He felt her watching him. He was still getting used to that. Being watched out of interest. Sure he had girls interested in him, but none like her before. He was trying to act like being invited into her home was no big deal, but he knew it was a huge deal. For her. Likely she knew it was for him, too.
Three months ago he'd never imagined being here today. He'd assumed she'd figure out who he was and that would be the end of it. He knew who she was. There was no one who went to Shermer High who didn't know her. He hadn't been surprised she didn't know him, though. What reason would she have had to know of him?
"So what do we do tomorrow?" Claire asked.
John shrugged as he flipped through her record collection. She didn't like silence much he was learning. He wasn't a huge talker, contrary to the first few phone conversations they had during Christmas break. He hadn't been able to shut up during those calls for some reason. Hours he'd talked to her, telling her shit he hadn't told anyone else. She'd listened, taken him seriously, and hadn't treated him like a thug who wouldn't amount to anything.
"Are all these yours?" he asked.
"As opposed to whose?"
"I don't know," he said. "You've got stuff in here I wasn't expecting you to have."
"You like The Doors? Hendrix? Cream?" He pulled her copy of The Wall from its spot. "I'm surprised your parents let you have this in your possession."
"My mother freaked out when she found out my brother bought that for me. I wanted it so bad, though."
He chuckled softly, opening the jacket to peer at the artwork included in there. Some of it was not exactly obscene but he could see where her parents might freak out about it. His didn't give a shit as long as it didn't get him in trouble.
"And yes, I like those bands. I like a little bit of everything."
"Why are all your records down here?" he asked, regarding her a bit. His records were carefully, safely kept in his bedroom where his parents couldn't do anything to them.
"This is where I listen to the stereo? I'm the only one who spends time down here anymore. I used to have them in my room when my brother was still living at home. We had some down here together, that we both liked."
He nodded. Valid explanation. He supposed her parents didn't have much reason to spend time in the basement.
"See," he said, pulling out a copy of Huey Lewis & the News' Sports album. "This is what I pictured for you."
She huffed, clearly not pleased with his commentary on her record collection. A lot could be told about someone and the music they listened to, at least John believed that to be the case.
"You know, my parents aren't going to be gone forever."
"I'm here, aren't I?" he said.
"And why are you avoiding answering my question?"
"What question is that, Babe?"
"What do we do tomorrow?"
"You know, school. Brian, Andy, and Allison. They know."
"They know you came to see me. They don't know that we're dating."
"I don't want them thinking I went there to have sex with you."
"We wouldn't want that," he said with a slight scowl as he slid the Huey Lewis album back into its place. "All nice and alphabetized. I'm impressed."
"Shut up," she said.
"What is it you want me to say? Are you asking me if we should come out?"
"Well, it seems sort of silly to keep hiding if some people know, doesn't it?"
"They don't know anything. They don't even know you found me."
"I was gone for a while, I'm sure they know."
"Maybe you got lost," he said with a shrug.
"So, you don't want to come out?"
"I didn't say that, but you sure seemed as if it was important to you and your crown that your dating status be kept under wraps."
"Well, if you'd come with me."
"Not a chance in hell I'm going there," he said, shaking his head when he spotted her copy of Thriller. He wasn't surprised she had a copy. There were two copies. What did she need two copies of the same album for?
"Just what I want to do, spend an obscene amount of money to spend time with people I can't stand any other day of the week."
"You can stand me."
"Yeah, if it was just you and me I'd pay the money."
"Really?" she asked, sounding surprised.
He shrugged. "I guess. I don't know. I just don't do school functions."
"I've noticed," she said.
"So, you're done hiding? Is that what you're trying to tell me?"
"I haven't been hiding. It's not like we never go anywhere in public or anything."
He had to admit she'd been more willing to do things than he'd given her credit for once she found out who he was. He'd assumed dating at all would be out of the question. They'd gone to movies more than a few times now. Valentine's Day he was going to take her out for dinner at a nice restaurant other couples from their school likely would have been. That had been a disaster, but he'd planned to. He thought for sure she was never going to speak to him again. She'd hung up on him and a piece of him cried out from a pain he didn't quite understand. He almost hadn't called her back, certain he'd just get the sound of her slamming the phone down a second time. He wouldn't have blamed her. Until that night he hadn't told her … everything about his home life. She'd known it wasn't good.
So, she clearly wasn't against being seen with him in public totally. They'd just been somewhat cautious until now and hadn't acknowledged one another at school. He had to admit it was kind of fun, watching her and other people watching her. He wasn't the only one not in her crowd who watched either.
She'd been the focus of quite a bit of gossip on Valentine's Day. He'd listened with interest to the stories swirling around Shermer High's student body about her secret admirer. None had come close to guessing correctly. It was the only time in his life he'd given a girl any sort of gift.
He stepped away from the shelves then, sliding his arms around her. She tilted her head a bit to look at him. Her looks always floored him. He'd never had a girl look at him the way she did. He was still wrapping his mind around what the look meant.
She liked him.
She didn't like the drugs he could get her or anything else. Just him.
"Where are your parents anyway?"
"I don't know. Out."
"You don't know?"
"No. They went out. I didn't ask questions."
"Huh," he said, bringing a hand up to touch her neck and ear. Even home on a Sunday with no plans she had makeup on and her hair done. Maybe that was because he was coming over. He wasn't sure.
"Where are your parents?"
"At a bar somewhere," he said, glancing at the clock behind her. "They won't be home until around eight o'clock. It's Sunday so Dad will get home early to sleep his weekend indulgences off."
"And your mom?"
"About the same."
He cut her off from asking any more questions by kissing her. He didn't want to talk about his parents right now. He groaned softly as her lips parted, inviting him in. He took her up on the offer, darting his tongue between her lips to find hers. She'd never let him do this until yesterday. He'd been shocked as hell (and incredibly turned on) when she'd let him.
He knew his old man would warn him away from his plan to move his ass halfway across the country for a girl he'd barely even kissed. He'd probably agree with his old man's advice if she was the sole reason he was moving. He needed to get out of here. She'd just planted the seed, giving him an idea of a place to go. Her being there, too, was just an added bonus.
"Princess," he whispered.
"God, I hate when you call me that."
He chuckled softly. "I know," he whispered, kissing her ear.
He slid a hand lower along her back, cupping her ass and drawing her to him. Too much probably but he couldn't resist. She pulled away as he expected her to, but not completely to where he had to stop touching her. He'd tried yesterday to get them at least a little past just kissing, but she had incredible will power.
A closet at school may not exactly have been the best place to make such a move, but she'd come to him! That had really shocked him, her risking getting in trouble for him. Worse than trouble really because if Vernon had caught her with him the last couple months of her senior year would be a living hell. Vernon would ride her just as he rode John, probably harder actually.
"I don't want to," he whispered.
"Tell anyone," he said.
"Why not?" she asked, pulling away completely now.
"Why do we need to tell anyone? Who cares? I mean, are your friends going to suddenly become friends with me because I'm your boyfriend? No. Am I suddenly going to be a candidate for your king? No. So, what's the point?"
"John," she said.
"Claire," he said.
"You're my boyfriend!"
"Yeah, so. Why is this bothering you all of a sudden? Come on, Andy, Brian, and Allison aren't going to say anything to anyone."
"Are you ashamed of me?" she asked.
"What?" he asked. That had to be the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard in his life.
"You heard me. Are you ashamed?"
"You ashamed to be dating a girl more than a week you haven't fucked yet?"
"Wow. Where'd that come from?"
"You've had sex!"
"Not with me. You can't tell me your friends wouldn't wonder what you're doing with someone who won't put out."
"I'd tell them it was none of their business. It's not. Believe it or not I don't tell my friends who I do and don't have sex with."
"Right," she said.
"Now you question whether I can keep my mouth shut?" He frowned, thinking that one over. "So, you want to come out, but you think I'm going to tell people what we do together. Why would you want to do that?"
"I don't know!"
"You know Patty Ernst?"
"You know I do."
"There was a party I was at a week before the one where we met."
"You did not have sex with her! She's my friend! Oh my God, I can't believe…" he placed a finger over her mouth.
"I didn't say that. Let me finish. She offered me some very creative things in exchange for product. You don't hear me walking around telling people she's a slut willing to trade sexual favors for some dope."
"She did that?"
"Now you can't go around telling anyone that either. I'm telling you as proof that I can, and do, keep my mouth shut. You think she'd still be one of your court members or whatever the fuck they're called if that got out?"
"No," Claire admitted.
"So, you don't really want to come out. Do you?"
"I just think it's stupid to hide. I mean, we're moving to Florida together."
"Well, not quite together…"
"I know, I have to live in a dorm my freshman year, but you're still moving where I'm going to school."
"I'm not ashamed."
"I didn't think you were. I really don't. My plan is to drop off the face of the planet to everyone concerned at Shermer High besides you. So, not telling people was no hardship to me."
"But, Andy and Allison are going to…"
He nodded a little. So, she wanted that. To be seen holding someone's hand around school. Huh. He never would have had her pegged as the type. He knew she wasn't ashamed exactly, but he had to believe there was some doubt as to how her friends would react to seeing them together behind her hesitation to come out as his girlfriend before now.
"If Allison gets knocked up are you going to want to do that, too?"
"What? What kind of a question is that?"
"I don't know. Just wondering what Andy and Allison have to do with us and our relationship."
"They don't," she shrugged.
He sighed softly, trying to take her hand but she drew hers away before he could fully get hers in his. So this was more than just a casual thing to her. She was really thinking about going public as his girlfriend.
"I don't want Vernon to find out," he said finally.
"Why not? What's he going to do? Give you another detention for dating me? Eight Saturdays about brings us to graduation anyway. He can't give you more."
"No, but he can make your last few months hellish. He can ride you. He can rig the vote so you don't get your crown. He could do a lot of things if he felt like it. He doesn't like me if you didn't notice that."
"I did," she said.
"I don't want you to get fallback because of my fuckups."
"Oh," she said.
"Before yesterday I probably wouldn't have cared, but you're on his radar now. He knows you."
"Well, of course he knows me."
He scoffed. "Get over yourself. You think he cares who the prom queen is from year to year? He doesn't give a shit about anything but collecting his paycheck. You'll leave and next year someone new will be on that stage and he won't know the difference."
"I suppose," she said, seeming to mull that over.
He sighed, moving to touch her again. She let him this time so she must realize his reasoning was sound.
"Come on, it's kind of fun, don't you think?" he asked.
"I just. God, I have a boyfriend! I shouldn't have to hide that from everyone. It's ridiculous I have to go to prom with someone who isn't my boyfriend and promise you ten minutes somehow or somewhere. It's like we're doing something wrong and have to hide or something. How stupid is that? I mean, we're talking of living together in a year. Joe Anderson thinks I like him because I said maybe to him. God, I wouldn't date him for a million dollars, but he's the only one who's asked me I at least get along with."
He hadn't realized who had asked her. John really didn't want to know the name. It was bad enough thinking of her getting all dressed up for someone else. Now he had a potential face to go with it.
"Why do you have to go with someone else?"
"Why can't you go by yourself?"
"Because that'd be stupid. I can't go to prom by myself, John."
"What if I managed to show up?"
"You just said you don't do school activities…"
"I guess I didn't realize it was that big of a deal to you not to have a date."
"What? Why wouldn't you? I mean why would you want me to go with someone else?"
"I don't know. I've never done this before."
"Are you asking me to prom?"
He sighed. "Is Vernon going to be there?"
"It's the weekend before graduation, John. What can he do at that point?"
She had a point.
Fuck. Was he really about to do this?
"Then, yeah, I guess I'm asking you to prom. Joe Anderson can find someone else's girlfriend to take to prom."
"I should say no."
"What? Why? You just got done…"
"For making me think you don't want to go!"
"I don't, but I guess you have a point, it's the weekend before graduation there's not a whole lot to lose by that point." He leaned in and kissed her then, glad she kissed him back. He wasn't sure for a while there if he'd fucked things up or not. "You can go that long without telling anyone?"
"Yes," she said, but she didn't sound happy about it.
"Vernon dies or something we can tell whoever you want."
"God, if that happens I'd feel…"
"I wouldn't. The guy's a prick. I'd maybe feel bad for his family, maybe."
"I know," she said, sliding her hand into his and leading him to a couch.
"You're going to have to tell me what I need to do, you know. Tickets and whatever. I've never been to a dance in my life."
"I have no problem with that," she said.
"I'll bet you don't," he quipped. "That's like you in your element, isn't it? Having a date you can push around into doing whatever you want him to do?"
"Well, I'm not going to push you into doing anything you don't want to do."
He scoffed. "You already have me asking you to prom."
"I didn't ask you to do that. That's all you, John."
No, it was all her, but he wasn't going to tell her that.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com