I love him, but I'm afraid to love him. I don't think I'll ever tell him either. I see him every day but he always passes me by as if I'm insignificant. It hurts me more than anything but I know it won't change. I am nothing to him.
I've seen him at his best and worst; his highest and lowest. I've been his hands, eyes, feet, and mouth. For years I've lifted him up when he thought he couldn't go any higher. I've shared his pain through high school and even now in college when girls are reckless with his heart and I've never received thanks from him. Not once.
I am just his stepsister. Nothing will ever come from us.
He looks outward into the world and finds beauty. When he looks at me all he sees is nothing. I've been told I am beautiful with my auburn hair and gray eyes. I'm just shy of six feet and have a model-like figure. But I don't care about my looks. I care about Caleb.
"Rachel? What's the matter?" asks a quiet voice from the door. I glance at Caleb and force a smile. "Don't do that."
"Do what?" I ask, turning away from him.
I feel the bed dip as he sits next to me. "Don't plaster that blasted smile on your face," he says and I sigh. "What's wrong?"
"I like this guy," I hear myself say softly and immediately blush. I see him try to hide a grimace and am hurt. "Oh, go away! I don't want to tell you about it anyway."
Caleb stands but doesn't go anywhere. A few moments later, he sits back down and sighs. "What do you fancy about this bloke?"
"I love his voice. Sometimes he sounds distinctly English but other times he sounds as if he was born in America. It's like he can't make up his mind on how he wants to sound some days," I say and am ready to smother myself with a pillow.
I don't know why I'm telling him these things. The words seem to be forcing their way out of me. "I also like his kind green eyes and the way his soft brown hair never lays flat."
He sucks in a breath as I hold mine and focus on his shoes. My hand has gone rogue as it moves towards his but he shies away from me. I blink back tears and move to my window. I shouldn't be upset by his reaction.
"Rachel, I'm sorry. It isn't right. We're siblings," he tells me, speaking as if I'm a young child and that vexes me immensely.
"Stepsiblings!" I shout as I turn to face him. "I understand that I'm just some…some stupid, vain American to you but I can't help how I feel!"
"You're not even American, you're Irish. Your father is Irish. You were born in Ireland!" he shouts back as he stands.
"Why do you know that?" I demand. That's none of his business.
"Why don't you?"
"I do but I didn't know my father. He didn't want me so I'm claiming my mother's nationality as my own!" I run a hand through my hair. "What does this have to do with how I feel about you?"
"You're confused! You don't know how you feel about me," he says and continues when I start to object. "I'm the only guy you've ever been close to. It's only natural for you to assume you have actual feelings for me and that they're real but they're not."
"Screw you, Caleb," I ground out. I'm deeply offended and hurt. "You don't have a right to discount how I feel. Just because I don't have a hell of a lot of experience with guys my age doesn't mean I don't understand my feelings for you!"
"Be reasonable, Rachel," Caleb shouts and I feel tears running down my face.
"Say so if you don't feel the same way but don't you dare tell me how I feel about you. We both know I don't really have friends but I can tell the difference in my feelings for you and the few male friends I have. I care about you, Caleb."
"Don't say that! You don't know what you're saying. Stop saying things like that!"
"Why? Why are you so afraid of how I feel about you?"
"I'm not afraid. We just…We can't do this," he whispers.
When did we get so close? There had been feet between us a few moments ago. I hadn't realized I had moved away from the window. From the look on Caleb's face, I don't think he knew he was moving either.
We're so close to one another. I can feel his breath on my lips. Centimeters are barely separating us.
His lips look so soft. I can't take my eyes off them. I can't help but wonder what they'd feel like against mine. The only guy I've ever kissed was Jimmy Krantz in the summer before eighth grade and that had been horrible. I don't think one with Caleb would be horrible.
"Why can't we do this?" I ask while forcing myself not to close the distance.
I don't think I would be able to stand it if he pulled away from me. I can deal with everything he's said to me so far. I don't think I could or would be able to deal with that too.
His hands bracket my hips and I jump at his touch. I look down as he pulls my body against his. My face is red, I can feel it. Caleb's is too. I don't think he's embarrassed though because he looks quite dazed.
"What was the question?" he asks huskily.
My brain freezes when one of his hands moves lower. "I don't re-remember," I manage as my hands move up his arms. "Do you want to kiss me, Caleb?"
He shakes his head. I feel sick and lower my head.
I look up at him when touches my cheek. He gently presses his lips to mind and I stiffen, afraid I'll somehow manage to ruin this. He seems to understand my reaction and starts rubbing soothing circles in my back. I soon find myself responding as he applies more pressure and wrap my arms around his neck.
Our hands soon become eager and restless where they are and our kiss desperate. One minute, he's practically trying to pull me inside him and the next he's across the room cursing at me and everything. I take a step towards him but he throws up a hand.
"Don't move," he orders. "Damn it, Rachel, what did I just say?"
I ignore him and reach for his arm again. "Please don't be mad, Caleb. It wasn't so horrible, was it?"
He says nothing for a long time. "No, it wasn't," he says quietly and when I try to kiss him, he ducks away. "We shouldn't do that again."
"Why not? You enjoyed it. I did too."
"We're stepsiblings, Rachel."
"This could destroy our parents' marriage. They're both happy. Did you think about that? About them?"
"I know it could cause some problems. I love that my mother has found genuine love and happiness with your father for the past six years and I wish them many more. But I should be able to love whomever I choose to," I say softly.
"Don't do this," he says but I have to.
"I love you, Caleb."
He groans and covers his face. He mutters something but I can't understand him.
"What?" I ask and he slowly lowers his hands.
"Since you aren't…I have to be the one in control of this since you…I can't love you!"
"Are you telling me this or yourself? You don't sound so sure."
"I want to be with you, Caleb," I say as I wrap my arms around him.
"Yeah, well, I don't want to be with you," he counters.
I smile and kiss his cheek, feeling as if I've aced all my finals or something. "Only on the outside. You care for me. I know you do. If you didn't, you would have told me to take a hike and get a life in much harsher words with a cool, unaffected smile on your face and ice in your eyes."
"I wouldn't have done that to you," he says, his arms slowly coming around me.
"Yes, you would have." I squeeze him and kiss his cheek again. "I know that you don't want to care about me but you do and I know it isn't right to you. I'm sorry about how this makes you feel."
He turns to face me completely. "I don't know what to do with you or deal with this, Rachel," he says and I try to smile. "Please stop with that fake, plastic smile."
He pulls me closer and kisses my temples. I bury my face against his neck and close my eyes, holding tightly onto his shirt. When he starts to pull back, I force myself to release him but he doesn't let go of me. He pulls back enough to lean down and kiss me.
I am hesitant about responding, afraid it will be a bittersweet symphony of emotion, but he coaxes one from me. This kiss isn't what I expected; it's gentle, sweet, and holds promises. He slowly deepens the kiss and soon I am clinging to him again. As he pulls away this time, I give my undivided attention to the stubble on his chin.
"Rachel, I don't want to hurt you," he says quietly.
"I know, Caleb. I know you don't," I reply. I wait for him to say more but he doesn't. "Whatever it is, just tell me. Don't try to protect my feelings because you'll probably only end up hurting me more than if you were straight with me. If this is too much for you—"
I stop when he kisses my forehead. He moves to sit down, taking me with him and is quiet. I study his face as he stares at the wall. He looks contemplative and…upset. This makes me uneasy.
I never planned on loving Caleb the way I do but it happened. I mean, my mother would probably kill me if she knew we'd kissed. But I'm willing to endure the wrath and scorn of my mother to explore this with Caleb. I know I can't make him feel the same way but—
"We can keep this our secret, Rachel," he says slowly, cautiously, as if he's afraid I'll become angry or offended by the suggestion. He rushes on in the same tone before I can reply. "People won't understand this between us. It can just be our secret."
He hesitates before saying more. "I'm not trying to turn you into…you know."
"Your dirty little secret," I say and color floods his face.
"You wouldn't be that, I swear it, Rachel. I know how it sounds and—"
I hug him, feeling utterly pleased at his embarrassment and concern. "I know what you were trying say. I'm not angry or offended either," I assure him with a gentle squeeze. "This'll be our secret."
He gives me a small but brilliant smile. "Besides, who has to know?" he says and I return his smile before kissing him again.
"Who has to know?"