“We should talk about it,” Elliot said quietly. He didn’t really have to explain what he meant.
He took my hand, leading me to the shade between our homes. There we sat, our backs to the side of the house and our hands interlocked, in a patch of grass beneath my dining room windows, out of view of anyone in either house.
“We fooled around,” he whispered. “And… we touch like… we’re more than friends.”
“We talk to each other and look at each other like we’re more than friends, too…” He trailed off and I looked up, catching the tenderness in his expression. “I don’t want you to go home and think I’m doing those things with anyone else.”
My mouth twisted, and I pulled up a long blade of grass. “I don’t want to think of you doing that with anyone else, either.”
“What are we going to do?”
I knew he was asking about more than just the obvious kissing-touching, boyfriend-girlfriend thing. He meant in a bigger sense, when our lives started existing more outside the closet or his roof, and when we had to satisfy ourselves with only one or two weekends a month together.
I traced the lines of the tendons on the back of his left hand. With his right, he ran a finger slowly up and down my leg, from my knee to the midpoint of my thigh.
“What’s your favorite word?” I asked without looking up.
“Ripe,” he answered, no hesitation, his voice low and hoarse.
My blush exploded across my skin, a scorching trail of red that I felt lingering on my cheeks long after he gave up trying to catch my eye.
I looked up at him, his hazel eyes wide and curious, something wilder barely contained in the dark ring of black around his irises. Beneath the surface, layered under the word Yours? there was something hungrier: teeth on skin, fingernails, the sound of him growling my name. Elliot was sexy. What boy our age used the word ripe?
There was no one else in the world like him.
“Epiphany,” I said quietly.
He licked his lips, smiled. The something beneath the surface grew darker, more insistent. “That’s a good one, too.”
I stared down at his hand, smoothing the back with my thumb, and said, “I think we should stop pretending we aren’t together.”
When I looked back up, his smile grew. “I agree.”
“I’m going to kiss you goodbye,” he said.
I tilted my face to him, saying, “Good,” again as I felt his breath on my mouth, his hand cupping my jaw. My lips parted against his, and like before it seemed natural to suck at his mouth, to let his tongue touch mine, to taste his sounds. His fingers slid into my hair, both hands now cupping my head, mouth urgent.
And why did we do this out here, where we couldn’t lie back and kiss until our mouths were numb and our bodies on fire? Even with this tiny touch, I ached. I wanted him over me again, wanted that last reminder of his weight and the hard presence of his need for me pressing between my legs.
I let out a small, tight gasp and he pulled back, eyes flickering back and forth between mine.
“We’ll take it slow,” he said.
“I don’t want to take it slow.”
“That’s the only way to make sure we do it right.”
I nodded in his cupped hands, and he kissed me one more time. “I’ll see you in two weeks.”
thursday, november 23
es emerges from the bathroom, wiping his hands on his jeans as if he went in there for the usual reasons, and not to hide from the battle of the exes in the living room. He looks up with a bright smile that slowly melts as he realizes that Rachel is no longer with us.
“Seriously?” he asks Elliot, who shrugs helplessly.
“I don’t know what to tell her,” Elliot says. “She said it would be fine. But clearly it wasn’t.”
Elliot turns and heads into the kitchen. I can tell that it bothers him that Rachel bolted, and I want to think that it’s because he’s a tenderhearted person, and not because he’s worried he messed something up with her long-term.
But, Jesus – who couldn’t have seen that coming a mile away?
He stands at the small range, bending to check on the turkey, and then leans with both hands on the sides of the stove, taking a few deep breaths.
I meet Des’s eyes, and he lifts his chin, telling me to go in there. “He’s terrible at this shit.”
Which throws me. I’m sure Des is absolutely right here, but it’s a rewiring I have to do to really believe it: between the two of us, Elliot was always better at managing complicated emotions.
Even though it’s bright, with a huge window at one end, the kitchen feels tiny. I slide my hands up Elliot’s back, feeling the muscles tense, and to his shoulders, kneading.
The touch is so intimate, I know I can’t lie to him much longer about Sean without looking like a game-playing tease. He looks over his shoulder at me, questioning.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I feel like maybe I shouldn’t have come.”
He turns to face me, leaning back against the stove. “I really want you here. That you were invited wasn’t up for debate. She had the choice whether to come or not.”
“I know, but you’ve been friends with her a long time.”
Turning to the side, he stares out the window, his jaw tense as he thinks. His profile is so… grown-up. My brain still has an overwhelming number of young Elliot images. Looking at him now is like looking through a telescope into the future. It’s so weird to be so close to him and imagine all the moments he’s had without me.
“We really do need to talk, at some point,” he whispers.
He scowls. “About all of it, Mace.”
I know I need to hear what he has to say – and God, I owe him my story, too – but today is definitely not the day for another woman to melt down in his apartment.
“So,” I say, just as quietly, mindful of Des in the next room, “let’s find some time. Maybe… after Andreas’s wedding?”
“What?” He turns back to me, brows low. “That’s a month away.”
“I think a month is good.” A shrill timer goes off on the counter, but we both ignore it.
Elliot shakes his head a little. “We’ve already had eleven years.”
“Timer,” Des calls from the living room.
“Since I have today off, I have to work on Christmas.” I look past him, at the fume hood above his stove. “I’m taking four days at New Year’s for the wedding, so I’m working almost every day between now and then, and I need…” I need time away from work to think how to unpack everything I have to tell him. About Sean, and the last night I saw Elliot eleven years ago, and everything that came after.
Des leans into the kitchen and yells at us before ducking out again: “Oi, something’s beeping!”
Elliot reaches over, roughly silencing the noise with a slap of his hand.
Returning to me, he ducks low, meeting my eyes, searching. “Macy, you know that I would make time any day for you. Any sliver of time I have is yours.”
This truth so easily given paralyzes my instincts to pace myself, to take a breather between the end of my engagement and diving right back into Elliot. My first admission slips out: “Sean and I broke up.”
I watch his pulse accelerate in his throat. “What?”
I’ve just dropped a bomb from a cloud. “It wasn’t – ever – what I really want —”
“You left Sean?”
I swallow down my urge to cry at the hope I see in his eyes. “I moved out, yeah.”
Elliot’s hand comes up to the front of my jeans, his index finger hooking just inside, sliding against my navel, and he uses the leverage to pull me closer. “Where?”
“I’m renting a room in the city.”
Blood rises to the surface of my skin, hungry for what I imagine is coming – his mouth lowering to mine, the overwhelming relief of it, the feel of his tongue sliding over my lip, the vibration of his sounds.