"I-I am already in love with someone else."
The implication of what he'd just said sank in slowly, but when it finally hit it came with the impact of a bullet train. I wiped away my tears and managed a watery smile.
"I feel so stupid." A shuddery laughed passed through me and he looked at me in confusion, a tender smile on his face.
"I was ready to go into battle this evening. Spencer asked you to dance to save you from a very angry tirade and Simone from a very painful confrontation." I shook my head and let out a light giggle. "You should thank her for it."
He grinned at me. "I already did. She told me how upset you were while we were dancing. Spencer saved us both tonight." He reached out and brushed a stray tear from cheek.
"I'm sorry, Ezra."
"I know." He cast a cautious glance around before taking my hands.
"But seeing you with her…you just seemed so happy and I can't give you that."
"Aria." His voice was firm and his grip sure as he slid his arms around my waist. "You make me happier than anything or anyone ever has. Besides," he moved his hand up to cup my face, "you're really, really cute when you're jealous." He kissed me gently then and I couldn't help but feel foolish for my earlier behavior.
I broke away softly. "I love you."
He smiled tenderly and tucked my bangs behind my ear. "I love you, too."
A loud group of girls got into a car a few spaces over and we jumped apart.
"You should probably be getting back. They're probably going to start cleaning things up soon."
He nodded his head in agreement and glanced reluctantly towards the doors. "Yeah. I promised your mom I'd help her put the cafeteria back in order."
I tugged my jacket tighter around me and dug my car keys out of my pocket. "I'll see you Monday then?"
He caught my hand. "Actually I was hoping you'd be able to spend the night. I just want to make everything up to you. I never meant to hurt you."
"Ezra, there's no reason to-"
He cut me off. "Please?" The smile he reserved for me alone curved on his lips and I found it impossible to refuse him.
"Sure. I'll tell my mom I'm staying with Spencer tonight."
"I shouldn't be long here, but if I'm not back by the time you get there, the key's still under the doormat."
A smirk crossed my face. "Actually, it's not."
His brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"I've had it for a while now." I held up my key ring for inspection.
He laughed and shook his head. "You never cease to amaze me."
I smiled and kissed him again. "I know."
Thirty minutes later I'd settled everything with my parents and packed a change of clothes into an overnight bag. I wasn't surprised when the apartment was empty. He really didn't have any idea what my mother was like once she got going on a project. He'd probably be at least another hour.
With a heavy sigh, I kicked off my heels and settled onto the couch. Tonight, while worth it, had been far more anxiety ridden than I'd anticipated. All the energy I'd put into worrying had drained me and nothing sounded more appealing than curling up on the bed and sleeping until he got home.
But instead I waited up, pacing the apartment for a bit before resettling on the couch with a pen and a notepad. I wrote rather absent mindedly, the words flowing onto the page without any real thought put into them. Fifteen minutes later I realized that I'd been writing him a love letter. With a small smile I reread my words. They seemed a fitting companion to the poem he'd written me. I'd just signed my name at the foot of the page and set the letter on the coffee table, when I heard his key turning in the lock.
"Hey. I didn't think you'd still be up." He toed his shoes off next to mine at the door and I couldn't help but marvel at how perfect they looked alongside one another. A tender smile crossed my face at the thought and he looked at me quizzically.
"What are you so happy about?" He sat down on the couch next to me, cuddling me to close to his side.
"Mmm." He pressed kiss to my forehead, his lips lingering for a few minutes against my hairline. "You're mom's intense when it comes to getting things organized."
I sighed and snuggled closer to him, my fingers toying with his tie. "She is. Why do you think I was so anxious to leave?"
He laughed and squeezed me gently. "I knew there was a reason everyone said you were so smart."
We lapsed into a comfortable silence for a few moments, content with the peacefulness of the moment and the completion that came with finally admitting our feelings.
I was just beginning to doze off when he stood up abruptly, knocking me off of his shoulder. "Ezra, what is it?"
He didn't answer me. Instead, he pushed the coffee table towards one wall, dimmed the lights and turned on his iPod.
He stood in front of me for a moment, staring at me so sweetly that I was torn between crying and kissing him until I forgot my own name.
"Will you dance with me?"
I laughed then, all the tension from earlier in the evening leaving my body as he pulled me up and into his arms. He held me close, the two of us swaying gently to the gentle beat of the music. I'd never heard the song before, but at the moment it didn't really matter. Nestling my head into the crook of his neck, I shut out everything but him and the moment.
His hands moved from my waist to the small of my back, the weight and heat of his palms reassuring to my still fragile emotions.
"I had an Elmo."
His bizarre comment ruined the serenity of the moment and I couldn't help the giggle that escaped me. "What?"
"You had a Cookie Monster. I had an Elmo. See? We're soul mates."
I laughed and withdrew my head from his shoulder. "I love you." Now that we'd broken the barrier, I couldn't seem to say it enough.
His lips descended on mine, moving slowly at first, then with increasing intensity as I rose up onto my tiptoes and wound my arms around his neck. He caught me around the waist as my legs began to give out from trying to stretch up to meet his height.
I broke away gently, wincing slightly as my feet made contact with the floor again. "I'm too short."
He laughed and scooped me into his arms. "You're perfect." His lips had closed over mine before he'd even fully set me on the bed. He hovered over me, his hands seemingly everywhere at once.
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to not reach out and touch you in when we're out in public?"
His hands worked deftly to free my hair from its ponytail and small sigh escaped his lips as my hair cascaded onto the pillow. He buried his face in it for a moment, before trailing butterfly kisses from my hairline to my chin. "And you always smell like spring time."
I laughed and shoved at him playfully before wrapping my arms around him and pulling him down to me once more. "Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?"
Needless to say, it was the last bit of conversation we shared for a good while.