Word Count: 2,679
"Hi," Claire said to the group by Adam on the bleachers after the game. She wasn't sure how or why Lyle and his friends decided to sit with Adam, but there they all were. Adam didn't look like he was having a terrible time, so her brother and his friends must have been behaving. Or at least not acting like immature idiots.
"I saw that screw-up by the way," Lyle said.
"Thanks a lot, Lyle."
"You're welcome a lot."
"Isn't it about curfew time for all of you?"
"Yeah, yeah. We're going." Lyle said, turning to wave at Adam.
"Obviously, you got to sit with my brother and his friends. I'm sorry. They can be annoying."
"He kind of sat with me. He's not so bad." He stood then, joining her on the floor. "Contrary to what he said, I did not notice you screw up."
"Thanks. Lyle's seen me practice the routines a million times, though."
"He's a lucky boy."
"He'd probably say different, because I make him watch me."
"Are you ready for pizza then?"
"Yes! Let me go change."
"You mean I don't get the pleasure of your company in that?"
"I suppose if you really want me to, but I brought nice clothes."
"You normally look nice."
"Thanks, but, you know, something that doesn't make me look like I'm in high school and way younger than you."
"Thank you," she said, relieved. She was glad he'd come since she'd asked, but she didn't want to be out in public with him looking like a kid.
She stopped and turned back to face him, a thought occurring to her. He arched a brow at her as she came back and stood close to him.
"When did you stop getting older?" she whispered.
"I don’t know I really didn't pay attention. There weren't mirrors available at every turn and I had other things on my mind at the time. Why do you ask?"
"Am I going to get to where I look older than you?"
He chuckled. "I do not know. I suppose it's possible, but doubtful. You've come into your abilities younger than I was, so I would imagine it will happen gradually but soon stop. I don't think I look much older than the day it first happened."
"So, I might look like this forever?"
"You could. Does that bother you?"
"Well, I don't like the idea of getting carded for the rest of my life. Or looking like I might be your sister or something."
"I don't look that much older than you."
"No, you don't. Just curious. I've never had anyone to ask these questions to before."
"I wish I could provide you with more concrete answers."
"Just knowing there are some answers is better than where I was a month ago."
"I'm glad I can provide something you need."
"I'll be right back."
"I eagerly await your return."
"Yeah right, but I'll pretend you really meant that while I'm gone."
He slid an arm around her waist, drawing her to him when they saw West in the restaurant. She didn't even know he really had any friends. One was a girl sitting next to him. Had he moved on already? Found someone else? She couldn't deny that bothered her.
"Would you rather we leave," he said softly.
"No, I'm not going to leave. You said you haven't had pizza in thirty years."
"It can wait until another time."
"I'm fine, Adam, really."
"Are you sure?"
"Because I have another idea."
"We can order the pizza and take it to go."
"I don't want to go home. Lyle will be there and his friends probably will be, too, and they'll want some. Or just be annoying."
He slid his hand along her jaw before letting it rest at her chin. "There is an alternative to your house."
He looked at her as if he couldn't believe she'd really asked that.
"Oh," she mouthed.
"Ah, she figured it out on her own."
"But we'd still be leaving."
"He'll never know we weren't planning to leave anyway after ordering the pizza."
She tugged on her lower lip. "I am curious about where you live. And what it looks like."
"Well, there you go."
"Do you have artifacts, paintings, and all sorts of really cool stuff?"
"No," he said with a soft laugh. "It's quite modern and rather basic to be honest. Decorating is not exactly my forte. I do have some things, however, you might enjoy but they are not in California."
"I could help you."
"At the time I came by it, I wasn't sure you were going to be talking to me let alone setting foot in my home."
"I suppose not."
"So, you want to do that then?"
"I can't avoid him for the rest of high school."
"No, but you can for tonight when we're out for the first time without a library book to be seen."
"Oh, I'm sure someone here has one."
"Cute, but that is not what I meant and you know it."
"If going back to my place bothers you we don't have to. I realize that it's not what you had in mind for tonight. And you have other friends here I assume," he said with a glance at the table of cheerleaders who were waving Claire over.
"No, it's fine. I guess we can sit with them while we wait for the pizza."
"Sounds splendid," he said. He didn't sound as though the idea was that splendid at all.
"Listen… This is who I am. I'm a cheerleader and I'm seventeen. I hang out with girls who are also cheerleaders and you might think are a little flighty. If you can't handle that, then maybe you should just leave and come back when you think I'm grown up enough."
"Claire, I'm sorry, it's just difficult to imagine being around so many of them all at once."
"Them. I AM one of them!"
"I know, but you are special where they are not."
"And if I wasn't special?"
"Would you have looked twice at me if I was just a blonde at the movie theatre that night?"
"Would I have looked twice? Of course, I would have to be blind not to appreciate your good looks and shapeliness. Would I be standing here with you now? Doubtful, but Claire, keep in mind I get frustrated with most anyone. The age doesn't matter."
"Oh," she said softly.
He lifted a hand to her face and grazed her lower lip with his thumb. "You do not frustrate me as much as others because I realize I've put a lot of pressure on you."
"Then order the pizza so we can converge with your friends while we wait."
"All right," she said, trying to ignore the relief she felt at the fact he wasn't going to walk away. "You're going to love this pizza. I promise it'll be worth sitting with my friends."
She reached up then and kissed him. It was brief. She hardly gave him time to process what she'd done, let alone respond, before she drew away.
"Was that for his benefit?"
She smiled, hoping the look in her eyes matched. "I'd forgotten he was even here." She hadn't really, but she hadn't kissed him for West's benefit. She didn't want to hurt him anymore than she already had. "Was I too forward?"
"I think I can forgive the forwardness."
"Why thank you I feel so privileged," she said before walking up to the counter to place the order.
"You were right. That was very good."
"I told you," she said. "And I have to admit, eating it here was better."
"Because my friends were flirting with you!"
"I didn't notice."
"Maybe you didn't, and if you didn't I really appreciate that, but I did."
He smirked, taking the plates into the kitchen. "And that's a problem?" he asked.
"Well, you were with me," she said, following him into the kitchen and leaning against the counter after she'd set their glasses on it. "Obviously a date. Or at least a date-like thing since you were at the game first. That's just rude."
"But it's acceptable for me to have to sit and watch your friend stare holes through me? And see your face visibly fall when you saw a girl was seated next to him."
"That's so different!"
"Yes, it is."
"You're agreeing with me?"
She found that hard to believe because he really didn't care for West at all, and had even gone so far as to suggest he wasn't trustworthy. He knew her secret so she was kind of stuck having to believe he was remotely trustworthy.
"Not in the way you might think. I realize we've just met and I rather blundered things initially. But I still have to watch you look at him, knowing you were fond of him." He moved in front of her, hands on the countertop on either side of her.
"Well, he was my boyfriend, but only for a little while. It's not like I was planning a wedding or anything."
"Well, that is good to know," he said softly. His eyes got that look again, fire and heat. It was such a contrast to what one would think they'd reveal. "And I've had to know that you did those things with him I said I wouldn't push you about."
"And then you go and kiss me…"
"Was that bad?"
"That depends, Claire."
"You opened the gate, are you ready for what's going to come charging out?"
She knew he was going to kiss her. A part of her screamed to push him away. She knew he'd step back. Another part yelled at that other part to keep quiet. And then she didn't have time to think of much of anything because it was too late. He was there, mouth on hers and she knew instantly the difference between someone like West and Adam. He wasn't shy or reserved, didn't hesitate in the least. She never felt as if the control had slipped from her hands, though.
Gradually, she slid her arms around his neck and he groaned softly, slipping his arms around her waist. He tugged her closer against him and she went, parting her lips with a soft sigh. He took advantage of her slip, grazed his tongue along her lips.
Her heart was beating erratically, too fast. It was making it difficult for her to breathe, so she had to break the kiss. It was an attempt to catch her breath and settle her body down. He wasn't stopping, though. His mouth found her jaw, neck, and ear.
"Adam," she whispered. This was exceeding her experience.
"Yes?" he murmured against her ear. It made it difficult for her to think when he did that. Perhaps that was the point?
"Have I gone too far?"
"No, I just," she took a deep breath, trying to clear her head.
He drew away then and if it was possible for his eyes to betray his emotions any more than they were a few minutes ago they were.
"I have done many things I am not proud of. One of them is the way I approached you. It has admittedly been quite some time since I've experienced the warmth of a woman. I, however, will not force you."
"I know that."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I do." She frowned. "I thought you weren't going to kiss me."
"I said when you weren't expecting it or right after discussing it. I didn't want you questioning my sincerity or whether I kissed you merely because you brought it up."
"And besides, you kissed me first. I'm following your lead."
"So if I…"
"Don't even say it," he said with a soft laugh. "My imagination is already quite active I don't need you helping it along."
She put her hand at his chest and met his gaze. "And if I told you I wasn't ready for all of it, all of it?"
"I will not force you. I don’t know how many different ways I can possibly say it."
"No, I mean. Say I'm the type that believes in, you know, marriage or whatever."
"Then I would abide by your wishes on the subject."
"And since it's been quite some time, you'd wait for me?"
"Are you asking me if I'm going to go out and make love with other women?"
"Yeah, I guess I am."
"Are you going to make love with other men?"
"No! But you said you've been somewhere for thirty years."
"Well, it hasn't been quite that long…"
"I don't want to know," she said with a light laugh. "I really don't."
"If I did I would undo all of the steps forward we've taken. I realize you've not come to grips with all that I've divulged, what you - we - are, but I feel we've made progress. Especially when you kiss me as you just did."
"You kissed me!"
"Ah, my dear, only because you kissed me. And if that's your idea of not kissing me back then I cannot wait to experience you reciprocating."
"You kiss nice," she said, realizing that was beyond an understatement.
"The answer to your question is no."
"Like I'd know anyway."
She slid her arms around his neck again and smiled, drawing him toward her. "Kiss me again?" She apparently didn't have to ask twice.
They stayed like that for a while. It was late, real late when he pointed the time out to her.
"I should get you home."
"I don’t want to go."
"Please don't say that to me, Claire, or I will arrange for your wish to come true. I would have no qualms about taking you with me and going somewhere else."
"There are schools all over the world."
"I'm not ready for that."
"I know, but you need to understand I may one day take you literally."
"I will keep that in mind."
"Let's get you home then."
He didn't live too far. She wasn't sure where exactly he lived in relation to her house since they'd gone to his house from the pizza place. And she was still getting adjusted to her now town. His house was a little nicer, though. Too big for just him she'd thought and said so. He'd said years of living in a single room had made him crave the ability to choose from different rooms. It made sense in an odd way.
It was far too late for West to be out, but she caught a glimpse of him as Adam pulled his car in front of her house. She sighed a little, not sure what she was supposed to do. Was he expecting her to beg him to take her back or something? She wasn't like that. She wouldn't do that for any guy.
She wasn't surprised when Adam walked her to her door and gave her a kiss good night.
"I was thinking you could come inside for a while."
"It's still late."
"But I'm home now, and my mom won't be awake until Mr. Muggles needs to go out. And that's hours yet."
"What did you have in mind?"
"Some snuggling on the couch. Your kitchen is nice and all, but I think it might be kind of fun to kiss you somewhere more comfortable."
He winced and she could tell he'd apparently thought on that, too. But suggesting they move might have ruined the moment.
"Well, then, I guess I should come in."
She turned the TV on, found a decent movie on HBO. She'd seen it a few times, but Adam hadn't so they watched it. Well, they sort of watched it anyway, the intent was there even if Adam wouldn't be able to tell anyone what the movie was about the next day.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com