A sinking feeling makes my stomach plummet. I want to blame alcohol, but we hadn’t had any to drink. I know this is about him. About Joey.
I’m laying in his bed. His covers are soft but heavy against my chest, and they remind me of my feelings for him. I can smell his cologne, so deep in his bedding that they would never smell of anything else. I like to tease him about how silly it is, but the truth is it fills me with euphoria.
I can hear the shower running on my left, the tiniest bit of light peeking through the underneath of the bathroom door. I remember the feeling of him sliding out of his olive-green covers, muttering something about the combination of his cologne and the sweat of last night, and I remember smiling with my eyes shut until I went back to sleep.
I can’t stop thinking of the events that had unfolded last night. There was a sober night of poker at Courtney and Jim and their daughter Logan’s; there was a baby on the way, and the couple hadn’t wanted their little girl to be around a bunch of drunken adults. There were too many people at the table to avoid touching knees with him. With Joey. I got so nervous, sitting so close to him, I wanted to puke. I went to the bathroom to do that, but I was just as nervous to puke as I was to sit so close to Joey, so I spend the whole time in the bathroom, with my head feeling like it was spinning around my shoulders. I remember Joey knocked and asked if I was okay. The door came open. I stared at him, probably looking like an idiot, a wrecked idiot, and when he pressed his warm hand to my back I froze.
When he drove me back home, we stayed in the driveway for what felt like hours. I used up the time to work up the courage to say something, anything.
“I don’t want to go inside,” I said.
Joey looked at me, leaned against the steering wheel, and said, “Is everything okay?”
I nodded, and then I shook my head, and then I slowly lowered it to the dashboard. I told myself over and over again to tell Joey to take me to his place, but nothing came out. I was like a clam, wanting to show my pearl but horrified to open my shell. When I felt his rough, warm hand on my back again, I shivered.
“Hey, stay the night at my place. We can drink until it comes out of our noses,” Joey said. I smiled, and I nodded, and Joey drove away with me in the passenger seat.
Sooner than I had expected, we pulled into Joey’s driveway and went up the stairs to his front door.
I walked inside first, and then Joey did. After he locked the door and turned to face me, our eyes met. I swallowed hard.
“I don’t want to drink.” The words forced themselves out of my mouth, and I had sounded way more pathetic than I had intended.
“Why’s that?” Joey asked. He sounded nervous, too, which sent flutters up and down my chest.
“Don’t you think if I drink, you won’t take anything I say that I feel seriously? Like it doesn’t mean anything?” I asked. I begged God to make Joey understand what I was talking about.
“What kinds of things would you say?” Joey asked. I felt one of his hands against my waist. There was no way I was going to move now.
I said nothing. Joey’s hot hands rose to hold my hot face. His eyes fluttered to be half-lidded, and somehow the hazel in them stood out even more.
And then I showed him the pearl. “God, I want to kiss you so bad,” I said. I slapped my mouth with my hand as if to shove the words back inside. Shock filtered over Joey’s face, his tan cheeks going a deep shade of pink.
He took me to his room after that, our hands loosely connected, as if by a thread; a very, very precious thread.
I had slept with men before, but this time was different. This time it meant something I wasn’t used to. Nobody had ever kissed me so much. Nobody had ever caressed me so much.
As the shower runs, I slide out of his bed and walk carefully toward the bathroom door. I place my forehead against it, staring at my boxers. I want to tell Joey I love him.
“Joey,” I say out loud, not thinking he will hear me. “There’s something I should say.”
To my surprise, he opens the door, dark hair dripping, no towel to be found around his waist. I stare at him, but not at his body. Instead, I watch his eyes and his lips, trying to read what he might be thinking.
A wave of confidence goes over me, so I step forward, and press my lips to his. They’re warm and soft, the only thing real enough to hold me down. I pull away, but only far enough to see his face.
“I love you, Joey,” I say. I wrap my arms around his neck, and kiss him again. He looks back at me, his lips parted and cheeks glowing. I want him to say something…
I start to fear he doesn't want me, that it was just a one time thing. I let go of him, and as I walk back, I slip up on some of the water that dripped from his hair. I almost fall and his the ground hard, but he catches me before that it’s too late.
“I love you too, Carter, so please don't break open your pretty little head.” He says it so quickly before kissing me that I can hardly process what he says.