“Of course.” “...like he belongs...” “ love Boston and I love the idea of you being there with me. I also love the idea of leaving Boston sometimes to go and see you.”
He grinned at her as she pushed the water out around her and moved to the edge of the pool where she lifted herself up to sit on the edge. He was temporarily mesmerized by the way the water cascaded off her body.
“I’m not sure how comfortable it’ll be for the two of us in my little bed.”
He smiled, laughing lightly. “We can go to a hotel.”
The idea of hiding away in a hotel with him in Boston made her feel warm with excitement.
“Either way, it’ll be fun to have you there sometimes. I know it might be a little complicated but, the alternative is worse, so...” He came closer to her, “Even if we don’t leave the hotel....”
He placed his hands on either side of her, pressing his palms into the tile surround of the pool as the water lapped at his bare back. She was sitting in front of him, leaning back on her hands, looking happy and relaxed. He thought about what Becka had said and he thought about everything he wanted to say. He thought about her leaving and getting on a plane back to Boston and that made him more uneasy than anything.
“Come home with me.” He said abruptly with an apprehensive smile. “I heard you tell Tami school doesn’t start til september. Come home with me.”
Her eyes widened and her mouth went dry. “What?” For all the wonderful things she had wanted to hear him say, this one hadn’t crossed her mind.
“To Florida.” He said, “come to Florida with me. We can be alone there.”
A smile spread across her face. “Okay.” It sounded too good to say no to. “But-“
“I know you hate Florida … but, I’ll make it worth your while.”
She laughed lightly as his eyes glinted at her.
“I think I can tolerate it for a little while…”
“Colleen.” He reached for her hands, weaving his fingers through hers, holding on to her tightly.
She was teetering again, the resolution she stood on was being chiseled away rapidly now, and she was losing her balance.
He was looking at her in a way that made her feel vulnerable and exposed but she delighted in it. Her eyes wandered between his shoulders briefly and back up to his face where her eyes met his.
“Do you ever wonder why this never happened before?” He asked.
“No.” She smiled, “also it was illegal until just recently.”
He shook his head and laughed lightly.
“You think I’m a kid.”
“I don’t at all.”
“You think I’m a teenager.”
“Technically, you are a teenager,” She grinned, “but you’re also you. You have more life experience than most forty-year-olds.” She leaned in to kiss him, placing her hands on either side of his face, “you are amazing.”
He brought his hands to her wrists and they looked at each other for a moment. He felt relieved again, with her there, so close to him. Life with her felt like a risk of so many things but she made him feel safe.
“This isn’t casual for me,” he said, looking down at her legs dangling in the water in front of him. He thought about being with her at home, being with her everywhere. “I don’t want to do what I usually do. You’re not usual.”
She smiled softly, “I know. It isn’t casual for me either.”
“And there is no one else.”
She nodded as she pulled away from him, taking his hands in hers.
“There would never be. While we’re together, if we are together...”
While? If? “Okay.”
He was quiet for a moment, looking at her and thinking about how good she was. “I am so sorry.”
“For what?” She tilted her head at him.
“That I’ve done stupid things that would give you a valid reason to doubt me.”
She shook her head. “I don’t doubt you.”
“There is nothing you can tell her that will scare her off.”
“I’ve been with a lot of people.”
“Okay.” She replied, unfazed. “And I’ve been with none.” she laughed.
They were both quiet for a moment. His hair was falling in his face the way she and so many others loved and a tiny fire started in her belly.
“Remember when you asked me I trust you and I said I don’t always trust myself but I always trust you, and you agreed?”
“I know there is some overlap there but … is this the thing that’s keeping you from feeling like I trust you? Something that’s keeping you from thinking it’s possible I could?”
How does she know everything? “maybe.”
“Why don’t you just tell me how many people you’ve slept with.”
He felt a pang of guilt in his chest and she could see it on his face.
“Just tell me. It’s not going to change anything.” She wasn’t asking out of curiosity, she was inviting him to resolve this. “I promise.”
“I honestly don’t know.” He said sadly. “Eighty? Ninety?”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
She sighed, “I guess it makes me curious, but… it doesn’t bother me.” She smiled softly at him.
He shook his head slightly.
“I trust you entirely.” She said gently, “Do you feel it yet?”
He had felt it, at times, but it came and went. And when he did feel it, it was terrifying.
His nerves were a fiery mess of activity. His core was on fire. He knew he had to tell her.
His hand slid behind her head and he kissed her softly on the cheek, sending a chill up her spine. He nodded into the curve of her neck and her hands braced his arms.
“Let’s go back to the room.”
Across the patio, Howie and Becka were laying completely horizontally on two plush lounge chairs, holding hands and looking up at the night sky making conversation about whatever came to mind.
“Things like this almost make me believe in heaven.” Becka said randomly.
Howie smiled, “Almost?”
“Just to be clear, I mean the heaven people talk about.” She sighed, “The heaven of the sky.”
“What sort of heaven are you convinced about? Any?”
She shrugged, “I believe in science. Energy…”
“That things don’t really go away they just become new things.”
“Right. That feels powerful to me and reassuring. Ultimately isn’t that what heaven is supposed to be… for the living? Something reassuring and powerful.”
Howie looked at her carefully and thought it over. He nodded, “do you think about these things a lot?” He asked with a smile.
She just giggled and looked back up briefly before closing her eyes.
Howie watched her, enjoying the way the things she said made him feel. He had never thought of it that way before but it did feel reassuring. “I like that… reassuring.”
She nodded slowly.
In the elevator, Coll snuggled into Nick’s body, clenching the towel around her shoulders, his arm wrapped around her as he leaned against the wall.
When the doors opened he silently took her hand and they walked down the hall to his room, she waited patiently as he opened the door and let her in ahead of him.
She plucked the towel from her body and draped it over the closet door knob as he slipped his arm around her waist.
“Have you always loved being in the pool?”
She twisted a piece of hair around her finger as she slinked back against his arm, smiling shyly at him.
“I feel like I missed out on knowing you better.”
“You had a couple of things going on.” She said quietly, thinking about all the things he could be the only one to know. “You could know best.” Her eyes glinted at him in the dim light, “There’s no rush.”
His hand moved up her arm, she relaxed into him and she gently pulled him in closer to her, wrapping her arms around his waist.
His hands moved to her shoulders and then up to her face, sending a nervous pulse through her body.
The way he was saying her name was making her feel an even deeper attraction to him. “Nickolas.”
“I want to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“There is so much.”
He shook his head, a tear rolled off her cheek. She wasn’t sure if he noticed it or not.
“You make me feel like things are possible.” He said it quietly, but there was urgency.
Her chest felt constricted, she could feel her face blushing, “What kind of things?”
“Everything. Real things. Amazing things. Things that matter.”
“I’m glad.” she whispered, on the verge of crying again, before he kissed her.
“I want more.” He said, his forehead pressed into hers.
She was nervous, unsure what he was getting at but desperate to know it. “Me too,”
They had said this before - it was time to elaborate.
“You said the more you want the most…” he lifted his head up to look at her again.
She nodded. “Yeah.”
“What do you want the most?”
“You.” She said simply without hesitation. “In my life. Not just this summer, not just when I see you every day…” she said carefully.
He smiled but he looked sad. “I want to be with you but only the right way.”
“What’s the right way?”
“The way you want it. All in.”
His words flowed into her and she felt so serene for a second.
“How do you remember that?”
“Because it sounded so good.”
“...the right time to push.”
She inhaled deeply. Her heart was racing. She teetered too far. Finally, she was toppling. fall into it.
“Nick,” She breathed, as he traced a line up her arm with his finger, sending her into an even deeper abyss. “You want all in?”
“I want it with you.”
It was one of the most beautiful things she had ever heard.
“That’s exactly what I want, too.”
All the options for what to do next were terrifying, but finally, not telling her was more terrifying than the rest.
“I trust that you’ll tell them to me…”
His thumb was grazing slowly across her cheek and she felt so weak.
“Colleen.” He whispered. “...when you’re ready for me to know them.”
“Yeah.” Every nerve ending in her body was tingling with anticipation.
His eyes caught hers. “I love you.”
The words hit her and she barely believed they were real but at the same time, they felt so familiar - like they belonged to her - even though she had never heard them from him before.
“No. I’ve always loved you. I have always loved you. Now... now it’s that I’m in love with you.” He said looking at her directly, holding her face in his hands.
She smiled at him as her heart fluttered wildly inside her chest. “I’m in love with you.” He said again, enjoying the sensation of the words in his mouth. “God, I am so in love with you.” This time, he said it with a lot of relief and a smile.
“I’m in love with you too. I have been.” Every muscle in her body relaxed and a few tears spilled out of her eyes. He wrapped his arms around her and she buried her face in his neck. “I’m in such crazy, disorganized, ridiculous love with you.” She whispered.
“I should have told you sooner.” He sighed, “everyone told me I should tell you.” He held her tightly to his body.
“I’m glad you waited until you were ready on your own.” She pulled away from him and touched his cheek.
“It just didn’t matter anymore. I had to tell you. I love you so much.”