Love and Other Words

Page 36

With one elbow propped by my head, he whispered a quiet “Sorry” and began to climb off me.

I trapped him with my leg around his thigh, and his eyes flew back to mine.

“Stay,” I whispered.

I think.

It might have been my subconscious saying it, because I really didn’t want him to get up. I was obsessed with what was under those buttons on his jeans, and more than that, I wanted to know if… well, I wanted to know what could happen.

He swallowed audibly. “Okay.”

I rolled my hips up, watching as his mouth fell open and his eyes fell closed.

Elliot shifted forward and back, pressing the solid length of himself against me, and did it again. And again. His breath was harder, puffing my hair off my neck, and then his hand gripped my leg and he held his breath and we started grinding in earnest… together. My body was all instinct, chasing something familiar, just in the distance.

Oh, my God, what were we doing?

I ran my hands down his back. If I overthought it, I would ruin it.

This was Elliot.

This was my Elliot.

I made fists around his T-shirt, thought about the weirdest things like how his weight felt over me, and that I wanted to kiss him but didn’t want to turn my attention away even a little from the feeling building inside me… and then I spun into a strange loop of wondering whether I was imagining this.

We were having sex with our clothes on.

He was so quiet, although I guess I was quiet, too, because I was listening so intently for any clue as to what he was thinking.

I needed more. I needed him. I’d never felt that sort of weighted heat before, not even when I was thinking about him by myself. It was a rush all over my skin and that heavy need low in my belly. The warmth of his mouth landing on my neck pulled a tiny, helpless sound from me. He wasn’t sucking or licking, just pressing his mouth there, putting his breath that much closer to my ear so I could hear his reaction in every sharp exhale.

He let out a low growling sound, and I pressed up into him, grinding, so close. I heard the sound I made – heard the tight plea for faster come tearing out of me.

With a strong grip, Elliot stopped me with a hand on my hip.

“Shit,” he said. “Wait. Shit.”

Suddenly he was pushing away, standing. I sat up, with fumbling words on my lips, but Elliot was already out the door.

What had just happened?

Did he…? Or did he just realize what I’d started and freaked out? In the end, did Elliot really want to be my boyfriend, or was he wrong about it all?

I careened headlong into panic.

This is how it starts. This is how the friendship goes from perfect and best friend ever to nothing but weird, dirty looks across the yard.

I sat in the closet alone for an hour, staring at the pages of whatever book I’d slid from the big bookcase and not reading a single word.

I would count to one thousand, and then I would go to his house and apologize.

One… two… three…

Twenty-eight… twenty-nine…

Two hundred thirteen…

“What are you reading?” His voice came from the doorway, but instead of walking in and flopping down next to me, he lingered there, leaning against the frame.

“Hi!” I said too brightly, eyes looking anywhere but at his. I noticed he had changed his clothes. My face flamed hot and I looked down, staring at the book in my hands. The letters of the title slowly swam into a single word and I pointed at it lamely. “Um, I started Ivanhoe. No d.”

When I looked up, confusion flickered across his face like a blink, and he stepped inside. “Really?”

“Yeah,” I said slowly, watching him stalk into the room. His lip turned up in a half-teasing smile. “Why do you say it like that? You’ve read this about fifty times.”

“It’s just that it looks like you’re already about halfway through it.” Scratching his temple, he added quietly, “That’s impressive.”

I blinked down to the page I’d randomly opened. “Oh.”

It was tense and thick between us and it made my chest hurt. I wanted to ask him if I embarrassed him or… crap. Did I hurt him?

“Macy…” he started, and I knew that voice. That voice was a let-me-down-easy voice.

I tried to laugh but it came out as a gasp, going for casual but missing by about a mile. “I am so mortified, Elliot, seriously. I’m so sorry. Let’s not talk about it.”

Elliot nodded, his eyes on the floor. “Sure.”

“I’m sorry I did that, okay?” I whispered to my lap.

“What? Macy, no —”

“It will never happen again, I swear. I was just playing around. I know I’ve been all ‘let’s not be together because that could ruin things’ and then I went and did that. I’m so sorry.”

He pulled a book off the shelf and I returned to Ivanhoe – starting from the beginning now – and read for two hours, but hardly understood a word. I blamed it on my state of mind. The idea that I might have hurt him, or embarrassed him, or made him angry ate at me like a drop of acid in my gut. It grew and gnawed at me and eventually had me so twisted inside that I felt like I might be sick.


He looked up, eyes softening immediately. “Yeah?”

“Did I hurt you?”

A corner of his lip pulled up in a smile as he fought a laugh. “No.”

I exhaled for what felt like the first time in a few hours. “Okay, good.” I opened my mouth and closed it again, not sure what else to say.

He put his book down and moved closer. “You didn’t hurt me.” He searched my eyes, waiting. “Do you get what I’m telling you?”

I watched as his eyebrows slowly lifted, and then he smiled that sneaky, sexy smile…

“You mean you…” I made a circular motion with my hand, and he laughed.

“Yeah. I…” He mimicked the motion, eyes teasing.

My heart became a victorious monster in my chest, thrashing to climb out.

I had made him come.

“I was trying to make sure you went first,” he admitted in a low voice, “but the sound you made… when you asked me to move faster…” He swallowed, lifting a shoulder in a silent Oh well.

“Oh.” I stared up at him, watching him fight the heated blush. “I’m sorry.”

“Macy, don’t be sorry. I’m telling you it was sexy.” He looked at my lips, and his expression grew serious again. “It’s hard for me sometimes that we aren’t together. I never know where the lines are. I want to cross them all the time. We’ve kissed and touched, but then we’ll go back to being just friends and it’s confusing. What we did today? It didn’t even feel like enough for me.” He held his hands up, eyes wide. “I don’t mean you should do more. Just that I want it all with you. I think about it all the time.”

I thought about how much I wanted that, too. And how, earlier, I wanted so much more than his body over mine, our clothes between us. I would have given him everything today. And still, the words that came out were “But I would die without your friendship.”

He smiled and leaned over to kiss my cheek. “I would, too.”


thursday, november 23


lliot’s building is narrow, a faded turquoise stucco, and must have once been a beautiful Victorian before it was sloppily chopped up into four cramped apartments.

The front door opens to a narrow hall on the right and a steep flight of steps leading to the upstairs apartments. Elliot lives in number four. Upstairs and to the right, he said. Each stair squeaks beneath my boots.

His front door is flat brown, and before it is a thin doormat with the Dickinson quote The soul should always stand ajar.

I lift my fist and knock.

Is it possible I recognize the weight of his footsteps and the rhythm of his walk? Or is it that I know he’s the only one inside – because I’m early? Either way, my pulse accelerates so that by the time he turns the knob and swings the door open, I feel light-headed.

Sometime in the past decade, Elliot figured out how to manage his hair and dress himself. He wears black jeans and a well-loved – either honestly or artificially – dark denim shirt rolled to his elbows. His feet are bare.

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