***Part Four***
Word Count: 6,067

April 1984

"No, absolutely fucking not."

"It'll look really nice."

"Great. Some other guy can look really nice."

"Why not?"

"I'm not wearing that. It's as simple as that."

"John," she said, sounding more than a little annoyed. He was sure she was, but nowhere near as annoyed as he was currently. Never mind he was standing here getting fitted for a tuxedo that he was spending a crazy amount of money on to wear for only a few hours. She wanted him to look idiotic on top of it. He had limits.

"It's pink."

"It's not pink!"

"Babe, it's pink."

"It matches my dress almost perfectly."

"I don't care! It's still pink."

"It is not! It's salmon."

"It's pink. Anyone seeing me wear that will think I'm wearing pink. I'm not doing it!"


"Claire. Can't I just wear a black tie? Or a white one? Even grey? Come on, this is me we're talking about."

She sighed. "Fine," she said. "But it's not pink."

"It is close enough!"

The guy helping them looked more than a little amused. John couldn't help but think this probably wasn't the first time the guy had heard this type of conversation between prom dates.

"You look nice," she said once she'd quit harping on the tie color and looked at him.

"Yeah?" he asked.

"Yes," she said.

He regarded himself in the mirror. He supposed he cleaned up pretty well. He'd never worn a suit before in his life. He supposed there was something poetic about his first one being a tuxedo to prom with the girl who was going to be queen.

She hadn't wasted any time ensuring he was stuck taking her to prom either. She'd gone shopping with her mom for a dress last week and now here they were tonight, picking out his tux. Not that spending an entire evening with her was a hardship, but fuck if he still wasn't having doubts about this tuxedo thing. And being seen with her in front of the whole fucking student body. Well, the juniors and seniors anyway.

"Good enough to kiss me while I'm wearing it?"

"Yes," she said, leaning in and doing just that. It wasn't as good of a one as he might have liked, but they were at the mall not at one of their houses, her car, or the movie theater. He'd take it.

John forked over the money to cover the deposit for the tuxedo once he'd changed back into his normal clothes. God, he couldn't believe he was actually doing this. Until tonight, coming here to try the tuxedo on he'd hoped she'd let him off the hook. No such luck. Of course she wouldn't and he couldn't blame her he supposed. He absolutely didn't want her going with anyone else so that left him going because she wasn't going to wake up in the next couple of weeks and decide not to go.

"You'd better not call them and change the color of my tie. I swear to God, Claire, it's bad enough…"

"I won't," she said. "I promise! I just thought it'd look nice if we matched."

"Yeah, well then maybe you should've chosen a dress that wasn't pink."

She took his hand when they left the store.

"Is this an off shopping night or something?" he asked.

"What?" she asked, clearly not understanding his question.

"You're holding my hand."

"Yeah," she said cautiously. Evidently she didn't get it.

"At the mall…"

"Sorry," she said, letting go of his hand.

"I didn't say you had to let go."

"Well, you must not want me to. You said something. Are you worried Mr. Vernon's going to see us here, too?"

He sighed softly. That wasn't what he was getting at at all. He didn't care if Vernon saw them when it got down to it. He only cared because she'd care if Vernon did something to screw up the last month or so of school for her. Denying her the crown she'd probably woken up thirteen years ago before starting kindergarten assuming she'd get without competition or contest would be screwed up.

"That's not what I meant!"

"What did you mean then?"

"You've never done that where people could openly see us."

"I have too!"

"Where? Besides a movie? And who's going to pay attention there?" Certainly they wouldn't have gotten attention on them when people did other things at a movie that probably didn't even occur to Claire. She was clearly thinking that over, too.

"See. You haven't. That's why I mentioned it."

"I wanted to."

"Well, you can all you want. I was just making sure you realized what you were doing."

"I realize what I'm doing."

"Thank you by the way," he said as she took his hand again.

It took her a minute or two to do it, so he wasn't sure if she was mad at him or not. He really didn't care who saw them, but he couldn't help but think deep down in his gut she would care if people started seeing her with him. Saying she didn't care wasn't the same as people suddenly thinking she was acting incredibly out of character by going out with him.

"For what?" she asked.

"Coming along to pick out the tux," he said.


"What?" he asked.

"How hard was that for you to say?"

"Pretty hard," he said with a shrug. "I can admit I had no idea what you'd want me to show up wearing."

"It was fun."

"It would have been more fun if I could've seen you find your dress."


He shook his head with a slight laugh. "Never mind, Babe."

"No, why?"

"Because you would've been out of the dresses in between trying them on."

"Why do you think I tried more than one on?"

"That's the part of that you're choosing to comment on, huh? So you'd let me see you out of them?"

"No! I mean," she sighed. "My mother was along."

"And I know you tried more than one on. You probably kept the sales woman very busy."

"I did," she said.

"Busier than you thought you would before you had a boyfriend to take you?"


"Good," he said.


He shrugged. "Sue me. I like that you picked out exactly what you wanted knowing you had wearing it with me along in mind."

"It's still not pink."

"It's pink!"

She sighed softly.

"So, now what? The punishment is over. I behaved myself. Do I get paroled early or what?"


"Yeah. Do we get to go somewhere for the rest of the night?"

"We can, sure."


"What did you have in mind?"

"Are your parent's home?"

"Yes," she said.

"Oh," he said.

His were, too, which meant he couldn't suggest they go back there.

"We can still go there. I told you it's fine if you come over when they're there."

"Yeah, but won't they care you have to leave again to bring me home?"

"If it was one in the morning, sure."

"Fine," he said. He hated the idea. He really did. He and parents of his friends. He went out of his way to avoid them usually. Of course he didn't really have any real friends.

"Hi Dad," Claire said when they got there and went inside.

"Hi. How was your day?"

"It was good. How was yours?"

"Fine. Busy. The usual."

"Good. You remember John?" she said.

"I do. How are you, John?"

"I'm good, Mr. Standish. Thanks," he said.

"We're going to go downstairs and watch some TV and maybe play some pool."

"Okay. Not too late you have school in the morning."

"I know. I won't."

"Did you eat dinner?"

"Uh, yeah, we did at the mall."

"Okay. I'm sure your mother will ask."

"You can assure her I'm not starving."

"I will. Again, not too late."

"I know," she said, leading John to the hallway and the door that he knew led to her basement. John found her dad's calm attitude toward him a little odd. Her parents knew they were going to prom, he was pretty sure they knew she was going with him tonight to pick out his tuxedo. If he had a teenaged daughter he wasn't sure he'd be at all calm or polite to the guy taking his daughter to prom. Then, he doubted he'd have someone like Claire. Her getting detention was the worst thing she'd done. Well, that she'd been caught for. She drank and smoked up once in a while just like anyone else their age did.

"Come here," he said, taking her into his arms almost as soon as they got down the stairs.

"I'm right here," she said.

"I know. It's not good enough," he said, sliding his arms around her and drawing her to him for a kiss. He groaned softly when she parted her lips almost immediately. God, he loved when she did that because he took it to mean there was something about him she liked enough to kiss him this way. Her arms slid up around his neck as she pressed against him.

She stopped kissing him and he was going to ask her what was wrong but then she started kissing his jaw. He wasn't going to object to that especially as she worked her way to his ear. He murmured something about it feeling good as she kissed his ear and lower to his neck.

"I'm glad," she whispered before nipping at his skin there.

"Me, too," he said softly and she giggled at that.

She stopped kissing him then, resting her head against his chest. He slid a hand up to touch her hair. His other hand worked its way lower along her back. He cupped her ass, drawing her against him.

"John," she whispered. He felt her start to pull away.

"Christ, I'm not even doing anything!" He'd touched her this way before, too, even. Maybe it was different now, today. Maybe because her dad was right upstairs. How the fuck should he know what the rules were?

"I'm just not…"

"Again, I'm not doing anything! You were the one kissing my ear and my neck. You thought I'd just stand here and do nothing?"

"I don't know," she said.

He sighed, sliding his hand away from her ass and to her hip.

"It's natural, you know. You do things to me I want to return the favor."

"I wasn't touching you!"

He supposed she wasn't. He sighed softly. He had no idea some days why he even put himself through this. He certainly didn't have to. He wouldn't be paying for a tuxedo rental if he had it in his head to walk away and not see this through, though.

His dad would tell him he shouldn't bother trying to see it through because it wasn't going to work out. He'd insist John was going to fuck this up just as he had everything else decent in his life.

"Claire. You do things to me. They make me feel good. I want to do the same to you."

"I'm scared!"

He sighed. He knew that. He knew she was scared of a few things. More than just them doing things. She was scared it was the only reason he liked her. He thought they'd gotten past that, but somewhere in her mind there was still the thought that he was only out to get her out of her panties. It was the main reason the night of their detention he'd turned her down. If they had sex then she'd wonder if he was staying with her out of obligation or something. He supposed he couldn't win.

"Why is it okay for you to kiss me like that but I can't do anything besides just regularly kiss you?"

"I don't know!"

He slid his hand higher over her hip and waist. Higher along her side so the pad of his thumb grazed along the side of one of her breasts.

"Shh," he whispered, leaning down to kiss her again. She didn't kiss him back right away, but once she realized (apparently) that he could touch her like this without full-out accosting her she did. It was tempting, crazily so, to see just how far she'd let him go when it was clear the kiss wasn't going to end after a minute or two.

"Your heart is beating fast," she whispered against his ear when they stopped kissing to breathe for a couple of seconds.

"Uh huh," he said. He was sure it was.

"Because of kissing me?"

He chuckled softly.

"I'd like to say that's the reason."

"It's not?"

"Kissing you doesn't make my heart beat faster, Claire."

"Huh?" she asked, sounding confused.

"Being close to you does. Fuck, seeing you in a hall at school does."


"Really," he said, feeling like the biggest sap in the world for admitting that to her. He could admit it to himself, but his dad would tell him he was an idiot for letting her know how far gone he already was about her.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"For what exactly?" he asked.

She was apologizing for exciting him? She didn't want to excite him? He sure hoped she did because if she didn't they were on completely and totally different books not just chapters. He very much wanted to excite her and be excited by her. Would he go home from here and take a very cold shower? Yes, but for the first time in his life he thought someone was worth that.

"That I can't…"

He captured her mouth with his again, stopping her from saying what he knew was going to come out then. Fuck, any other girl he'd care immensely that he had to work this hard for a freaking kiss. Her breath hitched a bit as he slid his hand up a bit further so his thumb was barely an inch away from touching a nipple. He didn't go out of his way to try to touch her that way, though.

She would absolutely never know the crazy amount of restraint he was showing just now. He wanted so badly to see what she'd let him do since she was letting him do this much. He didn't push, though. Part of it was that she didn't completely trust him. He knew he had to earn that trust and a good way to earn it was not to push for much more than she gave him. She had to expect him to push a little, but he knew letting him touch her like this was a huge step for her.

"John," she whispered.

"Uh huh?"

"We should…"

"Be doing just this," he said.

"My mother…"

"We'll hear the door open," he whispered.

"I suppose," she murmured as he brushed a kiss over her cheek before finding her ear.

"Unless you want to go back to my place and my room…"

"No," she said after a couple of minutes. A couple of minutes longer than he thought it'd take to get an answer out of her. He hadn't really been serious because he knew she wouldn't agree to go with him. Was her hesitation temptation?

"You thought about it?"

"Uh huh," she whispered.

"Really?" He was completely kidding when he asked the question. "What made you say no?"

"I don't ever want to meet your father," she said.

"I understand that feeling more than you know."

"I don't, John! I mean it!"

"I know, Babe, I know. You won't ever have to."

"Speaking of fathers," she whispered.


"Mine's going to know we're not playing pool by now."

He chuckled softly against her ear. "You did say watching TV was a possibility."

"I suppose."

"We could move to the pool table and keep doing this over there if it'd make you feel better that at least we made an effort to try to play pool."

"Ha ha," she said softly. He'd actually kind of love to get her sitting on the edge of the pool table, but that was a thought for another time. Much, much farther into the future he imagined.

"We could leave, find somewhere to go…"

"No, this is fine," she said.

"Fine, huh?"


"Why don't your parents come down here when I'm here?"

She shrugged. "Because they trust me?"

"I guess they must."

"See? Sometimes it pays to be the good girl."

He chuckled. "Says the girl letting me practically feel her…"

"John," she said.

"Up. I was going to say up."

"Uh huh," she said softly with a light laugh, kissing his jaw.

"You're remarkably calm about that actually…"

"You're not inside my head at all."

"Not so calm?"

"No," she said. That had to be hard for her to admit.

"Can I try to make you even less calm?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know? That's better than a no."

"I don't like it!"

"Uh, Princess," he said cautiously.

He even stopped touching her with his thumb. If she didn't like it that was going to cast an entirely different light on things. Waiting he could handle, knowing eventually they'd get there. If she didn't like even this much that didn't bode well for ever getting there. He didn't get it, but he knew some people just didn't. He, on the other hand, loved feeling good whatever way he could get that feeling.

"Not that," she whispered.

"Oh," he said, very relieved just then.

"You have no idea how tempting it is for me to let you feel me…"

"I'm fine," he said with a soft chuckle that she couldn't finish the sentence. He'd waited, too, to see if she would.

"You say that."

"Claire, relax, what don't you like though?"

"Not feeling calm."

"Oh," he said with a soft sigh.

"You do that to me all of the time!"

So she did have an idea how she made him feel. He was glad to hear that. He was beginning to wonder if anything got under her skin.

"That's good, Babe. Honest. I've never felt like that either before."

"You like it?"

"Oh, I admit some days, especially in the beginning there when I knew full well who you were I wondered what kind of idiot I was. I didn't know the extent of your, uh, inexperience, but I knew you didn't go to parties and hook up with random football players. And I'd never heard anyone talk about having sex with you, so I knew what I was getting into talking to you."

He had, too. That first phone call. Fuck, to this day he couldn't say why he'd called her. He'd never had anyone just sit and talk to him as she had, though. She hadn't wanted his pot, his dick, or anything else. She'd just wanted … Him. It was very new and very heady. He'd called the next day, he supposed, to see if it was a fluke, a game, or a joke at his expense. He could think of no other reason why someone from her crowd would have sat there talking to him for as long as she had that first night at the party. He assumed they'd hang up that morning and that would be that. He hadn't counted on really liking her or the fact that she hadn't been drunk or stoned the night before so had legitimately liked him back.

It was the first time he'd ever called a girl with no preconceived notions in his mind about what was going to happen between them or what he was going to get out of her by calling. So if he wanted to turn the blame onto anyone for any frustrations he'd experienced the past few months it was his own fault. He didn't have to call her. He could've left that party and never seen or talked to her again. Of course he would've missed out on the best thing to ever come into his life, he knew that then, too.

"And now?"

"I can admit I like it," he whispered before kissing her again.

"Even the fact you've talked more the past few months than you have in a while?"

"A while? Try ever in my life! Yes, though, even that."

"You can do that again if you want."

He frowned. "Do what again?"

"With your thumb. What you were doing before you thought I was telling you I didn't like it."

"I was a little worried for a second there."

She laughed softly. "I bet you were."

"So, if my parents were gone…"

"I probably wouldn't have said no to going to your house."


"Well, I have to drive you home anyway."

He sighed. That wasn't the answer he wanted.

"I'm kidding, John. Yes, I would have. I just really don't want to meet them."

"Usually it's the guy's thing to say that."

"I know!"

"Two more months, Princess."

He had a little more money saved then he'd told her about. The tux put a bit of a dent in that savings, but ultimately he knew it would be worth it. If only he could talk her into living with him then she could come down to Florida whenever she wanted instead of around a dorm schedule. He knew that wouldn't fly, though, so while they'd talked about it in theory he hadn't pressed the issue. A year from now, though, he'd press the issue.

He had a lead on a job. He hadn't told her that because if it didn't pan out he didn't want anyone but him to be disappointed. He'd called a couple of weeks ago and had a local paper mailed to him at one of his friend's houses. There was no way his parents wouldn't get something like a Sunday paper from Tallahassee in the mail and not wonder what it was. He'd scoured the want ads from that paper and made some calls when he could. The calls had netted him a few possibilities, two stood out. One was a landscaping job and the other was a roofing job.

Good thing about being his dad's son, he supposed, he could do either of those things. Both companies had told him to get in touch with them once he was down there. The landscaping place had seemed a little more excited to hear from him than the roofer. He supposed though there were lots of people who called saying they were moving this place or that and never did it.

Both would be long fucking hours, which might result in him not seeing her too much during the week. Either would be year-round down there. If he could luck into something like that enough to at least get an apartment and move onto a better job once he was settled he'd be all right with that. He had a place to stay, too. A place that rented by the month. He figured he could stay there for the summer and once she was down there and settled he could look for a place with her help. The motel was probably beyond seedy, but he didn't care.

He'd asked the landscaper for some recommendations for cheap, temporary housing until he got a few paychecks in his pocket he'd given him a few names of places. He'd told John none were good places. John had asked because the guy had seemed legitimately interested in John getting down there. He hoped so at any rate. As long as the place had a bed and a shower he didn't really care, but the guy had said the one John was thinking about even had phones in the room. Outgoing calls would probably cost an arm and a leg, but Claire would be able to call him. That'd be something.

"I know," she whispered.

He didn't want to talk about it or think about it anymore tonight. Not really. Something told him it was going to be harder for him to leave come June 10 than he thought it was going to be. She probably didn't realize it but he was getting real used to seeing and talking to her every day.

He kissed her, touching her again like she seemed to want him to do. He was very glad she liked it, hopefully that meant she'd like it when he actually got to the point of really touching her the way he sure wanted to.

"Do I get to keep my Runaways poster?" he asked a while later as she was getting ready to take him home.

"What?" she asked.

He shrugged. "I have a whole bunch of posters and pictures on the walls in my room that was the only one you commented on."

"None of the others surprised me."

He supposed not.

"I don't care what you have in your room, John. It's a poster. Now, if I found Lita Ford in your living room…"

"I'll be sure she's gone before you get there then."

"Very funny."

"I know!"

"I didn't think you were bringing anything like that with you."

"I'm not going to, not much anyway. Some. I mean, some things I have I actually like, but no I plan on leaving with as little as possible so the 'rents don't know I'm not coming back until I'm long gone."

"Do you think they'll do anything?"

"What could they do? I'm eighteen, Babe."

"I wish you could go to school, too."

"Next year. I promise I'll look into it for next year. I'd be a year behind you, but it's not an option for this year. I'd be in debt up to my eyeballs when I graduated if I went where you're going. I was thinking there's got to be a school like Harper or something down there."

"Oh, yeah. Okay."

"Don't worry, Princess. I'll see what's there. The job and a place to live is top priority, but I have other things in mind for when I get down there. I won't make it so you're stuck with a blue collar guy for the rest of your life."

"You think that's what bothers me about you not going to college?"

"It's part of it."

"No! It's not! I mean, you're smart, John. I know you don't like people to see that, but I learned that while we were on Christmas break and talked so much. You have everyone else fooled, including Vernon, but you can't fool me on that. I think sometimes you wish we hadn't had those conversations, but I'm so glad we did."

"I am, too, actually."

"I understand you never thought you'd go to college."

"Nope. Never. Dad made it abundantly clear I'd better learn from him what I could because that was all the know-how I was going to get."

"Don't go for me or because you think I expect you to go."

"Yeah, we'll see what happens when I get down there."

"I just want you to keep your mind open to it. That's all. You thought of a community college so clearly you've more than thought on it, too."

"I have," he said.

He had to admit he'd feel better about himself, what he had to offer her if he had a degree that would hypothetically mean he could do more than mow lawns for a living. Without that, once she graduated he knew he'd be plagued with doubts. Was she staying with him because she thought she should? He didn't want that ever to enter the equation and he had no intention of giving her a reason to think about leaving him.

"Then we're fine. If it takes you a few years that's fine, too."

"Want to stop in St. Luke's parking lot for a while before taking me home?"

"Two hours of kissing me isn't enough?"

"Evidently not."

She laughed with a shake of her head. "You'll survive until tomorrow."

"I'm not so sure about that."

"Well, it'll give you something to wake up for anyway."

"And make me reconsider that not coming out at school thing."


"Fuck, I reconsider that every day, Babe. I do, but Vernon."

"What if I said I didn't care if all of the sudden I wasn't queen?"

"You'd care. You've spent the last four years building up to that. No way in hell can you tell me now, six weeks beforehand that you don't care."

She shrugged, so she realized he spoke the truth.

"Now, you decide you really, truly don't care and walk up and kiss me in the hall tomorrow. I'll kiss you back."

"You sure?"

He chuckled. "Uh, yeah, I would."

"Why?" she asked, sounding suspicious.

"Kind of like the looks you got on Valentine's Day and last Monday when you wore that sweater that showed your hickey just enough to see it was there. I enjoyed being the reason for those looks even if no one else knew I was the reason. I'm a guy. What do you want me to say? It wouldn't feel good to have everyone wonder what I'd done that no one else did?"

"That's the only reason?"

"No. You don't think it bothers me that no one knows who you're going to prom with. No one knows who gave you the hickey. No one knows why I suddenly have Pop Tarts in my locker. That I see guys asking you out because they don't know you're involved with someone. Me."

"I don't say yes!"

"I know you don't, but I love you so it bothers me. You have this thing where you think I don't want anyone to know. I'm being very careful of my parents finding out, so yes. I'm cautious. Seeing me hold your hand at the mall is not going to lead my parents to believe I'm moving to Florida I realize, but if they find out who you are and that you're going to school down there. They might make that leap. I don't know if they would or not."

"You love me?"

"Fuck, yes, Babe."

"I love you, too."


"God, yes! You think I'd talk about moving in with you next year if I didn't?"

He shrugged. He probably would've, but he could see where she wouldn't. Well, he probably would've before meeting her. Now he didn't think he would, but six months ago he probably would've lived with someone he didn't love if it meant getting out of his fucking house.

"Take me home, Princess."

"Okay," she said cautiously.

"If the lights are out in the living room you're coming in with me until you have to be back home."


"They'd be passed out in bed. It's late enough that may be the case."

"All right. Why?"

"Why? I never want you to leave when you drop me off. You know that. I stay in your car with you as long as possible. Why are you asking me that?"

"I'm not having sex with you because you said you loved me!"

"I didn't ask you to have sex with me. Jesus fucking Christ. I just had my hand close to a very delicate spot. Did I push for more?"

"No," she said.

"Then quit saying that shit. Fuck!"

"Guys do that!"

"I'm not those guys! Why do you think I haven't said it before now?"

"I didn't realize you felt that way."

"I do. And just for the record."


"I couldn't have sex with you tonight even if you wanted to."

"Why not?" she asked, sounding thoroughly confused.

"I don't have any rubbers."

"Oh," she said, blushing profusely at that.

"I had a couple in my wallet the night we met."

"And they're gone?"

"Jesus, don't get all excited and interrupt what I'm saying. I didn't use them! I gave them to a friend who needed them at a party later that same week. I haven't bought anymore since."

"Oh," she said.

"So, if that's not proof I don't have trying to get into your pants I don't know what is."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. When you come down in August, though."


"I'll probably have bought some."


"I just don't want you to see them and think it means I was actively using them while down there without you. I'm not going to have you want to and have nothing on me!"

"Have you gone nine months?"

"Well, sure."

"After you lost your virginity?"

"Uh, no, I don't think so. I don't know. It's not like I kept track."

"And you're sure you want to keep waiting…"

He slid his hands to either side of her head, drawing her to him.

"Did I not just go to a fucking mall with you and try on a tuxedo?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Did I not just tell you I love you?"


"Then trust me I'm not upset about waiting. You are worth any amount of wait."

"But what if we break up."

"Then we break up," he shrugged. "You think I'm going to get mad because we break up and never had sex?"

"Moving to …"

"Not going to happen. It's not going to be easy, but we'll make it work. If I didn't think we could, if I thought we were going to hate each other come October. Trust me, I wouldn't be moving down there. I'm moving down there because you don't want to come back here next summer."

"I don't."

"So, I don't want to stay here and be a reason you think you have to come back here. You know? An obligation."

"You wouldn't…"

"That's not the only reason I'm moving my ass to Florida. Don't get me wrong. Can you do me a favor?"

"I can try."

"Quit worrying about whether or not I'm trying to have sex with you so much. Okay? I think about it. I won't deny that, but I hope I've proven the past few months that I can kiss you without ripping your clothes off and raping you or something. I could've pushed tonight even with your dad right upstairs. Over your shirt I could've moved my hand away real fast if we heard him coming downstairs."

"I know."

"So stop worrying about it. It'll happen when it happens. Maybe it won't be in September. Maybe it'll be a year from now. That's fine."

"You're too nice."

"Only because I love you. If I didn't no way in hell would I wait."

"When did you start?"

"Loving you?"

"Yeah," she whispered.

"December Fifteenth."

"Not that first night?"

"No, I went home that night and woke up the next morning thinking for certain it was a joke or something, your friends ganging up on me or something. 'Yeah, let's fool John into thinking Claire Standish would give him the time of day. Ha ha ha. That'd be real hilarious.' I'm sure they have done similar things."

"You believed it wasn't though?"

"The next day, yeah. I know you were sincere and didn't have a clue who I was. That's when I fell in love with you."

"Thank you," she whispered.

"And you?"

"Valentine's Day," she said. "Until then I wasn't sure, you know, how serious you were taking us. Me. Dating."

"Take me home, Princess. I don't want your mom or dad coming down here and kicking me out. They'd probably never let me come back if they had to do that."

"I'm only going inside with you if the lights are off."

"Funny, because I've dreamt of you in my house with the lights off more than a couple of times."

"That's not what I meant!"

"I know, but a guy can hope!"

"You'd really park in St. Luke's parking lot?"

"With you? I'd park wherever you stop your car."


"Is the good Catholic girl thinking on that?"

"St. Luke's isn't Catholic."

"I know! I'm not stupid enough to suggest parking in your church's parking lot."

She shook her head slightly at that. She offered him her hand before heading upstairs, which he took after a moment's hesitation.

"Thinking about the chances of my father seeing you holding my hand?"


"You still took it."

"I bet in a few months he'll think I'm doing more than holding your hand."

"I suspect you're probably right."

"I can handle your dad, Claire. Remember who you're talking to here."

"I know."

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