***Chapter Six***
Word Count: 2,927

Claire groaned none too politely when her phone rang waking her up. She reached for it on her nightstand without opening her eyes.

"Hello," she murmured. God her mouth felt like sandpaper. She swallowed a couple of times, hoping that would help until she could go to the bathroom and get a glass of water.


"John?" She knew it was him, there was no question it was because there was no other guy who called her really. There were certainly no other guys who made her feel the way she felt at the sound of their voice.


"Why are you calling so early?"

'Oh, you know, just because.'

She opened her eyes, glancing at her alarm clock. It wasn't that early, but considering she hadn't gotten in until after three and to bed until almost four it was dreadfully early.

"Is everything okay?"

'Well, if you wanted to do something today I wouldn't complain at the idea of getting out of here.'

"Yeah, sure, give me an hour to get ready."

'An hour?'

"Maybe not that long, but I drank more than I planned to last night so I might take a little longer."

'You didn't seem that drunk.'


'Hmm. Should I be asking if you remember everything about last night?'

"I remember."

'Do you regret any of it?'

"I don't," she said simply.

'You sure?'

"I told you after that day of detention I was willing to…"

'Actually, that part wasn't the part I was as concerned about hearing you may have been drunker than I realized you were.'

"Oh," she said. "No." She still had no idea what came over her last night, but she certainly didn't regret it.

'Well, that's good to hear. I'd love to, you know, return the favor at some point.'

"You would?"

'Uh yeah.'


'That surprises you?'

She shrugged.


"I don't know."

'Babe, I haven't hidden the fact I want…'

"I know. I just wasn't planning on that."

'I sure as hell wasn't either. I mean, I hoped I'd run into you there when I saw your car was there and everything. I didn't think it'd lead to me getting a blow job in your friend's bedroom.'

"Vernon's going to find out," she said, hoping to change the subject away from what she'd done. She didn't regret it, but she didn't want to think too hard on it either. God, she'd never thought of doing that with her mouth before in her life. The idea until not too long ago would have absolutely disgusted her.

'Maybe. Maybe not. I don't see any of your friends telling him who you're dating or going to prom with.'

"Probably not."

They were both quiet for a second as his parents argued in the background. That probably explained why he wanted to do something today if they were already arguing before noon.

"How did you hide it from me?" she asked.

'Hide what?' he asked, sounding confused. "Going to the party last night? You weren't exactly forthcoming with which party you were going to be at this weekend."

"No! Your parents'."

'Oh. We were on Christmas break. The bulk of our conversations were during the day when the 'rents were at work. Otherwise I made sure to call when they were out or so drunk they were passed out for the night.'

"But I called you sometimes."

'You did, and if you recall, not all of those conversations lasted as long as you would have liked.'

She did remember. She'd assumed those few times that he was just in a bad mood or in a hurry to get somewhere even if it had been later than she would've left the house.

'The last thing I wanted was to give you front-row seats to what my life was like when you seemed legitimately interested in me.'

"I would've been…"

'Yeah, you say that, but I still didn't want you privy to that stuff at first.'

"You were afraid I'd tell people?"

'The thought crossed my mind. I believed you were sincere and everything, but it was there in the back of my mind that you'd think twice about it or something and tell people.'

"Oh," she said.

'I don't anymore, obviously.'

"I hope not."

'You're not mad I thought that way, are you?'

"No, I guess I can't blame you."

'Thank you. Now go get ready so you can get me the fuck out of here.'

"Where are we going?"

'I don't give a shit. Wherever you want to go.'

"Wow, really?"

'Yes. Really.'

"I'm going to hold you to that."

'It can't possibly be worse than this.'

She laughed softly at that. "I'll be there as soon as I can."

'Thank you. Call first so I can just meet you down the street.'

"Yeah, I will," she said. She knew what to do by now. She'd call, let it ring twice and hang up. He never told her if his dad got upset about the hangup calls and he had her continue to do it. So either his dad got pissed off and John didn't care or his dad didn't care. Either was a possibility with John. There were times she thought he liked to do things to egg his dad on. He wasn't as bad about that now as he had been in January, but she still caught glimpses of conversations that made it seem as if John might have been provoking something. Why? She couldn't fathom his reasons. Negative attention was better than no attention?

She picked him up within an hour.

"You made pretty good time," he said, joining her in her car.

"I did," she said.

"You look nice, too. Thank you."

"You do, too," she said, regarding him. She ran a hand along his jaw. "You even shaved."

"I did," he said. He didn't always on weekends she'd come to realize. She leaned in and kissed his jaw then. She ran a thumb over the spot then, taking away the lipstick she'd left behind.

"Thank you."

"Yeah, I know you hate the scruff."

"I don't hate it…"

"No, but you worry that your skin will get all…"

"I do!"

He chuckled. "No whiskers to scratch you with today, Princess."

She put the car in gear then, heading toward downtown.

"Where are we going anyway?"

"You said anywhere," she said.

"I did. They were pretty bad this morning."

"I was surprised any of you were awake that early."

"They've been up since before seven and going at it since about eight."


He sighed.

"Mom found a phone number in the front of Dad's cigarettes."


"I know, right? Who the fuck would be crazy enough to slip him her number? Evidently someone did, though, and Mom was freaking out trying to figure out who she was."

"Is your dad…"

"Cheating? I don't know. I wouldn't put it past him, but I don't know, Babe. I really don't know what he does with his time."

"So, why so early though?"

"She got up to go to the bathroom, I guess, and was going to grab a cigarette while going or something."

"Oh," Claire said.

"Yeah, I know, no one in your house takes a smoke into the john with them."

"Well, no one smokes in my house."

"You do," he said, sliding a hand over her knee.

"Sometimes, once in a while at a party or something."

"I like when you smoke with me." He liked her when she had a little buzz on. He liked her any which way, but she was less uptight when she had a bit of a high going.

"I didn't smoke with you last night."

"You're right, you didn't. If what happens last night happens the nights we're at a party together you don't smoke up at then by all means don't ever again."

"Very funny."

"I'm one hundred thousand percent positive I wasn't joking."

"John," she said, knowing she was blushing profusely.

"Fuck, Babe. It's nothing to be embarrassed about."

"To you maybe. I'm still wrapping my mind around the fact that I did that!"

"I am, too, believe me. I keep waiting to wake up and find out it was a dream."

"Do you come in your dreams?"

He laughed then.


"Did you really just ask me that?"

"I did."

"Uh well, I haven't in years, no, but I've had a wet dream or two, sure."

"Huh. Never about me?"

"Fuck, no, I'm not thirteen anymore either, though. Besides I'd rather not waste it."

"Good save," she said.

He groaned and she knew he realized where she'd taken them.

"Good thing I wore a coat, I guess," he said.

"It's supposed to be like sixty today."

"That's still kind of cold to be walking around all day without a coat on."

"Are you going back on the anything?"

"No, Babe. I said whatever you wanted to do. If the zoo is what you want to do, let's go see the animals."

She found a spot to park on the street not too far from the zoo. She took his hand as they walked toward the entrance. It was a little cool, but there were people riding bikes and she didn't mind. John walked just about everywhere so she knew he didn't really either.

"I noticed you picked Lincoln Park versus Brookfield," he said as they made their way into the zoo. Being the end of April they weren't exactly packed to capacity or anything. She had no idea what made her think of it other than the idea of doing something that would take most of the day.

"I did."


"Why?" she asked, confused by the question.

"Yes. Why did you choose the free zoo over the one that has a charge to get in?"

"It wasn't a conscious decision really."

"Is it a monetary issue…?"

"No!" God, did he really think she thought like that.

"You sure? Because I can afford paying to get us into a zoo."

"I know you can. No, the cost barely even entered my mind other than I just figured if it's lame or too cold we won't be out money if we decide to leave right away."

"Okay," he said, drawing her against him. He stopped walking then and kissed her.

"What was that for?"

"Because you didn't ask questions."

"Questions?" What did that mean?

"I asked you to come get me and you did. Just like that, no questions asked. I'm sure you'd rather be home sleeping off your hangover."

"I'm not really hungover. I just wasn't ready to wake up when you called."

"Well, still."

"You're welcome. You can come over anytime. You know that. You don't need to call me and ask me to come get you."

"Your parents would love that."

"As long as it wasn't six in the morning or midnight they wouldn't be upset about it, John. They know you're my boyfriend. They'd probably rather we be at our house anyway."

"You'd have to explain to them why I was there so early on a Sunday."

"Would that bother you if I did explain it to them?"

"I don't know. I guess not."

"I mean, I wouldn't tell them anything you told me not to tell them."

"I know. No. You can tell them whatever you want. Except," he said.


He shrugged, starting them toward the first animal exhibit.

"I don't know. You don't think they'll suspect what our plan is, do you?"

"Because of your home life? I doubt it. I doubt they think I'd entertain the notion of living with someone."

"Frankly, I'm surprised you're entertaining the notion myself and I'm not your parent."


He shrugged again, stepping behind her and sliding his arms around her as they watched the zebras. It wasn't crowded at all so they had plenty of room to see and didn't feel rushed to move out of anyone else's way. He brushed his mouth along her neck. She shivered a bit at that, which made him do it again.

"Because girls like you don't live with boyfriends, that's why," he whispered against her ear.

"Well, I wouldn't just live with you."

He chuckled softly, finding her ear causing her to shiver a bit.

"I know," he whispered. "I really, really want to play tit for tat."

"What?" she asked.

He chuckled. "That wasn't anything dirty. Well, not what you're probably thinking. I realize it sounded dirtier than I meant it to sound. I want to return the nice thing you did for me last night."

"I know," she whispered.

"You seemed surprised I wanted to earlier."

"I didn't think you would," she said with a shrug.

"Why not?"

"I don't know. You hear stories."

"What kind of stories am I supposed to hear exactly?"

"Not you. I just meant in general."


"I listen to my friends talk."

"And what do they say?"

"That their boyfriends want them to do that to them all of the time but they never get it done to them."

"Lucky for you you have me for a boyfriend and if you gave me the chance I'd show you that I could do that to you all night long."


He chuckled, kissing her neck again. "You like that thought?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"How would I possibly know if I liked the thought of something I know nothing about?"

He sighed a bit. "You have an imagination. Thoughts. Ideas."

"I do."


"I think I would."

"Well, that's a start," he said, groaning softly when she stepped away from him to take a picture.

The day wasn't bad honestly. The zoo wasn't packed so they were able to walk around and see whatever they wanted to. They were even able to come back and see the bears and monkeys more than once. The monkeys were his favorite, the bears were her favorite.

She'd used up an entire roll of film. Someone even offered to take a picture of them together. Other than the couple the woman had taken of them together most of the pictures she'd taken were of the animals. She'd gotten a couple of John. He hadn't wanted the first one taken at all, but she reasoned if people knew she had no reason not to have a picture of him in her locker. Certainly she was allowed to have pictures of him in her room and her dorm room next year.

She knew that comment would get him to give in. He didn't like the idea of her being on campus and him working. He wasn't sure what type of job he was going to get, but he was assuming it was going to be something that was going to be long hours during the week. Roofing and landscaping weren't nine-to-five jobs. He'd want the picture in her dorm room so other guys didn't think she was single.

It was kind of comical that he was jealous, except she was, too when it got down to it. There was one girl in particular who seemed pretty interested in him. John talked to most of the girls in his crowd the same so it was hard for her to tell whether he flirted back with her or not. What she considered flirting and he considered flirting were not the same thing. The funny thing was while she got jealous a few times she didn't accuse or question him. She trusted him. Moving to Florida was a hell of a long way to go for sex. She was pretty sure he could find women to move in with right after graduation if all he was looking for was a place to live in order to get out of his parents' house.

"What are you thinking?" She'd been watching him clench and unclench his fist around the roll of film the entire time they'd been waiting at this stoplight. Cool day or not it was almost six o'clock in the evening. The city was busy and traffic was bad.

He shrugged.

"John," she said cautiously.

"I don't know. I've never had my picture taken with a girl before."

"Be serious."

"I haven't. I mean, I've had friends who I've been in pictures with and they happened to be girls at parties and stuff."


God. Maybe that had been too much for him. The realization that someone outside of school saw them together and thought they were a couple.

"You don't want me to have a picture of us?"

"No, Babe, that's not it at all. I just realized," he shrugged then and glanced out his window. For a second she thought she saw tears in his eyes, but it had to be a trick of the light. Still, though, in case that is what she saw she didn't press him to talk any sooner than he was ready to.

"I don't know that I've ever had anyone want a picture with me before."

"You can't be…"

And yet she knew he wouldn't lie about something like that.

"Well, I can assure you it won't be the last one I want to take with you."

"It was just strange, you know. That woman saw us and assumed."

"We were together."

"Natural assumption at the zoo, I suppose," he muttered and she couldn't help but laugh.

"You liked that?"

"I did," he whispered.

She moved her hand from the steering wheel to his that was holding the roll of film, sliding her fingers through his. "Me, too."

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