‘Yeah,’ Brooke says. She has no idea.
Into the silence of our mutual shock, my phone beeps, and this time, I check the display. Dori is calling me back. ‘Look, I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.’
‘Fine.’ Brooke hangs up, and I flash over, shelving our conversation for later.
‘Dori, I’m sorry –’
‘I’m telling them tomorrow, first thing. Please try to understand – this is difficult for them, especially after Deb’s accident. It’s not about you, really. They don’t know you. They’re only afraid I’ll be hurt, and that’s all this response is based on.’ She blurts her words like a practised speech, defensive and placating. ‘They may … want to talk to you.’
Parents who want to talk to me. Huh. And I’m not only considering it, I’m determined to do it. This is the stuff of alternate universes.
‘I’m not going to hurt you, Dori,’ I say, meaning it. ‘And I shouldn’t have pushed you to tell them,’ I add, half-meaning it.
‘Yes, you should have. I haven’t kept my promise to you, either. I told you I would never be ashamed of you – and I’m not, Reid – but this must have seemed that way to you. I’m sorry.’
I hadn’t realized until the moment she verbalizes it that this was exactly how it felt to me. She can hurt me in places I didn’t know I was vulnerable, soothe aches I didn’t know existed. How does she manage this sort of empathy?
‘I wish you were here right now,’ I say, unable to concentrate on anything but the need to pull her under me and shut the entire world out.
‘I was just there, you know,’ she retorts.
Smartass. God, I want her.
‘Yeah, I know. Jesus, I’m a fu– uh, idiot.’
Her hoarse little laugh at my interrupted curse yanks at my heart.
‘What if I sneak over to your house and climb into your bedroom window?’
Laughing again, she says, ‘You can’t sneak anywhere in that car – certainly not in my neighbourhood. And there’s no tree or trellis for you to climb to my second-storey window …’
I chuckle softly. ‘But you’re thinking about it, aren’t you?’
Her exhalation sounds like a smile. ‘Yeah.’
‘Want me to tell you what I’d do, if your dad had been more obliging and installed a trellis or planted a tree just under your window?’
‘Maybe,’ she says softly, and I imagine her sucking that fat lower lip into her mouth.
‘Okay. Yes. Tell me.’
This is the thing about her – this, right here. She doesn’t play coy. That’s why the thought of her pushing me away is unacceptable. It wouldn’t be a play for attention like it always was with Brooke. Goodbye is goodbye to Dori, and I won’t let that happen.
‘Close your eyes and imagine those perfectly situated branches, right outside your window.’
I lie back, relaxing, breathing in the subtle trace of her still on my pillows. ‘You’ll leave your window open – the one the fish are swimming towards. It’ll be late, and try as you might, you can’t stay awake waiting for me. I’ll slip quietly across the room in the dark, following bars of moonlight to your bed.’ I entertain the thought of her, curled up under the covers, and my fingers twist a knot into the unmade bedding beneath me. ‘What do you wear to sleep?’
‘Just a T-shirt,’ she whispers.
Air hisses through my teeth and I take a slow breath while my body riots. For the first time in my life, I’m hoping the new will wear off soon – just a bit, at least – because whenever I think of touching her and how she responds when I do, I can’t think of anything else.
‘I’ll pull my shirt off before peeling back your covers. Run my fingertips over you, carefully. Wake you so, so, slowly.’ Every nerve in my body is wide awake. ‘What will you do then?’
Her voice is so quiet that I strain to hear her. ‘Reach for you. Take your hand and pull you into my bed.’
The hot-factor of this conversation just vaulted up several notches. ‘Ah, I like the sound of that … but I’m still wearing my jeans, and you’re wearing that shirt …’ I wonder if she’s brave enough yet to continue this sort of game, though six months ago I would have had to be high to think she’d ever do this. Or that I’d end up wanting a committed relationship with her.
After last weekend, all bets are off on what either of us is capable of.
‘Are you – are you wearing the ones with the button-fly?’ Breathy and soft, her words are like a caress.
‘If that’s what you want, then yes.’
‘Then … um … I’ll unbutton your jeans …’ Her voice husky and sweet, she hesitates, and I picture the blush spreading across her face.
‘You’ll shove them down with your foot, grazing my leg as you go …’ I say, helping her out ‘… while my hands are sliding under that T-shirt.’
‘Oh?’ She sounds almost breathless, and I’m completely turned on.
‘Your MADD T-shirt,’ I qualify, pausing when she laughs. ‘It’s a little threadbare, you know. I’ll stroke your br**sts with my fingertips … and then lean down and taste you right through that thin red knit.’
‘Ah …’ she breathes.
‘One hand will drift down, over your ribcage, across your hip, nothing between us … what then?’