Well pinch my butt and call me Bonnie. A new chapter!!! I know you thought it would never happen, but here we are.
I'll keep this short (or at least try to) since my usual author's notes are practically novels within themselves...err, I totally failed NaNoWriMo, but whatever...maybe next year? And this is finals week, so I won't be doing much writing, but I go home on 12/12 for a MONTH-long break between semesters. I'm not promising anything, but I'll have a lot of free time. This has priority because Eva's List really needs more focus when I do sit and write it, so I want to get this taken care of first.
Thanks guys so much for all your reviews, and thanks for not giving up all hope on me ever updating this thing. I looove you. (Imagine that in a really creepy voice...haha.)
Josephine the Stegosaurus lives, I tell you!!!
Please keep up the reviewing, it reminds me to get my butt in gear and write more. :D
That was the first thought that crossed Josie's mind when the high-pitched buzz of her alarm clock interrupted a violently short slumber. Everything crashed in her mind when the buzzes went off, and it felt like she had never gone to sleep at all. Just the sound of the outdated clock radio had made her jump so badly that her heartbeat was still running too fast.
Images came to mind of Bryan's soft mouth on hers, of the warmth of his hand on the back of her neck. A hand came up to the place he touched, just to make sure he wasn't there, because the feel of his hand still burned her nerves. She took a deep breath.
Now why on Earth didn't I run my fingers through his hair, I've been waiting weeks to do that…
She let her head fall back to her pillow.
The jittery warmth of her memories promptly disappeared when she remembered why she had stopped what was happening from happening. She groaned and flipped over.
Why why why? Why couldn't he just be a trustworthy boy scout, huh? Why must he make me doubt him? He's SUCH a good kisser...but if he is possibly an accessory to a federal felony or two, well, that's a problem. Why am I always attracted to the morally questionable ones?
Her thoughts immediately sobered her up, and she realized the heavy soreness in her eyelids, and the tingle that meant she would have dark shadows under them today. Sleep had been fleeting and unsatisfying. She contemplated calling in sick, but then realized that if she did, Bryan would know what was up and become really suspicious. That might make things awkward.
Ha ha, as if it won't be awkward anyway. That was without a doubt the greatest kiss in my entire life, and then I just left without saying why. I kind of feel sorry for leaving him hanging like that, but he wouldn't understand.
Rubbing the heels of her hands into her eye sockets, she came up with an idea. A pretty half-baked idea, but the more she considered it, the more it made sense.
She would ignore the problem completely. The dark circles could be covered up with concealer. As long as she could manage to disguise her feelings, she could get away with it.
Oh, Josephine Marie. How are you ever going to accomplish this one?
After lingering around in bed long enough to collect herself, she went to the bathroom door and knocked. Upon hearing no reply, she opened the door and proceeded to take a shower, all the while telling herself that the kiss last night had never happened.
It wasn't doing much good, however, as every little rivulet that coursed down her arm reminded her of the way he traced his way up it, causing her to shiver in the embrace of the hot water. Not only that, but with only one door separating her from Bryan, the heat scalded her skin more severely, with every nerve ending acting too sensitive. It was as though every instinct in her body wanted him to touch her again, and the closer he was, the more desperately it ached.
Yeah, good luck not being awkward when I'm so fucking anxious I can hardly see straight.
She let out a quiet whine and gently smacked her forehead against the cool tiled wall. All she could hope was that Bryan didn't fight her on this. If he came out and…well, wanted to continue what happened last night, she wouldn't know what to do.
On one hand, it gave her an exhilarating rush to think that he was the one who initiated what happened. This gorgeously sculpted hunk of man was unequivocally attracted to her, if his actions were anything to judge by. No one could kiss like that and not mean it.
It wasn't just the kiss either, but the way the deep brown of his eyes turned to liquid when he stared at her. It frightened her, but also excited something deep inside that she'd never felt before. Every time she looked at him, something clicked into place.
She hoped against hope that nothing would change after what had happened. All she wanted was for things to effortlessly slip back into the routine they had developed; lighthearted teasing, innocent conversation.
Unfortunately, she couldn't help the cool pinch of guilt that sprang to her mind when she considered this option. She was unmistakably begging for that kiss last night, with all the suggestive flirting and ice cream antics. And she couldn't deny that she reciprocated the kiss fervently. To drop all that cold turkey just felt kind of wrong. What would Bryan think? That she had been leading him on? Well, that was unavoidable anyway, considering the way she just broke off everything and went to bed following her revelation.
Josie continued to get ready for work, dabbing on some concealer and patting it with powder. She swiped on a little touch of mascara and brushed her hair straight. Then she froze.
Now we have to…drive to work together. Talk about awkward.
It was a good thing Josie's so great at problem-solving then. With problem-solving meaning lying. In two seconds flat, she had a plan concocted that would save her from the awkwardness of a car journey all alone with Bryan.
She busied herself making coffee in the kitchen, and didn't look up when she heard the door to Bryan's room open and close. She silently prayed that he didn't bring up the topic of last night.
"Good morning," she said. Every part of her was willing things to be just like they always had been pre-kiss.
"Morning." He sounded apprehensive, and walked slowly towards her.
"You take two sugars, right?" she asked as she poured the coffee into two travel mugs.
What's with the mopey, single-syllable Bryan? Oh right, I shut him down and now he feels bad. And I feel bad about making him feel bad. Why couldn't I just not kiss him last night? Oh hell, who am I kidding, I couldn't have ever resisted that.
Shit shit shit cut him off, cut him off!!
"Oh um, Bryan, Miranda said she needed to borrow my car because Derek needs to go to some meeting or another so we're going to have to take the Metro this morning."
The perfect lie. That is, assuming he doesn't find out one of the many holes with it. Like that Miranda is in fact not borrowing my car and I have no idea if Derek has a meeting or not.
"Oh, all right." He opened his mouth again as if he was going to start saying something, but Josie cut him off again.
"We'd better get going then. The bus to the Pentagon station comes at 8:17 just across the street."
Josie nimbly sidestepped Bryan's still form as she went to pick up her bag and flitted around the room until she had collected her cell phone, keys, and ID badge. Bryan simply stood there and looked at her strangely.
"Well, chop chop, Bryan. I'm going ahead, you can lock the door then."
With that, she left. As she made her way down the drafty staircase, she closed her eyes with guilt. She knew what she was doing to the poor boy, but just standing there in that room with him was making her skin crawl in all sorts of pleasant and unpleasant ways. She had to get out of there.
It was still 8:10 when she got to the bus stop, and saw Bryan emerge from the apartment building across the street. A stream of traffic separated the two of them, and Bryan was looking for a way to get to her. She felt so far apart from him, right then. His gaze from across the road was completely devoid of emotion. She looked down at her watch to avoid it.
When he had crossed the road, Josie gave him a sideways glance and an awkward smile. He smiled back, but it didn't reach his eyes. She felt like kissing him again.
After a minute or so of silence, Josie closed her eyes. She was just so tired after the whole thing that she just wanted to curl back up in bed and forget everything so she could actually get some rest. With his eyes on her though, that wasn't happening anytime soon.
"Do you like puppies?" she asked him suddenly. What the hell was that?
He eyed her cautiously. "I guess. Why?"
"I like puppies too. Although I think kittens are cuter. But with puppies they have those huge paws that are too big for them so they look like they have flippers and it's completely adorable. I had this one puppy, and he would jump off the stairs with all four paws at the same time and it was the absolute cutest thing ever." He was looking at her strangely again.
"Yeah, that would be cute. I've never had a dog though," he said, although he was still looking at her as though she had just told him she had Ebola.
"You've never had a dog? I think we should definitely get one then. You should remind me to do that at some point." Then a sudden thought struck her and she frowned. "Of course it would have to be after I get back from Colorado, because I can't just get a puppy and then…leave for six months." She trailed off her sentence and averted her gaze from Bryan's line of view, not wanting him to see the sudden look of panic in her eyes.
In a way, her relationship with Bryan was like that puppy, but she'd really had no choice in its adoption in the first place. Lying and criminal activity aside, he'd grown on her, and she really didn't want to leave him.
It's like I've taken in a stray and I'm asking my mommy whether I can keep him or not. And I can't keep him because I'm leaving. I'm coming back, but…who says he won't run away while I'm gone? Who will take care of him? Certainly not mommy. Okay, the metaphor breaks down there. I need to stop that.
"Here's the bus, get out a dollar," she told him when she saw the scrolling marquee of the Pentagon Metro bus coming over the crest of the hill. It stopped in front of them, and they boarded, sliding two crisp dollar bills through the machine next to the driver. The bus was pretty full, so she and Bryan ended up sitting across the aisle diagonally from each other.
Josie silently reminded herself that her plan was brilliant. Metro buses and trains are always—always—completely silent. Talking is simply not tolerated. She settled down next to a forty-something businessman and faced forward, minding her own business. Bryan was behind her, so she didn't even have to think about him. Her plan was working nicely indeed.
That is, until he tapped her on the shoulder. She closed her eyes briefly and then turned towards him.
"Josie? Josie, listen, I don't know what's going on…" he whispered so as not to disturb the eerie silence that pervaded the bus. Josie sighed and shook her head, keeping her eyes lowered.
"Leave it alone, okay Bryan? Please…just…" she stopped and looked to the side before meeting his questioning eyes. "Just leave it alone." Her voice was so soft that she could hardly hear it herself, but when Bryan looked down, she knew he had heard her. She subtly bit her lip and turned back so she faced forward again. Her gaze was directed at her folded hands in her lap. Her knuckles were turning white.
She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her back against the seat, suddenly feeling a pervasive ache through her body. There was guilt, but there was also something else.
Slowly, she reached into her bag and extracted her iPod. Slipping her headphones on, she felt her shield lock into place. When using public transportation, the visible headphones make it so no one bothers you. An open newspaper works equally as well. The melancholy tones of a Shins song plucked at her guilty conscience, and she fixed her stare outside the window.
I can't do this. I can't act like this around him all the time. When we get off this bus, everything will be just like it always was. I'm going to forget all about last night, and all about this pain and guilt. It's over. I can't be feeling like this.
The bus eventually pulled up to the side of the Metro station, and Josie wrapped her headphone wire back around the iPod and placed it back in her bag. She stepped off the bus without looking back at Bryan, but when she reached the sidewalk, she turned back to face the bus. She greeted him with a smile when he caught up with her.
"So do you have a SmarTrip card or a pass or will you need to buy one?" she asked, keeping her tone light and normal. Bryan eyed her for a moment, but then returned back to normal again.
"I guess I'll have to buy one," he said. Josie smiled.
"I don't go anywhere without my SmarTrip card. It's so nifty, and when you scan it to get in, all you have to do is press the bottom down on the circle for a half-second and you're through. I don't know how they do it, but it's completely cool." They had walked over to a ticket machine, and Josie leaned on it while Bryan read the directions.
"You have a car though. Why do you need a SmarTrip card?" he asked.
"Situations like these." She smiled again. "Oh, and when there was that crazy gas price hike, it was just cheaper to take the Metro." She shrugged and started looking over the fare chart next to the machine.
"Do you want to go to L'Enfant Square or Smithsonian? Personally I don't mind, and they're the same price fare. For Smithsonian we have to switch trains, but for L'Enfant we end up 2 blocks away from the Mall." Bryan shrugged.
Josie knew he was being unusually quiet, and under normal circumstances, she would have asked about it, but in this case, she knew exactly why he was being weird. It was because she was being weird. The whole situation seemed rather stupid upon a closer look, but she didn't want to question anything. She was perfectly happy just letting things get back to normal without addressing the situation directly. At all.
Seeing as how Bryan was obviously not going to respond, she started talking again. "Well, how about we do Smithsonian, because we have enough time to switch trains, and it's really cold out." Bryan finally seemed to be picking up on the fact that Josie was just going to move on, and tried to mimic her too-normal attitude.
"Okay, that's fine. How much do I put on it?" he asked, referring to the farecard. He was obviously not completely stumped by the machine, but anyone living anywhere near the DC/Metro area must have at least a passing familiarity with the Metro system. Even just through osmosis, or by using it when relatives visit and want to see the sights.
SmarTrip cards are a newer thing, however, and are only used by those who are more regular Metro riders. They don't save any money or anything, they're just linked to a pre-paid account that automatically takes out the correct fare needed.
"A dollar thirty-five," she said. Bryan punched a few buttons and seconds later, a small card was spat out of the machine with the tiny numbers '1.35' printed at the top. Josie grinned and turned to walk to the turnstiles, not waiting for Bryan to catch up.
" Bryan! See watch the SmarTrip card in action." Josie pulled out her plastic card and touched the bottom side briefly to the sensor on the turnstile. The metal wedges immediately sprang apart, and she walked through, looking down at the little display screen on the metal box. "Ew, I only have four dollars left."
She heard him chuckle softly, and silently cheered for herself and her plan. Things were getting back to normal already. She waited for him to stick his card in the front of the machine and pull it back out at the top. They started to follow the stream of people to the escalators.
"Okay we need to take the yellow line in the direction of Gallery Place/Chinatown so that's down…" she stopped to look above the heads of the crowd to find the correct sign, "here!"
Bryan stepped onto the downwards escalator and Josie got onto the step above him. They were just about at eye level, with Josie seeming a bit taller. She leaned on the rubber handrail to the right while Bryan was on the left side.
Josie was having a hard time controlling her memories of their kiss as she watched him stand there, utterly relaxed but seeming so far away. She hated to hurt him, but she couldn't in good conscience go ahead with him when she had so many doubts. It just wasn't going to happen.
"Excuse me," a man about 5 steps behind Josie barked at Bryan and came barreling down the steps. Bryan seemed to be zoning out, so she grabbed his jacket collar and pulled him over to the right side of the steps. Their faces were close, too close. Josie felt her mouth get dry and she swallowed. Her eyes were filled with desire and doubt, and all emotions in between. She watched as Bryan's eyes softened.
Then she knew that he got it. He understood what she was doing. He knew that she lied because she didn't trust being alone with him. He knew that Derek didn't really have a meeting that day and Miranda didn't need to borrow her car. Bryan let out a deep breath, and she knew he would go along with her and forget the previous night.
The man continued to charge down the escalator, and Josie broke the eye contact as she saw the blue train pulling away from the station before the man could reach it.
She leaned back and dropped Bryan's collar because their proximity was freaking her out. She let out a small chuckle and leaned back onto the rubber rail. Bryan turned around in time to see the impatient man curse loudly in the middle of the platform.
"Huh. Serves him right," he said. They had reached the bottom of the escalator, so they both stepped off and headed towards the correct side of the platform for their train.
"Yeah, but it was kinda your fault that you were in his way." At his questioning glance, she continued. "Have you been under a rock all this time you've been living in DC? You always stand to the right of the escalator if you're just standing, and you go to the left if you're walking. It's like the slow lane and the fast lane. It's an unwritten rule of the Metro. Especially during rush hour." He raised an eyebrow at her as though he thought she was lying, and she smiled and shrugged back. "Well, now you know."
They stood silent for a moment at the edge of the platform. The electronic signs along the platform told them that the next train would arrive in three minutes.
Josie looked around the vast underground chamber of the station, and spotted a businessman listening to an iPod. She narrowed her eyes. "Hey, what do you think businessmen listen to on their iPods?"
"I don't know. Mozart and Chopin?"
"Maybe old school punk. Sex Pistols, Ramones and such."
"Could be Celine Dion." Josie laughed loudly, causing said businessman to look in her direction. She turned her laugh into a cough and averted her eyes. Bryan was looking at her with a smile, and she couldn't help but reciprocate it.
"You know, I think it's Huey Lewis and Phil Collins," she whispered.
He smiled. "American Psycho?"
Josie's smile grew wider. "See, I knew you knew your good movies."
"You were testing me?"
"Maybe," she gave him a short glance. "Unintentionally, but maybe."
Bryan smiled back.