“Why are there Pop-Tarts and an apple in your locker?” his friend Paul asked.
John shrugged. Good question. He certainly hadn’t left the stuff in there over the weekend. “Why not?”
He sighed a bit as he took the foil package from the top shelf in his locker. He hated when she did shit like this because he felt bad that he couldn’t do anything for her in return.
“I don’t know. I just don’t see you with Pop-Tarts very often. Certainly not apples.”
“You monitoring what I eat now or something?” he asked, glaring at his friend. She’d evidently paid closer attention to the shit he said yesterday than he realized when he told her his mom had forgotten to go grocery shopping over the weekend. No grocery shopping meant he had no food. “You have something against apples?”
“No, of course not,” Paul said.
John slapped the guy’s hand away when Paul reached for the apple. He didn’t really care if the guy took the apple, though John had to admit it looked pretty good right about now. There was a piece of paper under it, likely from her because he knew it wasn’t his paper.
“Hands off. What do you think this is? A help yourself to John’s shit buffet?”
“Hey, man, sorry,” Paul said.
“Yeah, yeah,” John said. “Don’t you have somewhere to be? Like class?” he asked, sliding the apple aside so he could grab the piece of paper. This wasn’t the first time he’d found a note in his locker from her, but it was the first time he’d found food in it from her.
He wanted to be mad, but he was admittedly too hungry for that. He’d eaten at her house before going home yesterday and he hadn’t had much to choose from this morning. Some would say that was his own fault, but he refused to buy food for his parents to eat when they couldn’t be bothered to buy food for him to eat in return.
He was surprised she remembered the combination to his locker. She hadn’t used it before now even though he’d given it to her a couple of months ago. One of the notes she’d written him ended up somewhere he didn’t find it until days later. She’d been pretty pissed off at him not knowing about its contents later that night when they were talking on the phone.
Paul wandered off, leaving John by himself. He unfolded the letter, looking around for a second before reading it.
Sometimes I’m not always sure if what you say is for real, but the idea of you not having something to eat in the morning really bothered me. Mom always says it’s the most important meal of the day. I’m not sure I believe her, but if she’s right. Well, you have to eat something. Please don’t be mad at me.
I had fun yesterday. I’m sorry if you get frustrated with me. I’ve just never done this before and I guess I worry that you’ll see me like every other girl you’ve been with before if things happen so soon. Maybe it doesn’t seem soon enough for you. I don’t know. I worry, I guess, that this is all happening so fast. Or that you’ll move and a month in realize you don’t like it there and move somewhere else. It’s not that I don’t think about it, but it’s all so new to me thinking about it let alone wanting to act on my thoughts.
Anyway, I had fun and I hope you did, too. Enough to come over again sometime? My parents don’t have to be gone for you to do that. I hope you know that. They won’t bite you, I promise.
I’ll talk to you later, I guess, unless you’re mad at me.
She never signed her notes with her name. He wasn’t sure why, if it was to prevent anyone from knowing who was writing him notes if one was found or just because she assumed (rightfully) he knew who they were from.
She never wrote long notes, sometimes over the weekend she did but never longer than a piece of notebook paper usually. Today’s was no different.
Was he? Maybe a little, but only because it was new for him, too. Surely she realized that. Maybe not. He wasn’t sure how to act. He wasn’t even sure how to treat someone like her. He knew the roses he’d given her at Valentine’s Day weren’t the only thing he should’ve given her by now. He just had no idea what the fuck to get someone like her. Anything he could afford, she probably already had ten of anyway, so he’d gone with getting her nothing. And now he had prom tickets and all the shit that went with it to worry about.
He was such an idiot.
Which was why he felt like shit about eating the stupid fucking Pop-Tarts she’d left for him. He may not have been a boyfriend before, but he knew it was him supposed to be doing shit for her instead of the other way around.
Not liking Florida? Possible. He didn’t see that happening if only because it was away from here and she was going to be nearby eventually. He couldn’t blame her for having doubts, though. Hell, he had doubts himself. He had no idea if he’d be able to find a job even down there. Hopefully three months was enough time to allow him to do that and find a place decent enough to live in. He just wasn’t used to a girl who wasn’t just playing at being hard-to-get. He’d encountered a few of those before. He’d never encountered someone who really meant it when she said they had to stop.
Claire reached for the folded paper at the bottom of her locker, letting out a breath she didn’t even realize she’d been holding all morning long. She wasn’t sure how he’d react to what she did. She couldn’t stand the thought that he wouldn’t eat, though. Not her problem maybe, but she thought it was. She was sure he was used to people overlooking it or not giving a shit, but she wasn’t like that.
Not mad. Thank you. See you by your car after school?
He’d mentioned going somewhere after school today so she guessed he still wanted to. That was good. At least she assumed it was.
God, he was confusing. A little exasperating, too. She knew he was hoping her parents being gone yesterday would mean she’d take him up to her room, but she wasn’t ready for that. Never mind her mom would know. How? Claire wasn’t sure exactly. She just would. He didn’t understand what her mom was like because his was pretty much not involved.
She spotted Joe coming toward her locker so folded the note up quickly and grabbed her books for her next class. God, she was going to have to tell him she wasn’t going with him. He was going to wonder why. She liked him as a friend well enough, but she absolutely hadn’t wanted to go to prom with him. Then she hadn’t really wanted to go with anyone but John when it got down to it. Who wanted to go to a formal with anyone but their boyfriend?
“Hey Claire,” Joe said.
“Hey,” she said, shutting her locker.
“How was your weekend?”
“It was good. You know, the usual,” she said.
“You didn’t show up at Stubby’s party Saturday night.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t make it. My parents were still kind of mad at me,” she shrugged. She didn’t add that she had gone to get something to eat with John instead.
“Ah,” he said. “That explains it. It was a good time.”
“Was it? I’m sorry I missed it then.”
She had no idea what to say to him. He was expecting her to answer him, with a yes obviously. She said she’d think about it, hoping he’d get the hint that her answer was no. Evidently not.
“Well, see you later.”
“Sure,” she said.
He was going to keep coming up and talking to her until she gave him an answer. She just wasn’t in the mood for answering his question of why she didn’t want to go with him right now. And, honestly, she wasn’t totally sure John really wanted to go so she wasn’t entirely ready to say no and then have no date.
He was near her car after school, smoking a cigarette. She had no idea what he had in mind for today. This would be the first time they’d done something together three days in a row.
“Hey,” he said once he got into her car.
“Hi,” she said.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said.
“Why is it okay for me to give you rides from school?”
“You think Vernon’s going to see you doing that and assume it’s because you’re my girlfriend? I doubt it.”
“What would he think?”
“I don’t know, but I doubt he’d think that. Driving me off school property is not holding my hand or kissing me in the halls.”
“You’d kiss me in the halls?”
“Isn’t that what you were asking me to do yesterday?”
“Well, not specifically, no,” she said.
He chuckled. “Rethinking that coming out thing now, huh?”
“No, I wouldn’t have a problem kissing you.”
“Huh,” he said, regarding her.
“Where are we going anyway?”
“My place,” he said.
“Oh,” she said.
“I figured I saw your record collection you could see mine.”
“I bet you don’t have any Huey Lewis.”
“I think you’d win that bet,” he said with a laugh.
“Is your mom going to go shopping after work today?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Do you need me to stop at Jewel…”
“No,” he said quickly.
“John,” she said.
“Babe, thank you for the Pop-Tarts, but I survived without them before today.”
“That doesn’t mean you should have to!”
“All right, fine,” she said.
“Thank you,” he said. “And thanks for the stuff, but you don’t need to do that.”
“I know I don’t need to.”
“Okay, well, just saying.”
“I hear you.”
“The maid had the past eighteen years off so excuse the mess,” he said when he let her pass through the front door in front of him.
It wasn’t as bad as she expected, honestly. The way he described his mom she had visions of dishes piled to the ceiling and stuff everywhere. Could it be neater? Sure, but she wasn’t here for that.
“Sure,” she said, watching as he walked to the kitchen to grab them each a pop.
“Come on,” he said, gesturing toward the hallway.
“So, is coming to look at your record collection how you get girls to go into your bedroom?” she asked.
“You caught me,” he said. “It was all a plan to get you into my bedroom. Not really. I just don’t hang out there, that’s all. Beds can be sat on, you know?”
“I know,” she said, taking a seat on his bed. His room was much neater than the rest of the house. She regarded the posters on the wall.
“You like The Runaways?” she asked.
“Not really,” he said.
“Why do you have a poster of them on your wall then?”
“Because Lita Ford is hotter than shit,” he said with a shrug, regarding the poster before taking a seat next to her.
She shook her head a little, but the answer wasn’t surprising.
“What? Sue me. It’s not like I’m going to ever meet her and have a shot or anything. You going to get mad I think a rock star is hot?”
“No, I didn’t say anything.”
“Yeah, I’m not sure you have to.”
“It’s fine! I was just surprised to see their poster on your wall.”
“They’re all right,” he said, offering her a cigarette. She waved it off. She didn’t smoke much he noticed, rarely. Once in a while she would take a drag off of his cigarette but very rarely did she take one for herself.
“So, this is your room.”
“Yup,” he said, shifting so his back was resting against the wall behind his bed. He slid his hand to her back. “Come here,” he said.
“John,” she whispered.
“Jesus. I just asked you to come here. You don’t even know what for!”
“I’m sorry,” she said, sliding so she was sitting next to him. God, why was being this close to him so nerve wrecking?
“The brown sugar and cinnamon ones are my favorite,” he said.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Huh. Mom always buys them for a day I don’t get to actually eat something before I go to school. I just grabbed a package, I’m glad I chose your favorite.”
He chuckled. “They’re Pop-Tarts.”
“Well, still,” she said.
“You’re fine, thanks.”
“You already said that.”
“I know. I’m not used to that. Someone doing things for me.”
“I know,” she said.
He set his ashtray aside and leaned toward her then, kissing her. She sighed softly as she parted her lips. He’d really liked when she did this the other day at school. She’d never been brave enough to do it before. Too chicken and too afraid he’d get the idea, think she was ready for more. She’d been curious but she’d been too scared and he hadn’t pushed her into anything more than she was willing to give him.
He broke the kiss and she gave a soft whimper of protest.
“Listen to you,” he said with a soft chuckle as he moved his mouth to her jaw after kissing her lower lip.
“Shut up,” she said with a soft sigh when he found her ear and the side of her neck.
“Gladly,” he murmured before nipping at her skin there causing her to whimper again. She brought her hand to his head as he moved lower along her neck, nudging her blouse’s collar aside a bit to kiss her shoulder. He stopped kissing for a second as if expecting her to tell him to stop, but she didn’t want him to stop. It felt too good for her to want him to.
“I’m surprised you let me do that,” he whispered a while later.
“Why?” she asked.
“I don’t know. It’s a hickey.”
“It’s not going to show,” she said.
“No,” he agreed, kissing the spot before moving his lips along her neck a bit. “One of these days I’m going to leave one that shows, though.”
He shrugged, kissing her collarbone and then her throat, sliding a fingertip along her skin there. She shifted her face a bit, lowering it so she could kiss his palm.
“I don’t know. It’s you. I’d find it amusing to hear what people said if you showed up with a hickey.”
“I’m going to tomorrow.”
“As you said, though, it won’t show.”
“I could wear something…”
“Hmm,” he said, running a fingertip over her lower lip which she kissed, too.
“You don’t want me to?”
“Wear something that will let it show?” He shrugged a bit. “You could, sure.”
“You wouldn’t mind?”
“Mind?” he asked, sounding confused.
“Well, they’re not going to guess it’s you giving me a hickey.”
“I’d know it’s me who gave it to you.”
“And that would be enough?”
“Sure. I think I might enjoy overhearing what Joe says about it.”
“Maybe he’ll finally stop hanging around me hoping I’ll say yes to prom.”
“You haven’t told him you’re not going with him yet?”
“John, I wanted to be sure you didn’t change your mind. Forty-eight hours ago you had no desire to go.”
“I still have no desire to go, but that’s what boyfriends do.”
“I know, but can you blame me for thinking you might change your mind?”
“I asked. I’m not changing my mind.”
“I’ll see what I have that won’t make my parents freak out.”
He chuckled softly at that, watching her as she kissed his fingertip. She knew he was watching because she was watching him. He seemed to like her doing this. His mouth found hers again, though. She was fine with that. She liked kissing him.
“Did you eat the apple?” she asked a while later.
“Worried about me not eating fruit?”
She shrugged. “I just wondered if you ate it is all.”
“I did. I was hungry.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Don’t apologize for something that’s not your fault.”
“I know, I just feel…”
“Don’t,” he said.
“I can’t help it.”
“I’m fine. Really. It’s not the first time…”
“You shouldn’t have to go to school hungry.”
“Well, you obviously know my combination.”
“I do,” she said, settling her head against his shoulder. He was holding her hand, which surprised her for some reason. He’d taken it, too, not the other way around with him holding it because she’d initiated the contact.
“I really don’t want you to leave me food, though. You know that, right? I like your notes.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve never gotten notes before.”
She scoffed. “Don’t lie to me.”
“Not the kind of notes you leave me I haven’t.”
“I don’t want to know what kind of notes you’ve gotten before me. Pornographic ones, I’m sure.”
“None I’ve saved.”
“You’ve saved mine?”
“Some of them. Not all of them, but the first couple and a few others.”
He shrugged. “I liked what they said?”
“I have some of yours, too.”
“I imagine we’ll have some more to add to our collections this summer.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Hey, I could stay here…”
“No, I want you to go. No, that’s not true. I hate that you’re going. You need to go, I understand that. I just, God, the idea of being away from you for months after seeing you every day for months.”
He leaned in and kissed her, drawing away almost immediately. Too soon for her liking. She really liked kissing him.
“I’m going to miss you, too, Princess.”
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com