Love and Other Words

Page 47

“Ell —”

“I do,” he said in a breathless rush. “All the time I do, Macy.”

I almost couldn’t speak, my pulse was firing so heavily. “You know I do, too.”

“Come to me tonight, please, Macy, please.”

Noisemakers started blowing and confetti fell from invisible containers somewhere high above my head, but all I heard was the crackle of the line.

“I’ll come next weekend, okay?”

He sighed: a universe of weight buried in the sound. “Do you promise?”

“Of course I promise.” I looked across the room and saw Dad walking toward me, a rare wide smile lighting up his face. Noise filled the other end of the phone and I could hardly hear Elliot anymore.

“Macy? I can’t hear you! It’s super loud here.”

“Ell, go have fun, but be careful, okay? You can give me my New Year’s kiss next Saturday.”

“’Kay.” He paused and I knew what he was waiting for me to say, but I wasn’t going to say it on the phone. Especially not when I would have to yell it and I wasn’t even sure if he would remember it.

“Good night,” I said. He went quiet, and I looked at the phone briefly before bringing it back to my ear. “Ell?”

“Night, Mace.”

The line clicked dead.

I don’t think I could have described a single thing about the party after that phone call. After a hug and a dance with my dad, I paced around the hall outside the event room for about a half hour.

I hated not being with Elliot for that conversation.

I hated that we’d crossed this enormous line, that we’d acknowledged a future for us – outside the closet, in the real world, with a real relationship – and he’d been miles and miles away from me, and drunk.

I hated how he’d sounded when he said good night.

“Macy, why are you out here?” Dad asked. His shoes clicked on the marble as he made his way to me, and the roar of the party felt like cold water spilling across my skin. “You want to leave?”

I looked up at him, nodded, and burst into tears.

“I don’t understand the problem,” Dad said, maneuvering into a sharp turn. I eyed him to make sure he was really sober. I hadn’t seen him drinking, but he seemed about as mentally collected as I felt. “You had a good conversation with Elliot, and you’re upset about it?”

“I just don’t like how the call ended,” I admitted. “I felt like he really wanted me there.”

“I realize you’re home more than you’re up there, but that’s how you two have always done it. What’s the stress?” Dad asked, always logical. To be fair, he didn’t have all the details. I didn’t tell him that Elliot said he loved me. I certainly didn’t tell him that Elliot had proposed.

“It just felt… weird.”

Unlike Elliot, my Dad rarely pressed.

After twenty minutes of silence, Dad pulled into our driveway and slowly shut off the car. Turning to me, he said quietly, “Help me understand.”

“He’s my best friend,” I began, feeling the tightening of tears in my throat. “I think we’re both nervous about what happens when we figure out what we’re doing for college, and what we do after this – after our lives aren’t just punctuated by weekend trips. It felt bad tonight, the way the call ended, and I don’t know what I’d do if something bad happened between us.” I sat, staring at the dashboard in the quietly ticking car. “Sometimes I wonder if we should just be friends, so that I don’t have to worry about ever losing him.”

Dad pursed his lips, thinking. “So he’s your Laís.”

My eyes filled with tears again at the sound of my mother’s name. I hadn’t heard him say it in years.

“You’re both young, but… if he is that person for you,” Dad continued, “you won’t be able to just be friends. You’ll want to give him everything, to show him every way you love him.”

Tears spilled, running down my cheeks.

“I’d take any amount of time with her,” he whispered, turning to look at me. “I would have taken anything I could get. I don’t regret one moment of loving her, even though it still hurts that she’s gone.”

I nodded, throat tight. “I already feel like I’m wasting so much time away from him.”

“It won’t always be that way.”

“Can I drive up tonight?” I asked him.

He stared at me for a long, quiet beat. “You’re serious?”


Closing his eyes, he took a few deep breaths. “You’ll be careful?”

Relief flooded my limbs. “I promise.”

Dad looked forward, out the windshield at our driveway, to his old car parked just beside this new one. “I filled up the Volvo this morning. You can take it.”

I leaned over the console, wrapping my arms around him.

“You’ll call me as soon as you get there?”

Nodding into his neck, I promised.


sunday, december 31


lliot comes to a stop in a tight thicket of olive trees, turning to stare at me. This far out the sound of crickets is deafening; the wedding party is a distant buzz. I imagine we walked half a mile away, down a wide path that went from manicured, to dusty, to farmland.

Jesus Christ, where do we start?

I want to start with touching.

He might want to start with words, and explanations, and apologies – mine and his. There’s still so much I need to tell him.

His chest rises and falls with the force of his breath, and my own lungs seem to be flapping around inside me, struggling to pull in air.

I expect him to say something, but instead he just falls to his knees in front of me, wrapping his arms around my hips and pressing his face to my stomach. Frozen for a moment, I stare down at the top of his head, trying to translate the shaking of his shoulders.

He’s crying.

“No, no,” I whisper. My hands go into his hair, tilting his face to me, and I lower myself, push him back against a tree, crawl down to him, over him until his face is right up against mine, so close he’s blurry. So close he’s the only thing I can see. I slide his glasses up over his forehead and off his face, placing them carefully in the grass nearby.

“What are we doing?” he whispers.

“I missed you.” I bend, kissing his neck, his jaw.

He pulls me back by my shoulders, and I watch two heavy tears roll over his cheekbone. “I thought I would never touch you again.”

“I thought that, too.”

He bites his lower lip, eyes wide. “I’ll take anything you give me. Is that pathetic?”

I lean in, lips touching his, inhaling the clean smell of his aftershave, the sharp scent of grass, needing oxygen to stay conscious for all of this.

His mouth opens against mine, and he sits up with a sharp inhale, hands cupping my jaw again. Urgently, he comes back for more, tilting his head, biting and sucking, and I need deeper, more. I need all of him. His moans are muted by my lips and teeth and breath. His hands come up beneath my dress, pushing it to my waist while I tug his bow tie loose, unbuttoning his shirt.

Cold fingers slide up the inside of my thigh. His chest is so warm under my hands, though, and I dig in, sliding my palms over his collarbone and down to his stomach, wanting to feel every inch.

He grunts out some unintelligible words when he feels me through my underwear. And then his fingers slide up my navel, carefully digging down inside the lace, and I push up to my knees above him, helping give him access to the place I need his touch more than I need anything else in the galaxy.

“Are you wet like this for me?” he asks, pulling back to look up at my face. His fingers push into me, thumb stroking. “This is me?”

I nod and his disbelief is contagious; it’s what makes every touch feel amplified, makes me move with him, biting him while he touches me. It’s what sends my body up a tight spiral staircase, one destination, just there, just two strokes higher. Two more.



“I’m going to come.”

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