“I’ve just been worried about this…about us being together ruining our friendship,” I explain, pressing my lips to the top of her head while she wraps her arms around my middle.
“Oh c’mon, really?” She makes a derisive sound in the back of her throat and looks up at me with her eyes narrowed and her soft, full lips drawn into a confused line. “We haven’t been friends for a long time; probably not since you went off to Shattucks. I don’t know what happened to you there, and,” she adds with just the hint of a smile as she reaches up to stop me from trying to explain, “I don’t know if I want to know but…whatever happened there, by the time you came back we were just…different.”
“You mean I thought you were still eleven and you were really thirteen?” I sigh, nodding as she tips her head to one side with that ‘you know I’m right’ look on her face. “I did notice…I mean…you know; kinda hard to miss?” I add, feeling heat rush up into my face as I glance down at the way her breasts tug at the bib of her overalls.
“Ah yes, the girls…suddenly I couldn’t quite get away with just being one of the boys anymore. Either you all were too busy noticing or too busy not noticing,” she smiles and then lets out an unhappy sounding sigh. “Besides, by then you were already ‘the Kid’,” she adds, letting go of me to make bunny ears with her fingers around that nickname that I hate but can’t seem to get rid of, “and you didn’t have time for that little girl next door that worshipped the ground you walked on.”
I want to apologize, or at least it seems like I should as I reach out to pull her back to me, to put my arms around her and hold her close while she goes quiet and still. I think about that little girl that used to follow us all around and about that girl that sat on her front steps and watched us play but didn’t even ask to play anymore and my chest gets tight.
“I’m sorry, I just…I didn’t know.” I don’t know what else to say and am relieved when she finally turns her eyes up and gives me a smile that tells me that she understands.
“Of course you didn’t. You had all your buddies and besides you had Taylor. It’s not your fault that you’ve always been my whole world.” It’s like taking a slap shot to the cup to hear her say that to me. Christ, it’s never occurred to me that, being an only child, the boy next door would be brother, best friend and very likely her only escape from her overbearing and controlling mother.
And then I abandoned her….
“Mel…I don’t know what to say. I…..” She lifts her hand to cover my mouth and then replaces her fingers with her soft mouth and, just for a minute, makes me feel a little less like a heel.
“I just said that it wasn’t your fault dummy,” she whispers softly against my lips. “I figured out a long time ago that women are far superior to men intellectually, so I don’t hold it against you.” I’d argue but the smile she gives me tells me she’s just playing…or at least partially and suddenly I feel like we’re back in those days when we used to walk to and from school together and it was just us and we could tell each other anything. “That’s better,” she whispers, her cool hands curling around my neck, bringing my lips down over hers’ again, her lips opening beneath mine, and our tongues twine in a dance that feels entirely unfamiliar and intoxicating. I feel like I could kiss her forever. I feel like we’ve wasted so much time not kissing.
She tastes sweet, and her body feels soft and warm in my arms. I’m tempted to march her backwards to the couch and press her down onto it just to feel her body beneath mine and as soon as I start to think of that I can feel my body reacting accordingly and so I withdraw instead, just enough to get a little air and a little space.
“So when did all this start?” I ask, peering at the work she has on her desk, afraid to touch anything but curious about this new Mel that I’m half afraid to stop holding onto.
“If you had cared to know, a long time ago,” she sighs, seemingly happy to stay in the circle of my arm, her cheek resting against my chest.
“I didn’t even know you could draw,” I say apologetically as I trace the outline of one of her designs, a sketchy silhouette of a figure in a full skirted wedding dress.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” she chuckles, lifting her lips to mine again and I’m only too happy to oblige her, covering her mouth with mine and easing into a long, soft leisurely kiss but as soon as that heat begins to build again, I break it off and clear my throat nervously.
“I thought you wanted to be a mechanic.” I keep thinking about her with grease up to her elbows and a wrench in her back pocket. This new, more feminine Melody is going to take some getting used to.
“Why do you boys always see things so black and white? Are you saying I can’t wear a dress and change a tire?” she asks, giving me a punch in the stomach, which reminds me that I had planned on eating dinner on the train.
“Put on a dress for me now?” I ask, releasing her hair from the confines of the elastic holding it back, and as I run my hands through it I can’t help but think of the way she looked when she came to the barbeque during the summer. “I’ll take you to the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan and show you exactly how much I think of you.”
“You don’t have to do that,” she grins, ducking her face away from my gaze. “You could take me to McDonalds and I don’t think I’d be less happy than I am now.”
“Are you happy?” I ask, lifting her chin in my hand and searching her gaze, wanting to know the truth and wanting to see if every shadow of hurt and disappointment has, at last, has been erased from her eyes.
“Are you?” she asks in return, raising her eyebrow inquisitively at me and giving me that smile that I knw all too well which has just as much of a ‘fuck you’ as it does an invitation to fight. I’ve seen it right before she beats my ass at Mario Kart or sends a fastball directly at my head.
“Are you always going to make me say it first?” I ask, shaking my head at her as her grin grows, showing her straight white teeth, and still it’s more menacing than a smile should be.
“Maybe not always,” she drawls, “but I think considering how long it seems for you to figure things out, I think that’s more than fair.”
“He slept on the couch?” Kennedy asks incredulously as she stares at the remnants of our first, very innocent, night together; the quilt from my bed now lying abandoned on the floor and the cushions still showing the indent of his body. I’m tempted to touch that indent, to see if it’s still warm, but I manage to control the temptation and turn instead to go back and refill my coffee cup.
“He took a cab to JFK early. He wanted to be on time for practice,” I explain, leaving out the part about the discussion we had about taking things slowly. Not that that had come as a huge surprise to me, considering, instead of a Lambo or a Ferrari, Sidney chose the safer, sturdier Land Rover for a vehicle.
“So you’ll be packing then? When do you go to the ‘Burgh?” she asks as she joins me in the kitchen, grabbing her own mug and pushing it suggestively in front of me. I fill her cup, smiling to myself as I think about our plans.
“I’m not going anywhere, for now.” I wonder too myself as I say it how much of that decision was really about my finishing the semester out as it was about Sidney trying to be a gentleman. I know it hadn’t been easy for me to send him to the couch and it had probably been far less easy for him. I don’t have proof that the shower he took before curling up on the couch had been a cold one, though I’d been sorely tempted to peek knowing he was naked in my apartment, but I hadn’t. I’d also been sorely tempted to release the tension in my own body but had been far too afraid of his hearing me should I momentarily lose control. The thought of his shocked face peering into my bedroom door catching me in the act makes me blush and Kensie just shakes her head.
“You’re really going to let him roam around the ‘Burgh without keeping an eye on him? I mean, now that you finally have what you want?” she asks and I know exactly what she means. It’s not like the thought hasn’t occurred to me; all of those girls offering themselves to him, partying with Max and the boys and a long list of puck bunnies.
“I have to trust him,” I sigh, leaning back against the counter, thinking of his gentle, soul searching gaze as we stood at the door in the early hours, knowing he was just as worried about leaving me behind as I was about letting him go. “Besides, if I did go…if we were together all the time right away…there’s always that chance that things would be great and then…fizzle out.”
“The burn brightly and hot and then poof thing,” Kensie nods sagely, like she’s been through it before and she probably has. I don’t know from experience but I’ve seen it happen and that isn’t what I want for us. “So,” she grins, giving me a punch in the arm, “when’s the wedding?”
“Oh fuck,” I laugh, squeezing my eyes shut and wrinkling my nose. “I don’t dare tell my mother. She’ll put a fucking announcement in the Truro Daily News.” I shudder at the thought, knowing full well that there is nothing on earth that would make my mother happier than to be the mother of the bride of the year. Not that isn’t something she’s been contemplating since I was old enough to crawl around after Sidney. Of course that’s always been part of the problem. How could I possibly want the same thing my mother wanted?
Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I don’t care about all the attention that he gets. In fact I’ve hated it and been jealous of it in turns since the television crews started showing up at his house and the local rink to see the ‘next one’. It never has been and never will be about any of that for me. It’s only about him and about his arms around me and how safe I felt last night.
Oh, and the way he kissed me when he left this morning, like he wanted me to remember it. Or maybe he just wanted me to have to have a cold shower.
“Fuck. Look at you. You’re really in love with the boy aren’t you?” she grins, looking me over like I’m some kind of odd specimen and that is pretty much how I feel. My skin is tingling, my lips feel bruised, and my pulse just feels…different. It’s like my blood has turned into thick, liquid honey and it’s having a hard time getting around my body.
“I’ve loved him for a long, long time Kens,” I sigh. “I didn’t know I could love him more but…,” I can’t even say it out loud. My heart suddenly feels too big for my chest and it doesn’t seem right to even be saying it out loud, or at least I don’t think I can say it without crying and laughing at the same time.
“Wow…okay, I think it’s a good thing you two get a little space if you’re going to get all fucking mushy like this,” she laughs, but pulls me into a long hug anyways.
I don’t think either of us really wanted the space but I can’t help thinking she’s right, no matter how hard it feels to be away from him right now.
“How long will you be gone?” Standing at the end of my driveway, watching his dad load his gear into the back of their station wagon it’s all I can do not to cry. But I won’t, not in front of him. I’m going to wait until their car goes down the block, so he won’t know.
“I’ll be back at Christmas. You won’t even know I’m gone,” he laughs, like it’s funny. Like it’s possible that I won’t feel like half of myself has disappeared. Like I won’t feel completely alone the minute he’s gone.
“Is it far?” I ask, hoping he’ll say no. Wondering if I can run away from home on my bike and live under his bed, where my mother can’t braid my hair and try and put me into stupid, frilly dresses when my Grandmother comes to visit.
“Yeah, Mel, it’s far. I don’t know…it’s in the States,” he says matter-of-factly, like I’m stupid for not knowing. Shattuck St Mary’s. It sounds French. It sounds like maybe it could be in New Brunswick where they speak that guttural French Scottish brogue and that’s not that far. Not really.
“Why can’t you stay?” I ask, or rather beg. I can hear it in my voice. I’m going to cry. I hate that he seems happy about this, excited. I mean, I understand why. I know what it’s been like. I’ve heard the comments the other parents make. I know some of the older boys have been really hurting him out on the ice. But he can’t leave me here. Not by myself.
“If anyone gives you any grief, you just tell them I’ll give them what for when I get back, okay?” he grins, that toothy grin of his, his eyes narrowing the way they do when he really smiles, when he’s happy. If I’m his friend I should happy for him but….
“I hope you hate it there. I hope everyone’s mean to you…you…you stupid jerk!” I curl my hand into a fist, just like he’s shown me to do, with my thumb on the outside and I hit him in the chest as hard as I can.
He looks at me, wide eyed, surprised and stricken and his mouth just sort of hangs open as I stand there, watching him clutch at his chest and all I can think is ‘good, I hope it hurts’. Maybe he’ll know how it feels to be stabbed in the heart.
I can feel the tears now so I turn and run back inside, slamming the door behind me and rush right past my dad, the man who says nothing and never helps with anything, and head straight into my room, grabbing my pillow and hiding my face in it so that no one will hear me cry.