Three

The storm outside is beautiful—but if it's all the same, I'll stay inside with you.

There we were, on yet another van, on yet another school trip. It was getting old. Then again, it was the only time we ever got to be alone anymore. And this time, it was purely by accident.

"That can't be comfortable."

It was obvious that your huge frame was hard-pressed to fit into the tiny seat you'd found on the bus. Too many freshmen, not enough seats, and no respect for seniors are the events that lead to the current situation.

"What do you care?"

"If you want me to be nice, you'd better not be such a jackass."

Your lips parted but closed again. You knew I wasn't joking. And I wasn't very good at being nice as it were. Then again, neither were you.

"Well, if we're stuck here, what've you been up to—what's new?"

"I think I'm in love."

Your head shot up at that.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"You didn't expect I'd wait forever did you?"

You didn't answer and we fell silent again.

The miles passed slowly.

The time hit midnight and seemed to stop altogether.

*

"What's his name?"

"David."

"How did you, what's the story?"

I laughed and turned in my seat, looking for your eyes in the dark. You wouldn't let me catch them. I didn't know what to think about that.

"We met over the summer, during my internship at U-CHI. He's a political science major. He's into theater like me. He was one of the other interns." I smiled and looked out the window. "It was funny, most of our friends teased us, we're so much alike. We even use the same conditioner."

"I think that's more gay than funny but whatever."

"You asked."

"What makes him good enough?" And there was the point. You weren't really asking what made him good enough but how he was better than you.

"He's a nerd, like me. He's into drama, like me. He's probably smarter than I am, and he's gorgeous. Plus, he likes me—without conditions. I don't know, I think I'm lucky. He's more than I deserve."

You were quiet. But only for a moment.

"He's not smarter than you. And he's not good enough."

"You don't even know him!"

"I don't have to, I know you. And more than you deserve? What's that bullshit? He's obviously an idiot if that's what he lets you think."

"He doesn't try to change what I think, unlike someone I know. Besides, you are so hypocritical! Here you are, telling me this stuff like it matters when you're just going to run into Jamie's arms as soon as you get home!" I didn't bother to keep the anger out of my voice. "You have absolutely no right to me, by your own freaking choice."

We got quiet again.

*

"Hey,"

"Don't talk to me."

I turned even further away from you and stretched out in my seat. I was lucky, my side was bigger and I didn't have to share it with anyone else.

"I'm sorry."

I froze. Those weren't the words I was expecting.

"Seriously? Did you, Kaiyler Reed, just apologize to me?"

"Yes, I did. I was being a jackass. I'm sorry."

I know that some part of you exploded inside actually saying the words. It gave me a small satisfaction.

"Good, you should be." I didn't turn around.

"Aw, come on, babe. Don't be ridiculous. Turn around and talk to me. I've got dead-leg like you don't even know. I need a distraction."

The words were familiar. I knew it was a bad idea to keep talking to you, to sit across from you. I knew I still loved you, David or no David. And I knew that I didn't want to fight it anymore.

I turned slowly and watched you watch me for a few minutes. I looked around, everyone was mostly out—lucky enough to find sleep in this night. All I had to do was ask, why, and it would be over. We wouldn't talk, you'd go back to Jamie and I to David. It was the smarter idea.

My heart is very rarely smart.

*

"Babe, wake up." Your arms were around me and I was curled up comfortably in the seat.

"You better have a good reason for waking me up."

"It's almost five."

It's amazing how three words can change everything.

I went still and stiffened up.

"You better move then, before someone wakes up and sees us."

"Please, don't be like that. Don't hate me."

"Why? We both know that you don't care."

"Yes, I do. I just, I can't like that. And there's Jamie."

"Kaiyler, I really don't want to hear it. Just move. Truce over."

I felt you hesitate. Felt your hands tighten around me for a second. I prayed that you'd stay. I prayed that you'd care enough this once.

God must have been sleeping still.