“Are you sure we’re allowed to be here?” My eyes are darting back and forth in the dark, a useless but unavoidable reaction to being in the middle of nowhere at 2 a.m. My hands are shaking from the cold and I am so frightened that I hold your arm for support. Your deep, hearty chuckle makes me feel a little better, but also a little worse.
“I promise you Kate, it’s fine. No one is out here this time of night, including the cops, and it’s public property. Now c’mon, let’s get into the car so you can warm up, you look like you’re freezing.” I watch as you open the door for me, still keeping our arms locked, and grab my cup. Upon placing it in the holder along with yours, you turn back to me, placing both your hands on my arms. It seems as though you’re going to say something at first, but the words get caught in your throat as you stare into my eyes and your mouth forms a tight line. I know what could happen if I let this go on, and the thought alone is enough to make me want to move closer and end this wonderfully uncomfortable situation, but I know better.
“Umm, Mike? I think the froyo is gonna melt if we just stand out here,” I sputter, rocking back and forth on my heels, “do you want to sit in the front or back?” I turn and make a move toward the car when I feel you grab my arm to pull me back.
“Wait, here. I wanted to give you this,” removing your jacket, I can see you try to hide the pinkness in your cheeks and the sheepish look on your face, “you need this more than I do, I’m not that cold.” I smile and adjust the coat on my body, and in what I can only assume is an attempt to touch me again, you pull my hair out of the jacket for me, grazing my cheek. As you continue to fix it, I realize coming out may have been a bad idea. I have a tendency to read into things, but it feels like this situation is more romantic that I would like. It was fine when I just thought you were cute, and it was okay that when we’d talk and make jokes at work, I’d occasionally feel the skip of a heartbeat. I was even mildly delighted when you’d wink at me from across the room, because none of it seemed to matter. Just harmless flirting. But right now, in this moment, I can hardly catch my breath and your name is on the tip of my tongue, threatening to slip out in a husk of air that would let you know that all I wanted you to do was help me take the jacket off again.
“Thanks!” I chirp, forcing myself back into that happy, sickeningly sweet place where I try to pretend nothing is going on. Since you didn’t answer, I open the doors to the backseat, for no other reason than to have space for my legs. For no other reason than to have space for my legs. For no other reason…I think. You think I can’t see you, but you’re all I’ve been able to focus on since the doorway. Taking a deep breath, you run one hand through your dark brown hair, turning on the heat and leaning over to get our cups. You shake your head while looking down at the ground, and pause for a moment after closing the door.
“I’ll let it run for a bit, until you warm up.” After closing the door behind you and handing me my cup, you sit close to the door and start eating. Not once do you look over at me, and I begin to feel as though I’ve done something wrong.
“So, how’d you even find this place? I didn’t even know this town had back roads.” I turn my entire body towards you, moving a little closer in the process.
“Oh, uh, my dad used to bring me and my bothers here when we were kids,” I nod, making the typical aww noises, “yeah, whenever we’d start driving my mom too crazy he’d take us here to give her a break.” We both laugh at that and in typical Katie fashion, I immediately picture you driving down here with me and the kids on Saturday mornings. I miss you so much that I just couldn’t stay home.
“That’s so sweet, I didn’t know you had any siblings,” I say with a curious tone. I begin to realize how strange it is that I’m sitting in a car at 2 a.m., with a guy I met a few months ago at work, that I now live with. With me being new to town and him needing a roommate, I guess the last bit isn’t too odd, but something still makes me feel a little uneasy. The fact that watching your face when you talk about how many siblings you have, what your parents’ names are, and the schools you went to makes me feel content, is unnerving.
The night continues as expected. A lot of questions from me, a lot of laughs from you, and most of all, a lot of looking down at the floor or at the backs of seats with words stuck in our throats, and actions stuck in our heads. When I try to hold back my fifth yawn, you put your hand on my knee and squeeze.
“Ok, let’s get you home. You’re gonna go straight to bed when we get in, and you will finish that essay tomorrow. You got it young lady?” Watching you stand there with that fraudulent stern look on your face and finger pointed my way, combined with my stress levels and lack of sleep, make me laugh so hard that I spit out a little froyo. Every time you say you mean it or try to hold back your own laughter I just begin a new fit.
“I’m older than you, and I could kill you with my pinky.” Getting out of the car, I take your froyo cup and stack it with my own. Licking some of your mint chocolate chip off my thumb, I can’t fight the smile tugging at my lips. It’s been a long night, at the end of a long week, and being here has made it all seem like a distant nightmare, put on hold every time you come close.
“Two years Kate, just by two years.” With a chuckle and the opening of my car door, my uneasiness only grew.