leans back and looks at me with a casual smile. “I can’t. Not tonight.”

My shoulders slump a little, but I recover. “Why?”

She doesn’t look at me but pushes her hair behind her ears and walks to the bed to sit down.