The air is wet. Quiet. Green.
It is summer, early July maybe. The heat rises over Connecticut like a giant hand, pressing down over the sky, the sun blinding.
"We've got a problem", he says thoughtfully. She watches the strange luminescence of his eyes in the rainy light and does not reply.
The cold breeze blows in from the window. Rain skittering against the shutters and clinging to the screens. The verdant, barely breathing world outside waiting. The cool grey light in the foyer, muted through the glass in the door, shadowy.
He comes over when he knows she is alone only.
Her downcast eyes greet him quickly and pull him inside, shutting the door and pressing it carefully, pressing her lips together carefully, to keep everything inside. Hidden. Him.
They lay on the couch in the dimly lit room. It is afternoon. They are damp with afternoon heat and moisture. The fan clatters, turning around and around pointlessly, ruffling the pages of the magazines on the coffee table. He stretches out, head in her lap, eyelids closed from the heat. Their limbs are splayed over the armrests and back of the couch. She pushes a damp strand of hair off of her face.
He only came over when he knew Dean wouldn't be there. When he knew she was by herself. It was the only solution, the only answer.
The first time he had come, they had sat at the kitchen table silently.
"You didn't go to Washington," was all he said.
She hadn't been able to look him in the eyes.
He had stood up, wandered over the window.
"You're still with him, aren't you."
Her shoulders were sagging. He saw the sudden wetness of her eyes. Silence.
It had been only another minute before their mouths were hungrily pressed together, her knees collapsing against him, her mouth wet with tears and hatred and need. She had barely torn herself away, gasping on the other side of the kitchen.
"I can't," she had said simply then, and crumpled to the floor.
He knelt in front of her, defeated, and let her head fall on his chest.
"I think……..I think that's alright," he had heard himself say then.
That was how it started.
He doesn't think of it in terms of humiliation. Only in terms of need. He doesn't mind so much, knowing that she is kissing Dean, because he knows that she doesn't want it. That when they're together, they barely hold hands.
That's not what she does with him when they're alone.
She had been nervous at first, reluctant, afraid. Trembling. Refusing to look up and acknowledge the things her body said to him silently.
That she wanted the same things.
"I've never done ….anything before," she had said flatly the second time he came over. It had been a dark afternoon. Raining outside. Quiet house inside. The sound of the clock chiming twice. She had closed her bedroom door cautiously behind her, and watched him skimming the titles on the bookshelf.
He knew what she was trying to say. That she didn't even know what "anything" was.
So he did what he was good at doing.
Bringing her around slowly.
Just talking at first.
"Oh yeah?" he answered softly, and took off his jacket. She had stood there, very still and very tense. "How come?"
Her eyebrows went up. She watched him cautiously, seeming
ready to dart at any second.
"I don't know," she had whispered. "I guess….." She cleared her throat. "I guess there wasn't an opportunity. Or I didn't let one…my mom didn't really……or his parents, I mean people were always around and there's no place to go……" she faded…..then, abruptly, "I don't know."
"Maybe it was just because you didn't feel like it," he suggested, shrugging lightly in a non-offensive manner. He saw her shoulders relax.
"Yeah, maybe I didn't," she replies, a little relieved. Then, she looks away, tense again. They stand there, very apart and very cautious.
"How come you're so afraid of touching me? Because you're not used to it?"
"Because I don't know if I would stop," she had suddenly said, nearly cutting him off. Shocked, they both stood in silence again.
"Rory……..it would be good if you told me where you left off," he had finally said. He watched the color rise into her cheeks, her mouth pale. Watched her tremble like a moth trapped behind glass.
"Just, kissing, a mild sort of……." she had managed to reply at last, in a very low voice. "A mind sort of making-out, I guess," she finished.
She had sat down very suddenly on a chair, as though drained of all strength.
He had moved softly and quickly towards her, cornering her before she was able to bolt.
He spoke her name very quietly, and she had looked up.
Reaching down, he grabbed both of shoulders lightly, pulling her up.
"Close your eyes," he had commanded.
"No," she had replied trembling.
"Close them," he commanded again, a little rougher. "Close your goddamn eyes. Think of him if you have to."
Her mouth twisted oddly, eyes filling. He sighed.
"Jesus Rory just close your eyes," he'd whispered.
She did. And before she did, she had looked full into his.
"I'm not thinking of him," she had murmured. "I'm couldn't if I tried."
Feeling suddenly weak, he pulled her the few steps towards the bed, sat her down and laid her out there, pulling her legs out flat. He sat down on the edge of it and watched her reaction. Her whole body seemed paralyzed with fear and guilt. She shook with a suppressed sob.
He understood. And he waited.
She opened her eyes then, damp and huge, questioning.
And he had bent down and kissed her as every girl should be kissed by someone. Gently. Precisely. Beautifully. A hint of threat. The warmth of his breath and hers, the electric tip of his tongue touching hers lightly like a game. The narrowness of his lips between hers, the slight roughness of his cheek. The taste of skin and faint, metallic sweetness of coffee. The dampness of his mouth tangled with hers.
She had gazed at him in stunned fascination for a moment. Her mouth was dizzy and still a little open, her eyelids heavy and drugged, breathing odd and measured. She felt drugged, dreaming, vague and powerless. Something in her arched its back like a kitten.
He took precautious not to frighten her then. Taken her arms and laid them by her sides like a rag doll's. Touched her ankle. Unbuttoned one button and touched her gleaming, pale hipbone while she lay there shivering. Kissed her neck, long, slow, vicious kisses. Possessive, angry, barely felt marks. Whispers of infidelity.
His pain stamped on her.
And she had taken precautions to tell him when the house would be empty again next week.
The rain, the greenness, the heat.
Hers, damp like glass, icy. His head tilting up to kiss the bottom of her breast through her thin shirt. Her eyelids closed from heat and melancholy.
He doesn't mind it so much, this crawling through the windows and being pushed out the backdoor. He doesn't mind anything, because he gave up his pride the first day she had kissed him under the willow, at the wedding.
When he had come back, thinking that maybe somehow, she'd be ready to be brave. To sacrifice her perfect life for him.
And it doesn't matter so much that he is not the one sharing pancakes with her and holding hands in the gazebo. He doesn't even know if he'd be any good at these things. But he had wanted to try so bad.
She didn't give those kinds of options though. She'd been too trapped.
So he takes what he can. He reminds himself viciously that it's not Dean's name she is sobbing out, hissing, when he slams all his weight into her, crushing her down in her bed, the books watching them.
It's not Dean's name that she whispers when he's touching her in a certain way.
It's his. Jess. Jess, she says, lingering on the syllable, sometimes two. Jhe- ess. A broken, half name in a broken tone, broken cry.
Small satisfaction. Derision. Watching her try to hide the marks on her neck with makeup, pulling her hair back abruptly from her face, watching her tremble in the mirror too afraid to look at him.
Some days it's worth it. When he thinks it's too awful, too horrible, he tries to stop, tries to forget her, ignore her. But he's always back when the phone rings softy and her guilty voice comes over the line.
Some days, he hates her as much as he loves her.
It's stopped raining. There is only the slow drip of the eaves, the whisper of a breeze. Her hair is painted in a dark strand on her neck.
She's not as afraid anymore. When he touches her, she responds, unsure but quick, forward, obediently, sometimes surprised at herself, at her own actions.
"I don't know," she's half-begged. "Maybe tomorrow."
But this morning, he'd seen the two of them on the bench, cuddling and grinning. The memory tastes ugly in his mouth. He looks at her huge, pleading eyes, and feels no sympathy.
He'd raised his hands abruptly, making a sarcastic relenting motion.
"Whatever," he had said, getting up from the bed. She lay there, half clothed and shivering. He'd pulled his shirt on in one quick motion. "This is a two-way thing, Rory, two of us. That's all I got to say."
She had sat up, her eyes acknowledging the validity of his statement.
"Don't go," she had said in a low voice.
He'd turned towards her in the stillness of evening, of fading sunlight through the slats of her blinds. Gold gleamed in her brown hair. She'd been glued to his face this morning.
"I've never…" she'd attempted. He cut her off.
He'd hesitated for a second, cursing silently at the fact he was even discussing this.
"You like to take," he'd finally told her, standing there with the gold slats of light painted on his face from the window, the rest of him in shadow. "You don't like to give." He turned abruptly.
Her sudden arm across his stomach stopped him. He looked down on it. She held it there, barring his way for a second, before her hand clenched around his belt buckle.
He looked at her. Her head was bowed, eyes downcast. He turned towards him.
She pulled him closer and closer. He saw the tremor of her fingers. They obediently undid it, harshly pulling at it as if angry.
But he saw the change.
He saw the slow transformation, how her anger seemed to dissipate and a nervous sense of curiosity replaced it. She'd looked up at him, and her eyes were a question. He'd suddenly felt guilty, sorry he'd started all this, ready to forgive her.
But she was already sliding a finger into the waistband of the cotton underneath the jeans, slowly sliding it down, her other hand pressed against his back, bringing him closer to her. She sat on the edge of the bed with him standing before her, and rested her head against his stomach for a moment. He felt the hot warmth of a tear on her cheek.
"I'm so sorry," she had said then. "I'm so sorry."
She had no idea what to do.
"It's alright," he had said. "You don't have to just now."
But her hands seemed to ignore him. Maybe she wanted to know something she'd never known before. Maybe her heart had started clawing at her ribcage madly.
He put his hands over hers.
They lie there, listening to the stillness of the wet afternoon. It grows darker and darker.
He swears quietly. She seems to wake up. They were breathing in the same rhythm.
"What is it?" she murmurs.
"I've got to tell you something."
She sits up. He can barely see her face. Just her dark-lit eyes.
"I won't anymore. I won't for a fuckin' second watch you touch him anymore, come in there in the morning and I won't act like I'm not doing what I'm doing with you. I know what you're thinking every time we look at each other. You're thinking about the last thing that happened here."
"Don't," she whispers hoarsely.
"Like hell I will. Touch him again and we're done."
She's crying quietly now. In the dark he sits up and they both stare into the darkness.
"I thought – we'd thought all this out –"
"It doesn't matter."
She finishes crying and wipes her face. They breathe in silence.
"You've got to decide, and I mean now. What the fuck do you think I am, superhuman? I've got a secret for you – since you're so big on goddamn revelations – I'm in love with you now," he spits out, and stops abruptly, almost horrified at what he's just said.
"I mean…." He says again, but she's watching him so frozenly that he loses his nerve again, and looks away. He sits up. No use trying to lie.
"I mean it," he finishes.
Neither of them moves for a moment.
"Ok. Alright," she says weakly.
And then he's terrified of what is going to happen next. Terrified now that it's out of his hands. Terrified she'll just……give in and quietly let him out of her life.
It's the only explanation really for what happens next.
For the kiss he places on her mouth. Darkness and a sudden jolt below him, a struggle. Her wet eyes. Her heaving under him, and his hands and what they're doing.
How she doesn't even cry out against him. How he pulls her down to the floor and shoves her skirt up. Kisses her stomach. But he knows this is no crime; her hands pull his hips against hers hard. The roughness of the floor, the damp silkiness of her hair. Clothing lost. Her small cry of pain, and he pulls her forward, away from the table she's hit her elbow on. The small twist of cotton around her ankles. He waits to look at her face for one moment, and on it is resignation, and something immense, open, and wide; he thinks clear, like a Nebraska sky. Her mouth twists, suddenly becoming a challenge. Her hand touches the back of his neck lightly.
And then he does. He pushes her leg to the side. He hurts her a little, but he knew it would anyway. They lay still for second, contemplating this stunning simplicity and terrible, glorious lack of absence for the first time.
From there it goes. Slowly, raw with newness and stillness and mute wonder at each movement. Her seeming to watch him outside her body, eyes filled with sadness and beauty and thrill; he is careful, precise, and does everything and anything he can think of. Years of things learned from one girl to the next. Watching her closely for every reaction. Exerting steely control over himself. Only letting himself go at the very end, after he sees her eyes snapping wide open and the rosebud o of her mouth slowly forming, the wave approaching, her hips writhing, pinned underneath his.
He just wants her to remember this.
Just wants her to say yes.
To give in.
To be brave. If not by speculation of what she could have, by fear of loss at what she could lose. He knows he can't compete with her perfect life.
So he just tries to give her a different perfection. Something more than all of it. To watch her bloom in transparent colors underneath him, to see her lose logic in all of this.
And she does.
It is night. They are lying on the floor, mutely. She is trembling and pressing her own hands against her heart, as if to keep it inside her. Shivering from the cold, the lack of heat from his body. He had collapsed on her, covering her, the weight of his body holding her warm and anchored until he moved away.
He lets one hand slide down her leg, from her hip to her knee. Slowly. He sits up slowly, looking at the clock, feeling suddenly very cold and empty. Hollow.
She flees to the bathroom.
Turns on the water. He can hear it running. Her inside, washing him away, scrubbing relentlessly trying to regain the lost purity. His mouth tastes cold and metallic.
Inside the shower, in the heat and steam, she groans and runs her hands over her own body that betrayed her so distinctly in front of him. She winces at the pain and sits on the edge, beginning to cry.
Because she is sick with love and longing and the taste of his skin is still in his mouth, the weight of his body.
Because she is so afraid.
She quickly turns the water off and grabs a towel, running into the living room.
It is dark and empty.
He's already gone.
The air is wet. Quiet. Green.
It is early. The mist is still rising. The pale morning sun is breaking through the chill. He is there, already moving in his quiet way between the tables, scribbling.
She hears the bell from far away, echoing inside her head. She's standing there now, not saying anything. They're watching her, her horrified mother's eyes, Dean's questioning ones quickly growing angry, the breathless scrutiny of people whose opinion she already knows. They're murmuring because she's just standing there, not saying anything, her eyes fixed on him.
He sees her standing there, floundering, desperate. Comes towards her.
And she takes one step forward and presses her lips to his gently. Their eyes close at the same time, hers dropping thick lashed like a china doll's. His mouth sweetly returning her kiss.
She doesn't hear the furious slam of the door behind the tall boy just sitting by her mother. She doesn't recognize her mother's sudden abrupt motion, as though she is about to stand up and follow, and then her slow slump back into her seat.
She doesn't know anyone anymore.
"Ok," he says softly after the soft sound of separation.
"Ok," she whispers back.
Outside, it's begun to rain again.